“I expect those papers on my desk before you leave,” Marjorie said as she leaned toward my side of the cubicle. My fellow intern, Aubrey, was midway through her pack-up regime, which was taking the good part of a half hour. Really, I didn’t blame her for prolonging her time clock, but still, her excited giggles about plans for tonight were starting to bother me. I mean, come on. Who goes out on a Monday night?
“Also, we had a seating conflict for Wednesday’s luncheon. Be sure to make the necessary changes before the caterers close.”
“Can I send them the table list tomorrow? They won’t need it until Wednesday morning.”
“Tonight,” she said before pivoting and walking toward the main office. Thankfully her personal assistants were healthy and back to normal, but that didn’t stop the she-devil from raining on my already damp parade.
“Just four more days,” I said quietly to myself as I popped one of my ear buds in and listened to my Calm-Down-Michael-Bublé-Makes-Everything-Better playlist. Recently, it’s been all I can listen to because Marjorie was making my anxiety skyrocket.
For a good second there, in the middle of watching everyone walk cheerfully down the hall and toward the elevators, I debated taking the two-inch-thick manila folder of receipts and dropping it down the stairwell in a dramatic flourish. But then the moment passed as I thought about Marjorie’s blacklist. All jokes aside, it was a real thing. Someone even tried to break in and burn it once, but I suspected she had it internalized to keep her memory sharp.
“Oh hey there, kiddo,” Uncle Oscar said, snapping me from my internal pity party. “You shouldn’t be working this late. It’s almost six.”
I looked over at him for a second before setting my work to the side and turning in my chair. Only, he wasn’t alone. Ari Bellisario stood a few feet back, dressed in a sharp black suit that put all other suits to shame.
I jumped back on instinct and nearly fell out of my chair, which definitely conveyed the cool, unaffected look I was going for when I imagined meeting Ari again. Nailed it.
“I was just finishing up some paperwork. I won’t be long,” I said, gesturing to the pile of receipts waiting to be filed but my fingers trembled. I closed my fist quickly, hoping they didn't see. He was here. Ari Bellisario was here, and I probably was cross-eyed from staring at these lists all afternoon. At this point, he’s probably praying I don’t hold him to anything more than his apology.
“You’re not working too hard, right kiddo?” Uncle Oscar asked, smiling.
“No, of course not. I can handle this.”
“Oh, Mr. Belvida. So glad I caught you on your way out,” Marjorie said before sending me a knowing smile. “I was hoping to go over some of the last minute changes for Wednesday.”
He gave me a paternal smile before they walked off toward Marjorie’s office, leaving me with my stack of papers and Ari, who was stepped closer as I looked back at my work, forcing my body not to react.
I had already gone through these before, but everything I typed in was wrong according to the new arrangement. Tables were organized by company rather than personal affiliation, leaving me to sort through at least ten pages of donors, corporations, and plus ones. Katie was going to be royally miffed that I was missing the Bachelorette for the third week in a row, but there wasn’t much I could do that didn’t involve being insubordinate.
“Sophie.” Ari’s voice brought me out of focus for a moment, and I tried to understand what he could possibly want right now. I was still angry about being ditched, be it a good reason or not. It was humiliating walking out alone.
“I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m about five minutes away from making a scene, moving as far as I can from L.A., and never looking back. I’m so done with Marjorie it’s not even funny,” I said, typing the name, table number, and plus ones for each paying party so I could forward it on to a caterer who wouldn’t even bother looking at any of this until the morning of.
“I watched her pile those folders on your desk when I walked in,” he said, his voice dark and downright addictive, but that might have been because he was saying precisely what I wanted him to. No one else seemed to notice how much of a conniving sycophant she was, but somehow, he saw through it. I’d say maybe he just didn’t like blondes, but Naomi Tait ruined that theory.
“At least she didn’t pawn off her accounting ledger again. Math and I have never seen eye to eye, and by the time I finished, the deli by my apartment was closed, so my poor roommate had to handle grumpy and hungry Sophie,” I said with a smile.
“It can’t be that bad.” Ari pulled over Aubrey’s chair, making himself comfortable. She must have fled at the first sign of Marjorie handing out extra work.
“Stick around and see for yourself then.”
I tried to focus on my data input as I listened to him laugh, but it was probably the hardest thing I’d done in a while.
“Is that an invitation?”
My fingers paused over the keys as if my body needed to physically register the flirtation in his voice, but I pushed past the notion. He was just one of those charming guys who used their good looks to get what they wanted. Only, I still couldn’t quite figure out what that was.
“No, sorry. I really do need to get this done. I can’t mess up again. Marjorie will warp it into WWIII and nuke all my plans for a decent paying job.”
I looked over his impossibly expensive suit and Rolex, trying to imagine what sort of profession allowed someone his age such luxury, but then I remembered that it was none of my business and that he was definitely mafia, so I moved past it.
“Again, I’m not trying to be rude, but if you don’t mind, I work best with music. I can drown out the extraneous thoughts.”
“Of course,” Ari said, standing immediately. From this angle, he seemed impossibly tall, but then again, he was tall. And broad. And good looking. Basically, ignoring how impossibly my-type he was was starting to become impossible.
I tried not to feel despondent at the thought of two more hours at the office alone and hungry, but the stack of documents piled before me was a blinding beacon of failure. I never left a job unfinished. It was the one thing I prided myself on.
“You should really see him in concert, you know,” Ari said before exiting the cubicle.
“See who?” I asked, turning toward him out of curiosity.
“Bublé. He’s fantastic,” he said, smiling.
“Yeah, have I mentioned this internship’s unpaid? Because it is. Maybe in a few years when I have what most people consider expendable income.”
“Fair enough,” Ari said before turning toward Uncle Oscar who was in the process of locking his office door. “Good night, Sophie.”
I gave a brief smile and nod, trying not to reminisce on yet another thing I couldn’t do because of this job that was supposedly going to change my life for the better. So far, my life wasn’t getting any better.
“That bitch!” Katie said the moment I walked in the door. She pointed her red-sauce stained spoon in my direction as if preparing to defend my honor with a flick of her wrist. “I swear she’s going to get a whopping karma sandwich soon. My sixth sense is never wrong about this, you know.”
I just sighed and poured a tall glass of water. As much as I wanted wine, I didn't want the headache that came with drinking this close to bed.
“Just four more days. That’s all I have to survive, and then I’m out,” I said, as I put my face down on the counter.
“I mean who asks their unpaid intern to do their dirty work until 9?”
“My boss,” I said as I peaked up at the clock. I didn’t have the heart to tell Katie I was so tired that even her special brand of homemade spaghetti wasn’t tempting me at this point, but I dutifully ate the bowl she placed in front of me and tried not to grimace at the amount of sprinkled cheese she put on top.
“You know some people like pasta in their spaghetti.”
“Quit complaining and eat. You’re lucky I made you food,” she said as she pulled up the island chair beside me.
“I know. I’m sorry. It’s just not getting better. I thought life would be easier knowing I wasn’t going to fall on my ass after college, but I can’t even say I have that feeling anymore. At this point, I’ll be lucky to get out with a sub-par recommendation, which is the whole reason I took up Uncle Oscar’s offer in the first place,” I said as I ate a bite of food. “I should have listened. Everyone warned me she was a devil boss and I, in my infinite wisdom, thought they were just being babies.”
“But your uncle can vouch for you, right? He’s the freaking CEO.”
“I mean yeah, but Marjorie is the one they know, and she’s been trying to make everything far more difficult than it needs to be. Plus, I wanted to do it on my own. It’s just frustrating. And to top it off, Ari came in today and saw me basically getting shit on. I’m so done with today.”
“You should take a sick day tomorrow. I know you have like four to use. Show Marjorie up, and don’t go in. Say it’s some kind of 24-hour bug. People don’t mess with throw up.”
Honestly, it was a super tempting thought, but if I did that, I would be in the doghouse for sure come Wednesday.
“Nah, I did all the grunt work before I left. I can’t imagine actually having much to do tomorrow.”
“Mmhmm, that’s what you said about today, and all of last week. I mean do you know what I did at my internship?” Katie asked as she handed me a cookie. “I made coffee and played Candy Crush until everyone went to lunch. Then I answered calls for an hour. Then went back to Candy Crush. And if we’re being real, most of the calls were wrong numbers or people asking if I’ve met Jesus yet.”
“And yours is paid,” I said, shaking my head as I went to leave. “Honestly, I’m not even mad. It’s my own fault for cashing in a favor.”
“Oh honey, you’re almost done being Marjorie’s bitch. Then, the new boss will see what a slacker she is and fire her.”
“You know, before I was really against anyone being fired, but it would serve her right,” I said as I headed toward my room. “I think I’m just going to crash. I had plans to watch crappy love movies and drown my sorrows in your amazing cookies, but all I want to do is sleep.”
“While I appreciate the flattery, you look like you could use some serious R&R.”
“That sick day is so freaking tempting. How bad would it be if I did it?”
Katie’s face broke into a smile.
“We both know you won’t.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Night.”
After stripping off my pencil skirt and blouse, I flopped onto my bed and tried to dream of a time that I wasn’t tired and miserable every day. All I ended up with was the image of Ari smiling over at me on the bench and I tried not to cry when I realized that that moment might’ve been the best I was going to get for a while.