Day 1: Scars
Day 2: Meeting Frannie
“Never look her directly in the eye – always aim for her eyebrows. Don’t ever even think about wearing red – she reacts in a very bullish fashion. Don’t you dare make her repeat herself – I swear to god, not ever. If she gives you five minutes to do something, that means you should have it done in two and a half. Her espresso should be scalding – not just steaming, trust me. And last but certainly not least – you must never ever ever not ever…call her Lucy.”
“Wah…what?” Rachel stuttered. “Why would you even say that?! I wasn’t planning on calling her Lucy, and now that’s all I can think of!”
The other woman smiled evilly.
“Oh, just forget it, then.”
But obviously, Rachel couldn’t.
Never before had Rachel experienced a stranger orientation to a new job. It had been a whirlwind seven-minute tour thus far, and she already felt completely inundated.
Suddenly, a small, flighty Asian woman streaked past them, bumping into both women’s elbows as she hurtled down the hallway.
“What on earth—” Rachel started.
“She’s coming!” The woman’s long, black hair was a horizontal wave behind her, she was moving so quickly. “They lost the appointment for her wax! She’s coming!”
Rachel’s tour guide and fellow assistant sighed dramatically, pausing for a second – but only a second – with her hand covering her eyes. Rachel awkwardly tried to look anywhere but at the other woman, and this feat in and of itself was not particularly difficult as there was a lot to look at – all up and down the hallway, people were flying from one room to the next; women were changing tops and shoes and reapplying mascara, men were frantically retying ties to perfection and fixing their hair, a stack of magazines toppled over and no less than six people rushed to pick them all up at once.
It was pandemonium.
“Tina is normally over-dramatic, and so we ignore her. But if there really was a scheduling mishap, then our asses are going to be toast.”
“Our asses?” Rachel questioned.
The woman dropped her hand and literally snapped. Rachel was suddenly worried about loss of limb and whether or not her new insurance would include worker’s comp – or even if she would get insurance at all.
“Yes, our, you insignificant, strangely dressed imbecile. We’re in this together now, whether you like it or not.” She turned and began to power walk down the hallway, back towards the elevators. “Don’t talk to her directly unless she asks you a direct question, don’t hiccup, sniffle, or sneeze, and don’t even think about smiling.”
They came to a stop just to the right of the elevator.
“All right, no bodily functions, got it,” Rachel mumbled.
The woman’s eye twitched as she whipped her head around to glare at Rachel. She whisper-yelled, “And no sarcasm!”
The elevator dinged.
The doors opened.
And the most stunningly chic woman Rachel had ever seen in her life elegantly stepped off the elevator and whipped her glasses from her face, tossing them to her right. The assistant who had been giving Rachel the low-down caught them expertly in midair and then fell into step behind the woman as she began to briskly make her way towards her office.
Rachel had heard lots about Quinn Fabray and even more about the woman’s empire, but she had not been adequately prepared for the human hurricane she now beheld.
“I don’t have time for tales of your ineptitude. The next time there is an error in my schedule, my wrath will be complete and devastating, understood?”
She didn’t wait for an answer. And as she walked – as she glided, actually – she plucked her black gloves from each sensuously long, tapered finger and whisked them over her head. The other woman gestured frantically as the gloves soared through the air, and Rachel nearly had to dive to catch them – but catch them, she did. She ran a few steps to catch back up with the other women, and she received not even a cursory nod for her athletic feat. She nearly pouted.
“Reschedule the appointment – somewhere new. Make it that place Scarlett mentioned last time she was in. Get me DK on the phone immediately. Tell Tom he’s out of the September issue. And call that bitch Meryl and tell her she’ll never grace our pages again if she gives me the diva attitude I saw on her yesterday.”
They had made it to the main office, and Rachel’s new counterpart was scribbling furiously as their boss lowered herself into the winged black leather beast of a chair behind her massive mahogany desk.
“That’s all,” she said, literally shooing them away.
Rachel’s eyebrows were halfway up her forehead as she cautiously backed out of the room without daring to show the nape of her neck to the ferocious woman. She watched as Quinn Fabray ran a hand – ran those exquisitely long fingers – through her short, blonde locks of hair, every strand falling back into their individual places in the perfect golden wave.
It was oddly mesmerizing. Rachel shook herself.
She had made it just around the edge of her desk – a mirror image to the other assistant’s – when the boss’s sharp voice called out, “Frannie!”
Rachel looked quickly left and right, not actually sure who Frannie was.
Then her eyes landed on her tour guide, Assistant Number One. Rachel could almost imagine smoke pouring out of the woman’s nostrils.
Dare she think it? The woman looked…quite bullish herself.
“Coming!” she called back, making her way into the office. She quickly hissed, “And it’s Francesca to you, nerd.”
Rachel’s eyes were very wide. She quickly narrowed them once she noticed, afraid of them getting permanently stuck – she saw the very real possibility in this, if the rest of her time at this job was going to be anything like these first twelve minutes.
She couldn’t help but hear the voices from the large, open office.
“Quinn,” Francesca nearly hissed – which in and of itself threatened to knock Rachel off of her feet. Where had her fellow assistant found the nerve? “You know I don’t go by Frannie anymore.”
Rachel could almost envision the woman sitting at her desk, effortlessly flicking her wrist in a gesture of apathy.
“Whatever you say, Fran. What on earth was that thing shadowing you?”
“Your new assistant. Your new second assistant.”
“Whatever happened to Splenda?”
“Frannie…” Quinn nearly growled, obviously under the impression that the other woman should be capable of reading her thoughts by now.
“You fired Sugar five days ago. It’s taken this long to find a replacement who isn’t utterly inept and who is at least minimally capable of taking some of my personal workload.”
“I don’t care so much about that.” From outside the door, Rachel could hear the turning of pages, as if even the conversation Quinn herself had started hardly had her full attention. “What is its name?”
“Well, send it in.”
The clacking of heels heralded Frannie’s – Francesca’s – return.
“She’ll have a word with you,” she harshly whispered. Rachel felt her eyes go wide again. “Don’t screw it up.”
Eleven seconds later found Rachel standing stock-still in front of Quinn’s desk. Her boss was leaning back in her chair, legs and arms crossed, with her fingertips resting against her chin. Rachel made a mental note to not look at the woman’s endless expanse of leg. Within seconds, her best conscious efforts had failed miserably – multiple times.
“My sister tells me that you’re Rachel.”
“Your…sister?” Rachel twisted around, looking back out into the hallway. The bullish similarities were clearer than ever. She suppressed a chuckle as she turned back to her boss and answered the question. “Yes, I’m Rachel.”
“And you’re not from New York.”
It wasn’t really a question.
“No, I’m from Ohio.”
A strange look, nearly bordering on distaste, crossed Quinn’s face.
“It’s really nice in the springtime, actually.”
The silence was acutely painful.
“Yes,” Rachel agreed, nodding slowly while still trying not to ogle thigh.
“You don’t enjoy fashion.”
“Oh, I actually very much do—”
“No,” Quinn interrupted, her eyes taking in every thread on Rachel’s body. “That wasn’t a question.”
Rachel kept silent this time.
“And you’ve considered a nose job before, obviously.”
But now, she could not keep quiet. “I’ll have you know that my nose is part of my proud heritage, and it is scientifically proven that people with large noses have fewer issues with breath control and—”
Quinn raised her hand in a very clear gesture for silence. “All right,” she said, “keep the nose. Just don’t cause my office to crash and burn. Are we clear?”
Rachel took a deep breath, a little embarrassed at her outburst but also feeling completely justified.
And, somehow, she hadn’t lost her job.
The second Rachel was outside of Quinn’s office, she pressed herself close to Frannie’s desk and whispered, “She treats you this way and she’s your sister?!”
Frannie huffed and rolled her eyes spectacularly. “God forbid she give anyone special treatment.”
“Huh,” Rachel quietly exclaimed.
“Do keep your opinions to herself.”
Rachel felt the beginnings of a twitch forming in her own eye. She turned and made her way to her desk.
As she was even with Quinn Fabray, with twenty feet and an imposing desk between them, her boss looked up. Rachel’s steps faltered, and she stopped for only a moment. Those eyes, they were so chilly, so piercing – but Rachel saw that there was something else, too: a chink in the woman’s armor of ice, the tiniest beginnings of a coldness, melting… Or maybe she was just imagining it – people had always called her dramatic.
Rachel bit her lip. She remembered Frannie’s voice – no smiles or other bodily functions allowed – but the corners of her lips tilted upwards ever so slightly, and she stood still, the rest of her body mostly paralyzed. The ice queen before her did not move even a muscle, but after a second or two, Rachel found she was still alive. She willed herself to breathe again, and to move, and she made her way back to her desk.
As she sat, Frannie snapped, “Do you not have DK on the phone yet?!”
“Sorry, sorry,” Rachel replied, frantically opening the contacts application on her computer. After only a couple of seconds, she despondently muttered under her breath, “Who the heck is DK?!”
Several days later…
“You’re to be entrusted with a ridiculously important task. And the only reason I can’t do it myself is because we have a family function tonight, and I have to represent both myself and my darling sister—” the word ‘darling’ looked like it physically pained Frannie to utter it. “The prints from this week’s shoots will all be ready at seven o’clock. You’re to deliver them to Quinn’s home. Here is the key. You go inside, set them on the foyer table, and you leave.”
“Will she be home?” Rachel asked, accepting the key from Frannie and pressing it dutifully into her palm.
“Who on earth knows? Just get in, do your job, and get out.”
Rachel should have known then that it could never be so easy.
Several hours later…
“Heh-hello?” Rachel called into the expansive foyer of Quinn Fabray’s impressive New York City apartment. “Anybody…home?”
There was no answer. Rachel hesitantly stepped further inside. There was a table up ahead on her left. But as she neared it, she realized that there was another table, equally a part of the foyer, and she realized that she didn’t know which table was the right table.
“Oh dear,” she breathed out.
“Frannie?” a voice called.
And it was a voice that Rachel had become very familiar with, but it was a voice a shade warmer than she was used to hearing it. Or perhaps a shade wearier.
“No,” Rachel called out, pointing herself in the direction she thought the question had come from. “Not Frannie. It’s me, Rachel. Just delivering prints. I’ll be off now.”
“Rachel?” A slight tinge of confusion. “Come here.”
Rachel almost said where? But instead figured that she would probably be best off if she shut her mouth and made the best of the situation – as well as her admittedly limited sense of direction.
She found Quinn’s study in record time. And the sight was not exactly what she had expected.
The colors were full of creams and gorgeous burgundies, far lighter than the mostly oppressive color tones of her office. There was a plush couch in the middle of the floor and an expensive-looking stand against one wall; it was topped with glasses and a decanted bottle of some liquor Rachel was fairly certain she could never afford even a sip of. Along the opposite wall was an impressive bookshelf that stretched from floor to ceiling and ran the entire length of the room.
And between that wall and Rachel, there was a chair. And in that chair sat Quinn Fabray.
Rachel stepped into the room with the barest hint of trepidation. “Good evening,” she softly spoke.
Quinn tilted her head back. Her eyes swept over every inch of Rachel – surely taking in her sweater from three seasons ago and her worn heels. But Rachel kept her head high. There was nothing else for it. Anyone’s outfit would pale in comparison to Quinn’s perfectly tailored slacks and barely-there silk blouse.
Those pale fingers Rachel had become familiar with – from a distance – lifted a glass to full, pink lips, and Quinn drank deeply before standing. She moved across the floor, slowly covering the distance between them. She didn’t stop until she was merely a few inches from Rachel.
“I was wrong about the nose.”
They were so close, Rachel could practically taste the oaken aroma of the liquor on Quinn’s breath. Rachel’s eyes traced the outline of full lips, the angular tilt of cheekbones, the spectacular coloration of the woman’s eyes… Rachel’s lips parted. Her tongue reached out and slowly wetted them.
“I know you were.”
“Mm,” Quinn hummed, “have you ever been short on confidence?”
“No,” Rachel replied, daring to smirk, “just on height.” She looked up with all the courage in her small frame to the other woman’s eyes, several inches above hers.
A perfectly sculpted brow arched, and Rachel was pretty sure she wasn’t imaging the beginnings of a smile – in the woman’s gaze, if not trickling down to her lips.
Her name came on a breath, nearly silent. And her body responded of its own volition. She tilted forward, ever so slightly, and Quinn’s hand reached out, brushing against her arm in answer.
“I…” Rachel was at a loss. “I’m not sure…”
“Oh,” Quinn exhaled the syllable against the side of Rachel’s face, her words now alighting against the sensitive skin where her jaw line and ear met. “But I always am.”
And that was that, really.
Several more days later…
Frannie knew what she was seeing. Her brain was simply having difficulty processing things at an adequate tempo.
There were now looks. And touches – there had never been touches before, she knew for a fact! And when was the last time she’d seen her little sister crack even the faintest trace of a smile?!
“Oh, no,” Frannie mumbled to herself as she heard Rachel’s giggle float out of the open office. She dramatically groaned as she actually heard Quinn’s laugh follow on the heels of Rachel’s happiness, Quinn’s version more subdued but still too intense for Frannie’s liking.
A few minutes later, Rachel walked out, heading for her desk. She quickly noticed Frannie’s look of repugnance and a look of sincerest apology washed across her features. She shrugged contritely as she took her seat directly across from Quinn’s sister, and carefully added, “I guess some people get special treatment after all.”
Frannie dropped her head to her desk, willing her insides to remain inside.
“Welcome to the family,” she grumbled, sure that she had spoken quietly enough that her sister’s plaything wouldn’t have noticed.
But the coy smile on Rachel’s face as she set about organizing the next week’s major photo shoot said that she had heard every word.
It was an unorthodox introduction to the family. But Rachel found she didn’t mind.