Authors: Andrea Carmen
Someone Like You
By Andrea Carmen
Copyright © 2013 Blue Ribbon Books
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
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Chapter One: All In A Day’s Work
Alex groggily turned off the alarm that roused her from a very pleasant dream.
No, no, no…it can’t be seven o’clock yet.
She dreamt she had been promoted with an office of her own. There was a sweeping view of the city and she even had her own balcony. It was too good of a dream to wake up from.
“Five more minutes,” she muttered to herself, “Just five more.”
She wanted to dream of it again but she knew her efforts were futile. Her five minutes were up faster than she expected. The alarm rang off again and she flung her comforter aside. Her feet gingerly touched the wooden floor. She shivered. Damn that was a bit colder than usual.
It was cold outside and the leaves had changed into the hues of autumn.
She grabbed her black framed eyeglasses and looked at the clock near her bed stand again. She blinked and stared blankly for a few seconds.
Get up, get up, she told herself.
The studio she lived in was small, around 24 square meters. It was sparsely decorated but she had made the best of what she had. Her studio was a tiny do-it-yourself cornucopia. There were colourful empty and filled frames against one black wall, a piece of driftwood that she had converted into a working desk and a salvaged wooden two-chair dining set she had repainted in yellow and white.
She snapped out of her trance, shaking her head. She had roughly forty minutes to prepare and get to work. She quickly grabbed a bag of chamomile tea and placed it inside a mug full of hot water. Popping a bagel into a toaster, she turned on some music and headed for the shower.
“Jesus!” she exclaimed as a jet of cold water fell on her. She took a deep breath, determined not to let a cold shower ruin her day.
She turned off the shower and turned it on again. Finally, warm water! As she showered, she mentally reviewed the events for the day. There was going to be an audition for a yogurt brand at nine in the morning and an audition for a clothing brand by three in the afternoon. She had all the candidates listed down along with their vital statistics and credentials. Hopefully, the talents wouldn’t disappoint.
As soon as she got out of the shower with a towel on her head, she quickly ate her bagel and drank her now-lukewarm tea. Hopefully, it would last her until lunch time. After brushing her teeth, she quickly hung her towel and robe and put on the clothes she had readied since last night. She looked at the clock again. She had five minutes to blow dry her hair and no time to put on makeup- like she cared about the makeup. She didn’t have time to look pretty. Presentable: yes. Pretty: no.
She grabbed her bag and laptop and bounded down four flights of stairs.
On her way out she passed by an elderly neighbour who lived on the first floor of the apartment.
“Morning Mrs. Jenkins!” she said as she exited the building.
Mrs. Jenkins waved as she retrieved some mail from the mailbox near the door. “Have a good day, Alex.”
Seven minutes later she was on board a train for the Upper East Side of New York. She jostled her way amongst the crowd, standing near the sliding doors. She looked at her watch again.
Hopefully, I’ll arrive with ten minutes to spare, she thought.
The doors opened with a hiss and she got off the train, briskly walking two blocks to get into a recently renovated seven story building with a concrete and glass finish. Getting into an elevator, she pressed the button for the fourth floor. It was crowded and she stood still until the elevator stopped at her level.
She fought her way through, hearing one middle-aged woman mutter about space and decency. She paid no attention to it. Her mind was running with a lot of things.
The façade of the office had a sign above which said: TEMPERLEY MODELS.
Pressing her identification card against a sensor, the doors opened to let her in. Other colleagues were present already, either drinking coffee or gossiping. Their bosses had not come yet, for sure. Ten minutes to spare, she thought with pleasure. The bosses usually came in at exactly nine or nine-fifteen.
Temperley Models was run by a French-American semi-retired super model named Margo or Margaret Temperley (nee Durand); now in her late forties, and Jason, her only child—who had recently christened himself with a new and rather flamboyant nickname. Jason had told everyone at the office to call him Janine, just for kicks. They all complied, amused by their second-in-command.
Temperley Models was pretty much a fledgling company, working against New York’s top modelling agencies. It started the year she had graduated from college with five staff along with the two bosses. Nearly two years later, they now had fifteen people working for the company with a more or less good roster of up and coming models.
Twenty-four year old Alex Forbes (nicknamed Lexy by family and some friends), was an assistant to the director of the firm. Technically, she was one of the many assistants. She did all that was asked, she ran to get coffee for the bosses and even the models, organized the publicity events and made constant updates to the company’s website. She had been working for over a year at the company despite the fact that she had graduated with a degree in advertising with a minor in illustration.
It had been hard work; harder than the internships she had endured. She had entered the industry thinking it would be easy to handle modelling affairs. It turned out she wasn’t ready at all. She was harassed every day with the amount of work she had to do and the amount of work that was stacked upon her from some of the more indolent assistants.
She accepted all these with grace, believing it to be all part of the novice working experience.
Today is going to be like any other day, she said to herself.
She took off her light coat and then sat in her cubicle a few steps away from Ms. Temperley’s office. It was a stylish glass cubicle as were the other cubicles—a far cry from their first beleaguered year surrounded by cardboard boxes and second hand computer units and chairs. Ms. Temperley’s contacts during her modelling heydays had come through for her.
She was furiously typing away on her company-issue laptop when the office was suddenly filled with the sound of work. It only meant that the bosses had arrived. Taking a deep breath, she readied herself for the onslaught of the morning.
Alex heard Margo’s thinly accented voice resonate throughout the office as she came in.
“What are you wearing?” Margo snapped at an intern. “Are you sure you went to fashion school? And you, those heels are hideous, don’t wear those in the office—on second thought, don’t ever wear them again. Alex? Alex?”
She was quick to position herself beside the door leading to Margo’s office. Her office was surrounded by thick glass and stylish furniture in black and white. She was sitting on her favorite swivel chair, wearing black cotton pants, a red collared blouse and sky-high red stilettos.
“Yes Ma’am,” she said. “What do you feel like drinking today?”
She looked up, rubbing her temples. “You are a saviour Alex. Make it black, strong.”
Alex excused herself and went to the office pantry to prepare freshly brewed coffee. She had worked as a coffee shop barista part-time to support herself through college and Margo took full advantage of this.
Margo took full advantage of anything, actually.
A few minutes later, she was back in Margo’s office with a mug in tow.
“Is it all ready? For today’s audition?” Margo asked; her leafing through some papers.
“Yes, ma’am. Excuse me,” Alex said as she turned to leave.
“Yes?” She was holding her breath now. Margo was going to say something related to her outfit- she felt it.
““Are you wearing flats again? And slap some colour onto your face. You look so heroin chic,” Margo said.
Alex gave a shy smile. “I will.”
She disliked heels greatly; she couldn’t last three hours wearing them! She had tried for a couple of days, always ending up with sore feet; she had heels underneath her desk just in case though. It did come in useful a couple of times especially when Margo was in a foul mood. Makeup was also another issue, it wasn’t that she disliked it; she just didn’t know how to apply makeup. All she knew was Chap Stick and lip and cheek tints since they were the easiest to put on.
Margo would forget about this, as it was going to be a packed schedule today, she thought. As soon as she got to her desk, another assistant named Marie came up to her. Marie was one of her more stylish colleagues and was a notorious procrastinator. Marie also handled bookings which she usually passed onto Alex.
“Alex,” she whispered,” Could you finish this report for me?”
“What report is this?” Alex said not looking up as she continued checking her email.
“Just a report on last week’s bookings,” Marie said blatantly.
Alex looked up. “You’ve got to be kidding me. That was due yesterday, right? And you didn’t do anything yesterday.”
Alex felt a simmer of annoyance run through her. Why? Why? Why did she have to be so nice?
Marie pouted. “I was busy on the phone all day, Alex. This won’t take too much of your time.”
“I have an audition to oversee,” Alex said with a slight frown. It was nearing ten in the morning already.
“Come on, Alex. You know I hate going into details. And you’re good at this!”
Alex sighed and shrugged. “I’ll try to squeeze it in by lunch.”
Marie smiled with relish. “You’re the best. It’s really quick to finish.”
Marie walked away diddling on her Blackberry as Alex shook her head. She just couldn’t say no. She didn’t want to be the ‘yes woman’ all the time, but she was. It frustrated her sometimes, but she would let the frustration die out by working harder. As soon as the clock struck ten in the morning, Alex made her way into the office’s conference room or ‘The Aquarium’ as everyone in the office termed it.
There were a dozen models inside already, all wearing flat shoes with clean, makeup-free faces as part of the requirement.
“Good morning,” Alex said pleasantly.
Some of the models muttered their ‘good mornings’ while the others paid no attention to her and continued chatting about. One model calmly lit a cigarette.
“Please—no smoking,” Alex told her.
“Are you the boss?” she asked sarcastically.
“Well no, but if you could just-”
“This helps with my diet,” the model roughly said.
Alex took a deep breath. Some models could be so full of themselves.
“Put that out,” a stern voice interrupted, “Put that out or I will put you out of this building.”
In came Margo with Jason; a lanky, blonde haired twenty-two year old, who was dressed in a skinny-fit pale blue suit and matching pants. He also had a floral boutonniere.
The model quickly stubbed her cigarette on the windowsill. Alex shook her head again as she prepared glasses of water for Margo and Jason.
“If there’s one thing I dislike, its models who smoke. What’s your name?” Margo asked the cigarette toting model. Margo drew up a file on her laptop, the one that Alex made the night before. There were the complete statistics and work experiences each model had.
“Smith, Emily Smith,” the model replied, her tone now docile.
“How long have you been smoking?” Margo asked without looking up.
“Uhm, uh…just a year,” Emily Smith replied nearly stuttering.