An Affair at Bryant Park: 3

I spent Saturday doing the usual. I lounged around in the morning drinking coffee, writing poetry and feeding the cat that liked to visit me at the window by the fire escape. I took a yoga class on the North side then bought a veggie wrap and hung out in McCarren Park where I spent a lot of time people-watching. When it got dark I headed back home, waved to the busboy I saw almost every day working in the restaurant on the bottom floor of my building and spent a couple hours dancing around my living room to my favorite songs. Some were belly dance songs and drum solos, others were a mix of reggae and rock songs by people like Pato Banton and Pat Benatar. I danced by candlelight because it was like a little ritual for me…and it made the room look enchanting and beautiful. It was a perfect day to myself.

I didn’t see any of my friends, not even Natalia, my best friend in the world.  She had left a message for me asking how my first couple of days at work had been but I hadn’t returned her call yet.  I was like that sometime. I liked being a homebody. I liked cooping myself up. Maybe it was because I was from a smaller city in Pennsylvania where I had more space and time to myself and New York could be so overwhelming. Or maybe it was just my nature.

On Sunday night I was munching on a bag of baby carrots, wondering if I had any ranch dressing hanging out in my fridge somewhere. I had been writing snippets and thinking about different story ideas. Most short stories I wrote were about my childhood back home or a re-imagining of moving to the city. I had had a different idea of what it would be like to come to New York. I planned to meet cool people and tag along on their adventures and eventually create my own. I thought I would magically evolve into a vixen of the city and somehow figure out my life. That’s not quite what happened because life generally doesn’t work like that. Or again, maybe it just wasn’t my nature.

I opened the fridge and moved things around. No ranch sauce. No dip whatsoever. I put the carrots away and walked around my apartment, thinking. I stopped in front of the full length mirror by my bed. It looked like I had lost some more weight. I always ate less when I was single. And I usually ate healthier, too.  Whenever I got out of a relationship, I would lose ten pounds in the first month afterward.  And then lose a little more. I’d have to stay single to stay thinner, I thought to myself, chuckling. That was my cycle.

I stood in front of my mirror, examining myself.  For most of my life I had critiqued my body, insulted it really, because I weighed too much, my hips were too wide, my thighs too heavy, my butt too big.  Now in my mid-twenties, I was really starting to let go of the critic in me. I would watch and hear my friends pick themselves apart, and yet to me they were always so beautiful, strong, funny, creative and a million other things. I always found myself trying to turn their thoughts around into a more positive light and I was getting better at turning my own thoughts around, too. 

My phone rang.  I thought I had put it on silent.  I found it and saw that Natalia was calling.

“Hey lady.”

Lady was my pet name for her.  A term of great endearment. Natalia was a petite and spunky Russian girl. We were fast friends when we met at my first job in the city. She was the kind of girl who took charge and my perfect match. She took me under her wing and ended up convincing her roommate to let me live with them because I was looking for a place to stay. She became my best friend.

“Princess, can you stop being so snobby and call a person back?” she teased.

“And how are you?” I laughed.

“Who cares how I am. How’s the job? Any cute guys you can hook up with?”  Natalia had been exclusive with her boyfriend for just over a year, which was the longest she had been with anyone. Since her romantic escapades were over for now, she tried to live vicariously through her friends.

“Two floors full.  But you know cute guys aren’t my type.”

“Oh right, they’re my type.”

“I haven’t forgotten…” I murmured.  “But for real, the place is cool. I’m not the only new person, there’s a few of us.  They’re fun, I like them.”

“Not more fun than me.”

“Impossible.  You are fun in caps.  They are fun in lowercase.”

Natalia laughed, snorting a little. “So when are we going out?”

“Soon, I’m writing.”

“You’re trying to write.  There’s a difference.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Ok well call me.  And you better call me soon or I’ll go find a new best friend.”

“No one will ever be as best a friend as me.”

“Bye, Princess.”

“Bye…” I hung up as I noticed some movement by my window. The cat was back.

***

When I woke up Monday morning I remembered the meeting I had with Marvin and Riya.  I had to get to work early and print out the aging reports and the spreadsheet I had created on Friday. I had combined all the company agings and created a summary tab to reflect the totals and priority accounts. I was looking forward to seeing Steve and Mira and hoped by Friday we would be back at the bar.

The L train was packed and I almost fainted because I was squished between so many people and hanging on to the overhead bar that was just a bit higher than I really needed it to be considering my height so my arm felt numb.  Worst train ride ever.

By the time I transferred to the I was just praying to be able to stand against the door.  When it pulled in I breathed a sigh of relief. It was pretty empty.  Maybe I’d even get a seat.

The doors opened and I stepped in.  I didn’t see an empty seat so I just leaned back against the doors.  I debated whether to pull the book I was reading out of my bag. Better not, there were only three stops.  I stared into the floor, spacing out.

“I guess you don’t see me here,” a voice said to me from below.  I looked over to my right. Adrian sat there in the first seat, right next to where I stood.

“Well hello sunshine,” I said, a bit startled.  Truth be told I hated to run into people on the train, especially in the morning before work. I wasn’t a fan of small talk, especially not with people I hardly knew.  And then it occurred to me that I may run into Adrian a lot on the train since we lived in the same area.  From his attitude so far I wasn’t thrilled.

“Do you wanna sit?” he asked me.  I was surprised he even bothered to ask.

“No, that’s ok.  I’m fine here.”

“Ok.” He paused. “We don’t have to talk.  I just didn’t want to ignore you and then have you notice me here and wonder why I didn’t say anything.”

“Ok,” I nodded, kind of surprised by his explanation. I didn’t think he would care. I looked back at the floor, smiling because it was funny. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him smile too. When we got to our stop I walked out first and I felt him watching me from behind. I didn’t hate it.

*

“Alexandra,”  Marvin swiveled from his desk over to the table in his office and stretched his arms over his head. “Let’s see those reports.”

I distributed copies from the pile in front of me, laying them out separately in front of him and Riya.  Marvin paged through the aging for the largest company, which held the biggest account, Dideo.

“Looks like D is slowing down their payments.  What’s going on there Riya?”

“As I mentioned before, they were having some issues with their system and the purchase orders.  It’s been hard to keep up with, but that’s why Alexandra is here,” she smiled and gestured to me.

Marvin nodded. “Ok, so everything over thirty days will need to be addressed. D pays invoices on time so this is unusual for them. This takes priority.  As soon as we’re done here call them and find out what’s happening.”

“No problem,” I nodded.

“You’ll have to call Budapest, that’s where they handle payments.  I have a contact there that you can reach out to; I’ll give you the information,” Riya told me.

Budapest. I had never called Budapest before.  I was about to ask about the time difference.

“They’re five hours ahead,” Riya added, reading my mind.

Marvin flipped through the rest of the pages, noting other old invoices that needed to be addressed.  There were many, as I knew from reviewing these reports several times already. 

After about a half hour of going through the other aging reports from the other smaller companies and taking note of more outstanding invoices, Marvin pushed back to his desk and reattached himself to his computer.

“Thanks ladies, great meeting.  Let’s get this money,” he said, while we stared at the back of his curly-haired head.  We left his office and Riya said she’d e-mail the contact info for Dideo. I got back to my desk and realized I hadn’t shown him the spreadsheet I created.  Oh well, there would be more meetings. 

By lunchtime I had called Gherair at Dideo and learned that 84 of the 120 invoices had been resubmitted for payment, and the others I had to email to him. I e-mailed Marvin and Riya to give them an update, then made about thirty other collection calls.  

I escaped the building for lunch, taking a small bag with my notebook, pens, phone and earphones.  I was alone because Mira was meeting up with another friend and Steve had gotten caught up with work. Adrian had seen me pass by the office he shared with Riya and he called out, “Half a day?”, and I looked back at him in confusion. Was that a joke? Must be. I just shook my head and left.

I was starving. It always started out that way when I got a new job.  I was always ready for lunch in the beginning. But after a few months I would start to lose my appetite and get tired of eating.  

I remembered a sushi place a few blocks up that I used to go to when I took a few night classes at a school on 40th street. I called ahead and ordered two rolls, Philly and eel. I loved maki rolls and the Philly was my favorite. I returned to Bryant Park with my lunch and found a table.

It was the end of September but it was still warm. It was a beautiful day to be outside and I was grateful that the park was just across the street from work. I opened my sushi rolls and filled the little dish with soy sauce. I pulled out my notebook and a pen and began looking over the stories I had been starting and could not finish. I would get stuck because they just didn’t feel right. Sometime I ended up writing about things I didn’t really know, or hadn’t experienced.  And then what I usually ended up writing, and what I wrote best, were these stream of consciousness blurbs without punctuation. My poetry. I was most happy with these when I finished them. I got my phone out and attached the earbuds, sticking them into my ears. I selected my writing playlist and dipped a piece of Philly roll in the soy sauce, popping it in my mouth. It was so delicious. I ate a few of them as I listened to the music only I could hear and surveyed my surroundings.  After a little while I was staring into space, rocking slightly. The world seemed even more beautiful when I had my own soundtrack to it.  

The heeled boots I was wearing were bothering me so I unzipped them and slid them off my legs, leaving them under the table.  I wiggled my toes. Dirty Diana, by Michael Jackson, had started playing. I had only discovered that song a few years ago.  I always wondered how I had never heard it before.  I scanned the lawn again, watching the cars speed by in the distance.  I put my pen to paper.

breathe my city air my patches of green grass in the middle of the smog and the fanfare you can still find a piece of me how i used to be i am still here

I rocked a while and drifted into a Staind song.  God I loved Aaron Lewis.  He was like a male version of myself. Perhaps not identical. Fraternal. He even flunked gym, like me. I loved his songs. I could see myself writing so many of the same words.

I felt someone near me and looked around.  I didn’t see anyone I knew but I felt it, someone watching.  Shit, what time was it? I looked at my phone. I had about ten minutes left.  I’d have to pack up soon. This is what I hated about working. It took time to relax and get into a writing mode, and then when I was just getting there…it was time to go back to work.  Then again, I probably shouldn’t set myself up for this during my lunch hour. It was hard not to though. I’d be working and feel that creative air creeping through me, luring me to wander. 

I sighed and took my earphones out.  I didn’t want to go back. I bent over and groped under the table for my boots.

“Staind, huh,” I heard a moment later.

My head shot up and hit the table hard.  My hand rushed to my head, rubbing the ache as I squinted up at, who else, Adrian.

“Ow,” I kept rubbing.  “Why startle me like that?”

“I like catching people off guard,” he said, stepping back. He had been looking at my phone.

“Great job.” I rubbed my head some more then started slipping my boots on and zipping them up. He watched me without saying anything.

“Have you been watching me?”

“Of course; I’m standing right here.  Nice boots.”

“But were you watching me before?”

“Before when?  Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Never mind,” I muttered, not believing him.

“So how long has your lunch break been, like two hours?”

“Please, you know when I left.  I’m going back now, sir.” I responded sarcastically.  “Why are you giving me a hard time…”

“It’s how I get through the day.” 

I found that sad. And when I looked at him, I could see a flash of that reality in his face.

I finished putting on my boots and shoved my stuff in my bag.  I gathered up my trash and stood up to leave.

“See ya.” I walked away from him, toward the trash can.

I was almost out of earshot, but I was just close enough to hear him say something and just far enough not to understand it.  I turned around and looked back at him. We stood there looking at each other for a second. He didn’t repeat himself, but his expression was different. For a moment he didn’t look like the guy I had met a week ago. He didn’t even look like the guy who was talking to me a minute ago.

I found myself unable to turn away, but eventually, he did it for me.

An Affair at Bryant Park: 2

On Friday I arrived to work early.  I sat at my desk quietly surveying the rest of the office. Most desks were empty. The controllers were already in their offices, but I was the only one in my area.  I was breathing deeply, eyes closed, sort of meditating, when someone knocked on my desk.

I looked to my left, startled.  It was Larry, the CFO.

“Good morning,” he smiled.  “Always nice to see an early bird.”

I smiled back. “Good morning.”

“I know we talked a bit yesterday, but I have to say I’m really ecstatic that you’re here. We have lots to do with the aging and I’d love to get started on Monday morning. Let’s sit down and go over it with Riya. I think we should create an entirely new aging report as well.  How good are you with spreadsheets?”

“I’m pretty good with Excel. I know a bunch of formulas and pivot tables, too.”

“Great, I’ll send a meeting request for Monday then.”

“Ok, sounds good,” I responded cheerfully. 

“Good,” he nodded. He smiled that kind of smile that extended into his eyes then headed off toward the controllers offices.

When Steve and Mira came in we chatted a bit before getting to work. Mira was excited about our end of the day plans to hang out in the lounge. Steve was, too, but he was also dreading a drive to Pennsylvania the next day. I didn’t mention that’s where I was from.

I spent the day emailing clients for payment and trying my best to answer questions from the sales team about when invoices were sent out and what payments had been received so far. The day went by quickly, as those first days on the job usually do, and soon it was five thirty.  Time for drinks.

Mira was the first one up and she pulled me out of my chair.

“That’s enough work already. Let’s go have a drink! She looped her arm through mine.  I was a little taller than her and wearing heels, which made walking together a little difficult. Steve followed us away from our desks and we made our way to the bar. There were several people there already drinking and playing the PS4 that was hooked up to a flat screen on one end of the lounge.

A couple guys were behind the bar mixing drinks, sliding them over to people.

“Do we have our own bartenders, too?” I whispered to Mira.

“No, I think they’re some of the sales guys. But why don’t you ask them for a drink?”

“I don’t even know what I want.”

“Me neither,” she giggled.

A girl was standing in front of a touch screen where she swiped away until suddenly there were speakers blaring some pop song I think I’d heard before. It was too loud, but I didn’t know her or really anyone else here, so I didn’t say anything. Luckily, one of the bartender guys yelled to turn it down, so she did. I silently thanked him.

Steve wasn’t shy like us and he wasted no time going behind the bar once the other guys had left to join their friends playing video games. Mira and I sat on open stools and he positioned himself in front of us.

“What’ll it be, ladies?”

“Do you know how to make a martini?” I asked.

Steve looked behind him at the available liquor. “There’s vodka.” He scanned the bottles some more. “And there’s some apple schnapps. Apple martini?”

“Absolutely.”

“Me, too!” Mira chimed in. Her excitement seemed to grow by the second.

This whole place was pretty cool. A workplace like this was unlike anything I ever imagined a 9-5 would be. Just a week ago I was still working in super tight quarters in a depressing environment, just begging God to get me out of there. I couldn’t believe how good it felt to have some new friends and be sitting in a lounge with a fully stocked bar where I worked. It was unreal.

Steve had poured the vodka and schnapps into the shaker and was putting on a show, shaking it around and being goofy when Adrian walked in. He passed us and headed behind the bar, bent down and pulled a Corona out of what I assumed was a fridge. He knocked the lid off under the bar and sat at the open stool on the end, leaving an empty stool between us.

As Steve selected our glasses, he marveled over all the different kinds of liquor and the stock of juices, sodas, glasses, ice and pitchers.

“Can we take any of this home? People must do it all the time.”

“Only until they get caught,” Adrian commented.

Mira looked at both of them with alarm. “You can’t take this stuff.”

“Would they fire me?” Steve questioned Adrian directly.

“Probably not the first time.”

“So I could take one bottle then…” he mused, looking at them more carefully with a smirk.

“Sshhh,” Mira whispered even though it was pretty noisy with the video games and the music playing. “Don’t talk so loud, someone will hear you. And you can’t steal a bottle. You will get into trouble.”

“I wouldn’t bother,” Adrian added. They give stuff away pretty often. We get a lot of sample cases and glasses and stuff.”

“See?” Mira looked pointedly at Steve. “You don’t have to steal it. They’ll give it to you. Why are you trying to be a thief already?”

Steve poured our martinis into glasses he placed in front of each of us. “Chill out, I was just kidding,” he chuckled.

“I wasn’t,” Mira raised her eyebrows.

“I know,” he countered, laughing. “Can’t believe you’d think I’d steal this stuff.  Anyway, if I bring any of this home, Nikki would worry.”.

“Who’s Nikki?  I asked.

“She’s my girlfriend. Been together forever. Or for what feels like it. What about you, have a boyfriend?”

“Nope.”

“Girlfriend?” his eyebrow arched upward.

“Nope.”

“Kids?”

“No….” I shook my head.

“Pets?”

 I laughed.  “Not at the moment.  Are we playing twenty questions?”

“Sure.  You’re the newbie among us.  We got here a whole week and a half before you.  Ok so let’s see, sixteen to go. Help me out guys.” He leaned against the counter toward me in an interrogating way. 

“I wish there was an overhead lamp hanging right here that I could tip to point into your face,” he pointed at a space in the air.

Mira laughed, “You’re so weird.” 

Steve asked another question.  “What’s your background?”

“Ethnic?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Italian, Puerto Rican, Moroccan.”

“Cool.  And exotic,” he made a sly face.

“Funny.”

“I guess that makes me exotic, too?” Mira asked Steve.

“Sure.  Anything East is exotic I think.  Especially India and Africa.”

Adrian was sitting quietly staring into his glass, occasionally looking up at us through the mirror behind the bar.  He shook his head after Steve’s remark.

“What are you?” I asked Steve.  Anyone could tell he was Asian, but he looked like a mix to me.

“I’m Chinese and German.”

“Really? Interesting.”

“Ok, back to you.  C’mon guys, any question you got.”

“Brothers? Sisters?” Mira asked.

“One brother. We’re not very close.”

“Where does he live?”

“Philly.”

“I love Philly. But I love New York more,” she replied.

“Me, too,” I agreed.

“And where do you live?” Mira asked again.  

“Brooklyn.”

“I hardly ever go to Brooklyn. I live on Long Island and I always just take the train straight to the city.”

“It’s a neat area, at least where I live.”

“Do you have a roommate?”

“I do, but she’s away right now.”

“Away where?” Steve asked.

“She was in England, but I think she’s somewhere else now. She moves around. Her parents have a lot of money.”

“So why does she need a roommate?” Steve laughed.

“She doesn’t like the apartment to be empty when she’s gone for so long.

“So it’s like you’re house sitting. What will you do when she gets back?”

“We lived together before for a bit and we get along. She wants to start some kind of fashion business and she asked me to help her with writing and stuff once she gets it going. Or at least that’s what she said a while ago. She hasn’t been in touch in a month or so.”

“Wow, that sounds exciting! So you’re good at writing?” Mira asked. Maybe you should start your own business, too.”

“Maybe. I’ve thought about it.”

“You should do it. You could start with clients on the side and once you get more clients and charge more money you wouldn’t need to work like this anymore. You could work from home or wherever.”

“Yeah, I know. Just not sure if I want to do that.”

Steve stared at me. “You should definitely do that. Everybody is becoming their own boss these days. People are tired of working for the man.”

“You, too? Why don’t you start your own business?

He shrugged. “I’m lazy,” and went to make another drink.

We sat in silence for a minute, sipping our drinks.

“Where do you live in Brooklyn?” Adrian spoke up suddenly.

“Williamsburg…” I looked at him sideways. “Do you live in Brooklyn?” 

“Yeah.”

I waited.  He said no more.  “Where?” I asked.

“Greenpoint.”  He stared at his glass again, then took a sip of his drink.  Greenpoint was right next to Williamsburg. How interesting. Maybe I had seen him before.

“Are you from New York?” Mira asked.

“Nope.”

“Where then?”

“Pennsylvania.”

Adrian chuckled again.  “Farm land.”

“Dude, it’s not all farm land. I grew up in a city. And there’s Philly, Harrisburg, Pittsburg…”

“Yeah, I know, I know.”

I looked back at Mira. She shrugged. “He’s moody.”

Steve was busy mixing drinks and not paying much attention.

“So what are your hobbies?” Mira asked, to lighten the conversation. 

“My hobbies?” I laughed.

“Is it a silly question? Sorry,” she giggled.

“It’s just funny. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that directly. It’s usually on some kind of form. Umm… I like to walk around the city and in the parks.  I like taking pictures, too. I love to read, write, dance…” My voice trailed off as I tried to think of anything else I had missed.

“You dance?  What kind of dance?  Like do you take classes or do you go to clubs?” Mira asked in one breath. She was excited again.

“I just dance. Usually only at home,” I laughed, a little embarrassed. “But I used to belly dance.  I took a few classes when I was younger and then just kept doing it on my own. I actually used to dance at this little restaurant.  But then they closed down and I haven’t really performed since. I just do it on my own.”

“Oh wow, teach me!” she squealed. “I would love to belly dance!”

“Just take a class,” I said.

“No, I want you to teach me.”

“I’m not a teacher.”

“So what! It’s just me. It’s not a whole class. C’mon it would kind of fit the music, right? We can try it right now,” she got off the stool.

I felt myself getting nervous…and my skin getting hot. I wanted to say no, but I had been wanting to loosen up more and not be so scared to be myself, and be seen.

I gulped the rest of my drink for courage and stood up. Mira moved over to give me some space.

“So what do I do?” she asked, her eyes even more sparkly now that she’d been drinking.

“Ok, you stand like this, with your knees soft. Tighten your abs.”

She copied my exact posture. “Ok, what’s next?”

“Ok, let’s try a hip lift. Basically, you just straighten one leg and then switch to straighten the other leg, like this,” I showed her. I did it slow for a few seconds, then a little faster. “When you go faster, it’s called a shimmy.”

I stared straight into Mira’s eyes the whole time, as if she were the only person in the room, but I could still feel people looking at us.

“I need another drink,” I said and sat back down on my stool trying not to look at anyone. That was all I could take for now.

But then I looked at Steve to ask for another drink and found him staring at me. “Well look at you, little belly dancer. What else are you hiding?”

“Nothing. Can I just have a drink?”

“Anything for you, belly dancer.” He turned around and started to shake his hips and snap his fingers in the air. It made me laugh.

Mira was still standing and started to mimic Steve; she danced around me and then proceeded to dance down toward Adrian. As I watched her I saw that he was looking at me, too, but as soon as our eyes met, he looked away.

I didn’t understand him. I kinda hoped he wasn’t here next time we were in the bar.

Mira passed him and went behind the bar with Steve as he continued snapping his fingers. “Look, I’m like Shakira,” he started popping his chest up and down. Mira followed along and it was the most hilarious thing. It made me laugh so hard. I grabbed my phone to take a picture of them. I loved taking snapshots of these moments.

Steve called out to Adrian, “What do you think? Can I dance or what?” he asked, laughing loudly.

“Nope,” Adrian answered.

“You downer.” Steve stopped dancing to catch his breath. “This is good exercise.” He laughed, “I should get Nikki into this! Could you teach her?”

“No, definitely not.” 

“Oh well. I guess she could take a class. Another drink?” He poked around behind the bar and pulled out a bottle of Coke. “How about a Rum and Coke?”

“Umm, just halfway.”

Mira had made her way back to her seat, a little wobbly. “Is there any water back there?” 

Steve looked around. “I don’t see any bottles. But there’s a sink. Tap water? Or the water cooler in the kitchen.”

“I guess tap is fine.” Then, she turned to me again. “I want to come to Brooklyn. What do you think? Can we hang out sometime?”

“Sure, we can hang.”

“Maybe next Friday?” She sipped the glass of water Steve had put in front of her. “I’m starting to love this place. I think we’re going to have SO much fun together. Maybe even Adrian over there.”

Adrian had resumed to only looking at us through the mirror, but I guess he couldn’t help himself. He smirked just a bit.

 

An Affair at Bryant Park: 1

 

First day at work.  Big marketing company.  No more collecting money from struggling photographers and photo studios swimming in debt.  I was going to be dealing with big time vendors and something called Dideo, whatever that was. In my interview, they explained that the sales and marketing reps mostly dealt with payment, but I took that with a grain of salt. Honestly though, just the fact that I left the dark, cramped office space of my old job was a great step up. This place was open, airy, colorful and in a vibrant area in midtown, right across from Bryant Park, one of my most favorite places.

My new boss, Riya, a controller, had taken me around and introduced me to the rest of the finance team, several of them new to the company as well.  I met the junior accountants, senior accounts, controllers (there were four altogether), payroll manager, accounts payable manager, interns and finally Larry, the CFO, a short Jewish guy with curly graying hair and glasses.  He seemed unassuming and I was thankful for that I guess. But I knew better; first impressions didn’t mean a damn thing.

Now I was sitting at my desk in a square, four desk cubicle looking through the aging reports for the four companies under the ProActive umbrella.  Two of the companies were on one system and two on another. As it was explained to me one system worked better for two companies and another for the other two.  At least I had two monitors. That was another plus for this job.

“Lei?” My boss, Riya, had returned to my desk with a young man beside her.  “Lei, this is Adrian. He’s the one you didn’t meet earlier, the other senior accountant.  He works with me for Dideo mostly so you can ask him anything if I’m not around.”

I stood up and shook his hand.  “Nice to meet you.”

“You too,” he gave me a hard smile and put his hands in his pant pockets.

“He’s been doing receivables so you two should probably get together at some point so you can pick up where he left off.”

“Sure,” Adrian just nodded slightly.

“Great,” I said.

Riya looked at my screen.  “How does the aging look? Think you can handle it?”

“Well I’ve only started looking at the numbers.  New clients and relationships take some time like anything else.  But I’m sure I can manage.” I could do this in my sleep, I thought.  

Adrian turned his head to the side, but I still saw him roll his eyes.  I was offended. He didn’t know anything about me. Why was he being so judgmental? 

“Ok, well, get to it and I’ll check in with you later.” Riya said and headed back to her office.  Adrian turned around and started talking to the guy across from me. I think she said his name was Steve. He was a senior account like Adrian, but new, like me.

I went back to reviewing my aging reports.  Mira, a new junior accountant sitting at the desk attached to mine, was talking on the phone in a language I didn’t understand.  We sat at opposite corners of our side of the cubicle square with a couple of phones and printers between us. I scoured the numbers and found that there were indeed some outstanding invoices, several in fact, and wondered if they really expected the sales people to handle these.  Did they just write stuff off? Or would I need to start making phone calls? One step at a time, I told myself. I needed to look at the history and start emailing the sales reps for background info.

Minutes later Mira swiveled over to me in her chair.

“This chair has been empty for two weeks and I’ve been worried about who would sit here.  You seem nice though. Sorry about the phone. I’m getting married in the spring. It’s all my mother can talk about so she calls me a lot.  Well she calls me a lot anyway so I’m apologizing ahead of time for all the phone calls. I know it’s not professional and it annoys some people, but I can’t help it, she’s my mother.  So, what about you? Are you married? Kids?”

Married, wow. She couldn’t be more than twenty-two.  Maybe twenty-three? She was petite and perky.  Long wavy dark hair. Dressed for business.  I liked her.

“Well, congratulations, on your engagement. No worries about the phone. It won’t bother me. And no, I’m not married. No kids.” 

“Boyfriend? Cat?” she laughs.

“I’ve actually been thinking about getting a cat.”

“Why? Dogs are better,” Adrian suddenly interrupted.

“I like dogs, too. But they’re a lot of work and I’m not home all day.”

He looked irritated. What was up with this guy?

“So why did you start today? It’s Thursday.” Mira asked, puzzled.

I shrugged. “At my other company I gave my two weeks notice on a Tuesday and I wanted a day off in between.  I would’ve waited until Monday next week, but they wanted me here as soon as possible,” I shrugged.

Adrian leaned back against Steve’s desk, but Steve swiveled over.

“Did you know they hired another junior accountant that sat right next to me on Monday and she was gone by Wednesday?  Wonder what happened to her. They said she had some health issues or something. But Adrian was telling me that position is a curse.  Every junior accountant that’s worked for that controller doesn’t last long.”

“Which controller?” I asked.

“Deirdra.”

I took note of this in my head.  “Good to know.”

“This place is awesome.”  Steve said. “Did you see the bar?”

I had seen the bar.  I still couldn’t believe there was a place to go drink right down the hall.  You didn’t have to leave work to have a drink at the end of the day and you didn’t have to pay for it either.  There were some rules as to when you could drink of course, but just the fact that it was there at the end of a long day was pretty awesome.

“Yeah, Riya showed it to me.  Pretty cool.”

“We should go there tomorrow after work.  Get to know each other,” Mira suggested.

“Sure, why not.” I agreed. 

“Definitely,” Steve said. “You in?” He glanced at Adrian.

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

Larry, the CFO, walked by then and we all dispersed to our corners and Adrian back to his shared office.

I spent the rest of the day looking over aging reports, navigating the new programs and ate lunch with Mira in the lunchroom. So far so good.