Chapter 3 : Rain Rain Go Away…
Cleo shuddered. Then she shivered. Then she SCREAMED! The world around her seemed precariously hazy, spinning in a continuous whirl of colour and reflection. Only when her eyes began to sting from the lavender, did she realise that she was submerged beneath the surface of her bubble bath, struggling for not only breath, but a rationalisation to the shocking TXT she had just received. What could have driven him to such a thing? Why in God's name, why? This is so effing spasticated! Ignoring the use of her grade 3 colloquialism of "spasticated" she forced herself up and out of the bath.
Once dry and dressed (despite having not stopped shuddering), she shakily dialled the only number she could think of.
"D-Rocker speaking!" The voice she heard was so soothing in its tranquillity that Cleo nearly melted there and then. She needed something to calm her down, "Uh… hello? Anyone there?"
"Yeah babe it's me…"
"Oh hey Cle Cle! Hows it hanging?" Diego's tone had suddenly been overcome by a seemingly desperate tiredness. 24 hr hangover?
"Hey buddy, I need some help. Just received some shocker news…"
"Yeah sweety, this really ain't the best time right now…"
"But Dee! I really need to talk to someone right NOW. I'm really scared…" She sniffed dramatically, trying to draw attention to her solemn predicament.
"Try Fletch sweet, catcha lata." Before the sombre sound of the dial tone hit Cleo's cochlear, she was sure she heard a familiar female voice utter, "Why the hell was she calling?".
Too distressed to figure out who the voice belonged to, Cleo dialled the only other number she knew. Why hadn't I just called him first huh? What's so special about Diego. Besides, Fletch had wanted me to call him anyway! Geez, I mean Diego's just too "special", too "busy" to find out when his best friend's JUST LOST HER JOB! Fletch ought to be more help.
What the hell? He just TXTed me ½ an hour ago?
*CRASH* She slammed the phone down hard, the veins in her forehead nearly bursting with rage. So much for "best" friends. Stupid arses. Sweating & fuming, she lay down on her bed, praying to have the strength to get through the next day. What was she going to do?
"This is the Boss' office at Involve! He's in a meeting right now, can I take a message? Ah, Mrs. Fieldman! I'll put the message through, thankyou for calling." The secretary hung up the phone enthusiastically as she called for the next person in what Cleo liked to call, the "doom" line. I mean if you actually voluntarily had a meeting with the Boss at your own will, you're not only criminally insane, you're desperate. Really desperate!, "NEXT!"
"You know the Field-mans' wouldn't even be calling if it weren't for me."
"Ah, you must be Cleo, the Boss told me you might be in here. He's reserved a 1:30 slot for you." The new secretary pursed her freshly made-up lips. She was plump and judgemental, and had her hair done in a manner of women in the 20s – uptight women in the 20s. Her dress was 4 decades ahead of her hair at least, emanating a "60s house-wife / Happy Days Wife" aura, brightly coloured polka dots splattering the heinously designed garment.
"Yes, well I don't really have a 1:30 slot op-…"
"The Boss has informed me that you are here to discuss employment issues, so I assume you would be grateful for any opportunity regarding such a matter."
Should I laugh in her face now and tell her that it's her job I'm here to discuss, or just be polite. Hmm...tricky…
"As I was saying, I don't have an available slot at 1:30, given the nature of my other interviews during the rest of the day. Now is my only available time slot." Cleo growled at the woman. Onlookers could have described Mrs. Happy Days hair blowing back in a manner of Marilyn Monroe's skirt, due to the impact of Cleo's outburst (such outbursts becoming annoyingly regular). Fortunately for Mrs. Happy Days, the man himself came striding out of his office (obviously not in a meeting) smoking a cigar, tilting his eyebrows and cocking his head in an almost "Clark Gabel" way.
"Ah, Doll, my VIP babe. Hey partridge bitch, why'd you keep my sweety waiting. Come on in doll." Leading the way, the head cock as Cleo had nicknamed, headed into the office, Cleo grudgingly following, with a sour taste in her mouth and a scowl on her face. She nearly hissed at Mrs. Happy Days on the way in. Once inside, the Boss started talking, almost as if he had been waiting for this moment all day, "So how did you like our late night interaction. I swear I think we bonded."
"Boss, for it to be interaction, I would've had to have replied. Instead I calmly turned my phone off and planned to come here and discuss whatever emotional stress you would've been under when you wrote such a misguided and irrational SMS." Trying to project a suave and calm manner, Cleo pulled back her un-brushed hair as she tried to smooth-talk her way out of such a mess.
"Come-on babe, you know as well as I do that you're sacked and you've come to beg me to take. You. Back." A smug smile spread across the Boss' face, savouring the moment that he finally had Cleo cornered, right where he wanted her.
"Whatever. You've got me. I need this job. I've got a bunch of bills and a spoilt Gucci shawl which needs desperate dry cleaning. Please, please, please, PLEASE can I have my job back?" She slumped down in her chair, obviously exasperated, "Wait a minute I still don't understand why you fired me in the first place!"
"Don't give me crap like that! Boo-hoo-hoo! You want your stupid designer quirks, go find somewhere else to work. You weren't here for me yesterday when I needed you, you weren't here for Involve!, and so obviously you've got better things to do than look out for the well being of this company. Well, 'better' is a matter of opinion…"
Trying not to burst into tears, Cleo fought on, trying to find rationale between a sea of insults, "I can't tell you how much I need this job right now. And I'm pretty sure you're not going to give me the references to get another job of the same, well quite frankly, pay. I am willing to grovel right now in order to get this job back, as long as you understand the timings I'm available for." Sitting upright in her chair, Cleo utilised her brilliant blue eyes and stared directly at the Boss, almost willing him to give in. He on the other hand, smirked slyly to himself, toying with his fountain pen. I bet he's imagining me grovelling right now. What a loser, the timings are on my contract dammit! You can't fire someone for abiding by their contract! Hang on…, "Boss, if you aren't willing to hire me back…why did you reserve a 1:30 slot for me?"
With a sharp jerk of his head, the Boss indicated that his attention had returned to reality, suddenly breaking away from his day-dream. With a sigh, he wiped his forehead, and stood up from his leather swivel chair. Buttoning his Armani blazer, he slowly made his way around the oak-wood desk, dragging his knuckles on the surface. His eyes were down-cast, almost sneakily, and as he approached, Cleo could feel the euphoria emanating from him. It seemed calm enough, but she could see the excitement in his eyes, almost as if he were itching to move faster. Cleo should have trusted her instincts, which were in turn sensing the tension escalating, and the probability of things going from weird to weirder getting higher and higher, "Doll… We've worked together for such a long time. 3 yrs almost, and we know each-other well enough to realise that you can't just throw those sorts of relationships away at the click of a finger." The Boss slithered into the adjacent seat like a serpent.
"Shh… Cleo. Yesterday when we talked about you staying the afternoon, I realised that maybe we were going to have to work around some issues, you know, fix some inequities…so that the company benefited from your hard-work and you would still be able to attain your degree," sounding like a well practised lecturer, the Boss continued, his hand nervously stroking the arm of the chair as Cleo stared at him confusedly, "But when you rushed out at lunch time, I felt so angry. You weren't even willing to stick around and listen. To stick around and talk it through, so that we could sort it out like the adults that we are."
"Boss, you and I both know that the conversations we have are hardly even civil, let alone 'mature'. You didn't even give me any indication you wanted to re-discuss the issue!"
Breathless and shocked, Cleo searched the Boss' face for some sort of explanation. It was certainly a rarity that the Boss was treating her with dignity, leaving his chauvinistic and derogatory comments at the door and replacing the usual condescending tone which he usually addressed Cleo with, for a softer, soothing voice. While most other girls would be swooning at this point, Cleo simply gaped, unable to comprehend such a massive change in the space of 30 seconds.
"Well… I thought…well…that we could change that. Begin without all this crap in between us. Carry on with what we're meant to do without the shouting and swearing and … hostility. I knew I could talk it through with you over lunch, and I'd figured you'd be willing to get away from those damn interns. But as soon as I made my way towards you, you ran out the door clutching you book-bag with such desperation, it looked like you'd rather die than stay anywhere near here," No kidding, "and I guess that's what set me off in the end. You just didn't seem very trustworthy to me at the time, I mean you're always late to everything! Don't try and deny it Cle, you and I both know that punctuality isn't your forte. And when you're not even willing to sit and figure out the things that need figuring out, well…I just felt used. Like what's the point if at the end of the day you're just gonna milk my money for all it's worth, while you get your Gucci shawls dry-cleaned?" Sighing, the Boss' momentary determination seemed to drain, and his alert body, slackened, leaving him leaning back on his chair, eyes closed, and a look of exasperation on his face. Cleo on the other hand was ready to fight.
"Boss, I was at work for at least 3 hours in which you could've paged me to say you wanted to have a lunch-meeting! I don't gettit! Were you so angry that I didn't 'stick around' that you felt you had to give me the greatest scare of my life? Then you reserve a meeting for me so that you can tell me how much you don't want me working here? It's just dumb." Cleo sensed the fight in her employer flair up again as his eyes opened abruptly, looking at her dangerously.
"Do you know how upset I was with myself all day thinking, 'Am I really such a shit that my own personal assistant can't wait to get away from me? Being a shit is all I know!'? And it's true; I don't know how to do anything else! So when I got home, I was so angry at myself, so angry at you for making me angry at myself, that I picked up the cell and did what I do best. I was a shit, totally and admittedly."
"Boss, I know more than anyone how much of a shit you are…Belieeeeeeeeve me, I know. Just stop messing with me! I can't take it right now. You've made my whole world hell from last night, I've never felt more alone, especially after…whatever. So lemme guess, you woke up this morning feeling guilty, and thought, 'I'll keep some time open so that I can play with her mind a little, and then get the lil' skank to come back and work for me.'"
"Cleo it isn't like tha-…"
"Well that's it Boss. I thought I needed this job. But I don't need it so bad that I'm gonna risk my integrity and work for a shit like you," Cleo spat. Rising to her feet, she wiped a glistening tear from her cheek and grabbed her bag. She hastily flung an envelope onto the desk, and shouted with conclusion, "This is the end Boss. I've had enough. You tried to push me a little, and take me back. But you can't have me back, you've pushed me over the edge and I'm fucking glad." With that, she stormed out of the room and slammed the door, making the frames of the building quiver.
The Boss buried his head in his hands, ruffling his usually neat hair. He despaired knowing there was little he could do to stop his mis-tempered former personal assistant exiting the building. Tearing himself away from his thoughts he snatched the envelope and withdrew its contents. The silver chain slid across his fingers like water before falling to the floor with a soft clatter. The Boss remembered buying it for her at SoHo for $15 from a shady corner-vender, when they had been searching for cheap gift-bag gifts for an upcoming benefit. She had giggled and called him cheap when he had bought it for her, but it was her signature piece of jewellery at all the benefits that they had hosted, on display for all the rich snobs she had schmoozed. Well, those days are long gone buster. And it's all your fault… Walking slowly to his desk he rammed his finger on the intercom button, "Hey partridge bitch. I'm taking the rest of the day off, don't bother me."
It was 8:30pm and Cleo wasn't anywhere to be seen. Fletch looked worriedly at his watch for the thousandth time, knowing it wasn't like Cleo to miss a reservation at any uptown joint, especially the newest one in town, Skiute. He nearly groaned at the sound of Via's voice cackling across the table once again. She had latched herself onto Diego the whole evening, linking her arm in his and chatting avidly all evening about everything and anything. The few guys that had come along weren't pleasant company at all, keeping to themselves, with occasional mumblings in admiration of the food. The two girls, Eva & Reese had at first hung onto every word Via uttered, as if it were sacred, although even they had soon gotten bored, Who wouldn't? All she talks about is herself!, and started to make small chat to their neighbours. Fletch had sat awkwardly at the head of the table, air occupying Cleo's vacant seat, much to Fletch's misery. Yet the biggest surprise of all was Diego, running his forefinger up and down Via's shoulder, whispering in her ear, nuzzling her neck and all sorts of other annoying, yet intimate gesticulations towards the queen of "yada-yada-yada". Where the hell is she dammit?! Geez, I hope her boss isn't giving her hell…
"Sorry guys, had to stop off home after work. Subway's a nightmare and I was still in office clothes," Cleo garbled as she sat herself down at the table. She was acknowledged with a rush of mumbled greetings, similar to the first time she had met this same group. She thought to herself, Are they actually noticing that my hair is a mess, the sweat marks under my arms, and the pen marks all over my hands? Surely Diego would notice that I'm wearing the laced "Lisa Ho" knee high skirt which he bought me a month ago. Surely he would notice that I wore it on Tuesday, and I never wear the same base product more than once in a week! Oh, I forgot, Diego has better things to do. What about the other one?
"Hey Cle, I was starting to get worried!" Fletch grinned at her cheekily, obviously unaware at how truly pissed off Cleo was at him.
"Yeah, yeah I'm sure you were. So let's get this straight. We TXT each-other for a bit, you ask me to call you and then you magically disappear?" Cleo sniffed.
"What? Are you upset about something?" Fletch's grin faded away, replaced by a look of bewilderment.
Fortunately for him, Cleo did not get a chance to answer, as Via crowed across the table, "Oh Cle! I'm so glad you could make it! Well I'm glad to see you're trying to revive the fashions, but fashionably late for an hour is a bit off right?"
"And they still haven't brought your food! Service is a bit off isn't it? I know tens of places where you would've gotten your food 5 minutes after you order," Cleo snapped.
Blushing, Via raised her eyebrow and snidely replied, "Yes well I'm sure you heard about them from friends. Doubtful you could afford them." Quickly avoiding Cleo's shock and evident revulsion, Via carried on, addressing Diego, "I'm sure you've been to that place sweety, you know that uptown place with all the glass?"
"Oh yeah, um, Indigo or Violet or something. Wait a minute…" Tearing himself away from the clawing cat, he arose from the table and gazed anxiously at Cleo. What's wrong with her? She's not usually this catty, and she doesn't even know Via that well. Weird… He thought, obviously oblivious to Cleo's rage. As he approached he studied her carefully. She sat with a pouting face, her hands in between her knees. She's wearing that skirt again! Something must be wrong. Her hair looked almost matted, tortured by the wear and tear of NYC life. Her legs were bruised, and there were deep circles under her eyes. He tried not to cringe, Cleo wasn't one for pity, or "constructive criticism", "Hey babe, I'm sorry I couldn't help you out last night, I was a bit…tied up."
Without looking up she replied in a monotone, "I'm sure. Fletch – pass me that menu." Fletch, just as puzzled as Diego, passed the menu to Cleo, and shrugged at Diego.
"I mean it Cle, I couldn't deal with anything right at that moment," Diego pleaded. He sank down to his haunches, staring up at Cleo sadly.
"Yeah, well next time I get fired I'll give you a chance to redeem yourself. Ooh, Chicken a la parmesan! Order for me will ya? I'm starved!"
"WHAT?!" the men's mixed reaction failed to perturb Cleo. They gaped, Fletch being the first to react, placed his hand on hers, "How could you get fired? That man depends on you like a diabetic on insulin!"
"What kinda jerk fires you over the phone in the middle of the night?" Diego interjected, "Oh I shouldn't have just blown you off. It was just…I…I had company."
"I'm sure she meant a lot to you," Cleo indicated her eyes across the table to Via, "So 'D-Rocker', is she gonna be like the other ones? Quick one-nighter and then pack her off, or do her connections mean so much to you that you think you might stick around?"
"Don't be like that," Diego rubbed his eyes tiredly. A closer look would've revealed the formation of a tear.
"Be like what? Upset that my best friends don't give a shit about me? Can't be bothered to help me when I'm practically homeless?" Don't get too dramatic girl, just get out while you still can. Cleo didn't make an attempt to hide her tears. She grabbed her bag hastily, the contents of which fell noisily to the floor. Nervous glances from various guests ensued, but Via made an effort to ignore the situation, engaging Eve in a fascinating discussion of foundation and tone colours. Cleo seized her lipstick, compact, Palm Pilot (the oldest possible of model of the Palm Pilot, but a Palm Pilot just the same), cell and purse from the floor, shoved them into the Prada hand-bag, and scurried out of the restaurant without another syllable, except for an exaggerated sigh. The two men rose, mouths gaping, desperately trying to think of the words to bring her back, though failing miserably as the emotional blonde ran out onto the bustling street.
Fletch's hands instantly found his pockets, and hung his head, a Fletch indication of despair. As his eyes made contact with the floor, he spotted a scatter of newspaper clippings. He leant over to pick them up, as did Diego, and as they studied the pieces of paper, both men made a startling realisation. Each clipping was an ad from a company, advertising the need for a personal assistant. Each clipping was marked with a conspicuous red "x", indicating a failure of Cleo's own. Sweating and breathing hard, the clippings fell from Fletch's hand, and he raced out into the rain.
So how did you like dudes? It's a bit sad and stuff, not really a fun filled chapter, but there's a lot of running! Well it can't be happy days all the time, that's just the way the cookie crumbles! But expect some milky goodness in the next few chapters, though it won't all be happening as quickly as this chapter, otherwise the story will end in like 5 chapters. Anyway… I didn't think it was my best work but watever :)
Melancolie: OMG MY FIRST REVIEWER :) thanks heaps for supporting my story! U rock! Update your story, im waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiitttinng :P lol I cant really tlk coz I took like a month to update mine ahahah neway thanks for everything
Fazzingaway: my most constructive reviewer! Omg I luv ur reviews and I love Close Encounters, Inc. I like wait for you to update it everyday, and I love all the characters and the way the story's working out. Will review ch8 soon ! I luv it ! lol ahaha I think u get that I love it ahhahahah neway, rock on, ur my fav. Constructive reviewer!
Botsie: o botsie dearest thanks for the view views ahahah looooool mrs. Choong is a turd
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Reizel: heyaaaa, glad u liked my story. I luvd urs lots and I am waitin for that one where all those people are like, "Don't ask us, we don't know!" ahaha that cracked me up ! rock ooon
Winglessangel: ahaha I cant b bothred to put the 3s n shit ahahaha bla bla bla englihs is soooo boring
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Ess: ahahahaah ur so stupid. MRS CHOONG SUCKS ill put both you and bee in the next chapter. Ahha u'll b her new friends ahah
Bee: DIRTY DIRTY DIRTY GIRL ahahaa ur soo mean. I cant imagines Chris' face when he gets that e-mail ahaha
Lol. Thanks everyone for reviewing. If I missed you out, sorry, English is just distracting!