From five stories above the pavement, Mia Sherton watched the streets below in silence. A pane of glass separated her from the soft swirl of snow outside. The thin sheet of glass made no difference, though. It might as well been snowing inside.
She exhaled and a tiny white puff appeared for milliseconds before mixing with the rest of the freezing air in the room. A frown was etched on her features and she wrapped the wool coat closer around her body, tucking her hands inside. A glance at the Bank of America tower across from their living room window told her that it was 12:01 am and below 14 degrees Fahrenheit outside. The frown on her face deepened.
"Dammit, it's too cold," she muttered, and then turned and headed for the coat hanger by the door, careful not to kick over any of the candles flickering around the small living room/kitchen. The last thing their apartment needed was a fire.
After she had put the down jacket on, she felt no warmer. It was hopeless. How could it be so damn cold? Oh, how she wished for a fireplace.
Her bitter thoughts were cut short as she heard the click-clack of high heels right outside the door. Mia waited patiently in front of the door, listening to her roommate fumble with the keys.
She heard a 'clang' as the bunch of keys fell to the ground, and the soft hiss of "Shit!" of her roommate's voice. Finally, she watched as the locks on the door turned silently. The door opened ever so slowly as her roommate willed it not to creak, trying to sneak into the apartment.
Rebecca Monroe closed her eyes in despair as she saw a faint line of yellowish light filter through the crack on the front door. Taking a deep breath, she swung the door open, only to find her roommate waiting for her on the other side, wrapped in an old brown jacket.
"Oh, for God's sake," Rebecca sighed, stepping inside and closing the door behind her. She turned and locked all three locks before tossing her bag on the kitchen counter. It was hell outside and she was sure she had ruined her suede boots from walking all over the slushy Manhattan sidewalks. She rolled her neck and shook the snow from her hair before stepping past her scowling roommate and crashing on their dear, faded, blue couch. "Mia, I thought you were asleep. It's about midni-"
"The electricity went out, Becky," Mia growled, moving to stand in front of her.
God, it was cold in here. Rebecca shivered and wished she hadn't taken her coat off at the door. It was no use, anyway. The old coat was half soaked in melted snow. Instead, she reached over and grabbed the blanket, draping it over her form.
Mia gestured to the candles around the room. "The electricity went out about an hour ago," she repeated. "And that means no heater. It's winter in New York."
Yes, Rebecca knew that the electricity was cut. She had dreaded this day. She was hoping that the red electricity bill envelopes were nothing that serious. Apparently, she was wrong. And she knew she was wrong from the angry glare in Mia's dark brown eyes.
"Oh, really?" she asked instead, picking up a mug of ice cold tea on the coffee table from the day before and taking a sip. "Gosh, there's no electricity, huh? I've got to call the company, I've got no idea what's going…" She trailed off at the expression on Mia's face.
"Where are the overdue bills?" Mia demanded.
"Under the rotten pears in the fruit basket," she answered weakly. Then, she added quickly, "I'm really sorry, Mia, but I only got one red envelope from our electricity company. I figured that it was no big deal. I didn't know they would actually cut our electricity. I mean, I didn't know that these guys have no hearts at all. Do they not know how cold it is in New York without heaters?"
"Perhaps they called us," Mia said almost scathingly. "And since our phone line's been cut as well, they couldn't reach us."
"I-," Rebecca tried to say in protest.
"God damn it, Becky, you are in charge of the utility bills!" Mia cried, pushing her dirty blond curls out of her face angrily.
"Yeah, well, you know what?" Rebecca snapped, jumping up from the couch so she didn't feel so short. "You're in charge of rent. And look what I picked up in the mail on my way up here." She fished through her jean pockets for a moment, and then threw a piece of paper in Mia's face.
Mia's face paled as she read the bold words eviction notice. "Thirty days?" she asked hoarsely, taking a seat on the worn couch. "They're giving us thirty days to make up four months of rent?'
"Yeah," Rebecca nodded, running out of steam and dropping on the seat next to her friend and roommate. "We're going to be homeless and broke."
"We can't live like this," she sighed, leaning her head on Becky's shoulder.
"We didn't plan it like this. God, we were so cocky right after college." Rebecca sighed and looked up at the ceiling, watching a cockroach hanging dangerously above her.
Mia took the time to scan their living room despairingly. Overdue DVDs were stacked on their TV. Old Elton John CDs were crammed on the shelf next to a thick cooking book neither of them had ever used. There was a stray earring strewn on the worn carpet and a hairbrush in the middle of the living room that she had thrown in their last fight and both of them had refused to pick it up afterwards, not willing to kill their pride. She wasn't ready to give up their small apartment yet. It had been their home for the last two years.
"Get the bills from the fruit basket and I'll go retrieve the last few bills I had thrown in the trash," Mia finally said, standing up. "We have to know exactly how much we owe."
Rebecca nodded and stood up, heading towards the kitchen. God, bills scared the crap out of her.
"Twenty-eight thousand dollars?" Rebecca asked, gaping at the calculator in her hand.
"That sounds about right," Mia nodded numbly, checking over all of their bills and scanning over the dizzying black print again.
"And we have to pay about twelve thousand in thirty days for the overdue rent money," Becky continued. "And the rest have to be paid even before that… How the fuck did we end up owning twenty-eight-"
"Don't…don't say the amount out loud again," Mia said, taking the Advil bottle and taking a pill herself. "It makes sense, though. Between the credit cards overdue, the rent, the utility… Think of all the months we didn't pay." She looked over the papers in her hand again, and then set them down. "Together, we have about two thousand six hundred dollars. That's if we empty out our bank accounts."
"We need twenty-five thousand, four hundred dollars," Rebecca said, her tone oddly void of emotion.
"Translation: We're fucked," Mia nodded. She sighed yet again. "I can call my parents. See how much they can lend me."
"No," Rebecca said firmly. "They need all the money they can have for your mother's hospital bill." They sat in silence for a few minutes, gazing at the death sentences spread in front of them in the form of bills. "I have an idea," she finally said.
Mia turned to her. "What's your idea?"
Rebecca stood up and walked away. When she came back, she had her purse with her. Wordlessly, she took a piece of newspaper from her purse and placed it in front of Mia.
"It's a newspaper ad for a job," Mia said in confusion, looking at it. It called for a personal assistant and offered an eight dollar an hour salary. It was torn and she had no doubt that Rebecca had stolen it from a newspaper stand.
"Yes, but do you see who it's for?" Rebecca prompted, dropping on her knees next to Mia on the floor.
She squinted at the ad, picking it up. It also printed a phone number. And an address for the Lawrence building. And a name. "Um…it says they're calling for a personal assistant for Alexander Lawrence?"
"Exactly," Rebecca nodded.
"Exactly what? Becky, this only pays eight dollars an hour."
She pulled out a People magazine from her purse and flipped to a page before placing it in front of Mia as well. "There," she said, pointing. "You see that picture of Paula Lu?"
"The model," Rebecca said exasperatedly, sounding as if this was obvious. "But it's not her you have to look at. It's that." She pointed to the short paragraph next to the model. "Lu's seen with her new husband, Alexander Lawrence, business tycoon, in the new club, Ace." She pointed again. "And there. There's a picture of Alexander Lawrence. See? This one has a caption, too. It reads: Lawrence, husband of supermodel Paula Lu is here talking furiously into his cell phone. We sympathize, Alex. Owning a multi million dollar business can't be easy."
"Becky," Mia said, looking at her friend, puzzled. "I don't know what you're trying to tell me. So this rich guy is looking for a personal assistant. The pay is still eight dollars an hour, no matter how famous his wife is."
"Look, I know this might be just a little far-fetched, but hear me out, alright?" she asked, looking serious.
Mia squinted suspiciously. "Okay…"
"Alexander Lawrence can give us the money. He has more than enough to spare. So one of us becomes his personal assistant and we try as hard as we can to get him to like us."
Mia laughed, looking at her roommate like she was crazy. She probably was. "Alright, you're saying that we are going to seduce a business tycoon who has a supermodel wife and get him to lend us twenty-eight thousand dollars?"
"Not lend, give," Rebecca corrected. "I'm not insane. I mean, what other options do we have? It's not like we're not looking for jobs. We've been looking for jobs. There are none out there! You're writing like crazy, but freelance work is only paying you so much. I'm working two jobs and together, we still won't be able to pay this debt of ours. We're going to be homeless if we don't try something drastic."
"This is not drastic," Mia sighed, pointing at the People magazine. "This is a fantasy. This is not Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts gets Richard Gere. This is real life and in real life, we don't go seducing rich guys. We have a real problem. We have to look for a real solution."
"Then you tell me what we can do!" Rebecca exclaimed, crossing her arms. "How the hell are we going to pull twenty-eight thousand out of our butts?" She allowed for a few moments of silence to pass, and then continued. "Alright, so we should both interview for this job, of course…"
Mia listened as if in a daze. They were in so much shit.
The Lawrence building was large and modern. The sheets of tinted glass reflected the cold winter sun and Mia Sherton shaded her eyes against the powerful glare. She was surprised there was so much sun that day. You usually couldn't see anything through the film of smog in Manhattan.
She sighed and pulled her coat a little tighter around her body, wondering for the millionth time how something like this could possibly work. Once inside the glass rotating doors, she immediately felt the foreign sensation of warm air. She had never been in here before, but it looked just like any regular office building.
Her boots carried in hints of dirtied snow, ruining the polished marble tiles. The custodian winced as if in pain at the sight. He only hoped that Alexander Lawrence would not see. How he would see, the custodian had no idea. Still, the thought frightened him and he hurried after the girl to clean up the traces of dirt and ice. He watched the young woman out of the corner of his eyes. She was removing her old brown coat as she examined the sign next to the elevators. Underneath, she was wearing a snug black sweater underneath paired with a black skirt. The custodian nodded his head slightly in approval. Nice legs, he noted before returning to sweeping. Without a doubt, she was here to interview for the new assistant job Lawrence was now offering. There were so many of them recently and he honestly couldn't say that he was complaining. It gave him an opportunity each day to spot a nice pair of tits, a nice ass, and today, it was a nice pair of legs.
Mia examined the different floors on the building and couldn't make heads or tails of which one she was supposed to go to. One of the elevators dinged and the doors slid open, revealing a hassled looking man. He took a moment of compose himself and straighten his tie before stepping out. The large box under one arm clearly announced to everyone that he had just been fired.
"Excuse me," she tried, stepping towards him. She only hoped that he knew which floor she was supposed to go to. After all, he had worked here. "Do you know which floor…?" The man walked past her and ignored her words. "Oh. Well, thanks for your help!" Mia said after him.
"You're looking for the tenth floor," a voice suddenly told her. She turned and saw the janitor, broom still in hand. Mia was embarrassed to find that he was cleaning the snow that she had trailed in. "You're here to interview for the assistant thing, right?"
"Y-yeah," she nodded, and then offered him a smile. "How did you know?"
He cracked a smile in return, showing her a gold tooth. "I've never seen you here. And there are a lot of you girls here recently, looking for that same exact floor. I tell you, the elevator sign doesn't tell you shit."
Mia laughed softly. "Well, thank you. Hopefully, I'll see you around once I start working here." He gave a bark of laughter in answer to her words and she wasn't sure if she was to take it offensively.
"Yeah," he grinned. He pressed the up button for her. "I'll see you around. My name is Tom." He flashed Mia his building ID he wore around his neck.
A set of elevator doors opened for her and she stepped in. "Mia," she introduced briefly before the door closed again. "Pleasure to meet you." Once the doors closed, she turned to study herself in the large mirror in the rear. Her hair was tied back in what she hoped to be a professional bun. Her chocolate eyes could finally be seen. She still marveled at the genius of contact lenses. She barely recognized herself without glasses. Though, she had to admit that they would be in less debt if she hadn't gotten contacts.
She arrived on the tenth floor quickly. A few women got in just as she got out. She gave them a passing once-over and discovered that their manicured fingers were holding a folder full of copies of their resumes. They must have been here to interview for the job as well.
The tenth floor was a world of cubicles and ringing telephones. Papers and announcements were tacked on boards and no one paid attention to them as they passed by. All were in a hurry and workmates barely had a moment to nod a hello to each other as they passed.
Mia watched the phenomenon for a few moments before she saw the reception desk that she had somehow miraculously missed at first glance. Perhaps it was because the woman sitting behind the massive glass desk was so slight. She started towards the receptionist.
"Keep going down that hall and turn a right," the woman told her, pointing and never even looking up from her appointment book. Mia blinked at her. The woman looked up when she received no response. "You're here for the interview, right?"
"Yes," Mia answered, wondering how everyone knew where she was headed.
"Go down that hall and take a right. You won't miss it. Just wait outside the door until your turn," the woman repeated, pointing again.
"Oh. Okay, thanks," Mia said, heading towards the indicated direction.
It turned out that she never even needed to take a right. The line was so long it stretched out down the hall. Some girls were chatting animatedly on their cell phones. Some were reading. Others seemed to be reciting the things on their resume.
"Knows French and Norwegian," the girl just ahead of her was repeating with her eyes closed. "Work experience in waitressing." She cracked open an eye and glanced at the resume in her hands. "Wait, no. Knows French and Welsh. Work experiencing in servicing. Damn. Gotta remember that."
Mia bit back a laugh and looked down at her own resume. She had hurriedly typed it up the night before. Ph.D. in English and Sociology. Previous work experience in freelance writing. Why did she even write that she had experience in writing? Under the florescent lighting, Mia realized that her resume was not helpful at all. She should have made something up about knowing foreign languages. She knew sign language. Did that count? Whatever. She rummaged in her purse for a pen, then added in small letters on the bottom: Fluent in American Sign Language. She paused. CPR Certified. Well, it was something, right?
The long line moved surprisingly fast. It seemed like it was her turn in no time. The office door closed behind her and she found herself face to face with a stoic woman. Her short hair was spiked and edged with silver. Mia would have guessed that she was thirty, though she knew that the woman must be much older.
"Hello, I am Mia Sherton," she introduced, stretching her lips into a wide smile. She extended a hand. The woman didn't take it.
"Sorry, I can't afford to be sick," the woman told her, her hands clasped tightly together in front of her. "Let me see your resume."
"Of course," Mia said awkwardly, lowering her hand again. She pushed her resume across the desk.
"Ph.D in English and Sociology?" the woman asked skeptically. "What school?"
" Washington State," Mia answered. "Can I take a seat?"
The woman gave her the customary once over. "Yes. Now, I understand that you know sign language? I happen to be fluent. Let's have a short conversation, shall we?"
Of course, Mia signaled. My name is Mia Sherton. I would really like this job.
"Good, good," the woman nodded, her face still expressionless.
You don't know sign language, do you? Testing me? Mia continued, smiling faintly.
"That's enough," the woman said, eyes back on her resume. She sighed and set it down, giving Mia a smile that looked rather painful. "Now, let's step out of the professional atmosphere for a few seconds. It's tiring, wouldn't you agree?"
"I suppose so," Mia said slowly.
"Everyone lies a little in their resumes." The woman laughed. "Why when I just came to this job, I handed my interviewer a pretty far-fetched resume. I was hired on the spot. A year later, he found out. And you know what he said to me?" She didn't wait for an answer. "He said, 'Kelly, if you had just told the truth during the interview, I would have hired you, anyway.' I thought it was over, you know. I was relieved that he had taken it so lightly. However, when I asked for a promotion a week later, it was shot down so quickly it made my head spin. The promotion was given to someone much less qualifying than I. You know what I learned?"
Mia didn't speak, but waited for her to continue.
"I learned that telling the truth is much better. And if you're the right candidate for a job, then you're the right candidate for the job. I would love to hire you, Mia, but I just gotta know the truth. Now, it's alright if you tell me you tweaked your resume a little here and there. God knows everyone does it." The woman gave her another smile that tested the boundaries of Botox.
"You know," Mia said, "you don't have to go through this entire psychological warfare to try to get me to tell you the truth. I haven't 'tweaked' my resume. And I really want this job. I think I qualify and I promise to do my best if you hire me. Is that good enough for you?"
The woman laughed again, handing her back her resume. "You're hired. You start tomorrow. Report to the fifty-fourth floor at eight o'clock tomorrow, ready to meet Alexander Lawrence. You'll have quite a day."
Mia's eyes widened, taking the resume numbly. "Really?"
"Yes, really," the woman told her, jerking her head towards the door. "Now get out." She stood up and stretched with a soft groan. "I have to break the bad news to the other contenders outside."
"Thank you," Mia grinned, opening the door. She was hired. She could hardly believe it. Becky would be thrilled to find out. The plan was working. She half felt like pressing her fingertips together and letting out a mad cackle.
Author's Note: Wanna review? Well, sure you do! This is a brand new story, so encouragement would be adored.