It was a balmy spring afternoon in Central Park when I found the necklace.
Kip, my pitbull I had rescued the previous spring, was eagerly burying his white snout into a hedge while I watched the other people strolling by. I was out for my early morning jog with him to make sure he didn't destroy my roommate's new $40 pillows again out of sheer boredom. He was rambunctious, always slobbering on strangers or finding dead birds or worse yet, live squirrels to chew on.
A woman knelt down to share a popsicle with her daughter and I continued to ignore Kip's barks. It was shaping up to be a nice day. The sun was shining, I was sweating off the extra weight I wanted to lose, and I was set to be promoted to be a secretary for my current boss. I tightened my ponytail, tangling my many rings in the thick recesses of my brown hair, and struggled to free myself while Kip grew more and more agitated. His tail was waving back and forth like crazy.
I huffed irately and rose to help him, grimacing. Shit. My back was killing me—I had the athletic prowess of a 40 year old woman trapped in the body of a 21 year old. I rubbed his back and knelt down beside him on the grass to peer through the undergrowth and figure out what was intriguing him so much.
There was a shiny silver necklace with a small, marble-sized pearl at the end. I immediately leaned back to look around and make sure it hadn't rolled away from someone by mistake while Kip growled impatiently at it. Maybe someone left it for a girlfriend or wife to find? I rubbed my chin, sizing up the possibilities, and decided I would take it to the police so no one else would steal it.
"Point taken, Kip," I said, reaching forward to take the strange object.
I sat on the grass and held the pearl between my fingertips, squinting curiously at it. The sun seemed to go right through: it was nearly translucent and highly reflective. Kip desperately crawled in my lap to have a look and I thoughtlessly clasped it around my neck to keep his very curious mouth away.
We finished our jog like it was any other day and I led him home. My roommate, Izzy, worked for the same company I did. We were even the same age, but her father was a big business tycoon in another state. She was a bit spoiled but we had been friends since elementary school and couldn't wait to live together. Mr. Klein agreed to help her pay rent so we could live close to Central Park in a nice, safe building. I didn't like thinking about how expensive it was.
Izzy was lounging in the living room when I walked in with Kip, who bounded to the kitchen for his brunch. She leaned her head over the back of the couch and beamed brightly, mussing her perfectly manicured blonde pixie cut just a bit. I waved and followed Kip to have some granola.
"How'd your new workout routine go, Nora?" she called.
I shrugged like she could see. Yuck, granola. A pear sounded better. "Not bad. I'm hotter than all hell and now I'm dreading going to work. You going out with Jade later?"
"Jade? Are you insane? I had a few drinks with her and now she thinks I'm in love." Izzy sighed dramatically and threw her hands in the air. "It's harder finding a girl in this city than a guy. You need to help me out the next time you're grinding on drunk guys at the club."
"Shut up!" I snapped and I hurled a pear at her head.
I stuffed a muffin in my mouth and got clothes prepped for work while I ate. Kip came in to clean up my crumbs off my bedroom floor, which was already incredibly messy. I didn't have the neatfreak gene that my mother tried to instill in me but thankfully Izzy liked keeping the joint organized. The necklace felt heavy around my neck so I took it off before getting in the shower.
Kip was wagging his tail at it when I stumbled out half an hour later. I patted him on the head and finished getting ready, with my pencil skirt and blouse perfectly choreographed to look their best when I was promoted. The dog watched me apply my makeup and I begged Izzy to take him for a walk while I was gone. His eyes kept following the necklace every time I brushed against it.
I gathered my slouchy bag and hurried out the door to the busy streets to hail a cab. I hadn't been born in the city, but grew up in the Midwest with Izzy and two older brothers, Pete and George. Izzy and I moved to New York when we turned 18 because her father had been able to hook us up with decent jobs. I went to school part time to get my degree in business administration.
The ride to work was short. We worked for a big multinational corporation called InteliCorp, which was as interesting as it sounded. They were involved in everything from the health care market to the very shoes I was wearing on my feet. I wanted to squeeze my way in to their health care sector to help run a business with a doctor someday but it was a ways off. For now, I fetched coffee and made appointments and typed papers.
Shannon, the front desk receptionist with black hair cut into a short bob, beamed when I walked in the door. I glanced at my watch nervously because a smile typically meant I was late. It was her silent way of helping out without alerting the many cameras.
"You're okay!" she said, laughing. "I'm just excited for your promotion!"
"Me too!" I hurried up to chew the fat with her, fretting terribly. "I was up all night because I'm so pumped for this. Everyone says Alana is nice to work for and not too demanding. Er… I mean, Mrs. Ferguson is nice to work for and not too demanding."
"You'll do great. Make me proud, Nora."
We embraced over the desk and a few people in business suits muttered as they passed. It wasn't really smiled upon to be so forward with people on the lower floors. I was close to the top and by InteliCorp standards, that was a big deal. The third floor… it was a major step. The next floor consisted of the heads of each department of the company and the top was our CEO and president.
I wanted to show her the necklace I had found but work was calling. I rushed to the elevators and continued to preen on the way up, attracting a couple of wayward stares. Play it cool, Nora. Don't cry and ruin your mascara when you see Mrs. Ferguson come to your desk.
The elevator opened to the enormous fourth floor that was already bustling with activity. I clacked across the marble floors, smiling at a few people along the way, and slipped into my own cubicle. A lot of the back breaking work took place on 4F and I was more than ready to leave it behind. I unpacked a few things and straightened things on my desk under the whirring overhead lights.
My cubicle 'mate' was Dave, an older guy who was a complete cuckold. He leaned around the edge of my grey wall and raised an eyebrow, watching while I organized my things.
"Waiting for Fergie, eh?" he asked. He smelled like oranges and needed to comb his hair.
I glared at him. "That's 'Mrs. Ferguson' to you. Don't be bitter that I'm leaving you behind. If you stop playing your computer games all day you might get promoted, too."
Dave scowled and returned to his cubicle without another word. We weren't exactly friends and never had been. When I first moved up to 4F he would invite me to Hooters every day and ignored my consistent and polite refusals until I filed a complaint.
Mrs. Ferguson came to my cubicle fifteen minutes later and escorted me to the elevator. She was tall and commanding, quite my opposite. I tried to exude the confidence aura but I was a bit short at a measly 5'4" to her 5'9" and I couldn't work heels as well as her. She was older than me by quite a few years and had mentioned she had a son around my age.
"We're going to have to put a hold on your promotion, Miss Finn."
We were sitting at her huge oval desk when she gave me the bad news. I hardly had time to enjoy being on 3F and my spine stiffened noticeably at her words. But… but… I'd told everyone already!
"Yes," she said, looking kind of irritated, "this will hopefully only be temporary. We hope you understand."
We hope this is temporary?! It felt like I'd been punched in the stomach.
I kept my composure and smiled tightly at Mrs. Ferguson during the grueling hour she spent detailing why it wasn't the right time to promote me. When she finally set me free I signed a notarization of illness and left work early, struggling to hold back tears on my way out the door. Shannon called after me but I ignored her and hurried to a cab.
Izzy was already waiting with sangria when I came home. I threw me arms around her and sobbed like a baby for half of the day, miserable in my loss. They'd promised me a month ago that it was all set. I hated InteliCorp. I never wanted to go back to work again.
"Don't worry," Izzy said comfortingly, "we can go get nice and drunk tonight."
I kept right on crying. A night of dancing sounded great.