Cookies to the person who can figure out the book, which shouldn't be that hard considering the backstory is almost identical.
Okay. Don’t panic. Do not panic. It’s just a bill. Just a normal, everyday, credit card bill. It’s no different from your water, electric, cable, internet, and rent bills. It’s just a list of items you needed and purchased. No big deal, this comes every month and you take care of it every month.
But you will this month. Last month wasn’t a good month, last month you didn’t get paid half of what you’re worth, and this month you are. This month you’ll get the recognition you deserve, you wrote an amazing article that Colin absolutely adored…
Or maybe it was the low cut sweater you wore that day that he adored?
Either way, it still got printed. People were ranting and raving over your style and attitude, telling you you were one of the best financial journalists they had read in a while. Well…I’m paraphrasing, but it’s all the same. And surely that praise and the raise that comes along with it will be enough to cover this bill.
Turning my head, I glance out the window of my office building, taking in the busy
I have to admit, when I first came to
My dark eyes travel around the cramped office of Investing in Your Future, the financial magazine I am currently employed at, and I groan internally. Okay, so I’m still working on the world, but it’s a foot in the door.
That’s what you said three years ago.
Pulling myself away from my internal battle, I turn my eyes on the bulky envelope sitting on my desk. It couldn’t be that bad. Sure, this month seemed to be littered with sales, but I have self control, I have willpower. It’ll be about $400…$500 max. I only bought a few things. Those really cute Christian Louboutin shoes that were 40% off, that was a steal, no way I could pass them up. And that Gucci purse with the tiny flaw that I got for 50% off. I saved tons of money this month, the should really pay me for how savvy I am.
Right, so $500…$550 max.
But that envelope is awfully thick. It’s probably just brochures, they are always advertising some boring thing that no one understands and stuffing envelopes with a hundred thousand things just so they can freak their clients out. Really, it’s rude. Making a mental note to send them a piece of my mind I snatch the envelop off of my desk, staring at my name on the front for a moment.
Miss Gabriella Montez
Damn. At least there’s no hope that perhaps I got someone else’s mail.
“You okay Gabi?”
My eyes dart up quickly to take in the dark skinned girl sitting in the desk across from mine. Her dark hair is short and framing her face, giving her an extremely business-y look, as if the black pants, white short sleeved shirt and grey and white checkered sweater vest with matching black tie weren’t enough to make her look like she owned the place. Taylor McKessie has worked here for about the length of time that I have worked here, and I always feel slightly bad for her when I think of how she’s sort of stuck in this position. She’s super smart and has the world at her fingertips if only she’d just grasp it. She even has a mildly accurate sense of style, which, considering where we work, is saying something.
“Uh,” I stammer out, “yeah, just reading a letter.”
I nod my head, but I’m no longer paying attention, the seal of the envelope is broken, and I seize the bill inside before yanking it out. The page is simple, white and black, and I can’t help but feel a surge of panic rise up in me. They really do a crappy job in making people feel comfortable when it comes to bills. They should be bright and colorful, full of coddling words and euphemisms. Obviously the paying of the bills is unavoidable, but at least they could make it as painless as possible. For example, if the bill was pink and green it’d be much easier for me to hand over my hard earned $600. I may not be happy, but I’d be happier.
This bill is not pink and green.
Nor is it $650.
The list of stores displayed are overwhelming, almost as though they all belong in one mall and this is the directory for them. Maybe it is. Maybe this is an announcement for a brand new mall in
Wait a second. Godiva. Godiva Chocolates. When did I go there? I haven’t been there in…months, this bill can’t be right.
Apple (well, I can’t be a journalist without a laptop…and it’s purple!)
Trade Secret (everyone needs hair care products, I can’t go to work with a rat’s nest on my head)
Borgo Antico (dinner with Sharpay)
La Casa De Spa (I was having a bad day)
Marc Jacobs (they were having a sale)
Sephora (trust me, you don’t want to see me without makeup)
Agent Provocateur (Colin and I had a…business meeting)
Emilio’s Ski Shop…
Ah ha! I knew it. This isn’t my statement. Emilio’s Ski Shop? Please, I can’t walk without tripping, like I’m purposely strapping on something to help me fall. Dropping the statement, I reach down and grab my Gucci bag and withdraw my wallet, tearing through it, where is my credit card? Someone must have stolen it!
“Someone stole my credit card,” I tell her simply, pulling out my various credit cards in search of the one that matches the logo at the top of the paper, “someone bought skis, I would never buy skis.”
“Yes you would.” I freeze at
My shoulders deflate and I cast a glance towards the office of our editor, Colin Sifford, and I can see the skis leaning up against the wall. He found a job at some other company and today was his last day. The skis were his going away present. Damnit.
“Oh yeah,” I said dejectedly and pulled out the last card, matching the statement, “now I remember.”
My eyes return to the bill and instead of pretending that there is the slimmest chance this isn’t mine, I just accept the inevitable and look down at the bottom figure, my eyes widening as I take in the total amount of money on my credit card.
Twelve hundred and thirty seven dollars, sixty three cents.
My eyes have widened, and I am glaring at the black and white page as though it might burst into flames and take my debt with it. After a good minute, I crumple up the bill and stuff it back into the envelope before burying it at the bottom of my bag. I don’t have time for this. I’m sure the bill is wrong and as soon as I get home, I’ll receive a statement in correction, telling me I owe nothing because of their silly mistake. Yes, that’s what will happen, and then I won’t have to worry about it. In fact, I think I’ll stop by Barney’s on the way home and see if there’s a sale going on, there must be something.
“You’re going to that press conference this afternoon, right?”
“Of course,” I answer confidently, “I need a few more points for my article.”
I frown, “Why is Colin making you and I go?”
“Gabriella!” My head shoots over at the sound of my name and I find our editor in question walking towards us. Colin is the last person in the world you would think would be the editor of a financial magazine. He’s tall and lean, dark hair, dark eyes, tanned skin, he comes from money, and I always kind of thought he looked like a model who got lost on their way to LA. I know there’s more to the story then what everyone knows, but he’s not willing to talk about it, not that we do much talking when we’re alone together. Pretty much everyone hates him, I kinda do too, he’s still an ass, he’s just an ass who does wonders with his hands.
He looks serious and I match his look. He doesn’t scare me, no matter how hard he tries, “Do you have that article on the Campbell Group finished?”
I shake my head, “I plan on finishing it after the conference today.”
He nods curtly, “I want it on my desk before the end of the day.”
I resist the urge to roll my eyes, I don’t know why he cares, he won’t be in charge of printing it anymore. “Sure.” I say simply, turning my eyes back to the computer.
Colin nods, “Alright, you two get ready, we’ll leave here soon for the conference.”
He’s gone before I can even really notice, and I hit a few keys of my laptop before shutting it and stuffing it into my bag. I hated these financial conferences too, but for a much different reason then
Picking up my purse and grabbing my jacket, I ignore the bill that somehow made its way to the top of all my junk. I’ll deal with you later.
------------------[I am a line]------------------
Financial conferences are good for one thing and one thing only. Alcohol. When I started in this business, I was always afraid to drink anything, not wanting everyone to think I was unprofessional or an alcoholic. But that was before I actually attended one and found that they downed champagne like it was water, and they actually looked at you odd if you didn’t drink.
Grabbing my glass of champagne from the counter of the bar and turning to survey the crowded room, I can’t help but think how much I truly don’t fit in with this crowd. They all exist in shades of black and white. Black suits, grey skirts, white shirts, ash pants…all of them are so boring…so plain. They lack color, they lack luster. And I stick out like a sore thumb in my purple Diane von Furstenberg knee length dress. It’s business attire, and when I saw it I absolutely had to have it. The silky material that hugs my curves, the modest yet sexy v-neckline dipping down low enough to make every person realize this isn’t where I belong, and finished with a wide navy belt around my waist. Adding in my navy heels and the jacket I had already discarded, and I look like I just walked out of a magazine.
And not Investing in Your Future.
It’s a shame, really, because most of the people here aren’t terrible looking. Sure they need different hair styles and more then a few of them need pointers on how to apply makeup, but all in all, they aren’t bad. Some of them are even good looking.
My eyes scan the room, taking in the great number of people I recognize but don’t necessarily know. Where is he? He always looks amazing in his Prada or Armani or…whatever designer he has…
I jump about a foot in the air as the deep voice enters my eardrum, causing me to choke on my sip of champagne I was halfway through. Coughing wildly, my eyes turn to my interrupter, finding my person of interest, but secretly wishing I had instead just spotted him from across the room.
Word of wisdom to anyone ever attending a financial conference; don’t ever ask who Troy Bolton is. Don’t act like you don’t know him, and don’t, under any circumstances, let anyone know you don’t know who he is. Trust me, I know, I did. People don’t forget that, and most importantly he doesn’t forget that.
Troy Bolton is an entrepreneur. He must own the biggest financial PR firm in all of
He seems unhappy, though, and that’s pretty much the only thing that keeps me from putting on all of my designer dresses and jumping into the ocean. He constantly frowns and I rarely see his face covered in anything but seriousness, there was that one time I thought he smiled, but I was mistaken.
There was a laugh from the dark skinned companion next to him and my eyes widened as I realize I do recognize him. He’s Troy Bolton’s partner in crime, although, I doubt they much break the law. Chad Danforth, as far as I knew, has known Troy Bolton his entire life, they attended Harvard together and worked their way to the top together. He’s a lawyer, and the two had many joint business ventures that I could not even begin to understand. He is, perhaps, the only male in the room with his hair longer then an inch, everyone knowing Chad Danforth by his cutthroat ability in the courtroom and long curly hair. But don’t comment on the hair, never comment on the hair, he’s touchy about it. Still, I like him. So different from
“A little jumpy there, Gabriella?”
“Sorry,” I say, “you surprised me.” I do my best to maintain eye contact with
I don’t know Candace, but I do know of Candace. Candace McDonald, employed at Bolton Enterprises, cutthroat bitch who will do anything to get to the top. She’s a gorgeous blonde with her perfectly pointed nose, sultry lips, and curvaceous body, and from what I hear she’s supposedly pretty good at her job. But I never see it, all I ever see is her acting like a bumbling bitchy buffoon. Solely because of the person she’s currently standing next to, Troy Bolton.
It’s no secret that Candace hopes to have Troy Bolton as her boyfriend. I even heard a rumor that she has a five year plan including an elaborate proposal, huge wedding, and a baby. She dates the most ridiculous men, parades them around at gala events, showing off how gorgeous or how rich they are, and in a week she’s crying to all of her co-workers on how awful they were and how she’ll never find love, secretly hoping Troy gets the picture. Most people have stopped bothering to learn who she’s with or comfort her when she dumps them, because most people are aware of the situation. Perhaps the only person unaware of the situation is Troy Bolton, himself. Not that that surprises me, he’s a workaholic, when would he have time for a relationship?
Candace smiles at me brightly, extending her hand, “No, I do not believe we have met?” I reach out and shake her hand, “Candace McDonald, I work for Bolton Enterprises.”
Yeah, rub it in, you have the better job.
I plaster a fake smile on my face, “Gabriella Montez, I’m a journalist for Investing in Your Future.”
Her smile almost instantly becomes forced. Yeah, another thing, PR people don’t generally like us journalists, I never understand why
Oh crap, am I missing something about their companies?
“So good of you to come,” Candace says, and I can hear the undertone of snootiness, “considering everything happening right now.”
What is she talking about? Did I fall asleep during something? Crap, I’ll have to talk to
I nod my head, “Yes, well…” I shrug my shoulders hoping they’ll change the subject.
“Yes, yes it does.” I agree, my voice sounding confident. My eyes move from
Candace lifts her eyebrows, “So where are you working now?”
My eyes snap to Candace. What is she, stupid? Are the hair dye fumes finally getting to her? Did I not just introduce myself with my place of employment attached to the end of my name?
I turn at the voice, finding Colin walking up behind me, a glass of champagne in his hand and his dark eyes focused on me. I resist the urge to roll my eyes as I turn back towards the group of three in front of me, taking a sip of my champagne. Sure, we work together, and…do other stuff, but generally he’s too busy rubbing elbows with the higher up journalists to actually come and talk to me or any of the other journalists that come to these things. That is, unless we’re talking to someone like Troy Bolton. Then we’re best friends and he’s the best editor in the world. Or so he told us to say.
“I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
I feel his arm curl around my back and I take a large sip of my drink as he focuses on the other three people, “Ah, Troy, Chad, Candace,” he shakes all of their hands as if he knows them personally, “so wonderful to see you all again, I…”
I tune them out as I slowly turn my body away from the group. I’ve got one chance to escape. Come on Colin, tell one of your boring stories and capture their attention…
I spin back around with a bright smile on my face, as though I wasn’t trying to do anything, finding
Why? Why would he be intrigued about that? Why couldn’t he care about Colin’s future plans? He’s actually got some, I don’t even know what I’ll be doing tonight, let alone in the proverbial future.
I glance over at Colin, hoping for some kind of scapegoat, like maybe he decided to be a good editor and choke on his champagne so that I could rush to his rescue and perform the Heimlich, be praised as a hero, and they love me so much that the bank considers my Visa bill paid off. My brow creases in confusion, however, when I see the nervous look on his face. Colin’s, like, never nervous.
“Um,” I force my eyes back to
“Ladies and gentleman,” a voice says from the front of the room, “if you could please take your seats now.”
“Oh, well, gotta go.” I mumble quickly, turning away and booking it away from that group. I’m not sure if Troy Bolton or anyone tried to stop me, and I don’t turn around to find out, darting to the opposite side of the room in search of an open seat.
“I saw you were cornered,” she murmurs to me as I take the seat next to her, “I thought Colin was gonna help, but obviously not.”
I roll my eyes, pulling out my notepad and the press packet that had been handed to me earlier, “Obviously not,” I sigh and turn my eyes on the presenter, still preparing his notes, “why would he help me escape those conceited morons?”
“Conceited morons with inflated egos to make up for other areas they are lacking in,” I start, “and bad hair.”
“You’d think with their millions they can afford haircuts?”
“It’s not a matter of affording it,” Taylor and I turn sharply at the voice entering into our conversation and both of our eyes widen to find Chad Danforth sitting in the chair behind us, Troy Bolton by his side, neither looking amused, “it a matter of wanting it.”
Troy quirks an eyebrow, “And knowing we don’t have to if we don’t want to.”
I turn my head back to the front and out of my peripheral vision I can see
------------------[I am a line]------------------
“Do I have holes burned into the back of my head?”
I roll my eyes, shoving my unused notebook into my bag, “They were just upset because we were telling the truth,” we’ve stopped walking and I turn to look at
Turning the corner, something catches my eye in the window and I immediately stop. There, sitting in the
All Accessories – 50% Off!
My legs carry me into the store before I can even comprehend what I’m doing, and I find myself standing in front of the scarf, feeling the silk beneath my fingertips. It’s Armani, and the way the red material is sewn together makes it appear to have layers, but it’s still light, not bulky. Lifting it up, I wrap it around my neck and catch my reflection in the window. Red looks gorgeous with my dark hair, and it would go amazing with all of my black and white coats I have for the winter. It’s
But you already have a scarf.
But my scarf is old, and fraying. And it’s nowhere near as elegant and glamorous as this one. And just look, it makes my eyes pop, my haircut look more expensive, everyone would notice me, I’d be the girl in the red scarf.
You just got a twelve hundred dollar credit card bill in the mail, you do not need a scarf.
“The sale only lasts today,” my head snaps over to find the saleslady smiling at me, “and that one is our last in stock.”
My hand grips it tightly, “I’ll take it.”
There’s a mess of things splayed on the counter as I dig out my wallet, the saleswoman sticking the scarf into a tiny bag, making it look even more elegant without even trying. My Visa card is out of the question, and I’m positive that all of my other cards are at their limits, but I’ve still got that cash from the skis we bought Colin somewhere. I know it.
“That’ll be $140.” The lady says with a smile, “Cash or credit?”
My hand grips tightly to an envelope buried in the deepest crevice of my bag and I pull it out eagerly, “Cash.” I mutter, flipping open the top of the envelope, eyeing the wad of twenties, thankful that I didn’t know this was here before. I yank it out of the envelope and immediately count it in my head.
Crap, there’s only $100.
It’s okay. Gripping my wallet, I flip it open and pull out the bit of cash I have stashed in there, dumping it onto the counter
“Oh no,” I whisper, “I don’t have enough.” My eyes dart up to the sales lady who’s watching closely, “Can you hold it? I live right around the corner, I can…”
“We don’t hold sales items.” She deadpans, pulling the scarf from its beautiful bag, “Some other sale.”
My face becomes hard and my mind determined. I will get that scarf.
Shoving the money back into my bag, I practically run out of the store, intent on sprinting home and getting back here before someone else buys that scarf. That scarf is mine. I will…
My thoughts on the scarf are cut off as I run straight into someone outside of Saks, the solid physique of the other person knocking me off kilter.
“Gabs!” My head snaps up to find Colin staring down at me and I realize he could be the key to getting my scarf, “Good, I was hoping to catch you before you went back to the office. Look, I’m not heading back, but I was hoping we could have dinner tonight. I have a meeting until 7, but…”
His words are going in one ear and out the other. I want my scarf. “Colin, do you have $20?”
Colin blinks at me, thrown by my question, “What?”
My head turns towards the window and I can see the scarf already back into view, “It’s just…there’s this scarf…”
“Oh Gabs…” Colin starts.
“No, you don’t understand.” I defend quickly, “It’s for my grandmother…she’s in the hospital…she’s always wanted and Armani scarf and its half price, I just need $20.”
Colin takes a step back, shaking his head, “No.”
“Colin, I’ll pay you back,” I say immediately, “tomorrow…tonight, in fact, I just need to get the money from my apartment.”
“I don’t carry cash.” Colin informs me and my stomach plummets, crap, “Now tonight…after seven…I’ll see…”
“I know you carry cash, Colin,” I spit with an edge to my voice, “it’s just…”
“Twenty dollars.” I stop when a twenty dollar bill is floating in my face, spinning around and finding my eyes widening at the sight of Troy Bolton standing behind me, a look of amusement/curiosity as he studied me, “What kind of grandmother wants an Armani scarf?”
My eyes widen. Come on Gabi, think…think.
“She got one from my grandfather,” I hear myself say, “before he died…in the fire.”
I nod, “Yes, she lost everything, it was tragic.”
He nods, “That does sound tragic.” He holds out the bill, “Give her my regards.” My pride is telling me not to take the money. Troy Bolton is an egotistical maniac, I can see it in his eyes, he doesn’t believe me when I say it’s for my grandmother, he just wants something else to hold over my head.
But I really want that scarf.
My hand takes the bill, “I will, thank you.” For a second, we both just stand there, almost testing each other with our stares. I’m waiting for him to grab the money back and tell me he knows I’m lying, and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know what he’s waiting for.
I jump slightly when I feel a hand on my back, and I remember that we’re not alone, Colin standing behind me, “Gabs, tonight?”
I blink back to reality and nod my head, “Yes, after seven.” Taking a step away from the group, I’m thankful when Colin speaks up.
“Shall we head out?” he’s speaking to Troy, and for the first time I notice Chad’s a few feet behind him, staring at me oddly.
He turns and I watch him go, feeling something sink in the pit of my stomach.
He’s never going to let me forget this either.
------------------[I am a line]------------------
Oh yeah, and it's first person. Eek! I probably shouldn't have done this. *bites lip*