“This is great, Risa. But to be honest, these are very mainstream. We want to be mainstream, but we also want an edge to our brand that makes it feel young, exclusive, and hip.”
“I completely understand. These are very safe. Obviously I was limited by what the client wanted here, but I could explore many more directions with Clozpin. We can do edgy high fashion and make it clean and elegant, you know? Simple but sexy.”
She talked a good game, but could she deliver? I flipped through the rest of the portfolio and studied her a moment.
“How do you feel about networking and sales? Landing new accounts is possibly the most critical component to this position. You can love fashion all day long, but you need to be able to sell it.”
“Agreed, but it’s really difficult to sell something you don’t love. I can sell this service, and if I have to do after-hours events for the networking effort, I’m totally fine with that.”
I sat back in my chair and weighed her words. She was hungry. No one could deny that. In the past couple weeks of interviews, I hadn’t come across anyone who exuded as much passion as she had in the past five minutes.
We had no real office culture, so I had no idea how she would gel with Sid and his new troupe of techies. More importantly, how would she gel with me? The clock was ticking on getting our newly funded plans in place, and I needed to make a decision. Hiring her on the spot seemed rash, but she was basically perfect.
She took a deep breath. “Listen, I understand this is your baby, Erica. You seem like someone who would be great to work with and learn from. The decision is yours of course, but I’d really love to be a part of this team.”
She bore into me with her dark blue eyes, waiting to pounce on the next interview question, no doubt.
“You’re fine with the pay?”
“Absolutely.” She waved her hand definitively.
I clicked my pen, stalling even though I’d already made the decision. “Fine.”
“Let’s do this.”
A huge smile spread across her face. “Really? Oh my God, you won’t regret it.”
I stood, and when we shook hands, hers trembled slightly in my own. Wow, was she that nervous?
“You can start on Monday. We’ll sort out the paperwork when you get in.”
“Awesome, thank you so much.” The smile plastered all over her face wasn’t going anywhere, I could tell.
Alli stretched out on the blanket beside me while I tossed crumbs to the ducks in the pond. The public gardens were just a few blocks from my apartment, and on a beautiful warm day like today, the park was alive with families, tourists, and people like us. I’d cut out of work early to pick her up, and we decided some sunshine was the first item on the agenda for her long weekend visit with me.
“I forgot how much I love summer here.” Her eyes were hazy and wistful, like her thoughts were here but also someplace else.
“You miss Boston yet?”
Alli propped up on her elbow. “I think I do. New York kind of sucks you into its vortex. Sometimes I have a hard time imagining my life outside the city, but I have to say, I am enjoying the change of scenery. I needed a break.”
The past several weeks had been an adjustment for both of us. After three years of sharing a dorm to being two hundred miles away, our friendship had been strained. But deep down, I knew distance alone couldn’t shake what we had.
“No doubt. Any news from Heath?”
“He’s doing well.”
“I thought maybe you’d go see him, you know, instead of me.” I was glad she hadn't, of course. After bringing her up to speed on everything that had happened between Blake and me and then having Mark show up seemingly out of nowhere, we’d both agreed that we needed face time.
“Friends first, biatch.” She smiled and gave me a little poke.
I retaliated by aiming a few breadcrumbs at her perfectly tousled soft brown locks falling down her back.
“Do you think you’ll visit him in L.A.?”
“No. He needs his time there, and frankly, I need time too. I finally got my own place, and the move has been strangely liberating. Every day I felt like I was waiting for him there. Now I’m finally starting my life in the city, without every moment revolving around him and us.”
I nodded, knowing full well how important independence could be in a new relationship. Keeping Blake at arm’s length was a constant struggle when I wanted nothing more than to be enveloped in the safety and security of his hyper-controlled world. Blake’s world was safe, but it wasn’t always reality.
“That makes sense. When does he get back from rehab?”
“Another month or so. Not sure yet.”
“What then? Are you going to pick up the pieces and try again?”
“I think so. We haven’t made any commitments, but—” She lay back and stared up at the trees above us.
“What is it?”
“I just… I miss him. That's all.”
I paused, not wanting to push her either way. She was struggling with their separation, but I still wasn't convinced Heath was good for her. Even if he was Blake’s little brother.
“Sometimes all I can hear is people judging us.”
I cringed a little, praying she hadn't read my expression or my mind.
“Like, what the fuck am I doing wasting my time with someone like him? My friends, even you, think he’s trouble, and I admit it, he’s got problems. But I can’t give up on us. He deserves another chance.” She wiped away a tear before it had a chance to fall.
I lay down next to her on the blanket and waited for her to collect herself. Finding out Heath had a drug problem had been a shock, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that they were hopelessly in love. I’d never seen Alli so blissed out, and Heath had taken her there. I hoped she could do the same for him, enough to lure him away from an addiction that could ruin their chance for happiness together.
“Alli, I care about you, and I want you to be happy. If I come across as judgy, it’s because I’m worried about your well being, not because I question Heath’s value as a person. Trust me, I know full well that no one and no relationship is perfect. He’s got issues, but all hope is not lost, I’m sure.”
She turned her head and gave me a weak smile. “Thanks.”
“If he can get his shit together, you can still make this work. Just be smart about it. That’s all I want.”
She laughed. “I’m trying. I’m not very smart when it comes to being in love, I guess.”