Work was stressful. Ms. Allen’s assistant Gloria called out, leaving Leila to have to pick up the pace in order to keep up with two jobs practically simultaneously. She was feeling frazzled and was almost at her wits-end. She was desperately trying to find some reports that she had promised Ms. Allen 10 minutes ago. A buzz on her intercom startled her, causing her to jump and knock over all Gloria’s pens onto the floor. Crap! Her thoughts were interrupted by Victoria’s deep, womanly voice over the phone’s intercom, causing her to freeze.
“Ms. Spark, where are my reports. I need them for an interview with Japan and was hoping to have time to prepare, but due to your negligence I am out of time,” Vicki’s slight southern twang was tinged with impatience.
Leila made a face at the phone, before answering, trying to be civil to the she-beast slave driver. It was no wonder she was alone. That woman probably ate men alive after luring them to their death with false promises, akin to a female praying mantis. Keeping her voice level so as not to reveal the dread she felt, she was about to respond that she was unable to find them when she spotted a file under Gloria’s keyboard.
“I have them right here Ms. Allen. I’m sorry to have kept you waiting. I will bring them right in,” Leila said, almost giddy with relief at finding the reports.
She was hoping that this would be enough to keep her boss happy and to spare her job. Some days she loved her job, but other days she just flat out hated it. Curvy Woman wasn’t the kind of magazine that featured skinny toothpick models, though. It was a magazine just for the average, curvy, everyday woman. The style of clothing appealed to the adolescent crowd as well as the middle-aged woman needing a self-esteem pick-me-up. She couldn’t help thinking that maybe somehow having this job would fall apart, too, though.
She knocked softly on the open door and placed the file in Vicki’s hands, trying not scowl. She was not happy at this magazine and felt like she was treated poorly. The owner of the company, Victoria Allen, came up with the idea for the magazine while flipping through some of the more popular mags and pointing out the stick figures to a friend. In the middle of line at the grocery store she literally had a million dollar idea without even trying. She started it at home as an e-zine/blog where she featured only girls with curves.
Leila had followed the blog for some time and was inspired by what she read. She applied for the job and lo and behold she got it. It wasn’t everything she had hoped it to be because “Vicki” as she liked to be called, was kind of....well...a bitch, for lack of a better term. Leila always just took whatever crap was handed to her and polished it into a gem, but she was tired of being pushed around by both Gloria and Ms. Allen. Gloria was disorganized and often blamed Leila for any faults their boss found in her job.
Gloria was flighty and nervous, but devious and bossy. She acted entitled, like she was superior to Leila, when in fact she couldn’t even do her damn job correctly. Leila was about to open her mouth to tell Victoria exactly where she could shove the job when she was interrupted by Skype’s annoying incoming call tone.
Her boss looked up in annoyance, her loose honey-brown curls falling across one shoulder as she waved Leila away with one hand, “You may go.”
Leila shut her mouth quickly, swallowing her anger and once again losing her nerve to stand up for herself once and for all. Her face was aflame as she spun on her heel as she closed the door behind her.
“Coward,” she whispered to herself. This always happened. Just as she was about to say something profound, something intervened. It was like fate was against her or something. The interruption itself always varied, but the result was still the same because it made her back down. For the next hour or so she tried to bury herself in work, time flying as she made an effort to actually not get down on herself. She had a very bad habit of beating herself up and taking other people’s criticisms to heart. Deep down she knew she didn’t deserve it, but it was like it was her default reaction to just lie down while she was being kicked.When her cell phone rang it shook her out of her reminiscence and brought her back to reality.
Sighing, she nearly answered the phone with, “Thank you for calling Curvy Girl magazine, this is Leila, how may I be of service?” but caught herself in time, instead saying hello. She didn’t recognize the number caller ID. The person on the other line didn’t answer right away, which made her think that they didn’t hear her or that maybe the connection was bad.
She was just about to repeat her greeting when the caller coughed softly before responding, “Hello Leila, how are you today?”
His voice was hesitant and slightly off pitch, but she would recognize it anywhere. In her dreams she had never heard him speak before, but since they had first spoke, she could never forget it. Even after she had texted him back last night, she wanted to talk to him, to hear voice, but knew that she probably wouldn’t get to bed until early in the morning and she had to work. There’s so much she wanted to know about him. She had imagined countless conversations with him after their last encounter. Once again it was as if fate stepped in bringing him to her. Being the shy person she was, she couldn’t seem to respond fast enough. He tongue felt heavy when she tried to answer him.
All she could manage was, “Hi…” She hated how her voice squeaked out when she was nervous.
Recovering quickly she managed to sound more composed when she spoke again, “It’s weird...I was just thinking about you before work.” She winced at the sound of her own voice and the near-desperate quality it possessed, her eyes shutting tight.
What if he saw through her facade and realized that she was just a quaking bundle of nerves? She could sense him smile through the phone and immediately imagined him flashing his teeth at her in that sexy way. Opening her eyes, she half-hoped he would appear in front of her suddenly. She sensed his trepidation when he spoke, like he was nervous too.
“I wanted to see what you were doing today. I thought maybe you would be able to go to dinner with me this evening.” He seemed to speak the words carefully, as if trying not to scare her off. She bit her lip, trying to mask her happiness even as her traitorous heart started to race at the thought of him thinking about her.
“Uhhhh….I uh…would love to talk about it, but I’m kind of busy at work right now. How about Antonio’s at 8:30? I should be done by then” she cleared her throat once more, caught off guard. Smiling, she felt her defenses waning as the ice in her heart melted nearly instantaneously.
“Sparks! I need you in my office now and don’t dawdle,” Victoria’s clipped voice rang through the intercom.
Leila ground her teeth together before answering, annoyed, “Yes ma’am I’ll be right there…” It was only after she heard the click that signalled the connection was broken that she chose to address Nikoli again, “I’m so sorry, but I have to go. I’ll text you later about dinner okay?” she said in a rushed voice, trying to hurry, but at the same time not wanting to end the conversation.
“Sure, I will….text you later on regarding dinner plans. Have a good rest of the day.”
“You too! Thanks!”
Leila said a quick goodbye before pushing up from her desk. ‘That woman has the worst timing in the world!’ her inner voice chimed. Seriously though, what could be so important that it couldn’t wait a second? Exhaling a shaky breath, she tried to steady herself before knocking on the closed door.
“Come in,” came the reply, her accent thicker than usual. Leila came in, closing the door behind her. She tried not to wring her hands while she waited for Victoria to look up from her computer and acknowledge she was there. Finally, her boss turned away from the screen and crossed her legs before turning the chair to face Leila.
“Sit down. We have something to discuss.” The only coherent thought Leila could form before complying was, Oh God…I am so fired.