I walk down a hallway past several desks and cubicles that are occupied by very busy-looking people. Everyone who works for Mary is somehow attractive in one way or another. They are all bustling around with paperwork, phone calls, or loudly clacking away on their laptops. If I had to use two words to describe the company culture it would be… organized chaos.
I stay on the path until I finally reach another closed door that says Mary Ashford’s name on the front of it.
I lightly tap and then wait until I hear her say, “Come in.”
I walk in to see her sitting there behind her desk, looking like a member of the royal family seated on a throne. Imagine a combination of the rigid professionalism of Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, the icy glare of the Snow Queen from Narnia, and the aesthetic intimidation of Regina George from Mean Girls.
Mary Ashford is a woman in her mind-forties who achieved everything she wanted to achieve (career-wise) by the age of 32. How?
She had a clear vision of who she wanted to be in the world of fashion and she executed that vision precisely... with the help of her much older and very wealthy husband-- a man she married while she was still in her twenties.
She obviously capitalized off of her drop-dead gorgeous looks and used them to her benefit when it came to pursuing a life of wealth and success. The fashion industry is really difficult to break into so instead of trying to break into someone else’s door, she created her own door. She is inspirational to me in so many ways. She is who I want to be when I am older.
Her dark, black, stick-straight hair looks freshly dyed, her nails look freshly painted, and her latest set of botox injections most likely occurred very recently.
I stand there frozen and starstruck, just staring at her. I’ve only ever seen pictures of her on social media or in magazines.
“My receptionist tells me you have something you’d like to show me. Designs I presume?”
I nod with my mouth slightly hanging open.
“On with it then,” she says, putting her hand out. “Let’s see what you have.”
I place my portfolio on her desk and feel instantly regretful. I can’t believe I just put my dumb drawings down on a table in front of one of the most prolific human beings alive.
Mary Ashford is one cutthroat woman. She has a reputation for making people feel godawful about themselves. I always overlooked the negative commentary about her on the internet because I have always been so inspired by her brilliance. She puts her glasses on and begins flipping through.
I’m expecting her to start laughing at me. Or criticising me for wasting her time.
Instead she looks up at me with a smile on her face.
“So tell me about yourself,” she says, staring directly into my eyes.
“Um. Okay. My name is Nora. I’m eighteen years old. Former beauty pageant queen from Indiana.”
“Hm. And how did you come up with this?” she asks, pointing at one of my designs.
I clear my throat and feel my energy level pick up as I recall the excitement I felt drawing out that particular dress. “I was picturing Scarlett Johansson while I drew that one. Since she has more of a petite figure with larger-sized boobs. She has a naturally tan complexion so I felt like the deep red color would work best. I felt like I could picture her wearing that at a red carpet event.”
“Interesting. And this one?” she asks pointing.
“I was inspired to go for a more medieval type of look after seeing Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones. I pictured her wearing a dress like this in real life, outside of the show and it kind of just spilled out of me.”
“When is your flight back to Indiana?” she finally asks, looking at me over the thinly framed glasses sitting on the tip of her nose.
“Tomorrow. 10 AM.”
“Cancel that flight. I’d like you to stay. And I’d like you to work for me.”
Her words hit me hard, like a ton of blissfully beautiful bricks landing on me all at once. Is she serious right now?!
“Really?” I ask, trying to maintain my outward composure despite the fact that my stomach is doing somersaults and fireworks are basically exploding throughout my veins.
“Your ideas are fresh. Unseen. Innovative. Now I’m regretting having you sitting out there waiting on me all week. It’s as if now we’re now a week behind in changing the world of fashion… Fact of the matter is, Ashford Designs needs your cutting edge vision.”
“I-- I don’t know what to say.”
“Say yes. Don’t tell me you’re going to go back to indiana. That’s one state I’ve never bothered to take the time to visit and I still don’t understand why anyone would.”
Ouch. Her words are… harsh. But her job offer is where my focus lies.
“I only booked enough time at my hotel until tomorrow.”
“Okay. In conjunction with the job offer, the company will also provide you with a place to stay. Simplifies things?” she asks.
I have to say yes. I really have no other option. Turning this job offer down would be the stupidest thing I could ever do. This is my literal dream coming true right before my eyes. I have to say yes. I’m scared out of my mind, but I know I have to say yes.
“I’m in,” I finally say to her.
She reaches her hand out to shake mine and tells me, “Welcome aboard.”
I feel like I’m floating as I leave Mary’s office. I pass by Kate at reception, climb into my Uber, and finally arrive back at my hotel.
My entire life is about to change.