In a darkened cloak room stood a lady with her back to noise and feminine chatter of the conference’s primary meeting room. She wore the Society’s eponymous hat trimmed with a shortened black and white ostrich plume, a boa of purple peafowl feathers and a beaded gown shimmering with black and the Society’s eponymous color across the shoulders cascading into lighter and lighter shades of each until it at length reached the sparkling white beads at the gold trimmed hem. She quietly fanned herself with the day’s program. She tried to control the occasional sob that shook her stout frame. She’d taken a cell phone out of matching beaded handbag, but seemed to think better of it.
“Are you all alright, honey?” a southern voice drawled.
Roxanne Scamander turned to find “Molly” (that’s what her name tag said) holding out half a glass of water and a box of tissues to her. Molly in her dark “maid” outfit looked at the slightly taller woman with sad, sympathetic brown eyes and a disbelieving shake of her head. The two women exchanged greetings as Molly was distributing coffee to the tables early in the morning. Roxanne was as fair as Molly was dark. Roxanne’s usually carefree expression contrasted just as sharply with Molly’s features worn by hard years.
“Oh, thank you, Molly” Roxanne gushed, with another stream of tears.
“It’s no problems missus. Us red heads have to stick together.” (Roxanne’s smiled at the redbone’s reference to their hair color.) “Now what game is that uppity blond playing?”
“Well, I don’t know.” gasped Roxanne, and then took a drink to calm herself. When she spoke again her voice no longer waivered. “But apparently, I’m playing the part of a guest invited here to be made a fool.” She took another sip of water as Molly nodded for her to continue.
“I’m the new provincial president back home. We are doing real well on our membership drives. So, the National Vice President for Membership invited me down to represent my province and to help with the some presentations.” Here, Roxanne pointed out the blond. Molly was already staring at her distastefully. “The vice president and the president sat at the first long table. I thought I’d best not sit with them because all the national office staff people would crowd around her. If I want to get better at my job, I’d best get to know the other provincial presidents.
“So you were sitting there in the midst of them, when she came over and acted like she was somebody?”
“Yes. She asks me if I am staying all week. The question dumbfounded me, since she invited me to the meeting and it lasts all week. I admitted that I intended to stay. Well, she says, ‘I don’t what to blind side you but-‘”
“Honey,” Molly interrupts “When you are sitting with a group of people and she uses that phrase it means that she’s about to blindside you. “
Roxanne nodded in agreement. “Anyway, she says, “-people have asked why you are attending. I’m going to explain that you are only a guest, that you don’t vote and that you are just here for the discussion on membership.’ ”
In the main room, the meeting was being called together by the facilitator.
Molly patted Roxanne on the arm and said, “I’ll pray that Lord Jesus send you some angels today, missus.”
“He already has, dearie.” Roxanne assured Molly with a wink and a smile.
For those who knew her, it would have been obvious that Roxanne was biting her lip and was sitting on my hands as the meeting began. She recited her practiced lines for the membership presentations that morning and otherwise kept her mouth shut. She introduced herself briefly when it was her turn. The provincial president next to her was a negress whom Roxanne assumed was another southerner. She was delighted that the woman was from Quebec. She and Madam Cote whispered conspiratorially in French during the rest of the conference.
Later in the morning Roxanne discussed with the vice president that the last two days had nothing on the agenda about membership, so she’d head home. Roxanne informed the hosting provincial president of this and hence would not be part of the planned local tour. When the local president asked why, Roxanne repeated the company line. This didn’t please her hostess.
Yes, Roxanne was hurt, offended, disappointed and embarrassed that half the provincial presidents witnessed her humiliation. She could fuss, fume and conspire with her sister Maeve. Instead, she did something more affective; she prayed. Prayer calmed her and prepared her for the role the good Lord intended her to play. Late in the morning session, the conference broken into small committees to work on various issues. In the process, they dragged their chairs hither and yon. Roxanne had a great time with a group of provincial presidents, with whom she went off to lunch.
When they returned from lunch, Molly caught Roxanne’s eye. With a wink and a nod she indicated Roxanne’s seat at the second long table. During lunch some “angel” brought all the chairs back to the conference table. Roxanne’s had lost her seat at the provincial presidents table! With a knowing smile she sat at a couch behind them.
“You don’t have to sit over there Roxanne.” the vice president called from across the room.
“Oh, I lost my chair and I don’t want to take someone else’s place.”
The provincial presidents promptly found her a place at the end of their table. While the provincial presidents were shuffling chairs around for Roxanne, one of their number sitting at the third table moved to the seat vacated by the National President, hence next to the blonde. Everyone commented. At this point “the uppity blond” made the announcement about Roxanne’s attendance and defended her presence at the meeting. She also mentioned Roxanne would only be attending one meeting a year.
When they discussed cost cutting measures, one of the staffers suggested they cut part-time employees to minimum hours. One of the provincial presidents at the far end of the table responded. The staffers returned fire; a double barreled volley launched from the provincial presidents.
Roxanne literally ran for the table of fruit, bagels and muffins, which Molly was tending.
“What is this all about?” whispered Molly.
Roxanne was almost chocking in shock. “It didn’t occur to me at first that only provincial presidents supervise part-employees, all the employees working for the staffer are permanent full time.”
“You have part-time employees? What do they do?” Molly asked as the debate raged louder
“Oh, for things that folks usually don’t volunteer to do. I’m our one and only part-time employee. I vacuum, and set up chairs for meetings.” Roxanne raised a knowing eyebrow. After wagging a finger at Molly she glanced admiringly at the job Molly had done at cleaning the area while they were all at lunch.
From this safe position they discovered that all the staffers had indeed gathered around the vice president. During the chair shuffle Roxanne had been turned into a buffer state between the two factions. In fact the long table where Roxanne sat was occupied by no one but provincial presidents. (One interesting exception; the union representative, Mrs. Moore sat there so as to be as far from the president and vice president as possible. She made the comment at one point that “Madam” Scamander and she were the only union members at the conference.) The remaining provincial presidents spilled on to the third table. Roxanne returned to the table when it was safe.
Towards the end of the day, Madam Cote, pulled her aside. She’d been sitting next to Roxanne when the vice president had “not” blindsided her. Madam Cote felt Roxanne should be on the leadership team. With Roxanne’s permission she wanted to pursue that. Roxanne said how flattered she felt and encouraged Madam Cote to speak with the vice president.
The final presentation Roxanne and the vice president sponsored. It was well received and exactly what Roxanne had hoped. While the leadership team got their picture taken. Roxanne stood with the union representative.
While distributing congratulatory glasses of champagne to the group, Molly noticed the lengthy conversation the two had. “What was that about, missus?” she asked worriedly.
“Dearie! Mrs. Moore mentioned that she couldn't attend all the meetings and occasionally needed a union member to cover for him. She asked me to join the union since I was now officially not on the leadership team!”
Both women shared a big toothy grin and silent laugh.