Feeling herself drifting out of a dream state, Emily Banks woke up and immediately felt that something was wrong. She pushed her dark, thick and disheveled hair from her eyes and groped her nightstand in search for her glasses. One good look out her window revealed a beautiful Monday morning, complete with clear blue skies and bluebirds chirping their morning greeting. Emily would usually appreciate beautiful weather but it was a weekday, which meant that she should have been up at 4:30 am, when the sky is still pitch black and the bluebirds are silent.
She was late - so, so late.
Emily jumped out of bed, almost tripping on her 5-year-old yellow Labrador, who in turn lifted his sleepy head in her direction before going back to sleep.
"Sorry, Peanut," she muttered to her dog whose name did not match his size.
It took Emily ten minutes to complete her morning routine, a new record. She considered this to be an impressive feat, considering she was able to brush her teeth, wash her face, fix her hair and makeup and leave Peanut with fresh food and water all in ten minutes. But this new record did not help because she was already fifteen minutes late and she was a half an hour away from work. She was just about to start her car when her cell phone rang and immediately, her heart raced and a chill ran down her spine. She reluctantly answered the call.
"Hello, Mrs. Andrews. I'm so sorry - "
Claire Andrews cut her off at once, her voice cold and sharp. "Emily. I don't care. I don't want to hear it. Where are you?"
"Umm… I'm running late. But I'm on my way," she answered as beads of sweat began to form on her forehead.
"I needed you here twenty minutes ago. Do you realize we have a client coming in half an hour? Get. Here. Now."
Emily nodded feverishly, even though she knew her boss could not see. "Yes, Mrs. Andrews. "
Without saying goodbye, Mrs. Andrews hung up on her.
Emily gritted her teeth and swore. The last thing she wanted to do was make her boss more upset. Emily was convinced that Claire Andrews woke up in a foul mood every day. She was a difficult to deal with but the job allowed her to continue her college education and it paid Emily well, so she puts up with the demands. However, this morning, Emily did not know if she would be able to handler her. She was already beyond stressed from studying for her finals, which was the reason why she woke up late. Emily found it ironic that she works at Fate, a match making agency for the well-to-do. She was in the business of "love" and yet she had a boss like Claire Andrews, a demanding woman who was on husband number three. As she pushed the gas pedal a little harder than usual to speed up her commute, she ran over the list of things she needed to do that day.
Morgan appointment – 9:00 a.m.
Matthews appointment – 10:30 a.m.
Lunch – 12 p.m.
Lee appointment – 1:00 p.m.
Richards appointment – 2:30 p.m.
Class – 5:00 p.m.
Emily sighed; it was going to be a very long day. Just as she was imagining what she would be having for dinner that night, she noticed that the stop light in front of her suddenly changed to red and she slammed on her brake. Her surprise caused the car behind her to also slam on their brake and then honk their horn in clear annoyance. Although she was grateful that an accident did not occur, it did not stop her from glaring at the driver's silhouette from her rearview mirror. The silhouette threw his hands up in frustration. It didn't matter that it was her fault; this was adding to her annoyance. And it was only 8:45 a.m. When the light turned green, the black Audi zoomed past her and cut her off. Now extremely annoyed, Emily honked her horn but decided to keep it civil and back off. She continued on her way, her annoyance fading away as she lost the black Audi and the feeling of upcoming dread returned. She was going to have to face Mrs. Andrews in approximately ten minutes. When she drove into the parking lot of Fate, it was 9:05 a.m. and she was already five minutes late to her first appointment. Breathless from running, Emily entered the lobby only to be greeted by the cold look of her silver-haired and impeccably dressed boss, as well as curious glances from a stranger.
"Good morning, Mrs. Andrews," Emily said nervously.
Knowing that she was in front of a client, Mrs. Andrews gave Emily a tight, thin-lipped smile. Her blue eyes remained cold.
"Hello Emily. Lovely of you to join us. I was just showing Mr. Morgan around the office."
Emily looked over at her 9am appointment and smiled. In turn, her client nodded in her direction but remained silent. Like all of her clients at Fate, Will Morgan came from an affluent family. According to his file, his father was a former Congressman, his grandfather owned several department stores and his sister had recently married the son of wealthy entrepreneur. Dressed in khakis and a preppy navy blue sweater, Will was tall, with light brown hair and light blue eyes. From her five years at Fate, Emily knew that if client was good-looking and well off, it did not make her match-making job any easier. In fact, it made it more difficult to put together two good-looking because they both felt that the world is their oyster. Assessing Will Morgan and automatically putting him into that group, she sighed inwardly.
"Good morning, Mr. Morgan," she said as she shook his hand firmly. "I'm Emily Banks. I believe we spoke on the phone last week…"
"Hello," Will Morgan greeted curtly.
Mrs. Andrews cut in then, obvious to Emily that she was anxious to leave.
"Mr. Morgan, it was a pleasure to meet you. Now that Emily is here, I will take my leave. I have some business to catch up on."
Will nodded, looking slightly uninterested.
"Thank you, Mrs. Andrews," Emily said as her boss walked away without a response.
Emily then turned to Will, who only raised his eyebrows at her, clearly not amused with the way his appointment was going. She motioned for him to follow her into a nearby conference room where all of Fate client meetings took place. She sat in front of him and now without her boss watching her, Emily felt more comfortable and in control. It took her a couple of years of experience but she no longer felt intimidated by her wealthy clients. She found out that most of the time, she felt sorry for them. Coming from wealthy families, they weren't half as independent as she was. Most of her clients were also forced to go through their agency because a family member wanted to see them married to someone they could approve of. They did not have the freedom she had. But then again, they did not struggle financially like she did.
"Now Mr. Morgan – "
"Mr. Morgan is my dad. You can call me Will," he said, having no problem cutting her off.
Emily nodded and forced herself from rolling her eyes.
"All right. Will. First of all, thank you for choosing Fate. As I'm sure you know, we're different from other agencies because we pre-screen all clienteles. Every one of our clients are special – "
He cut her off again.
"Special?" he asked, finally looked amused. "How am I special?"
Emily stared at him. She was surprised that he was actually listening to the script she was forced to say to her first-time clients. Most of the time, her clients would smile, silently agreeing with her script that they were special people born into this world with a right to whatever they wished for. This script, written by Mrs. Andrews, was never questioned.
Emily cleared her throat before answering, trying to formulate an inoffensive response.
"Well, all of our clients are… different from everyone else."
Will raised an eyebrow. "Different. How?"
At this point, Emily was trying very hard to keep her cool. She very much wanted to walk out of that conference room and sarcastically wish him luck on finding a girlfriend on his own. She now understood why he sought out an agency like Fate. However, she knew that would not please Mrs. Andrews, especially on a day she walked into work late. And so, she sat up straighter in her chair and gave her client a smile to show him that he was not getting to her.
"Mr. Morgan," she said, completely ignoring his wishes to be called by his first name. "I'm assuming you don't want a phony story. So, here it is. Fate is for the rich hoping to meet a possible wealthy mate. All of our clienteles make an annual income of at least $200,000. I've reviewed your file and you, sir, meet the necessary requirement. All of our clients are looking for someone who also meets our necessary requirements. And that is why we consider all of our clients special."
"Ok, then." Will responded. "What's your job?"
"Mr. Morgan, my job is collect clientele data. I will then put your answers into our database and we will come up with possible matches. We will then set up future meetings and dates. If you don't mind, we're running a little behind schedule and I would now like to start with our questionnaire."
Will shrugged, looking uninterested again.
"Ask away, Ms. Banks."
Will Morgan behaved during the rest of the interview and Emily was grateful. Like all routine initial meetings, she asked all of the fifty required interview questions. She learned that he was 28 years old, graduated with a history degree, loved dogs, enjoys learning how to cook and traveling. He answered "No preference" with a smirk when he was asked if preferred blondes, brunettes or redheads. His ideal match would be an animal lover and a travel mate. When Emily learned this, she herself smirked because despite being an annoyance, they actually had quite a few things in common. At the end of the interview, she firmly shook his hand, thanked him and decided not to use Fate's closing script. She did not feel like being questioned again.
Once Will was out of the door, Emily allowed herself to slouch into her chair and rest her head on the cool glass table. She wanted the day to be over, but knowing that she was in charge of overseeing three more appointments, she reluctantly stood up and collected her things. As she was about to leave the conference room, she noticed a black jacket slumped on the chair Will Morgan sat in. She sighed, picked up the jacket and raced out the door to find Will. As she entered the parking garage, Emily was surprised to find Will studying the front of her car.
"Mr. Morgan? You forgot your jacket," she said, approaching Will curiously.
Will turned in her direction and accepted the jacket. Emily mentally noted that he did not bother to thank her.
"Do you know who owns this car?" he asked.
"Why?" Emily asked, confused.
"Because I think the driver was the idiot who almost caused an accident this morning. I was driving behind his numb nut and they stopped so suddenly, I almost hit this car," he explained, oblivious to the fact that the "numb nut" he was referring to was standing right in front of him.
As he was explaining his reasoning, Emily found his black Audi parked just two stalls away. She decided then not to say anything.
"Sorry, I don't know who owns this car," she said, lying through her teeth.
"Well, if you find out, tell them they need to retake their driver's test. Do us all a favor," he muttered as he walked towards his own car.
She frowned at his statement. However, before she could go off at him, she bit her tongue and immediately walked away. She was hoping that her next appointment would be late so that she could release some of her pent up annoyance, but upon stepping into the building, she found that luck was not on her side that morning. Her next client was already waiting for her.
"Ms. Matthews? Hi, I'm Emily Banks," she greeted her leggy, blonde client.
"Hello," she responded coolly.
Emily decided then that Sophie very much resembled and acted like Mrs. Andrews. And at that moment, she knew how she could release some of her pent up annoyance. She decided then that Will Morgan and Sophie Matthews deserved to meet each other.