Antoinette

Rachel gave her eyelashes another swipe of mascara for good measure and stepped back to look at herself in the mirror with a satisfied smile. Her floor-length emerald gown was immaculate, and she had ensured it offset her prize anthurium warocqueanum, or Queen Anthurium, with its large, draping velvet leaves perfectly. Her name was Antoinette because Queen Anne was unremarkable and ended up divested of her head, and at least Marie was fabulous before she lost hers. Rachel squealed with unrepressed delight.

They would both look radiant on stage tonight.

Screw Joe and his assured win as Top Salesperson for the fourth year in a row, and forget Allison and her recent ad campaign that was sure to secure her the title of Marketing Maverick over the incumbent Tiana. Tonight was about Rachel—and Antionette, of course. After all, she was the reason Rachel was being honored with the Best Office Plant award.

Her phone pinged as her sleek black ride pulled up outside.

She had sprung for an Uber XL to ensure Anoinette would fit in the back seat while properly strapped in. It would not do to have her lose a leaf on the way to the award ceremony.

One Up Enterprises never skimped on parties, and this year was no different. When Rachel arrived, there was a red carpet lining the walk up to the doorway of the hotel. She retrieved Antoinette from the passenger seat, checking her cascading foliage for damage and artfully arranging a few of her leaves before carrying her up the walk and into the banquet hall where most of her coworkers already mingled and sipped champagne, just as she planned it.

Heads turned as she entered, and Rachel simpered.

She chose a free seat near the back, smiling at her own forethought, and proudly placed Antoinette in the center of the table. All set for a striking and memorable entrance to the stage, Rachel sashayed off to grab herself a glass of bubbly before the festivities began. She could hardly contain herself as wait staff brought out savory soup, a salad so classy it consisted of only several bites, and then the decadent main course of thinly sliced roast beef. Rachel hardly tasted any of it and fairly threw her plate at the man who cleared the table, for the part of the evening she had awaited since the year prior was finally upon her.

Chairwoman Sanchez strode to the podium at the right of the stage to make her opening address, and Rachel settled in for the wait; Best Office Plant was announced second to last, right before the Abigaile Sanchez Award, a prestigious honor named for the current chairwoman’s daughter and presented to the most helpful team member at the office as nominated and voted on by their peers.

After Joe had been named Top Salesperson, Allison had indeed unseated Tiana as Marketing Maverick, and nearly everyone else in the office had been honored, Rachel stood from her seat and smoothed her dress in anticipation. She smiled and hefted Antoinette into her arms.

“Now, for Best Office Plant, please join me in congratulating Rachel Martin,” Chairwoman Sanchez said.

Rachel beamed and paraded Anionette to the stage as applause filled the room.

“Thank you!” Rachel projected into the crowd. “Thank you all!”

As the applause died down, Rachel turned to exit the stage with Antoinette, but the chairwoman cleared her throat, which made Rachel pause.

“Now,” the chairwoman said, “this year we are doing things a bit differently, and I am excited to announce that there is actually a second winner for Best Office Plant among our valued employees.”

“Excuse me?” Rachel asked, her smile faltering for a second before she forced it back into place.

“Please also join me in congratulating Sarah Leighton.” Chairwoman Sanchez started up the round of applause by tapping her right hand delicately in her left palm.

Sarah joined Rachel on stage, an artificial dieffenbachia seguine, or tuftroot, in her hands. Rachel doubted the other woman even knew what type of plant the plastic monstrosity was meant to be.

“Seriously?” Rachel demanded, scanning the room in disbelief, her smile gone, replaced with a dark glower. “A fake plant?! How is that even allowed?”

Everyone knew Shelly was the best programmer on their team, so Rachel had slaved for a year to win Best Office Plant, and now she was sharing the stage with Sarah and a pathetic, zero-effort-required artificial plant! She could even see glue where the stupid thing was affixed to the faux dirt in its tacky pot, and she noticed bits of stringy plastic where the striated leaves had been mass-produced in some factory.

“How dare you!” Rachel said, too angry for tears or to worry about humiliating herself in front of the entirety of One Up Enterprises. “I worked hard for this.”

“At least I’m good at my job,” Sarah said with a shrug.

Rachel’s jaw dropped, and her eyes grew round as the saucers beneath the coffee cups neatly set at each place setting.

Her eyes narrowed. “Apparently not, or you wouldn’t be standing up here with a shitty artificial plant; you’d be getting an award for, what is it you do again?”

“Ladies, please,” Chairwoman Sanchez said.

“Just give me my damn plaque!” Sarah said, holding out her hand.

Rachel laughed then, her smile returning. “You know what?” she said, her cheeks sore from the force of her smile, “This is ridiculous. Take mine too, Sarah. I don’t care about a meaningless award.”

With that, she took Antoinette from the stage, her jade gown flowing behind her as she strutted towards the exit, past the elaborately decorated tables, and flung open the door with a bang.

Everyone turned to see her grand exit, just as she had intended.

“We should all be congratulating Daniel on earning the Abigaile Sanchez Award. That is the only award around here that means a damn thing, anyhow,” Rachel announced, stealing the charwoman’s thunder, not that the award was a real surprise at this point anyhow, what with everyone receiving an award for something or other. Rachel swiped a glass of champagne from a waiter attempting to fade into the ballroom’s elegant wainscot and raised it high, effervescent liquid sloshing from the flute and missing Antoinette’s leave by mere inches. “To Daniel!”

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