Rush me, p.9
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       Rush Me, p.9

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 9

  I bit back a nervous giggle. I had never used someone for sex in my life. “Yeah. Maybe. ”

  “I mean it, Rachael. When was the last time you hooked-up with anyone? John, right? That’s two months. I didn’t even like my date on Saturday, but I still slept with him. ”

  I examined my nails. I was used to way longer dry spells than two months. This was just depressing.

  When lunch ended, Laurel took off. “I already cleared it with Gretchen. ” Her eyes danced. “I told her I have a dentist appointment, but it’s really for a mani-pedi. But nails are like teeth, right?”

  If a job opened up and it went to Laurel instead of me, I would cry.

  Back in the office, a new pile of mail waited. With a groan, I sank to the floor and started dragging my exacto-knife through packing tape. I stacked books and sorted mail. I pulled off shrink-wrap and dated letters.

  I ripped one of the envelopes open, sliding out a nicely done manuscript. I started to toss it to the side. Even though our website clearly stated “No unsolicited manuscripts” and “no unagented work” we still received more than our share. Writers were supposed to go through agents, and then the agents sub us, and then we publish. But sometimes people thought that maybe they’re different, and skip the agent, sending their manuscript straight to us.

  And then we threw them out.

  Yet this one, as I tossed it aside, fell open. A color picture filled up half a page, and I couldn’t help glancing over. I was a sucker for Renaissance paintings, and this one had dudes in armor and plumed hats. They stood outside a tent strung up between several trees, filled with women kneeling down before them. One of the men held his arms apart as though taken aback, while the other, wrapped in a regal red cloak, looked on.

  There was a box below the painting, titled “A Royal Blunder. ”

  Anyone else catch Queen Sisygambis’ embarrassing mistake this week? As the known world knows, Alexander just won the Battle of Issus, and now King Darius III is on the lamb and A. ’s captured the Persian royal family. When Alexander paid a visit to the hostage ladies with his bff Hephaestion in tow, the queen-mother collapsed in obeisance to plead for her family’s life—only she knelt in front of the wrong man!

  Your bad, Queen S.

  But Alexander didn’t mind. In fact, our source (Diodorus 17. 37. 5–6) reports A. even said: “Never mind, mother. For actually he too is Alexander. ” Oh, la. We always thought they were close as brothers, but maybe it’s more than that.

  But Mr. H better watch out. Queen S knows what side her pita is pocketed on, and word is she has two granddaughters close in age to the 23-year-old conqueror, who has only taken one wife so far. D and S go on our list of princesses to watch.

  Alexander the Great was exactly my age when he conquered Persia? I might need to re-adjust my life goals.

  I flipped over to the next page. Formatted like the front page of a newspaper, a print of an engraving took center stage, titled “Weddings at Susa, Alexander to Stateira and Hephaestion to Drypetis. ” In it, Alexander and his new wife lounged on a dais, Hephaestion and the second princess just to the side. Scores of other laurel-wreathed and linen-draped folk lounged in the fore and background. Above, a headline splayed in square, bold font: Royal Double Wedding of the Millennium!

  I scanned the pages, admiring pictures of paintings, busts, carvings, and landscapes. There were maps and timelines. Gossip columns about Alexander’s three wives shared space with side-by-side comparisons of paintings and diagrams of battles. It was history, art-history, and humor, all in one.

  “Hey, Marie. There’s an unsolicited here that’s actually pretty good. ”

  She swiveled in her chair. “Really?” She skipped through it, and smiled a bit. “It’s cute. ”

  That wasn’t very enthusiastic. But. I guess not everyone’s a total nerd, with a half-completed Classics minor. Still, I thought it was clever.

  Which is why, instead of tossing it, I stuck it in my inbox. Just because.

  Chapter Five

  On Tuesday, I temped at a law firm on 8th Avenue. It was fascinating stuff, entering data into a massive spreadsheet that could conceivably eat the world. I’d temped there several times before, so I greeted the people I recognized, who all regarded me with blank expressions. After that, I kept to small smiles during my frequent visits to the coffee machine.

  I probably should have avoided all the extra caffeine, since I had an interview that afternoon at the mid-sized Trophy Press for a publicist’s assistant position. I spent the entire day halfway to hyperventilating. “You’re intelligent,” I kept repeating under my breath while copy-and-pasting data into the spreadsheet. “You have a year’s experience in publishing. You are personable. You deserve this job. ”

  Drowning out those words, a silent, dark voice shrieked. No one will ever hire you and you’ll have to go home and you’re a failure. A total, utter failure. Why do you even try?

  I’d arranged to leave the office early, so at three o’clock I ducked into the bathroom, and spent twenty minutes trying to make myself utterly professional. I wore my straight black pencil skirt over black tights, a black jacket, and a white blouse. Was this too conservative? Too boring? No, it was a cute suit. And I had bright square glass earrings. I smoothed my trembling hands over my skirt. I had actually ironed the night before.

  And the real irony was, everyone I’d met in publishing wore jeans.

  As a final touch, I brushed powder over my skin and dabbed on lip-gloss. Then I changed my mind and blotted it off, and then dabbed more on. “You’re intelligent,” I muttered as I left the building, heading for the subway. “You have experience. ”

  You’ll never get this.

  I straightened my shoulders. I had a shot at this. I had excellent recommendations. I just had to ace this interview.

  But everyone else in the world also has excellent recs, and they’ve more experience, and who are you kidding?

  When I reached the subway, it was closed.

  I stared at it in astonishment, the knot of anxiety and tension in my stomach convulsing. How could it be closed? New York didn’t close the subway. This wasn’t France. The metro didn’t go on strike.

  “Excuse me,” I said, after I found my voice and a clump of officers. “Why is the subway closed? Is it just this station?”

  The officer didn’t even look up. “The whole line. There’re protests going on at Grand Central. ”

  “But—but I have to get downtown. ”

  He shrugged. “Better take a cab. Subways aren’t going anywhere. ”

  I bit my lip. Now what was I supposed to do? I’d have to take a taxi, even though I didn’t really have the money to do that. And what with traffic—who knew how long it would take me to get there? Maybe there was a bus. . .

  My shoulders slumped. How could I get a job if I couldn’t even get to an interview? This was a disaster. I was a disaster. I should have left earlier, should have checked the Metropolitan Transport Authority website, should have known what the hell I was doing with my life a year ago. . .

  “Subway’s closed?”

  My stomach lurched, and I turned, ready to have been wrong. But, no I recognized that voice, deep and rich and male.

  Right on the street’s curb, Ryan Carter had pulled his motorcycle over and his helmet off. He shook his unruly blond hair into place, and flashed perfect white teeth at me.

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New York Leopards