You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.
Back in his office, Doug reconsidered his earlier hasty thoughts about Summer based on her coworker’s and boss’s comments. True, he did need to take their impressions of her into consideration, and it certainly said something that three people so clearly disliked her. Yet Doug didn’t know exactly what it said about Summer, because he knew some people earned enemies only by standing up for what they believed was right. Perhaps Summer’s troubles came from her uprightness, her uncompromising integrity, or some other equally appealing feature. He wanted a candidate who had backbone, who would stand up to opposition when necessary.
Summer’s coworkers certainly had little good to say about her. True, they had adamantly expressed her inability to work as a team, repeatedly telling him what a poor team player she was, and Doug needed somebody who could work well with others more than anything else in this position. Whoever he hired would direct the writers beneath him, reporting to him and carrying a heavy weight of responsibility.
Yet all three of them had mentioned Summer’s hardworking behavior, and that boded well for her: If they, who clearly disliked her, grudgingly admitted this strength, how much of a strength it must really be!
No; Doug resolved to take their comments into consideration, but with a grain of salt, and let Summer’s interview be the determining factor. In truth, her credentials looked good, her experience a compelling factor in her favor. He hoped that Monday’s “empowered woman” act had only been a one-day stint to try to impress him. Not that Doug didn’t want women in the workplace; he was all for emancipated women leaving their kids at daycare to work a full-time job. If that floated some women’s boats, he wouldn’t fight them. But he truly couldn’t tolerate the idea of an aggressive, overbearing woman reporting working as his sub-editor.
Checking his calendar, Doug saw that his interview with Summer was set for the following Monday. Good, that meant that he would have time to see what other applicants might arise. Despite his reservations, Summer was Doug’s best option at this point because she was his only option.Continue reading.
* * *
Back in their work area, Summer heard Shawna and Megan giggling like thirteen year old kids at a Backstreet Boys concert. She wandered over to Megan’s cube and perched her shoulder against the flimsy wall.
“How was your meeting?” Two pairs of heavily-shadowed eyes, lashes unnaturally dark and extended, gazed innocently up at her. Guilty as hell, she diagnosed, probably of trying to turn Doug against her. But she’d made an impression Monday morning, and he had seemed friendly enough on Friday during her embarrassing episode of wandering into his cube area. If he had any smarts, and it seemed like he did, he’d see that these ladies had a grudge against Summer from here to LA, and he wouldn’t buy into their lies.
“Oh, it was great, Summer,” Megan simpered. “We definitely gave him a good idea of who you are.”
“Definitely,” Shawna agreed. “We told him what a hard worker you are, and stuff, and it definitely made an impression.”
“Well thanks,” Summer told them, “I really appreciate that. I’m sure you helped my career more than I can ever imagine.”
“Hehehehe,” they answered, and Summer stifled an urge to smack them each soundly upside their thickly made-up faces.
After that, the week passed quickly for Summer. She talked nightly on the phone with Hunter, and sometimes he called her at work during the day “just to say hi.” It always ended up being much more than “hi,” and Summer treasured their conversations. She looked forward to them with increasing anticipation; they made her workday endurable in a way coming home to Lance never had. Hunter and Summer talked through topics from science—particularly mycology, about which she was learning more than she ever expected to—to philosophy. Turned out that Hunter shared Chastity’s passion for obscure, complex philosophers and his expositions to Summer left her only slightly enlightened, but much happier. When talk turned to gardening, though, Summer took the lead and left Hunter’s head spinning with her enthusiasm. They ranged from politics to mountain biking, from best places to eat in Seattle to places they’d each lived since college.
On Wednesday, Summer picked Hunter up and they went on a teenage-style date to see some romantic comedy at the Woodinville 12. They held hands through the movie and kissed—chastely, compared to the wild passion of the kiss they’d shared outside the club—goodnight. On Thursday, Summer received a letter from Hunter:
Dearest Summer, he wrote, and her heart melted. Dearest.
As I embark on this journey with you, I find myself doing many things for the first time. You make my heart race when I come near you, as if I’ve never known any other women.
I have never fallen in love while base jumping before, but when I saw your shapely silhouette flying through the air that night, I knew I had to speak to you. And what a joy that I did, for I met not only an old friend, but a new love. Every moment I’ve spent with you shines diamond-bright, like a faraway star glittering in the dark of the night sky. My memory of your voice, your eyes when you smile, the way you tuck your hair behind your ears, the way you move when you walk, all drive me wild and fill my waking moments.
When we’re apart, I feel like half a man. My heart is no longer mine, but I have given it into safer keeping than I ever was. When I’m with you, I feel whole in a way I’ve never felt before, and it makes me want to be with you all the time. Summer, you are so beautiful, so intelligent and graceful, the epitome of womanhood, and I love you.
I can hardly wait to see you again, but until then, know that my heart belongs to you.
After the letter, Summer went to work brimming with happiness. When she met Fred, he told her, “Summer, that piece you did on the two boys is going to have to be cut out.”
“Oh really?” she replied. “That’s funny, because the head editor loved them. In fact, they’re in place already and nothing you can do can change that. So, Fred, why don’t you just leave me alone and let me do my job?”
His fish-mouth gaping as Summer turned away from him filled her with a deep glow of satisfaction. Why hadn’t she told him off before? It was so easy, and if she’d had to lie to get it, well, it was worth it. She had saved her article’s spot and would defend it more vigorously if necessary. Fred’s intimidation wouldn’t work on her again, not when she knew Hunter was there, supporting her and loving her through everything.
When she saw Shawna, she actually stopped the woman as they passed in the hall. “Hey Shawna?”
“Yes?” Almost equal to Fred’s surprised fishy look, just from Summer speaking to her.
“Has anybody ever told you that you dress like a five-dollar whore trapped in 1985? Because you do. Looks real professional.” Summer moved on briskly down the hall, some small part of her shivering and afraid at the repercussions of insulting her coworker like that, but the larger part crowed triumphantly. Shawna, for all her endless haranguing of Summer, hadn’t been able to come up with one single snappy remark in reply. Damn, it felt good to tell people just what they deserved. “No more Mrs. Nice Guy,” Summe
r muttered to herself as she thumped down the stairs.
“What?” That familiar male voice almost caused her to trip again, in nearly the same place. How embarrassing would it be to almost fall twice in front of him?
“Just talking to myself,” Summer told him cheerfully as she gave him her broadest smile. “Bad habit of mine.”
“Me too,” Doug admitted, sharing her smile. Then he continued on his way up as she went down, feeling even more buoyed up. This had been the best week of her entire time at The Herald, and that included the times she’d felt perfectly happy and secure with Lance.
“I didn’t know what happy was,” she confided to nobody. “Lance was a scumbag and I didn’t even know it. I’m so lucky to have Hunter now.”
After the letter, Summer also wrote glowing obituaries of people she’d never even heard of; she sent Chastity a huge box of fancy condoms apropos of nothing; and she called her family on The Herald’s dime.
“Hi, Mom, it’s Summer!” she chirruped. She loved talking to her family and hadn’t gotten to do it nearly as much as she would have liked. Time seemed to get away from her so quickly these days.
“Summer,” her mother said in her most motherly voice, “shouldn’t you be at work?”
“Shouldn’t you be at work?” Summer countered. Her mother tended to be overly conscientious of Summer’s responsibilities, and felt it her duty to remind her daughter of every single one. Well, Summer was fulfilling all her responsibilities just fine—oh, yeah, she also needed to find a new lawyer, speaking of responsibilities.
“You know I’m working from home now,” her mother responded. “Besides, I’m on lunch. I’m making hummus, lettuce, and tomato wraps for your father and me.” Summer’s mother also ate disgustingly healthily.
“Well, I’m at work, too. I’m just taking a break and thought I’d see how things are at home.”
“They’re fine. The dog almost caught another squirrel yesterday.”
“Wow!” Their black lab loved chasing squirrels, and Summer’s family had long speculated what the dog would do when or if he actually caught one. “What happened?”
“Oh, Chip ran into the fence full tilt and knocked the squirrel onto the ground. Too bad he was too confused from running into the fence to take advantage of it. The squirrel got away but boy was it exciting!”
“I bet,” Summer agreed, laughing. She would have liked to have a dog, but her apartment complex had a very strict no-pets rule. Not even fish; she’d asked. The manager had told her, “Fish tanks leak. We don’t want anything extra leaking if we don’t need it. Sorry.”
“Summer,” came Fred’s boom from over the cubicles. “Are you busy?” He knew she wasn’t; he could probably hear her talking on the phone, which was why Summer tried to keep her responses vague.
“No, what’s up?” she responded, cupping her hand over the receiver. Then told she told her mother, “Sorry, gotta go. Fred needs something. Big jerk.”
“Bye-bye, dear. Have a good day. And kick his ass for me.” Summer’s mother had some surprising depths. Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.