“Tall iced coffee in a Grande cup with extra ice, 3 pumps hazelnut, 2 pumps classic, an inch of non-fat milk, with a dome lid and a Venti straw…. A um, triple Venti Sugar free, Non fat, No foam, extra caramel, with whip, caramel macchiato, and a Venti, fat free, sugar free, lactose free, double cafe mocha w/o whip, one shot of sugar free vanilla.” I spat out and the girl behind the counter just rolled her eyes at me when finally getting to the counter after waiting in line for ten minutes in the packed Starbucks.
It was my fourth run of the day for Starbucks, and I was in the middle of Soho now, waiting on Sookie to get out of yet another meeting. We’d gone from one to another – on the other side of town, back here for another hour as they discussed backless dresses of all things, and then it was to a showing at some gallery at four, just for Sookie and a few other ‘selected’ people. I truthfully had no idea what was going on, so the break away from the lofts full of clothes and starving models was a nice one, what wasn’t so nice was the incessant calls from Sookie every three seconds demanding that I hurry up. I ran a lot that day, and was really thankful that I’d decided to just wear a black shirt some black pants that still fit and… well okay I was still in my topsiders but these ones were black, and comfortable…and since I was running, it helped. She didn’t complain about what I was wearing but I did see her give me her now famous ‘side eye’ as I joined her that morning from the office to her first meeting. She was course was sitting impeccable, her hair was in soft curls this time, and not tightly tied to her head, she was in a nude dress of some kind, my guess was it cost more than my entire ‘wardrobe’ combined, and her shoes were massive, and matching, with odd red soles. Her lips matched the souls of her shoes.
She was beautiful, no doubt about that, but then she was also a great big bitch behind the beauty.
“Jesus Christ,” she sighed as we got back into the luxurious town car that seemed to be on hand at all times for her needs, it was swag, that’s for sure.
“I hated that collection I mean really just who did he think this shoot was for? Hmm? This is not GAP we’re dealing with here, I mean is it so hard to get decent designs when I ask for them? No, I don’t think I’m asking for the world, I mean millions of women and let’s face it, millions of gay men read our magazine… this is prime advertising.” She sighed again, inhaling her coffee, though it had so many non-fat things in it, she may as well drank water. But I just nodded, and then looked out the window when things got silent again. I could feel her watching me, but I tried not to let it phase me, soon she started talking with the other two girls in the car with us, I couldn’t remember their names but I knew they had something to do with the branding issue.
When we got back to the office I was sent out for lunch, even thought it was after three pm and I hadn’t eaten since ten am either, but I did it. Lunch for three of them that included a LOT of salad, steak and chicken. I’d laid it all out on places and trays and set it down on the large glass table on the other side of Sookie’s giant office, as I did so my stomach rumbled. Loudly.
Sookie just looked at me as if I had two heads.
“That’s all…” She said, still looking at me like I was alien. I walked out to my desk and before I sat down there was a text, from Sookie.
“You are allowed to eat you know, just because the girls here don’t doesn’t mean we starve people. There is a work based café for this you know, look it up, and for God sakes eat something so you don’t embarrass me like that again!”
How was it possible that she was doing something nice and STILL being a bitch? I wasn’t sure I’d ever understand it. Instead I didn’t care to over analyse anything, I routed my calls to Sophie’s phone, and hightailed it to the cafeteria just about salivating over the braised steak and potatoes. It wasn’t anything on the five star shit I’d had to fetch for their lunch, but this was mine, all mine. And I devoured it, finding a second wind and bout of energy after I’d finished. I walked back up to our floor and ran into a woman I’d seen in Sookie’s office before and she’d judged me right nice the day before too. She was tall, and blonde – not natural like Sookie’s though, she was skinny as all hell but she had an edge about her that the other women there didn’t, she was intimidating. Not like Sookie, no one was as intimidating as her so far, but she was right up there.
“So you’re still here, that’s a surprise,” she said as we rode the elevator together, but she didn’t look at me.
“I guess so.”
“Hmm,” she turned to me, “and I see you still haven’t found an iron. I mean is it some kind of religious thing? Are you against irons in some way?”
“I don’t own one.”
“Sweet…Jesus. Okay, well, I … I don’t even know how to respond to that. There is a clothes steamer in the wardrobe department, in fact I’m sure there are several. Perhaps you go and get acquainted with one?”
Her head snapped towards my direction then.
“Eric, look around you… people here care what they look like, presentation is everything… and you look like a student who played a game of getting dressed in the dark. It’s unacceptable, and I’m shocked Sookie hasn’t demanded you change.”
Ugh. This chick.
“Well, she hasn’t, not yet at least, and until SHE does, that’s when I’ll consider it.”
“Consider it? Oh, that’s rich. Are you forgetting you’re just her assistant, Eric?”
So she knew my name, that was something, if she was going to continue to berate me like I was a six year old, I at least took comfort in her knowing who she was berating.
“I know that, and so far she seems okay with how I’ve been doing. It’s my second day, Miss Ravenscroft, and respectfully, I’m sure she has more to worry about right now than how her assistant is dressing and maybe you should place your worries else where too.” I said, before I walked out of the open elevator. Sure I probably just got myself fired by giving lip to my bosses friend and very well respected co-worker. But I hated being treated like a child, particularly when I had one to worry about at home.
Four trips to wardrobe for Hermes belts, one particular pink clutch (in a fucking SEA of pink clutch looking bags might I add) and four pairs of shoes later, that all looked the same to me – but apparently had these invisible vast differences that I wasn’t creative enough to see… and I was done for day two.
I thanked Jesus and Buddha and whoever was listening, I was dead on my feet yet again. It had to get easier though, right?
“He has balls, I’ll give him that.””Who?” I asked Pam over Sushi that night at our favourite restaurant downtown.
“Assistant boy, he squared up to me today, in the elevator. Most of those little bitches were terrified of me, but he answered back. Maybe he’s not a total puppy after all.”
“You’ve been spending too much time with Lafayette,” I pointed out, “and what were you two talking about?”
“How dishevelled he looked. I mean his first day, okay that’s a pass for someone who hasn’t the first clue about what we do, but by day two? Please. There is no excuse.”
“At least his black…matched?”
“I thought for sure you’d have read him the tidy riot act by now…”I shrugged, “fashion is about expression… and maybe these are his …unkempt expressions?” I laughed, “God, I don’t know, I have so many other things on my mind this week alone Pam, how Eric is dressing isn’t really one of them. Maybe when I have time to breathe during the day, then I’ll address it. So far he hasn’t shown up in shorts and sandals so I’ll let it slide… Too busy to care.”
I smiled at her and bit into my tuna roll.
“That’s what he said,” She glared at me, “maybe he knows you better than he’s letting on.”
“Oh, please, Pam he hadn’t the first clue who I was when he walked that door…”
“Maybe he’s a plant. A spy from the rival magazines… maybe…”
“Pam, be serious.”
“I am! This shit happened at Vogue, Sookie, VOGUE, for one of their biggest issues and they were scooped! It could happen anywhere. Rival companies, sending in a newbie to spy, get the ideas, get the new products, get the new marketing attacks before they’re released… bring them back then fuck other companies over before they get the chance, leaving them with nothing.”
I dropped my chop sticks. I was paranoid lately since we had so much going on, but she couldn’t be on to something could she? I mean what guy agrees to this job, correction, what straight guy agrees. And, I was pretty sure Eric was straight, I’d seen him eyeing my breasts on more than one occasion and it had nothing to do with his height or what was in his eye line when he looked down.
“He’s clueless.” I dismissed.
“He’s either clueless and real, or he’s a very good actor and he’s a spy. I think you need to dig a little deeper in to him, for your own sake.”
I thought about it, and by next morning I’d worked myself into a frenzy of paranoia. I hated Pam for planting it in my head.
“ERIC?” I yelled from my office and he was behind me in a second.
“I need you to go over to Gucci and pick up the order we placed yesterday,” I said, looking at him finally.
“They said they’d deliver at eleven…”
“Well, I need them here now…”
“Okay…” He scribbled in his notebook…
“And where is your Ipad?”
“Oh…” He looked out the door, “um, I dropped it…sort of.”
“And?””It…sort of broke.”I rolled my eyes, “send it out to be fixed then, you’ll need it, we have four meetings tomorrow. I also need you to get me Marshall on the phone, then call back the rep from Sears about the new collection and finish off those emails to NetaPorter…then I need you to go over to that place … and tell Tara we need those dresses by four. Got it?”
By the time he stopped scribbling his face was pure white and his eyes wide.
“I… I think so.”
I dismissed him and then for the rest of the week, really for the rest of the month I continued to go hard on him. He screwed up of course. He was meant to in many ways, this was his testing period, and I had toyed with the idea of going easy on him – he was man after all – he was hapless and uncoordinated, but then the idea that he was out to fuck me over got planted in my head, and that was that. The ice-bitch cometh, and she cometh hard. I worked him hard, just as hard as I had the others, but the only difference was, he followed though. Sure, he picked the wrong skirts, and spilled a lot of coffee, got lunch orders wrong and tripped over the phone wires more than once, but he was still there when the others would have long thrown in the towel. He either really wanted to keep this job, that or he had another reason for working so damn hard. By the end of his first month, on pay day too, I called him into my office at the end of yet another hectic day.
He sat opposite me, looking twitchy and nervous.
“Why are you so nervous?” I commented, and he blushed.
I refused to acknowledge how …adorable it was.
“I um, well, it’s the coffee, I’ve been drinking a lot of it lately at work and then I’m not really sleeping because of it, and then the shakes happen when I don’t take it now…It’s not nerves. I’m used to your temper by now.”
That earned him a look, he just smiled.
“I do not have a temper…” I mumbled, “I’m merely… particular.”
“If that’s what you want to call it, Miss Stackhouse.”
I hated that term, I liked my first name as my first name. Had he earned the right to call me Sookie yet though? When had the other girls earned it? I didn’t usually get close to my employees, for obvious reasons, and it was easy enough because of the fear, but this one was different on every level. It puzzled me.
“The reason I called you in here, Eric, was more or less to get a review of your first month…”A month and he was still dressing…like that.
“Okay, sure… do I have to fill something out?”
“No.” I said, sitting down, “I just wanted to let you know that… it’s been interesting, and you haven’t been a …total disappointment. Just that I stand by my decision to hire you, that’s all.”
He nodded, trying to suppress a smile, that’s when I noticed the spilled soup down his sweater. Jesus maybe there wasn’t hope…
But then he let the smile go wide, and there it was again, that feeling of liking it. I liked when he smiled. He got the occasion so rarely during the day, I realized. And before I knew it was doing something so VERY off the reservation for me. I was gifting him something.
“Look I never do this, but since my brother is on his… extended vacation -” his whole fucking life was a vacation, I thought, “we got sent these tickets, it’s for any show you want on Broadway, VIP. I don’t have time to go this weekend, and … they’re there. You could take them, take your girlfriend or something.”
Was I fishing for information? Like a ninth grader? What was I DOING?
I was cringing inwardly as I realized how I was acting. I was… being nice to him.
“Wow, that’s really nice of you, Miss Stackhouse.”
I rolled my eyes, “Sookie…”I said and his eyes widened.
“Yes… why do you sound so shocked?”
“Nothing it’s just something someone said…”
“What did they say?”He bit his lip, pushed his black thick rimmed glasses up his nose and smiled with a slight blush, “just that most of the others didn’t make it long enough to get on a first name basis with the boss…I guess I am doing something right.”
I didn’t smile, I wanted to though. I didn’t say anything else, he just nodded in thanks as he took the tickets, and walked out of the office.
I sighed as I looked at the clock, it was almost six. Tina would be dying to be fed, I thought, as I realized I had a free weekend with no desire to do anything.
Glamorous or what?
I got to the rapidly emptying lobby before I whipped out my phone to call Emily, it was sweet news and I knew she’d be excited. God knows she needed some major cheering up since I’d been almost neglecting her for the past month.
“Hey Em, guess who’s going to Lion King this weekend?”All I heard was squealing on the other end.
“VIP too,” I added, hoping she’d hear me.
“You’re kidding me! How did you get those! Your new job doesn’t pay THAT good.”
“My boss gave them to me, since I’m so awesome. Look, baby, I’ll be home soon okay, you have a good day?”
“It was good we went to the park and had hotdogs and fruit.”
She was the only kid I knew that liked fruit, well, aside from Taylor, she was the only kid I knew full stop.
“Cool, well what do you want for dinner? I can pick us up something on the way home…”
I looked out at the darkening skies, the rain was pouring now. There was no way I was getting to the subway dry. Great.
“Can we get Italian?”
I agreed and she sounded off her order, and I realized just how badly we were both eating. Next on my list, cooking lessons.
“Okay Sweetheart, I’ll be there as soon as I can okay? I’ll call in the order when I’m close enough.”
“Okay, love you.”
“Love you too.” I said hanging up and turning around to see Sookie standing there.
“Hi.” I said, unsure of what else to say.
“Hi…I’m waiting on Hoyt,” she nodded towards the was the town car driver, and in this rain he was obviously late, which meant he was obviously making her pissed.
“The weather is hell, which means of course -”
“The traffic is hell, I’m not that unreasonable, Eric.”
I was shocked, it was twice now she’d …defended herself to me. She’d never thought to do that before.
I saw the black car pull up outside the steps, and she nodded.
“Well, you and your girlfriend, have a good weekend. Remember we have that meeting with -”
“Bloomingdales, at nine on Monday, I’ll be there with the coffee,” I nodded in return.
She stopped and looked back, almost as if she wanted to say something, but then she didn’t. She just left.
What the hell was that about?
By the time I got home, got both myself and Emily fed I was once again, wiped.
“And we can get snacks, right? And merchandise?”
What did she know from merchandise? I wondered.
I just nodded as we watched The Lion King, movie on DVD because Emily was too excited to watch, or talk about anything else apparently.
“And we can maybe go to the park after? And maybe we can go for ice-cream at that place we went to one time? And -”
“Kid… slow down.” I said making her giggle and climb into my lap.
“I’m excited okay?”
“I know, me too, but can we just slow the roll for a second? I’m tired.”
“You’re always tired now days, Eric…” She pouted crawling back to her spot on our couch.
“I know Ems, but it’s just how it is. I work really hard all day, and my boss…”
“She can’t be all bad…” Emily observed, “I mean she gave you free Lion King tickets VIP and VIP means Very important person! She thinks you’re a very important person, so maybe she’s not a meanie!”
“I never said she was mean…”
“You said she was a tough bit-”
“Well! YOU SAID IT, to Uncle Sammy, I heard you.”
Of course she heard me, you heard everything in this apartment, it was one of the main reasons why my love life… didn’t exist. On the few occasion I did go out on the town, it was really hard to explain to a potential lover, that oh, we’re going to have a VERY silent quickie on my couch, and you can’t stay over, and I can’t cook you breakfast because my kid sister will be awake and she’s traumatised enough. Thanks.
No, women didn’t really go for that.
“She’s a good lady, she’s just a hard working boss, so she’s stressed a lot. So, that makes her not so nice all the time, that’s all.”
“Like teacher when we don’t listen at pre-school?” She mused.
“Exactly like teacher.”She nodded.
“Okay. But still you should say thank you. You should get her flowers, all girls like flowers.”
“How do you know all girls like flowers?”
“Because… I am a girl, duh?”
“Duh? You’re five!”
She just shrugged.
I was so screwed.