Today was the day. I keep telling myself that every morning, but nothing ever happens. Nevertheless, today is the day. I, Billie Compton, will step up this competitive latter.
Working for a top notch magazine is one of the best things I could have ever scored in life. The magazine focuses on; events, facts, news, holidays, you name it. No fashion crap or advice columns. Lately we have been covering holiday stories about Halloween and Christmas and gah... I hate those. The only thing people are interested in is if they will get the day off or not. Know what I mean? Unless you're me. In which case it means you never really get a day off. Now, this spring people are excited to see the Valentine's day hit story, "Love, Action, Reaction," by Chase Fletcher. It feature one poor sucker(female) who will tell her story and Chase will "work his magic" to solve all her love related issues. This guy, he works at another magazine which features an advice column. According to most people, Chase is the love guru, but get this. He is not married nor has a girlfriend, so what gives? He should at least be dating, but the man couldn't be more single. If he were, he'd be alone on an island made only for him. One.
Love. A popular topic among society. I'm a journalist, so I have to show some interest in the matter, but a love topic is not for me. As a consequence I get stuck covering minor stories. The hope of one day being asked to cover a story bigger than "Baby Parrot Can Sing American Anthem," is still very much alive. In fact, it's kicking. Speaking of kicking. I wanted to do just that when Stan inturrupted my train of thought.
"Look alive, Billie." The hissing came from my partner Stan Appleton. The asshole has been working with me for two years and today was his last day. Something about spending more time with his family after years of too much work. The man was only sixty-five... Ok, I understand people usually retire at that age, but he was being cruel. Stan was very much appreciated, by me at least. This morning I woke up thinking I had forgotten to get him a cake for his birthday. I knew even he didn’t remember today was his birthday, so coming to work empty handed wouldn’t be such a big deal. Nevertheless, I drove my ass to the nearest Walmart and got him a cupcake from those six dollar containers and some cheap candles. The cupcake was chocolate with blue frosting and sprinkles. Stan lit up when I approached him with the small cupcake topped with a melting candle, which beard a weak flame nearly at death point.
. . .
"I can't believe you're leaving me." I told him while straightening up. He cracked a grin and pointed at the middle aged man just a few cubicles away who wore the title of boss way too proudly. I had no idea what I would do once Stan was gone for good, but for now I focused on the hall. The head honcho, the boss, the devil himself was heading our way with a group following close behind like a wagging tail on a dog. Morgan Jasper was ruthless and ruled in these offices with an iron fist. The man has class, no doubt, but could use a bit more sugar in his coffee every morning. I'll makes sure to make a note for Liz, his assistant. As he approached us, the entire office went silent.
I felt self-conscious of my appearance. My eyes looked left and right, glad no strands of brown were sticking out. I knew my orange lip gloss was in place and my white blouse was still ironed and tucked neatly into my black Capri pants. Just a few minutes ago I had been in the bathroom and the huge mirror taunted me, forcing me to look myself in the mirror. The brown eyes decorated with thin layers of eyeliner looked back at me, slightly almond shaped and averagely sized. My figure was kind of chubby, but still elegant enough to work with the clothes I wore. The gloss on my lips made them look a tad bigger than they already were and then there was my nose. Don’t even get me started. It was big. As I kid I used to be teased so much because it looked like Lilo's from that little kid’s show.
"Billie Compton." Morgan stopped at my cubical and I rose from my spinning chair, as did Stan. Only much slower. "Meet you're new partner." Morgan was all too delighted, and as soon as he stepped aside I saw why. Behind him was Chase freaking Fletcher. Morgan hated me. I'm sure of it now. Like any cliché, the notepad in my hands fell to the floor. The noise was loud, mostly because the rest of the office was so damn quiet. Every soul, even the ones by the door, heard the news and each held their breath collectively. Only when I got dizzy did I noticed I too was holding my breath. So, in a tiny gap I opened my mouth and sucked in some oxigen.
“Excuse me?” I didn’t mean to blurt out my words like a mentally ill person, but this seemed more like a joke rather than an attempt at replacing my perfectly capable partner. I glanced back at Stan, pleading for him to announce that he changed his mind, that he would stay. Nothing.
“Get to work. Love is in the air and our jars are empty.” Morgan trotted away, the band of followers at his heels. What he said made no sense to me and my words caught in my throat, more so when Chase stood in my line of view with a crooked, half smile that was a little too perfect for what I’m used to. He was handsome, don’t get me wrong, but he was also infatuated with all things romantic. We would kill each other! Or rather, I would kill him.
He was well dressed in a light grey suit and shiny, black dress shoes. The suit took every opportunity it could to show off his ripped form, especially when he lowered to grab my notepad. He adjusted his sleeves and cleared his throat while stretching the half bent notepad at me. His hair was slick and styled into a swift wave to the right. How can one man look so perfectly put together and still be single? I thought. He was waiting for me to react. His eyes were watching me, those brown eyes…
I cleared my throat and snatched the notepad by the binding. His face lit up with another crooked, half smile after I sat on my spinning chair and typed away at my computer. It wasn’t easy ignoring him with his eyes glued to my back, so I turned the slightest on the chair and pointed at the empty cubicle next to mine. He gave a simple nod still smiling and lowered himself on the chair.
“Well, I’ll leave you two kids to work.” Stan had already gathered his stuff in a box, which was hugged tightly against his chest. His cubicle was in front of mine and I was on my feet the second he stepped out of his space.
“I though today was your last day.” The panic in my voice was impossible to hide. Stan stood beside my cubicle and smiled at me with old, sympathetic eyes. It made me angry. I don’t need his pity. I need him to stay!
“Today was my last day, until your new partner arrived. He’s here, so I’m going to skedaddle.”
“You could have let me in on that little detail.” My hissing didn’t face Chase. He was already getting settled in his own space and looking like the world was his kingdom. If Stan left now, there was a good chance I was going to bitch slap the smile off Chase’s face. And there is no guarantee his eyes wont pop out along with it.
“Eh. I forgot. I can’t even remember my own birthday for Pete’s sake.” Stan gestured at the chocolate cupcake over the pile of paper work he had in the box. I shrugged and nodded. He had a good point, but he could have written a Post it. My ears warmed up, lips were dry, and I couldn’t shake the thought of stabbing Chase with my pen. Best writer my ass. Morgan didn't mean that, he just wants to see me squirm, and I was giving him the satisfaction.
“I will kill him, Stan. Do you want me to be covering my own homicide?” I whispered and the old man gave into a horse laugh that echoed throughout the office. I sat back down on my chair, seeing no victory in my future. Stan said his goodbyes and left me to fend for myself. I guess I was that one bird who never wanted to fly out of its nest.
Nature took its curse and it gave me no choice but to spread my wings. I was a stubborn bird though. I was ignoring him for a while, but it got a lot more difficult as I began to face the fact that we were supposed to work together. Chase turned towards me with a notepad of his own opened, pen ready to take notes.
“So how do you want to do this?”
"Excuse me?" There was too much excitement in his voice and I was not in the mood for up and peppy at this time of the morning. I hadn't even had my coffee yet. I was warned as a teen to lay off the caffeine because it was a nasty, expensive addiction. I never listened, but right now I needed enough of that stuff in my system to get me through a day with Chase.
Chase was always up and down the office, never resting because he was an energetic little fucker that way. Plus, the women here kept him going back and forth with questions and seeking advice as to how to please their men. For me? It seems like a desperate thing to do. You should know how to satisfy your own significant other without involving some self-righteous love guru.
"Billie? Is it? We should get to work." He caught my attention and forced me to lose control of my train of thought. I imagined it running out of track and dropping down more than a thousand feet. That's twice in one morning. If Chased pitched for a third the front page of tomorrow's news would be my picture holding my prisoner ID.
"I'm warning you. I don't like this Valentine's Day deal. It's not my scene, and it's not my style. I can't promise you I'll be very eager. How about we get it over with?"
"What? Do you hate the day? Or do you hate love in general because you went through a nasty breakup on that day?" He was attentive and his chair creaked when he leaned forward. His eyes focused on my reaction, making me feel like I was some sort of project. Also, he ignored my very good proposal. Prick.
"Don't guru me, Chase Fletcher. I'm not like the rest of the women in this place. I don't hate love, and I have nothing in particular against Valentine's Day. I'm just not interested in all this mushy bull-... stuff. Love is a distraction I can do without right now, not to mention it's pointless to fall in love. People turn into idiots and then seek comfort in people like you." That last part I said it to prove a point. That the guru bullshit was idiotic and silly to a 5th grade level.
"I see..." The wheels were turning in his head and the gleam in his eyes scared the crap out of me. There was a brief moment when everything went dead silent, as if the whole office was waiting for something to happen. It seemed today was International Day of Eavesdroping. Chase stood from his chair and it spun off back into the cubical. He made a big deal out of checking his watch while calculating. His next words terrified me.
"I have exactly a week, twelve hours, six minutes, and eight seconds to convince you that love is the most amazing thing in the world. I have that much time to convince you, Billie Compton, that love is not a distraction, but a necessity. I have that long to make you fall in love with the idea of falling in love." The enthusiasm in his voice was overwhelming. I had to give him credit though, most that sit through a conversation with me about why I'm not that into love just back off and don't even try. This guy didn't even let me give him my full opinion on love and he's already taking it upon himself to convince me that love is not as pathetic as it sounds.
I was expecting Chase to do something after his grand declaration, but he only sat back on his chair, turned on the computer and typed away. I did the same. We didn't speak for the rest of the day. When the last of the employees was gone, my computer screen went black. I grabbed my coat, bag and a few folders before turning to Chase. He was already looking at me, and a grin was well plastered across his lips. “Have a good night,” He mumbled, “and I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
. . .
When I got to my car I was glad it wasn't summer. I parked in the underground parking lot of my building and when I slipped into the driver's seat I noticed the remaining cupcakes on the passenger's. I would have been looking at a completely different sight if they had been under the sun all day. The folders in my hands now rested in a corner next to the cupcakes and I backed up. My car wasn't exactly a lemon, but it was pretty old with a smart system built in. I would never get rid of my 1969 maroon GTO. My dad gave it to me before I moved here to New York. It was my twenty-second birthday present. It used to be beat up, but dad is this master mechanic.
"Call Iris." I commanded and quickly I heard the ringing. I waited as it rang once, twice and at the third I heard my best friend's voice.
"Greetings! How may I help you, Miss Ultimate Success?" Her voice was full of peck and I could tell from the slight stuffy sound that she had her mouth full. Probably of those gummy bears she loved so much.
"Are you home? I'm starving and I have much to tell you."
"Yup. Food's ready and I fixed up a fresh pot of coffee."
"You're an angel. Give me ten minutes." And she hung up.
Iris Mckenzi. She and I lived right next to each other. We used to live in the same apartment, but after we both got settled we were ready to part ways. We didn't want to be too far apart in case we needed each other and a week after the apartment next to mine was vacant. We hurried to claim it and now we still divide everything between the two. One night she cooks, the next night I cook and so on. It was an amazing feeling to go against all odds and still be such close friends. Usually people fall apart, but we've managed to stay together even when we were an ocean away from each other. That was years a go back when we were teens. I lived in Philly and Iris was still stuck in the old tropical island we used to call home. By the time Iris turned twenty-two I drove off to the airport to pick her up. We've living here for three years now. It's not easy, but we get by.