“One word,” she hisses.
I force myself not to rear back. This woman’s terrifying when she’s mad. She looks like she wants to eat me. The only time I’ve been this scared was when the kids had corralled me to watching Paranormal Activity 4 with them.
Her mascara-heavy eyes bore through me. “Not a word.”
“Not a word,” I repeat nevertheless, trying not to sound too fervent as I do.
The elevator’s bell rings again, this time like a boxing referee and it's a draw so far. Janice walks past me and into the elevator head held high.
William follows, but when he reaches my side, he whispers in an oily voice, “Let me know if you want the same thing.”
I rush to the restroom even before the doors close on their faces. There goes the rest of my lunch.
My phone makes a beep. It’s Nanette, my foster mother.
I need $200. Withdraw on your way home.
OK, I text back. It’s not like I have a choice. She actually steals Andy’s allowance when I don’t. Andy – who’s five years old and the most adorable boy in the world. In my lowest days, I think of her as a pedophile because she preys on kids as much as pervs – just without the sex. But most time, I try to fool myself with some feel-good Ellen DeGeneres philosophy. Forgive her, for she knows not what she does. Pray for her, so that she may go to Hell.
There’s another beep. This time it’s from Kevin. He’s three years younger at eighteen and he and Kelly are closest to my age. The orphanage says that the twins are half-American, half-something-European. Apparently, a still-anonymous woman had made the mistake of literally dumping the twins in the arms of a semi-deaf nun. When she took the twins to the orphanage, she couldn’t remember whether the woman had said the twins’ name was Pedro/Pedra or Petro/Petra.
Personally, I think they’re half-Italian, but Nicole insists the twins look half-Greek. Something about their swarthy complexions and all that. I’m just three credits away from having my Mass Communication degree, but even I don’t know what swarthy means. Whatever. Kids these days are so nerdy it’s uncool.
Still, it doesn’t really matter either way since the twins don’t give a shick about their lineage – to the point of opting for the Americanized names of Kevin and Kelly when Nanette adopted them.
I tap on the unopened message in my inbox.
Nanette has another.
Shick. Drat. FRACK.
I’m blaming Angelina Jolie for this. It’s her fault that Nanette’s turned foster care and adoption into a lifelong business.
I hurriedly text Kevin back. We’ll fix it later.
“Misty?” It’s Ed again, but this time he doesn’t look into my eyes. He pulls on his collar, which he has a reason for doing since it’s buttoned all the way up, choking him with the stiffness of its starched fabric.
“You’re, ahh, asked to go to the CEO’s office at the penthouse.”
My heart stops beating.
Interns don’t get called by the CEO for nothing. The word ‘intern’ isn’t even supposed to exist in a CEO’s vocabulary unless---
It’s Janice and William, I think to myself dully. They hadn’t trusted me to keep my mouth shut so they’ve concocted some wild story to get me fired by the CEO himself. Fracking apeholes. Cunning of them but really – apeholes.
I clear my throat. Maybe Ed’s heard wrong. Maybe it’s Do…Donaldo from 14/F who’s looking for me and not the Big Boss himself. “If you’re really sure,” I say slowly, silently begging him not to be sure.
Ed still doesn’t meet my eyes. “I received the call myself,” he mumbles. “He even gave your complete name, Misty,” he adds unhappily.
What the hell did those two apeholes tell the CEO anyway? That I grammatically sabotaged their papers or something? It’s not like I can do anything else.
Ed coughs, drawing my attention back to him. I have a feeling he wants to wish me good luck but doesn’t want to because that means something is wrong. And nothing can be wrong in his happy place.
He’s a good man, really. Nerdy, meek, but a good guy still. I’m secretly terrified I’ll be like him if my life doesn’t change in the next few years.
I shouldn’t be terrified. I should be ecstatic. Boring is good. Boring is safe. Boring puts food on the table and doesn’t get called out by the CEO to get royally fired.
Why do you listen to me, God? I’m stupid. I don’t know what I’m asking for. Don’t listen to me again.
The walk to the elevator is like the green mile, and I feel the zombies of Ze Morgue grinning behind me. The elevator’s mirrored walls taunt me with my reflection. It’s saying – you don’t look boring enough. That should teach me and my big, fat mental mouth.
It’s a long way up to 19/F, with people coming and going nonstop. I while away the journey by reviewing what I know about Domenico Moretti.
He’s 29 – eight years older than I am. Or make that seven in a few months’ time. He’s the eldest in a brood of six, with extraordinary Italian dark good looks – so much so he’s had to file a TRO against a supermodel who’s gone maniacally obsessive over him when their one-night stand ended.
All the business journals describe him as “ruthless” and “cunning”. Moretti Inc. only used to do business in Italy and the United States, but when Domenico took over less than 10 years ago, he turned the family business into a global empire by taking a couple of mind-blowingly risky gambles which paid off.
The doors open one last time for me as the elevator arrives at 19/F.
It’s my first time to be here since this floor is strictly by-invitation only. According to the office grapevine, there are only 3 reasons you can get an invitation to the hallowed offices of the CEO. You either pissed or pleased someone very high in Moretti Inc. – so much you’re worth a thirty-second congratulatory message delivered personally by the great Domenico Moretti himself – or you’re a female who’s hit the jackpot by snagging a highly-coveted invite to his private orgy room, which rumors say are hidden somewhere in this floor.
His secretary, a stern-looking woman in her forties named Evelyn, look at me with genuine pity in her eyes.
“Do you have a restroom somewhere?” I’m about to pee in my undies. I’m that scared.
To give her credit, she doesn’t even blink and just gestures to the hall to her right. “There’s a ladies’ room at the end.”