Road Movie: Chapter 15

“Hey, we need to celebrate you coming back!” It was Friday morning, and Dakota found herself with Maria and Virginia in the elevator on their way up to the office. Maria was the one who brought up the idea. “Are you free tonight?” Virginia looked at the youngest manager. “Yeah, I should be.” Dakota nodded. Truth be told, she would have probably just gone around the city, taking photos of buildings. As sad or weird as that sounded, it was actually fun for her. Dakota enjoyed photography to the extent where she did not feel uncomfortable whipping out her camera and snapping a picture of anything she found to be beautiful. Being able to preserve a moment indefinitely, it spoke to her sentimental side. “Hey, let’s go to Sable Kitchen and Bar! I know the general manager! She needed my help after their executive chef totally made a fool out of herself on Top Chef a few years back.” Virginia cackled. “Oh my god, don’t remind me.” Maria rolled her eyes. She was an avid fan of Top Chef, and the chef in question made her ashamed to be from the same city. “So you down?” “Of course!” Dakota nodded excitedly.

Sable Kitchen and Bar was modern restaurant, with dark colored walls, light colored tables, and artistic light fixtures. “I still can’t believe you managed to get us a table here.” Maria rolled her eyes. Virginia grinned victoriously, while Dakota was just enjoying the environment. Being back with her work friends was fun for her. She still remembered what it was like, being the intern while Maria was working there. Dakota had worked only with Frida in the beginning, but she really wanted to meet the other managers working underneath Frida and gain more insight on the most likely position for her to wound up in post graduation. She first met Justin, who would often report to Frida. Justin was always the one person in the office who Dakota could not get along with. He was very uninteresting to her. A nice person, but just would not stop talking about sports or his wife, two topics that did not particularly pique her attention. But Dakota was grateful to have Maria and Virginia in her life. They were great people.

Looking at Virginia, Dakota laughed. It was funny to think about how their first encounter was like. It was back when the brunette first returned to the firm, post-college graduation. “Hi, nice to meet you! I’m Dakota Logan. I used to be an intern here, and I’m now one of your fellow sales managers.” She smiled at Virginia. “Hi. I’m Virginia. I recently moved here from Hawaii for the job.” “Hawaii! That’s so exotic! Can you even count Hawaii as part of America?!” She was amazed. Anything west of Illinois felt completely foreign to Dakota. “Uh, yeah. It’s one of the 50 states.” She rolled her eyes, walking away.  “I would like to chat, but I have to deal with some branding problem at Girl and the Goat. And after that, I have to go to Milwaukee and help the Intercontinental there. And somehow, I need to finishing moving in my stuff. So I would love to stay and chat, but I am really busy.” She finished coldly, before slamming her office door shut. “Uh oh.” Dakota’s stomach sank as she slowly realized she offended the older manager with her comment. “Oh, geez. I see you pissed off Virginia.” Maria cringed as she walked up to Dakota. “Yeah, I feel like shit right now.” The brunette sighed. That was one way to screw up a first impression. Being so nervous and excited, she let those innate emotions take over.

“So you called her not-American?” Phillip looked like he was trying not to laugh. “Shut up! It was so bad!” Dakota covered her face in embarrassment. The two were on their way to a date. “I hope you’re excited to try this place! I managed to book a seat, and the owner won a big cooking competition!” “What’s the restaurant called?” The brunette looked at him.  “It’s called Girl and the Goat!” “Girl and the Goat?!” She frowned. Why did that name sound familiar? It slowly dawned on her that this was the same restaurant Virginia was trying to help. What was she trying to do for them again? Dakota paused. Branding! She quickly realized. She started to think about how she could get on Virginia’s good side again. She knew that Virginia was going to be incredibly busy moving in and commuting to the Milwaukee, so this might be her chance to help. “Babe, you’re the best.” Dakota hugged Phillip. “Hey, uh what did I do?” He was puzzled.

During their date, Phillip was visibly bored as Dakota was observing everything with laser-focused precision. Unlike Virginia, Dakota had next to no real experience with restaurants or hotels. That being said, Dakota knew how to observe. Which was all they needed to do branding. Looking at the atmosphere, she was trying to picture what kind of occasion she would be spending here. The restaurant had mostly wooden fixtures, dark colored furniture, an open bar, large barrels. “This place, it’s perfect for getting a draft beer with your friends.” Dakota stated. “Well, I’m sorry if you wanted something more romantic?” Phillip frowned. “Oh, no, that’s not what I’m trying to get at! I’m just trying to do some observations to help with branding the restaurant.” Dakota explained. “Wait, but you do marketing for hospitals and clinics, not restaurants?” Phillip was confused. “Oh, I’m doing this for Virginia.  She has to do branding for this place but she swamped this weekend. I figured I could help her so that you know, she will no longer hate me?” She clarified. “Oh, got you.”

“Walking to the office after the weekend, Dakota felt excited. She had complied not only a branding report based on her experience dining at Girl and the Goat, but she included an external analysis based on similar restaurants and other concepts that were close. Sipping the folder, labeled “Girl and the Goat branding” underneath Virginia’s door, she kept walking off to her office. And then moments later, she heard Virginia knocking on Maria’s office next-door to Dakota’s. “Hey, did you write this?” She began. “Write what?” Somebody slipped this branding report for Girl and the Goat underneath my door. It was really good. I’m actually impressed that this person basically wrote down every thought I had, and they saved me a lot of trouble.” Virginia admitted. “Oh, that? Yeah, Dakota wrote that for you.” Maria laughed. Dakota had confided in her that she intended to do this as an apology to Virginia. “Oh, well, I guess I owe her a thanks.” She walked off to the brunette’s office.

The two spoke and cleared up their initial misunderstanding. Virginia came to see Dakota as a sheltered klutz, while Dakota realized that Virginia was still stressfully adjusting to the new environment  hence why she was so frantic and frazzled all the time. Looking back on that moment, Dakota smiled to herself. First impressions can be far off on both ends. Looking out the window, she sighed to herself, thinking about firsts. It was 6am in the morning and the sun was just peeking out of the horizon. She was off to re-visit home. The brunette was certainly not ready to drive, just yet, so she was taking the train to Naperville Station instead. “Next stop, Naperville Station.” The intercom announced. “Looks like this is it. Home, sweet home.” She smiled to herself.

Being back home felt surreal. Being back in the suburbs and away from the heavy traffic and large buildings was an unfamiliar change of pace for Dakota. Passing by Saints Peter and Paul Church, she giggled to herself. It was not too far away from her grade school, Ellsworth Elementary School. She was actually just a few blocks away from her high school too. But she was not walking in that direction. Her parents lived just off of Columbia Estates Park, along East 5th Ave. Just off the side of the park was a two story house, painted mahogany with wooden panels, a white picket fence, and a dark colored roof. Some people might ignore it because of how generic it looked. But Dakota referred to this place as the place she grew up in. This was her home. And inside were her parents, waiting to greet her.

Dakota was only visiting until Sunday night, and then she had to take the train back to Chicago for work on Monday. She knew it was a short visit, but she wanted to return to her roots. After everything that had just happened, spending some time away from adulthood, even for hardly any time at all, she could really appreciate it. Knocking on the wooden door, she felt a tinge of excitement. “Honey, welcome home!” She was immediately hugged by her mother, followed by her father. It was not every day that she could just throw responsibility to the wind and relax in the care of somebody else. She knew that it was temporary, but it did not matter to her. These kinds of opportunities to spend time with her parents were limited. “I’m home!” She smiled at her parents, as she walked through the door.

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