Amanda could see that Renee was out of sorts. A half-eaten Lean Cuisine was in evidence beside her computer's keyboard, the plastic seal not even all the way ripped off. A pile of paperwork was close to spilling off the edge of her desk; it was unlike Renee not to stay on top of that sort of thing. The newly instituted fruit-smoothie-in-the-morning regimen was not having the desired effect.
Amanda knocked softly on Renee's office door. Renee looked up, smiling weakly. Taking this as the invitation it was, Amanda sat down across from Renee, placing her leather portfolio on her lap and crossing her wrists atop it. She looked at her coworker in what she hoped was a commiserating fashion.
Renee's face said it all: she had been G-chatting with Mark again. Amanda was not surprised, but upset and certainly disappointed. Poor Renee, she and Mark had been together for two years, and it can be hard to break something off just like that. Amanda of all people knew that only too well. And certainly the stress from this latest round of layoffs wasn't doing Renee any favors either. What Renee needed, what they both needed really, was some time away from it all.
Suddenly, it came to her. Of course! Why hadn't she thought of it before?
"Renee," Amanda said. "Vegas."
"Vegas?" Renee replied after a beat.
"Vegas," Amanda said.
Slowly, and with a radiance that was stunning to behold, Renee seemed to wake from a deep stupor. Her soft eyes reemerged to display their shimmering beauty, much as a lone flower unfurls itself to greet the new dawn.
"Vegas," she said. "Vegas."
"Vegas," Amanda confirmed.
The open road was like an elixir to their wearied spirits. They listened to all their favorite songs again, singing along to every lyric and collapsing in laughter. They ate junk food at diners and argued over which of the truckers was the hottest. They rolled down the windows and let the dry desert wind whip their hair to and fro. Renee, overcome by euphoria, stood up and put her head through the sun roof, feeling the night scream past her and paying no heed to Amanda's panicked protests.
"Vegas!" she shouted to the stars. "Vegaaaas!"
When at long last they clapped eyes on the strip itself, it was beyond anything their imaginations could conjure. It was as if they had stepped through an unseen portal in the earth into another, stranger, more beautiful land saturated with bright light, crystal, and gold. Everywhere were signs beckoning them forward, each more uncanny than the last. "'O' at Bellagio," they said, "Criss Angel Believe" and "Lance Burton Appearing Nightly." The blinding beacon shone from the bowels of the Luxor, seemingly as old as time itself.
"Vegas!" said Amanda and Renee. "Woooo!"
There is little that needs to be said about that weekend except that it was the greatest of the two girls' lives. They forgot all about work, family, their love lives and mortgages, threw caution to the wind and had an incredible time. Vegas was like a wonderful drug that hit all of their pleasure centers at once. Time stopped, or better, was forgotten entirely. All that existed was the moment: the moment they first stepped blinking onto the casino floor; the moment Celine Dion sang directly to Renee; the moment they spilled sangrita on the cute waiter; the moment Amanda upended a tray of finger foods outside the casino's restaurant; the moment Renee, compañera that she was, held Amanda's hair as she vomited onto the hood of a rental car; the fire.
Back at the office on Monday, both were unable to speak because they were too hungover from all the liquor they had consumed. A passing mail clerk, though, on his way to the lunch break that was his sole island of peace and sanity in an otherwise absurd and horrifying work day, swore he heard a single word pass from Renee's lips before another round of dry-heaving into the Target bag she held beneath her.