Chapter 3. // The Interview
Grey sighed as she finished typing up the progress report and sent it to Raphael and Val, both of whom were in a meeting and needed it ASAP. It had been about three months since her interview, and working here was almost like a dream to her.
Leaning back into her office chair and staring up at the ceiling, she sighed again, remembering the day she walked into the building, easily fixed the troublesome system and basically got a job handed to her.
Her mother’s dream come true.
Three months earlier…
The elevator dinged again, and the doors slid open to reveal an almost empty floor. Straight ahead was another long marble counter; a woman with white hair sat behind it; ear to a black landline and eyes focused on a computer screen, fingers typing furiously at the keyboard and an exasperated, but amused look on her face.
The two occupants of the elevator stepped out and the door closed behind them, dinging again. The man cleared his throat and the woman behind the counter looked up, a bright smile possessing her features. Without any warning to the person on the other end of the phone, the woman hung up, and quickly walked around the desk and up to the pair, her smile radiant and welcoming.
She stuck her hand out as soon as she was close enough, Grey doing the same, and the woman shook her hand vigorously. “Hi! Welcome to Lini Co! I am Valentina, but please, call me Val. I’m the general secretary, handling everything before passing it on to Mr. Boss Man here.” She jabbed a thumb at Raphael, and Grey giggled softly. She continued. “If you need anything at all, just come to me, and I’ll help you out!” she finished with a smile. Grey couldn’t help but give back a smile of her own; she felt so welcomed here already.
Next to her, she didn’t notice that the large man was smiling fondly at the two women, especially the tiny one standing next to him.
Val released Grey’s hand, and placed her own hands behind her back. “So, are we having this interview?” she looked at her boss, who nodded, and walked down the long hallway, the two women following closely behind him, after Val picked up a folder from her desk, and into a large conference room.
To the left and right, the transparent glass rose from floor to ceiling, giving a view of the opposite conference rooms. The wall straight ahead held two massive monitors, and the long desk, made of a dark wood, had several swivel chairs parked under it.
Val and Raphael took a seat to the left side of the table, Grey pulling up a chair on the right side. Her computer bag took a spot on the table to her left and her hands, laid on her laps, nervously pulled at the hem of the skirt and picked at her fingers. She tried not to bite her lips too much, since it was the very thing she did when she was nervous.
She failed miserably.
Raphael noticed. He didn’t care if it was because she was nervous. He just knew that she was doing it, and it was driving him crazy.
Val had to pinch his leg under the table to keep him from staring too much.
Everyone was silent for a good five minutes.
Grey was biting her lip, and looking everywhere but at the two people before her. Raphael took a new liking to staring at the petite woman sitting in front of him, biting her lip like it was her job. His fingernails dug into his legs to keep himself from climbing over the table to kiss her hard. Val was silently laughing at her cousin’s dilemma as she flipped through the sheets of paper in the folder, excited to tell the family about his new struggle.
Eventually, she had to break the silence.
“So! Katherina, you are already perfect for the job.” Grey and Raphael jumped from their seats at the sudden outburst. Raphael shook his head to bring himself back to the real world and focus. Grey nodded, her mouth quirking up slightly. “As I was told on my way up here.” Val’s mouth made an ‘o’ shape, turning to look at her cousin with a devilish smile. He ignored her completely, shutting his eyes and breathing deeply, knowing that his face will turn red if he even looks at her.
Grey watched the little expressions on their faces, chuckling inaudibly, a sad feeling blooming in her chest, which was quickly suppressed.
“Not now. They’ll be here soon, everything will be fine.” She reminded herself, refocusing on the two people before her.
“Just some personal information, if you don’t mind. It’s to keep tabs on everyone.” Val continued, evaluating Grey’s reaction. The woman in question simply nodded.
“Great! So, your birthday is December 2nd, right?” Grey nodded, a small “Yes.” coming out afterwards. “And you live in Gillingham, correct?” Grey nodded once more.
Val and Raphael shared a look. Grey noticed it, and spoke up. “It’s on the bad side of town, I know. But, I am able to defend myself.” The pair nodded, and Val continued.
“Do you have your own transportation to and from work?” Grey shook her head, then spoke. “My cousin will drop me off. It’s on his way to work.” Val nodded, scribbling the response down for some unknown reason.
Raphael did not like the idea of her living where she does, and not even having her own transport at all. There was imminent danger and she was just shrugging it off. She lives alone for crying out loud!
“And how exactly do you know this?”
Raphael wanted to smack that smug little voice. “Shut up. You know I do my own private investigations of applicants.”
“Riiiiiight. ’Kay buddy.”
“So, what are the names of your parents?” Val asked, leaning forward on her elbows. Grey wanted to ask why, but thought better of it. “Nathan and Theresa Augustine.” She said instead, hoping that the next question would not be about their existential status, as one no longer did as of four years ago.
“Any siblings?” was the next question, and a wave of relief washed over Grey. “Yes, several. Violet, Azula, Raven, Ash, Jett, Sage, and Cyan.”
Val whistled. “Wow, there’s eight of you!”
“Yes.” Grey replied sheepishly, chuckling softly afterwards. “Your parents loved colours a lot, it seems.” For the first time, Raphael spoke, and Grey looked at him, nodding.
“My father did graphic designing and photography, and my mother was a makeup artist and painter.” The pair nodded, sharing a brief look.
“So, Katherina?” he asked, and Grey shook her head before replying. “It’s not my first name. That would be Grey.” He nodded slowly, then spoke again. “Good to know, but why use Katherina?”
“It really wasn’t my doing. My mother always told me to use it instead, so people wouldn’t mistake me for a boy. In some cases, using Grey was a good thing; for me that is.”
“Rebellious teen years?” Raphael asked, partially amused, and Grey chuckled, nodding. “Rebellious teen years.”
Her mind flashed to the times when she and Alice had to infiltrate dangerous cults and dark organizations to take them down from the inside.
“Rebellious teen years my ass.”
The interview continued like this, not for much longer in fact, as it was just little questions about herself: allergies, animal or clown-related fears, marital status, achievements; just those little things one would fill out on a regular application form, not delving too deeply into her life.
Finally, they stood and shook hands again. “Well, since you tackled the first big problem in a few minutes, and on your own, you can come in next Monday.” The man claimed, after very reluctantly releasing Grey’s hand.
“Thank you so much.” She said, smiling, and the man returned a small one of his own, while the other woman gave a full blown one. “You’re absolutely welcome! Welcome to the family! Ah, I’m so happy!” Val shouted, running around the table to give Grey a bear hug. Grey laughed, returning the hug, and for some reason, her eyes landed on the large man to catch him face-palming and shaking his head. Grey laughed even more.
Looking over Val’s shoulder, she nearly screamed when she saw that outside the conference room, several people had gathered, and were all murmuring to themselves and each other, smiling, laughing and pointing; a few even waved once they noticed that she was looking. Grey shyly waved back, chuckling softly.
“It’s like one big happy family.”
After Val let go, Grey slung the strap of her computer bag over her shoulder, and they were about to exit the room when her phone blared.
Space Unicorn! Soaring through the stars! Delivering the rain-bows all around the world!
Grey’s eyes widened and she felt her soul leave her body. The colour drained from her face, and she nearly dropped to her knees to cry out to whatever God was up there in the Heavens.
The snickers started out softly, but grew louder with each second that passes by. Grey fished out the cellular device from her computer bag, and began to wish that her mother’s egg did not split in half after being injected with the sperm of her father.
Swiping at the screen, her twin brother was greeted with the furious face of his sister.
“Whaddup biiiiiiitchh. Where the fuck are you? And give me the password for the computer, you little shit. I need my memes.” Her situation was made worse.
“Who shoved their cock up your ass? Oh, shit! How did the interview go? Was the big man smoking hot like Raven said? Did you get to suck his dick? Please say yes. How massive was it? I hear it’s like… Megatron huge.”
Grey felt like those cartoon characters, with steam blowing out of their ears. She finally spoke, hoping that her twin would pick up on the hostility in her voice.
“Ash, I swear on my grave. I’m going to pulverize you when you get here. If you must know, I’m still at the interview, and no, I don’t know the size of- the password for the computer is right there on the tower!” she saw his eyes drift to the desktop’s tower, and his mouth made an ‘o’ shape.
“Ooohhhh, my bad. Did you say you were still at the interview?” Grey nodded, feeling the heat in her cheeks and her patience running thin.
“Are- are they in the room right now?”
“NO FUCKING SHIT, SHERLOCK!”
“Damn lady, de-stress your breasts.” The boy chuckled, and Grey was ready to commit fratricide.
“I’m going to castrate you with my bare hands, Ashtray.” Her twin’s face darkened, before resolving to a smirk. “You’ll have to touch my dick first, Kitty Kat.” Grey scoffed.
“I’ve seen it. It’s like a baby carrot. It’ll be easy.” Ash chuckled, waving his hand in a dismissive gesture. “You aren’t serious, and you won’t do that to me. You’re too much of a prude.”
“Mettimi alla prova, stronza.” “Try me, bitch.”
His face darkened again. “We’re in a war now, Kitty Kat. No mercy for the weak, which is you, you little shit.”
“Fatti sotto, fottuto pollo fritto.” “Bring it, you chicken fried fuck.”
Grey was sure her face was bright red with anger, and her ears really were blowing steam.
Ash glared at the human he had to share a womb with. “Tell momma hi for me, and I’ll call as soon as I get home.” as soon as the words left Grey, her anger disappearing, Ash brightened. “Okay! Later bitch, I love you.” Grey chuckled. “I love you too, you cocksucker.” Ash feigned hurt before he hung up.
Grey did not notice that throughout her conversation with her twin, her interviewers were weeping with laughter. Val was on her knees, clutching her stomach, and Raphael was seated in the nearest chair, head bent and shoulder shaking; both stifling their laughter behind their hands.
Once she did notice however, she groaned and covered her face with her hands, her face still burning, and the peals of laughter echoed through the room. Despite the lump already forming in her throat, she chuckled along with their maniacal laughter, before beginning to laugh along with them. Her palms supported her as she leaned against the dark wood of the desk, and her head was lowered. The tears fell out of her eyes and splattered onto the surface beneath her, like the beginnings of a rain shower. Soon enough, Grey wasn’t laughing anymore.
She covered her mouth with her hand, hoping to suppress the sobs before they got too loud. She peeked up slowly, and was greeted with the red, concerned faces of her interviewers. Shaking her head and drying her cheeks with the sleeves of her top, she cleared her throat. “It’s alright, I’m alright. I just miss him so much; but I really want to kill him.” They nodded.
“I know the feeling.” Raphael grumbled, casting a dirty look at his secretary, who made a silly face at him. Grey chuckled softly as she placed her phone back into her bag.
Val opened the door they entered through, and the three of them walked out of the conference room, the crowd of people parting, all with smiles and waves. If felt contagious, and Grey returned the smiles and waves, warmth spreading through her chest.
As they drew closer to the elevator, Val gave Grey a final squeeze before returning to her station at the counter. Grey and Raphael stood at the elevator, both going to press the call button, and making contact with each other. Her face flared up again, and she glanced at him from the corner of her eye. “Sorry.” She whispered sheepishly, and he huffed out a laugh. “It’s alright, Ms. Augustine.” Neither noticed that Val was making a bet with five other workers, who happened to see the interaction, as to when they would start to see each other.
Val had enough confidence in her cousin to give him three months. Another worker gave him five months. Two gave Raphael four months, and one gave him six months. The final member of this bet was very dubious, and offered a year, to which the rest scoffed and demanded their pay.
The elevator arrived and the doors slid open. Grey stepped into the metal box, and was surprised to see the Mr. Rossellini stepped in beside her. Turning to watch the doors close, Grey’s eyebrows rose upon seeing money being exchanged. Raphael merely shook his head, already knowing exactly what his cousin was up to. Val winked, and the other workers surrounding her waved at them, and Raphael chuckled, shaking his head. Grey shyly waved back at them, and the metal doors closed.
For a reason completely unknown to Grey, she felt nervous. Her feet shuffled about in an awkward dance, and she was starting to peel the skin off her bottom lip. Words weren’t formulating in her brain, and she despised blank the feeling.
“I think this has to do with the last time the two of you were in a small confinement. All alone.” Sidra teased, and Grey felt the blood creeping up her face.
She looked away, and hoped the Mr. Rossellini didn’t notice. The images surfaced, and the sensations-
Grey shivered violently. Her sole awakened companion chuckled evilly. Crossing her ankles, Grey gulped, and hoped that Raphael wouldn’t pick up on the scent of the warmth pooling at her core.
Unfortunately for her, he did, and proceeded to fight his companions for control over his body.
Grey felt like the metal box was moving too slowly, and nearly screamed “Hallelujah!” when it finally came to a stop at the lobby. The doors slid open again, and she was greeted with the scene of the bustling workers once more. She turned to face him, holding her hand out slightly, and gulped down her surprise when he took her hand in his, and gave it a firm shake. “I will see you on Monday at 8:30, Ms. Augustine.”
“Monday at 8:30.” Grey repeated, shaking his hand. They slowly released each other, and she stepped out of the elevator, turning to watch as the doors closed, and the last blue orb disappeared from sight.
Emerging from her thoughts, the scream that slipped off Grey’s lips was horror movie-worthy. Ocean blue stared down at her, and a smirk played at the lips of the man she was definitely not crushing on. “Did you have a nice daydream?” Oh, his voice was definitely not melodious to her ears and working hypnotic magic to make her weak at the knees.
She sat up, swivelling the chair around to face him. He had insisted that she take up his old PA’s office, and after about a month, she found herself doing that job as well. When she got her pay cheque, she did a double-take and went to him, insisting that the numbers were a mistake. “Oh, it’s no mistake, Miss Augustine. You are being paid for the amount of work you do. Technically, you take up two positions, and it’s only fair to reward you for it.”
Grey treated her mother and sisters to an expensive weekend in Paris, and got each of her brothers the gaming consoles they had been saving up for.
She chuckled sheepishly and scratched her cheek, her mouth suddenly going dry. “My apologies, sir. How long ago did you get back? And how did the meeting go?”
He sat himself on her desk, twirling a pencil that he picked up from Grey’s desk around his fingers. “I got back about five minutes ago. The meeting went well; everyone was pretty pleased about how we’ve done this month, and they wanted to throw a party.” He chuckled, placing the pencil back in its spot. Grey smiled.
“That’s great news. When are they planning on throwing this party?” ‘Something Just Like This’ cut Raphael off from answering, and Grey laughed, shaking her head. “I guess now, apparently.” He mumbled, standing up, and held a hand out to Grey. Before she could register it, the memory flashed in her mind.
’The grand ballroom, decorated in reds and golds and yellows and silvers, held nearly the entire kingdom. All the Westies, even those of a ‘low’ class, were present, chatting amongst themselves, drinking and laughing. This year was a great one, and the King and Queen issued a celebration, not just for the prosperous year, but because their youngest daughter was engaged to the youngest prince of the Northern Kingdom. United, the Western Kingdom would finally be freed from the grasps of The Council. Yet, they didn’t know that yet; it was only the Guardians who knew, and they plotted with the Northern Kingdom’s Guardians to stop them from taking over the entire planet. Their General, Alicianne, was present, along with her ward, Prince Alexavier, who was next in line for the throne. The other Royals of the Northern Kingdom were present with their Guardians, and they were deep in conversation with the Western Kingdom’s King, Queen, and nobles.
Katherina stood off to the side with a few of her comrades, surveying the room for anything suspicious. The sound of someone clearing their throat, and an outstretched hand brought her out of her focus on a heavily bearded man, who was pocketing food samples in his robes. Before her stood her ward, Prince Raphaellie, who would have taken the throne, if not for his younger sister’s engagement. She would take over now, and rule with her beloved, tying the two kingdoms together.
“Is something the matter, My Prince?” she questioned, already prepared to fight off any threats to her ward. He shook his head, a carefree smile brightening his features. “You are not dancing. I would like to change that, if you’d let me.” Her heart leapt into her throat. It was a crime punishable by gruesome torture, then death, if a Guardian and a Royal were to be romantically involved. Katherina was about to decline, when he spoke again. “It’s only a dance, my Guard. Just one.” Hesitantly, she put her hand in his, and she did not think it was possible for him to brighten further, but he did, and swept her away from the corner and her comrades, onto the floor, immediately drawing her close as the instruments began to fill the room with their heavenly sounds.’
“Care to join me in the grand celebration, m’ lady?” Raphael inquired in a faux British accent that pulled Grey out of her reverie and made her giggle. She placed her hand in his. “Why, I’d love to kind sir.”
He pulled her up and towards himself with a bit more force than he should, and they slammed into each other and the wall closest to her desk. Grey’s face was pressed to Raphael’s chest, and she gulped, before slowly raising her head to meet Mr. Rossellini’s gaze. He was already staring down at her with such intensity, that she squeaked and lowered her head again, only to be raised by a finger under her chin.
Grey gulped again, and realized how compromising their position was, if anyone were to walk in. Not a silver of space was between their bodies; Raphael had one hand around Grey’s waist and the other holding her chin in place. Both of Grey’s hands were flat against his chest. Their breathing was ragged and hearts raced in their chests.
With hooded eyes, Raphael brushed his thumb across Grey’s lips gently, and she shivered, her eyes fluttering shut. The full force of the bond ignited her skin, as she had begun to lower her dosage of the serum a month ago. It was enough to hide her runes, but she had access to the rest of her abilities. Unable to contain himself, Raphael lowered his head until their lips were a breath apart.
Oh, I want something just like this!
Raphael closed the space between them, and the sparks flew and danced across their skin. He groaned lowly, and his hand left Grey’s face to grip the back of her neck. If it wasn’t for the hand around her waist, her knees would have given out on her. She gripped his dark blue shirt, and his hand tightened around her as their lips moved together agonizingly slowly.
Someone cleared their throat loudly.
Grey was nearly to the other side of the room. She licked her lips and looked away, knowing that she was as bright a red as Val’s and Olivia’s nail polish.
Finally looking towards the door, Valentina and Taj, Raphael’s younger brother, stood there with matching Cheshire cat grins. She spared a glance at Mr. Rossellini, who was just coming out of his daze, and he turned red upon seeing the two grinning people.
“Were we interrupting something?” Taj inquired slowly, glancing between the pair caught red handed, still grinning like a certain disappearing feline. Grey gulped, shaking her head furiously. Raphael didn’t trust himself to speak, so he shook his head at the question, but gave his younger brother a deadly glare. The grinning cats nodded slowly, entering the office.
“Oh, well that’s great. Would either of you like some pizza?” Val asked, holding up a box of Domino’s Pizza, moving the box around to the beat of the music. “Sure. Do you, uh, have Italian sausage?” Grey asked, wiping her sweaty palms on her skirt.
She regretted asking that question.
It was almost as if Morgan Freeman, who she decided would be the narrator of her life, said those signature words from funny videos she’d laugh at with Ash and Cyan. “It was at this moment she knew, she fucked up.”
“La tua scorta a vita e ′ proprio accanto a te.“ “Your lifetime supply is standing right next to you.” Taj whispered, causing Val to burst into maniacal laughter.
Raphael hurled a shoe at Taj, who dodged just in time, and hid behind Val, where he too laughed loudly. Grey dropped down onto her chair, groaning as she covered her heated face with her hands. “NEVERMIND!” she screamed, uncovering her face, then covered it again, groaning in embarrassment.
The sound of Val’s heels against the tiles made Grey look up, but only Taj stood in the room, holding the box of pizza and fidgeting, actively looking at a blank wall. Then she heard a voice over the music.
“Listen up bitches! I won the bet! All of you better pay up, now!”
Grey sank to the floor, and crawled under her desk as the cheers of the other employees overpowered the music. Her face was hidden in her knees when Raphael, after promising his younger brother death with his eyes, causing him to scurry out of the office, the box of pizza long abandoned to the carpeted floor, kneeled down to Grey under the desk.
“I still want that dance, Ms. Augustine.” He whispered, and Grey slowly peeked up, her face still bright red. Raphael smiled at her, holding his hand out again; she still hesitated, but after a few minutes, his fingers closed around hers and she was brought out from under her desk. “Time to face the music, I guess.” Grey murmured as she stood up straight, gazing warily outside her door, employees not-so-subtly peering inside.
Raphael chuckled, and held her wrist as they walked out of Grey’s office, eyes snapping to them, then quickly diverting away. Val and Taj were still grinning, and Grey flipped them off; they merely laughed, and Val handed her a slice of pizza. “Your Italian sausage, ma’am.”
‘Fuck you.’ Grey mouthed to the still-grinning Valentina.
‘Not me, him.’ She mouthed back, pointing to Raphael, who was conversing with one of the heads of the many departments. Her jaw dropped, and her face remained red as she threw the slice of pizza at Val, who ducked just in time. Laughter erupted around them, and the slice of pizza, which was temporarily stuck to the wall, fell to the ground.