Frustrated, Amity stomped to the office kitchen to find a paper towel. She leafed one from the pile and began to dot at her blazer, kicking herself. This was the last thing she needed today—especially given that her upcoming meeting was with a fashion client.
As she dabbed, she noticed Flora standing in the corner, her forehead pressed against the window. She was staring out at the office floor, her hands on her hips.
“You seem intent,” Amity said, her voice light. “What’s up?”
p; Flora spun toward her, surprised. Her blond hair was loose, messy around her face. She looked as if she’d been crying.
“I’m sorry, Amity,” she murmured, wiping at her face. “I’ll get back to work now.”
Amity realized she needed to use softer words, a kinder face. “What’s wrong, honey? What’s going on?”
But she was sure she already knew. Flora had arrived back from Al-Mabbar about a week after Amity had. And, if Amity had dived into her work to disguise her heartache, Flora had done just the opposite: wearing her pain on her sleeve and on her face and in the manner in which she walked, without a thought for her work.
“It’s just Rama,” she cried out, clenching her fists. “He hasn’t called me in over a week. I thought we had something special, you know? He talked about me coming out to visit him at the end of the summer. He talked about—he talked about me potentially moving there.”
Amity swallowed slowly, focusing on the young girl’s tragedy. “Well, Flora,” she began. “Did you say he was seeing a lot of other women?”
“Not after the first week,” Flora whined. “He said he only wanted to see me.”
Amity frowned, remembering the clientele at the club she’d gone to with Flora and Aziz. It didn’t seem like the club had been popular with the “settling down” kind.
“Well, what’s stopping you from calling him?” she asked gently.
“Maybe I should,” Flora said, her voice flubbing with tears. “I know he feels something for me. I know he wants me. I know we’re meant to be together. Why should I allow the distance to destroy us?”
Amity nodded along, all the while knowing this was a terrible idea. If he wasn’t willing to call her, it was clear that Rama didn’t want to speak with Flora. The same way it was clear, in the back of her mind, that Aziz didn’t want to speak with her. So it was best to leave well enough alone.
Amity ended the conversation with a warm hug, sending Flora home early to “think things over.” She knew she was going to have a serious conversation with her soon—after all, she’d bounced between being completely unreliable and being a complete wreck every day since she’d been hired—but seeing the pain in the girl’s eyes, she couldn’t quite bring herself to do it.
Back at her desk, Amity ruffled her hair, wishing the hours away. She slipped her ear buds into her ears, the music concealing the office gum chewing, and rested her chin on her palm. She could sense that her mind was going to spiral to Aziz, and she almost wanted it to. She wanted to linger on the way he smelled, on the scent of his skin. She wanted to imagine the way he called her name during sex. She wanted to imagine their life together—in an alternate reality, in another world.
She hated that she often dreamed of him. She couldn’t control that part of her life. Deep in her unconsciousness, she and Aziz had that pure kind of happiness—the stuff of love songs. They walked together by European rivers and danced all night in clubs, kissing on corners. And they lived together in that great mansion, working their way through his movie collection, through the days of their lives. Everything they did, they did together.
These dreams naturally left the rest of her day ruptured. The moment she woke up from them, she felt her stomach bottoming out; she felt her skin peeling from her face with stress. She dressed slowly, repeating a mantra to herself, over and over: “It wouldn’t have been that way. It wouldn’t have worked out. It wouldn’t have been that way. It wouldn’t have worked out.”
The words soothed her, reminding her that even if she had stayed behind—to “see what would happen”—the results would not have been stellar. She would have driven herself mad, just thinking about him all day, and she wouldn’t have finished any kind of PR agenda. She would only have killed her career, breaking her heart in the process when he inevitably tired of her and moved onto the next girl.
Beyond anything, she knew that Aziz was unattainable. He was a rich and powerful man—a billionaire with royal blood. He was meant for someone great, and she—a Midwestern woman working her way up the ranks—was simply not it. It was almost hilarious that she’d considered it for even a moment.
Flora rushed up to her desk, then, and Amity lurched her head up, blinking rapidly.
“Did you fall asleep again?” Flora asked her. She looked like a deer in headlights, her purse strapped over her, anxious to leave. “You’ve been doing that a lot recently. Are you overworking yourself again?”
“Probably,” Amity admitted, breathing evenly. She shook her head roughly, checking the clock. It was true. She’d passed out for nearly twenty minutes, just sitting at her desk. Her latte macchiato cooled beside her.
“Maybe you should go home soon, too,” Flora said, chipper, before she marched away, past Mark, her ex, and into the simmering August heat.
Maybe she should go home, Amity thought. She rose from her desk and nearly collapsed back into the chair, physical exhaustion aching through her. She’d been working too hard, and she knew it. She was racing the clock, taking on as many clients as possible, trying to keep her mind busy. She owed it to herself, and to her career. But the stress was taking a toll on her body.
Amity rushed into the bathroom, then, and peered at herself in the mirror. She looked awful. Bags lined her eyes and her skin was rough, red. She placed her palm over her forehead, feeling the clammy skin beneath. She bounced from left foot to right, thinking. She hadn’t gotten