Chapter 7 - It's the King! Sort of

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There was a layer of reluctancy in the air. The conference room was motionless, and the boss was late. Everyone who had arrived early or on-time was still, like mannequins in a shop. Mia's four London counterparts fiddled with their gadgets in front of them as she took the time to organize her notes.

She opened her notepad and made an outline, beginning with the article she was working on. If they had questions, she would be prepared. She wasn't sure what the agenda was for the meeting, so she also listed potential topics; namely, the magazine's thirtieth anniversary issue, and what was next for lifestyle.

As minutes continued to pass, Mia found herself doodling along the margins of the paper. She also mindlessly began jotting down her thoughts, one of them being Richard. In fact, "Richard" had been handwritten eleven times — she counted them as soon as she realized that she had also begun to write "Madden" in every empty space.

It was obvious that her body was present, but her mind elsewhere.

The door opened, and it was the secretary that had greeted her at the front desk. Everyone seated at the marbled table looked up at her, clearly in disappointment. She stepped inside, files and a phone at hand. She bowed her head in regret.

"Good morning, everyone." She appeared embarrassed. "Mr. Leighton can't make it today due to a family emergency that came up early this morning. He sends his sincere apologies, and hopes that you can all reschedule with him soon."

Mia breathed an exasperated sigh and looked around, checking to see if the others felt the same way. Surely, she wasn't alone, and the staff immediately closed their books, notepads, and tablets in a hurry to find productivity elsewhere. All of them began to leave.

Sitting at the furthest end of the table, Mia was the last one to go. The secretary had stood by, greeting the executives as they left, but her expression towards Mia was a bit different. She smiled, politely blocking the entryway with her hand. Mia came to a standstill, peering over at the woman in black.

"Yes?"

"Ms. Cunningham, you came here on behalf of Ms. Sheridan, correct?"

Mia nodded. "Yes, that's correct."

"Here." The woman pulled out a sealed envelope from one of her folders and placed it on top of Mia's notepad. It was thin, probably containing just one sheet of paper, and inked on the surface was the magazine's logo. "Please give this to her when you return. She's been expecting it."

"Okay, and do I need to come back tomorrow or?"

She shook her head. "No, I don't think so. I don't think Mr. Leighton can make it back by tomorrow, but we'll let you know if anything comes up. Again, we're really sorry. We know how far you've traveled for this."

Mia smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry about it," she said, and she left the office without another word.

—•—•—

Ringing the doorbell with one hand, Mia finished an email to her editor with the other. A large part of her was upset, but she tried to not let it get to the best of her. After all, the situation was beyond her control. She needed to look past it.

"Hello?" Richard's voice was muffled from the intercom, lower than how it was in real life.

Mia got on the tips of her toes to reach the microphone. "It's me."

The door buzzed and she stepped inside, wiping her shoes on the welcome mat. She walked up two flights of stairs to reach Richard's flat, and three knocks came from her after. The door swung open.

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