An excerpt from

I Love You Today

Maddie exited the subway and walked a block to the Status offices, arriving just at three. The stark simplicity of the reception area surprised her: a white leather sofa and a glass coffee table stood on a small beige area rug with two matching Barcelona chairs on either side. The only color came from large fashion photos that covered the walls behind the couch and reception desk. She had expected a bit more glitz.

 

The receptionist was tapping rapidly on her typewriter while talking equally as rapidly on the phone. Seeing Maddie, she looked up with an impatient expression on her heavily made-up face and whispered that she’d call back. Maddie told her she was there to see Mr. MacLeod. After an appraising glance, the receptionist unwrapped a piece of Juicy Fruit, popped it in her mouth and dialed an extension. Maddie straightened her skirt, suddenly wondering if she should have worn something other than a suit.

Have a seat,” the girl said in a bored voice, indicating the couch. “His secretary will be right out.”

Maddie sat, feeling nervousness creep in and her earlier, all-too-fragile confidence beginning to fade. A few minutes later, a short dark-haired young woman in a miniskirt came in and introduced herself as Tara, Mr. MacLeod’s secretary. Maddie followed her along a corridor lined with several windowed offices on the left and a bright open bullpen area on the right where it looked like some assistants worked in different sized cubicles. On the far side she saw two more large, sun filled offices. In one of the doorways two men stopped talking and glanced at her.

Tara stopped at the second to last office, looked in and grinned. “Rob, this is Miss Samuels, your three o’clock appointment.” There seemed to be an inside joke somewhere in there, but Maddie didn’t get it. Not then.

As she walked in he stood up, buttoned his suit jacket and stepped forward to shake her hand. She caught her breath; not only was he attractive, he had bright emerald green eyes and perhaps the longest eyelashes she had ever seen. Wasted on a man, she thought, trying not to stare. Or, perhaps not. His dark brown hair was cut short with long sideburns that framed his handsome face.

 

She sat down on one of the metal and leather chairs that faced his desk. A large drawing board, covered in layout sheets, rolls of galleys and photo stats was to his right. On the left, flat files were piled high with books of typefaces and stock photos. The office wasn’t designed for so much furniture; there was little room to move around.

He sat back and asked her to tell him about herself. Interviews generally didn’t faze her, but this time she was unusually flustered. She began by mentioning Today’s Bride, saying that she had liked working there.

 

“Why did you leave? You weren’t fired were you?”

 

“No. Not at all. It was just becoming uncomfortable. I’m not sure it’s something I should talk about.”

Her answer seemed to intrigue him. A smile lit up his eyes and he leaned forward, elbows on his desk. “Now you have to tell me, Miss Samuels. I promise I won’t tell anyone. Was it some sort of conspiracy?”

“No,” she stammered, wishing she had never brought it up. “Nothing like that. I was very close to Joan, the art director who hired me. She was a great teacher, actually a mentor for me. I was a kid just out of art school. But after two years her husband was offered a job at Publicis, the big ad agency in Paris and they decided to move there. Before she left she tried to have me named as art director. By then I was doing half the work on the magazine anyway. But the publisher told her he had already decided to bring in a well-known art director from a rival publication.” She stopped, unsure how to proceed.

 

“So what was the problem?”

“Well,” she took a breath, “not only was he hiring her, but his weekly meetings with his so-called ‘investors’ were really long afternoons at the Biltmore, a few blocks away.”

He leaned back in his chair and laughed. “You had to leave because the publisher was screwing…pardon me, sleeping with the new art director?”

She bit her lip, sorry she had mentioned it and realizing she had backed herself into a corner.

“It wasn’t quite so simple. Over the first couple of months she did everything she could to make my life miserable. Suddenly I wasn’t allowed to cover photo shoots and then she didn’t even want me doing layouts. She began quietly bringing in her own team. By the time everyone realized what was going on, there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. I spoke to the publisher who I knew liked me, but he said it was now up to her. It was out of his hands. So I resigned.” Taking another big breath, she looked at him, hoping she hadn’t said too much.

He shook his head. “Too bad. It sounds like you were happy there.”

 

“Yes. I was.”

 

He asked her to tell him more: what her goals were and did she really want a career or just a job until she found the right man to marry.

His questions didn’t surprise her; she had been asked the same things at every interview.

 

“Mr. MacLeod. I have no desire to be married. I’m focused on my career. I hope to be an art director one day.”

“And how do you plan to become one?”

She looked back at him wide eyed. It was a question she had never been asked. “I guess I’ll just have to keep on working and learning. I’m very motivated, Mr. MacLeod. If something needs to get done, I’ll make sure it happens.”

 

He nodded, green eyes flashing. “I’ll bet you will. Let me have a look at your portfolio.”

As she stood up, she noticed him glance at her legs. She wondered if her skirt was too short but not wanting to appear self-conscious she stopped herself from smoothing it down. Standing next to him, she answered his questions as he leafed through the pages.

“Miss Samuels, can you leave the portfolio with me? Unless, of course, you have other interviews today.”

 

“Yes. I mean, no.” She wanted to kick herself. What is wrong with me? “Yes, I can leave it, and no, I don’t have any more interviews today.”

He smiled, amused at her obvious discomfort. “Good. I’d like to show it to the managing editor. I’ve already seen several potential candidates and I expect to make a decision later today.”

She thanked him and he shook her hand, holding it she thought, a bit longer than necessary.