Adam Maxwell leaned into the bathroom mirror. The face that peered back at him bore the same chiseled features, the same thick black hair overreaching the same furrowed dark eyebrows and the same full cherry red lips. But as Adam drew closer to his image, he noticed there was something not quite right about his eyes. They twinkled. Actually, unequivocally, his eyes were twinkling. Still peering at his reflection, his mind wandered back to events from the previous night.
While enjoying a brewski with his work buddies at their favorite bar a very tall slender woman wearing a bright silver jumpsuit entered the loud chaotic scene from outside. The only sound heard was the shutting of the heavy oak doors because from the moment she walked in, all eyes settled on her and all conversations stopped midsentence.
Adam turned toward the doors at the same time as everyone else. Now, just to be on the right side of this narrative, Adam appreciated all kinds of women, so it wasn’t her flaming red hair, her beauty, or her outfit that mesmerized him. It was more her presence. As soon as she walked in she swallowed the room whole with her being. No one else had a chance around her.
The bar patrons eyes followed her as her long legs sauntered up to the counter, her clear stack heels making a deliberate hard tap as they smacked the floor in a drum beat rhythm. Before Adam knew it she was standing next to him. Adam’s friends willingly cleared space for her as she took possession of the counter.
With one hand resting on the bar, she pulled her long blazing red hair slowly back with her other hand and then cupping that hand around his ear, whispered in a husky voice, “Pumpkins aren’t my thing, but I’ll lay you odds that you will ride in one very soon, my fine man.”
She then took a swig of his beer and smacked it back on the bar. As all eyes and all gaping mouths watched, she waved the crowd apart as she walked back out the door. Silence permeated the air for a moment or two then all at once the noisy atmosphere returned. The bartender began pouring beers again, people crowded around the counter, and Adam’s friends began to pat him on the back and tease him about pumpkins and fairy godmothers. He left shortly after and upon reaching his apartment fell into bed and into a deep sleep. When he woke up he smiled as he recalled the strange happenings of the previous night.
The vibration of his phone sitting on the sink stirred him out of his self-reflection. A photo popped up on the screen of a serious male face brimming with cosmetically altered tight too-tanned skin. Dark blackish eyes pierced the small space of the phone.
“Adam! Are you there?” the voice on the phone bellowed. Adam thought to himself once again, does he even know the meaning of phone etiquette?
“Yes, Conrad, I’m here,” Adam answered.
His stepfather’s baritone voice began his routine long litany of daily abuses. “I have been up since the crack of dawn. I’m trying to put together a portfolio for my lawyers. They have no sense of time or money. They…”
Adam put the phone down and brushed his teeth. The voice continued.
“Anyway, Adam, don’t forget the gala tonight. You do have your suit pressed and ready, right? I’m getting that award you know. Citizen of the year? I want my family to be there. That most certainly includes you, Adam old pal. I am sorry that you don’t own a tux like the rest of my boys. It’s unfortunate that you have that low paying job. You should get a new suit though. That old one is worn and getting threadbare, I must say.”
“I wouldn’t miss the gala for the world, Conrad,” Adam said ignoring the careless comments.” And yes, my suit is clean and pressed, ready to wear.”
“Well, okay then. Be ready and outside your apartment building promptly at 6 pm. Our car will be there to pick you up. You’re riding with Vlad, Ivan, and Leo, ya know. I want us to be on time. I understand a very wealthy monarch will be there and I want to introduce the boys. Oh, and the limo must be back by midnight. I have acquired their services for only a certain number of hours due to…”
Conrad’s voice rumbled on in the background. Great. Adam let out a sigh. His stepbrothers were the bane of his existence. When Adam was a small child his mother died, leaving him with his stepfather and three stepbrothers. Adam was constantly the brunt of their jokes and the solution to their problems. Always in a rush, his stepfather would make a half -hearted attempt to listen to whatever son at the time had a predicament, a run-in with their school, or for that matter, run-ins with any type of authority figure.
Conrad Hershall would use the same tired script to address whatever guilty son at the time. “What happened? You say Adam had something to do with it? Don’t worry, son, he will suffer the consequences of his actions. Blah, blah, blah.”
No matter the crime, no matter the circumstances, the blame would circle back to Adam, even if he wasn’t present for the mishap and possessed a decent alibi. It didn’t matter. It was always Adam’s fault. The ‘consequences’ would involve washing his stepfather’s or his stepbrothers’ luxury cars, raking and sacking leaves in the fall, shoveling the long driveway in the winter. Whatever the tasks, there were too many to recall. And now, he was forced to spend an eternal night with these catastrophic dipsticks.
Unbeknownst to the community at large but acknowledged by Adam, his stepfather was now wallowing in debt. Apparently his sons fell into hard times. One son married not one but three different women at the same time stirring up quite a few legal problems that required available funds to keep him out of prison as well as the need for hush money. Another son was quite a gambler, but not a good one. The third son tried his hand at entrepreneurship and couldn’t manage it let alone spell it.
So, this gala was important for more than the award. With this distinguished accolade in hand, this event gave Conrad the opportunity to marry off one of his sons to the highest bidder. And apparently a monarch fit the bill nicely.
Adam’s day was normally that of the same routine. As a computer tech, he stayed fairly busy. But this day was different. His company had been sold. Gossip was that the new owner was a member of a very wealthy royal family in a small country in Europe. A mandatory meeting had been called. That meant that over one hundred employees had to gather in the company atrium to hear the news.
As he stood next to his drinking buddy coworkers, the new owner was introduced. Adam couldn’t hear the introductions over the whispering and chatting of his fellow employees. But as the crowd noise diminished, another sound took its place, that of a drumbeat cadence. The sound grew louder as the bearer approached. Adam’s heart started a matching beat.
A collective gasp was heard as Adam’s line of vision became one with the new owner. A tall lithe creature appeared and entered the center of the room. Her attire was more that of a suit of armor than a power suit. With silver toned slacks and a large shoulder baring blazer of equally shiny silver, the suit set quite a tone. A dark colored wide belt cinched the jacket. Her ruby red color hair fell past the attention grabbing belt. And on her feet were the items making the drumbeat sound, her clear stack heels.
Adam couldn’t say a word. His friends could only stare at him, their mouths open. When he asked someone who she was, they replied, “Queen Ella.”
After the short meeting everyone dispersed. His friends jostled him and teased him with remarks about pumpkins and magic wands as they walked back to their individual cubicles. They abruptly stopped when they saw Queen Ella appear walking out of a doorway.
“Hello.” Her husky voice was directed only at Adam. “It’s good to see you again.” Her eyes lingered on Adam for a moment then she turned and addressed Adam’s friends, “And the both of you as well.”
A group Adam recognized as the higher echelon of the company stood at the end of the hall. It became apparent that they were waiting for Queen Ella.
“I have to go,” she said. “But I will see YOU again later this evening.” As she began to walk down the hall towards the group she turned and said to Adam, “Oh, and later this afternoon, be sure to heed the call of a kind but somewhat confused elderly gentleman.”
Ella’s parting words left Adam confused. But as his friends began their teasing tirade again he forgot all about the strange encounter. Until later.
A chestnut tan leather briefcase in one hand, his phone in the other, Harry Harkness stared down at the phone as he tried to decipher the cryptic GPS system. This was no ordinary GPS. Rather than noting streets and locations of interest for the usual clientele, this particular design held names of people with tiny stars above their names. The number of stars denoted who was in charge of the name. Harry had three stars linked to his clients. He zeroed in on one in particular, Adam Maxwell, and clicked on the name. A map appeared. He glanced at his gold gemstone watch. He had three minutes before he would run smack dab into Adam on the busy sidewalk.
After work, Adam walked down the busy sidewalk, deep in thought. No matter what excuse he tried to think of for missing the gala that evening nothing could prevent him from attending. He knew he had to suck it up and go. Still his mind kept looping, maybe he could say he was sick. No, he used that excuse not long ago for another fundraiser. Maybe he could say he had to work late. No, his boss will be at the gala, too. Maybe he could—
A tan leather briefcase came flying toward him, papers spilling out all over the pavement. After bumping into Adam, an elderly gentleman skidded to a stop. The older man began to cry out, “Oh, my papers!”
Adam helped gather the contents of the briefcase and then handed them to Harry. He noticed a half-eaten sandwich squashed by passers-by lying open on the sidewalk.
“Well, I guess my expected dinner has been somewhat disadvantaged,” the older man said.
“Harry Harkness.” Harry extended his hand. “Thank you for assisting an old man. I would love to buy you dinner for your kindness. I could use the company and a new dinner as well.”
“That is very kind of you, but I have an appointment I have to rush to,” Adam said. His blue eyes began to settle into the other man’s face. As his eyes met Harry’s eyes, he remembered Ella’s parting words.
“I believe we both have an appointment,” Harry said. “Allow me to assist you with your dilemma.”
Adam allowed Harry to take his arm as they both walked to Adam’s apartment building.
There were two instead of one that entered the chauffeur driven limo that evening at Adam’s apartment building. Adam and Harry smiled at the other three passengers as they entered the car. Harry held his briefcase carefully to his chest.
Adam introduced Harry to his stepbrothers. Then one by one, as the brothers shook Harry’s hand, they each instantly froze as if hit by an icy wave. They found that their mouths didn’t work nor their arms or legs. As they sat solidly still Harry told them what their role was in the coming hours as he carefully took off their Italian leather shoes.
Although utterly bewildered by the events in the limo, Adam followed Harry into the ballroom, the brothers trailing after in their stocking feet. His stepfather, Conrad, rumbled over as he bellowed, “What happened to your shoes, you idiots?”
The brothers still couldn’t speak.
“Adam! Take off those unsightly shoes. Although they are not what my boys are accustomed to, at least one of these idiots should be able to fit in them so that they can attend the gala.”
Adam shrugged. He needed an excuse not to attend and he had it. But, his shoes didn’t fit any of the brothers’ feet.
Conrad grabbed the feet of the unfortunate brother with the closest fit to Adam’s shoes. He forced the shoes on his feet as the brother screamed in agony. Apparently their voices had come back.
“You are going to this gala if I have to cut your toes off!” Conrad screamed.
People were beginning to crowd around the little group of tormented men. It was at that moment that a tall woman wearing a silver tulle creation parted the crowd and walked toward Adam.
“I believe we have met, Adam. “ She then turned and said, “Hello, Harry. Long time no see.”
“Aahh,” Conrad interrupted the repartee. “Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Conrad Hershall and these are my sons, Vlad, Ivan and Leo.”
The sons stood there and stared at the statuesque red head then uttered words akin to hello or nice to meet you.
“Excuse me, Mr. Hershall, but only one of your sons is wearing shoes.” Ella glanced down at their feet and then up again at Conrad.
“And, while we are on the subject of shoes, I must say, dear man, your shoes are extremely elegant.” Ella’s glance had landed on Adam, and his feet.
With amazement Adam looked down at his attire. He wore a dark velvet blue custom made suit custom fit to his sculpted physique. One of the narrow lapels bore a single red rose. Adam opened the palm of his right hand to find that another single red rose was clasped inside. At first surprised by his hand’s possession, he recovered and took the opportunity to give the rose to Ella as he bowed slowly. Ella smiled the first of many charming grins. Harry closed and laid his briefcase aside.
“Would you care to dance?” Ella asked Adam. Adam smiled a princely smile and offering his hand, ushered the both of them onto the dance floor.
Conrad turned to his sons and giving the unfortunate one that stood closest to him a swift kick in his tuxedo bearing bottom, he told them to sit down at their table and not get up. Usually disobedient, the sons mindlessly wandered over to their table and sat down taking great pains to hide their feet under the table.
Adam and Ella danced. They made an arresting couple as they glided together on the dance floor. And in what was becoming routine, the crowd parted and stood in a circle around the pair as they watched them prance and sway the night away; the tall red headed queen and her charming computer tech prince.
The clock hands moved way too fast and before too long it was time for the awards presentation to begin. Adam sat next to Ella at the company table with the rest of her employees. Harry was invited to sit there, too. He kept glancing at his gold gemstone watch. He would point at it periodically when catching Adam’s eye but Adam would glance his way and shake his head. At times, Ella would lean over and whisper into Adam’s ear. They held hands under the table.
When it came time for Conrad to accept his award he bolted to the stage. His acceptance speech was as to be expected; long winded and tantamount to a good night’s sleep. Everyone was glad when the nearby courtyard’s clock chimed twelve. Everyone but Harry and Adam.
Adam began to feel woozy. His eyes dimmed but not before he noticed that he was in stocking feet. The blue velvet tux was replaced by his threadbare suit. In an effort to shrink down as much as he could in his seat his arm hit the wine glass on the table causing a chain reaction of glasses toppling over and hitting each other, one by one. The noise made everyone look in his direction.
Alarmed and ashamed, Adam gave Ella a sad half smile as he bolted out of his seat and ran toward the room’s double doors. He fled down the outside stairs and out to the street. The limo wasn’t anywhere to be found so he ran to the public bus and pounded on the closed doors. The bus driver opened the doors and Adam rushed to a seat and sunk down. Not knowing where the bus was going he only knew he wanted as far away as possible from the gala.
Harry’s GPS came in handy later that night, or morning to be concise. He found Adam sleeping on a bench in the city park, his bare feet extended over the bench. The dirty socks rested on the wooden slats.
“Adam, my boy, you must get up. We have work to do.”
Adam slowly woke up and with furrowed brow, asked, “How in blazes did you find me? Oh, never mind.” He waved it off and started to lie back down.
“Get up!” Harry would not have it.
“Your queen is about to board a plane headed back to her home country. There is a slight chance that we can catch her before she leaves.”
To Adam’s dismay, at the edge of the city park sat a large pumpkin, door cutout on the side, with large spoke golden wheels on its underside.
The city airport was bustling with businessmen and women, families on vacations, and relatives meeting their loved ones. Harry held his GPS mastered phone in one hand and his briefcase in the other. Adam followed closely. People stopped to stare at the barefoot man wearing the tattered and dirty business suit and the distinguished older gentleman leading the way.
“Here! This is the way to the private boarding area. I’m hoping her jet is still on the tarmac.”
“Sir, you must stop here.” An airport officer with his arms outstretched stood directly in front of the two.
Adam looked past the officer to the doorway and then towards the tarmac. He was surprised to see Conrad and his sons gathered in front of a plane that bore the inscription “Ella” on its side. They were waving and shouting toward the plane’s cabin door.
As Adam watched, the door opened and Ella stepped from the plane onto the tarmac. Her reddish hair caught the morning sun causing it to look like her head was on fire. She wore a silver two piece suit. Her feet bore silver jeweled shoes with slim spiked clear heels.
After a short unknown conversation with Conrad, Ella suddenly turned and began walking away. As she walked toward her plane, she turned in time to see Conrad pointing a gun at her.
Adam sprang toward the door, but the officer ran in front of him and forced him to stop. Adam could only watch as the drama unfolded. Within ear shot, he heard Conrad say, “I won’t let you leave until you choose one of my sons, promise to marry him, and share your fortune with us.”
In one swift movement Ella drew her foot up, took off her shoe, and threw it in a spinning motion at Conrad’s gun. The shoe’s clear heel hit its target with such force that it bent the gun’s cylinder shut as it hit the ground.
“Now is the time.” Harry looked at his gold gemstone watch. “Follow me.”
He then took a long silver wand out of his briefcase and waved it. Slowly his feet left the ground as he rose toward the ceiling. Adam’s eyes glazed over as his head tilted up, completely baffled.
“How in the hell am I supposed to follow you?” Adam said as he stared at Harry, his head tilted to a 180.
“This way, my boy! This way!” Harry waved his wand and to Adam’s amazement his bare feet left the ground as he sailed over the airport officer’s head and out the entryway door to the tarmac.
On the tarmac, Ella stared at the sight of an elderly gentleman and his very handsome companion gliding over her head.
“Adam!” With the sound of her voice, Adam gently glided to the ground next to her. They fell into each other’s arms and kissed.
“Conrad was going to kill you!” Adam cried out. “I tried to get to you. What made you turn your head? It’s a good thing you did!”
“I only turned at the right time because I was looking for you. I knew you were going to come. And you did!”
As the jet took off into the sunrise, Ella and Adam continued their welcome into each other’s arms. Harry stood on the tarmac and waved them on.
Conrad began crying, “I wouldn’t have done it.”
Harry stood next to Conrad and his sons as the airport officer radioed for assistance.
He then turned to the sons. “C’mon men. There isn’t much we can do for your father right now. And we have a lot of work ahead of us as we strive to make you into the good men you can and will be! We have tons to do. I have to add you to my GPS plus a million other things. But first we must get to the parking lot. My pumpkin is double parked.”
It is said that Queen Ella and her prince lived happily ever after and Adam’s eyes never lost their twinkle. Ella acquired many more companies as the years went by. She was quite busy in her role as Executive Queen. Adam was also quite occupied with his job as Prince of Technical Support.
It is also said that Queen Ella bestowed upon Adam a gift of great joy that would live long after her reign. A gift that proved her undying love and benevolence. A fine pair of size 10 1/2, Italian leather, cushioned foot bed, regal blue stitched shoes bearing of course, clear glass heels fit for, well, a Queen’s prince.