This piece is by Callie Sutcliffe.
A Night to Remember
It was Katy Bennett’s first prestigious affair to put on all by herself. Caldwell Financial was right up there with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan, bringing in around a hundred billion a year into their company. And they were the guests of honor tonight. Katy was not one to fear the unknown, having grown up with nothing and learning how to survive on her own. But that evening something changed inside of her.
She scanned the State Room, her chest expanded at what she saw. Elegant, white lights draped around the ceiling and the white posts inside the room, making it glow. The lights of the city shined through the floor-to-ceiling windows along one side of the room. A makeshift bar ran along the right side of the room, and a dozen round tables with white linens decorated the dining hall. Katy made candle holders out of wine glasses by turning them upside down and placing roses inside the mouths of the glasses. She placed long white stemmed roses with greenery into tall crystal vases as centerpieces on each table. Katy had turned the ordinary State Room into a quintessential black-tie venue. It was her first time to be on this side of an event since going to work for Donna Reeves a year ago.
Katy started four years before as nothing more than a runner for a small, run-down event planning company where she’d worked her way up the proverbial ladder. Gone were the days where she made coffee for a balding and aging boss. Gone were the childish birthday parties and clown shows she put on in those days. Gone were the late nights filling out applications for every event company in greater Boston. Now she was in the big leagues, as a personal assistant to Donna. Everyone in the Boston area knew of her boss.
The elites of Boston both feared and respected her. Richard and his wife Priscilla knew and respected Donna. This elite world was still new to Katy, and she’d spent the past year proving to Donna she was more than capable of taking on an event of this caliber. And nothing would stop her now, she thought, as took a moment to look around the room and admire her hard work. Katy fingered the linens along one of her tables and noted the sound of Ella Fitzgerald playing on the speakers in the background. Katy loved the classics, as she called them. They brought her back to the few good moments of her youth. She glanced at the grand piano in the far left corner of the room and sighed.
The only good memories.
As the night went on, Katy plastered on a smile, ignored the desire to escape, and clacked her heels along the wooden floor while forcing conversation with guests from a world far outside of her comfort zone. Everyone was mingling, dressed in black-tie attire; waiters wearing suits walked around with one hand placed behind their backs and silver platters in their free hands while serving the fancy appetizers. She tried to blend in with her royal blue maxi dress from Nordstrom Rack, but it was laughable compared with the gold silk, and blinged-up dresses worn by the trophy wives all around her that night.Katy felt out of her element, and more than once she had to remind herself not to chew on her nails. About half-way through the night, Katy took a break from the forced mingling, and skirted around the guests, fixing every table top, checking the music, rearranging decorations, counting the chocolate boxes of party favors near the entrance, and avoiding conversation at all costs.
Scanning the room once again, she noticed a table missing champagnes flutes and hurried into the kitchen to retrieve more. As she placed the flutes around the tables, Barry, the only son of the multi-billionaire, Richard Caldwell, spotted her from across the room. She’d seen him in a few pictures before the night began and recognized him right away as their eyes connected.
Katy’s pulse sped up, reverberating in her ears like a machine-gun as she watched him coming toward her. He was even more handsome than the photos made him out to be and at least four inches taller than she’d imagined. Her cheeks heated by his confident stride and swagger smile. His black tuxedo and royal blue bow tie beamed against the dim lights. He strolled toward her holding two glasses of champagne in his hands. She eyed the exit at least three times and rubbed her hands together as he approached her at the table. Katy smoothed her hair and held his gaze. “Hi, I’m Barry. You put this entire event together tonight, right?” His voice was deep, smooth, and entrancing. The grin that spread across his face made Katy’s stomach do a flip. His blonde hair, glasses, and broad shoulders made him look like one of those guys that had been a nerd in high school, but grew up to be handsome and successful.
Yes, handsome indeed.
But untouchable. He came from an aristocratic society. And Katy came from, well, as far opposite of that as a person could be. She cleared her throat, feigning confidence with a bright smile. “Yes, that would be me. Katy Bennett.” She held out her hand, forgetting he was holding two flutes in his hands and he chuckled. Heat washed through her and his grin became wider.
“Here, this is for you.” Barry handed her a glass, and she hesitated before accepting the drink.
“Um, I don’t drink while working. Plus, I’m not so sure we should be talking.”
Barry barked out a laugh and shook his head. “I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t be here talking to you.” He nodded towards the glass in her hand. “Please take a sip. Talk to me for a minute. These dinners get so stodgy after a while.”
Katy touched her cheeks, his genuine request making her stomach do a flip. Barry chuckled again and leaned forward, his breath caressing her cheek, sending chills down her spine.
“You are doing great tonight. Don’t worry so much.”
Now it was Katy’s turn to laugh as he led her over to the floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the city. “Is it that obvious?”
Nightfall had descended over the city and the twinkling lights bouncing off the skyscrapers held Katy’s attention for a moment. “A little.” Barry turned to face her leaning against the windowpane, looking every bit the billionaire the media claimed him to be. “Why are you so nervous?”
Katy chewed on her bottom lip while considering how much to reveal. “I guess you can say that I’m new to this. I mean, not to event planning, but to planning an event like this one. Does that make sense?”
Barry nodded and clinked his glass against hers. “It does. We’re not as scary as we seem though. Cheers! Take a moment to breathe. Have a drink.”
Katy took a sip and turned back around, resting her back against the window pane herself. “I should get back to work. Donna is my boss and I’m sure she knows your dad well. And if it gets back to her that I’m not working the entire time…” Katy shook her head and downed the rest of her champagne in one gulp.
“Whoa, she can’t be that bad!”
Katy laughed. “She is, but I love this job and am learning so much, so I can deal with her demanding nature. One day, I hope to start my own company, and I dream that it will be as great and successful as hers.”
Barry smiled as he studied her for a long moment. “You sound like someone that has a lot of grit. You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you?”
Katy furrowed her brow as the hairs on her neck stood up. “Why would you say that?” He was right, but was she giving off some kind of vibe? She didn’t let many people in to this part of her life.
He shrugged his shoulders and took another sip of his champagne. “Because you have worked hard all night. I’ve been watching you. You seem like can endure just about anything. You are nervous working for someone like Donna…” He chuckled again. “Yes, I do know her and I know she isn’t the easiest to work for. So, someone like that…” He bobbed his head towards her, “like you, have been through a lot to make you this tough.”
For the first time that night, Katy’s heart felt a little lighter. She thought about what he just said and he wasn’t wrong. Katy had been through hell and back in her life and knew all about suffering. To Katy, a demanding boss was a walk in the park compared to the mother that raised her. She’d consider a dark angel a saint compared to Eliza.
“How about a dance?” Barry said bringing her out of her reverie.
“A dance?” Katy arched her brow and set the champagne flute down on the table. “I’m not sure—”
“Oh, come on,” he said cutting her off. “This is my father’s event, well, I should say my mother’s since she’s the one that calls the shots and organizes these shindigs.” Barry laughed at his own joke and warmth washed through Katy’s heart when he smiled with a tenderness she’d seen so little of in her life. “You won’t get in trouble for talking to me.”
Dance with him? Could she do this? Dance with a man whose outfit cost more than her monthly rent? Her pulse sped at the thought. What would people say? He’s one-hundred percent out of her league.
Would he still be interested if he knew her father abandoned her at birth and her mother was a crack addict who died when she was only fifteen. Yes, she grew up on the streets. In and out of shelters.
Unlike Barry who grew up with everything handed to him on a silver platter!
She swallowed her fear and pushed past the anxiety pressing against her chest again, pasting on a smile she only hoped didn’t reflect any of her insecurities.
“You’re a little confident about yourself, aren’t you?” Am I really flirting with him now?
Barry sat down his flute and held out his hand. “I meant what I said, I’ve been watching you all evening and I couldn’t resist a chance to talk to you before the night was over.”
Katy swallowed hard ignoring the quiver in her gut and guilt at not working during one of Donna’s events. Even for only a few minutes. She accepted his hand and felt heat rise on her cheeks at his touch. Barry led her onto the dance floor as Michael Buble’s voice sounded through the speakers, singing Unforgettable.
They danced for several beats and he rested his hand on her lower back while enveloping her other hand inside of his.
“Tell me a little about yourself,” Barry said, while Katy got lost in the words of the music. She told him a bit about her mother and about college and her two best friends, Natalie and Bridget. Before Katy knew it, they’d danced for several songs and Katy opened up to this complex, interesting man who was a billionaire and a brainiac. A man who had the power to calm her nerves. Barry laughed at her stories about her life and her friends and she found comfort in his presence while he swayed with her to the music. Realizing she’d been neglecting her job as hostess for too long, she pulled away from his embrace at the end of the song. “Well, I better get back to work. Thanks for the dance and for getting my mind off the party for a few minutes.”
“I’d like to see you again, Katy Bennett. Soon, I hope.” Katy’s eyes widened while a tingling sensation flowed through her chest. “Me? Why?”
Barry furrowed his brows into a “V” and reached for both of her hands. “Why wouldn’t I?”
They stood close enough together that Katy could almost feel his breath. He rubbed her fingers. “You are special, Katy. I’d like to get to know you more.” His expression grew somber, and he looked away before looking back at her. “You’re refreshing.”
Katy laughed at the incredulousness of his statement and smiled. “I think you are, too. Thanks, again.”
He smiled softly. “Thank you for dancing with me. It was the highlight of my night.” Barry motioned with his head by looking around at all the people still dancing and mingling or eating canapes. “Let me introduce you to some of these people, that might help get you acquainted with everyone in a less uncomfortable way.”
Katy’s heart thumped as he walked her over to a group of people standing nearby talking. Not only did he help her through the rest of her night, but remained by her side. She couldn’t help the curiosity running through her about this guy who would someday become the heir of his father’s multi-billion dollar company, yet was down to earth and preferred to talk and dance with the event planner of this dad’s party.
Katy touched her cheeks aware of the sting from smiling so often. She snuck off outside with him a couple of times and mingled with everyone at some point. She began asking herself if she could do this. Perhaps she could be a part of this world.
Around two in the morning, Katy was ready to close the event. She quickly cleaned up, completed her inventory and reports for Donna, and made sure all the other workers, waitstaff, and vendors were all taken care of. After leaving the building, she hopped into her simple, but well-loved, red Mazda crossover, took off her heels and tossed them into the passenger seat.
She let out a long, loud sigh before turning the ignition on. Satisfying exhaustion washed over her, as she leaned back into her seat and took in a much needed deep breath. She turned on the heater, when her cell phone pinged with a message.
Katy reached inside her clutch and warmth spread through her, making her grin from ear to ear as she saw the text from Barry.
Ace, thanks for humoring me tonight and pretending to be interested.
Katy laughed at the nickname.
What makes you think I’m interested?
You wound me.
I’m sure you’ll live.
Ha! Humor me again, tomorrow night?
What could he mean? A date? She quickly responded. What’s tomorrow?
Say yes, and you’ll find out.
Katy rolled her eyes and shook her head while the heater warmed the car and the sound of Sinatra filled the speakers.
I should warn you, I hate surprises.
For Katy surprises always meant the worse had happened.
You are killing me here, Ace!
Fine. But you only get one chance;
Fair warning. I’m confident you’ll like this one though.
6:00 work for you?
Katy’s heart was pounding. She was Cinderella tonight and at any moment this could all end, leaving her realizing it was all just a dream. She threw her head back against the driver’s seat and imagined her life with a billionaire. How would that look?
The idea was tantalizing. Yet, surreal. She
Everything until now had been hard. Yet, here she was, making her own dreams come true. Tonight was evidence of that fact. Katy not only made it through the night, that hours ago terrified her;
And she felt stronger for it. Why couldn’t she be with a billionaire? Why couldn’t she have the best things in life?
Taking a deep breath, Katy lifted her phone, her fingers hovering over the keys and
Yes, it does.
You’ve made me a happy man, Katy Bennett.
Katy’s cheeks flushed just thinking about how she should dress for a date with a billionaire. For all she knew, a casual date meant a date at the Cape!
What do I wear?
Three little dots appeared and disappeared several times and Katy began to wonder if he would respond. She bit down on her thumbnail waiting. When his message came through, her heart did a little flip, filling her with an excitement she hadn’t had in… well ever.
Anything you want.
Katy shook her head at the way he flirted with her so easily and smiled, aware of the heat filling her cheeks.
She put her car into gear and drove off to her studio apartment. She jogged up the steps, bouncing on her heels and couldn’t stop smiling. Unable to sleep that night, Katy tried to pick out the perfect outfit for a date with a billionaire. And decided that regardless of where it led, she’d always be grateful for that evening. Because it was the night she realized, she could be anything she wanted to be.
All she had to do was
Yes, tonight will forever