Chapter 6: Shanelle
Shanelle twirled her teal amazonite bracelet while she looked out of the window of her office. Actually the window was in the company conference room. Her cubicle was in the center of the office and she had no natural light. Only the managers and owners got windows. She did not dread going in her manager’s office because it was her only exposure to natural light. Her colleagues hated to visit Van, her manager’s office. The only other opportunity she got to feel natural light on her face was in conference room meetings. Today was one of those days. She arrived five minutes early to escape he dingy cave of a cubicle. The owners had mentioned recently that they were going to change the cubicle maze into an open floor plan. Who knows when they would update the office. They made so many promises that they never followed through. Shanelle embraced this quiet moment of her staring out the window. Of course the window faced the brick wall of the next building which was only 3 yards away. Beggars can’t be choosy, she told herself.
She had been thinking about the conference and her new friends. It had been five weeks since she said goodbye the three other women in Grand Central Station. She kept meaning to meet up with them. Unfortunately things just kept coming up and she was too busy to meet up with any of them. George had already made plans with their friends. Of course they had that wedding to go to in DC. The wedding was beautiful but Shanelle hated every minute of it. George had been a groomsman so he flew out on the Thursday before the wedding. When she arrived on Saturday, the day of the wedding, the bridesmaids were in full emergency mode. The bride, Monique had become a weepy, manic bridezilla. Shanelle was called in to help with her constant demands.
The ceremony was in a cathedral with 200 guests. Monique’s parents were wealthy and she was their only daughter. All the flowers around the altar were white roses. The bride walked down the aisle to a string quartet playing “Here Comes The Bride.” Her dress was a fitted Vera Wang gown. The groom looked amazed by his beautiful bride. He had his eight groomsmen; all of them frat brothers except for his childhood friend. She had her eight bridesmaids dressed in deep burgundy fitted gowns. The bridesmaids were the bride’s sorority sisters. The bride and grooms’ union was a special one for their respective organizations. Their fraternity and sorority were known as brother and sister organizations.
It was all very tasteful and boring, Shanelle thought. The whole affair was black tie. The reception hall was a large belle epoch era style ballroom. The bride made her entrance by descending a grand staircase. Monique and her mother were giddy with all the attention. People loved the hor d’oeuvres that they meticulously chose. People complimented them on their tasteful decor all handled by the professional wedding planning team. During the reception, Shanelle sat in her assigned seat with their closest friends struggling to make conversation as usual. George sat at the wedding party table. He was fully engaged with the conversation at that table. He barely looked her way except for a smile and wink when the conversation lulled for a moment. He had so much in common with them all. The conversation at her table was in full swing without her. They discussed parties in their college days, the best lounge bars in the city, Housewives of Atlanta while the men discussed the current football season. Shanelle liked the occasional pleasure of watching a reality show but never followed any shows. Janae decided to bring Shanelle into the conversation with a question about her favorite tv show.
“I’ve been getting into this show called, Boardwalk Empire on HBO,” Shanelle said. She continued on when she saw blank stares. “It just started last month. It’s set in the 1920s with a Steve Buscemi as a corrupt Atlantic City politician. He is making money off of prohibition as a bootlegger. And-“
“Are there any black people in it?” Dani, sitting next to Shanelle asked.
“Just one. He's also a gangster,” Shanelle said.
“Oh I can’t watch that. Not enough black folk. And he’s in a negative role,” Dani exclaimed flipping her with attitude.
“Well, they're all gangsters on the show. Chalky speaks for the black community when it comes to the gangsters,” Shanelle reasoned knowing it was a lost cause.
“A token speaking for black people and his name is Chalky? Aw hell no!” exclaimed Isaiah, who sat on the other side of Dani, his fiancé.
“The show is really well written and the cinematography is gorgeous,” Shanelle defended.
There was some laughing at the table.
“There goes Shanelle, with her artsy talk,” cooed Fatima who sat opposite from Shanelle. Fatima’s finance was also a groomsman. Fatima was in marketing for a soda company. Her fiance, Gabe worked as a litigation lawyer for a big firm.
“Aw Shanelle, when are you two going to get engaged?” Sharita asked. She sat beside Isaiah with her own fiance, Derek.
“Yeah, you two have been together longer than all of us,” Dani said.
Shanelle adjusted herself in her seat, smiled and answered, “Its all on George. He’s the one who is supposed to ask.”
There were soft laughs.
“Have you talked about it at least?” Janae asked. Her fiance was at the wedding party table as the best man.
“Yes, of course,” Shanelle said suddenly feeling the need to be engaged. She was 25 and the only one of her college friends that had not been proposed to. Well, there was one other friend; Jessica who also sat at their table. Jessica chose all the wrong guys. She was also know as a slut. That was her issue and she was frequently the discussion of their friends. Due to being a longtime friend and a sorority sister to some of their friends, Jessica remained in their group despite the gossip.
“I wish I had what you have, Shanelle,” said Jessica.
There were eyes darting around the table looking for other eyes to raise an eyebrow to. Each set of eyes found eyes to connect with except Shanelle’s. She was tired of this charade.
“One day you’ll find your man,” Shanelle said kindly. She wondered if Jessica literally meant George and decided she did not.
“Girl, you need to stop dating those thugs,” Dani said with a mixture of attitude and maternal love.
“Doug wasn’t a thug,” Jessica defended.
“The boy wore a gold chain and baggy pants to Kesha’s party. And he started rolling a blunt while he was sitting on the couch,” Dani said while letting out a few laughs.
Everyone at the table laughed except Jessica. She was still clueless. The conversation turned to Jessica’s dating mishaps while taking the pressure away from Shanelle.
Janae leaned over to her to ask if she enjoyed the conference.
“I met some great women there,” Shanelle said.
“I liked the discussion but I wasn’t into the groups they made us interact with the whole weekend. I thought it was going to be more of us there,” Janae said.
“My group was really friendly. I think I’ll hang out with them soon,” Shanelle said.
“More power to you. I’d rather just stick to my own. It’s difficult to have conversations with those others,” Janae said.
Shanelle felt her face grow warm and hoped it didn’t show.
When it came time to dance, Shanelle and George met up on the dancefloor. He was already pretty buzzed. The groom and groomsmen did a couple of shots of tequila before the ceremony. Of course he had also taken advantage of the open bar. Shanelle was hoping that it meant George would dance at this wedding. He usually danced when he was buzzed. It did not happen. He kissed her cheek and took her hand. They made the rounds to the couples standing at the edge of the dancefloor. George was the king of small talk. Shanelle mainly just smiled at the couples. She joined the conversations to support George’s comments with a laugh or a “That’s right!.” After another drink, George was called to the center of the dance floor to start a step with his frat brothers. The stepping turned into party strolling as the night went on. The dance floor came alive with frat brothers and sorority girls surrounded the area with their intricate steps around the dancing crowd. Shanelle danced with a few girlfriends.
That wedding was similar to the other weddings of their friends. Now as Shanelle stared out the window of her office conference she felt like she did that night. She felt like she was watching the situation from the sideline; like Nick in The Great Gatsby. She was rarely ever in the story herself.
The conference room had filled with her coworkers. It was the copywriting team which was all white and mostly male. Melinda was the only other female copywriter. Shanelle often exchanged looks with her when one of the male coworkers said something bro-y. In hopes of exchanging a ton of looks today, Shanelle sat across from Melinda. Their manager, Scott came in.
There were assignments to be handed out and updates to be given. These meetings were weekly. Each person around the table spoke on their current workload. There were jokes told with a lot of laughs. A couple of her colleagues wanted to be comedy writers but ended up copywriting. As the meeting wrapped up, a discussion started about the upcoming weekend. A couple of guys had wedding to go to in upstate New York. A few guys were going day drinking with their adult sports leagues. One guy, Tom said he was going apple picking. Then the jokes started.
“Man, that new girl has you whipped,” said JC, a tall former college basketball player.
Someone made a snapping whip sound with his mouth. All the men laughed. Melinda and Shanelle exchanged looks of irritation.
“It’s not like that. Upstate is nice this time of year,” Tom defended. He had been a high school football player. He was attractive and always nice to Shanelle.
The men laughed with someone mimicking Tom’s statement in a girly voice.
“You laugh but it can be fun to do,” Tom said. “It’s also at a winery so we’ll be drinking too.”
The men laughed again. Someone made the snapping whip sound again.
“Ah fuck you guys!” Tom said with fake annoyance. Shanelle always admired how he could let criticism roll off his back.
“Bro, what is the deal with chicks and apple picking? I’m not some Mexican migrant worker,” said Mitch.
His comments drew laughs. Shanelle looked at Melinda who looked irritated.
“My girlfriend wanted to do it last year and I said no,” Jared said. “That’s when you have to lay the law down. You have to tell them to go do that crap with their friends. She went with a group of her friends. I played some fantasy football while she was out with the bitch squad.”
“Fuck yeah,” Harry exclaimed on the other side of the table. High fives were given.
“Would you two make your boyfriends go apple picking?” Kyle asked directing the question at the only two women in the room.
“I’m sure Shanelle’s boyfriend has to listen to her with all that attitude she has,” said Davis who whipped his head around in an impression of a stereotype of a black women.
Shanelle felt her face grow hot. She was speechless.
“Have you seen Shanelle’s boyfriend? He’s fucking huge! I doubt she’s getting him to do anything,” JC said.
There were laughs around the table.
“My boyfriend and I went apple picking two weeks ago,” Melinda piped in while giving a supportive look to Shanelle.
“Yea but your boyfriend isn’t a huge ass black dude. Doesn’t your boyfriend work as a nurse or something?” Kyle asked with a ready cackle dancing on his lips.
“He’s a radiologist,” Melinda said with force. Melinda was a redhead with freckles on her face and arms.
Shanelle noted that whenever Melinda was forceful at work people would back down. But later, their male coworkers used “fiery” and “ginger” to describe her.
“Don’t get red hot there,” Kyle said putting his hands up in surrender.
There were laughs. Melinda leaned in and asked “Is the meeting over?”
Scott, a few years older than most of the copywriting team, nodded. Melinda picked up her notebook and pen as she rose from her seat. She walked out of the doors.
“Whoa the ginger’s angry,” JC said. There were laughs around the table. Shanelle stood to leave and saw Tom rising from his seat with a grim facial expression. The rest of the men at the table remained seated. They were probably going to chat for another hour.
Shanelle stopped by Melinda’s cubicle. They used to apologize to each other for the insensitive comments made by their coworkers. It was useless at this point. Shanelle just gave a curt nod to Melinda who responded with an eyeroll. She leaned in to Shanelle to whisper:
“I’m having a party at a bar on Saturday night on the Lower East Side. I hope you can drop in.”
“Sure, I’ll send you my personal email,” Shanelle said.
She and Melinda had worked together for a year and except for the occasional lunch or afterwork cocktail, they had never seen each other outside of work.
“What is the party for?” Shanelle asked.
“I broke up with the radiologist and got my own place downtown. It’s kind of a housewarming except I can’t fit a party in my apartment,” Melinda answered with a laugh.
They both laughed at the tiny size of New York apartments.
“Tom is coming too,” Melinda said with a twinkle in her eye.
Shanelle had no idea that Melinda liked Tom. She hoped that George did not have them booked for Saturday. He took care of all the social planning since he was the social butterfly between the two of them. Shanelle was extremely excited about the invitation.