Work In Progress – Chapter 1
This is what I think will be the first chapter of my next novel length manuscript. It’s hard to tell. What do you think?
The elevator felt like a prison. The scuffed veneer panels pressed in on her with the bell’s announcement of each floor. When the doors finally opened, Blair tumbled out, like water from a broken dam. Her heels tapped in staccato as she ran across the dingy lobby. She subconsciously rubbed her fingers under her nose to wipe away any stray powder. Sneaking a glance over her shoulder she checked to see if anyone had followed her. She was alone. Blair sighed, and tried to calm her racing heart.
She couldn’t let Tony catch her. If he got her alone there was no telling how far he would push her to get his way. There was no telling what she’d have to do to save her life. She should have known when he let her party for free that it would come back to bite her. She should have insisted she’d pay, it wasn’t like money was an issue. But now he said she owed him, and it wasn’t cash he was looking for.
He liked her fancy address and her designer clothes. He wouldn’t take the hint that she wasn’t willing to sell for him, she wasn’t willing to hold for him or let him use her apartment for anything. Blair refused to be his in with a new crowd, with a new group of moneyed buyers. She knew he was closing in, he’d shown up at every nightclub and party she’d been at in the last two weeks. She knew she should have taken the night off; but she just couldn’t sit at home.
She pushed through the foggy and dripping door; a blast of arctic air almost blew her back inside. Fucking Michigan. Her nostrils stuck together, her bare legs were covered in goose bumps, the frigid air drew tears, and she couldn’t see anything. A honk from a waiting cab drew her attention and she skidded towards it. Her numb fingers found the door handle and she threw herself into the back seat.
The car smelled delicious. The scent of sugar and butter momentarily distracted her from the need to move.
“What the hell are you doing all the way out here?” Taylor said in greeting.
Blair blinked her eyes and tried not to let her mascara run. She locked her door and tapped on the driver’s seat with her open hand. “Go! Go!” she said.
Her best friend since middle school sat across the back seat, her long legs crossed, buried in pink boxes.
“What’s the hurry? You’ve been late every day this week.”
Blair ignored the sarcasm. Her eyes finally clear, she peered out the window as they pulled away from the building. Still no sign of followers. The elephant slipped off her chest. She settled into her seat.
“You have an entire bakery back here.” Blair said.
“You’re a long way from home, who lives in this dump?”
“Why are there so many boxes?”
“If you’re not going to answer me,” Taylor huffed, “why did I have to come all the way out here to get you. You could have grabbed your own taxi.”
“Other than your sparkling wit, and lovely company, I need the clothes you brought me. I don’t want to show up at work wearing this. I want to change in the car.”
Taylor wasn’t looking at her. She was picking imaginary fuzz off her jacket.
“Shit! You didn’t bring me any clothes?”
“I didn’t know I had to!”
Blair looked at her friend. Taylor’s eyes were wide with innocence. Passive aggressive was Taylor’s middle name, but this seemed a bit much. It was too early to wonder how Tay had gotten the text about where to pick Blair up, but not that she desperately needed something to wear. Blair pulled open her jacket, and Taylor started laughing. Blair’s skin tight, cleavage baring ensemble was not work appropriate. It was barely play appropriate. She had an emergency dress in her office, but didn’t want to risk anyone at work seeing her dressed like she could be bought for a good time.
“What the hell were you doing?”
“Why do you have every doughnut in Detroit in here?”
“Fess up or I’m going to kick you out of the car.”
Blair peeked into the boxes. Taylor slapped her hand away.
“I went dancing, then I met some people, and they knew about a party and before I knew it I was waking up on some guy’s smelly couch.”
“You went dancing by yourself?”
“I had to get out of the apartment. I couldn’t just sit there.”
“What about Matt?
Blair sighed and looked out the window. When she awoke this morning, already late and having no clue where she was, she had no time to feel her hangover. Now that she was in the cab her heartbeat was pounding in her temples. The last thing she wanted to do was have a conversation about her boring, parent approved boyfriend and why she was going out without him so often. She didn’t want to talk about what she did last night either. Blair’s skin felt cold and she felt a shiver slide up her back. She didn’t want to think about it. She had to get Taylor talking about something else.
“Are you bringing these in to butter up Ryan? He loves Mabel’s. Is this your strategy to get the new account?” Blair asked.
“Is there anyone who deserves that account more than me?”
Yes, absolutely. Anyone in the office really.
“No baby, I can’t. You’d be perfect.”
She took Tay’s hand and slumped into her seat. She had opened the door for Taylor to talk about herself and Tay took off running. Blair knew she should be taking this time to fix her hair and make up, but she just didn’t feel like it. She knew she must look like a wreck. What does it matter when I’m wearing this dress?
Blair drifted off as her friend prattled. Blair smiled and nodded but she didn’t want to think about work. Her job was awful. Two months, three weeks and four days before she could quit. She promised her parents she would work there for a year. She promised she would try, and give it a real shot, but corporate work was just not for her. She didn’t go to art school to create ad copy or graphic design for diaper commercials. She wanted to be free, to create, and that couldn’t be done from a cubical.
She knew her mother didn’t want her to rely on her trust fund, but that wasn’t what Blair planned to do. She didn’t need their money; she could wait tables or bartend to make ends meet while she created her art. Of course, she wouldn’t be able afford to live where they wanted her to live, but that was okay too. The cab pulled in front of their building, and they fought the biting wind and freezing temperature to cross the sidewalk and enter the doors. Before going inside, Blair took a peek down the street in both directions. No Tony. No henchmen. Nothing out of the ordinary. She spotted a street person holding a sign, his hands and head were bare. She shivered. Digging in her pockets for her mittens and grabbing the scarf off her neck she teetered over to him on her stilettos and pressed the azure wool into his hands before running back and ducking inside.
“Weren’t those cashmere?” Taylor’s jaw was gaping.
Blair just shrugged.
The two girls nearly collapsed into the elevator. They set the boxes on the floor for the twenty five floor ride. A few floors away Taylor started to pick up them up. Blair was thinking this was a lot of effort just to get credit for doughnuts, when the elevator doors opened. Tori, Ryan’s assistant was standing five feet away, obviously waiting. She looked up and moved over to them quickly, agitated.
“Blair, he wants to see you in his office five minutes ago.” Tori said.
“Can I just help Taylor—”
Tori’s frown deepened.
“Oh, don’t worry about me. I have a great sense of balance.” Taylor said, teetering her way towards the break room.
“Can I use the restroom?” Blair asked. “I had a large coffee on the way in.”
“I wouldn’t,” answered Tori.
“Is it bad?”
Tori was already gone. Blair looked down at her outfit and sighed. She did not want to meet her boss wearing this revealing dress, but she didn’t want to keep him waiting either given her tardiness this week. She hadn’t ever been called to Ryan’s office before, but it couldn’t be good news. She tried to tell herself it was okay if he fired her, she didn’t want to work here anyway. But she worried her parents would want her to go work somewhere else and her year of occupational imprisonment would just start over. Dammit! If she got fired they really would worry she couldn’t stand on her own feet. They would be even more intrusive and controlling. Blair felt the noose of parental control tighten around her neck.
She hightailed it to Ryan’s office. Reaching his door, she took a deep breath and knocked.
“Come in.” He called from inside. She stepped in. “Come on in and take your coat off. Get comfortable, I have something important to talk to you about.”