Dirty Headlines(7)

“With my luck, I don’t doubt it.” I grabbed my shoulder bag, watching as he groaned when he settled in his armchair in front of the TV.

He was wearing the same PJs I knew I was going to see him in when I got back from work God-knows-when. Most people wouldn’t have invested in Netflix when they were neck-deep in debt, but my dad barely left the house. Up until very recently, he’d always been suffering from nausea and felt extremely weak. Chemotherapy killed not only his cancerous cells, but also his appetite. The only thing he did have were shows like Black Mirror, House of Cards, and Luke Cage. No way was I going to deprive him of his only entertainment, even if I had to pick up another job on top of this one.

And this is the part they don’t tell you about losing a loved one to cancer: They’re not the only people being eaten alive. When they get it, you get it. The cancer nibbles away at your time with them, feasts on the happy moments, feeds off every second of bliss. It devours your paycheck and savings. It nourishes itself on your misery and multiplies in your chest, even if you don’t have it.

I lost my mom to breast cancer ten years ago.

Now my dad was next, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

The ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan was long, and I didn’t have my iPod with me. That’s what you get for being a shithead and stealing from a stranger. I’d left it, my earbuds, and my morals back in the hotel suite. No matter. The money had paid two red electricity bills and covered our weekly grocery shopping. And now I had time to read through all the material I’d printed out in advance about the Laurent Broadcasting Company. LBC was headquartered in a gigantic high-rise building on Madison Avenue. They were one of the top four news channels in the world, alongside MSNBC, CNN, and FOX. I’d accepted a job as a junior reporter in their beauty and lifestyle online blog division, which wasn’t exactly my lifegoal. Then again, not drowning under past-due bills was pretty high on my to-do list.

I was grateful for the opportunity, and had almost toppled over when I’d gotten the acceptance phone call. My chance at the newsroom would come. I just needed to work my way up.

For now, I had to make sure I kept this 75k-a-year job. It wasn’t only a great way to get my foot in the door; it could also help me convince Dad to give chemo another shot.

The lifestyle blog—aptly named Couture—was located on the fifth floor of the building, the same floor as accounting.

“They don’t treat us as real journalists,” I’d been warned by Grayson, AKA Gray, the chatty guy who had hired me. “The toilet seats in this place get more respect than the beauty and entertainment blog. They also get better ass, I’m sure. There’re literally no hot people here in accounting.”

I’d come in the day before to get my tag and electronic card and to fill out the paperwork. The job offered kickass health insurance and free gym facilities. In short: if I could marry this job, I would make sure it was happy and give it a foot massage every evening.

I was over a half-hour early, so I made a donut stop and bought enough sugary goodness for the entire floor. The receptionist, an auburn-haired girl around my age named Kyla, was already behind her desk, typing away when I came in. I offered her a donut, and her timid eyes scanned me as if I was trying to sell her an unregistered gun.

“They’re good. I promise. My mom and I used to come all the way from Brooklyn to Manhattan every Saturday just to have them.” I smiled.

“People are not nice here at LBC, though.” She tapped her desk nervously.

“Well, I am. So…” I shrugged.

She plucked a chocolate-glazed donut and showed me to my office. It wasn’t an actual office, but a cubicle on an open-space floor: beige on white and clinically depressing with its uniform plastic dividers and creaking office chairs. Each cubicle had four desks. I’d share mine with Couture’s staff. We’d be three people in total.

“Gray should be here any minute,” Kyla said between moans of pleasure.

I dumped my mismatched backpack under a chair that faced one of the desks without photos and knickknacks, and looked out the window. I had a direct view of the Laurent Towers Hotel, where I’d spent the night with Célian. Three weeks later and it still felt surreal that a man I didn’t know had been inside of me multiple times. Even stranger was the sharp pang of regret that pierced my chest every time I thought about the money I’d stolen from him. I vowed to never do it again, and tried to tell myself that entire night had been out of character for me.

Grayson arrived twenty minutes later. He looked like the lovechild of Kurt Hummel from Glee and your best friend’s hot brother, and he dressed like Willy Wonka. The deep maroon velvet blazer he had on today would’ve looked like a crime scene on anyone else. He waved his hand theatrically as he entered, his eyes still curtained by his huge Prada shades. He sipped his Starbucks as he showed me around the floor, which was beginning to fill with personnel. The accountants and secretaries nodded at me grimly as we passed them by.

“Feel free to erase every single person and face I’ve introduced you to from your memory and use that space to remember Dua Lipa’s beauty ritual, because none of them talk to us or acknowledge our existence. We were illegally and brutally deported from the sixth floor—AKA the newsroom—after the incident-that-shall-not-be-named last year.”

He fell into his executive chair and ran his fingers through his raven hair. “This made Couture extremely difficult to work on, but we still manage.”

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