Leila strode along the busy road, ignoring the constant chattering of the people around her. She subconsciously covered her mouth with her blue scarf as she walked past the shops without even glancing at them, all she could think of at that time was her impending interview. Only two weeks before she had applied for an internship at a prestigious firm and she was now headed towards a tall building in the thriving city of London. She nervously glanced at her wristwatch as she waited for the cars to stop so that she could cross the street. A cold shiver ran along her spine, her blue jacket being the sole protection form the freezing weather. The moment she walked through the heavy mahogany doors she was stunned by the beautiful woman who welcomed her with a warm smile.
'Good morning, how can I help?'
In an attempt to calm down she took a deep breath before speaking, 'I am here to meet Mr Robinson, I have an interview in half an hour…'
The woman's smile widened as she spoke, 'I see. Would you mind waiting in the guest room? I'll send someone to take you to the office in a few minutes'.
'Thank you'. Leila moved in the room to the left of the entrance and, in order to calm her nerves, she distracted herself by looking at the colourful pictures hanging from the walls. Most of them depicted natural landscapes, however her attention was caught by the image of a young woman bent on a small scriptorium. The papers were scattered all around, with a good amount of them lying on the floor. A lonely tear appeared on the woman right cheek, her gaze lost. Feeling inspired Leila took out her notebook and quickly scribbled a few lines.
'Leila Kelly?' a young man dressed in a dark suit called her name.
She turned to face him, her heart pounding in her chest 'Yes?'.
'Hi, my name is Martin. I'm here to escort you to Mr Robinson. Please follow me'.
She nodded, her mouth too dry to speak and moved away from the guest room with him. He guided her upstairs, through a series of doors and various rooms before stopping in front of a dark red door. He gently knocked before entering followed by Leila. 'Mr Robinson, here is the young woman who came for the interview'.
'Thanks Martin, you may leave now,' a manly voice came from the chair. Since his seat was facing the window behind his black desk, Leila couldn't see him except for his left hand that held a half filled glass. Nevertheless, the young man bowed and then left walking backwards as if the other could see him. Slowly, Mr Robinson turned the chair so that he could look at Leila who was inwardly panicking. She had noticed that something was strange. For instance, unlike all the previous times she had been at an interview, the man in front of her had not greeted her by coming to the door himself, nor had he shown any hint of cordiality besides that cold look he had stubbornly held on her for the past thirty seconds. Finally, with a tone which sounded more like an order than an offer, he stated, 'Please, have a seat'.
She was so tensed that her body moved on its own will before she realised her action and she suddenly found herself sitting in front of him, his blue eyes attentively scanning her. She noticed that he was wearing a wristwatch on his left hand just like her. His dark hair casually fell on his shoulders giving him a younger look which was counterbalanced by his formal clothes.
'So, Miss Kelly, what makes you think that you are suited for the job?'
At his direct question all the answers she had been rehearsing in the past few days chaotically flashed through her mind and she was left speechless by the pressure his attentive eyes were exerting on her. 'Did my question startle you?' he asked.
'Uh…no, Sir. It's just I was distracted by the shirt you are wearing, the colour really suits you'. What the hell am I talking about? I shouldn't even be looking at his shirt right now, never mind telling him he looks good in it. She wanted to throw herself out of the window and for a second seriously considered the option.
'Thank you for the compliment, though it's just a plain white shirt. Would you mind answering my previous question?'
She looked back at him and, although she was even more tensed now, she noticed that his eyes had slightly narrowed. Fearing that he had been upset by her immature comment she quickly obliged his request, 'Well, I am good at writing and I enjoy it. I am also fluent in five different languages, and even though this doesn't influence my writing skills directly, I find interesting to translate pieces of literature in my spare time. Moreover, I'm an avid reader and I have a very creative mind'. She smiled trying to get a look of approval from him, yet his eyes were even more darker now.
'And you think that would be enough?'
'I suppose it's enough to be a skilled writer,' she said gulping.
'Do you have any previous experience working with other companies?'
'No. However, I used to write short stories on commission at school and I also have an account online… though that's just a hobby'.
He shuffled some papers on his desk moving them to the side so that he could lean forward towards her, 'I'll be frank with you, Miss Kelly. I run a propitious company which at the moment is growing to become a major business in the next few years. Since I find myself blessed with some spare money, I would like to invest in a new sector launching a series of short stories which should be published weekly on one of our magazines, this should bring more people to look at our other products as well. You may easily imagine that since my company is involved in the beauty market, those stories should be mainly aimed at a female public with age ranging between 18 and 50. Your writing is supposed to become a mean to direct the attention of the readers towards the products sold by my company, without them noticing it. This is not about being good at writing, this is writing what people would like to read with a purpose behind it. It's a way to control market and it requires experience'.
'I think it's not so different from when I write on a website trying to get more followers and favourites to my stories,' she shyly replied adjusting a loose hair behind her ear.
'You might be right,' he agreed reaching out with his left hand to free her strand of hair again. 'I prefer it this way,' he explained to her enquiring look.
'Oh…thanks…' she managed to whisper, her face visible reddened.
'To tell you the truth, I had already decided to give you a shot. Your self-confidence isn't that relevant when you'll be spending most of the time writing behind a screen. So, if you don't mind I'd like to move on to the real reason behind this meeting,' he calmly announced.
She stared at him with her lips slightly parted, her mind had gone completely blank and was refusing to register his words. She found herself lost into her fantasies of ever becoming rich and famous thanks to her writing skills, she could have left the college then. He lightly coughed reminding her that they were in the middle of an interview and that was not the time to space out.
'Of course this is only a summer internship, so your permanence here will be very short. However I need to clarify some points about this company's policy'. As he said so, his hands automatically moved to adjust the collar of his shirt. 'You should pay more attention at your image, you hair needs to be fixed for instance. It's a waste to have it like that and it will hurt our company's business if employees look so messy. In the end we are specialized in the beauty market'.
Leila looked straight at him, unsure if she should have felt embarrassed or outraged by his comment. It was true that she didn't mind too much about her appearance, but she liked her hair the way it was. 'Secondly, your temporary office will be set in that room you can see over there until I find a better situation'. She looked in the direction he was pointing at and was surprised to notice that indeed there was an adjacent room to his big office. 'Sir, I can always work at home, if it's just writing…'
'No. You need to be present on the workplace. I will not compromise on this. Before we proceed with finalizing the contract, I need to ask you a few question and I would like you to answer as truthfully as possible'. He waited for her to nod before resuming, 'Are you sexually active?'
She was taken by surprise by this question, but she answered anyway. 'No'.
He rose from his seat and walked around the desk, sitting on it right in front of her, his hands clasped together. 'Have you been sexually active in the last year?'
'No,' she stated.
He nodded as if expecting her next answer, 'Have you ever been sexually active?'
'No. Why are you asking?'
'So that I can safely conclude that you are not going to turn out pregnant or ill'. He got up again and moved a few steps away.
'I'm not planning on having kids in the near future and I could fall ill because of a cold'.
'In the middle of summer, you must suffer of a very frail body,' he glanced at her .
'With all due respect Sir, I honestly don't see how the fact of being a virgin would have an impact on my work life,' she said in what she hoped would sound an annoyed tone.
'But I do,' he stated turning to fully face her. 'It is a scientifically proven result that sexually frustrated people produce less at work…'
'Excuse me,' she interrupted him rising from her chair, 'I might be a virgin, but that doesn't mean that I have to be sexually frustrated and…'
'…Moreover,' he added, this time interrupting her speech by leaning towards her so that his hands were resting on the armchair and she was forced to sit again, 'I think your inexperience would negatively influence the kind of writing I'm expecting you to produce,' he concluded. His face was so close to hers that she could feel his breath hanging on her lips.
'Then if I am so flawed, why would you bother to offer me a place?' she blurted.
'Your grades are excellent and, contrarily to what you may think, I do read the written samples that I receive. Yours was simply splendid, it was a pleasure to go through it,' he casually said retreating from that positon.
She was caught off guard by his compliments and it took her a bit to reply with a shy 'Thank you'. He moved next to the desk, his hand patting on the dark wood as he seemed lost into his thoughts. 'Do you have anything to do tonight?' he suddenly asked.
'I should be packing if I don't want to miss my plane for New Delhi tomorrow and I need to cook'.
'Or you could leave the packing for tomorrow and come to dinner with me'.
'I don't think it's worth to risk my flight'.
'What time is the plane taking off?'
'At 3pm, but I'm leaving at 10 in the morning as I have a two hour journey to the airport'.
'That seems way too early, are you really fond of airports?' he asked rubbing his neck.
'Yes, I am. Besides, I don't think that as my future employer it would be a good idea to invite me to dine out together before I even start working at your place'. She got up to go out of the room as it seemed to her that her work interview was finished a while ago.
'There are a few things that my employees learn fast,' he started, 'And one of them is that I don't take no as an answer'.
'I'm not your employee, yet'. She was risking and she knew it. What if he got so upset with her that he would reject her after all? Still, she didn't want him to use his position to force her to act as he wished and stubbornly refused to meet him.
'You are really trying hard to piss me off, aren't you?' He said in a barely audible whisper.
'I'm not going to submit so easily'.
'Then tell me, what would it take for you to bend to my will?' He asked teasingly.
'Nothing you could ever do,' she replied turning towards the door.
'I see. Be ready for 6pm I'll come to pick you up'.
She stopped in her journey to the door to ask, 'How do you know my address?'
'It was written in your application,' he explained.
'Ah, I forgot'. With her hand already on the door handle she looked at him, unsure if she could leave the room or not.
'You may leave, I suppose I don't have anything to add. I'll see you in a few hours anyway'.
'Don't even think I'll accept to come with you,' she lastly said before exiting the room.