Public Relations(10)

By: Katie Heaney


“I’m sure,” said Archie. He swiveled to face me and shot me that deadly smile. “But I don’t know, I just get the feeling I’d get on better with Rose. What do you say, Ms. Reed?”

“Um, sure,” I said. “I mean, yes. Agreed.” I wished for swift death. It didn’t come.

“Great,” said Maria, standing up and signaling the end of the meeting. The rest of us followed suit. “Ryan, always a pleasure.”

She walked over to shake my hand. “Rose, we’ll be in touch.”

She ushered Archie toward me, and it was only then that I realized just how tall he was. He loomed close enough—maybe a little too close? Was this a British thing?—that I could see he had faint freckles across his cheek; his long hair was, I’ll admit, kind of greasy; and Jesus Christ, someone needed to give his childhood dentist a medal because his teeth were a true feat. He held his hand out to mine, which I hoped wasn’t trembling.

“And you, Archie,” said Maria. “Be nice.”





3.


AFTER WE’D WALKED TEAM ARCHIE to the doors, and I’d watched him get on the elevator and seen the doors close, I resumed breathing. I hesitated in the entryway, mentally steeling myself against the verbal spanking I was sure was headed my way. I glanced nervously at Ryan, Sam, and Keiran, who stood in a tight cluster closer to the doors, but they seemed to have forgotten I was there. I was dying to get back to my desk and recuperate, so I took a step back, and then another, waiting for them to notice and stop me. Ryan was the only one facing me, and when he looked up, I froze. But he only gave me a short nod with a tight, unhappy smile—the Ryan special—so I turned around, taking his gesture as a sign that I was free. For now.

Before I could get to my desk, Harper met me outside our cubicle, her arms folded across her chest and her dark, perfect eyebrows raised almost clear off the top of her head. A head that at present was adorned by a meticulously wrapped topknot, her hair, this month, dyed a deep forest green.

“I can’t believe you didn’t text me once while you were in there,” she said.

“I couldn’t,” I said, “I was talking practically the whole time.”

“What?” she yelled, so loudly that several heads popped like prairie dogs above their cubicle walls to assess the situation. I grabbed Harper by the elbows and steered us both into our cube.

“You weren’t supposed to talk!” hissed Harper. “Joanna is going to murder you, and then who will I have to share my cube with?”

“Our cube,” I said. “I’m sorry. It’ll probably be Ethan.”

Harper held a finger over her top lip, mimicking Ethan’s creepy, tiny little hipster mustache. “Hey, Harper, have you been to Niku Hus yet? It’s Japanese-Danish fusion. Supposed to have great, like, Zen-but-modernist design. It’s, like, impossible to get in, but I know a guy.” Ethan was desperately in love with Harper but too afraid to ask her out directly, and somehow completely oblivious to the fact that she was gay. She said she’d told him once and he hadn’t “gotten” it, which I didn’t understand. It seemed he either hadn’t heard her, or had refused to believe her gayness was permanent. He’d talk about restaurants (or shows, or museum exhibits) like he was an event listing, hoping, apparently, that she’d fill in the rest for him. Instead, she’d become a true master of elaborate, irreversible excuses—she’d once told him she had misophonia after he kept bringing up some summer concert series he’d totally go to if he knew anyone going. Now, whenever he was around, she had to wince at the slightest noise.

“He’s always gonna be able to find a restaurant whose cuisine you haven’t claimed an allergy to yet,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “Stupid New York. Wait—don’t distract me! Go back to the part about you talking to Archie Fox for an entire meeting? God, what did he look like? I tried to get a glimpse when he was leaving but his manager was in the way. I hate her. All I could see was his beautiful hair.” Though Harper had no interest in actually dating men, she wasn’t completely impervious to the effects of Archie Fox. He was just one of those people who can be incorporated into anyone’s sexuality.

I laughed. “He looked… great.” For a second earlier I’d thought I might downplay the entire exchange, knowing how many people Harper probably would have killed to get a chance to sit across the table from Archie Fox—let alone be his personal public relations representative—but now that I was in front of her, I couldn’t have minimized my excitement if I’d tried. My whole face was red, and I couldn’t seem to get myself to stop smiling.

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