My stomach growls as I scurry off the bus, angry at me for not putting any food in it which, I know from experience, is always a huge mistake. But, thanks to an exceptionally tardy slumber, I ended up smacking the snooze button one too many times, almost missing my designated commute, and the last thing on my mind during this morning’s frenzy was breakfast.

I practically run inside the building, looking and feeling crazy with the stack of binders huddled awkwardly between my arms. With dread, I approach the security checkpoint…but am instantly shocked to find only a single screening post in the entryway.

Unlike yesterday.

What the…

It literally got downsized.

By a lot.

A whole lot.

While I find it odd, slightly thrown off by the drastic change, I say a silent thank you for the unexpected mercy as I struggle to maneuver all the bulky items in my possession while racing into the elevator.

A couple dings later and I’m stepping through its doors to get to that of the Wildlife Conservation office.

“Good morning,” I breathe as I walk in, noting that everybody is already here, feeling sheepish that I’m the last one in when it’s my first “official” day of actual work.

“Morning, Myers,” Mario, the assistant project manager and my immediate supervisor replies. He points to the binders, a five o’clock shadow taking up residence along his jaw. “Were you able to go through them all?”

“Yes,” I nod, setting them down at my cubicle, exhaling at the sensation of being physically unencumbered. But, clearly, I’m not the only one having a rough morning. “I was primarily interested in the Steller sea lion rehabilitation case.”

“Oh, good,” is his slightly tapered response, adjusting his computer screen. “I actually had that in mind when I was trying to decide on what to assign you to first. You can start by assisting with preliminary background research. I’ll send you some notes on what I want you to focus on in a little bit.”

“Sounds good,” I smile, carrying the binders back to the resource shelf save for that of the project in question, ecstatic that I get to have a say on my very first assignment.

Not even five minutes in and it’s already a million times better than all of ye—

“Is Constance Myers in?” I hear suddenly.

My head whips around at the sound of my name, surprised to see Mr. Schapiro in the doorway, his eyes scanning the room.

Everyone else’s instantly fall upon me, as if the silent, collective gesture answers his question. Anxiety swallows me up, my heart dropping to my feet as I set the folders down and raise my hand almost reluctantly.

“Yes, I’m here,” I say, wondering why the hell he’s looking for me first thing in the morning when he couldn’t so much as spare me a glance twenty-four hours ago.

“Mr. Covington would like to see you in his office,” he says.

My eyes inflate before I can stop them, utter surprise smearing itself all over my face. But, apparently, all who see it share my sentiment, the entire office mirroring my reaction.

Mario’s brow arches as he looks between Schapiro and I, the obvious question burning through his fatigued appearance. But he knows as much as I do on the matter.

“Office 721 on the seventh floor,” Schapiro adds before turning to leave.

I follow after him, unable to shake off this bad feeling I’m getting.

“Do you happen to know what it’s about?” I ask, growing a little queasy, completely dumbfounded by the request.

“Not a clue,” he says, peering at me from behind rounded glasses he momentarily stops to adjust. “He just called and said he wants to see you right away.”

While Schapiro has no reason—and certainly not the temperament—to lie about something like this, I have a very hard time believing the CEO of Earth Capital specifically asked for a brand new, temporary intern when his own board members have to schedule meetings to see him.

“Okay,” I mutter, more to myself than my department’s middle-aged director.

I ascend inside the lift with slight trepidation, realizing that there can only be one reason the firm’s executive head is summoning me first thing in the morning:

My blunder from yesterday has gotten me into trouble.

Ugh.

The elevator dings open and it feels like I’m back in junior high, being called to the principal’s office.

Only worse.

I walk up to 721, taking in a deep breath, steeling myself before I knock. I swallow as I regard the bold letters across the door.

SAMUEL COVINGTON

Chief Executive Officer

A moment later, it swings open…and its bearer appears on the other side.

Earth Capital’s CEO stands before me in the flesh, my stomach dropping like a stone when our eyes meet.

“You must be Myers,” he says, a pert smile gracing his lips. He motions, holding the door open for me. “Come on in.”

I step inside tentatively, the unease in my gut spiking as I walk past him. He closes it and convenes at his desk, gesturing for me to take a seat.

I sit opposite him, clasping my hands in my lap as he settles into his chair.

“You wanted to see me?” I begin, trying to sound comfortable even though I feel anything but.

“Yes,” he nods, maintaining a pragmatic, somewhat erudite gaze. “You were selected for the internship program this year, correct?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

His demeanor is simultaneously friendly and firm, in a way I find a bit confusing, and I’m not quite sure how exactly to interact with him. But, even if my nerves weren’t shot to hell, basic common sense dictates I tread lightly and stick with formality.

I swallow, waiting for him to bring up the catastrophic collision from yesterday.

But, instead, he asks, “How do you like it here so far?”

The inquiry catches me off guard, my brows jumping, but I answer immediately.

“I’m settling in nicely, thank you.”

Even if the actual process of doing so straight up sucked ass.

I keep that little tidbit to myself because I clearly want to stay despite my not-so-stellar induction.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be here,” I continue. “And to actually meet you,” I add before I can stop myself, my hands moving without my permission, motioning toward him in emphasis. I catch myself, instantly withdrawing, silently barking at my limbs to reel it in. “I have a lot of admiration for the work you’ve done and followed your career for the past three years.”

“Well, I’m flattered to hear that,” Covington smiles, his eyes contemplative, searching my face in an…odd way. As if he’s trying to find something. Or confirm it.

He nods, leaning away from his desk abruptly. “All right, then. I just wanted to meet and welcome the latest addition to the Earth Capital family. Glad to have you on board. I look forward to working with you.”

“Oh…” is all I can immediately manage, slightly stunned by the brevity of our discussion—if you can even call it that. But I quickly regain my composure. “Thank you,” I add, rising to leave, feeling both relieved and silly for thinking there was any reason for an individual of his position to request an audience beside a routine, official welcome. He probably does it for all the interns every year. Just standard procedure.

I exit the office, closing the door behind me with a long exhale as a blend of reprieve and ecstasy seeps into my bones.

I just met one of my career heroes. And it feels unreal—in more ways than one.

I’m not sure what I expected him to be like but, based on the very short conversation we just had, I don’t have much more insight on the legendary Samuel Covington now than I did before I walked into his office. He was polite, at the very least. Overall, a good first impression. That’s certainly more than I can say for Schapiro.

I make my way back down to my department, heads turning as soon as I walk in, their expressions teeming with interest.

“Hey,” an auburn-haired woman in the cubicle beside mine whispers, leaning over her chair. “What was that about?”

I meet her inquisitive gaze as I settle into mine. “He just wanted to welcome me to the firm.”

“Oh. Was that all?” she blurts loudly, her need to be inconspicuous suddenly vanishing, an almost bored countenance replacing every last bit of curiosity on her face. I resist the urge to roll my eyes at the blatant deflation in hers.

Sheesh. Sorry to disappoint you, ma’am.

Not sure what exactly she or anybody else here was expecting.

 

Without a verbal response, I turn to face my monitor, ignoring her snide reaction.

“Hey, Myers,” Mario calls from the other end, “I just sent you the details. I want you to start off compiling general research today and tomorrow. From there, we’ll start creating segments fo—”

“May I have your attention, everyone,” Schapiro appears before us again, his voice interjecting Mario’s suddenly. “You’re all wanted in the main lobby for an important announcement from the CEO. Each and every one is expected to be there within the next fifteen minutes. Please pass the message along.”

With that, he exits the office. Puzzled looks and inquisitive mutters are exchanged right after, followed by rolls and squeaks of moving swivel chairs as everyone else starts heading out after him. I follow suit, wondering what this announcement could be. Covington never mentioned anything when I was in his office just moments ago.

The corridor’s already crowding when I step out, several people scurrying toward the elevators to join others queued outside them, waiting their turn. I opt to take the stairs without hesitation, the idea of being crammed into a metal box with ten other adults like sardines in a can far from appealing.

The main lobby is almost full when I get there, shuffling bodies abounding, interspersed with the constant hum of murmurs they produce. I spot Covington all the way up ahead, standing on a platform, holding a microphone.

“Can I please have your attention, everyone,” he says into it as the last remnants of employees trickle in.

Whispers dissipate into silence as everyone offers him their undivided attention.

“Thank you all for coming down on such short notice,” he begins, looking into the crowd. “I know this sort of thing is pretty unusual here at Earth Capital, but I felt an exception had to be made for this very special occasion.”

A pause follows, his eyes scanning the audience as a weird tension fills the air, a barely-contained sense of anticipation looming over the open space.

I look between those in my immediate vicinity, trying to catch glimpses of their various expressions, as if doing so will clue me in on what this special occasion is.

“It’s both an honor and privilege to announce that, after a very long time and a lot of effort…Zanergy has decided to partner with us on their most recent flagship project.”

A massive, jarring surge of applause and almost fanatic shouts erupt instantaneously, loud and enthusiastic, drowning out several of Covington’s words as he continues to speak.

“—as you can imagine,” he carries on, “I’m quite excited about this new venture. As I’m sure a lot of you are. Hence, all of this,” he gestures to the brazen cheering with an unfettered smile of his own. “This is a win for every single one of us. However, the executive board and myself have personally hand-picked a select few of our fellow Capitalians who we feel will serve this account best and do us all proud. So, please, join me in congratulating the following people on being part of the Zanergy consultation team:

“Cody Barnes.”

A united, fiery rumble bursts across the lobby, clapping compounded by emphatic whistling as the assumed man in question walks over to the platform and stands next to Covington, getting several pats on the back and ‘Attaboys!’ on his way up, as well as an enthusiastic, “Yeah, Cody!” from someone in the distance.

“Maya Tanish,” Covington continues.

Another eruption of cheers follows.

“Staci Simpson.”

And another.

“Diego Cruz.”

And another.

“Erik Bloomberg.”

“Jamie Chen.”

“Louis Freeman.”

“And, finally…Constance Myers.”

***

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THIS MAKES ME FEEL...
  • Fascinated
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