“The first thing you guys need to know,” It magazine’s editor, Margaret Keiser, snapped at her gathered staff, “is that I am going to enjoy this a whole lot more than you.”
Worried glances passed between the writers.
“If there was enough time for me to design every page and write every article, that is exactly what I would do.” Margaret leaned heavily on the desk and looked around.
“Ah, Miss Mooney,” Margaret boomed, sauntering down the center aisle of the staff room. She was the kind of woman who had once been pretty, and had let that fact become her entire identity. Now that her looks had eroded, she loathed anyone who reminded her of that fact, especially pouty, freckled twenty-somethings that dripped raw sex appeal like Eve Mooney.
Eve shifted uncomfortably at Margaret’s unwelcome attention, her body language all but apologizing for her very existence.
Margaret Keiser grinned without mirth at Eve and leaned close to her, lowering her voice, glaring into those obnoxiously vivid emerald eyes.
“Your tutorial on contouring and highlighting was the worst piece of garbage I’ve ever read in my entire life. I could have had a better time reading the Yellow Pages.”
“The phonebook?” Eve peeped.
“Damn straight, the phonebook,” Margaret barked, standing up straighter and facing the rest of the staff room again. “Our editorials are mind-numbingly boring, our covers are total crap, and you all think you deserve more money.” Margaret grinned, shook her head, and let out a humorless chuckle. “If I’m not making any money, you’re sure as hell not making any money, you feel me?” Margaret shrugged and gazed around at all these waiting faces. “Here’s the kicker. You’re all freelancers, which means that I can do what I’m about to announce. You are all getting two weeks of severance pay, and I’m bringing in a completely new staff.”
“Shit balls! You’re really serious about this!” Skye Lamar—the spirituality columnist—gaped at Margaret. “I figured you were just off your meds again.”
Margaret chose to ignore her and moved her hands in the air as if she was conducting an orchestra. “Pack your things up, and remember, failed ex-workers, be bold!”
Skye grimaced and glanced over at Eve. “Be bold?” Skye echoed. The girl had thick, sandy blonde dreadlocks and a plain face that still managed to be attractive. She was bright-eyed, and her thin lips were usually smiling. “Be bold.” She stood up and started packing her laptop and notebook back into a giant bohemian bag. “Be bold on two week’s pay. Be boldly unemployed. Boldly beg your parents for rent money.”
Eve propped her chin in her palm and looked up at Skye. Her mouth twitched to one side as she let the impact spread. “At least you didn’t spend fifty bucks of your own money learning how to contour and highlight, write a four-page tutorial about it—which took a week—and then get told that it was more boring than a phone directory.”
* * *
As they strode from their former workplace to the corner pub, Skye spoke about Jupiter being in retrograde (which apparently explained everything that was happening) while Eve busily worked on her speech to Trent, her boyfriend. How do you tell your significant other that you’ve been fired, without sounding like a loser?
She pulled out her cell phone and tapped his name, lingering on the edge of the sidewalk and nodding to Skye to go on into the pub.
Damn, she had been so excited about how solid her life was getting! Her savings account was almost up to ten thousand dollars. She knew it wasn’t much to brag about, as many twenty-eight-year-old, childless adults had gobs of disposable cash, but still. She saw that ten thousand as the down payment on her first house, or possibly the cost of a formal wedding.
She knew she and Trent weren’t really “there” yet. They’d only been dating for four years now. But she felt herself in need of something constant, both emotionally and in terms of bricks and mortar. She was tired of moving from one apartment to the next every time a lease expired.
Her front teeth nipped at her lower lip, and she rehearsed the cool way she’d let him know she was fired.
So, baby, there is this fantastic employment opportunity I found for myself, working at a drive-thru window. And I’m very excited about finding such a creative way to utilize my college degree and would really appreciate your support.
Are you totally in love with this whole food and shelter thing?
Oh my god, Trent, we’re ruined. Ruined! What are we going to do for Christmas? How am I supposed to face my mom when my baby brother has all his shit together and I can’t even afford to bring a dish to the dinner?
She pursed her lips.
I’m so sorry, Trent. I wanted us to have this mature, adult life together, and it’s just not working out at all, is it?
“Hi, you’ve reached Trent, but I can’t get to the—”
Eve grimaced and hung up the call. He wasn’t there. Her mouth tilted to the side and she tapped the text icon.
Hey babe, how’s your day going over there? she typed, then hit send.
She slid her phone back into her bag and exhaled loudly as she stepped into the warm, dense atmosphere of the pub. She forgot about the phone, the text, the boyfriend, the money, and went to sit with Skye.
An hour and a half later, the table was cluttered with mixed drinks, three of which belonged to Eve. She’d stopped mentally rehearsing speeches to her boyfriend and was enjoying herself now. Somewhere toward the end of drink number two, the pub started to feel like a regular Friday night. Skye was talking about the Etsy store she wanted to start. “I already make the candles all the time for my friends and family,” she said, pulling out her wallet and throwing some cash onto the table. “My apartment smells so good all the time, well most of the time. There was that recent jasmine explosion.”
“I think you should do it,” Eve breathed. “Maybe I’ll start an Etsy store, too.”
“I didn’t know you crafted,” Skye said, pulling her dreads off her neck and into a woven hat. “What would you sell?”
“Well, I just started, really,” Eve said, stepping with Skye from the booth. “I’m trying my hand at knitting.”
Skye smirked. “That’s cute,” she said.
“What, you don’t think I could have an Etsy store?” The girls shoved open the door and simultaneously recoiled from the harsh midday sun. Damnit, it wasn’t a warm, dark Friday night but rather a chilly Wednesday, high noon, and she had no reason whatsoever for her spirits to be so high. The drinks had worked their magic and given Eve a dewy, cherub-like flush to the apples of her cheeks. She was a little sweaty and heady, too.
“Of course you can have an Etsy store,” Skye assured her. “Everyone can have an Etsy store. Hey, call me, all right?”
“Will do,” Eve called over her shoulder, heading the few blocks to the apartment she shared with Trent. The breeze lifted her thick dark hair from the back of her neck and brought a smile of fresh relief to her face. She felt good. A little loopy, but she felt like maybe everything was going to be okay after all. Maybe she needed this change.
The cool air felt good as it dried the sweat cloying to the inside of her shirt. This was going to be good. Everything was going to be fine. Jupiter was in retrograde, after all.
* * *
Eve checked her phone as she climbed the steps to her duplex, but there was still no message from Trent. She grimaced and hunted for her key. Maybe he had to work today, probably busy not being fired. But weren’t those muffled voices inside?
Eve turned the knob and the door fell open. She stepped inside and started taking off her boots. The television was on, but no one was in the den. She supposed he’d forgotten to turn it off before he left this morning. He was always watching television and Eve was always writing—
Before she’d finished sliding out of her first boot, she heard an unfamiliar and unwanted sound echoing over the hardwood floor from the end of the hallway. It was the moan of a woman obviously enjoying herself.
Eve’s blood ran cold and she froze.
Then she heard it again. This time, the melodic coo seemed to be making words, all too soft and vague. But the word “yessss” was definitely in there.
Eve crept silently down the hall, one boot on, one boot in her hand, toward the source of the vocalization: her bedroom.
Her fucking bedroom.
She peered through the crack in the door, feeling one inch tall, and stared at the naked, perfect, hourglass figure.