1 DREAM JOB
I walked into Helen’s office this morning certain she was going to fire me. It isn’t really my boss’s job to fire me. It’s HR’s. But the HR department has been cut. Edge, the magazine I have written for and loved since I graduated from college, is hanging by a thread.
Three steps inside the cluttered room stacked with old magazines, ours and our competitors’, and my breakfast—coffee with two sugars, and strawberry jam on whole-wheat toast—turns into a stone inside my stomach.
Without even looking up from the folder in her hand, Helen signals to the chair across hers.
“Rachel, sit down.”
I sit silently, a thousand things leaping to my tongue: I can do better; I can do more; let me do more, two articles a week rather than one. Even: I will work for free until we can find our feet.
I can’t afford to work for free. I have rent, I’m still paying
off my college loan, and I have a mother I love with a health condition and no insurance. But I also love my job. I don’t want to be let go. I have never wanted to be anything else other than what I am now, at this moment, as my fate rests in her hands.
So it’s with dread and an impending sense of loss that I sit here and wait for Helen to finally lower that folder and look at me. And I wonder, as our eyes meet, if the next story I have to tell in my life is the one of her firing me.
I am in love with stories. How they shape our lives. How they mark people who don’t even know us. How they can impact us even when an event didn’t exactly occur in our own lives.
The first things I ever fell in love with were the words my mother and grandmother told me about my dad. In those words I got what I didn’t have in real life—a dad. I would collect them into groups, memorize the stories they formed. Where he’d taken my mother on their first date (a Japanese restaurant), if his laugh was funny (it was), what his favorite beverage was (Dr Pepper). I grew up in love with stories and with all the facts and details that enabled me to shape, in my mind, memories of my father that have been with me for life.
My aunts said I was dreaming when I said I wanted words to be a career, but my mother kept quoting Picasso’s mother. “Picasso’s mother told him if he got into the army, he’d be a general. If he became a monk, he’d be the pope. Instead he was a painter and became Picasso. That’s exactly how I feel about you. So do, Rachel, what you love.”
“I would do it more happily if you were doing what you love too,” I always replied, miserable for her.
“What I love is taking care of you,” she always came back with. She’s a lovely painter but nobody else thinks so but me and one tiny gallery that went bankrupt months after its inception.
So my mother has a normal job, and the Picasso in her has quieted.
But she’s sacrificed so much to give me an education and more. Since I’m actually a little shy with strangers, I didn’t have encouragement from a lot of my teachers. None of them believed I had the stomach for hard-core reporting, so I ran with the only thing I could: the sole motivation of my mother and her belief in me.
Now I’ve worked at Edge for almost two years, the job cuts started over three months ago, and my colleagues and I have all been afraid we’ll be the next. Everyone, including me, is giving 110 percent of what we’ve got. But to a flailing business, it’s not enough. There doesn’t seem to be any way of salvaging Edge except with a huge investment that doesn’t seem forthcoming, or with stories much bigger than what we’ve been running.
The moment Helen opens her mouth to speak, I dread hearing the words We’ve got to let you go. I’m already thinking of a story, an idea, I can pitch for my next column, something edgy that could put our name out there and somehow allow me to hang on to my job a little longer.
“You’ve been on my mind, Rachel,” she says. “Are you currently seeing anyone?”
“Um. Seeing anyone? No.”
“Well, that’s just what I wanted to hear!” She shuffles her paperwork to the side and pulls out one of the magazines from the shelf, dropping it on the desk between us. “See, I’ve got a proposition for you. It might require you to bend your morals a little bit. In the end, I think it will ultimately be rewarding for you.” She shows me an old magazine, a rueful smile on her lips. “This was our first issue. Fifteen years ago.”
“I love it!” I say.
“I know you do—you’ve always taken an interest in how we started. Which is why I like you, Rachel,” she says without any warmth at all. Just a fact, it seems. “You know, Edge used to stand for something. All those years ago, we weren’t afraid of breaking rules, venturing where other magazines wouldn’t. You’re the only one who seems to have preserved that. The Sharpest Edge is always our column with the most comments. You focus on the trends and give your raw, unfiltered opinion. Even when people don’t agree with your opinion, they respect you for the fact that you share it so honestly.
“This is why I suppose you’re in my office now, instead of Victoria.” She jerks her chin in the direction of outside where my greatest competitor, Victoria, must be busy in her cubicle.
Vicky. She’s the only other overachiever at Edge and somehow always lucks out at overachieving more than me. I don’t want enmity with Victoria. But it still feels like there’s a popularity contest here I didn’t sign up for. She always seems so damn happy when Helen isn’t pleased with what I wrote, and sometimes I can’t write a word simply because I’m worrying about what Victoria will come up with.
“See, I’m thinking of ruffling some feathers. If we want to stay in business, it’s becoming clearer and clearer we need something more drastic. Something that will make people take notice of Edge. Are you with me?”
“I agree. If there’s anything to breathe new life into Edge—”
“We’re doing so poorly, we’ve all grown so scared; we’re all reporting from safe, scared places, afraid to push the button in case we explode. We’re already withering here. We need to write about the topics that scare us, fascinate us . . . and nobody fascinates this city more than our billionaire bachelors. Do you know who I’m talking about?”
Her lips twist. “The worst of them all.” She pulls out another magazine. I stare at the cover, which says Saint or Sinner?
“Malcolm Saint,” I whisper.
The man staring back at me has a perfectly structured face, beautiful lips, and eyes greener than the bottom of a beer bottle. His smile is all mischief. It says he likes to cause trouble and, most of all, that he likes getting away with it. But there’s something very closed off and somehow icy in his eyes. Oh yeah, those green eyes are made of green ice.
“I’ve heard of him,” I admit, starting to get nervous. “I wouldn’t really be alive in Chicago if I hadn’t.”
Ruthless, they say.
A complete manwhore, they say.
And so ambitious he’d put Midas to shame. Oh yeah. They say Saint won’t rest until he owns the world.
“Victoria thinks that you’re too young and inexperienced to take on such a risqué project, Rachel. But you’re single, and she’s not.”
“Helen, you know how much I enjoy writing about trends, but you also know that I really want to write bigger stories, stories about people’s homes, security. I want to earn that chance, and if this is how I can do that, then I won’t let you down. What kind of story do you see for him?”
“An exposé.” She grins. “One where we get to hear juicy little tidbits about him. I’m thinking about four things, specifically. How he manages to stay so calm and in control all the time. What’s the deal with his father? What role do all these women play in his life? And why, oh why does he have this obvious affinity for doing things in fours? Now”—she slaps her hand on the desk for emphasis—“in order to get to the meat . . . Let’s be honest, Rachel: you must try to get close. Lie,
little white lies. Ease into his world. Saint isn’t an easy man to access, which is why nobody’s been able to figure out even one of these things, much less all four.”
I’ve been listening. My curiosity is fully engaged. But I’ve started to squirm. Lie. Little white lies. True, I’ve lied sometimes. I’m human. I’ve done right things and wrong things, but I’d rather stick to the right side. I enjoy my sleep, thank you. But this is the opportunity I’ve wanted since I started college.
“And if Saint wants to make a play for you,” Helen continues, “then be prepared. You might need to play a little bit back. Can you do that?”
“I believe so,” I say, but I sound much more confident than I feel. And I just . . . I’m not sure how many opportunities like this I’ll get. I’ll never be able to move into reporting things that are important to me if I don’t make a stronger effort to be heard. Tackling a topic that fascinates the public so much will give me a voice, and I really, really want that voice.
“Do you think you can do this? Or . . .” She glances outside.
No. I can’t bear for Victoria to get the story. It’s not a pill I want to swallow. In fact, it’s downright bitter, and I don’t want to swallow it.
“I’ll do it. I’m hungry. I want a good story,” I assure Helen.
“We can always wait and find you another good story, Rachel,” she says, playing devil’s advocate now.
“I’ll do it. He’s my story now.”
“He’s Chicago’s story. And Chicago’s darling. He has to be handled with care.”
“He’s the story I want to tell,” I assure her.
“That’s what I like to hear.” She laughs. “Rachel, you are absolutely beautiful. You are a doll. You’re funny and you work hard, you give it your all, but for all that you’ve lived, you’re
still an innocent. You’ve been here two years, and even before you graduated you were working it. But you’re still a young girl playing in a world for grown-ups. You’re too young to know there are protocols with the rich in the city.”
“I know we usually cater to the rich.”
“Just remember, Saint could crush the magazine. He can’t see it coming. By the time he does, he’ll see his face on the newsstand.”
“He won’t catch me,” I mumble.
“Okay, Rachel, but I want intimate revelations. I want every detail. I want to feel like I stepped into his shoes and walked his everyday walk. What is it like to be him? You’re going to tell the whole city.” She smiles happily and wakes up her computer with a wiggle of her mouse. “I look forward to hearing all about it. So off you go now, Rachel. Find the story in the story and write it.”
Holy crap, Livingston. You’ve got your story!
I’m so dazed and exhilarated, I’m euphoric as I head to the door, fairly trembling with the need to start working.
“Rachel,” she calls as I open the glass door, my stomach in a whole new tangle. She nods her head. “I believe in you, Rachel.”
I stand there, completely awed that I finally, finally have her trust. I didn’t expect it would come with a huge fear of failure on my shoulders. “Thanks for the chance, Helen,” I whisper.
“Oh, and one last thing. Saint isn’t normally accessible to the press. But there have been exceptions, and I can think of a way you could get lucky. Check out his new social media site, Interface. Use it as an approach. He might not like the press, but he’s a businessman and will use us to his advantage.”
I nod with some self-confidence and a ton more self-doubt, and as soon as I’m outside, I exhale nervously.
Okay, Livingston. Focus and let’s do this.
I’ve got so much information on Saint that I email myself dozens and dozens of links to continue researching tonight at my apartment. I place a call to his office and talk to a representative, asking for an interview. She assures me they’ll let me know. I cross my fingers and say, “Thank you, I’m available anytime. My boss is very excited to run a piece on Mr. Saint’s latest venture.”
Done for the day, I head home. My place is close to Blommer Chocolate Company, in the Fulton River District. I wake up to the smell of chocolate in the air. My building is five stories high, on the edge of downtown.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m living my dream, or at least half of it; I wanted the briefcase, the mobile phone, the heels and matching jacket and skirt. I wanted to be self-sufficient enough to buy my mother the car of her dreams, and a home of her own where she wouldn’t get evicted because she couldn’t pay the rent. I still want those things.
Unfortunately my market is tough. A freelancer before I even graduated college, I had no steady income. You live by your muse, and she’s not always ready with ideas for you. Then I answered an advertisement in the Chicago Tribune. Edge was looking for weekly columnists for topics such as fashion, sex and dating, innovations, decorating tips, and even fancy pet discoveries. The office covered two floors in an old building downtown, and it hardly represented the corporate environment I’d envisioned.
The top floor is littered with reporters at their desks. The floors are wood, the editorial offices peppered with bright colors and satin cushions, always full of the buzz of phones and people chattering. Instead of the business suits I imagined wearing to
work, I write in an oversize, trendy T-shirt-with-an-attitude and a pair of socks that have the words I Believe on the toes. It’s a crazy magazine, as crazy as some of the stories and columns we put out—and I love it.
But bloggers are putting us out of work, our circulation growing tinier by the second. Edge needs something cutting-edge, and I’m desperate to prove to my boss that I can bring it to her.
“Gina!” I call to my roommate when I stroll into our two-bedroom flat.
“We’re over here!” I hear Gina call.
She’s in her bedroom, with Wynn. They’re my best friends. Wynn’s a redhead, freckled, pink and sweet, very unlike the dark, sultry Gina.
We’re like Neapolitan ice cream. In height, Gina and I are the tallest, while Wynn is an elf. Gina and I try to use logic; Wynn is “Team Feelings” all the way. I’m the career girl, Wynn is the nurturer, and Gina is the sexpot who hasn’t yet realized she could use men as her personal dildos (if she wanted to). She doesn’t want to. Really.
Dropping my bag at the door, I spot their huge Chinese food picnic and join them on the floor.
They’re streaming an old episode of Sex and the City.
We eat in silence and watch a little bit, but I’m not even paying attention to the screen. I’m too wound up, and finally blurt, “I’ve got my story.”
“What?” They both stop eating.
I nod. “I’ve got my first full story. It might be three pages, four—hell, five. Depending on how much information I end up with.”
“Rachel!” they yell in unison and come toward me.
“No tackle hugs! Shit! You spilled the rice!”
They squeal and then ease back, and Wynn goes to get the Dustbuster. “So what’s it about?” she asks.
“What about him?” Wynn asks.
“It’s . . . almost undercover.” They’re practically popping out of their skin with anticipation. “I get to meet him.”
“I’m trying to get an interview to ask about Interface.”
“But I’ll also be researching him in secret. I’ll be . . . unlayering him,” I tease.
“RACHEL!” Gina bangs my arm, knowing I’m usually straitlaced.
Wynn shakes her head. “That man is hot!”
“What do you two know about him?” Gina asks.
I pull out my laptop. “I was just online liking all his social pages, and the guy has over four million Instagram likes.”
We hop onto other sites and check out his Twitter feed.
I’m not impressed by what I read.
“His rep wouldn’t give me an appointment—she wrote me down on a list. I wonder if I’ll have better luck reaching out on social media.”
“Let’s look for a smexy profile pic in case Saint himself sees it.”
“Not happening,” I say.
“Come on, Rachel, you have to make yourself as appealing as possible. This one.” She points at a picture in one of my old social media albums where I’m wearing a secretarial skirt and blouse, but the three buttons between my breasts are about to burst.
“I hate that shirt.”
“Because it shows off what you’ve got. Come on, let’s do it.”
I change my profile picture, then send him a message.
Mr. Saint, this is Rachel Livingston with Edge. I’d love it if you granted me the opportunity for a personal interview in regard to your rising new star, Interface. I’ve put in the request through your office as well. I’m available anytime. . . .
I include all my details and shoot it off.
“Okay, fingers crossed,” I murmur with butterflies in my stomach.
Later, after Wynn goes home and Gina goes to sleep, I head to my bed. I settle on my pillow, my laptop on my lap, sucking on a Fruit Roll-Up. “Interesting reading,” I say to an online picture of the man. I stay up until midnight, reading more and more. I’ve already dug up quite the dirt on him.
Malcolm Kyle Preston Logan Saint. Twenty-seven years old. His family is such old money in Chicago, he got a headline the day he was born. At age five, he was in the hospital with meningitis, and the world was on pins and needles to see if he’d make it.
At age six, he’d already earned a black belt in karate, and on the weekends he flew with his socialite mother from one state to the next on one of his father’s jets. At thirteen, he’d already kissed most girls in school. At fifteen, he’d been the world’s biggest player and smoothest liar. At eighteen, he was the perfect bastard, and rich to boot. At twenty, he’d lost his mother but was too busy skiing at a Swiss alpine village to reach the funeral on time.
By twenty-one, he and his two best friends, Callan Carmichael and Tahoe Roth, had become the most notorious trust-fund babies of our generation.
He’s the owner of four Bugattis: license plates BUG 1, BUG 2, BUG 3, and BUG 4. He has houses all over the world. Luxury cars. Dozens of gold watches, including a rose gold perpetual calendar he bought at auction for $2.3 million. He’s a collector, you could say. Of companies, toys, and, apparently, women.
Malcolm is an only child, and after inheriting his mother’s millions and displaying an uncanny flair for business during the following years, he became not only a billionaire but an absolute symbol of power as well. Not political power, but the good, old-fashioned power that comes with having money. Saint isn’t linked to the shady dealings of the Chicago political machine, but he can press that machine’s buttons if he wants to. Every politician knows this—which is why being on the playboy’s good side is in their best interest.
Saint doesn’t back just anyone. The public, somehow, trusts that Saint doesn’t give a shit about what they think—he won’t back anyone he doesn’t plan to own, so, indirectly, anyone backed by Saint can’t be owned by anyone else. He’s the champion of the underdog. Using his substantial inheritance, Saint became a venture capitalist at a very young age, funding the tech projects of many of his Ivy League school buddies, many of which soared to success, making Saint a few hundred million wealthier than his own father. He still manages venture capital investments from within the offices of M4. Named for his initial and his favorite number, M4 is a company he created in those early years when several of his investments ended up listing on Nasdaq—one for a few billion, to boot.
Latest cover of the Enquirer—
Malcolm Saint: Our Favorite Bad Boy, Revealed
How many women has he slept with?
Why isn’t he interested in marriage?
How he became America’s hottest manwhore bachelor
@MalcolmSaint I wish I’d never laid eyes on you! #eatshitanddie
YOU’RE FUCKING DEAD! @MalcolmSaint you fucked my girlfriend you’re so fucking DEAD
Free drinks anyone? @MalcolmSaint paying at Blue Bar downtown!
Hey Mal, remember me? I gave you my number last week. Call or message me!
Saint—drinks next weekend, I’m in town with the wife. (Not that I’d bring her. She’s fawned over you enough.) PM me to set a place.
Looking good in the yacht pics, Saint. Have room for a few more? My friends and I would love to party with you again! :) XOXO
Wow. “You’re a real gem, aren’t you?” I whisper, slamming my laptop shut around midnight. I bet half the things on the internet are completely overblown and untrue, which is why, of course, I need more reliable research—firsthand research. I grin and check the time, realizing it’s too late to tell my mother that I’ve finally got my story.