It didn't help that Tyler was a terrible salesman. A professor at Caltech, with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, he had become involved in developing sustainable, organic menstrual products after his daughter, Kristina, realized there was a gap in the market. With hard work and millions in venture capital funding, they had built a successful subscription-based, direct-to-consumer business with an app-based product for lifestyle health and wellness. And then everything had gone wrong.
Daisy pushed another quarter into the slot and yanked on the dial. If Tyler had asked her to pitch with him when he first signed up for the conference, she wouldn't have been in the restroom at all. Daisy didn't go into meetings unprepared. Instead of sweating it out as she tried to dispense a pad in silence, she would have been seated in the air-conditioned conference room, sipping homemade chai from her thermos as she mentally rehearsed a demonstration she would have practiced for weeks.
Still oblivious to her presence, Orson and Madison continued to make out in the toilet stall, shaking the metal walls as they grappled and groaned. The toilet flushed—not once or twice, but three times in quick succession. Daisy hoped it was from an excess of passion and not because they'd had the dodgy seafood at the buffet lunch. She'd told herself to avoid it, but those prawns had been so tempting . . .
In any event, it was all very disappointing. When she and Orson had been together, he had been an efficient, no-nonsense lover, expressing the satisfactory outcome of their coupling with a whoosh of air followed by glass of Rioja and a deep dive into Aristotle's science of logic envisioned through the syllogism. There had been no moans or panting, no bras falling on the filthy tiles (thank God!), and no automatic toilets flushing a symphony of germs into the air.
The second pad dropped out of the machine, followed by another and another. Boxed pads shot out of the machine, hitting Daisy in the chest like bullets. She dropped to a crouch, scrambling to catch them before they touched the floor.
"Is someone there?" Madison called out.
Oh the huge manatee. Programmer slang for a catastrophic data failure, or in this case, a malfunctioning menstrual pad machine.
Panicking, Daisy grabbed the boxes and bolted out of the restroom.
"Daisy! I was looking for you." Salena Auntie, her father's sister, ambushed her only a few steps from the door.
"What are you doing here, Auntie-ji?" Chest heaving, she looked over her shoulder to make sure she hadn't been followed. The last thing she wanted was for Madison and Orson to think she'd been spying on them. Although she'd been devastated by their betrayal, she wasn't the type of woman who wanted revenge, nor would she ever stoop to begging Orson to take her back. She wasn't that pathetic. One unfortunate drunk dial had cured her of that.
"I was having lunch with my friend Anushka and her son, Roshan, and they mentioned he was looking for a wife." Salena Auntie gestured to the tall, handsome man behind her. "I thought you'd be perfect for each other. I called your office and they said you were here, so we thought we'd drop in."
Daisy bit back a groan. Her aunties had been on a mission to get her married ever since her cousin Layla had gotten engaged, approaching the task with military precision. They showed up unannounced and unexpected at her home, her gym, grocery stores, and malls, always with an innocent bachelor in tow, and always on the pretense of "just being in the neighborhood" even if the "neighborhood" was an hour away.
"I'm so sorry." Daisy shot what she hoped was an apologetic smile at the dark-haired stranger. "I don't have time to chat. I'm about to go into a pitch session, and I have to get these product samples to my boss."
"But you haven't even met Roshan!"
"Another time!" She bolted away, clutching the boxes of pads as she wove in and out of the crowd, her heart pounding in her chest. When she'd woken up this morning, she would never have guessed she would be pulled away from her cozy workspace and dragged to a tech conference, only to wind up on the run from her ex, with an armload of pads and her matchmaking auntie hot on her heels.
Maybe she hadn't woken up. Maybe this was just a dream and any moment now she would open her eyes and . . .
"Ooof." She hit a slab of something rock hard and teetered back on red Mary Janes that were slightly too high for comfort but looked fabulous with her red flowered minidress. Daisy didn't care that her feet were usually hidden away under her desk all day. Shoes made an outfit. Whether they were kitten heels with kitten faces, funky flats decorated with embroidered bananas, or even her blinged-up biker boots, her shoes were always the finishing touch to her somewhat eclectic sense of style.