When the food arrived, I timidly headed towards Julian’s office, uncertain which one. When I heard his faint voice behind one of the doors on the right, I knocked twice. I waited for him to call out before speaking.
“The food’s here, Mr. Hawksley.”
“Okay. I’ll be right out.”
I didn’t wait for him to get out and walked back to the living room. I peered one last time in the direction of his office, still no sign of him, and rummaged around the packed food on the knee length glass table in the middle of the room. As I luckily found my club sandwich and fries in the midst of the luxury meal, I bit a mouth full.
“It seemed you couldn’t wait without me. And I thought you said you already had lunch when I called.” I jumped at the sound of Julian behind me, smiling in amusement while he watched.
I nearly choked on my full mouth and chewed quickly, clearing some space enough for me to talk. “I didn’t get to since you were very insistent.” I felt proud how my words sounded audible.
“Don’t talk. Finish chewing first.” He remarked playfully before sitting down. He studied the remains of the packages.
I shoved a few fries in my mouth while watching him eat his fancy steamed chicken and salad. “Are you sure you don’t want fries?” I inquired when he silently ate his fill.
“I’m good. Thank you for offering, Ms. Curtis.” He grinned. “You know; this is the first time I’ve seen a woman who eats like you.”
“Then you’ve haven’t seen much, Mr. Hawksley.” I snorted and shoved three fries on my mouth.
“True. I haven’t.” He nodded. “And do you eat this much, always?” He sounded a bit sheepish inquiring.
I thought about it a little, which he misinterpreted. “I didn’t mean to be rude. I mean, eat as much as you like. It’s quite a sight to see.”
“Don’t mock me. And I don’t eat like this every day. I’m just really hungry. And I only had a fruit bar for breakfast this morning. I woke up late and I had to run for the meeting with the Advertising company,” I muttered dejectedly.
“Yet you still do it,” he looked at me in awe. “Where do you get enthusiasm?”
“If I don’t work, I can’t pay my dues. And even if I sound like I’m complaining, I do like my job, Mr. Hawksley. I liked being needed and depended on.” Before I caught myself for what I said, the words already slip through. “Ah, I mean… the job pays well. And I need to pay the bills. So what more motivation do I need?” I rephrased poorly.
“Right.” He smiled.
“Well, how about you, sir? What motivated you to do the work that you do?” I shifted the attention towards him, which was a reflex reaction.
That caught him off guard. For a moment, Julian looked a bit lost. His eyebrow creased in concentration. I was about to take back my question when he answered. “At first, it was mostly to make my father proud. My family isn’t typically what people perceive as what a family who comes from money should be like. My father raised my younger brother and me to earn respect and money through hard work. My mother made my younger brother and I believe and dream bigger than what we have now. They teach us never to limit ourselves. Money and happiness don’t go hand in hand. There is so much money can only do, but to be alive and happy… they’ve said are the true accomplishment in life.”
I smiled. “You must have lovely parents.”
“I think I’m more blessed on that than the wealth that came along with it.” He lightly jested.
“Are you sure?” I snorted.
“Well, this is something…” he gestured to his lavish living room and winked.
“I never expected you to be this open and vulnerable,” I admitted.
“What did you expect of me instead?”
I studied his coy smile and shook my head. “You’re a smooth talker. And how many girls have you sleep with telling them that touching backstory?” I dryly inquired.
That got him to laugh. “Did it work?”
I snorted and smiled. “Merely close. But not close enough.”
Julian chuckled. “You remind me of my sister-in-law. You’d love her. She’s already called me on that bull before I said ‘I wanted to make my father proud’.”
“I should have known. And none of those words are real at all? At least give me something to believe you aren’t a complete jerk –” I covered my mouth, knowing I had crossed a line.
“Don’t stop yourself from calling me out. Rufus did say you were hired to keep me in check.” He didn’t look offended at my remark.
“Right. And before I know, I’ll be packing my things before I got to sit on my down desk on the first day,” I muttered and picked up a piece of fries on my nearly empty packed lunch.
Julian snickered again and shook his head before finishing his meal.
Once we finished eating, Julian and I concentrated more on the work in hand. Since I’m not well aware of the whole position I’m taking over from Rufus, Julian gave me a few pointers on what to do and not to do as his secretary. Just to be sure he wasn’t pranking me into an early grave, I noted to myself to make a lengthy email to Rufus about everything that happened. And, one way or another, I’m getting him back. There was no way I’m going to be sticking around Julian from morning until evening. I’m already having difficulty making a straight face when he started joking around.
By the time Julian and I finished everything, it was nearly dark out. Checking my schedule for the remaining of the day, I had more work piled this evening from Julian sudden appearance. I didn’t linger long and hastily made my exit. Julian misunderstood on my haste again, which made me come up with excuses that weren’t necessary.
“Are you really that excited to leave? I thought I was a fun company.” He commented.
“It’s not like that, Mr. Hawksley. I have work I need attending and I’ve pushed it back a few hours since you’ve suddenly appeared out of thin air.”
“I did call.”
“I didn’t mean it like that…” I trailed off when I saw his playful grin back in place. I sighed in defeat and headed towards the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, Mr. Hawksley.”
“See you tomorrow, Ms. Curtis. And don’t forget…”
“I’ll have coffee with me. I won’t forget, Mr. Hawksley.” I interjected.
“I haven’t forgotten, Mr. Hawksley.”
“Are you sure?”
“Good day, Mr. Hawksley,” I called out before closing the door behind me.
Even though with a door between us, I could faintly hear him laughing. Unconsciously, his laugh had slowly got me comfortable, making me smile from hearing it.
I finished the remaining errands I had for the day and then grabbed some take-out for dinner. While I waited for the packed food, I got a call from April, who had been doing it like clockwork since ‘the Ben’ incident.
“Are you free tonight? Do you want to have dinner? I got out of the office early.” She offered.
“I’ll get us take-out,” I answered.
“Good. I’ll be at your place in a few minutes.” She informed, not bother asking me for permission, which I got used to.
“Are you going to pester me again about Ben?” I inquired before she cut off the call.
“Depends if you’re still moping.”
“I wasn’t moping.” I defended.
“Well, some the sound of your voice, you aren’t anymore.” There was a brief paused before she asked. “Did something happened today? You sound normal.”
“Excuse me? Had I not sounded normal before?”
“I told you. You’ve been moping.” She informed without remorse.
“I said I wasn’t…”
“I’ve got to go. My Uber is here. I’ll see you in a few minutes.” She interjected. Without as much as a goodbye, April cut off the call.
I stared at my dead screen and shook my head. It looks like my evening would get much longer than I hoped.
As I arrived my apartment with food, the door was already unlocked, which wasn’t a surprise. Sitting comfortably in my living, still in her work clothes – a navy pants suit and grey silk shirt, was April watching a drama on my television. When I entered, she put the show on mute and got straight to her usual question.
“How are you? Have you eaten since lunch? Did you eat at all?”
“I’m not bothered enough to stop eating, April. As I’ve said, I’m fine and I’m not moping, okay?”
“Did Ben contacted you since he left you that lame excuse for an apology letter?” She inquired with distaste.
I contemplated on how to properly respond to it. But there was no other way to sugarcoat a no. So I said it as it is. “No. He hadn’t.”
“What an ass. Don’t call him or make contact unless he does it first, do you hear me?” She commanded.
“As I’ve said, he already apologized on the note…”
“No. That’s not acceptable. We’ve been through this, Zoey.” She interrupted.
I sighed in defeat and put down my things on the single couch before sitting beside her on the love seat. “Fine. I won’t make any calls. And besides, I don’t have the time nor energy to do any of those when I’m boss just got back in town.” I muttered in defeat.
“Boss? Which boss?” That got her attention.
I tried to hide my obvious way of changing the topic by saying his name. “Julian Hawksley.”
“No.” She gasped. “You told me he was in England for a week. Did you meet him today?” She inquired, a question I expected her to ask.
“I did. And you can’t guess what just happened…” I trailed off, remembering the thick bind of paperwork I read not too long ago. “I think I shouldn’t be telling you any of this since I’ve signed two confidentiality clauses already.”
“Who am I going to tell anyway? And since we are at it, why are you signing something like that?” She looked at me with both confusion and a bit excitement. “Should I be congratulating you’re for something or…?” she continued when I remained silent.
When I hadn’t budged, she added confidently. “I work for a law firm, Zoey. I have an idea as to why you’re signing something like that. Just get it out already!” She nearly screamed.
“Fine!” I breathed. “Mr. Fletcher didn’t come back with Julian from their trip. And it turns out, he resigned on his position as his secretary. Thus, it means I’ll be taking over as…” Before I finished the sentence, April jumped in glee and started hugging me.
“Oh my god! I can’t believe my best friend is working closely with the city’s most handsome businessman. Finally, this is your break! This is your time to shine!” She squeezed again, which made me cringed.
“Thank you, April. But I don’t really think this position should be for me… this is big. And the responsibility that comes attached to it is remarkable. I don’t know if I can do this job.” I meekly admitted.
“Oh, hush! You’ll be great.” She argued. And like a light switched, a thought crossed her mind. “Does this mean you’ll be having a long work hours alone with him? And probably long nights in the office… and then one thing may lead to another…”
Before her mind ran wild, I cut her fantasy and pointed back to a sour topic. “April. I already have Ben.”
“Right. Him.” She snorted and grabbed the take-out bag I nearly forgotten. “I’m famished. What did you get?”
“The usual. You know that.” I replied and got out a familiar packed Chinese take-out bag.
“Good.” She beamed and grabbed the take-out bags.
After we ate, she continued grilling me about Julian, which I hadn’t told her, But I left out the tidbit about spending most of my afternoon with him. From how she reacted about my sudden promotion, I’m not sure how’d she’ll take it if she knew about the actual long hours I spend with him at his home. Even thinking about it, I could draw some wild conclusion on that sentence alone. So I kept it to myself and decided to tell her once she’d cooled off.
The next morning, I felt like I dragged myself out of bed as I got ready for my first day of work as Julian Hawksley’s personal assistant. I couldn’t have wrapped it around my head. It was a position that seemed like a dream to most people with my god awful work experiences. However, as I sent the email to Rufus last night and got a reply an hour later, it wasn’t a dream at all. I’ve read the email again and again last night until sleep caught up with me.
I apologize for this sudden transition. I thought I was clear you’ll take a secretarial job. Being Julian’s secretary isn’t a bonafide position to be given such a praise. But I’m grateful for your kind words on my old position. However, I had made no mistake of any sort. You are a capable woman, Mr. Curtis. You’ve proven yourself to me for the past week. And no matter how little time it was, I’m sure I made a right decision by hiring you.
Nonetheless, if you do need help, I’m available to answer any question you may have. Feel free to send me any question and I will answer all of them as much as I can.
Staring at the email, it was clear the old man wasn’t coming back anytime soon. He was adamant about his decision and he couldn’t be persuaded at the moment to return. Since I have nothing to ask him, I noted his offer for later. I’m sure I’ll have mountains of questions for him before my first day ended.
Once I was neatly dressed, in a pants dark gray pants suit and emerald green silk shirt, I gathered my things and placed them as neatly as possible on my leather satchel purse before making a quick call. Per Julian’s instructions yesterday, I contacted his chauffeur, Jeffrey Taylor. It didn’t take two rings before he answered. Hearing the ruff and deep voice on the phone, I’ve never guessed the man was nearly pushing fifty with already two grandsons, per Julian's description yesterday.
“Hello, Mr. Taylor. This is Zoey Curtis, Mr. Hawksley’s new secretary. I know this is sudden, but I want to make your acquaintance before meeting you at Mr. Hawksley’s apartment.”
“Ah! Ms. Curtis. I wondered when you’ll call. Rufus already told me last night. He called me from England with the details. Congratulations, ma’am.”
Surprised at his words, I calmly replied. “Thank you, Mr. Taylor.”
“Please call me, Jeffrey, Ms. Curtis. I’m not used to people addressing me in such a formal manner. This way we’ll be like family.” The man cheerfully offered.
I smiled. “Then call me, Zoey, Jeffrey.”
“Got it, Zoey.” I could sense his smile on the phone. “Oh, and while we’re still on the phone, I’ll give you a heads up that we’re outside your place. Mr. Hawksley called in early.”
Now that was a surprise.
I rushed towards my window, which overlooked the street in front of my apartment. And parked in the pavement was a black car with a familiar blond leaning comfortable by the passenger door.
Oh heck no!