Walking towards the table where Richard sat felt like I was walking the plank. I was confused. I was embarrassed. I was feeling all kinds of emotions for reasons I didn’t understand. I suddenly felt the lift of my legs harder, the weight of my feet heavier, as if I were trudging through thick mud with stone-cold steel shoes.
And yet, I couldn’t go back. They both saw us entering the restaurant and following behind the hostess. I locked on Daniel’s arm and he held my clammy hand confusedly. He pulled out my chair for me to sit down, and then he followed suit.
“I thought we were meeting alone,” Richard leaned into Daniel, sitting opposite him.
“So did I,” Daniel said, eyeing Richard’s guest.
“Oh, forgive me, my manners,” Richard chortled, “Daniel, this is David, editor-in-chief; David, this is my son Daniel.”
Daniel shook David’s hand. I thought back to a time where they could have met. But I couldn’t recall.
“That’s my boss,” I mumbled to Daniel.
David was just as confused as I was, eyes flickering between me, Richard and Daniel. He seemed different without his desk. Without his office. Without me as his assistant and instead his uninvited dinner guest.
What the hell is going on!?
There was an awkward silence where, if the waiter hadn’t come, I’d have exploded right before everyone’s eyes.
“Shall we start with drinks?”
Daniel and I shouted our orders at the same time. Clearly we were adamant to get a hard-hitting social lubricant. I turned red and stared wide-eyed at David. He must be thinking I’m an alcoholic by now. We chuckled it off and one by one gave our orders.
Daniel and I had a purpose coming in to this meeting. We had a speech ready, each other for comfort, and a goal. That got shot straight out of the window now. All of it. Knowing that David was here, neither of us knew what to say. I couldn’t initiate a response because I’m barely supposed to be sitting in on a meeting with Daniel and Richard let alone Daniel, Richard and David. And it was clear that Richard had his own agenda. Can I at least look at the silver-lining and be happy that it isn’t Tanya sitting opposite me?
I snatched my martini from the waiter’s hand way before he set it down on the table. It barely tapped the table and then BAM!…no more Chinese laundry.
“So…” Richard said.
“So…” Daniel nodded.
No way, in a million years, would a bystander believe they’re father and son. I bet Daniel is even questioning his own blood relation.
“Okay, I’m just going to jump right into it,” Richard said. I took another swig in response. “You have an odd relationship with writing and editing and publishing and whatnot—”
“So my passions you mean?” Daniel tilted his head.
“It’s always been in you for some unknown reason,” Richard continued, ignoring Daniel. “So I’ve decided to help you out. I know your heart isn’t in finance. That’s where mine is. Actually, where my mind is, really,” he chuckled, nudging an awkward David. His hands in his lap and his lips curved up in a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Anyway, David has been so kind as to rectify the problem between economics and art. David—” he gestured to him to state the offer.
“Well, you’re father has said a lot about you. A lot of great things and we’re willing to offer you an editor’s position at our publishing company.”
Midway sipping my drink, I heard the offer and my throat closed up. I choked on my martini so hard I sprayed the contents of my mouth in a coughing fit at David. Daniel, Richard and David flinched, dinner guests were giving me the stink-eye like, ‘who let that bitch in?’ and I was in between death and fury.
“Oh my God!” I gurgled. “I’m so sorry! I’m—I’m going to the bathroom.”
“I think I might, too,” David smiled politely. “Just to clean up.”
Oh I could die! I bolted into the bathroom and checked myself. My neck was dripping and I scraped a scratchy paper towel to clean it up before it hit my dress. I touched up my lips, powered my face and aired out my underarms with some under-hand action. I was breathing in and out like I was practising Lamaze when a couple of girls entered and I forced myself to leave and face the music.
“Sorry again,” I said once I returned to the table. More so to David than anyone else.
He held up a hand. “It’s fine.” Then he turned to Daniel. “What do you think?”
Richard laughed. “About the offer of course.”
Daniel lifted his brows. I watched with impatience. “I…”
“Look, to break it down to you,” David started, “we’re not entirely offering you a job. This will be a probationary period. If you’re as good as Richard and as he says you are, then it’s all your game at that point.”
“Just like that?” Daniel asked.
“Just like that, son.”
An editor’s position is one in which I’m constantly pursuing on a daily basis. It’s why I arrive early to work and why I leave late. It’s why my mind is on point of every second of every day to make sure I achieve this much coveted position. It’s why a put I’m with people like Brad and Dickless-Dick over here. It’s why I work my ass off.
“I’ll think about it,” Daniel finally said. His eyes focused and his jaw tight.
I stared at him in shock. Bamboozled by a response so exactly opposite of what I had anticipated.
“You’ll think about it?” I whispered.
“He’ll think about it,” Richard’s voice cut into my mind. Eyes filled with warning. I swallowed and looked down.
“Well,” David said, looking between us for a response, “okay,” he repeated, looking around again. But Daniel was looking between me and Richard, with Richard staring straight at me and my eyes to the table, all of us too focused to respond to David. “Well,” he cleared his throat loudly, “I should get going.”
“Yes,” Richard smiled, removing me from his lethal gaze, “of course. Daniel—” he nodded once— “Anna.”
“See you at work, Anna,” David said. “Nice meeting you, Daniel.”
Oh I get it. He’s waiting for the right time, the time where it’ll hurt Richard the most to tell him to go fuck himself.
“So when are you going to break it to him?” I asked as we took a walk down a couple of blocks for our dinner reservation.
“Huh?” Daniel asked, absentmindedly.
“When are you going to tell him?”
“Tell who what?”
“Tell David you’re refusing the offer and rub it in Richard’s face.” Daniel fell silent. I laughed it off. “Come on,” I nudged him with my elbow, “don’t leave me, of all people, in the dark.”
“Anna,” Daniel looked down at the sidewalk. “This is such a great opportunity.”
“I know!” I grinned, giddy with eyes bright. “It’s the same exact opportunity I’ve been working towards. That makes it all the more…” my voice trailed it off once I saw his brows curved up, his eyes rounded apologetically, his lips pouted sheepishly.
“Oh my God. You’re seriously considering this.”
“Don’t tell me you wouldn’t, too,” he quickly retaliated.
“Oh my God,” I breathed, unable to control my lungs. “You can’t be serious.”
“You have to be joking, I mean. You can’t take this away from me.”
“Away from you what about me?”
I scoffed. “Daniel, it never would have been about you if it weren’t for Richard. What happened to being a united front?”
“This isn’t the end of the world.”
I stared at him, shaking my head. I finally threw my hands up in the air and turned around. “You know what, I’m not even hungry. I’ll see you later.”
Daniel quickly caught up with me. “You’re so mature! Why won’t you talk about this?”
“We just did, Daniel. You want to steal the job I’ve been working my ass towards. Go right ahead, knock yourself out. What else is there to talk about?”
“It’s not like they would have offered it to you.”
Woooooooossaaaahhhhhh. I stopped power walking in my tracks. “Excuse me?”
“Look, I didn’t mean it like that. I mean to say you haven’t even been there long enough for them to choose you.”
“Oh,” I nodded, “and I suppose you’re so experienced. What with your advanced insight into publishing all the way in the fucking finance industry.”
“Don’t be like this, Anna! Come on, we’re going to miss our dinner reservation.”
He grabbed my arm but I snatched it away and out of his embrace. “Fuck your dinner reservation!”
“Hit me!” I slammed my open hand onto the mahogany counter.
Johnny just stared at me with confused, furrowed brows. “The fuck?”
“I need a drink.” I swivelled onto the bar stool. A little martini overflow made me slip a bit and I put my hands out to brace myself up against a person sitting next to me and completely throwing the random off.
“Oh, sorry!” I said. Then I turned to Johnny. “I seem to be saying that quite a lot tonight.”
“I can’t imagine why,” he said sarcastically. I just rolled my eyes.
“Hit me!” I slammed the counter top again.
“Alright!” Johnny said, holding up his hands in surrender.
“Make it hard and rough like whiskey or absinthe.”
“We don’t serve absinthe here. This might be a European-based pub but it’s not that kind of pub.”
I murmured his accent with mocked-up sounds and did the robot. “Whatever,” I said after I finished my dance audition tape, “I didn’t ask for a lesson. Just give me my drink.”
Johnny turned around, pulled out a few bottles and dabbed them all in a small glass. It was all too quick for me to see what he was putting in before it was placed before me. I took a swig and experienced the hardest burn like a river of fire struck my throat and left scathing marks.
I groaned loudly. So loudly and oddly that a few people turned to find out the source of the inhuman sound. “That. Is. Death.” I forced myself to drink it all, much to the shock-horror of Johnny. I’m guessing he wasn’t expecting me to down it. Then I hit the counter top. “Hit me!”
“Anna?” I heard someone call out my name while Johnny was busy putting nails on my coffin. “Anna?”
I scanned the room, all too blurry now. The dim lighting not helping even in a sober state. The call of my name sounding as if it were coming from everywhere.
“Anna, over here.”
And there he was, standing right next to me. “Oh, Paul,” I stretched out the words and inadvertently sounded as if I were disappointed to see him. Like I was expecting someone else.
“Hey, what are you—”
“How are you, buddy!?” I slapped him on his back a little too hard.
“I’m fine,” he angled his brows down, “how are you?” His voice starting to sound like mine just moments before.
“Oh, great, great, my boyfriend’s going to take my job.”
“Huh?” Paul leaned in, turning his ear to face me.
“How are the shows going?”
“Oh, good, good. Just wish you’d call or text or something more often. We hardly see each other anymore.”
I waved my hand. “Don’t start crying over spilled milk.”
“Uhh, I’m not, just wondering why you never come see me.”
“Why do you never come see me?” I countered.
“I always try to.”
“Try isn’t good enough. Try isn’t doing.”
Paul narrowed his eyes. “The fuck is your problem? I never get a response from you when I want to hang out or invite you to my shows.”
“Ugh, whatever.” Johnny placed a drink in front of me and I downed it within seconds.
Paul’s brows relaxed as he eyed the mixture I was downing from the empty glass and shot Johnny a look. Johnny shrugged and Paul shook his head.
“Maybe you should stop, Anna,” Paul said.
“Maybe you should go over there and count your dollar bills, honey.” I slapped the counter top again. “Garson! Drinks!” I yelled.
At this point everyone was looking at me. Patrons, bartenders and Paul. All wide-eyed. The music stopped and it started feeling like that scene in The Happening.
I leaned in to Paul, wobbly and trying to maintain my balance. “What’s everyone looking at?” I whispered.
“Anna! You’re hand!” Paul screamed.
I peered down and saw blood spilling out from the palm of my hand and pieces of broken glass imbedded.
“Oh shit…” was all I remember uttering before I blacked out.
***Check out my twitter to see this post’s featured image I found actually named, “Anna at the Bar”. Quite fitting considering the post. It may be fate. Soul.***