Sometimes Hollyn Tate pretended she was in a movie. She had the script. She knew her lines. Her curly blond hair was blown out to perfection and not frizzing like crazy in the New Orleans humidity. Her heart wasn’t pounding too hard in her chest. Her facial expressions were totally under her control and appropriate for the situation instead of her Tourette’s calling the shots. She was a confident chick in the city on the way to the rest of her life.
Her big career break was just around the corner. Her gaggle of whip-smart, funny friends was texting her about meeting up for drinks and gossip after work. The future love of her life was waiting to bump into her and knock her bag out of her hand—the perfect meet-cute. She was Carrie in Sex and the City. She was Meg Ryan in anything. She was Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air. She was that girl. The camera would zoom in on her as other people strolled along the streets around her, their presence only a blur in the background. This was her day. Her world. She was owning it.
Hollyn tried to imagine the scene playing on a movie screen as she walked, seeing this better, bolder version of herself navigate the uneven city sidewalks with grace, the brightly painted storefronts the perfect pop of color in the background. If this woman bent down to snag one of the clovers pushing through the cracks in the pavement, it’d have four leaves. Hollyn tried to believe the image, believe that this woman existed. The mental movie got her through the walk to work.
Today, the fantasy was faltering, her lack of sleep making her extra jumpy. She turned the corner, and the bright-blue, four-story WorkAround building split the sun’s morning rays, scattering the light. The converted warehouse took up the entire corner, and the sign advertising Office Space for the Creative that hung from the second-floor balcony swayed in the humid breeze coming off the Mississippi River. She took a cleansing breath and worked to unclench her fingers.
Even though she didn’t get the overwhelming nausea she had suffered during her first few weeks at WorkAround, her stomach still roller-coastered and her neck muscles balled up like fists. The image of that confident, camera-ready woman slipped away from her like a rogue spirit escaping its temporary host. Another ghost haunting the streets of New Orleans.
She rehearsed her plan for the morning in her head. She’d tried to memorize the people who usually worked on her floor each day so that she knew who to give a quick good morning to (those who responded with a nod and polite smile) and who to avoid (those who wanted to do the dreaded water-cooler chat—even though WorkAround would never have something as gauche as an actual water cooler). But the nature of the coworking space meant the faces were always changing. People renting hot desks on the first floor didn’t tend to last long. Those renting actual offices like hers had a little more staying power.
She checked the time on her phone, comforted that it was still early and that most of the people at WorkAround wouldn’t be in for at least another hour or so. One of the perks of working for herself was making her own schedule. Most of her coworkers took advantage of that benefit, rolling in around nine or ten and heading straight to the in-house coffee bar where Jackee, a woman with green hair and zero customer service skills, would take your order with a grunt and unceremoniously plunk your coffee or fancy tea in front of you without a word. Hollyn loved Jackee. Coffee and no expectations. Her kind of person.
She dropped her phone into her bag, and her thumb tapped each fingertip on her right hand in a familiar back-and-forth rhythm. One two three four. Four three two one. A little twinge of relief went through her at the ritual. She punched in her access code and opened the glass door, which was already covered in dewy condensation, and the blast of frigid air-conditioning hit her along with the sound of fingers on keyboards. She inhaled deeply as she stepped inside, trying to center herself. There was the scent of burnt toast in the air from someone’s failed breakfast mixed with one of the “curated” aromas that were pumped into the building to “heighten creativity and productivity”—jasmine today, from what she could tell. Lucinda, the owner of WorkAround, had the aromatherapy on some undecipherable schedule—probably in tune with the moon phases or something.
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