MY CAR SPLUTTERED TO a stop as the stoplight turned red. I cranked open my window, my skin already coated with a light sheen of sweat. Manhattan was humid at this time of year, and a sharp contrast to the weather I’d grown accustomed to over the last two years. Admittedly I’d missed this city, with it’s tall, looming skyscrapers, and pedestrian-filled streets. The sweet hum of Monday morning traffic providing a rhythm no song on the radio could match.
The light turned green, and I gripped my steering wheel tighter the closer I got to Park Avenue. I was nervous, but also excited to be back in the place I once called home. The streets, filled with a sea of yellow, felt familiar, but also different. Or maybe it was me who was different.
In fact, I knew I was.
And that thrilled me.
And scared me a little too.
I checked my watch, and sighed in relief when Callahan Industries finally came in to view. It was situated opposite the Waldorf-Astoria, and its glass exterior, and clean lines somehow created a disparity between the new world and the old glamor of Manhattan’s longest standing hotel.
After pulling into the underground parking, I checked my make-up, and headed inside, trying to quell the nerves making my blood pump furiously through my veins.
It was my first interview after graduating with a degree in Communications, and out of the two hundred emails and resumes that I’d sent out, Callahan Industries was the only place that had shown an interest in me at all. Rather than be discouraged by that, I decided to make the most of it, and hoped that they liked me as much in person as they had on paper.
People milled around in the spacious lobby, coming and going through the revolving doors, and the sight of all the designer suits gave way to a slight prickle of apprehension. I was underdressed in my thrift store black pencil skirt, and turquoise peasant silk blouse, but did the best I could with what I had and hoped it would be enough.
I looked up, and found a young Indian woman regarding me with a soft, welcoming smile. Her black hair was tied up into a high bun, and like everyone else around us, she was impeccably dressed in navy wide-leg trousers, and a black silk top with a bow around her neck. I shifted nervously, and rose to my feet.
“That’s me,” I replied.
“I’m Aaliyah. Macy Weatherford sent me, she’s ready for you.”
I followed behind Aaliyah, clutching my purse close to my chest when I stepped into an elevator. A few other men joined us, and then the remaining space was filled with a group of young women. They were laughing, and giggling behind their hands, and from the way they huddled together I’d guessed they were secretaries – the proverbial gossip grapevine within any organization.
“Samantha said he turned her down,” one giggled, brushing her brown hair over her shoulder. “And when she asked him if it was because he’s gay, he just snorted and walked away from her without another word. Poor girl was so humiliated, she cried for days.”
“Of course he turned her down,” another retorted. She rolled her eyes, and made a tsking noise. “It’s Caleb fucking Callahan for God’s sake. He never dates staff…”
I froze at the mention of his name. It might have been years since I’d last heard it being uttered by anyone, but it still made my pulse flutter.
The elevator dinged, preventing me from taking a walk down memory lane, and I watched as the gossiping women got off on the twentieth floor. By the time we reached our destination – the fifty-second floor – Aaliyah and I were alone, and for the first time I second-guessed my decision to apply for a position at Callahan Industries. Granted, I wouldn’t be working directly for Caleb, but couldn’t help but wonder if he’d remember me.