I glanced at the clock that hung languidly on the wall, sighing. Tapping my pencil on my desk, I gazed at the rows of chairs in front of me, having to squint to get a good look at the teacher that droned illegible words. She wore her pajamas, a protest for the board holding finals at six in the morning, but secretly, I hoped that they would still have the test early. The sooner I finished the dreadful exams, the better.
Beside me, Kathryn smiled down at her crotch, giggling quietly to herself every now and then. I hid my smirk behind my notebook. She was probably texting Matt, her new beau. I don’t know how they met. I never got the chance to ask, and even if I cared, I didn’t have the time to dwell on her love life. My own life was stressful enough.
“Miss. Walker?” The professor’s voice rang loud and clear through the echoey room.
“Yes?” Hastily, I rose from my seat, knawing at my bottom lip. I curled my fingers into my palm, hoping they would sink into my skin and draw the blood I wanted to feel soothe me.
“Could you please explain to Mr. Keating why we are studying every genre topic?” She commanded icily. I was unsure if her fury was directed towards myself or towards Jack, but nevertheless, I twirled slightly on my heel to face the arrogant Mike Keating who smirked back at me. I scowled.
“Every person here has his or her own personal taste, Mr. Keating,” I explained, trying to sound robotic. We are studying each topic not only for our preferences but also to understand them properly and know which is to our liking. If we are to become part of publishing companies or make our own, then we should assure our clients that we will help them with their books. Knowing the genre of the book will not only benefit them but us as well,” I explained hurriedly, my legs wobbling. Mike’s eyes were emotionless, but I could see a hint of a smile passing by my professor’s lips.
“Thank you, Miss Walker,” she said curtly. She narrowed her eyes at Mike, who didn’t bother to change his lax position on his chair. “I hope you understand now why we cover these subjects, Mr. Keating, and pick your words wisely next time.”
“Whatever you say, Prof,” Mike grumbled.
She didn’t say anything. Nodding towards me, she turned her back and continued on with her lecture about our most recent genre, sci-fi. I slunk back into my seat, a shaky, relieved breath of air spreading through my lungs.
Beside me, Kathryn tapped my arm, her phone poking from her backpack. “Are you okay?” She asked.
I frowned. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
She shrugged. “You seemed nervous when Professor Haynes called on you. Is everything alright?”
Internally, I sucked on my tongue, hoping it would bleed so that I could have an excuse to keep quiet. “I-It’s really nothing. I was just taken by surprise at the question.”
Kathryn’s eyes narrowed and I winced. It wasn’t easy to hide things from her and her reporter like instincts. I just hoped that she wouldn’t go into the whole “Barbara Walters Inquisition” in the middle of Professor Hayne’s class. She definitely didn’t appreciate it last time.
“I suppose that’s valid,” she finally grumbled. “You are taking your meds though, right, Adrienne?”
“Yeah. I need them, Kath,” I smiled, hoping it was warm enough for her to turn away and continue texting Matt. I didn’t want to talk, anyway.
“Read chapters 7 and 8 of Emma and be prepared for a quiz tomorrow,” Professor Haynes shouted over the much-anticipated bell. “Mr. Keating, please stay back for a few moments. I would like to speak to you.”
I caught Mike giving me a nasty look from the corner of my eye, but I ignored him, raising my head high and striding out of the stuffy room. Kathryn and I had lunch to get before my work at the library began. I didn’t have time to waste on him.
My backpack felt lighter than usual. Maybe it was because finals were approaching. teachers were certainly backing down on the amount of work they bestowed upon us. I shouldn’t be complaining, I suppose. Having less work is a blessing, really. I can focus more on my job and my search for a new one after graduation.
“What do you want to eat?” I vaguely heard Kathryn asking me as we stood in line at Panera. I regarded our surroundings quickly, smiling at her.
“Just a sandwich is fine,” I said. “And maybe some soup?”
“Sure,” she grinned. “You sure gave Mike a talking today, huh, Adrienne?”
I blushed. “Yeah. I didn’t expect her to call on me out of everyone in the room, but I’m glad I was able to think of something. At least I didn’t make myself look like a fool in front of everyone.”
“You? A fool?” Kathryn scoffed. “You never are a fool, Adrienne. You’re smart. And you know that.”
“I suppose,” I mused. Kath’s phone pinged as the line moved, and I smirked at her. “Matt again?”
She flushed. “Yes. I want to introduce him to my parents so we’re trying to set a date.”
I smiled, despite the burning feeling that pricked at the corner of my eyes. “That’s awesome! I’m glad you’re moving on from Henry.”
Kathryn scowled. “Henry was a jerk. I know that now. I just wonder how I was so stupid to date him in the first place.”
I shrugged. “We all make mistakes.”
We got our food after a long, boring wait in line, settling at a small bench in the cafe. At first, it surprised me as to how many little stores GreyHorn University had, but I wasn’t questioning it. After all, it was free food. Who was I to complain about that?
“Did you hear about the person who will be speaking at our graduation?” Kathryn asked suddenly, pounding her fork into her salad.
I set my sandwich down carefully, raising my eyebrow. “No...who?”
“Lazareth Noir,” Kathryn giggled.
I rolled my eyes. “Oh god. Not this again.”
“What?” She defended. “He’s super sexy, you can’t deny that!”
“I wasn’t denying anything,” I said. “I just don’t understand your infatuation over him, Kath.”
“Uh...duh? He’s the richest man in the world? And he’s speaking at our graduation!” Kathryn squealed. “I even hear that he’ll be offering job applications to some of the students!”
Again, I rolled my eyes, sighing. “Awesome. What does he do, again?”
“He owns Olympian Deals, some retail or marketing company,” Kathryn explained. “He started from scratch and made one of the biggest companies in the world! Hell, it surpasses Google and Amazon--combined!”
“Good for him,” I snapped, biting hard into my sandwich.
Kathryn frowned. “What is it? You don’t like Lazareth Noir?”
“I don’t even know the guy, Kath,” I murmured. “And I’d rather not, quite frankly.”
“Oh? Why do you say that?” Kathryn questioned, leaning over the table, twirling her hair.
I wrinkled my nose. “Getting involved with CEO’s usually brings a lot of drama. I’m not willing to go into that world.”
“Even if that world is passionate and sexy?” She prodded, her grey eyes sparkling.
“Even so.” I let out a deep exhale. “Look, I’m sure he’s a very nice man, but being involved in their world is not a risk I’m willing to take, Kath. What if I get hurt?”
“So? Love is love,” Kathryn giggled. “Life is full of risks, Adrienne. We have to take them at some point.”
“Then you can do it,” I decided. “If Matt becomes rich and famous like Lazareth Noir, then you can step into the limelight. Just leave me out of it.”
Kathryn shrugged. “Whatever you say, Adrienne.”
“Miss. Walker?” Professor Alvarez’s cool, collected voice brushed my ear. Shivers trickled down my spine and I tilted my head up to meet his hard, steely eyes.
“Yes, Mr. Alvarez?” I replied immediately.
“If you are done with your lunch, I would like to speak to you in my classroom.” His voice was calm--nerve wrackingly so.
“O-Of course, sir,” I stammered, failing to collect myself. “Is something wrong?”
He shook his head, a soft but tight smile crossing his lips. “No, Miss. Walker. I simply wish to speak to you about a task I would like for you to complete for me.”
“O-Oh...” I glanced at Kathryn. She jerked her head towards her phone.
I’ll see you after work, She mouthed, passing Professor Alvarez a hard stare before gathering her things and leaving the cafeteria.
“So, what would you like me to do, Professor Alvarez?” I questioned timidly, avoiding bringing my gaze to his.
His cold stare burned into me, a languid smirk spreading over his pale lips. “I presume that you already know about Mr. Noir and his speech at our graduation ceremony happening shortly?”
“Yes?” I quirked my eyebrow. Where was he going with this?
“We have requested an interview with him for the school paper,” Mr. Alvarez continued. “He agreed, and the interview is scheduled for Friday. Do you think you’ll be able to come up with a list of questions to ask him for the interview?”
I stared at him uncomprehendingly, my mouth unceremoniously ajar. “W-What do you mean?”
“Are you hard of hearing?” He sneered. “Mr. Noir is willing to have an interview with us. It will be published in public newspapers. I would like for you to conduct the interview.”
“Why me?” I blurted, thoroughly confused. “I’m not even a part of the newspaper club! Why...?”
What seemed to be a sadistic smirk spread across Professor Alvarez’s features. “I suppose you could say that I have been...studying you, Miss. Walker. You have exceptional talent, especially in the literature department. I would like for Mr. Noir to see your talent. Perhaps he will even offer you an interview?”
He slid forward an old recorder and a few pages of lined paper, like what middle school kids would use for an essay. “Write your questions here. The recorder is for you to use only when you interview Mr. Noir. Bring your inquires back by tomorrow for me to proofread. As soon as everything is acceptable, I will schedule for you and Mr. Noir to meet.” He gave me a pointed look. “Any questions?”
“Um...what time will the meeting be?” I asked softly, trying to hide the tremor in my voice.
“My little brother has a concert that I would like to be present for,” I replied curtly, gathering some confidence. “If the interview conflicts with his concert, I’m afraid I’ll have to decline.”
Professor Alvarez stayed silent for a few moments, but then, a wisp of a smile touched his lips.
“Ever the fireball, aren’t you, Adrienne?” He murmured. He cleared his throat. “I was told that the meeting would take place somewhere around 10 pm.” I winced, and he at least had enough of an ego to look slightly ashamed. “I know. I apologize for the late time, but it will be on campus in the cafeteria. Will that be okay for you?”
I reached for my phone and scrolled through the many apps littering my space before I finally was able to track down the calendar app.
“His concert is at 6. I should be able to have my older brother take care of him,” I said, smiling. Professor Alvarez nodded stiffly, handing me the materials I needed and sending me on my way quickly.
It wasn’t until I was on my way back to the dorm Kathryn and I shared that I realized just what I had signed myself up for. An interview. With Lazareth Noir. The biggest billionaire in the world and the richest man alive. And, according to Kath, the most coveted bachelor in America.
Opening the door to our shared dorm, I spotted Kathryn immediately. She was on a Skype call with her brother, Kevin. Quickly, I saw her close the call as the door groaned close behind me.
“Hey, Adrienne,” she greeted, getting up to give me a hug. “What’s up? What did Alvarez want?”
I slammed the papers onto the table, dropping into a criss-cross pose on the ground, my head in my hands. Kath sat next to me, taking the papers slowly.
“He wanted me to interview Noir,” I mumbled through my fingers.
She gasped. “Really? When?”
“What?!” Now she slammed the papers. I looked up from my lap. Her eyes were sparkling. “Well, I’ll be damned. Seriously, Adrienne?”
I giggled. “Yeah. I’m going to actually talk to your sexy billionaire.”
“First of all, I never said he was my billionaire,” Kath chuckled. “But...fuck, Adrienne...”
“I know,” I sighed, dropping my head against the front of the couch. “I have to prepare some questions and...god study!”
Kathryn grinned, tapping the papers against my knee. “Well then, let’s get started.”