Three weeks passed. Eleven job interviews.
I simply didn’t have enough qualifications, and every other interviewee – well, they were mostly fresh journalist graduates and thus more educated and… vivacious. They had an excitement for life that had left me years ago.
Maybe if the incident hadn’t happened, hadn’t been plastered into each and every gossip magazine – Aryan Parker cuts partying short after being disrespected by an Opulence PA – there would have been a chance of employers seeing something positive about me online. My LinkedIn account emphasised my experience and responsibilities as a means of making up for my lack of a higher education. Instead of focusing on my A Levels and university applications, I’d been busy shopping, visiting salons and bitching among London’s upper class society.
Oh how things had changed… I never would have imagined my future turning out like this. Never before had I desired so much to go back in time and use my youth more wisely.
It was a wonder I’d even been permitted to sit the interviews. Especially since the news surrounding Aryan and me had escalated out of control. The journalists at the party had been too far away to hear our conversation, they’d simply witnessed it, and each speculating article I read seemed crazier than the last: I threw champagne at Aryan Parker, I’d gotten drunk and tried to grope him, I’d attempted to steal his wallet.
The undeniable truth was that I wasn’t going to get a job anywhere. Not for a while, at least until this incident became old news. But I had bills to pay, a simple middle-class life to afford, groceries to buy for god’s sake!
I spent most of my time moping around my flat, feeling more insignificant and worthless each day. I looked at my reflection in my bedroom mirror now.
Jobless. Depressed. Fed up of life.
And you could see each of these things on my face: the tangled mess of my black hair, the dryness of my brown skin, the pinched expression contorting my small round features.
A sudden spike of ferocity shot its way up my spine. Aryan’s rage was completely unjust. My father’s mistakes weren’t mine. He couldn’t punish me for something I hadn’t done, hadn’t even known about.
Without bothering to brush my hair or change my clothes, I grabbed my coat and bag, pulled on some boots and left. Within minutes, I was on the tube that would take me straight into the heart of London, to where Newsdom Head Offices were based, mere minutes’ walk from River Thames.
“Hello ma’am, how can we help?” the beautiful blonde receptionist asked as I entered the stunning building, which was all glass walls, sharp structure and glistening chandeliers.
I was acutely aware of how ragged my appearance was in comparison to her neat, perfectly poised one.
“I need to see Mr Parker,” I said nervously.
This whole thing suddenly felt like an awful idea.
She laughed softly. “I’m sorry ma’am, but you can’t just walk in here and expect to see the boss. You have to go through a process: book an appointment through our website. We get in touch if Mr Parker approves.”
It was so easy to forget how powerful he was now; a part of my mind still remembered him as the hot, shirtless teen who worked as a gardener in my back yard in the summers, who occasionally got me and my friends drinks, causing us to giggle like crazy the moment he left. I still remembered how giddy his presence always made me feel, but even then he was always distant and aloof. As much as I stared at him, he never looked back, staying ever respectful and distant from his employer’s daughter. If Aryan had to approve the meeting requests that came his way, I would never get to see him.
I didn’t quite know how to respond. Eventually, I blurted, “It’s really important. If you could just phone him-”
“I’m sorry ma’am,” she cut in briskly, “but, as I said, you can’t see the boss. And it would be most inappropriate for me to disturb him with this. He’s a very busy man.”
I glanced around. An elevator in the distance was about to go up. Before I knew what I was doing, I ran for it.
Just as the doors closed, I heard the woman shout, “Security.”
My heart thundered. I’d never done anything like this before. My hands became clammy as I imagined being hurled out of this building by a beefy security guard.
There was one other person in the lift but I was too embarrassed to look at him. He knew perfectly well that I was the one that security had been alerted against – with my cargo pants and khaki parker, it was perfectly clear just how out of place I was.
Newsdom was the most formal social media app around; everything that was uploaded onto the platform was scrutinised for authenticity and suitability. Everyone in the building was clad in suits and dresses, their faces perfectly symmetrical, their expressions excuding intelligence and determination.
“Where to?” the man asked, his fingers near the lift buttons and his voice clearly amused. At least he wasn’t afraid of me, hadn’t assumed that I was a criminal of some sort.
“Where’s Aryan Parker’s office?” I asked, completely breathless.
“Eighteenth floor. I’m going there too,” he replied.
That was when I turned to face him, and let out a disbelieving laugh. The man was in his pajamas. When I looked at his bright blue eyes, I instantly recognised him. Nick Stevens had helped Aryan set up his app, providing him money, skill and, most importantly, belief in his dreams. They were close, more brothers than best friends, often photographed at social events together. Of course Nick would wear whatever he wanted in the offices, he owned a large portion of Newsdom.
“Why do you want to see him?”
Because he got me fired, completely unjustly. Because he’s trying to ruin my life and doesn’t even know it. And it should at least be on his conscience if he chooses not to own up to his mistake.
But of course I didn’t say any of these things. Instead, I stuttered like an idiot, because it suddenly seemed that only an idiot would dare to confront a man as powerful and hateful as Aryan Parker.
“You can keep it to yourself if it’s a secret,” Nick grinned, giving me a wink.
His eyes gave me a subtle once over, and a crease of confusion formed between his brows, as though he was used to seeing girls do anything to get closer to Aryan Parker but that none of them looked as unkempt and basic as me because they were usually supermodels. I cringed at the thought of him assuming I was a lovesick woman Aryan had shared a one night stand with, someone who’d become so obsessed with the man she was breaking into his bloody place of work!
Even if Nick Stevens did think of me in this way, I somehow knew he’d still respect me. That he wouldn’t judge or ridicule me. He possessed a kind, warm aura. He was handsome in a pretty-boy way but didn’t seem to know it. He seemed understanding. Non-judgmental. Fun. The complete opposite of Aryan in every way.
Regardless of the fact that Nick was a billionaire, and one of the brightest technological minds in the world, I could imagine being myself around him.
I gave him a soft smile, thankful that he wasn’t being nosy. As close as Aryan was to Nick, there was a possibility he’d never told him about the past he shared with Samia Khan, with the whole Khan family.
When he got off the lift, I followed.
“Ladies first,” he said, gesturing to the blurred glass walls that were Aryan Parker’s office – his name was plastered outside it on a golden plaque, right above the words CEO.
“Are you sure?” I asked tentatively.
He nodded and took a seat in the waiting area, giving a kind smile to Aryan’s personal receptionist.
My blood thrummed in my ears as I walked towards the office. The waiting area was on its right side, and the floor-length glass windows revealed a stunning skyline of midday London.
This was what he saw everyday. The lucky bastard. I felt a surge of hatred for him. Life had been good to him. He had everything now. Why couldn’t he just let the past go?
My hatred for him strengthened my resolve. I was ready to confront him. I knocked twice and then opened the door without waiting for a response.
He was leaning over his desk, ruffling through a stack of papers. The entire desk seemed to be filled with paper. He was a messy man. And, as the receptionist had stated, certainly very busy.
He didn’t bother acknowledging that anyone had entered. Grabbing some papers, he began to read through them, adjusting the glasses atop his nose. I had a feeling that even if I’d spoken, he would’ve simply ignored me as background noise. He was a man who made others wait… he interacted with others if and when he wanted, not the other way around.
This building, his wealth and status and intelligence, it wasn’t luck or coincidence. He was a hardworking person. I couldn’t help but find it inspirational.
Gradually, leisurely, his eyes drifted to me.
His spine shot up and his expression darkened. He whipped his glasses off. His eyes roamed over my messy clothes and hair, eventually settling on my bare face. Then he snarled with an intensity that made me quiver.
“What the hell are you doing in my office?”