Today was my first day of my writing career. I was no longer to be an amateur having scraps published here and there. I was going to have my very own column in the largest lesbian magazine in the country, Lass. Not only was it my first real writing job, I was being launched into the daunting yet incredibly exciting position of expert lesbian sex advisor.
I looked in the mirror, and said to myself seductively, "Meet the new Miss Lassivious." I blew myself a kiss, and winked.
My two favourite things, lesbians and writing, all in one job, I couldn't even begin to imagine what my new lifestyle would hold!
I straightened my pencil skirt, and headed out. I locked the door to my apartment and spun my keys around my finger before slipping them into my handbag.
I walked down the street, my entire body trembling with anticipation. I was running twenty minutes early, so I decided to swing past a café.
All magazine workers have to grab a coffee before work, I thought, it's in all of the movies. And it has to be something obscure and precise, like a soy chai latté with two sugars. I got exactly that.
As I walked in the direction of the Lass office building, I imagined myself at posh parties in stylish clothes. "Natasha Johnston, Lesbian Sex Columnist," I would say. It sounded sexy. This is work, I had to keep reminding myself. This is my job, this is a serious job. My excitement was bubbling by the time I reached the glass doors of the building. There was a frosted-glass 'L' on each door. I pulled one door open, and headed for the lift. I was supposed to report to the second floor, and someone would be there to help me to my desk. The lift doors opened and I was in a glossy white hallway. A young woman came rushing up to me.
"Hello, Natasha, right? My name's Laura, I'm an intern here, I'm to show you to you desk." She lead me down the hallway and into a room. I couldn't help but notice that everyone in this room was female. I smiled.
"This is where all the writers work. Your desk is over here." Laura directed me to my desk. Everything was neat, and my work computer had a clear desktop.
"Jessica, the Executive Editor, gives her apologies for not being available to greet you and show you around, but she is currently in a meeting. She will catch up with you later in the day. She advises you to look through the documents and files she has put on your desk in the mean time."
Satisfied that she had done all that was required of her, Laura departed the room.
I felt everyone's eyes on me and I looked up.
They all introduced themselves.
There was Ronnie, Sylvia, Rose, Kate… so many names to remember! They all proudly introduced themselves as lesbians, except for Ronnie who announced that she was straight.
I noticed another woman, who had failed to introduce herself. She continued working on her computer, seemingly unaware that someone new was in the vicinity. Or more likely, ignoring that fact. That's not very polite, I thought to myself, but I was determined to make an effort with everybody. In our morning break, the woman was surrounded by a group of girls and seemed to be driving the conversation. She was obviously quite popular, maybe she was intimidated by that fact that I was getting new-girl attention. I walked up to the group confidently, and introduced myself. A few of the women were some who were in my department and had introduced themselves. One of them, I think it was Rose, informed me that the other girls, and the one guy, worked on the creative aspects of Lass. They all made me feel welcome and told me all the funny things that happened from day to day in the Lass workplace. One of them mentioned the Lass work drinks at a gay bar on Fridays and invited me. "Even the straight ones love the bar!" Ronnie exclaimed.
Rose mock-whispered to me, "Ronnie claims she's straight, but enjoys a casual hook-up with girls." They all laughed and Ronnie pulled a face.
The woman who had ignored me still hadn't introduced herself, and wouldn't speak to me directly.
I was getting annoyed with her so I said loudly, "Hello, I don't think we've met. I'm Natasha." I stuck my hand out defiantly. If she didn't shake it, surely the others would think she was rude. I couldn't lose. She took it.
"I'm Abi," she said, neither rudely nor pleasantly.
No one else noticed the stiffness of our handshake.
This one is going to be tough. I sighed. I really just wanted to get along with everyone. Oh well, at least I will be seen to be making an effort, which is more than she can see.
Rose said to me, "Abi works on the fashion column, don't you Abi?" She said it with a subtle sternness. I was beginning to really like Rose, she seemed like someone I could easily be friends with. So did everyone else, for that matter. Except Abi.
We went back to our desks and everyone busied themselves.
A message popped up on my screen, it was from Rose.
"I'm really sorry about Abi, you have to give her time, she's actually very nice. Just give her time." I looked over at Rose and nodded. She smiled, and I returned it. Jessica turned up at my desk, and I spent the rest of the day being shown around by her. She explained how everything worked and showed me around all the departments. This place was huge, it was hard to imagine that so many workers would produce one A4-sized product a month. Well, billions of that one product I suppose. But all of these people for that apparently small amount of content.
The rest of the month was spent researching, note-taking and generally trying to fit in. I was working towards a deadline for my first article in the Miss Lassivious column as well, I had a lot on my plate. I knew my first few weeks would be the most socially demanding period of my time here while I got to know people better. I talked to Sylvia about her fling with one of the visual girls. Ronnie told me all about her failure with men. Kate chatted about popular science and her brother's wedding. And Rose, well, Rose and I were beginning to become quite close friends. We went on lunch breaks together and it was really easy to laugh with her. I seemed to be getting to know everyone except Abi. Oh, it wasn't like Abi never talked, she was constantly sharing evidently hilarious anecdotes with everyone else. She would give me the occasional glance, but never anything more than a flippant smile that barely recognised the fact that I was a human being standing right in front of her. Quite frankly, I was tired of making an effort with Abi, but I thought I would give her another chance at the Friday drinks at the end of my third week. I talked to Rose about it that day.
"I have been trying and trying with her," I insisted over lunch at our regular café.
"I know, I can tell," she sympathised.
"It's just exhausting," I sighed.
Rose was quiet for a while.
"There's something you should know about Abi."
I looked at her, puzzled. "Okay?"
"Well, she used to be in a relationship with the last Miss Lassivious. The one before you. You are incredibly similar to her, or you appear to be - but I know you're not because -"
"Yes?" I interrupted.
"Well, you are bubbly, friendly, nice and you make an effort to get along with everyone."
"I don't understand?"
"Renée was like that, and Abi fell for it." She said finally.
I thought about that for a while.
"Are you saying that she thinks I am fake?" I asked.
"I'm not sure, but Renée manipulated her and used her, and wrote an article that we all knew was about their relationship. And she used all of Abi's ideas. It was really awful, and Abi was mortified."
"Where is Renée now then?"
"She got promoted. To Editor-in-Chief."
"That would have been a massive slap in the face," I said.
I could see why Rose hadn't told me this earlier, it was personal, and what Renée had done was hurtful. But even though I had this knowledge, I still had no idea how I was going to gain Abi's trust. I wasn't Renée. I wasn't like Renée at all. I was annoyed at Abi for having judged me, but I could understand how her hurt was raw, and how easy it would have been to shun someone who seemed to be likely to hurt her again. But I couldn't just walk up to her and say "Abi, I'm not Renée." She would just be annoyed that Rose had told me about her.
I had no idea how to go about this.
At drinks that night, I decided I would try to approach Abi when she was alone and talk to her one-on-one. I got my chance when she went up to buy a drink.
"Let me get that for you," I offered, trying to be friendly.
"No, it's okay, I've got it," she gave me a stifled smile.
"Oh thanks," I turned to the bartender, and said, "Make that two, it's on her."
I smiled at her cheekily and laughed.
She gave me a strange look, but didn't refuse.
She paid for both drinks, then made a move to return to her group.
"Wait, Abi, do you mind drinking with me? I'll buy the next round."
She shrugged and sat at the bar with me.
I tried to talk to her about her column, and though it was a rigid conversation, it was still a conversation. I made a light-humoured remark about fashion, but I think she thought I was making fun of her column, and her guard went up again. She said she needed to go the bathroom, but I saw her soon after talking to her creative department friends. I felt really ridiculous sitting at the bar by myself. She glanced at me and we made eye contact. She looked away.
I saw Ronnie, Kate and Rose so I went and spent some time with them, then caught a taxi home. I unlocked the door of my apartment and turned on the lights. I flicked the jug on for a quick herbal tea before bed.
There was a knock on the door. I looked at the clock, it was past midnight. Puzzled, I went up to the door.
"Who is it?" I questioned.
"Please, let me in," came a female voice.
I opened the door, and there stood Abi. She reached out and stroked my hair. Then she stepped up to me and kissed me full on the lips.
I was taken aback, and pulled her away.
"I didn't mean to come across as rude. You must hate me."
I stared into Abi's eyes. She looked lost. Her soul was damaged.
I pulled her in again and wrapped my arms around her and she began sobbing into my shoulder.
"Natasha… I really like you," she said between sobs.
My heart flipped.
"Abi, wow, I just… I…"
She pulled back to look into my eyes. I felt like in this moment, I was reading everything about her. I felt like I knew her better in that second than I did anyone else I had been around in the past few weeks. Even Rose.
I kissed her forehead. Then the tears on her cheeks. Then I kissed her as she had me.
She clung to me desperately and we kissed more passionately.
Suddenly we were on the sofa and she was on top of me. She pulled my top off, and then her own, and pressed herself into me.
Only now did I realise the sexual tension that had grown between us. There was a lot of it. She was attractive, I had never denied it.
All the same, I thought we were taking it all much too quickly.
"Let's just take things slowly, Abi. I like you, I do, but I just…," I paused, "I want to take it slowly," I repeated.
On Monday, I arrived at work as usual, but this time, Abi smiled at me as I walked past her desk.
A message from Rose popped up on my computer. "?" was all it said.
I replied with a semi-colon and a closed bracket.