set after "And The Crowd Goes Wild" ~~ previous / next

The Hypocrisy of Cake

She would buy the damn cake.

Dana was lonely and Natalie was crying, and they both knew they wouldn't be able to eat, but, dammit, Dana had planned on cake, and to hell with Sam, she was going to have cake.

"There's a bakery on 2nd," Natalie said as she and Dana caught an elevator.

"I thought I'd get store-bought."

"A bakery's not a store?"

Dana shook her head. "While acknowledging that a bakery is a store, Natalie, I meant a different type of store."

"What type of store did you mean?"

The type that isn't a bakery."

"What's wrong with bakeries?"

"Is there a point to this conversation?" Dana asked.


"Then can we stop having it?"

"No. What type of store?"

"The type that sells liquor."

"Gotcha." Natalie nodded approval and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

They fell silent for a couple of floors. "Are we going to cover that horse story tomorrow?" Natalie finally asked.

"What horse story?"

"Some horse in Virginia did something amazing."

"What did he do?"

"He won something."

"What did he win?"

"I'm assuming a ribbon."

"What happened?" Dana asked as they crossed the lobby and stepped outside into New York.

"With Jeremy?"

"What happened with Jeremy?"

"He didn't want to go to Lot 61."

"You broke up over Lot 61?"




"Then what happened?"

Natalie was silent until the door of the cab closed behind them. "Lot 61 wasn't why we broke up, it was just the reason we broke up."

"It wasn't why, but it was the reason?"

"Well, yeah."



"I have no idea what you're saying."

"Neither do I."

Dana nodded. "Okay."

Natalie stared out the window. "It's a nice night," she said.


"You know what I miss?"


Natalie sighed. "Before that," she explained.

"Being twelve?"


"Well," Dana said, "I thought maybe you missed being twelve."

"Why would I miss being twelve?"

"Because I miss being twelve, and I thought maybe you did, too."



"You know what I miss?"



"You miss Orion?"

"I miss the stars being so bright above my house as to almost light up the night." She was still staring out the window.

"You know what I miss?" Dana asked.

"Being twelve?"

"After that."


"I miss Sam."

The cab drew to a halt. Dana paid the driver and let the conversation hang until she and Natalie were on the sidewalk.

"Cake first or liquor?" Natalie asked.



"I want some black stockings."

"What exactly is a stocking?"

Dana paused mid-step and then continued. "Well, it's like a sock, I guess."

"So you want black socks."

"In essence."

"Why do you want black socks?"

"To match my black dress."

"Which black dress?"

"The one I'm about to buy." Dana led Natalie toward a small dress shop a few doors down.

"I didn't know you could buy dresses at this time of night," Natalie said as she entered the store.

"You can buy anything at this time of night if you know where to look," Dana told her.

"Two doors down from the liquor store, and I still say bakery cake is the way to go."

"Bakery cake it is, but the liquor takes priority," Dana decided.

"What kind of dress do you want?"

"The kind that, had Sam not already boarded that plane, would make him change his mind and stay in New York for one more night."

"And the kind that would make Casey realize what a moron he is for saying no when you asked him out?"

"And the kind that would make Casey realize what a moron he is for many reasons, not the least of which is that he said no when I asked him out."


"It's understandable that he said no when I asked him out?"

"It's understandable that you want to buy a dress to refute his decision."

"And while we're here," Dana suggested, "why not pick something out that will make Jeremy realize that going to Lot 61 would be a low price to pay for the treasure that is his ex-girlfriend? Although, please go easy on him. We do all work in the same office."

Natalie nodded. "I'll go as easy on him as you go on Casey."

"Uh oh."

"Here we go," Natalie said, snatching a dress from off the rack.

"Natalie, that's sleep wear."

"It isn't."

"It's translucent."

"It's stylish."

"It would bring in the bucks on a street corner, Natalie, but you are not wearing it to work."

Natalie made a face and hung the dress back on the rack.

"Oh!" Dana cut past Natalie and hurried to a rack in the next aisle. "Here we go!" She pulled a dress from the rack and held it against her.

"Dana, it's floor-length."

"It's classy."

"I can't see your legs."

"I assure you they're still there."

"Dana --"

"I like it. I'm going to try it on."

"Dana, the point of this is to ... wait a minute, what is the point of this?"

"The point of this is to have a good time."

"Then don't put on that dress. Put on ..." Natalie reached for another dress ... "this one."

Dana raised an eyebrow. "I've seen more substantial lingerie," she said uncertainly.

"Trust me, Dana," Natalie said. "You'll look amazing."

"Then you're putting on this one." Dana handed Natalie her earlier choice.

"That's fine."

"What did the horse win?"

"The Grand Prix of ... something."

"And he did this in Virginia?"

"He did this in New York."

"Was it by chance the Grand Prix of New York?"

"Is there such a thing?"

"I honestly couldn't tell you."

"Then why are we still talking about this?"

"I thought you said it was a horse in Virginia."

"The horse lives in Virginia. He won the thing in New York."

"There's the fitting room."

Dana went into one cubicle, Natalie into another, and a moment later they emerged, beautiful, uncomfortable, and neither one willing to admit it.

"So are we going to buy these?" Natalie asked after a minute.

"We are going to buy these," Dana confirmed, and they changed back into their street clothes.

Ten minutes later, back on the sidewalk carrying bags of dress and stocking, Natalie and Dana turned the conversation back to Sam.

"He was going to stay," Natalie confirmed.


"And he didn't."

"Do you see him here?" Dana snapped.

"Okay." Natalie raised a hand.

"I'm sorry."

"No problem."

"Thank you."

"When did he leave?"

"I assume he left during the show."

"Why do you assume that?"

Dana stopped walking for a second. "Because before the show he was there, and after the show, he was absent."

"I see."

"What do you see?"

"I see you caring less about never seeing Sam again than you do about Sam not caring to say good-bye."

"It would have been the courteous thing to do."

"He cared, Dana."

"You just said that he didn't."

"He cared enough to leave instead of trying to continue something that never had a chance in the first place."

"I could live with our relationship being doomed from the start. What I don't want to live with is that if not for its being doomed from the start, we might have had a relationship."

They entered the liquor store and stared at bottles of things they both suddenly felt like downing. "Wine?" Natalie suggested. Dana shook her head.

"What else do we know about this horse?" Dana asked.


"We don't know anything else about the horse?"

"We don't know anything about horses."

"We know they're really big, they smell, and people ride them."

"They don't smell," Natalie countered.

"What are you talking about?"

"I did some riding as a kid. Horses don't smell."

"Horses don't smell," Dana repeated.

"By that I mean they don't smell bad," Natalie explained.

"I see."

"Gin and tonic?"


"Excellent." Natalie grabbed a bottle of gin and another of tonic water. As they walked to the check-out, Dana blinked.

"You did some riding as a kid?"


"Then why don't you know anything about horses?"

"Because I did some falling off as a kid, as well."

"I see."

"Not that I was afraid."

"I understand."

"I just chose not to continue."


And here they were on the sidewalk again. "Where to now?" Natalie asked.

"I wish we had shoes," Dana answered.

"We have shoes."

"Other shoes."

"I know."

"Shoes to go with the dresses."


"I need shoes or I need a lamp."

"There's a little store several blocks from here that sells shoes," Natalie told her. Dana nodded and stepped to the curb to hail a cab.

"These," Natalie said virtually the second they entered the store. She was pointing to a pair of black silk four inch heels.

"No," Dana told her.


"I'll be gigantic."

"You'll be gigantic?"

"I'm 5'7", Natalie, these things will make me --" She hesitated.

"Five eleven."

"Math wasn't my subject."

"What was your subject?"

"I don't remember."

"These will make you look sexy."

"I already look sexy."

"These will make you look more sexy."

"Why do I need to look more sexy?"

"Because we're having a good time."

"Natalie --"

Natalie leaned closer. "They'll make you almost as tall as Sally."

"I could buy a pair of tin can stilts and not be as tall as Sally."

"I didn't say as tall as Sally, I said almost as tall as Sally."

Dana hesitated. "Good enough," she said at last, and picked up one of the shoes. Then she handed Natalie a pair of silver sandals.

"Really?" Natalie asked.

"I'm wearing yours, so you have to wear mine."

Natalie sighed. "Okay. And, for the record, this was the fastest job of shoe shopping I've ever witnessed, let alone been party to."


"Let's get the cake."

"Yes." They paid for their shoes and walked back out onto the sidewalk. For a moment they just stood, staring at the world of lights around them.

"I'll bet some of those lights form Orion," Dana said.

"I'll bet some twelve-year-old is thinking the same thing," Natalie answered.


"Yeah. They've got good rolls."

"What about cake?"

"I'm sure they have cake."

"Good cake?"

"Are you hungry?"


"Does it matter if the cake is good?"


"Then let's go."

It was a small cake, and because of the hour and a surplus it read "Congratulations." But it was strawberry, and they weren't going to eat it anyway. Dana paid for Sam's cake and let out a sigh. Natalie led the way back onto the sidewalk.

"So." Natalie was staring at the street. "Where to now?"

Dana had expected to go home tonight, and not alone. In Natalie's apartment, a carton sat half-filled and tearstained on the kitchen floor.

"The office, I guess," Dana said, and stepped forward.

The office was dim at this hour, and oddly comforting in its lull between days of chaos. Leaving the cake and the gin in the newsroom floor, Dana and Natalie went to the ladies' room to change.

Dana's dress was above the knee, and the heels had been good judgment on Natalie's part. Natalie's dress swept to the floor, and only the toes of her sandals could be seen beneath its hem.

Back in the newsroom, they twirled like twelve-year-olds, and studied their reflections in the conference room glass.

"We look awesome," Natalie said, and sat down beside the cake, and started to cry.

In the newsroom of a television station, time is everything, and the clocks spaced at intervals around the room could be heard ticking solemn seconds by. For a while neither of them moved, and then Dana sat beside Natalie and opened the cake box. She picked off an icing rose and handed it to her best friend, who looked up suddenly and laughed through her tears.

"Liquor," Dana suggested. "Where do you suppose we would find glasses at this time of night?"

"On Jeremy's face."

"The other kind of glasses."

"There have been a couple of Styrofoam cups cluttering the craft service table for a month," Natalie told her.

"Good enough." Dana walked boldly, liking the feel of these shoes and this dress, and returned a moment later with the cups. She mixed the drinks while Natalie picked another piece of icing off the cake.

"Didn't think to get silverware, did we?" Natalie pointed out.

"I don't think this silly cake warrants buying silverware," Dana replied.

"Plasticware, then."

"Where? At the dress shop, the liquor store, the shoe shop, or the bakery?"

"You have a decent point."

Dana stuck her finger in the cake and licked off the icing. "I think we'll be fine this way, since I doubt we'll ever get past the icing."

"Another good point."

"What kind of competition was it?" Dana asked.


"The horse. What kind of competition did he win?"

"It was show jumping, I think."

"Do you know anything about show jumping?"

"I think it's a show where they jump."

"Thank you."

"You bet," Natalie said around a mouthful of icing.

They were silent for a moment, staring out again at the city, before Nataie said, "Is this a bad thing?"

Dana looked at her. "Is what a bad thing?" she asked.

Natalie nodded at the cake and the drinks and the dresses and the shoes. "This. All of it. We've both been, for all practical purposes, dumped. We're supposed to be the bitter exes, and we're celebrating."

"We're sitting in the office at 3 a.m. wearing slutty black dresses, drinking gin and tonic from Styrofoam cups, and licking the icing from someone's half-stale strawberry graduation cake. I'd say we more than fit the bill of the exes, Natalie."

Natalie grinned, really grinned, for the first time in a few days. "Thank you, Dana," she said.

"You bet," Dana replied.

At 9 a.m., Casey, Dan, Isaac, and Jeremy shared an elevator to the 49th floor. It was early yet, and they were among the first of the Sports Night crew to arrive.

Or so they thought, until the moment they entered the newsroom.

Two Styrofoam cups sat empty beside a half-drained bottle of gin. A plastic bottle of tonic water had spilled onto the carpet beside a cake from which no slice had been cut, although most of the icing was gone. The remains read "ations." Against the wall were piled two nice outfits and two pairs of street shoes. And in the midst of it all, still sleeping, were the executive and senior associate producers, clad in black dresses fit to turn anyone's head.

For a moment the men just stood there, unsure of what to do. It was Isaac who moved first, sitting down next to Dana and reaching for the bottle of gin.

Jeremy and Casey sat, too, their eyes never leaving their colleagues.

"Huh," Jeremy commented.

"Yes," Casey agreed.

Dan knelt and scraped the "a" off of "ations." As the day began, the six of them remained in silence. There was nothing to be said. And there was nothing to celebrate, but they did it anyway.

08 February 2000

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set after "And The Crowd Goes Wild" ~~ previous / next