"…so I really got into fashion from after my trip to Paris. And after that trip, I told daddy that I really wanted to get into fashion design but I found out that I don't really like drawing… or sewing… or any of that stuff that you do with your hands. I'm more into thinking and traveling, you know? And shopping! So that was the last thing I got into. I'm not doing anything now though," the pretty twenty year old brunette answered with a sparkly smile.
Her last client of the day was Cookie Richards, the daughter of a wealthy business owner who did not have to work a day in her life. The meeting was already running fifteen minutes late and Emily was kicking herself for booking a client like Cookie at the end of her shift. She knew from experience that appointments with young, rich and unemployed clients tended to run longer than expected. They assume that because they have all the time in the world, everyone else had as much free time as them.
After glancing at the wall clock and noticing that she needed to haul ass as quickly as possible to get to her night class on time, Emily quickly looked down at her list of answers that could best fit her client's response. There was no option for "not working," which is really what her client was doing. For clients like this, there was a special option.
"So, would you say that you're pursuing other interests at the moment?" Emily asked.
Cookie's eyes immediately lit up.
"Yes! That's a perfect way of describing my situation actually…."
Cookie leaned toward her desk and Emily could tell that she was just about to go into detail on what her current situation in. However, before she could get another word in, Emily interrupted her.
"Ok! Well, I think I got everything I needed," Emily said as she stood up from behind her desk and began to collect her things, hoping that Cookie would follow suit. "I want to thank you for coming in today. I will now be analyzing your data and after about five days, I will personally contact you so that we can go over the next step."
Cookie reluctantly stood up, smoothed out her cream colored skirt and collected her things as well.
"Let me know when you find a match as soon as you can," Cookie said, eagerness and excitement noticeable in her tone of voice.
"I will," Emily promised as she walked her client out of the conference room. "Thank you again, Ms. Richards. We'll see you soon."
As soon as Cookie was out of sight, Emily dashed out of the conference room and to her office, which was located next to the noisy lobby and receptionist's desk. Just as she began to push her economics textbook into her brown canvas backpack, a quick knock came at her open door. Emily looked up and immediately froze.
"Hello Emily," Mrs. Andrews coldly greeted. "May I have a word with you?"
Emily dropped her backpack and nodded. "Yes, of course, Mrs. Andrews."
She forced herself to keep her eyes on her boss. If she averted her eyes for a second to look at the wall clock, she knew Mrs. Andrews would take notice.
"Come to my office," she commanded, not waiting for a response and immediately walking away.
Emily quickly left her own office and followed her boss across the hallway to the quiet and spacious office located in the far back. Emily noticed that with the door closed, every sound outside of her office was muffled. Gone was the noisy chatter of Amy, Fate's full-time receptionist, as well as the adult contemporary music playing in the lobby. This was the exact opposite of Emily's office, where music and chatter could be heard even with her door closed. To add to the list of differences, her boss' office was immaculate. The color white scheme was apparent, which added to the look of pure cleanliness. The office space was huge, especially when compared with her own; however, only a few and essential furniture pieces were placed, no doubt in a feng shui fashion. No sheet of paper was out of place and the only decorative piece was a huge bouquet of white lilies, positioned at the corner of her desk. Like Mrs. Andrews, her office felt cold. It was perfect for her.
"Sit," Mrs. Andrews then commanded, motioning to one of the two white leather chairs placed in front of her massive glass desk.
Emily did as she was told and crossed over to sink into a tough leather seat.
"How was the Cookie Richards appointment?" Mrs. Andrews asked as she peered at her from behind her red framed glasses.
"I think it went well – "
Mrs. Andrews narrowed her eyes. "You think it went well?"
"Well, it was just the initial interview but I believe Ms. Richards is excited to continue with the process. I already know how I want to proceed with her. After I input her data, I think the next best step would be to –"
Mrs. Andrews sighed and motioned for Emily to stop talking.
"Relax Emily," she said. "Ms. Richards isn't the reason why I called you in here. I received an email from one of our clients… a Ms. Yasmine Gellar. Do you remember her?"
Emily nodded. She was assigned to Yasmine Gellar about a year ago. Although her memory of her time with Yasmine was fuzzy, she remembered that she sincerely enjoyed working with the extremely successful twenty-seven year old real estate agent.
"Well, she remembers you too," Mrs. Andrews said as she ruffled through a short stack of papers. "In fact, she sent me an email last week to praise the service you provided her. She even credits you for matching her up with Bradley Michaels, whom she now says is the love of her life. They're getting married in the summer."
Emily smiled in response. She knew she genuinely liked Yasmine.
"After reading Ms. Gellar's email, it got me thinking," Mrs. Andrews continued, now intently studying Emily. "I think you're ready to take on more responsibilities."
Feeling truly surprised, Emily asked, "What kind of responsibilities?"
"I want you to be the new supervisor at Fate. This is a promotion," Mrs. Andrews answered matter-of-factly. "You will now be in charge of overseeing the office's regular daily duties and ensure that every event is properly coordinated. That means you will have to attend every Fate-sponsored event. Do you think you can handle these new responsibilities?"
Emily, surprised and excited, nodded feverously in response.
"Thank you, Mrs. Andrews. I honestly believe that I can do the job well."
"All right, that is all. You're free to go," her boss responded as she pointed to the door. "Have a nice weekend."
Emily left her office floating on a cloud and forgetting her anxieties about being tardy for her class. The meeting with her boss made her another ten minutes late and it took her an extra fifteen minutes to get to her class, but she was still feeling so good about the promotion that she did not care. No longer feeling tense, she entered her classroom almost thirty minutes late without the usual edgy presence she brought with her whenever she was tardy. Today, she didn't care when twenty pair of eyes bore into her as she took a seat next to Audrey Quinn, one of the few friends she made in college. She smiled at Audrey, who in turn, raised a perfectly arched eyebrow in suspicion. The remaining hour of instruction flew by for Emily and before she knew it, her classmates were packing up their backpacks and excitedly filing out the door, ready for the weekend. Emily and Audrey followed suit, behind the herd of students.
"You seem… like you're on another planet," Audrey said to her rather bluntly. "Did something happen? And why were you so late to class? I thought you were ditching for once."
Emily, still excited about the news, smiled happily.
"Well, I was late because my boss kept me back to let me know that I got a promotion!"
Audrey's eyes widened before matching her smile with Emily's.
"Wow, Em! That's awesome. It's finally time that witch of a boss gave you some credit. Not to mention the amount of crazy clients you have to deal with."
Emily nodded. "Yeah. The only problem is I'll have to spend even more time with these crazies. But… it's a promotion and that's what counts! But hey, I didn't miss anything during the first half of lecture, did I?"
"The only interesting thing you missed during lecture was Mr. Richards trying to work a DVD player. His age is really starting to show. I think everyone else was amused because no one offered to help. It was fifteen minutes of wasted time we all enjoyed. I even think that guy Lance dozed off. So no, you did not miss anything," Audrey explained. "But forget about class. I want to hear more about your promotion. You know what we should do?"
"What?" Emily asked suspiciously.
"Celebrate!" Audrey answered as she linked her arm with Emily's and led them toward their cars.
Emily wasn't the type to go to a bar, but it turns out, Audrey can be very convincing when she wants to be. Being assertive and practically the opposite of herself, Emily was surprised that she and Audrey became good friends. They had met a year and a half ago when they were partnered together for an oral presentation. Emily was grateful to have had Audrey as a partner because she soon found out that Audrey enjoyed speaking in front of a large group of people, while Emily did not; so, they balanced each other out. Not to mention, their physical appearances were opposites as well. Audrey's curly light blonde hair was bright, compared to Emily's black mop top.
It took a while for Audrey to plead with Emily that they should celebrate at a popular neighborhood bar, but she was good at convincing. So, after ten minutes of negotiating, she followed Audrey's white Corolla into a busy parking lot twenty minutes away from school. Emily slowly got out of her car, unsure about her decision. However, before she could turn around and drive away, Audrey suddenly appeared at her side.
"We're here!" she said happily, her blue eyes sparkling. "I was seriously afraid you were going to drive straight home."
"Oh, I thought about it," Emily truthfully said with an uncomfortable smile.
In turn, Audrey gave her a reassuring grin.
"We're going to have a good time," her friend promised as she led her towards the bar's open doors.
Knowing there was no turning back, Emily trudged along closely behind Audrey and entered the dimly lit Seven Bar.
One step into the bar and Emily officially regretted her decision to stay. It was dark, crowded and filled with smoke. The speakers blasted the Top 40 music playlist and all around her, people bobbed to the loud, upbeat songs that were repeatedly being replayed on the radio at least ten times a day. Despite the uncomfortable atmosphere, Audrey was able to snag a small table near the bar. Having a place to plant herself in, Emily felt less on edge.
"So, what do you want to drink?" Audrey asked, the second they sat on the wooden bar stools. "My treat. It's your celebration."
Emily smiled sheepishly. She wasn't going to say anything, but she would much rather have celebrated her promotion at a restaurant over greasy burgers and fries.
"I'll take a beer, I guess," she replied after quickly looking over a grimy table menu.
"Boo," Audrey responded with a pout. "No shots?"
Emily shook her head firmly at the request. She hated the strong taste of shots.
Her friend dropped her shoulders in defeat and started to head towards the bar. The wall of the bar was brightly lit, illuminating about fifty bottles of brightly colored alcohol. When her friend disappeared in the crowd, Emily suddenly felt self-conscience again. Noticing the majority of the women in the bar wearing tight dresses, she was feeling especially self-conscience about the way she looked in her work attire. Knowing she couldn't do anything about her dark, knee length pencil skirt, she shrugged off her white blazer in order to blend in more with the crowd. She felt an immediate chill as the cold air conditioned air met her bare arms. She continued to study the room and watched as every other twenty-something year old was able to interact comfortably with each other. Emily wondered how many beverages it took for them to get to their current courage level. She was lost in her own thoughts when Audrey fianlly returned to their table with her hands full with two cold beers and a basket of hot fries.
"Oh, thank goodness," Emily said, quickly remembering how hungry she was. "I'm starving."
"Alright, slow down," Audrey said with a laugh as Emily unattractively stuffed her mouth with several fries.
After the two friends settled in for an overdue girl talk session and Audrey ordered more food to satisfy Emily's famished state, Emily was surprised that she was actually beginning to enjoy herself. She was really grateful to have a friend like Audrey who often pushes her out of her comfort zone because every time she did, Emily ended up having a good time. She even found herself bobbing to the music she secretly liked, which was not a surprise considering that at that time, she and Audrey were on their second beers and were feeling more relaxed by the minute. In the past hour, they spoke about their annoying Economics professor, their looming graduation date, Audrey's latest dud date, Emily's promotion and Mrs. Andrews' recent witchy behavior.
"…so, not only did I have to deal with an annoying bastard on the road, who turned out to be a client, by the way, Mrs. Andrews called me in to her office to grill me on why I was late to work and blamed me for her crappy day," Emily loudly explained to her friend, hoping Audrey had caught every word over the blaring music.
She could tell by Audrey's sour expression that she was heard. Her friend scrunched up her nose and rolled her blue eyes dramatically.
"Did you tell your boss that the reason why she was having such a crappy day is because she has an entire mop – the stick and the stinky mop head included – up her butt?" Audrey replied before taking a swig of her bottle.
Emily laughed, feeling good that Audrey fully understood how horrible her boss can be. With her blue eyes looking slightly glassy, Audrey winked at her friend, obviously feeling the buzz.
Emily was just about to complain and go into detail about her cocky client when at that moment, a server appeared at their table with two new bottles of beer at hand.
Emily looked at her friend, who frowned in confusion.
"Hey, we didn't order this," Audrey said to the pierced server.
Leaning in, the server replied, "They've been paid for."
"By who?" Audrey asked, her eyes now scanning the crowd.
The server shrugged and sauntered off, clearly having no interest in wanting to help solve the mystery.
"I seriously hope they're not from creepers," Audrey said with a groan, reading Emily's own thoughts.
The positive buzz Emily was feeling was now replaced by anxiety. She had no intention of trying to hook up with a total stranger. She only wanted to celebrate her promotion and release some pent up stress from school and work. But now, she had to deal with interacting with strangers, something she did not feel she was good at. Now on the lookout for potential creepers, Emily scanned the crowd behind Audrey as Audrey did the same. No one seemed to be paying attention to their table, which made Emily feel better.
"Maybe the server meant to give these to another table," Emily hopefully suggested, gingerly picking up the beer.
Audrey shook her head as her eyes suddenly focused on something – or someone - behind her.
"Nope," Audrey said with a shake of her head and a small smile reaching her lips. "They're right behind you. Totally staring…. and they're actually cute… unless, the buzz I'm feeling is making them better looking than they actually are."
Unable to play it cool, Emily whipped her head around and found herself staring in familiar light blue eyes. And at that moment, every ounce of happiness drained out of her. She could not believe that out of all of the bars in the city, he chose to visit Seven, which is not a bar she imagined him to visit. In her mind, he led a group of stuck up friends to a members only bar where the admission fee cost as much as the price of school tuition. She imagined him wearing a suit and tie for this normal occasion, all the while cradling a delicate martini glass that held an expensive shaken, not stirred martini, James-Bond-style. But no, he was standing just a table away from her, in the neighborhood bar wearing dark jeans and a grey button down shirt, looking as normal as any other patron. He held the same type of non-pretentious beer in his hand as her and next to him, sat a companion who looked as normal as he did. Baffled, Emily did nothing but stare at him, not knowing what to do.
In response, Will Morgan raised his eyebrows and gave her a small smile.
"Crap," she said.
"What the matter?" Audrey asked, straining to get a better look at their admirers. "I'm totally interested."
"You know the guy in the grey? That's my client. The jerk who almost hit me on the road," Emily answered, closing her eyes and covering her face with her hands at the ridiculousness of the situation.
"Oh," her friend simply responded, eyes widened. "Now, I don't know what to do. And by the way, they're walking over now."
With her eyes still closed, Emily suddenly felt the presence of a male body standing next to her.
Emily opened her eyes and forced herself to be pleasant because whether she liked it or not, he was a client and she did not want to ruin their work relationship before it even started.
"Will. Hello," she said, sitting up and tightening her lips into what she hoped was a smile.
Will chuckled, clearly amused.
"So… did you get the drinks we sent over?" he asked her casually before taking a sip from his own bottle.
"Yes! We did, thanks," Audrey answered for her, knowing how awkward Emily was feeling. "By the way, hi. I'm Audrey, a friend of Emily's."
Emily watched as the interaction between her client and her good friend unfolded before her eyes. She didn't know what the policy was concerning clients outside of work because she never had to deal with it before. Before this experience, she was positive that she would not have to worry about seeing a client outside of the workplace. They usually lived on two difference planets.
"Hi Audrey," Will greeted as he extended his hand out to hers. "I'm Will. I just met Emily a couple of days ago at her workplace. And this is my friend Tyler Fraser."
"Hi everyone," Tyler greeted with a smile that seemed genuine.
With his short dirty blonde hair and light brown eyes, Emily decided then that Will's friend could easily be a J. Crew model. Even with two beers in her system, she knew that his attractiveness was no illusion. After turning his full attention back to Audrey, it was clear that Will's friend was interested in her friend. And after successfully pulling Audrey to the dance floor, Emily had no choice but to interact with Will. Alone. In turn, Will took Audrey's empty seat, not waiting for Emily to invite him to sit.
"So…" she started, desperately trying to think of something to say. "What are you doing here?"
Will chuckled again before taking a drink of his beer.
"Hanging out," he answered. "Why do you seem so surprised to see me here?"
"Well, it doesn't really seem like your type of scene," Emily responded with a shrug.
"You, Emily, are making assumptions about me like you already know me."
But I do, she thought to herself. She has worked with clients like Will for three years now. They were usually all the same and they don't surprise her. However, Will was the first client to run into her outside of work. She imagined that if another client were to ever see outside of Fate, they would avoid eye contact, let alone approach her and attempt to make small talk. And after that realization, she decided to at least be civil with Will.
"I'm allowed to make assumptions about you," she explained. "After all, I did spend an hour with you asking you fifty personal questions."
"Is that so?" he asked, popping a fry in his mouth.
Emily found herself watching as he licked the salt from his fingertip. She shook her head to clear her thoughts and decided then that the alcohol was to blame for the distraction.
He's a jerk, Emily silently reminded herself. He's a jerk client who thinks you need to retake your driver's test.
"Yes," she said, clearing her throat and forcing herself to focus on his eyes instead. "I know your family history, your likes and dislikes, your dog's name. It's Lucy, by the way. I know that you will take a date out to Gordon's Steakhouse on the first date, even though for everyone else, Gordon's is usually a restaurant to go to on an anniversary. So obviously, you're willing to spend quite a deal of money on fancy food and extravagant wine. I doubt that they serve domestic beer there. But you're here… at a dive bar… drinking domestic beer."
"You have good memory."
Emily shrugged. "It's part of my job."
Will shrugged back. "I enjoy fine food. But I enjoy a burger and beer as well. Gordon's certainly does not serve this type of stuff, so I come here."
"Oh," she said. "I will make sure to add that to your file."
She focused her attention on her friend then, evidently having a good time on the dance floor with Tyler. She watched as Audrey laughed freely at something Tyler whispered to her. Emily wanted to leave, but didn't want to force her friend to leave with her when she was clearly having a good time.
"Did you want to dance or something?" Will asked suddenly, his question catching her by surprise.
Emily laughed nervously and shook her head quickly.
"No thanks, I don't dance."
Will furrowed his eyebrows and then shrugged at her response.
"You know, this doesn't look like your type of scene either," he said, looking around the dark bar.
"It's not. It's Audrey's."
Will slowly nodded his head and then turned around to watch their friends. After some time, he turned his attention back to Emily.
"I can see that." He paused before adding, "Your friend's attractive."
Emily bit her lip and looked away, not knowing how to respond. She wasn't surprised to hear that considering Audrey was usually the one who got the attention whenever they went out together. She was never envious, but at that moment, she felt the unwanted pang of jealousy. She did not know why and she did not want to ponder it. Again, she blamed her fuzzy thoughts on the alcohol. It didn't matter that she had stopped drinking almost an hour ago. She was blaming the alcohol.
Not knowing what to say and unhappy with how the conversation was going, she avoided eye contact with Will and kept the silence between them last. Feeling the sudden cold attitude, Will did the same and preoccupied himself with a piece of napkin. Watching their friends, Emily breathed a sigh of relief when Audrey and Tyler returned with big grins and cheeks red from laughter and dancing.
At least someone had a good time, she thought.
"So, who wants another drink?" Tyler asked when he picked up his empty bottle.
Emily immediately shook her head.
"No, thanks. It's late. I have to head out soon," she answered.
Audrey pouted, clearly disappointed with her answer.
"Aww, why not, Em?" she asked. "It's Friday night. You don't work or have class tomorrow."
All eyes were now on her as Emily tried to formulate a response. She felt bad about ditching her friend when she evidently wanted to stay, but she started to feel uncomfortable around Will and she didn't know why. She just knew that she could not handle watching him eat another French fry. Or handle him call her friend attractive again. And if Mrs. Andrews knew what was going on at the moment, she would surely lose her promotion. At that thought, Emily felt justified to stand up and collect her things.
"I'm sorry, Audrey. And… everyone else," she said, avoiding eye contact with Will. "It's just, I have to take Peanut to obedience class in town tomorrow at 8am. And Audrey, you know how much he likes to go to the dog park afterwards. And sheesh, it's almost 11pm. You know me, need my sleep."
Stop babbling, she ordered herself.
Audrey studied Emily, but knew not to question her because what she said was the truth. Saturday mornings were indeed dedicated to her yellow Labrador. At last, Audrey sighed and started to collect her things as well.
"All right, boys. I guess it's time for me to head out as well," her friend said, giving Tyler a small smile.
Tyler's disappointment was apparent and he then boldly asked for Audrey's number. As the two of them exchanged numbers, Will turned his attention back to Emily.
"They look like they want to stay," he murmured, leaning in. "Are you sure you can't stay? We can continue our riveting conversation."
Whether he meant it offensively or not, Emily looked at Will and laughed at his choice of words. After she had given him the cold shoulder, she would hardly call the silence between them riveting. She really did not get him.
"Well, we can continue our riveting conversation on Tuesday. I haven't called you yet to make an appointment, but since you're here, I'm letting you know now that I plan on calling you on Monday morning. I finished the first step of your application this afternoon, so we're ready to begin phase 2 on Tuesday, if you're available," she explained.
Will nodded. "Back to business, I see."
"It's always business with a client," Emily retorted.
She stuck out her hand to Will, who returned the shake with a firm squeeze.
"Good-bye Mr. Morgan."
"Have a good night, Ms. Banks."
After saying goodbye to Tyler, Emily and Audrey left the bar. One felt drained and the other left floating on a cloud.