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Fastening her earrings and putting the finishing touches on her hair, she still questioned everything about her outfit. Todd’s office holiday parties had historically been nothing of note. A happy hour here, a bar tab there, but this one was different.
Due to the company’s recent successes, they had rented out a room at a steakhouse that only a select few of the employees had ever been to (mostly because a filet ran you near $80).
“I think it’s still going to be somewhat casual,” Todd insisted earlier in the week. She knew better than to trust Todd’s instincts when it came to fashion, so she pleaded that he ask one of his female coworkers about what she was wearing so she had something she could base her outfit off of.
“Of course, babe,” Todd promised. But when he didn’t actually follow through, he simply told her he did. “A nice blouse and dark jeans will be fine.”
Knowing that she should know better, she looked in their full-length mirror at her outfit. A blouse tucked into the front of a pair of dark, crisp jeans. “I wish I could wear the sweater from last week,” she muttered to herself.
“Ready, babe?” Todd asked while putting on his jacket. “We’re running a few minutes late.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” she said under her breath before turning her entire body toward the door of the steakhouse. She looked down at herself and could feel her face getting more and more red.
“What’s wrong?” Todd asked.
“Look at me, Todd,” she told him. “Just look at me.”
“You look amazing!” he told her. And yes, he sincerely believed that, but he simply wasn’t understanding the situation at hand.
“I’m dressed like a freaking hobo,” she shout-whispered to him before heading toward the door. Trying not to make a scene, Todd followed directly behind her. Tim, Todd’s pseudo-work friend, commented, “Cigarette already?” only for Todd to look at him with eyes that simply said, “Not funny.”
“Todd, look at all the girls in there,” she demanded while standing just outside the restaurant. Todd looked inside and saw the usual cast of characters from his office. The guys wearing sweaters over button downs with dress pants, and the girls all wearing dresses that fell just above their knees, almost hidden by their coats.
He finally had put two and two together. “It’s okay,” he told her in an attempt to provide comfort. “Once we’re all sitting down, it’s not going to matter what you’re wearing.”
“Everyone looks like they’re going to a gala and I’m over here looking like we’re just going to some regular old happy hour.” While saying this, Todd positioned himself between her and the window so people couldn’t see their argument. He also kept another eye on the street for fear that a group of coworkers may pile out of an Uber at any moment and wonder what they’re doing outside.
“I’m just going to go home,” she told him while taking out her phone and opening the Uber app. “Just tell them I don’t feel well or something.”
Todd reached over in an attempt to stop her from typing in their apartment address. “Babe, please,” he begged. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
And he was actually sorry because he knew this all rested on his shoulders. He knew he probably should’ve gotten intel on the dress code from his coworkers, but it simply slipped his mind.
“I’ll make it up to you,” he promised, “but just please do not make a scene and leave. The table is already set for all of us.”
She stared at him and bundled herself even more into her jacket. Partially to keep warm on the city streets, and partially to shield her outfit from everyone dressed to the nines in the steakhouse.
In an attempt to reconcile with her, Todd turned around and looked through the window. “Look,” he pointed, “Michelle is wearing pants too, and she’s pretty much higher up than anyone else that’s here.”
“Those are black pants, Todd,” she explained. “They’re a litttttle different than freaking dark jeans.”
In her mind, she almost wanted to blame herself. Jeans to a restaurant that had a $150 steak on the menu? What was she thinking? It’s as if her mom hadn’t taught her anything. Hell, her mom would have been livid had she showed up in this outfit had her family simply had a reservation rather than a large party.
“Just promise you’ll let me make it up to you rather than leaving,” Todd asked in a last-ditch effort. “Please.”
She looked at him with a pause. “Fine.”
Todd put his arm around her and lead her to the entrance again. Leaning over with a whisper, he said, “Let’s go get a glass of wine at the end of the bar — Tim and his girlfriend are over there so we can just huddle up with them until we actually sit down.”
Hardly giving a response, she went directly to where he referred to.
“Hey girl!” she exclaimed as they approached, almost as if nothing happened. “I love your dress!”
Tim’s girlfriend smiled while looking her up and down.
“I know, I know,” she told her. “Surprise, surprise, Todd told me it was going to be more casual than it was so I’m over here looking like I should be shopping at the mall.”
Tim’s girlfriend, Brit, laughed and complimented her blouse. “Seriously, though,” she reiterated, “I love your blouse — I’m absolutely freezing in this dress.” She then turned to Tim and asked, “Can you see if the bartender can turn the heat up in here or something? Seriously, it’s frigid.”
Tim rolled his eyes and pretended to try to get the bartender’s attention until Brit forgot that she had made the request in the first place.
“Is this an open tab too?” Todd asked Tim on the side.
“Yeah, dude, I’m not paying for shit tonight,” Tim responded.
“Should we just get a bottle and all split it before sitting down?” Todd questioned while looking over the wine list.
Tim pointed over to a $95 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. “Get this one, it’s pretty nice,” he told Todd. “And besides, Brit is pissed at me because I told her to wear a short dress so I need to get her nice and drunk so she’ll loosen up.”
“You have no idea,” Todd said back.
“Yeah, bartender, I think the four of us are going to split this bottle right here. Company tab.” .