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You don’t know Keller’s wife but I knew the scarf sitting on his desk did not belong to Brenda. My name is Dave and my ex-wife is Brenda’s best friend. After our divorce was finalized Brenda wouldn’t talk to me. The scarf was near the edge of Keller’s desk. I picked it up because it seemed out of place. Nothing magical happened as I held the scarf in my hands. The edges of the scarf were white, the center was watermelon pink, a bold green stripe separated the white from the pink. Keller walked in and grabbed the scarf. I pulled it back. Keller is six and a half feet tall, his arms are a lot longer than mine, in the end he won the fight. I sat back in one of his chairs and smiled at him. “Brenda’s going to kill you if you have someone else’s scarf.”

I watched Keller twirl two ends of the scarf together. He put it around his neck and sniffed. “I'd like to see her try. This is my magic scarf.” Keller’s a good guy. He's been a friend of mine for years. I was the best man at his wedding, he had stood up in mine. I had never heard him talking shit like that before. Not even when both of us were blind stinking drunk. “Nice. What are you going to wear it with? Your new heels?”

“Maybe. This chick who works here gave it to me.” A wad of scarf hit me in the face. “Smell it.” As a rule I don’t care for perfume but as the end of the scarf hit me in the ear I knew why Keller thought the scarf was magical. “Your aftershave is nice. You must be in touch with your feminine side.”

“Boy you know it’s true. Seriously though, you have to meet Veronica. She wears a different scarf every single day.” I couldn’t see why that was such a big deal but then I hadn’t met Veronica either. I had transferred to Kelller’s branch the day before. He ran the largest branch in the state. The move was a good one because it meant I’d be making more money. Keller was all about making money. I had worked with him before, we were a good team. I heard him talking to someone who standing outside of his office, there was a hand on his doorknob, whoever he was talking to was wearing a lemon yellow shirt. The ends of her scarf hung down her back. Her hair was bright and shiny. Diamonds sparkled in her ears as she moved into the doorway.

“Hey, Veronica, I want you to meet Dave.” Veronica’s hair spun as she turned. My ex-wife did hair so it was something I noticed. Usually I can tell if women have colored their hair. If Veronica’s hair wasn’t naturally bright blonde her stylist had done an exceptional job. A sterling silver bracelet slid up her arm as she extended her hand. “Hi, I’m Veronica. Keller told me we’re going on some sales calls together.”

Behind Veronica Keller winked at me. I shook her hand and nodded. My ex-wife had always been cool. Her hair was naturally black, she wore a lot of black, she spent a lot of time getting ready but when she was done she looked good. Another guy we worked with pulled on Veronica’s scarf when he stopped to talk to her. I heard him offer to take Veronica out on sales calls. I thought we should get going so I stood up and offered to drive. We ended up taking Veronica’s car. She had a silver Lexus with personalized vanity plates. Apparently people were expecting Veronica and her car. The second place we stopped at was one of our biggest customers. They had four of our cars sitting out. I’ve been at body shops and I’ve been renting cars to people for years but I had never been on a sales call like that before. Veronica walked in to the office. She talked to the woman at the front desk. I followed her down the hall, we stopped at the manager’s office. Veronica gave him a hug before introducing me.

Out in the shop Veronica knew everyone. There were guys hugging her and pulling on her scarf. Someone pulled up a chair for her. She ended up sitting on a fifty-five gallon drum of windshield washer fluid. They wanted a pizza party, Veronica wanted to grill out. Part of our job was making sure our customers knew they were appreciated. This was Keller’s biggest body shop account. Veronica promised to bring pie the next time she came back. All of us watched as one of the guys in the shop held up her hand to kiss it. Before we left Veronica hugged everyone. Back at the office she hugged the people who hadn’t been there when we left. She didn’t hug Keller but she sat on the edge of his desk recapping the day for him. Someone came into his office to tell Veronica she had a phone call. I finished going over the calls we had made. Keller told me people were going out for drinks but I was done for the day. Veronica had parked next to my car. I saw her walking across the parking lot as I pulled out. Sun was shining on her hair, she pulled her scarf off and I swear that she started unbuttoning her shirt.

That first day I thought that Veronica was superficial and high maintenance. She put on a convincing act for our customers but I didn’t think her effusive warmth was real. Early the next morning Keller asked if I wanted to come along when he took Veronica out to lunch for her performance evaluation. She was going up for promotion and one of the area managers was going to let her know whether she had gotten the job or not. At lunch Veronica had a lot to say for herself. She had facts and figures. Keller backed her up on all of it. Our office had two interns, Veronica was in charge of them. She was responsible for the maintenance on our fleet. Out of two hundred and twelve cars less than ten percent of them needed oil changes and tire rotations. Keller said that when Veronica started almost twenty percent of the fleet needed routine maintenance. He went through a difficult situation that Veronica had handled. Our company hands out fifty dollar gift certificates every time a satisfied customer writes a letter in about an employee. There were seven letters in Veronica’s file.

The server was ready to take our dessert order before we had finished going through Veronica’s list of accomplishments. No one wanted dessert. Everyone was waiting for our boss to congratulate Veronica on her promotion to assistant manager. Anthony put his napkin down on the table and handed his credit card to the server. Instead of telling Veronica that she had been promoted he went into a long winded explanation about a new area manager that had transferred over to our area. I couldn’t see where he was going with his talk about some dude. Veronica was obviously nervous. Keller was drumming his fingers impatiently. Anthony waited until every drop of lemonade in his glass was gone before he looked at us again. I saw Keller put his arm around Veronica. That day her shirt was bright blue. The scarf around her neck was striped. The stripes were orange, yellow, teal, lime green and cobalt blue. Her fingernails were blue with cold. Tears ran down her face when Anthony told Veronica that the new area manager was taking over his job and he could no longer promote anyone.

Veronica ran out of the restaurant without taking her purse. Keller threw his napkin down and took off after her. I grabbed Veronica’s red leather purse and went to see if there was anything I could do to help. After I caught up with them Keller did most of the talking. He told Veronica she could have the rest of the day off. There was a mandatory meeting that night. The new area manager was going to be introduced. Our area hadn’t met our quarterly performance goals. Anthony’s boss Steve had already reamed me and Keller out. At the meeting the new area manager handed out golden tokens. They were for people who had met and exceeded the corporate standards. He flipped a couple of them at Keller. You had to be there to really appreciate how he built Keller up and commended him on his maintenance record.

Keller had two hundred and twenty cars in his fleet after we closed for the day. Only two of them needed oil changes. The new area manager said that he was in the office when he heard one of our interns calling a customer and offering to pick the rental car up at work so it could get in for an oil change. Keller handed his tokens to the interns, he stood up and pushed in his chair. He said that when he had started almost twenty-seven percent of his one hundred and eighty car fleet had needed maintenance. Since then bad debt was down, customer satisfaction was up and so were corporate rentals. Keller brought up how Veronica had trained and worked with the interns. He gave her all the credit for maintaining his fleet and he said that it was a damn shame that she hadn’t been promoted.

After the meeting Keller told me he was going to see Veronica. He also told me that she was was getting divorced. On the way over to Veronica's Keller said that he had been in Anthony’s office the day that Veronica had been hired. She loved cars and her car was her baby. Rain beaded up on the surface of her hood because Veronica washed her car every time she filled it up. I didn't know that Veronica lived with one of the guys we worked with or I never would have gone to her apartment. Keller barged into her room before he said hi to Veronica's roommate. No one was in the room when Keller opened the door. There was nothing in her bedroom apart from her bed and a dresser full of scarves. Her bathroom was the one in front. There wasn’t much in there either. Veronica’s roommate was the one who opened the door for us. His face was red when he told us that Veronica was in bed for the night.

We were standing in the living room when Keller told him to tell Veronica that we had stopped by. Keller dropped Veronica's neatly folded watermelon scarf onto the coffee table. Keller was supposed to be my ride home but I picked the scarf up and stuffed it in my pocket. I hung it up in my closet when I got home and I’ve never washed it. It’s been years since I’ve seen Veronica. I was promoted to Keller’s job after he was promoted to the area manager position. Veronica quit after she didn’t get promoted. Her plan was to move back home and go back to school. Not long ago I was packing up things in my closet. I came across Veronica’s scarf. I had to smile as I picked it up.

The scent of her perfume was barely there. The sun was so bright it hurt my eyes when I stepped outside. I thought about the day I had met Veronica. The memory of her scarf hitting me in the face stayed with me as I walked downstairs. In the car I tied her scarf around my rear view mirror. I decided to visit the mall to see if I could track down her perfume. Driving down the highway I pushed the sunroof back. I turned the radio up and I thought about how Veronica had touched my life for a second and turned everything peach scented.

-30-

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