A/N: Disclaimer: The title for this story-Lunch atop a Skyscraper-is based off of the photograph. If you don't know what this photo is, Google it :)
"I found you a job," Marina's voice popped into my ear as soon as I picked up the phone. There was no greeting, no "Hi, Violet, how are you?" Without waiting for me to answer, she repeated her words as if declaring victory. "I found you a job!"
I stopped washing the dishes and smiled slightly at the sound of her voice. Marina was on a business trip in the Czech Republic, and I hadn't seen her for three weeks. We had been best friends since we were fourteen. Despite having gone to a different college than her, I never found anyone who had gotten me like she had.
Still, I felt skeptical at her revelation.
"You did?" I asked warily. "I thought there were no jobs out there for English majors with a bachelor's degree. Also, when are you getting back to New York? I've only been here for eight weeks and you've been gone for half of that time."
"I'll be back next week, if the project doesn't implode by then," Marina answered, laughing at my impatience. "I swear, sometimes it seems like you miss me more than Blake does. Maybe it's time I reconsider my relationship with him."
I chuckled, knowing that she would never reconsider her relationship with her boyfriend, who had joked that he felt like he was third wheeling Marina and me during the couple of times that the three of us hung out together.
"So you found me a job?" I asked, wishing I didn't sound so hopeful. Still, it had been a disheartening couple of months trying to get into investigative journalism with a bachelor's degree in English. A lot of editors had flat out ignored my phone calls and emails, and I was beginning to think that my decision to try working first before graduate school was starting to look pretty stupid.
"Well, actually, Blake did," Marina said matter of factly.
"Did he really?" I was grateful that my friends were helping me, but I was still skeptical. Marina had a habit of trusting that everything would work out. For her, things often did, but for me, that usually wasn't the case.
Marina had been quite a legend in the small town where we grew up. She went through what was deemed as a moderately rebellious teenager phase everywhere else and a full out unacceptable revolt where we grew up. When she was fifteen, she started dating a guy who was eighteen and rode a motorcycle. That relationship hadn't lasted long, but she had gotten a cartilage piercing somewhere along the line and dyed her hair black for a few months. She would ditch classes to follow rock bands that had concerts within a four hour drive of where we were and sneak into bars with a fake ID.
Then, when she was seventeen, Marina announced to her family that she no longer wanted to go to church and wanted to explore, in her words, 'whatever else was out there.' That had been the final straw. Her parents no longer wanted her in their house, and she instead moved in with her aunt and uncle in Brooklyn.
It was a good move, because while Marina hadn't exactly fit in in Brook Valley, Tennessee, she excelled in Brooklyn. She ended up going to Columbia on a full scholarship, getting a job at McKinsey, and living the life in New York City.
My parents didn't approve of my friendship with Marina. Back when we were teenagers, they would always tell me that she was a bad influence. But then again, there wasn't much in my life that my parents approved of anyways.
Two months ago, I had made an uncharacteristically rash decision to pack everything up and come to Manhattan. I had a bit of money saved up from summer jobs and part time waitressing gigs while I was in college. I had rented the cheapest apartment I could find in New York, but even so, I was running dangerously low on funds.
At the rate I was going, I could see myself moving back to Brook Valley soon if I didn't find a job.
I bit my lip. That scenario made me sleepless at night. The whole reason I left was because I didn't know how long I could have stayed in Brook Valley, listening to my parents lament my choice of a major and compare me to my brother, who had studied an 'actual, useful majors,' and my twin sister, their baby girl who had won third place at the singing competition in the annual county fair.
I was my parents' least mentioned child. I lacked Peter's practicality and his accounting job, and I didn't have Josephine's pageant ready face or her beautiful voice. I had worked two jobs every summer to put myself through college and came out with neither a job nor a man. In my parents' eyes, I was a failure, and they did everything short of saying it flat out to my face.
I had to leave for New York.
If nothing else, at least I was reunited with Marina again. We hadn't gone to the same school for college, but we had never lost touch with one another. When I moved to here, we had picked up right where we left off.
"So what's the job?" I asked Marina.
"Well, it isn't exactly journalism, which I know is what you're really looking for," she said a little hesitantly on the other side of the line.
"It doesn't matter," I told her quickly. It really didn't. At this point, I was looking through advertisements for waitressing jobs, but even they were hard to come by. I had even gone to a few restaurants, and the managers had deemed me unqualified to handle the fast paced hustle and bustle of a New York restaurant.
But right now, anything that would prevent me from having to move back with my family would do. I had come to New York with the hope that I would be able to find a journalism position, but I quickly realized that this was not Sex and the City. I couldn't just expect to come to New York, open my computer, and start typing out columns for money.
"So what is it?" I asked again, pressing my ear to the earpiece of my phone.
"You would be an assistant, to a photographer," Marina said.
I paused, drying my last dish and putting it on the rack. I could hear the click clacking of skateboards of the kids who came by every Sunday morning to skate around the block, so I moved away from the window. It was still strange to me. Back in Brook Valley, Sundays mornings were always silent. Everyone was at church.
"I don't know anything about photography," I told her, a bit uncertain now. I was an English major with waitressing experience. The only job I was really qualified for was waitressing, but the couple of New York restaurants I went to had turned me down.
"That's okay," Marina said, clearly less daunted by my lack of experience than I was. "You wouldn't actually be doing any photo taking. He just needs someone to help him organize his schedule, take phone calls, sort and stuff."
"Right," I said, rubbing my temple and licking my chapped lips.
"Vi, I know this is not the most glamorous job," Marina said, taking my lack of a response for uncertainty about the position. "But this guy is very up and coming. He's taken photographs for news stories and for some pretty popular magazines. And he did some of the portraits for the TIME 100 issue last year! So he's probably got lots connections in the journalism world since that's where you want to go."
I laughed. "Marina, you don't have to convince me," I told her. "Anything that will give me an income to stay here would do. I'm just not sure I would get the job."
"Why wouldn't you?" her reply was immediate. "You're awesome. You're super responsible."
I quirked my mouth a little at her words. That was how people always described me. Violet, the serious, responsible one.
"Hmm...how did Blake hear about this job anyways?" I asked her instead.
"Oh, this guy's actually a friend of Blake's," she said.
"Oh really?" I asked. I had only really gotten to know her boyfriend over the past two months, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect when it came to the people he was friends with. "How do they know each other?"
"Well, I don't think they're that close, actually," Marina said. "But they did go to high school together. And college too, I think."
"He went to Columbia?" I asked. "So you knew him?"
"No, I didn't," Marina replied. "I think he dropped out right before I was about to attend."
"Really?" I frowned. "A college dropout?"
"A very up and coming college dropout," she refuted immediately. "He's becoming pretty well known. I've seen his photos pop up in galleries and stuff. Just check him out. That way you'll at least know something about him before you go in tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" I said, shocked.
"Yeah," Marina's voice was nonchalant, as if she hadn't just told me I had to interview for a job tomorrow that I knew nothing about. "Blake said the guy said you can go in tomorrow. I'll give you his address."
After taking down the guy's name and address, I decided to take her advice and look him up.
I sat down at my kitchen counter with my laptop, which took a full seven minutes to start up. I sighed, looking about my apartment. The paint on the walls was peeling off, and I had gotten some cheap rugs to cover some very suspicious looking spots on the floor. Almost everything in my life was dilapidated.
Opening up a web browser, I typed in the words 'Andrew Williams photos' into the search bar.
Clicking on the first link that popped up, I browsed through some of the photos he had online. They were separated by categories: Scenery, Cities, Events, People, Magazine Shoots. I clicked on the Magazine Shoots one and scanned the images and their captions. Apparently, this guy had done some photo shoots for Vogue, Time, and National Geographic among others.
I couldn't actually find a picture of Andrew Williams himself, though. Not on that site, and not anywhere else.
They were nice photos, but I didn't think they were anything that spectacular. Although I wasn't sure what a spectacular photo would look like. Plus, if a photo was spectacular, didn't it just mean that the moment it captured was spectacular, not that the photographer behind it had anything to do with it?
I didn't really understand it. It didn't matter, I told myself, although with less certainty than I would have liked. It didn't matter because all he needed me to do was sort and take phone calls and plan his schedule. It didn't matter because I really, really needed this job.
Monday morning, I took the subway to a very modern looking building on the Upper West Side. I was to go to apartment 17B.
As I walked down the hall towards door 17B, I couldn't help but notice that this was a much nicer building than the one that I lived in. Everything was so sleek and modern.
I knocked tentatively on apartment 17B. Almost as soon as I knocked, someone opened the door, as if they had been expecting it.
"Hi," I said, a bit startled by the prompt response. I stared at the guy in front of me. He had orange hair and was dressed head to toe in black. He was smiling at me, a smile a bit too wide for his face but one that was friendly nevertheless. "I'm…
"Violet Marsh," he finished for me, still smiling. "I know." Then he looked at the watch on his wrist. "You're ten minutes early. Good."
Still a bit startled, I saw that he had his hand outstretched and quickly stuck out mine to shake his.
"You must be Andrew Williams," I said.
The guy looked at me for a moment, and then he burst out laughing. "Oh no, I'm not. I'm Paul McDanson. Andrew and I work together."
He stepped aside. I stepped the room a bit uncertainly. There was no one else here. There was a desk on each side of the room, some bookshelves, and some photographs on the white walls, but otherwise, most of it was empty space. The room itself was very neat and well lit, probably because one of the walls had a huge expanse of windows.
"Wow," I breathed, not able to help myself. It was a gorgeous view. The seventeenth floor was tall enough to be able to see over several of the buildings at an expansive view of the Upper West Side facing Central Park.
"Gorgeous view, huh?" Paul said from behind me. Then he suddenly called out, "Andrew! She's here."
A door I hadn't even seen opened from one of the side walls behind me. Turning around in surprise, I saw that the door was white and had mostly blended in with the walls, and a guy was walking out of it.
Perhaps it was because my last boss, the one at a burger restaurant in Brook Valley, was bald and had a beer belly that I had expected something of the same thing this time around. I knew that Andrew Williams was around Blake's age, so he must only be just a couple of years older than me at max, but that hadn't really registered when I had imagined him in my mind.
But Andrew Williams wasn't a middle aged balding man with a beer belly. No, Andrew Williams was young, and he was attractive.
He was really, really attractive.
I gulped. I had not expected this, and when things didn't turn out the way I expected, I got flustered.
Still, I forced myself to look Andrew in the eye.
"Hi, I'm Violet Marsh," I said, sticking out my hand. My voice had come out smooth and even, and for that I was glad. All my years of practiced stoicism in my parents' house paid off. No matter how flustered I felt in this moment, he would never be able to tell.
"Andrew Williams," he said, equally smoothly, as he stuck out a hand. He was looking me right in the eye, and he wasn't smiling.
Then, he raised his glance to look over my shoulder.
"You let her in?" he asked Paul.
"I did," Paul said cheerfully. "She's ten minutes early too."
"Right," Andrew muttered, letting go of my hand and walking past me, towards the desks.
I blinked. Something about his attitude made him seem rather moody.
Swiveling on my heels, I turned to face Andrew. He was now at his desk, shuffling some papers and not even looking at me.
"So you're looking for an assistant," I said, determined to keep my voice as level as possible. I didn't want to sound as uncertain as I felt.
"Right," Andrew said, barely sparing me another glance before moving on to shuffle another pile of papers. "And you're Blake Duncan's friend."
It was then that I realized that Andrew Williams wasn't being moody. He was being dismissive.
I suddenly understood. I wasn't going to get this job. Maybe he really needed an assistant, but if so, he had probably already had one in mind. He only agreed to see me not because he wanted to, but because he was fulfilling an obligation to his friend.
I swallowed. Well, this might be it, but at least I could manage to salvage some of my dignity and not go out completely with my tail between my legs.
Andrew Williams still didn't say anything. He really wasn't going to make this easy for me. I looked around the room, desperate for something to say.
There were five large photographs on the wall. They were all of scenery. Parks, city skylines, the ocean view. Then, my eyes widened as I recognized one of them.
"Hey," I said, taking a step towards the photo. "This is Tom's chair."
Paul watched me curiously, and Andrew looked up from his desk. He raised an eyebrow. "What?"
I pointed towards the photo. "Tom's chair," I explained. "In 500 Days of Summer."
He was still looking at me, but now he had put the files in his hands down and walked over to stand beside me. "I never watched it," he said simply.
I could not tell what he was thinking at all. There was a hint of a smile on his lips, something almost like a smirk, but I wasn't sure. "Well," I said. "It's a good movie."
"It's not my type of movie," he replied, and now I was sure he was smirking at me.
I looked down at the ground. Sleek, hardwood floors. Man, he really was not making this easy for me. Forget dignity, I should probably just get out.
"What do you think of the photo?" Andrew asked me suddenly.
Surprised, I glanced at him, only to find that he was looking at the photo, the one of Tom's bench in the park in 500 Days of Summer, where he sits when Summer tells him that she finally believes in 'the One,' but it just wasn't him.
Looking back at the photo, I said. "Well, it's in L.A."
"Right," Andrew said, looking at me with amusement. "But what about the photo?"
"Well," I said, searching desperately for a good analysis as I looked back at the photograph. It was just Tom's bench, there, in the park, with the buildings of Los Angeles in front of it. "It's Tom's bench," I finished rather lamely.
Glancing over at Andrew Williams, I saw that he had pressed his lips together. But he didn't look unhappy. Instead, he looked as if he was trying to suppress a smile.
He wasn't quite so successful at it, finally succumbing to chuckling in amusement and turning to look at me. "You really know nothing about photographs, do you?" he said.
I was embarrassed and flustered again. I really should have just left.
"No," I admitted, wishing Marina had never called me about this job. Desperately wanting to change the subject, I asked. "Did you take this photo?"
"I did," Andrew Williams said, still looking amused.
I stared resolutely ahead at the photograph so I didn't have to face him directly. "Are you from Los Angeles?"
Again, he looked surprised.
"I grew up in New York," he answered. Right, he had gone to high school with Blake, who had grown up in New York. I wanted to bang my head against the wall for not remembering that. Andrew continued, "Blake didn't tell you anything about me?"
I shook my head. Come to think of it, Marina didn't tell me much about him either besides that he went to Columbia and then dropped out. Even online, I could find his photographs but not much information about him.
Andrew was looking at me pensively. Then he stuck out his hand again.
"Well, you're hired then," he said.
I blinked, totally startled.
Well, that was...strange.
Still, a job was a job, and I was desperate for a job. I shook his hand, finding his grip firm as he clasped my fingers in his.
"Eight o'clock, tomorrow morning," he said with a sideways curl of his mouth. Then he turned away, "Paul will walk you out."
It was a dismissal. He had turned away from me, and Paul was walking towards me now.
I was still dazed by this turn of events as I rode the elevator down with Paul in silence.
"Oh, I think you'll like it here," Paul said cheerfully as we descended the floors.
I glanced over at him. "Is it just you two?" I asked curiously.
"Yup," he replied with a smile. "Just us two permanently. We get people to help out here and there sometimes, but they're temporary."
"And you guys wanted to hire an assistant?" I asked again.
"Andrew wanted an assistant," Paul clarified. "This is his studio. I'm his assistant, but I guess I'm more of a photography assistant, and you'll be more of an administrative one."
"Is the business expanding?" I asked. We were almost at the ground level now. "Is that why he suddenly needs an administrative assistant?"
"Oh, business is definitely expanding," Paul said. "We're always so busy now because magazines and news agencies are always calling for Andrew, so we had brought on an administrative assistant half a year ago."
"Oh," I said, surprised again. "So I'm not the first?"
"Nope," Paul said.
"What happened to the last one?"
"She got fired."
There was a pause.
"Oh," I said again. Then, because I couldn't help it, I asked, "Why?"
Paul glanced at me as the elevator dinged, signaling that we had hit the ground floor.
"She liked Andrew," he said. "You could always tell. She was convinced that being his assistant would be the first step to becoming his girlfriend and was always coming on to him. He got annoyed."
"Oh," I said, not sure what to think as I stepped out. "Right."
Paul smiled again at me as the elevator doors closed. "Goodbye Violet," he said. "I'll see you tomorrow morning.
With a ding, the doors shut, and I was left staring at my own reflection.