“I’m pleased to announce, that for the fifth consecutive year, our own Jenny Barlow, has received the Ani Award for Best Voice Actress. Let’s congratulate her!” A thunder of applause rings out. “Not just that, she’s up for an Osman Award in February for her performance in The Secret Life of Kitty Mitty, nominated in the Best Animated Movie or Short category. The applause continues. Also, I think some congratulations are due to our own Roman Griswald, as he’s nominated as Director of the movie. Let’s hear it for him too.” The announcer isn’t nearly as enthusiastic, and the applause is weak compared to Jenny, but they give him a little something.
Roman smirks and offers a plain, “Thanks everyone, even if you don’t mean it.”
“Anyway,” a suited middle-aged man continues, “How do you feel Jenny?” He slides his gold-tinged bangs away from his caramel eyes. “Are you immune to it yet?” He’s genuine.
Jenny blushes slightly, never being one for the spotlight. “I don’t think I’ll ever be immune to it. It’s an honor for me just to represent Animation Studios and give it the representation it deserves. I’m very grateful to you Kevin, as you really helped me acclimate to not only my voice acting, but the demands of being a manager as well. Though, I could never manage as well as you do; as Studio Manager. I’ll continue to do my best.” She’s very humble.
“No thank you Jenny, for being so sweet and kind to us. You already do an impeccable job, so just keep up the good work.” He side eyes Roman. “You too Roman,” he says curtly.
“I am the best, so no need to worry there Boss. But thanks, I guess.” He smiles smugly.
He momentarily scowls, but lets it go. “Well, we should get to work everyone, there’s never nothing to do. I’m going to go check on the animators and directors after. Ok everyone?”
They all confirm they are as a collective group, but Jenny adds, “We’ll be just fine from here Kevin. Thanks for having us in your generous care.” She’s polite and sweet.
“You’re too kind Jenny. You’re quite welcome. I’m off now then.” He passes Roman as he goes, making him stop for a moment to say, “Perhaps you should return to your own department Roman? I don’t pay you to hang out here and pester Jenny.” He’s coarse.
Roman chuckles; standing up as he says, “Aye Aye Sir!” Kevin gives him a dirty look but says nothing more before walking out. Roman proceeds to face Jenny now and prepares to talk as he ignores everyone else. “Congrats Jenny, you deserve it, not that anyone is surprised.”
“Thanks Roman, but I could only do as well as your script and direction, so I must thank you. Congratulations to you as well, it was a brilliant story; very imaginative and visionary. I honestly never would’ve imagined you’d have such talent in this; especially considering you changed your major so late. You could probably try to be a bit nicer to our coworkers though.”
“Why? I know that no one likes me here, so why be nice to them? I get it; they don’t take me seriously because I only got this job thanks to my connection to the big wigs. I’m not going to deny it, but that doesn’t mean people should judge me based on that either. I may have been handed this position, but I put in the effort and got the awards I’ve gotten because I’ve worked hard. These losers can think what they will; I don’t care one way or the other.” He’s blunt, getting him dirty looks from the other actors, but he pays them no mind, focusing only on Jenny.
Jenny tries to keep a neutral expression as she says, “Well, all you can do is your best, so keep up the good work Roman. Anyway, we do need to be getting back to work rehearsing lines and such, and I’m sure you have director stuff to be doing, so let’s talk more later, ok?”
“Alright, I’m off to work then. See ya later Jenny.” He waves and exits to the corridor.
No sooner than he’s gone, two of Jenny’s fellow voice actors approach her. A tall man donning a bowtie and vest above his jeans speaks first, his curly blond locks rolling about his head. His complexion is olive and his eyes are blue-green. “Jenny, girl, why the hell are you friends with such a rude man? You’re way too good for a dude like that. Please tell me you did not hit that. Or should I say, let that hit you. Uh ah, no way.” He’s got a sassy tone and scowl.
“Yea, I do have to agree with Milo, Jenny. Roman gives me major creeper vibes. I mean, it’s not a secret that he followed you from your hometown to work here with you, right? He went as far as brown-nosing with Nora Pensby; whose father supplies our computer systems, just to stay close to you when you left. That’s stalkerish even. Please don’t tell me you’d ever date a guy like that.” A plain beauty with slightly slanted eyes of dusk and charcoal hair down her back speaks next, her pale hands folded before her crinkle skirt and V-neck blouse.
Jenny can’t help but smile at her friends’ concern. She knows their hearts are in the right place and they mean well, but she wishes they’d understand that Roman isn’t as bad as he seems. He’s not a creep or a stalker, he’s just a man who loves her, and is willing to do anything he must to have her. She actually finds it endearing in a way, which is why she didn’t condemn him for it; despite being a bit extreme. After all, it was his extreme actions that lead her to see the kind of man Kale was, so in a way she should be grateful. Rather than say all that though, she simply says, “He’s not so bad Ai. He’s good at his core, I promise. He’s just not good with people.”
“Mm, well, you can’t trust a man who’s no good with people. Not as a friend and certainly not as a lover. I need my man to be a real people pleaser, know what I mean girls?”
Jenny and Ai laugh out loud as Milo does a little twerk. He’s certainly the most eccentric person in the office, but also a great friend to Jenny, along with Ai. She feels lucky to have become close with them over these last few years and she feels blessed to have a good relationship with all the other actors in her department and Kevin as well. She’s got a great life right now, not just from having the perfect job, but the perfect treasure at home as well.
“Hey Jen, at least just tell us so we can judge you, did you guys ever have anything?” Ai asks her with a playful tone.
“Oh yes, inquiring minds want to know girl,” Milo adds.
“Um sorry you guys, but I don’t talk about my personal life at work, so table that for our next night out.” Jenny shuts them down, but without being harsh.
“Oh boo,” Milo says.
“It’s ok Milo; it’s not that she doesn’t want to tell us, it just means we have to get her drunk first. This means we need another night out! How about tonight, you guys in?”
“Hell yas, girl! It’s Friday night, let’s turn up! You’re in, right Jen Jen?”
“Oh, I don’t know guys. I need to get home to the baby. Another time, ok?
“Oh please Jenny, baby? That girl turned five just last week. Loosen up your grip, girl.”
“Milo’s right Jenny, I know she’s your world, but you need to have a little fun sometimes. Why not ask your dads to watch her for the night? That way she’ll be able to have loads of fun between the twins and Kiel. She’ll be totally fine. It’s just one night.”
Jenny wants to insist, but she can’t deny that Ai’s right, she probably does hold her too tightly, and she would enjoy visiting with her grandpas and siblings, as she’s always asking.
However, they don’t understand that she has reasons to keep her close. Reasons she can’t ever tell them. It’s a secret only her family knows, to a degree. Roman knows too, naturally, but they don’t discuss it. Not that he would, considering anything regarding that man makes him bitter. He doesn’t resent her at least and they get along when he’s around.
“Earth to Jenny, are you still in the atmosphere?” Ai says as she waves at her face.
“Oh, sorry Ai, I’m here, just thinking. I see your point and so I won’t say no, but instead, I’ll consider it. You guys can plan without me and I’ll let you know by the evening if I’m in or out. That’s fair, right?” She asks with a pleading voice that begs them to drop it for now.
They get the message and Milo finally says, “Alright girl, but if you agree, we’re gonna get you so turnt up, you’ll go home with a total hottie. I promise you that, girl.”
Jenny laughs lightly, and then says, “Ok, fair enough Milo. For now, we really should get back to work. I believe we all have big projects coming up, right?” They nod and they all disperse, returning to their respective scripts, doing their best to memorize them well.
The end of the day finally arrives, and everyone begins packing up for the day. Jenny waves goodbye to Ai and Milo, promising to let them know her answer soon. As she makes her way to the elevator, she spots Roman, as always, heading for the stairs. He calls out to her.
“Jenny!” He catches up to her, his messenger bag draped across him. He looks the same as always, just a bit older and more laid back. His dark brown hair is a bit more refined and his grey eyes seem to shine just a bit brighter, but he’s still the same Roman she’s always known. “I’m glad I caught you. Want a ride home? A car’s better than the subway, right?”
“I don’t mind the subway honestly; it makes me feel like a real New Yorker. Driving here is a pain anyway. I appreciate the offer though. I’ll see you tomorrow Roman, get home safe.” The elevator arrives and she enters, pressing the button for the lobby. The door begins to close.
Before it can however, Roman blocks it with his arm, making it open again. “Still playing hard to get, huh? Ok, I don’t dislike these games, so I’ll play along. Have a good night Jenny, get home safe.” He winks at her and releases the doors, waving as it closes on him; with a smirk.
Jenny just shakes her head and sighs. They go through the same motions every single day; it’s almost starting to feel like their own sitcom or something. She doesn’t mind it much though. It’s no secret Roman wants to date her, the entire studio practically knows. They can see that she keeps him at an arm’s length, so there’s no need to gossip on if they are or aren’t a thing. This daily performance keeps their coworkers up to date and maintains a peaceful work environment for them. Drama free has always been Jenny’s desire, but now it is even more so.
Jenny finally reaches the lobby and quickly makes her way to the subway steps. She makes it to the platform just as the train is pulling in. She finds a seat in the corner and pops in one side of her headphones, the sound of alternative hits flooding her eardrum. She leans back and closes her eyes, going into her relaxation zone as she does on every commute. Of course, she remains alert at all times, as any seasoned city native would do; even if the area seems safe.
Jenny exits the subway and makes her way to an apartment building that isn’t hers, but she visits often after work. She looks around, ensuring no one might have followed her and then quickly slips the key in the door, turning until it clicks open. She pushes her way inside and swiftly enters the elevator, which she takes to the tenth floor and quietly enters apartment 10J.
She removes her coat and her shoes, placing both on a rack to the side. She sits on a leather black sofa and leans back, closing her eyes. The apartment isn’t nearly as large as hers, but it’s a decent size for a studio. It’s a quarter of the price too, but still a pretty penny. It’s only natural considering it’s still in the Upper Eastside, even if it’s right on the border of East Harlem. It’s quiet, but she knows not for long, as she hears the creak of the bathroom door and footsteps approaching. There’s silence and then a soft and melodic, “Hey honey, miss me?” beside her ear.
Jenny finally opens her eyes to see the light pools of grey staring back at them from above. She smiles slightly and replies, “I can’t miss you when I only just saw you thirty minutes ago. Just admit it; you missed me, though you just saw me thirty minutes ago.” She’s sarcastic.
Roman grins and replies, “Thirty minutes can feel like forever depending on the scenario. I personally could look at your beautiful face forever, so it’s very possible for me to miss you after only thirty minutes.” He takes advantage of her being angled back and gently plants a kiss on her lips. She graciously takes it, appreciating the sweet gesture. He then hops over the sofa and plops down beside her, stretching out with his shoulder against hers. “So, what now babe?”
Jenny’s nostrils fill with a slightly sweet scent; instantly recognizing it as Roman’s favorite body wash. Though it might be more accurate to say her favorite body wash, as Roman only started using it so often when he realized how much she liked it. He particularly loves to use it on Friday nights like these, which is when they meet for an extended time and he thinks he’ll get lucky. Though there’s not much to think about, since it never doesn’t happen. She won’t pretend she doesn’t look forward to it just as much as him. Though she won’t let him know that.
“We could watch a movie, maybe some anime or, we could….” He lets the final suggestion linger, as though to feel for her receptiveness. He’s careful not to push her limits.
Her lips turn into a coy smile as she replies, “Hmm, we could do those things, but maybe we should work on a new routine for work. You’ve become much more convincing now, but I think our coworkers will catch on soon if we keep up the same performance every day.”
“I think we’re fine. I mean, you’re convincing enough for us both, so no one at work would possibly believe we’re dating. I can say for a fact my coworkers don’t have a clue. They’re always dragging me and my “lame attempts” as they call them. They say I’d never have a girl like you even in my dreams. I imagine your coworkers are thinking the same thing, right?”
“Yea, for the most part I suppose; though Ai and Milo are starting to get suspicious. They keep trying to press me for information on if we’ve ever dated or not. They’re my friends, so I wouldn’t mind if they knew, but that’s not something I’d dare mention at work.”
“Sorry to bring this up again, but why are we still hiding? It’s been five years since we started dating, pretty much from the start of us officially working at the company. I’d like to think we’re getting along ok now and that you’re not going to leave me at this point, so why not make things official? I keep telling you that I’d happily move in with you and Kay. I’d take over the rent and you could just take care of utilities and entertainment. We could settle down and-.”
Jenny places a finger on his lips, immediately silencing him. She replaces her finger with her lips and straddles him. “Do you want to keep talking or are you going to take me already?”
Roman sighs as she attempts to deflect this conversation for the umpteenth time. He knows he’ll have to confront her about it one of these days, but for now, he’ll take what he can get. He’s been holding back all day just for the promise of this moment, so he won’t pass it up. He kisses her and pushes her down on the sofa in response. Jenny accepts his touch willingly, imploring herself to think only of Roman now, despite her mind drifting to thoughts of Him.