"Mr Porter?" A man rapped his knuckles on the window of my car. He woke me and I inhaled the new car smell that reminded me of my childhood. Blinking at the rising sun, I flicked the switch and the window rolled down.
"Tha-" I cleared the sleep from my throat. "That's me. Can I help you?"
He smiled apologetically, knowing that he had woken me. "Sorry, sir." His accent was Western; Devonshire perhaps. "Ms Harisham would like to see you, sir." He was young, twenty-one perhaps. That must have been his first job outside of the restaurant and retail industries that so frequently employed acne-ridden individuals such as himself.
"Right, thank you." I nodded, trying to convey as much gratitude as I could despite the sleep clouding my eyes.
The young man hurried off, probably to go and make tea for some hot-shot executive that would never pass up the opportunity to take advantage of a young boy eager to please his superiors.
I pulled down the sun-visor and looked in the mirror.
I wasn't expecting anything great, but my reflection was still a disappointment.
Same eyes that couldn't decide whether they were green or hazel, same nose that sat just a bit too far to the left, same mouth that had about as much appeal as a couple of slugs pushed together above my chin.
The cold, London air hit me in a sudden breeze as I climbed out of the car. I adjusted the burgundy tie around my neck and buttoned my grey blazer. I was one of those people who believe that first impressions count. In fact, they count for quite a lot. The first glimpse that you get of a person sets out the path towards what relationship you will have with that person in the end.
My first impression of Nina DeLacour was that she was perfection.
I entered the building and followed the directions that I was given over the phone. After briefly getting lost on the fourth floor and having to ask an unimpressed security guard to point me in the right direction, I open the door to Ms Harisham's office. She was sat behind a desk, taking a long drag of a very potent cigarette. Her long fingers were splayed out elegantly, her red nails like drops of blood hanging in the air as her equally crimson lips closed around the butt of the cigarette. She blinked, her long black lashes lowering to reveal a painted blue lid before her eyes opened again and bright blue eyes locked onto mine.
She was a gorgeous lady. But to me, she was hideous.
The diamond on her engagement ring caught the light as she smiled, revealing almost perfect white teeth.
"Mr Porter, I presume." She stood, putting out her cigarette in a glass bowl on the desk. As she made her way around the desk my palms started sweating. As she tucked a lock of stick-straight blonde hair behind her ear I swallowed what felt like a rock.
"Ms Harisham." I nodded in acknowledgement.
She grinned, a low giggle rising from her throat. "Please, call me Beau." I nodded, which appeared to amuse her more. "My secretary didn't tell me that you were so handsome." She was lying. I wasn't handsome. She was flirting because she knew she could. She put her hand on my arm because she knew I wouldn't pull away.
I cleared the nerves from my throat. "Um," A second attempt. "I have some material in my briefcase. If you would allow me to-"
She looked bored as she waved a dismissing hand at me. "No need, Mr Porter," She paused, allowing me to give permission for her to use my first name. I didn't give it. "You've already got the job."
I nodded, lowering the arm I had raised in preparation for opening my case. "Miss Delacour," she said the name like it was a joke. "will be arriving shortly. You can show your material to her."
Gone was the hand on my arm. Gone was the lipstick smile. She stood behind her desk again and pulled her waist-high trousers up a little bit higher, propping her hands on the sharp curves of her hips. "Your new workspace is down one floor in the main office. You will do the majority of your writing there, you will not take any equipment home with you and Miss Delacour will not be anywhere near your work station at any time. Any meetings with the clients will take place in a conference room or in my office."
I felt like I was ten years old again, arriving at my fifth school and having to learn the rules all over again from a teacher who expected nothing from me and didn't care whether I met these expectations or not. I nodded dumbly and she sent me away.
I found the main office without problems and settled down behind an empty desk with "Porter" scrawled on a piece of paper in thick black ink on top of the surface. The paper was in the bin before I sat down on the black chair. The smell of the fresh leather was all around me as I stroked the arms of the chair.
"Hey, you must be the new bloke." My head jerked up as someone rested their hands on my desk. He had shaggy brown hair and long stubble and he grinned at me as he pushed his thick-framed glasses up his nose.
"Um, yes." I stood up and ran my hands down my blazer to flatten it. I extended my hand to him but he held up a finger to silence me.
"Hang on…" He studied me with a furrow in his brow. "Porter, right?" he pointed at me with a coy grin.
"Good to meet you, mate. I'm Cal." He shook my hand. His smile was infectious. "So, is this your first day, Porter?"
"Yes, yes it is."
"Are you a writer?"
I was confused by his question. "Yes…"
"Who do you write for?"
"Miss Nina Delacour." Her name rolled off my tongue effortlessly.
He smiled at this answer. "I know her, 'bout time she got herself a writer."
"What do you mean?"
"Well…she's not the most…I mean she can't…She has a touch of the foot-in-mouth syndrome." He shrugged.
I recoiled slightly. "What's that?"
"Think about it." He smirked.
Foot-in-mouth…Cows? No, that can't be it…foot…in…mouth…putting her foot in her mou-oh.
I snickered at the joke and he nodded proudly. "Good one, huh?"
"Very witty, Cal, well done."