Chapter 5

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"Love is like war; easy to begin but very hard to stop." - Henry Louis Mencken

It was the day that I was finally going to have to face my new editor and the fact that Madge was truly gone. Just putting that fact off had made the day before slightly less miserable. I didn't know how I managed to do it, waste an entire day without doing anything productive. I seem to possess that skill, lately.

I woke up later than I should have after hitting the snooze button repeatedly. Due to the simple fact was that I just didn't want to go. I've always been the type of person to slowly ease off the Bandaid, and stepping into that building meant ripping it off in one fell swoop. I never did that, I kept to my own way of doing things and fought anything else that apposed them. And so I fought the clock, scampering out of bed with no more than a second to spare. I would most likely be late for my scheduled meeting with Mr. Hayes, and I told myself I didn't care. But the tugging guilt of being late crept onto me under the hot water of my shower, I'm never late. I was internally battling myself, I wanted to walk in late with an indifferent attitude and be okay with my rudeness. But I was also too much a pansy to actually do it.

I settled on getting ready quickly and dressing casually for the meeting instead of my usual pencil skirt and collared shirt. I wished I had confidence for about the millionth time in my life, and jumped out of the door right on time, cursing my intuition.

When I arrived at the familiar skyscraper, I couldn't have been more than two minutes later than my usual time. The strange feeling of invisible eyes came on me again and I started to feel self-conscious in my jeans, blouse, and damp hair. I was regretting my minuscule rebellion, as if it would change any of the circumstances anyway. I felt absolutely stupid for doing the one thing I promised myself I would never do, look unprofessional.

I was just one little clown fish in a company of sharks with a superiority complex. The last thing I wanted was another reason for them to see me as that gawky teenager that stepped through their doors four years ago. The more I contemplated it, the more I came to realize that was probably exactly what Mr. Hayes would see me as, too. The decision was stupid, I decided. But, it was too late to change as the elevator's opened on the seventh floor and I started to make my way to Madge's old office.

I felt like an observer as I wondered through the maze of cubicles that constructed the seventh floor, like I was invisible. Not in a bad way, though. I didn't want them to look at me, I was sweating the Nile River up there. My hands were clamming up as I gripped my shoulder bag like a child does when they're receiving a shot, my eyes felt dilated and I was on the verge of hyperventilating. I tried to calm myself down, taking deep breaths but it just wasn't working, I was too nervous.

What if he didn't like me?

What if I didn't like him?

What if he was some old creeper?

What if he couldn't help me?

What if, after what if came to my mind, each one as horrifying as the last. My feet took me closer to her office door that stood slightly ajar. Let me correct myself, his office door. 'I can't do this...' I murmured, unsure if it was my thoughts or my mind. After one final intake of breath, my shaking hand opened the door and stepped inside.

It's funny how I could pick out everything that was wrong in that room. The desk was moved to the opposite wall and away from the doorway, her bookshelf was cleared of all familiar titles and was now accompanied by a small armchair. On one of the nearly bare walls hung a college diploma framed neatly in black. It all still seemed so... empty. Her messy desk was cleared of all strewn papers and sticky notes, the dust cleared off the shelves, and the smell of sugar cookies had already dissipated. The only sign that it hadn't all been just a dream was the smoke burn on the ceiling tile from the candle, the one square inch in the office that wasn't spotless. Slowly, I concluded that one other thing was missing. My editor.

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