Reader Review Aditya Narla

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The Wedding Issue – Chapter Five

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Chapter Five

~ My Personal Apollo ~

 

I sat crossed-legged on my black, leather chair and stared at the sun dipping into the horizon. It hid shyly behind the skyscrapers, but that didn’t stop it from being just as fiery as it would’ve been at noon. The remaining sun rays reached out like tendrils of hope trying to latch on to the fading blue sky. It was promising the looming night sky that the light would soon pierce through the darkness at the beginning of every waking breath.

I sat and I pondered about this huge change coming my way. I built my company from scratch; it was the only love that was constant in my life. I had catered to this dream for as long as I can remember until it was finally a reality. I participated in every Writing Competition and Poetry Reading, and was the Senior Editor of my school’s paper for two years in a row and before that I wrote practically every major article the school has ever witnessed. I even clawed my way into getting the Poynter Fellowship in Journalism to get into Yale. I aced all my classes and graduated with a stellar 4.0 grade point average. With all that, every decision I make towards the magazine not only affects me, but affects everyone that reads it. It was too much of a responsibility that I gladly carried on my shoulders.

Deep down in my gut, I knew this wedding issue was the right thing to do. The sales will be through the roof. It was a smart business move indeed. But I couldn’t help but feel it was the beginning of some major changes heading my way. I couldn’t quite decide yet whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. However, I knew for sure that I hated the fact that I’ll just have to wait and see how this entire thing unfolds. I was more of the star act type, but now I was simply another umpire.

For the first time in a long time, instead of taking matter into my own hands, I was merely a spectator. I was way out of my comfort zone.

‘You could never quiet that mind of yours now, could you?’, a familiar voice pierced through my thoughts.

I hadn’t realized that the sun had already set and all I could see where the twinkling window lights of the skyscrapers. I turned around to see the man who startled me. He was one of the best dressed men in Manhattan, and his Balmain suit proved that. He looked incredibly young for a fifty-six year old, but then again he was in perfect health. His clean shave and silvery, white hair only added to his appeal.

‘Well, I guess old habits die hard’, I played along. I got up and made my way to him. I was only too happy that he decided to drop by today. For many years, he was the only man to ever protect my heart. He still holds the title to this very day.

‘I’ve missed you, daddy’, I hugged him as tight as I could. I may be tough. I may be a bitch sometimes, as Monica likes to put it. I may not give a damn and occasionally disregard others’ feelings. But with my dad, I was a twelve-year-old with freckles on her face and a sophisticated French braid.

‘You seem troubled, kid. Is everything alright?’, he asked as I broke our embrace.

I looked into his catty-green eyes that were a mirror image of mine. There was so much wisdom in there, but not the type that dulled that beautiful twinkle in his eyes. After all he’s been through; after what my mother put him through, and after what life threw at him after that, I admired him for standing tall and proud and ready to take on any adventure. Sometimes I wonder if he wasn’t so kept together, would I have managed to be the way I am today. I got most of my strength from him.

I decided I didn’t want to bore him with office-talk.

‘Work stuff’, I shrugged it off.

‘Humor me’, he insisted.

‘You know what? I don’t think I have enough alcohol in my system for that conversation. How about we go have some drinks at The Plaza?’, I suggested.

‘That’s a fabulous idea’, he said as he took my arm in his.

‘You know you shouldn’t be working so late’, he chastised.

‘I wasn’t working, I was simply enjoying the view’, I half-lied. ‘You always had a thing for heights.’

‘I have a thing for a lot of things, dad. It’s kind of my specialty’, I joked around with him.

Suddenly, it felt so easy to relax and exhale for a change.

We walked to the elevator before I remembered that I forgot my purse in my office. I hurried back to get it. As I grabbed my purse, I noticed that Madison had left me a couple of sticky notes on my table. They all read that I needed to call my mother back. Just like before, I crumbled them and threw them in the bin, silently praying that she got the message loud and clear; I wanted nothing to do with her tonight – or any night for that matter.

I caught up with my dad and we made our way to The Plaza. We’ve been awfully quiet for the entire ride. Even Benji couldn’t fill the empty silence with his witty jokes. I guess we all had our fair share of baggage tonight, and unloading them in a moving vehicle didn’t seem like such a fun idea. As a rescue attempt, Benji played some relaxing music in the background to try and lighten up the mood. It worked beautifully.

My dad never pushed me to speak. It was one of the things I admired about him. He never goes to you, but he makes sure you always came to him. It was a trick he used in both business deals and family bonding.

After a couple of Appletinis, I was ready to spill the beans. He listened intently and with no interruptions. I spoke as clearly as I possibly could and left nothing to chance.

‘You see what I mean?’

‘I understand your concerns, but I see nothing troubling enough to get you overboard’, he said after a moment’s thought.

He was right. I knew he was right. But I had a bad habit of over analyzing every move I make. It was both a blessing and a curse.

‘If anything, it’s a step forward. You’re evolving as a person and most importantly as a businesswoman. You can never go wrong with that’, he added to soothe my misled thought.

I smiled at him warmly. He always knew how to make me feel better.

‘So, how’s Adaline?’, I asked, abruptly changing the subject so I don’t dwell back to my miseries.

Adaline was my sister from the same mister but a different mother. My father remarried again after a terribly long time getting over my mother to the sweetheart Amanda. She restored his faith in humanity, and most importantly in love. But tragedy seemed to follow my dad like the plague, and he soon lost his beloved Amanda to breast cancer.

But before Amanda left us, she left behind the sweet and sensitive Adaline who was the spitting image of her mother. Her features were soft and romantic, and she had the perfect curly brown hair and hazel eyes to match her bubbly nature. Adaline was shy but outgoing when she wanted to be. She kept mostly to herself; she wasn’t the typical out-of-control, rebellious teenager. There was a whopping fifteen years age difference between us, but despite that we were very close. She just graduated high-school and was looking forward to joining Juilliard next fall where she can evolve her musical, otherworldly talent. Adaline’s an incredibly gifted modern-day violinist. Her music could bring your soul to life, even if you are rooted in the deepest realms of hell, in the most passionate and sensual of ways. I’ve witnessed her put almost an entire room into a musical trance, and most of the audience left the concert hall feeling euphoric.

To put it in simple words; she was brilliant!

‘She’s getting ready to move out and get her own place. I’m going to miss having her around. I don’t know how I’ll do without her blueberry pancakes!’

‘Henry? Henry Fernandez?’, a woman sitting at the bar called out to my dad, halting whatever reply I had ready. She was a haughty brunette, about my dad’s age, and dressed into the most bosom accentuating, but not in a slutty way, red dress I have ever seen. She actually seemed pretty hot for her age. I had to mentally salute her for looking this good.

‘An old flame?’, I teased him as I swallowed the last bit of my Appletini.

‘A pretty good-looking one, if I may add’, he said, winked at me and made his way to her.

‘Selena, darling. It’s been ages’, he said then kissed her on the cheek.

She was only too flattered by his gesture. I couldn’t really blame her. My dad was as smooth as they can get. After all he’s been through, I could almost envy him for still being such a hopeless romantic. I looked at them as they flirted and laughed. They seemed like they were having a good time. They were allowing themselves to be vulnerable around each other. It was something I couldn’t quite grasp.

A strange, foreign phenomenon that I couldn’t wrap my mind around. Choosing to let your guard down and bare your soul to another human being who is simultaneously judging you and labeling you with a wide vocabulary of adjectives just seemed inexplicable to me.

He’s too smart.

He’s so sexy.

Oh, what a funny man!

But, oh he’s too tall for me.

Does he have to articulate every syllable?

What a boring conversation!

And it never ends from there. You allow yourself to be judged, ridiculed, adored, loathed, admired and stepped on all in the name of falling in love.

Love; it was a stranger to me. It made sure never to cross my path. I wouldn’t know what to do with such a fragile, delicate feeling. I wouldn’t know, because I can never allow myself to be that vulnerable. It didn’t seem like a smart thing to do. I mean, sure I enjoy the occasional love-making session as much as the next girl, but it doesn’t grow beyond that. I don’t expect a call the next morning, and when I do get a call I manage to tell them politely that there was no need to bother with me again. It was a fun night, thank you and goodbye.

And it’s not like I didn’t have my fair share of crushes, but they just seemed to make more sense in my head than to act on them in real life. I was only going to end up disappointed and with a broken heart. Why put myself through all this drama if I already knew the outcome? Apparently my dad had a different idea about love altogether, because he never seemed to get enough of it. Nothing says let me try harder at this game of love like a failed marriage and a dead wife. My father took the meaning of brave-heart to a whole new level.

I left my dad a note on a napkin letting him know that I’ll be heading home. I asked the waiter to give it to him as I made my way out of the hotel. I would’ve given it to him myself, but I knew he’d feel too guilty about me leaving and would end up leaving Selena drink by herself. A woman never lets another woman drink by herself, not when she’s clearly falling in love.

When I hopped into the Merc and Benji asked where I was going, I was about to tell him to drop me home, but I suddenly felt like I missed my half-sister, so I asked him to take me to my dad’s place instead. Traffic was light this time of day so it was smooth sailing and a quiet ride. I promised Benji I wouldn’t take long with Adaline because he looked beat. He assured me that he would take a power nap while waiting for me.

My dad wasn’t kidding when he said Adaline was ready to move out. There were boxes lined all over the duplex apartment and they were labeled with all kinds of labels; books, clothes, music sheets. It was a good thing that my dad seemed to be hooking up with Selena because there was going to be so much room left in the apartment once Adaline is gone.

There were rustling sounds in the second floor; it sounded like that she had more stuff to pack. I popped open a bottle of red, poured myself a glass and marched upstairs to meet my sister. Her room was literally flipped upside down and her closet seemed like it exploded. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the disaster before my eyes, and that’s when she took notice of me.

‘Hey, when did you get in?’, she turned around and asked.

She was juggling a number of scarves and pashminas on my arms and neck. I couldn’t hide the amusement from my eyes.

‘About five minutes ago. Wow. You’re taking this whole moving out thing pretty seriously’, I tried to sound serious, but my sarcastic tone failed me.

‘I never knew just how much stuff I owned until now. I’d like to give some of my things away to charity. I didn’t realize I was such a hoarder’, she complained with a terrified look on her face.

Her words made me smile a little more. She had such a kind heart and she was as innocent as a child. It was almost refreshing to see someone not tattered by the ills and woes of life. I mean, she was only eighteen, she hasn’t really seen much, but she certainly had more grace about her than I ever had her age. When I was eighteen, even though I was what some would call wise-for-her-age, I didn’t exactly have an optimistic attitude towards life like she does. I was more of a realist, setting the optimistic side of myself aside. Life disappointed me way too much to let the optimist in me out again.

‘You know you don’t have to pack all this stuff on your own, right? There are people you could call you could do that’, I tried to keep my tone as light as possible.

‘I know, and maybe I should. I just wanted to experience the whole moving out process on my own, you know. Get the feel of it’, she said as she stacked some of the scarves on one box and the rest in another.

‘I guess that’s okay’, I said as I found a free spot on her queen-sized bed and settled on it.

I sipped on my wine as I watched her work. I’d offer to help but she clearly had a system going on that I didn’t want to mess with. I simply enjoyed the small talk as I watched her work.

‘So you didn’t tell me where are you moving to?’, I asked as I studied the embroidery details of a shirt that was on the bed that I thought looked interesting.

‘I found a place in Avalon Fort Greene’, she said after a few moments too long.

I squinted my eyes at her. She seemed nervous as she spoke the words. She wasn’t good at playing it cool when she had something she didn’t want to particularly share.

‘Avalon Fort Greene? Haven’t heard of such a place in the Upper West Side. Where is it exactly?’, I sounded a little too inquisitive, scaring her a little.

She swallowed hard as she was folding a pashmina, afraid to meet my eyes. Her curly hair fell on her cheek; she was clearly trying to avoid confrontation.

‘It’s not exactly in the Upper West Side’, she said hesitantly.

‘Then where?’, I asked as I sipped on more wine.

‘Brooklyn.’

I almost spit the wine and chocked a little as I tried to swallow it. She handed me a tissue, but kept a safe distance from me from fright. After I gained my composure I looked at her with wild eyes and she winced at the hostile stare.

‘Brooklyn? Have you lost your mind? Do you have like a death wish or something?’, I tried hard not to keep my volume in check.

‘No’, she mumbled, refusing to meet my eyes again.

‘Does dad know about this?’

‘No, I haven’t told him yet. But I figured that once he sees me settled in and that I’m in a friendly and safe neighborhood, he wouldn’t mind the Brooklyn part’, she tried to sound confident, and somehow succeeded.

‘He won’t allow it. Heck, I won’t allow it. In fact, I forbid it. You’re not allowed to live anywhere other than…’, I started ranting before she cute me of.

‘Genevieve, calm down! You can come and see the place for yourself. It’s homey and cozy and my roommates and I certainly love it. So you could either get on board or at least try and be supportive because my mind is made up about this and I am definitely going.’

If I wasn’t so proud at the way she stood up for herself, I would’ve definitely given her a lesson or two on how to treat her elders. I’ve never seen her so dead-set about anything in her life the way she was now. Other than her music, she didn’t really care for much. Moving out of here was a bigger deal to her than I thought. I decided I wanted to reach the bottom of this.

‘But why Brooklyn?’, I tried a gentler approach.

‘Why not?’, she shrugged as she continued her packing.

‘Where do you want me to begin?’, I asked sarcastically.

She slummed her shoulders in defeat and turned around to face me. We were sisters, so obviously we shared each other’s stubbornness and debating skills. If she wanted to try to win me over, she would have to take a more logical approach. From the resolved look in her eyes, she seemed to have come up with the same conclusion. She emptied a spot next to me and sat down to face.

‘First of all, I think the change of scenery will be good for me. If I want my music to evolve, I have to evolve as a person. And part of that is cutting myself off from the lavish, glamorous life I lead here. I’m not complaining, I just don’t want people doing things for me all the time. That’s not how my momma raised me’, she said confidently.

Adaline was far from spoiled, unlike me who had people doing things for me all the time. I wanted to tell her that she was fortunate that way and she should feel blessed that she was better-off than others. But I guess I couldn’t argue with the goodness of her nature. It made me kind of sad that there weren’t a lot of people like her in the world.

‘Alright. I’ll give you that’, I admitted my defeat.

‘And second of all’, she continued. ‘All my “artistic” friends are from Brooklyn. I’ll be around some really talented people all the time and we could influence each other. Besides, there’s this really cute guy who lives next-door that I really like. He’s also a musician. He plays the piano. He’s really good with his hands’, her voice ended up sounding dreamy at that last part.

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Adaline, to my misfortune, was technically still a teenager and was all psyched up about finding love. If it wasn’t already obvious, I’m clearly the ugly duckling of the family. First dad and Selena, now Adaline and her boy-next-door, it was too much romance for me to handle in a day. I decided it was time for me to leave my sister finish her late night packing.

‘I hope that that’s not the only reason you took that apartment. I’ll have someone look at it and make sure it’s up to code’, I told her affirmatively.

‘Gen’, he started to protest.

‘Hey, if you want me on board with the whole Brooklyn thing, you won’t have a problem with a little inspection.’

‘Fine’, she said as she slouched.

I got on my feet, feeling a little dizzy from the wine, and gestured for her to help me out. She saw me to the car and promised to call me if she needed any help.

‘What’s his name?’, I asked before I went into the car.

‘Who?’, she asked, at sixes and sevens.

‘That musician guy living next to you. What’s his name?’

‘Win’, she finally said after a moment of shock,

‘Win’, I mused. ‘What an unusual name!’

‘Alright sis, you need to sleep it off’, she said as she practically shoved me into the car.

‘I’d like to meet him one day’, I told her as I rolled the window.

‘Why? So you could scare him off?’, she sounded defensive and crossed her arms to confirm that.

‘No, no, no. I’m just looking out for you… sis. Besides, if this guy likes you back, he wouldn’t have a problem with a little confrontation with the older sister’, I managed to stifle a yawn and say.

‘I think Miss Genevieve has had a very long day and needs to rest’, Benji interfered to spare my sister the trouble of an argument.

She shot him a thankful glanced and hurried up to finish her packing.

‘Hey, what did you do that for?’, I asked, or at least I thought I asked, the world was slowly fading.

‘It’s never a good idea to come between young love, my dear’, I managed to hear him say before I drifted off to sleep.

The Wedding Issue – Chapter Four

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Chapter Four

~ Ring-a-Ling ~

 

It was almost lunchtime, and I was famished from walking around Manhattan all morning. I decided that I needed to have a big boy’s sandwich. Nothing could make this day better than a perfect Pinocchio sandwich from Alidoro’s.

Before I could complete that thought, my phone rang. It was my buddy, David. We’ve been best friends since high school. That bond lasted through college and here we are, in our late twenties, still goofy as ever.

‘What did your wife do this time?’, I asked sarcastically as I answered the phone.

‘She forgot to pack my lunch and I’m starving’, he grumbled like a six-year-old.

‘Why don’t you join me for a sandwich?’, I offered.

‘Where you headed?

‘Alidoro’s. It’s at 105 Sullivan Street between Spring and Prince Streets in SoHo.’

‘Alright. See you in thirty’, he said then hung up.

I took a cab and headed there myself. I couldn’t quit staring at the pictures of Madison’s boss. I took pictures of at least two dozen working women, but none were as fascinating as her. I zoomed in, trying to see her face, but it wasn’t as clear as I’d hoped. Maybe after I developed them I could get a better look at it.

On the bright side, I finally found a theme for my exhibit: Women on Top – pun totally intended.

I’ve had numerous exhibits with numerous themes, but none were as exciting as this one. None were as exciting as her.

And I had no idea why!

And it’s not like one of those moments when you imagine sexual scenarios with a woman a couple of times and then get bored of her and delete all those images from your head. No, she actually intrigued me in ways I didn’t think possible.

Who was this woman?

I finally reached my destination and met David. He grew huskier by the second, and he looked like he hadn’t slept for days.

‘Wow! Who died?’, I made fun of him.

‘We’ll talk about that later. I’m starving. What’s this Geppetto sandwich that you always brag about?’, he asked while we stood in the queue.

I chuckled.

‘It’s called the Pinocchio. It’s the most delicious sandwich ever made by man. It has prosciutto, sopressata, fresh mozzarella, sweet roasted peppers and olive paste. Drooling yet?’

He swallowed his saliva. He clearly was starving. I couldn’t help but laugh at his reaction.

‘You’ve got the taste buds of an Italian Nonna’, he teased.

‘It’s kind of a given when your mother’s Italian.’

We ordered our lunch sandwiches and sat outside to eat them and enjoy the afternoon summer breeze. A queue formed and dispersed while we sat and reminisced about the good old days.

We were adults now. We clearly didn’t know how to adult.

‘Why are you so tired, man?’, I asked him after a few laughs.

‘Veronica and I are trying to conceive. We do it at least twice every night as long as she’s ovulating, and it leaves me drained’, he complained.

‘I think you’re the first man ever to complain about having too much sex’, I said as I took a long sip of iced tea.

‘You would if your boss dragged you to work early in the morning to finish your stupid project.’

David is an architect, and he’s a pretty good one too. Every major firm in the city throw offer letters at his doorsteps like the morning paper. He was also very moody and indecisive. That’s why firms withdraw their offers with a blink of an eye.

‘Luckily, I am my own boss’, I teased him.

He gave me the finger and I almost chocked on my iced tea.

‘Did you decide what pictures you’ll be using for your exhibition yet?’, he asked, trying to change the focus from him to me.

I took out my camera and showed him the pictures. He had a great eye for detail, just like me. I knew he’d see what I wanted to tell through these pictures.

‘Manhattan is packed with fine ladies’, he mused.

I couldn’t help but smile.

‘Women on Top; that’s the theme I’m going for’, I explained.

He went through the pictures again. I could tell he was enjoying the view. A lot.

‘Isn’t that Claire’s twin?’, he asked as he paused at my favorite set of pictures.

‘Yeah. I followed her around today’, I explained.

‘Twin fever, nice’, he complimented.

‘It’s not like that, you jerk. Following her around gave me the idea for my exhibit’, my heart started racing as I said those words.

‘Who’s the blonde she’s talking to?’, he asked, intrigue evident in his voice.

‘Her boss.’

‘What was that?’, he asked with shock.

‘What was what?’, I clearly wasn’t following him.

‘That sigh you made when you said “her boss”’, his tone was almost accusatory.

‘What sigh? There was no sigh’, I was being way too defensive.

He looked at me for a moment; trying to read my face.

‘Are you into this chick? What about Claire?’

‘You’re talking crazy, man. It was just a great shot, that’s all’, I tried to remain as poker faced as I possibly could.

I felt like my face was on fire however, and I couldn’t shake the image of her petite waist off my head.

‘Nah, I don’t buy it. There’s something about this blonde that’s getting you all worked up’, he finally said after a long pause.

He was right, but I was too much of a coward to admit it.

‘I don’t even know her. For all I know, she could be married or engaged or in a relationship or something.’

‘Because that will clearly stop you’, he said, alluding to the fact that Claire and I are engaged.

Before I could come up with a witty comeback, my phone rang.

Saved by the bell!

It was Madison. We shared our hellos. She sounded way too worked up and emotional.

‘Is everything alright?’, I asked her, concerned.

‘I need a huge favor. I know this is too much to ask for with your exhibition and wedding coming up, but I’m begging you to find a way’, she rambled.

‘Alright, alright. Slow down. Let me know what it is and I’ll see what I can do’, I tried to calm her down.

‘My boss just sent our photographer on vacation and we have to reshoot an entire issue’s worth of pictures, and I sort of told her you’ll be willing to do it’, she said.

I put down the phone and stared at it in disbelief. It felt like one of those funny camera moments where someone is going to jump up out of nowhere and laugh at me. There was no way this was real.

‘Killian, are you there?’, Madison’s voice came through the speaker.

I picked up the phone and placed it on my ear again. I was still waiting for her to laugh at me.

‘Killian?’

‘I’m here’, I said, sounding like I just saw a ghost.

‘Would you please do it? I will owe you my life. Please, Killian’, she begged some more.

A chance to meet the woman who was the inspiration behind the theme for my exhibition? It was too good to be true. I should be jumping at the opportunity but I was too stunned to respond. David had to snap his fingers at me to snap me back to reality. Or was it a dream? Did I doze off in the cab?

‘Alright’, I finally said after what seemed to be an interminable pause.

‘Really?’, she practically jumped out the phone.

‘Yeah, I’ll do it’, I confirmed, still too shocked to absorb what was happening.

‘Thank you so much, Killian. Come to the office at nine tomorrow morning. She wants to meet you first. Oh, and get your portfolio’, she said.

But I could barely make out a word she said. I was too spaced out in my own world to notice anything around me.

‘I’ll see you later’, I finally said then hung up.

‘What was that about?’, David asked with a frown.

I stared at him blankly. I wasn’t quite sure what to say. In fact, I had no idea how to make sense of it myself.

‘It was Madison. She called to change my life’, I finally admitted.

Talk about perfect timing.

The Wedding Issue – Chapter Three

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Chapter Three

~ The Voice of Reason aka Monica ~

 

‘Wow! The veins on your forehead really pop up when you’re pissed’, Monica said as we entered my office.

I stormed out of the meeting room with a cloud of rage following me after her incredibly stupid suggestion. If there was one thing I ever wanted to leave behind as my legacy, it would be an advice to women to NEVER get married. No good has ever come out of it. I could not think of one functional relationship that has lasted a lifetime. Unless you’re living in an Enchanted Forest and you’re marrying Prince Charming, that marriage is a death sentence.

‘Are you trying to give me an aneurism?’, I said between gritted teeth.

‘Yes, that is exactly what I’m trying to do’, she said sarcastically.

‘This isn’t funny, Monica. You made me look like shit in front of my people’, I said with a tantrum.

‘Why? Because I suggested a wedding issue for a change?’

‘Yes!’

Did she not realize how insane that idea sounded?

‘Look, Genevieve, your whole obsession with independence and woman power and all that jazz, that’s great, but you’re missing the bigger picture. Every little girl dreams of her wedding day…’

Not every girl, I thought as I rolled my eyes.

‘… and I’ve received a lot of fan mail asking for wedding related topics. Don’t you think you owe it to your readers to grant them this one tiny, little wish’, she pleaded.

‘That sort of pathetic, crap talk may work on a baby, but not on me’, I said as I paced around the office.

A wedding issue? Ugh! There was no way in hell I would ever agree to that.

She sighed out of frustration.

‘You could be such a bitch sometimes’, Monica murmured as she rubbed her temples.

‘Excuse me?’, my voice raised a few octaves.

I had half the mind to grab my stapler and throw it at her.

‘I know that women all around New York worship you. You teach them how to be strong and take care of themselves, yada yada yada, and all that’s great, but you’d be a hypocrite if you don’t teach them that it’s okay to be vulnerable and to seek love and a happily ever after. Women may be leaders and warriors and survivors but they’re also lovers and wives and mothers.’

I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at her in disbelief. Did she not know me at all? I didn’t know if I felt angry or betrayed at this point.

‘I can’t tell them that’, I tried to reason with her.

‘Why not?’

I turned away from her and stood by the wall wide glass window. I stared at the beautiful city in front of me and I felt the beating hearts of every woman out there.

For some reason, I remembered the day my mother left my father. She yelled at him for falling into his cobweb. She regretted marrying him because their marriage was always loveless. She thought she was doing the right thing then because she was pregnant and had nowhere to go. My dad reminded her that no matter what he will always love her, but she still picked up her suitcase and walked away. They had no idea I was at the top of the staircase, and I heard every agonizing word coming out of her mouth.

I looked at the women walking around the streets of New York. I looked at the goddesses as they made their ways to weave their happiness.

Was Monica right? Am I really being a hypocrite for not wanting to teach women about love? Have I really fallen that far off the wagon?

‘Why not, Genevieve?’

I knew Monica wouldn’t shut up about it unless she got the answer she needed. I turned around to face her. I looked her square in the eye.

‘I can’t teach them something I don’t know’, I finally admitted.

‘What do you mean?’, she asked as she crossed her arms.

I needed to sit down for this. I was about to pour my heart out to my assistant who, over the years, has also become my best friend.

‘I don’t know what it’s like to fall in love or plan a wedding or want a marriage. I’ve never wanted those things. You know me. I’ve never had a relationship that lasted longer than a weekend.’

Monica looked at me for a moment. She was beginning to understand my point of view. She slowly nodded her head as she tried to process my words.

‘Every other article we publish; I know about because I’ve either tried it or been it. All I know is power and being in control. All I know is to never let a man dethrone me’, I went on, not quite sure who I was talking to.

‘Marriage isn’t about a man dethroning you. It’s about finding your equal; your soulmate, and wanting to cherish that bond for the rest of your life’, she said.

I couldn’t help but stare at her. If what she said was true, then why would two-thirds of marriages in the U.S. end up with divorce files. Why would my mother abandon the only man who was ever shown her the meaning of true love? Was she the one incapable of showing love? Every relationship she’s had after my father was abusive either mentally or physically. I made a vow to myself to never let a man do that to me, not as long as I had air in my lungs.

‘Do you really need to make that face?’, she chastised as she pulled me away from my reverie.

I hadn’t even realized I was making a face.

‘Okay. We’ll do it’, I finally said.

‘You serious?’, she couldn’t hide the surprise in her voice.

I couldn’t believe I said those words myself when I was so hell bent on not making this happen only a moment ago. A part of me wanted to see how this thing would play out. It could also be a strategic business move. Sales may actually increase if we go ahead with this idea, not that we have a sales issue to begin with. Besides, I’ve never seen Monica put her foot down so strongly about something related to our magazine. She may be on to something phenomenal.

‘If women need to know how to plan the perfect wedding, then that’s what we’ll teach them’, I managed to say through the acid in my mouth.

Monica was right about one thing. If I am all about what women are, then I should cover every aspect of what it is to be a woman. Sadly, part of that is the little girl inside of her who dreams of her day in white.

She was practically on her tippy-toes.

‘Only if you handle everything from now on’, I added the catch.

‘I’ll do it’, she said with no hesitation.

‘I’ll have to preapprove everything you decide on, obviously, but the main decisions are completely yours’, I added, not wanting to delegate everything to her altogether.

‘Femme’s first wedding issue! We’re making history’, she said out of disbelief.

How that sentence didn’t leave a sour taste in her mouth was beyond me. And after that, we can make the very first divorce issue, I thought sarcastically.

‘There’s just one problem’, she added.

Here we go!

‘What now?’

‘Massimo’s already done the shoot for this month’s issue and he’s now on vacation. We’re going to have to do a whole new shoot and we’re down a photographer’, she said.

‘We’ll just hire a wedding photographer’, I said.

Clearly this isn’t a big of an issue as she made it appear to be.

‘All the good ones will probably be booked by now, and those who aren’t free will cost us a fortune because it is, after all, the high season for weddings’, she expressed her worry.

‘Money isn’t an issue, Monica. Just find someone who’s fit for the job and who’s willing to do it on such short notice.’

‘I know someone who will be willing to do a new shoot for you’, said the annoying, unexpected voice of Madison Gilbert.

‘How long has she been standing there?’, I asked Monica.

‘She follows me around everywhere’, she said and shrugged.

‘It’s okay. I have a habit of being invisible’, Madison said as if to soothe the situation.

‘And annoying’, I muttered under my breath.

I can’t believe I just poured my heart out in front of this little pest. She better keep her mouse trap shut.

‘You said you know someone?’, Monica cut me off before I could give Madison a piece of my mind.

‘Yes. My sister’s fiancée. He’s really good. Of course, I’ll have to ask him first if he’ll be willing to do it, but I’m sure he won’t mind’, she said nervously as she adjusted her glasses.

That girl needed a gallon of self-confidence combined with a master class on fashion 101.

‘Great! Bring him in tomorrow’, Monica told her.

Madison nodded gleefully, and they both left my office.

I turned around in my comfy leather chair to face the window. I felt something that moment that I haven’t felt for a while; fear. I was making a very risky move and I could only hope for the best, and figure out a plan B for the worst. I balled up my fear and suppressed it deep into my soul for now. I can face my fears another day. I had to put on a brave face for now.

I turned around, fired my computer, and started reading up on weddings.

The Wedding Issue – Chapter Two

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Chapter Two

~ The Photographer ~

 

I wake up every morning, stare at the ceiling and wonder: What the fuck am I doing with my life? I felt like I was having a mid-life crisis, and I was barely twenty-eight.

And it’s not like I don’t have a lot going on for me at the moment. I’m engaged to the gorgeous Claire Gilbert; most guys would kill to get a girl like that. I met her when I was a senior in college and she was a freshman. Fresh high school graduates were so easy to score. I made her believe that I was the man of her dreams. Joke was on me; I ended up proposing two years later and we’ve been engaged ever since.

It was her idea to stay engaged until we both had stable jobs, and by that she meant herself, so that we wouldn’t hinder each other’s career lives. I was fine with it as long as she was fine with it. All of our relationship decisions were ultimately done by her. She was the one who weaved all the intricate details of this love story. A part of me still believed that she anticipated the proposal, despite her denying it every time I asked her.

I have the most amazing job in the world; I get to take pictures of everything that captures my attention. It was remarkable just how much you can see from the perfect angle. I fell in love with the trade when my parents took my sister and I, when we were barely teenagers, to an Art Gallery that displayed some of Luis Marden’s finest works. They thought of it as a way to add more culture into our little family. It worked brilliantly. I couldn’t stop staring and admiring his photographs; they were all about Jacques Cousteau and his underwater adventures. It made me feel like I was with them, in the moment, seeing what they saw then. I could almost hear them breathe through their oxygen masks and hear the bubbles pop as they reached the surface of the water. It was one of those moments of epiphany that you just know will change your life forever.

Getting to eternalize a beautiful scene on a glossy piece of paper or a wall-sized canvas was food to my soul ever since. I remember the first camera I got was the Contax N Digital, back when I was fourteen years old. It was the best Christmas present ever. I carried that thing around like it was the most precious of diamonds. I’ve been nicknamed “Cyclops” ever since. I’m never quite as happy as I am when I’m behind the camera lens. And the money isn’t that bad either. When you live in a city like New York, being a freelance photographer isn’t quite as challenging as one might think. It’s actually one of the highest paid jobs in the state.

Despite all that, I felt like there’s something missing. There’s this constant nagging sensation that there’s more to life than what I’ve got. It makes me wonder sometimes if I’m greedier than I let on, or I simply lack the feeling of gratitude. Whichever the reason was, it didn’t make me feel good about myself, not in the slightest sense. It didn’t make me come off as a decent person either.

Oh well!

I turned to the left and rested my head on my palm. Claire was sleeping peacefully by my side. She was perfect. She had everything a guy was looking for in a woman: great rack, a killer ass and a sexy personality. Her long blonde locks and almond shaped eyes only added to her appeal. My friends go green with envy when they see us together. She has turned me from a boy into a man, so I had to put a ring on her perfectly manicured finger.

But every time I looked at that ring, I wondered if I made the right choice.

I know, I know. This makes me sound like a complete and utter jackass, but everyone was entitled to getting cold-feet about life altering decisions.

Her eyes slowly started fluttering open, revealing the most beautiful hazel eyes that reminded me of a caramel sundae, and a smile drew on her face when she looked at me.

‘Are you watching me sleep?’, she asked in her sexy morning voice.

God, I loved her morning sexy voice.

‘You say that like it’s a bad thing.’

‘No, not bad. A little creepy, maybe, but not bad’, she said as she kissed me on the nose.

She got out of bed and made us her delicious, yet equally healthy, egg muffins. She had very strong views about staying healthy and I dared not to argue with her. I, on the other hand, strolled around our shoebox apartment aimlessly as I got dressed for our morning jog. There was nothing more refreshing than the sounds of the city.

Sweet, sweet bliss!

We didn’t go jogging at Central Park, because that was too mainstream. Instead, we circled around the neighboring blocks to get the real feel of Manhattan. On our way we’d greet the florist, baker and sweet old Mrs. Hannigan who always knew a little too much about everything.

We got back home, showered together then she got ready for work. She was a first-year lawyer at Hastings-Miller, and she had the wits and brains for it.

‘I’ll see you tonight’, she said as she kissed me and left for work.

The moment she was out of the door, I got into my sweatpants and favorite Ed Hardy t-shirt, grabbed my camera and went about exploring the city. It was a little too sunny for my liking, but the lighting was every photographer’s dream. Overall, it seemed like a lively day.

I’d snap pictures of random people, billboard signs, cars, the dizzyingly tall skyscrapers that lined New York… basically anything that tells a story from the perfect angle. I had an exhibition at the Burdois Art Gallery at the end of next month, and I still had no idea what pictures I’d be exhibiting. I wanted to capture New York the way I saw it with my naked eye. I haven’t been able to achieve that with my camera lens just yet. I was having a serious case of photographer-block. All I needed was one good shot to get my engines roaring and ignite the passionate flame that seemed to be dying down recently.

After about thirty minutes or so, I decided I needed more caffeine in my system. I walked around the corner to this antique coffee shop that I loved.

To my surprise, my future sister-in-law, Madison, was at the counter getting coffee.

‘Killian, what are you doing here?’, she was surprised to see me too.

‘Getting coffee, nerd’, I teased her.

Madison was the exact opposite of Claire. She was more conservative – the strictly bookish type with dark hair and accessorized with her dorky looking glasses. Claire, however, was a wild party animal who wasn’t ashamed to flaunt what she’s got. I don’t even know how those two were twins, or even related. Other than the fact that they were both smart beyond their years, they couldn’t be more polar opposites.

‘So, how’s the new job?’, I asked her after I ordered my coffee.

Madison started working as a personal assistant about a couple of months ago in this big, hotshot ladies’ magazine called “Femme”. She took it as an opportunity to jump-start her career in the world of journalism. She was a pretty good writer and had a lot of potential – she simply needed her lucky break.

She sighed heavily and frowned.

‘I’m not sure if I’ll have a job after today. Miss Fernandez’s assistant is coming back today from maternity leave. I bet she can’t wait to kick me out’, she explained.

She looked forlorn and seemed to have the weight of the world on her shoulders.

‘Come on! She can’t be that bad’, I tried to reason with her.

‘You clearly haven’t met the woman. She is like a modern day Athena. It’s her way or the high way’, she said with panic evident in her voice.

I couldn’t help but chuckle.

There was something so fascinating about the hierarchy of women and how they treated each other. It is a well-known fact that all men can agree upon; we may not fully understand women but we have them all figured out by the way they treat each other.

In a woman’s world, every other woman is a threat. Be it her mother, daughter, sister, best-friend, boss, assistant or anybody else; they always regard the other female as the “other woman”. Every woman is a bubble of insecurities and they just love popping each other up. It was a war; survival of the fittest, smartest and sexiest. No matter how much they try to deny it, we all know it’s true.

‘Glad my miseries amuse you’, Madison said, clearly annoyed at my chuckle.

‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude. But if it were me, I’d just go up to her and ask her if I still had a job or not’, I told her.

‘You really think so?’, she asked as she adjusted her glasses.

‘I do. If anything, she could actually admire your courage for being so blunt.’

I could tell she was thinking long and hard about my words. She stared blankly at the floor. She shifted her gaze at me as she made up her mind.

‘I have to go. If I’m late, she’ll definitely fire me’, she said as she bolted for the door.

I stared at the swaying door she left behind and, for some reason, my muses were urging me to follow her and start a new adventure. They pushed me really hard I almost stumbled upon my own feet. I knew better than to question my muses.

I knew Madison didn’t work far from here. I kept a safe distance between us, and snapped pictures of her hurrying to work and stumbling upon life’s hurdles. First, she struggled with some gum that was stuck in one of her heels. Then, a man on the bicycle nearly run her over if it weren’t for a falafel stand that steadied her. And to top it all off, she spilled about half the cup of coffee that she was supposed to deliver to her boss. She was really clumsy, and took almost forever to reach her destination.

She eventually stood by the door of yet another dizzyingly tall skyscraper, waiting for her boss. I stood behind a light pole so that she couldn’t see me. I snapped a couple of pictures of her while she waited. We would have a good laugh about this later. She kept on checking her watch every now and then before a shiny black Mercedes parked in front of her.

What came out the car was a jaw-dropping vision of beauty. The first thing I saw were those slender yet toned pale legs that fit perfectly into her fancy stilettos. Her waist was petite which gave her the perfect hourglass shape. She dressed in classic formal wear from head to toe, and for some reason I found that incredibly, astonishingly sexy. Her golden locks almost trapped the sunrays between them and seemed like that could flow for days although they were tied up in a fancy ponytail. Her eyes were covered by sunglasses, but I could tell her eyes were just as mesmerizing as the rest of her. She was tall and poised and intimidating. She had a presence about her that demanded respect. She was at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of women.

I think I just had a tiny orgasm.

I couldn’t help but snap a dozen pictures or so of her as she scolded Madison for some reason. She walked into the building with grace and confidence – and I could see her no more.

I looked at the pictures on my camera over and over again. For the first time in a while, I felt the tinge of excitement I felt every time I snapped a picture of something incredible. It was almost too good to be true. I finally found what I was looking for; I captured New York.

The Wedding Issue – Chapter One

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Chapter One

~ The Editor in Chief ~

 

The early morning rays managed to seep through the scattered clouds and make their way to the wall-sized window of my bedroom. Waking up to such a view is one of the reasons why I decided to live in a penthouse, especially when the view incorporates the beautiful city of New-York and all its skyscrapers. That, and literally being on top of the world, is how I begin my mornings. Beyond the wits and the intelligence, I was still a dreamer, not that I would ever let it show. In today’s world, it was better to be bossy, thirty-something-year-old, independent woman than a dreamy-eyed, hope-filled adult who lives in her own bubble of serenity. That part of me I always left behind on the bed because she was too damned innocent to face this harsh, prejudicial world.

I wake up at five-thirty every morning, and after I’ve enjoyed the breathtaking sunrise, I slip into my tights and sweatshirt, grab my phone and earphones and go for my morning jog at Central Park. I enjoy starting my day that way because it resonates the idea in my head that there is always room for improvement. Life is a race and I’m on my way to being the best version of myself I could possibly be. No one can hinder me or stop me. I am an unstoppable force and I will come with a monumental blow. And being in good-shape is an added perk.

I also enjoy the fact that I could people-watch without seeming like a complete freak. Human interaction is something that deeply fascinates me; especially the way men and women treat each other. Central Park had a lot of early joggers, both sexes, and it was the perfect way to get your daily dose of sexual tension, couple drama and of people trying to convince themselves that they still “got it”. A modern Shakespearean tragedy.

Almost everyone in the park was running to the same beat, and they came in different shapes and sizes too. There were dog walkers, body builders, models with their compulsively horny trainers, yoga instructor with his class of cheating housewives, the creepy cellphone guy, the older gentleman and his barely out of high school gal pal. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. I couldn’t quite comprehend why men and women would subject themselves to such situations so early on in the morning. It’s like they need that boost of confidence to cradle their senseless insecurities.

Well, the women used this jog to soothe their insecurities. Men just enjoy the view. Baywatch has turned into Parkwatch with beautiful ladies flaunting all they’ve got and gentlemen drooling all over the view, and they weren’t even trying to be subtle about it. A guy actually stared me down while he was running alongside another woman. Classic. And the perfect example as to why I lead a prosperous, single life. With chivalry, moral integrity, faithfulness and pure romancing dead, what was the point of being in a relationship anyway? And it’s not like I had any real-life idols to look up to when it comes to this matter. It seemed like nothing more than a cry for pain to me.

After that empowering morning jog, I showered and then made my way to my favorite part of my penthouse; my color coded closet. It’s like walking into a color-wheel with every shade in the spectrum. A kaleidoscope of colors, if you will. It also happens to be the biggest room in the house. It simply had to be.

I also arranged my attire and shoes in terms of event and time of day. It makes it so much easier to pick out what to wear, makes my closet look so much neater, and so, so pretty. Of all the closets in both the Upper East and West Sides, mine was award worthy. I could give Blaire Waldorf a run for her money.

I was feeling particularly classy this morning, so I went for the classic black pencil skirt and an off-white suit-shirt, tied my hair up in a casual semi-neat pony-tail, slipped into my favorite pair of Loubitons, grabbed my Michael Kors nude clutch and was off to work. That’s right; I’m a working girl.

‘Good morning, Benji’, I wished the driver as I stepped into the car.

Benji’s the most loyal human being I’ve ever met. No matter how much shit I get myself into, and God only knows the number of times, he’s always been there to drag me out of any unpleasant situation. He’s like the older brother I never had. He handed me my regular cinnamon spiced latte and cinnamon muffin and I thanked him with a warm smile.

Some people get their kicks from coffee, some chocolate, but I most definitely get mine from cinnamon. It’s the one spice that could go with anything savory or sweet, and went deliciously well with all my beverages. It was an addiction, and I felt no remorse.

‘You look quite chipper today’, he said as we were stuck somewhere in traffic.

I had asked him to play Michael Bublé’s version of Feeling Good, and I couldn’t help but sway in my seat and sing along a little bit.

“And this old world

Is a new world

And a bold world for me..”

‘Why wouldn’t I be?’

‘I wish my wife was half as optimistic as you. Her pregnancy hormones are really bringing out the worst in her’, he said between gritted teeth.

I couldn’t help but giggle.

Maria was a very sturdy and gruesome lady, unlike Benji who was nothing but a darling. I only met her on a number of social occasions where I invited Benji plus one, and had managed to keep the talk between us to almost nonexistent. Unlike Benji, who believes his wife was only gloomy when she was pregnant, I found her to be not only gloomy when not affected by hormones, but she was also incredibly and astonishingly dull. It baffles me how the two of them ended up married with triplets, who have clearly taken all their mother’s genes by the way. Above that, they were expecting another child soon. Hopefully, this one would be all Benji and no Maria.

“It’s a new dawn

It’s a new day

It’s a new life

It’s a new life for me

And I’m feeling… good”

‘Maybe I should give her a copy of your magazine’, he said as we reached our destination.

I began to tell Benji that there was nothing in my magazine that has covered hormonal, boring women, but I decided that it wasn’t wise to make him any more miserable than he already was.

‘That, my dear, is a great idea’, I winked at him as I exited the car.

I looked upon the skyscraper that housed the empire that I’ve built from scratch and couldn’t help but feel proud of myself.

I was excessively cocky for my own good.

I’m the Editor in Chief of New York’s leading female magazine, appropriately entitled “Femme”. My magazine is all about empowering women to rely on absolutely no one other than themselves to find true happiness and inner peace. I believe that every woman is a goddess and no man should ever be allowed to steal her thunder or pee around her to mark his territory. We are men’s equals, and damn it time and time again we shall prove it. I was taking my feminist beliefs to action with my magazine.

My reader’s worship me. All these women know that I lead them through the right path. I am the beacon of hope at the end of the long, dark, scary tunnel that is filled with testosterone. I am all about independency, and in the thirty plus years that I’ve lived, I have never been proven wrong… ever.

And then that moment of glee went down the gutters when I was greeted by Madison Gilbert; the most incompetent assistant I’ve ever had. She was replacing my actual assistant, Monica Green, who was on maternity leave. Even though her daughter was an absolute angel, I hated Monica for getting pregnant and leaving me with her sloppy seconds.

‘Here’s your coffee Miss Fernandez’, she said nervously as she handed me the Styrofoam cup.

I stopped dead in my tracks, took off my Ray Bans and stared bitterly into her luminous, hope-filled, hazel eyes. She swallowed hard.

‘Benji gets me coffee. You get me green tea with a cinnamon stick with no sugar. The drink is supposed to be in my regular red, polka-dot mug, not this health-hazard of a cup. Haven’t I made myself clear already?’, I managed to say in the calmest, angry tone I have ever been able to muster.

Monica was the one who hired Madison. Apparently she did it as a favor to one of her friends who knew Madison. I don’t know why I put up with her. A limping dog would do a better job than she ever could. She opened her mouth to respond but I was long gone before she could utter a peep. She hurriedly followed me as we went up my private escalator to the 53rd floor. The ride seemed to take forever, and Madison breathing loudly behind me made me want to gag her with the cup she so shamelessly tried to hand me.

The moment the doors opened, I got my first whiff of excitement of the day. My journalists, whom I gleefully liked to call my “dream weavers”, were all bustling around trying to get their articles ready for today’s meeting. It was such a beautiful rush to know that all the written miracles that were created in these offices started from a dream I had when I was just fifteen.

‘Your mother left you a couple of messages’, Madison said as she scurried behind me, disturbing my momentary moment of mirth.

‘I’ll call her back when I have time’, which was a lie because I never tried to make time for her.

I swung the door open to my office. The view behind my desk was that of breath-taking awe. The sky was only within arm’s reach, and its calm blue brought about the amazing feeling of serenity. People don’t usually think of calm blue skies when they think of New York. New York’s usually associated with rush hour, amusing Broadway shows and the bustling nightlife of Times Square. The real beauty of New York, however, was its beautiful skies and the attempts of the skyscrapers to graze its surface. The Empire State building stared at me square in the face and showed me that the higher you aim, the greater your achievements.

I remember my father taking me to the observation deck when I was just a little girl. Taking the elevator to the 86th floor seemed like such a dangerous and irrational idea.

‘What if we fall?’, I remember asking him.

I can’t remember what he told me then. All I could remember was the amazing view of New York and the buildings across the horizon took my breath away. I remember thinking then that I didn’t care if I fell. I will always rise high up into the sky like the skyscrapers before my eyes.

Madison was still standing by the door shifting her weight uneasily, as if waiting for something.

‘Yes?’, I asked, not really showing any interest.

‘Mrs. Green called and said she’ll be here around the time for the meeting’, she said very timidly.

I couldn’t wait for Monica to come back. She was my backbone. The past couple of months were a nightmare without her. Madison had a hard-time keeping up to pace with what Monica left behind, and I ended up doing most of the work myself while she got me all the wrong beverages.

‘Yes, I know’, I said and went about checking my e-mails.

But she was still standing there like a puppy waiting to be fed.

‘What?’, I asked, my temper flaring.

‘What happens to me when Mrs. Green comes back?’, she whispered as she adjusted her glasses.

I stared at her for a few moments before I answered. The smart choice was for me to let her go then and there. She was incompetent, clumsy and had a horrible sense of fashion. That cardigan with that plaid skirt and knee-length socks made her look like a 90’s school girl – and not the sexy, confident type. It made her look awkward and emphasized how unconfident she felt about herself. Didn’t she ever pick up one of my magazines? She worked in a building full of them for God’s sake. What a waste!

But I’d be going against everything I believe in if I fire her so early-on in her career. There could be some untapped potential in her that could go to waste, and I didn’t want to be the one to waste it. God knows this planet has had its fair share of wasted talent.

‘You’ll be helping Monica’, I finally said.

Her mouth dropped open and her eyes fluttered about a million times a minute.

‘Really?’, she asked, unable to hide her surprise.

‘Yes. You’ll be her minion. You’ll do exactly what she asks of you. Got it?’

I figured Monica could use a helping hand in case she had to leave out of the blue for the baby.

‘Yes, Miss Fernandez. Thank you so much’, she almost jumped off her shoes.

I showed complete indifference so she excused herself and was about to leave before I halted her.

‘And Madison, a word of advice, swipe the plaid skirt with a pencil skirt, and please, oh please, drop the socks.’

She looked down at her attire and frowned before she left my office; my safe haven.

I sorted through some e-mails and caught up on some phone calls for an hour or so before it was time for the meeting. I looked at the million notes that Madison wrote about calling my mother back, crumbled them in my palm and threw them in the bin. Why that woman even bothered with me, I could never seem to tell. She was a very annoying part of my life that I enjoyed keeping a distance from. Of all the things I had going on in my life, the last thing I needed was her negative energy clouding my good vibes.

I grabbed my phone and notepad, and headed to “Meeting Room A” were all the magic happened. I make it a habit to get all my dream weavers to take off their shoes, me included, to keep the positive energy flowing naturally through our bodies. I like to think that it makes us become more productive as a team.

I sat at the head of the table with about a dozen people or so waiting for me to commence. The chair to my right, however, was still empty. Monica was fashionably late.

‘Guess whose back bitches’, Monica’s quirky voice broke through the chatter in the room.

Everyone took turns to welcome her back while I sighed a sigh of relief. Things were finally going to go back to normal. My faith in the world was restored again. Madison followed her around like a shadow. I hope I don’t regret keeping her around.

She finally made it to my end of the table. I was more than happy to see her. She still had that glow about her even after she’s already given birth. Come to think of it, Monica was always known for being a ray of sunshine. She wasn’t your stereotypical, obnoxious personal assistant; she was a perky, lovely brunette that you simply couldn’t resist falling in love with at first sight.

‘Welcome back, mamma’, I said, teasingly.

‘I’ve missed you too’, she said and gave me a warm hug.

She smelled like baby powder. I was so glad she didn’t reek of any other unpleasant smell that is usually associated when one has a baby around. I silently thanked her.

‘Let’s get back to business, shall we?’, I said as we all took our seats.

‘Alright. Fashion, what’s new this summer?’

‘Swimsuits are taking a darker turn this summer with colors like black, purple and plum. I’m going to teach ladies how to match their skin tones and body types to these darker colors’, said Derek, Femme’s openly and proudly gay fashion guru.

I trust no one else when it comes to fashion advice.

‘And health, how do I fit into these swimsuits?’

‘Well, I’m glad you asked. I came up with the best cardio workouts you can do at home, with no equipment, and still get the beach babe bod. It’s suitable for working women, stay-at-home moms and they can do it at any place, at any time’, said Lilian, the health expert.

‘I’d love a copy of that. I still have some pregnancy weight I’d like to shed off’, Monica joked.

‘Monica, I’d kill to have your body. My wedding is in two weeks and I still have four more pounds to lose’, said Selma, the interior design columnist.

I almost snorted. I was allergic to weddings. I was allergic to the whole idea of marriage. I couldn’t quite understand monogamy and why coupledom was such a sought after notion in our times. It just seemed like the perfect way to set yourself up for a lifetime of disappointments and get seriously emotionally and mentally, and in some cases physically, hurt.

I started getting flashbacks of my parents fighting. I suppressed them as soon as they surfaced.

Monica stared at Selma for a while before she shifted her gaze to me. I could see the dials clicking in her head. She had an idea and she wouldn’t take no for an answer. I knew that look way too well. I knew that look because I taught her that look. I could only hope for the best and fear the worst.

‘We should do a wedding issue!’, she shrieked.

Her words hung in the air for a while before I managed to fully comprehend them.

‘What?’, I couldn’t believe those words actually came out of her mouth.

What was she thinking? She knew better than to blurt out stupid, nonsense like that. Her post-pregnancy hormones must be messing up with the chemistry of her brain or something. Monica was clearly losing her mind.

‘Come on! We’re a women’s magazine and we have never addressed this matter before’, she got on her feet excitedly.

I’ve been practicing my whole life to keep my emotions in check and use only my head to get through any situation. It’s the reason why I have the perfect resting bitch-face. But at this particular moment, I felt like every vein in my body was about to pop – no, explode. A couple of profound profanities coursed through my brain but I was gritting my teeth way too tight to manage to articulate any of them. I could only stare at her with disbelief. The traitor!

‘But it’s the beginning of summer. We always have the summer edition first’, Derek tried to reason with her, although I wished his argument was much resilient than that.

‘Summer is also the high season for weddings. It’s the perfect time of year to get married, and we should teach women how to do it right. We’ll be their guide to the perfect wedding!’

She addressed everyone in the room before she finally had the chance to look at me. The moment she saw the fury in my face her face went pale. She, of all people, should know better than to cross me this way. She, of all people, should know better than to hit all my buttons with her stupid, irrational ideas.

‘Over My Dead Body’, I stressed every syllable as I pressed my knuckles hard against the glass table and got on my heels.