Once Rufus and I returned to the general manager’s office, Julian had settled down behind the flashiest desk across the door. He looked up when we entered. His eyes briefly met mine and his smug demeanor a few minutes ago was gone.
“Mr. Hawksley,” Rufus called as he closed the door behind us. “I got Ms. Curtis back. Would that be enough?” He asked.
His question confused me until Julian peered back at me. He suddenly looked passive. “Ms. Curtis, I apologize for my rude comment and behavior. I didn’t mean to sound unprofessional.” He sounded a bit forced. When I glimpsed briefly at Rufus, his icy gaze and arched eyebrow spoke volume.
For a moment, I want to laugh at the reverse role between the two. But seeing how easily Julian bend at Rufus heeds, it showed how Rufus meant to him. He wasn’t just his secretary, from what I understood, he was like an older brother or teacher to him – maybe even a father figure. It explained Rufus’ praise.
“Ms. Curtis, please take a seat. We’ve like to talk to you about the matters of your job. Have you already read the papers that I had Sarah give you?” Rufus inquired and escorted me back to the conference table where I last sat.
“I briefly read through it…” I admitted.
“Do you have any questions?” Rufus asked as we both sat down.
“I think I understood why you’re making me sign these papers, but is it really necessary?” I sheepishly asked. From how I sounded, it seemed like my confidence had left the building.
“It’s not like we don’t trust you, Ms. Curtis. But Mr. Hawksley’s family had been under the tabloid’s radar. We can’t let anything leak about their personal lives, especially the matters of the work you’ll be handling for him after your training.”
“I understand.” I nodded, looking serious again. Since they’ve actually made a point of having someone sign these papers before they are trained seems like they’ve already dealt with such a situation. Maybe someone who used to be in my position had done something to make them this cautious. However, I didn't have the guts to ask, for now.
“Thank you.” Rufus smiled and handed over the folder back to me.
I pulled out a pen and briefly rechecked the paper again before signing on the last page. Once I was done, I let out a deep sigh and handed him back the folder.
“You don’t have to look so glum, Ms. Curtis. You’re not signing a devil’s contract. I’m sure you’ll never see it again after today if you haven’t broken any statement stated here.” He jested lightly.
“I should have read the paper more thoroughly then.” I teasingly commented. “May I ask what my job specifically would be? I presume from what you’ve said, I’m not doing a standard secretarial job.” I asked, getting back to business.
“Yes. You’ll be dealing with Mr. Hawksley’s personal schedule and keep him out of trouble,” he informed with a light chuckle.
“And what would those be?”
Rufus got his briefcase beside him, which I faintly noticed he carried as he entered the office, and pulled out another folder before he placed the other one I’ve signed inside. As he handed it to me, he explained in glorious detail what my training would in case. I wasn’t sure I catch every word he said but I’ve got the gist of it. For a brief moment, I was thinking of getting out of that room again, saying the same words. But then, Rufus spoke the words which made me stay in my seat.
“I know I’m asking too much, but if the job isn’t something you could do, you have one week to think about it. However, the job is yours if you want it.”
“So for today, since it’s your first day, I’d like you to get these task done. Would you be able to handle the legwork?” Rufus arched his eyebrow as he studied my attire.
I got the note from him and read through the list. “I think I can handle this much,” I muttered.
“Are you sure? Are you wearing comfortable shoes?” He worriedly inquired.
Now I understood his dilemma. I peered down on my three-inch heels, contemplating on whether I’ll get callouses after this or not. “I think I’ll be fine. No worries.” I beamed.
He studied my expression for a moment before he nodded. “Okay. Good. Then, please send those reports to this address by seven in the morning tomorrow.” He stated and handed me another note.
“Got it.” I nodded and hastily gathered my things.
“Thank you, Ms. Curtis. Please send me an e-mail if you need anything.”
“Got it. Good day, Mr. Fletcher,” I greeted and stiffly turned to Julian, who had been busy with the computer throughout our conversation. “It was nice meeting you, Mr. Hawksley.”
Julian briefly glanced away from his work and smiled, which caught me off guard for a moment. “I’m looking forward to working with you, Ms. Curtis.”
I nodded, unsure how to properly respond to his words.
I kept my expression passive and exited the office once again. I greeted Kim sheepishly and gave Sarah a brief wave as I passed by her before scurrying out of the hotel. When I was finally outside, breathing fresh air, I let out a stifled scream.
No shit. This will be a hell of a job.
By the time I’ve finished everything Rufus had listed down, it was already passed eight in the evening. I felt like my calves were giving up on me. I didn’t bother waiting until I reached the entrance of my apartment building to kick off the heels. I was lying to myself about getting through the day, walking around the Loop in heels. It was fine before since most of my work was a desk job, but this wasn’t what I thought I signed up for. It felt like I’ve wandered the city the most today than I had in the duration of my life.
I was barefoot when I entered my apartment. My shirt was drying from sweat and my hair was frizzy from all the exercise. I won’t be surprised if someone thought I was homeless – not that I have anything against people who look homeless. Plus, I looked like I’ve aged a day.
“What happened to you?”
I jerked in surprised as I closed the door behind me. I turned around and found April standing in the living room with a bag of chips in hand.
“Why are you here?” I asked after composing myself.
“I texted you that I’m coming over for dinner to celebrate your first day,” she stated a bit annoyed. “Since you haven’t replied to my question, what happened to you?”
“Sorry. I wasn’t able to check my phone since I’ve been doing errands all day.” I muttered in exhaustion. Thinking about it, I felt my foot stung in pain.
“Yup! Because it turns out, the job isn’t actually a secretarial job. Oh no, sire. It’s more like an errand runner. For the first time in my life, I’ve visited possibly all the bank in the city and inquired all the top restaurant in the area. If you want to know which restaurant has the fanciest setting, I have a list of five for you.” I informed dryly.
“But I thought you’re working for Hawksley… didn’t you meet the hunky CEO?” April asked in confusion.
“Don’t let me start talking about that ass. His profile and public persona is a poor understatement of the man I met.”
“Wait. What? You actually met him?!”
“Met him? Huh?!” I scoffed. “I’m not really supposed to say any of this since they had me signed a confidentiality agreement, which I shouldn’t have told you about as well, but who are you going to tell anyway?” I babbled on as I slowly headed towards the couch.
“They made you sign a confidentiality agreement? Why? Do you mean you’re working directly for Julian Hawksley?”
“No. I don’t work directly under that arrogant fool. I’m like his assistant’s assistant. Like the first job I got after graduating from college in New York,” I informed dryly. “Now that I’m actually in this situation, this isn’t much of step-up from my last job. But at least my supervisor isn’t a perverted scumbag.”
“I don’t know what to say to make you feel any better, Zoe. I thought this was finally your big break, the first step away from all the shitty work you’ve had. I should have asked Amy for more details about this job.”
“No, it’s okay, April. It wasn’t your fault nor Amy’s. I’m grateful you both are helping me get a job. So I’ll try to minimize my complaining. I hope the pay’s worth it though. I’m not doing charity work for these people if they’re going to let me run around the city in heels.”
“Maybe you should start wearing flats,” she suggested, as I threw away my shoes and lay down on the couch, taking all of the space.
“That’s the plan tomorrow. I’m sure this week will feel like I’m doing a triathlon.”
“Think of it this way. Now you don’t need to sign yourself up for those overly expensive gym memberships,” she offered meekly.
I chuckled in dry humor before shutting my eyes, letting my tired body have its rest. After dinner that evening, which April kindly ordered take-out for the both of us, there wasn’t much fun thing to do other than sleep. Being the kind best friend, she helped me carry myself to my bedroom and like a kid, helped me changed into my pajamas. Since I had an appointment early the next day, April headed back early.
I got up early for the first time in a while. Looking at the graying and dim sky outside the window, I’m sure I needed some caffeine to keep me awake. So I dropped by the closest coffee shop to my apartment before taking the first bus ride to my first errand of the day. I took small sips of my hot coffee, tugging my satchel closely as I waited on my stop. Based on the note Rufus had given me yesterday, I was going at one of the fancy parts of the city to drop off all of the paper works I’ve done from yesterday’s errand run.
As I got off to my stop, I felt my heart stop and my eyes grew wide studying the condominium in front of me. Peering down on the note I had in my hand, I rechecked the scribble on it and looked up the name of the building. Indeed, it was the place.
I didn’t want to jump to any conclusion and gauged my legs to move along. Looking at the time on my watch, I was ten minutes away from being late. And Rufus informed me to get these papers to this place by seven. Trying not to feel out of place in my comfy white shirt, navy cardigan and slacks, and my hair not in its greatest condition, I marched towards the lobby. It was then I got halted by security.
“Good morning, ma’am. How may I help you today?” The slightly brooding Italian man blocked my path.
Rather than a statement, my words dangled into a question.“Ah, yes. Good morning. I’m Zoey Curtis. I’m here to deliver something for Mr. Rufus Fletcher?”
“Ah, yes. Please leave an ID at our receptionist for visitors.” The man informed with a smile, brightening his grim expression.
“Got it.” I nodded and headed towards the marbled counter located in the middle of the spacious lobby.
After I left an ID, they gave me a visitor badge that I clipped in the pocket of my cardigan. The managing receptionist gave me brief directions on the elevator, which was nearly hidden from view. It didn’t take a while when I reached the floor. From there, looking at the wide hallway, it was easy to find my way around the right door. I gave it a brief knock before noticing a doorbell on the upper right cover of the door frame. I rang it twice and waited for a response.
For a moment, I expected to actually meet some staff who I didn’t know and leave the folder before I’ll be on my way. But when the door opened, I didn’t expect to see Julian Hawksley himself in casual clothes, his hair pointed in every direction, drying after his shower. And from the towel hanging around his neck, he just got out of one recently.
“Ah… Hi.” It was the only thing that came out of my mouth as I continued to ogle at the view in front of me.
When Julian processed who I was after his general surprised reaction, his eyebrow furrowed as he stood tall and commanding.
“Ms. Curtis, how lovely for you to visit me so early in the morning, though it’s only your second day. Miss me already?” He asked. The edges of his lips twitched into a smug grin.
Like yesterday, the moment his mouth opened, all fantasy about him just burned to ashes. I held out the folder and squarely looked at him. “Here are the papers from the banks and a list of the restaurant Mr. Fletcher had tasked me yesterday. I also have the contact information written there as well.”
He arched his eyebrow at my response but otherwise got the folder off my hand. “Impressive. How did you manage to get all of these in one day?”
“It’s my job, Mr. Hawksley.”
“From what happened yesterday, you were about to quit. Why the sudden change of heart?” I felt a jab from his words. But they were the truth.
“Do you want to know the truth or would you rather hear something you want to hear?” I put on a poker face and kept my tone eerily calm, even for me.
Julian arched his eyebrow, though his smug look remained. “The truth, of course.”
“You seem like a compulsive flirt and conceited,” I paused and held up my hand as he was about to interrupt me. “You are these two things by the first impression I have of you. But I don’t know who you are personally, Mr. Hawksley. In your behalf, Mr. Fletcher asked me to do get to know you first before basing my judgment of you from an awful first impression. And that goes both ways, sir.”
For the first time since I met him yesterday, I finally got a glimpse of a genuine smile. For the first time in awhile, I felt warmth in my stomach. What is this?
“I apologize for giving you such an awful first impression about me, Ms. Curtis. It wasn’t my intention. And as a man, who was raised right by my mother, I want to redo what I did if I can and start over again.” He offered his hand.
I looked at his outreached hand and shook it briefly. “I can’t say no to anyone who admitted, off-handedly, they’re a momma’s boy. Not many men openly admit it.”
“I hope by now you’ve observed I’m not like any man,” he cheekily stated and winked.
“And we’re back to where we started.” I dryly said.
Another offhanded response was Julian laughed, which caught me by surprise. Unconsciously, I hadn’t noticed I mirrored his radiant expression and smiled.