I jerked into consciousness, startled by the invasive blaring of my phone, ringing and vibrating simultaneously. I reluctantly stretched across the bed, snatching my phone from the bare bedside table, and glanced at the screen. The glare caused my eyes to water as I forced my eyes to adjust, attempting to decipher who could be calling me at what felt like the brink of dawn.
Andrea’s name came into focus, cutting across the screen in bold, white scripted letters. Oh god, here we go. I quickly disentangled myself from my blanket, pushing myself upright into a sitting position. Clearing my throat, I pressed the “answer” button, and placed the phone to my ear.
“Good morning, Madison!”
She sang her salutations through the phone, forcing me to remove it from my ear for a moment; her tone much too loud and cheerful for the early morning. That’s Andrea for you; always prepared with a smile permanently plastered on her face, ready to conquer whatever is thrown at her in a day.
After a beat, I pressed the phone back up to my ear, shutting my eyes. “Good morning, Andrea. What's up?” I chirped, striving to assume the same bright tone, though my eyes remained closed, trying to maintain a semblance of sleep.
"I'm so sorry to wake you!" Bullshit. "I just really need your help. And I know what you're going to say. 'I don't do temp assignments anymore'." Then what exactly are you calling me for? "I know, I know, but I'm really hoping you could do me a solid here." After rambling on, she seemed to stop all at once, holding her breath and awaiting my answer. To be honest, I didn't know my answer, myself.
Andrea works as a Staffing Recruiter for one of the top agencies in the city. Over the year, she assisted in securing temporary employment for me on a consistent basis; finding me to be an honest, reliable worker, when I was just in it for the money. After a while of being the bitch for various companies, I accumulated enough money to do some short travelling to nearby cities, and let Andrea know that I was taking a break to enjoy the unemployed life. She wasn't too happy to hear that.
It has been 2 months since my last assignment, and I would need to start working again soon to continue living in my pathetic, 1-bedroom apartment, sequestered at the edge of the downtown core. I glanced around at my scarce room, lacking a personal touch, and considered whether I was ready to go back to work yet. I sighed, but cut it short, realizing Andrea was still on the other line, waiting for an answer.
"Madison, are you there?" She asked, warily.
"Yes, I'm here." I pinched the bridge of my nose, the beginning of a headache forming in my temples. "What's the job?" I asked, surrendering to reality. It's been a slice, but I needed money.
Her voice instantly brightened up with excitement, things going her way as usual. "You rock, Maddy." She squealed, and just like that, I regret my decision.
"Don't call me that." I warned, half-serious. I hated when people took it upon themselves to offer me a nickname. It made me feel young, and I was far from it. Mentally, anyway.
"M-a-d-d-y!" She teased.
She screamed for me to wait, apologizing profusely, and I laughed, amused that she believed I would actually hang up on her.
"Okay, so the job is downtown, not too far from where you live. Your role would be the assistant to a small Real Estate firm, contributing the usual administrative tasks. You still with me?" I huffed out a tired "mhmm", and she continued. "Filing, scanning, time management; the usual. Pay is in your requested range. Assignment goes from today until the end of next week. Cool? I'll send you the details." I heard her scrambling on the other line and shook my head. Oh, Andrea.
"Oh, and one more thing. You need to be there in...half an hour. Thank you, Maddy! Let me know how it goes!" And she was gone.
I stumbled wildly out of bed, tripping over the blankets; now wide-awake and panicking. Sidling through my walk-through closet to the bathroom, I smacked into the side wall, feeling around blindly for the light switch before switching it on. I pinched my eyes closed tightly at the sight of the stark white bathroom, opening them an inch at a time.
After momentary blindness, I snatched up my toothbrush, and squirted a glob of herbal toothpaste on the nearly worn out bristles. I finally glanced up at the mirror above the sink and my toothbrush nearly fell from my mouth; my hair was flattened on one side, and disheveled on the other, paired with a set of purple rimmed eyes from another night of restless sleep.
I bent over and turned the faucet on, splashing my face with freezing, cold water, then dabbed at the droplets with my hand towel, quickly drying my face. I grabbed my makeup bag from its spot behind the left mirror and got to work; I spread some foundation and concealer under my eyes like war paint, tackling my blemishes. I quickly moved on to mascara, then my eyebrows, then finished with bronzer to add a touch of contour. I checked my reflection once again and tugged some of my chestnut hair over my shoulders, the natural morning waves accentuating my features. Not bad, but still tired.
I dashed back into my closet, flicking my eyes wildly through the contents; I had a two-sided closet that was packed to the brim, and still struggled with clothing options, always complaining that "I have nothing to wear".
I settled on a white, textured blouse and a fitted, grey plaid skirt. Back in the bathroom, I selected a subtle red lipstick to accompany my outfit. As I drew it across my lips, my phone chirped its familiar tone, letting me know I had a new email. I threw on a coat, stuffed my feet into my barely comfortable "comfort sole" office heels, then checked the email waiting for me from Andrea as I wrapped my hand around the doorknob of the front door.
Company: Wallace & Co., Real Estate Advisors
Address: Suite 2400, 350 Centre Street Boulevard
Date: September 6th - September 17th
Time: 7:30am - 4:30pm (1 hour lunch provided)
Go rock their socks off! Thanks, Maddy! ;)
I checked the time: 7:17am. There was no way I would allow myself to be late; I swung my purse over my shoulder, and I was out the door.
I trudged up to the elevator bank of the Wallace & Co. building, panting from the speed walking, still fresh out of breath. 7:29am. Boo-yah!
When the rickety old elevator made it to the main floor, I climbed on, hitting "24" and watching it illuminate a dying orange. The elevator was mirrored; my reflection staring back at me at all sides. I quickly adjusted my hair and swiped at some residual lipstick that missed my lips in the hurry. Satisfied with my appearance, I adjusted my posture and stood firm, nodding. I can get through this.
The elevator rumbled to a stop on the 24th floor; the doors slowly easing open with a ding announcing my arrival. I stepped onto plush mahogany carpets and took in the sight; windowed offices with ceiling to floor glass extended along the back wall past a corner I couldn't see beyond, with an individual windowed office to my left, occupying the entire side. To my right in the lobby was a small Receptionist desk, with a short woman with brown tousled hair manning the phones. She repeatedly squeaked "Good morning, Wallace & Co. May I put you on hold a moment? Thank you." until 4 flashing lights blinked on the switchboard, waiting.
She turned to me, a bright smile on her face, but creases between her brow. From the stress, no doubt.
"Hi, you must be Madison." I nodded sweetly before she turned away, dialling a number quickly into her phone. "Hi, yes, she's here. Sorry, I have people waiting on the other line. Sure, will do." And she hung up, then quickly tended to her waiting calls.
I stood by the elevator, waiting awkwardly, and checked the time: 7:38am. Around the corner of the windowed offices came two men in crisp suits; one a tad older with dark, graying hair, while still retaining his handsomeness through his features, and the other stood a step behind and seemed to be around my age.
The younger one had light brown hair swept into style, held by a light wax atop his head. The soft hair bounced with each step, and as he got closer, I noticed a loose strand sweeping across his forehead. I dropped my gaze to his eyes; a delicate hazel staring right back at me sternly. He was clean shaven with a small mole on his jawline, a perfect imperfection suitable for his kind face below noticeably soft lips.
"Grant Wallace, President. My colleague here is Ryan Winters." The older one piped up. I responded with my name, and stuck out my hand for him to shake.
"I know," Grant said dryly, reaching past me to hit the button on the elevator. I dropped my hand and laughed awkwardly until it simmered into a dry cough. "You're late."
My eyebrows pinched together, already culminating a hate for this stranger. "I can assure you that I was here at 7:30am, sharp." I responded cautiously.
He tilted his watch up in exaggeration. "Yet it is now 7:41am. I believe you should have started working at 7:30am, not arriving at that time." I opened my mouth to retort, but was quickly interrupted. "Ryan will take you to the shared office where you will be working for him. I am leaving for a meeting, and won't be returning for a few hours. Ryan, make sure she takes note of that." The elevator arrived just in time and he stepped on, pressing a button, then whipped out his phone, distracting himself as the doors closed.
I stood there, stunned, borderline shaking, and watching the closed elevator doors. Ryan cleared his throat behind me, and I turned to him, his hand extended towards me, waiting. I immediately took his hand in mine.
"Pleasure to meet you." He said warmly, and I brightened up, smiling genuinely at him. He glanced at my lips a moment, then returned to my eyes, staring intently. I placed my other hand on our connected hands, encircling his hands in mine. "Pleasure is mine." I responded, barely audibly. We let our hands fall mutually, and he ran a hand through his hair. My eyes flicked up to watch it glide through, and my heart melted; I had an odd obsession with hair.
He smiled shyly and nodded behind him. "If you will follow me, the office is just back here." He turned and began to walk, and I followed after him. Before I turned the corner, I glanced back at the Receptionist to say my thanks, but she was already eying me, an accusatory expression present on her face.
I turned back and continued to follow Ryan. What the hell was her issue?
He led me to the very back of the office to a large corner office; only half of the wall embellished with glass, and the other half sustained by simple plaster and drywall. He opened the door, still standing in the doorway, and gestured for me to go ahead of him.
I brushed past him, and examined my new office for the next 2 weeks. The windows along the back wall went from the ceiling down to a cushioned bench seat lining the entire back wall. I walked towards them and gazed out; it illustrated a magnificent view of the downtown core of towers upon towers and winding one-way street traffic. I turned and observed the rest of the room; on the far right was a large desk occupying a monitor, phone, and an array of paperwork. On the left was a smaller wooden desk that curved into an "L", tucked into the back corner of the room. Behind the desk were fluorescent files sorted into a grand wall cabinet, towering over the desk.
I turned back to Ryan who was standing casually inside of the doorway, hands in his pockets and watching me carefully. I cleared my throat.
"So, we'll be sharing this office, huh? I'm sure you would much rather be having an office to yourself." I smiled at him and he returned it, shrugging innocently.
"I do enjoy having my own office, yes, but something tells me you will be good company." He turned away instantly, heading to his desk, and retrieved a slim navy binder before returning to me, clearly unembarrassed by his words. "This is an instruction manual I typed up for you, but if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask."
He handed the binder to me, but didn't let go as I grasped the other end. "Welcome aboard." He whispered, smiling like he was in on a secret we haven't yet established.
Our eyes locked for a moment, pondering the implications in his words and tone, before he let go of the binder, and strut back over to his desk, reclaiming his seat. I followed in his example and sat at my new desk, flipping open the binder to the first page, but it was impossible to focus. I needed to make sure to give my thanks to Andrea, because other than for the Grinch I had for a President, I had a feeling I was going to like it here.