Day’s Verse:
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

On Monday Summer dressed carefully for work. The week before when she dressed up to see Doug and give him her resume, Summer had felt like she’d worn a costume to work, and that had given her confidence beyond that imparted by her budding relationship with Hunter. It was like she put on another woman’s skin with the business suit, a woman who was unafraid and confident and professional, who could cope with Fred and impress Doug in the interview. So Summer dressed carefully that morning, pawing through her closet with her lips pursed and a dissatisfied line between her eyebrows, muttering “no… no… no….” Nothing seemed right except what she’d already worn, the classy skirt suit. But she couldn’t wear that again; she’d seen Doug noticing her clothes last week, and he would certainly remember her wearing the same thing two times in a row. Plus, Summer couldn’t easily stomach the idea of wearing those wobbly shoes again.

Since that brown suit outfit had obviously caught Doug’s attention, Summer finally settled on an outfit she had originally passed over as too formal. But then, time-honored interviewing etiquette called for the interviewee to overdress anyway, to make a good impression even within her own company. So Summer pulled on the slightly flared black business pants that hugged her butt and widened a bit around her ankles, the ones with very, very pale pink pin striping. She wore a matching jacket that clung tightly and emphasized her waist with its elegant cut; its sleeves dropped down to her knuckles and its slender lapels gave it a ladylike look. It, too, bore the very pale pin striping and was lined with pink satin. Finally she chose a pink shirt that, while brighter than the pin striping, didn’t cross the bounds of good taste, but served only to draw out the accents in her pants and jacket. Plain, highly-polished black flats completed the outfit, while careful attention to her makeup finished Summer’s face. She carefully coiffed her hair into a fluffy, designed look that Chastity said emphasized her eyes and cheeks, two of her most elegant features. Summer had received many compliments on her fawn-like eyes, with their open innocent look, and she liked to think this feature would help her in the interview.

Continue reading.She drove in to work, stopping for coffee at a small coffee hut along the way, two decadent gestures she rarely took. Usually she paid the bus fare, sitting among the “dirty people,” as she thought of them—the people who couldn’t afford cars, and often seemed to also miss regular showers. Summer had never thought much of public transportation, although she did give lip service to the importance of reducing traffic in the Seattle area. Too much traffic was never due to the fact that Summer and her ex-husband had each driven separately to jobs that took them in the same direction, and Summer never imagined that she might contribute to the smoggy congestion in Seattle. Everybody else did, and she had to suffer the consequences. But now, without Lance’s subsidy, Summer couldn’t afford to fill her car with gas very often, and she resigned herself to taking the Metro busses everywhere. Of course, visiting Hunter involved driving, but Summer didn’t think of that as a hardship. It was worth it for him.

Thank goodness the interview started at 8:30, only minutes after Summer arrived; she could not have spent the day in nervous anticipation. Just before walking down to HR, Summer shot Chastity an email: “Interview now. Wish me luck!”

When she got back, Chastity had replied: “Good luck getting in Doug’s pants.” Not exactly what Summer had intended, but the thought helped.

First Summer met with a HR person. She had never mixed with the HR people after they hired her, and this HR interview personified the reason she didn’t like to spend time with them.

“So, why did you want this change?” He asked, working to imbue an earnest and interested look into his extremely vacant eyes.

“Well,” Summer said, wondering if he even listened, or just kept an ear out for certain huge “no nos” and otherwise tuned the rest out. “I’ve been doing obits for the last XX years, and it’s time for a change. Not that I don’t like obits, actually, but I’m sure you understand that I don’t want obits to define my career.” He nodded, so Summer added, “I could just see people saying, ‘Oh, Summer Robertson, she’s the obit lady.’ Not what I’m looking for.”

“Sure, sure,” the Hr drone agreed mechanically. Was he even real, or could Summer peel off his face to reveal a small speaker in that mouth that spit out the occasional right phrase? Then again, he probably interviewed five or even more people a day, and had likely heard every story and reason under the sun, just as Summer herself had heard pretty much every way to eulogize somebody. Summer would have expected the same “sure, sure” if she had replied, “My boss and coworkers repeatedly gang bang me every day and I’m tired of it.”

“And why do you think you’d be suited for this new position?” He paused, and Summer imagined Data from Star Trek saying “Accessing. Accessing.” Then he resumed: “It looks like you don’t have any prior editing experience, and as you know this position is for sub-editor, which will require quite a lot of editing.” The drone had, apparently, at least been prepped on Summer’s resume.

“I’ve spent my whole post-college career in the newspaper industry, and the first few years I actually wrote, which gave me the journalistic perspective on editing. So I know what it’s like from that viewpoint, which will help me connect with the writers.” What else? “I know The Herald really well from my years here, and I’ve edited thousands of obits—not exactly home and garden pieces, but almost harder because obits have to be extremely short and no extraneous words can slip through. I’ve also edited my coworkers’ pieces.”

“OK,” agreed the drone, noting something on her resume. Summer wanted to crane her neck to read the notation, but restrained herself. She wasn’t some college senior desperate for a job and jittery as a greyhound over a first interview. “And you feel that will give you the edge for this position?”

“Yes…” Summer concurred, then finally brought out what she felt was her true strength. “I guess my real advantage is that I know this business, The Herald’s workings, really well after all my time here and I’ll be able to use that knowledge to streamline the H&G; department’s editing process.”

“Sounds good,” the drone said. “Now, do you have any questions for me?” He sounded as if even the thought of answering another interviewee’s question might break his heart.

Summer, who had tried valiantly to think of even just one question for the HR person because she knew they would reach this point eventually, had failed totally to come up with even one. Her imagination came up dry again now. She knew or at least had a good idea of what the day as sub-editor would be like, and it felt tacky to ask about pay increases—another vital reason for her to start the job!—or scheduling changes. She knew about insurance and had met Doug. There was nothing left to ask. So she shook her head and a genuine wave of utter relief washed across the drone’s face, the first true expressions she’d seen in their forty-five minutes together. He stepped outside to call Doug.

As she waited, Summer pulled out a small mirror to check how her carefully crafted makeup
and hair were holding up under the stress of the interviewing process. Her nose seemed to have developed a slight sheen of sweat—that definitely would not do for talking with Doug! She needed to appear cool and collected, able to handle anything this job could throw at her, capable of handling stress without turning a hair. So it wouldn’t do to have her hairs turned or her nose shiny. Out came the powder, and as she dabbed at her nose, Doug walked through the door.

Summer hastily stood up, trying to cover slipping the powder compact into her pocket by reaching out to shake his hand as if they’d never met.

“Hi,” Doug said. He had worn wrinkled khakis and a polo shirt that stretched across his chest muscles, showing tantalizing glimpses of definition that set Summer’s heart racing.

“Hi,” she returned, then wondered why she couldn’t sound intelligent.

“How’s the interview going?” He sounded like he’d just stopped by for a chat, and Summer suddenly felt like a complete poseur in her fancy black suit.

“Pretty well, I think. I think I’m well qualified for this job, and I think it’s reflecting that so far.” Trying to get the interview part started.

“Right,” Doug said, sitting up straighter and taking the hint. He pulled a piece of paper to him, and Summer caught a glimpse of a few lines of scribbled notes. “I guess the first thing I’m interested in is why you’re so eager to come work for us. Honestly.”

“Well,” Summer said, “I’ve done obits for the last XX years, and I need a change. Not that I don’t like obits, you know, but I don’t want obits to define my career. I could just see people saying, ‘Oh, Summer Robertson, she’s the obit lady.’ Not what I’m looking for.” Doug actually laughed, not like the drone on whom Summer had honed her spiel, and this encouraged Summer to continue. “I’ve spent my whole post-college career in the newspaper industry, and the first few years I did investigative journalism, which gave me the journalistic perspective on editing. So I know what it’s like from that viewpoint, which will help me connect with the writers. Plus, I know The Herald well from my years here, and I’ve edited thousands of obits—not exactly home and garden pieces, but almost harder because obits have to be extremely short and no extraneous words can slip through.”

“That sounded well-practiced,” Doug commented, writing more notes along the margins of his paper with little arrows zipping here and there.

“I don’t know,” Summer replied, a little nonplussed. Was she not supposed to have practiced?

“So what would you say is the greatest strength you have that will serve you well as my sub-editor?”

“I’m organized,” Summer immediately answered, then added, “And I work very hard. Even Fred will have to admit that.”

Doug smiled in a knowing kind of way that worried Summer. What if Fred hadn’t said anything good about her at all? What if he’d lied and said she was lazy? That seemed too low even for Fred. “What do you think would be the most challenging feature of the job for you?”

“Um…” She hadn’t thought of this as a possible question. “I think the most difficult part will be keeping on top of everything. I like people and I tend to get along with them pretty well, so I don’t think I’ll have any trouble fitting in with the department. My organization ability and my experience at The Herald should help avoid any really bad faux pas in terms of the job itself…”

“OK,” he said, releasing her from that awkwardness. “I’ve heard good things about your work ethic, so that’s good…” and he continued, with Summer feeling relief flood through her veins like a shot of heroin.

The interview progressed, and Summer did her best, sitting straight, answering as succinctly but intelligently as she could, leaning forward to engage Doug and trying to come across as the woman he wanted to work beneath her.

* * *

As Summer talked with Doug, Chastity arrived at Cascadia Community College for her biology class. She slung her eco-friendly messenger bag, containing a slender new laptop computer, across her back and strode through the doors with a quick familiarity in her step. She’d attended dozens of classes here, though she’d only made it to this class once before and had been so hung over from the previous night’s party she had retained nothing aside from a vague impression that the professor was young and sexy. She didn’t even remember his name at this point, but it hardly mattered as long as she passed the class… and possibly found out if the professor really was as sexy as he looked.

Passing through the doors, she seated herself at one of the desks near the back of the classroom. Chastity tended to surf the Internet and chat with friends while in class, but didn’t like to flaunt it to the professor unnecessarily. She settled back, flipping open the computer and pressing its little power button, and then bent down to dig her mini-mouse out of the bottom of the bag.

When Chastity sat up, the professor had come in by a different door and stood surveying the mostly-empty classroom. He looked familiar, like somebody she’d seen a hazy impression of once—maybe somebody she’d met while drunk? No; she had a decent memory for men she’d met while drunk, especially ones this hot. He was tall and pale-haired and skinny, displaying strong arms and forearms with tendons that stood out as he flexed one of his hands. He dressed impeccably, in sleek brown cords and an untucked button-down shirt beneath a pale blue sweater. Chastity decided she had to seduce him no matter what. He was too good to let go.

Then he said, “OK, let’s get started,” and it all clicked. She checked her syllabus just to be sure, but Chastity knew where she had met him before: He was Hunter, Summer’s new flame, the man they’d randomly met while base jumping. God, and Chastity had promised she’d keep out of Summer’s love life. Now this was a conundrum, because Chastity knew Summer wouldn’t actually sleep with the man for love or money until she had a ring. All Chastity wanted was a good tumble, possibly a few exciting nights, and a no-strings-attached goodbye. Surely it would never hurt Summer if Chastity enjoyed Hunter’s body; she wouldn’t put any claims on his time with Summer, not even any claims on his emotional investment in Summer. But Summer was Chastity’s friend, and she didn’t sleep with her friends’ men. Well, except for that one time with Randall Richards. Nicole Richards had never forgiven her for that…

Chastity sat up, paying close attention to the class in a way she’d never done for these intro classes. She saw the way he moved athletically and gracefully, saw the move of his back and the slenderness of his ass, observed the curve of his calves beneath the pants, noticed his bare feet in Tevas. Sinews stood out in his neck, defining it, and the curve of his jaw with its small glitter of golden stubble nearly had Chastity trembling. Her eyes glittered and full lips parted as she sat in that desk, thinking furiously. As she sat, trying to decide, Hunter looked directly at her and asked her a question.

His voice saying “What are the four bases in DNA, Miss—?”

“Chastity Williams,” she said, then answered, “I have no clue.” Recognition flashed in his eyes, and Chastity knew he remembered their earlier meeting as well.

“Didn’t read the chapter?” Was that interest in his eyes?

“Sorry,” she apologized and licked her lips, crossed her ankles, meeting his gaze directly.

“Stay after class and we’ll talk about it,” Hunter told her, and turned back to the class. “Do you know, Mr. —?” Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.

One thought on “Romance Novel: Day 15

  1. Oooooh yes, here it gets good. I am on the edge of my seat even though I know what happens. The downside: I am way more interested in the Chastity/Hunter thread than the Summer/Doug one. Summer is voiced well, but I’m just not into it. Maybe just because seduction is more interesting than job interviews, but try to shift the balance so Summer captures more of the interest.

    I love your not-quite-right metaphors, but the Data one is going too far. Summer has no reason to be familiar with Star Trek.

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