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Shifting Ideas


Um, Shrug....
Dun-dun-dahdun, Dun-dahdun, Dun-dun-dahdun

Adam woke up in a scramble, his hand fumbling to beat the offending sound. Before he fell out of his office chair, his hand grazed over his ringing and vibrating cell-phone. His mind registered the sound as a ringtone, his father’s ringtone. Fear jolted him awake and he answered the phone.

“Hello,” Adam croaked as he rubbed his blurry brown eyes.

“Glad you aren’t too lazy to answer your phone.” Pedro González, Adam’s father, chided. Adam gritted his teeth as he rubbed his face. His growing facial hair pricked him a bit as he rubbed.

“Sorry, father,” Adam muttered.

“As you should be.” Adam flinched at his father’s retort. “I shouldn’t be wasting my time waiting for you. Which is why I’m moving our meeting. It will be today after the family meeting.”

“I thought it was next week?” Adam asked as he sat up. He heard his father groan and Adam tried to prepare himself for his father’s next words.

“Well, it’s today, pendejo.” Adam winced at his father’s harsh tone. “See you then.” The call ended with a sharp click. Adam let out a whimper as he rubbed his face again. His rough facial hair lost its prickly nature as it grew through his fingers.

“No,” Adam growled. “Not now, not now,” His teeth became sharper and a familiar dull ache hit his face. “NOT NOW!" He barked and it echoed in his office. The lamp and pens on his desk shook a bit. He hoped it was because of the walls reverberating the sound.

Silence beat against his ears as he rubbed his face. He breathed deeply and glanced at the clock. The family meeting was at 7:30 and it was around the end of 5. He could finish the proposal; it just wouldn’t be edited. Maybe his father wouldn’t want to see it.

Adam let out a groan. His father always wanted proof. Perfect, well-worded proof. Adam could give that proof orally, but his father always requested documents for business. This included proposals for new contracts. Adam would just have to be careful writing the last paragraph of this proposal. If he started now, he might even get a quick edit in. Quickly, he turned on his computer. It had locked itself when he closed his eyes, but keep the things he had been working on. He had a text reader, reading the manuscript for Hills magazine and the proposal document opened. He had just one more paragraph. Adam went to work.

The sound of footsteps began to override the taping of his work. Adam focused on the ticking clock, using it to remind himself of his limited time. Then blaring pop music accompanied the footsteps. Adam felt his eye twitch as the music grew louder. Singing accompanied the music and Adam growled, his canines a bit sharp. Adam stood up and opened his office door. Outside was an elderly janitor with his headphones in. Adam recognized him as Glen or something.

“You!” Adam snarled. The elderly man kept wiping the frames. “HEY!” Adam barked. The man jumped and turned to Adam. He gave Adam a sheepish smile and pulled out his headphones.

“Oh! You’re here again, Mr. González.” With the man facing him, Adam could get a better smell of the man. Lemon cleaner with charcoal, it was definitely Glen Something. “Did you stay all night again?”

“Yes,” Adam sighed and he saw Glen frown. “I’m finishing a proposal for my father that is due today. So, no music.” Adam growled. He glared at the headphones before leveling his glare on Glen. Glen jumped again.

“Oh! Sorry, sir! My granddaughter, Mia, bought me these soundproof headphones to listen to her jams.” Glen chuckled as Adam rolled his eyes and drummed his fingers on the door frame. “I thought I would enjoy them as I do the cleaning this morning. I thought you wouldn’t hear me, with the walls being soundproof and all.” Glen shrugged as he gestured to the walls.

“I have sensitive ears,” Adam said quickly. “So, no music,” Adam ordered. He turned to go back to his room, before remembering something. He leaned back out the door frame. “HEY!” Glen turned back. “Tell everyone else, no music.”

“No music, you got it Mr. González.” Glen gave a salute and Adam nodded before going back into his office. The door slammed shut and Adam jumped. He turned and growled at the door. Nothing happened. Adam blinked and ran his hands across his face roughly.

“Ugh! You don’t have time for this Adam.” He muttered to himself. He ran back to his computer and went to work once more. This time he decided to do a quick edit and read through. Rereading his proposal gave him a bit of confidence. The proposal for the project change was thoroughly researched, and while he didn’t have as many examples as he wanted and didn’t address every detail, he could talk through those. He was finishing up the paragraph when his door opened.

“Not now, Emma. I will talk to you about Crane’s boorish illustrations later.” Adam said quickly. Emma was a mousy girl and was always the first publisher in. She ran the children's stories and illustrations with Paige. Emma had been begging and raving about Walter Crane’s illustrations, but Adam was not impressed. What child would appreciate such complicated artwork? Adam would have to deal with Emma and Crane later. Right now, the proposal for his father. “Get examples or ideas for a back-up artist.”

“I would love to,” Adam’s head snapped up to the doorway. It was not Mousy Emma at the doorway, but his strong Tía Pat strutting into the room, her white pristine pantsuit shining. “But that isn’t my job, mijo.” His Tía smiled at him and he blinked. Adam looked at his watch. It was 6:50.

“CRAP!” Adam finished the last sentence quickly and printed out the document. “I didn’t get to edit the ending.” He muttered to himself as he printed the document. Once that was done, he began getting the other manuscripts and Villeneuve’s manuscript together. He glanced up at Tía Pat. “Go ahead of me, Tía. I still need to get some things together.” Adam rushed to get the printed proposal.

“Mi hijo!” Tía met him at the printer. “Did you stay here all night again?” She grabbed his face, tearing his focus from the proposal in his hands. “Your canines are sharp.” Tía gently caressed his face. Adam felt that his facial hair was still a bit long.

“Sorry,” Adam whimpered and attempted to look away. Tía held onto him.

“Breathe, mijo.” Adam did as he was told as Tía petted his cheeks. “You didn’t sleep either.” Tía’s dark eyes examined Adam’s eyes and face closely. Adam pulled away from Tía and went back to his desk.

“I had to finish the proposal so it could be edited,” Adam began to defend himself as he put everything together. “The proposal I have to present today.” Adam sighed and rubbed his face. Why did he feel so worn out? He barely started his day.

“Today?” Tía came towards him. “I thought you were meeting with your father next week.”

“He moved it to today.” Adam finished gathering the paperwork and laid it in his briefcase. “There.” Adam let a smile flicker on his face as the briefcase snapped shut. “Ready.”

“What happened to Agatha?” Adam finally focused on Tía Pat. Her hair as usual was down and her tan skin and dark eyes were enhanced by her white suit.

“You look amazing, Tía.” Adam smiled as he went towards, briefcase in hand, and gave her a peck on the cheek. “As always.”

“You didn’t answer my question.” Tía gently grabbed his arm. He winced. Her eyes narrowed more. “What happened to Agatha?”

“Imadehercry,” Adam said quickly.

“What?” Tía blinked and Adam sighed.

“I made her cry.” He said slowly. Tía rose an eyebrow. “Her perfume stinked.” Adam shrugged.

“So, you told her that her perfume stunk then she cried and quit?” Tía’s eyebrows furrowed as she attempted to understand Adam. He shook his head.

“She brought me coffee, I told her that her perfume, which she wore to attract men, smelled horrible and she would not be able to get Lionel interested. The next day, she was crying and poured coffee on my paperwork, then quit. Needless to say, Lionel is still single and gay.” He shrugged. He may have left out the words Agatha said afterward.

“Adam,” Tía sighed. “That is the third one in the past three months.” She chided as she began fixing and rearranging his clothes. Adam shrugged.

“I work better on my own.”

“You like to work on your own.” Tía chided as she pulled on his collar. "There is a difference.” Tía patted his collar to straighten it out. “Glen told me that no music was allowed as I came in.” Tía’s dark eyes were burrowing into him.

“Sorry, again.” Adam bit the inside his lip and looked away.

“That’s not what I meant, mijo.” Tía sighed and Adam’s stomach sunk further. “I,”

“Mr. González!” Emma came into his office, stopping Tía. Adam stepped away from Tía. “Oh, I apologize Mr. González, I just wanted to get your thoughts on Crane’s illustrations before I get started.” Adam looked at the clock. It was exactly 7. Adam admired Emma’s punctuality.

“Follow us,” Adam ordered as he gently passed Tía and left his office. “We are on our way to a meeting. Which will give you time to find another artist.” Adam spoke as he walked purposefully to the elevator. Emma’s heels clicked on the tile loudly as she worked to keep up with his pace. Adam gritted his teeth and gripped his briefcase tightly at the ringing sound. He was thankful for Tía’s graceful steps.

“What? A back-up illustrator. Why? Crane’s illustrations are artistic and full of vintage design. They will give the book a sophisticated edge.” Emma argued. Adam glanced at Emma with a raised eyebrow. While punctual, she was a bit thick-headed.

“I don’t think sophisticated with a kid’s book.”

“But,” Emma gaped as they reached the elevator.

“Get a back-up. Look into Violetta Dabija.” Adam ordered as he pressed the up button. “Those drawings are digital and not boorish.”

“Boorish!” Emma exclaimed and Adam nodded. One of the elevators rang.

“We’ll talk about it later.” Adam looked away from Emma and faced the opening elevator. He put his arm in front of the doors. “Mrs. González-Johnson.” Adam nodded at his Tía. She smiled at him and then looked at Emma.

“We will be done around 9 AM, and Adam will be free afterward. With a child of my own, I know that she likes whimsical drawings. See if your illustrator can provide a sample.” Tía advised before getting into the elevator. Adam followed her in. The elevator doors closed on a still gaping Emma. “Adam,” Tía sighed and he looked to her. “You need to learn a gentle touch with your words.”

“I’d rather be honest than gentle.” Adam shrugged and pulled at his sleeves. “Nothing can get better if I’m not honest.” As he ignored Tía’s knowing look and her reflection, he caught his rumpled disheveled reflection. “And there’s a lot that can be better.”


Tsuki Bella stood at the cash register, maintaining a fixed smile underneath the cheap tiara tangled in her hair and the long-sleeved, yellow shirt complete with a rose pictured across her chest. It was a strange costume, and not exactly flattering, but what the bosses insisted you wear is what you wore. You wore it and you smiled no matter what. Even if what you really wanted to do was cram the plastic tiara down a customer's throat. Normally she wasn't the violent type, but it was the start of another long day after the end of a long week after a long month, and this... guy...

"Please, sir, stop spinning the postcards so fast," she said simply and politely as the twenty-something-year-old with the attitude of a twelve-year-old whirled the cardholder again. "The cards get bent."

The guy laughed and slammed his hand against the wire cage, bringing it to an abrupt stop, cards flying everywhere. "Right! We can't have cards getting all bent out of shape, can we?" he smirked. "If there are bent ones, can I get a discount?"

"I cannot authorize any discounts, sir," Tsuki said through tight lips, glad of the counter that separated them. Even standing on her box, she still had to kink her neck to look up at the tourist.

The guy snorted and turned to see how his younger female friend was doing perusing the clothing section. "Come on, Amy, aren't you done yet?"

"I told Sarah I was going to bring her a stupid rose, and that's what I'm going to do," Amy - perhaps a younger sister? - said sulkily.

The guy waved a hand. "There's roses, like, everywhere! Just pick one!"

"Unlike some people, I have taste!" she snapped.

Tsuki tried to rally. "Have you seed our collection of roses under glass?" she offered, pointing to one wall.

They earned barely a glance. "This place blows. Fine, we can leave, but I still need a rose, Micheal, and Mom and Dad said you had to take me shopping. Let's go to another shop. One with taste." The girl swanned out, not even glancing back. Micheal gave the card rack another whirl before following her out.

Tsuki rubbed her temples before getting down and chasing down all the cards. Stupid touristy junk shop... stupid, rude tourists... Wy couldn't she find a job that was at least somewhat tolerable? Or if she couldn't have a job she enjoyed, why couldn't she at least be making buckets of money in her misery? Because beggars couldn't be choosers, that's why.

When her coworker arrived nearly an hour late and gushing apologies, Tsuki just held up a hand. "It's okay, Melody. Look, I won't say anything, and you can pay me back by watching the store for twenty minutes while I run a letter to the mailbox, okay?"

Melody looked confused. "Why not use our mail?"

"It's to pay one of my father's bills, and I don't want it getting delayed like last time." Not technically a lie, but not the full truth, either. Still, Melody agreed, and Tsuki hurried out. She did drop a letter into one of the official mailing boxes, but then she kept going to the office of Enchanters.Inc. Scuttlebutt had it that they might be looking for a new secretary or some kind of lower-level staff. She knew half the city probably had their resumes in right now, but it couldn't hurt. The only thing she wasted was the five minutes to fill out a generic application, the staple on a copy of her sad resume, and the few minutes it took to walk from "Thorny Rose Curiosities Shop" to turn it in to the front desk. The place was barely open, and the receptionist didn't spare her a second glance, even in her ridiculous outfit, but at least her resume was in.

Twenty-three minutes later, and Tsuki was back at her post behind the desk while Melody helped a mother find some toys for her kids, and Tsuki endured the father's speculating gaze. She knew that gaze. It said, "Is she old enough for me to hit on?" That was the one good thing about her lack of height. The smarter letches at least paused to wonder if she was of age or not. She stared fixedly at the computer screen as she pretended to sort out some error while really adding in the fact that they were out of yellow shirts.

Maybe a miracle would happen and she'd get a job at the publishing company.

Maybe a double miracle would happen and she'd actually get to work with the stories in some way.

And maybe a triple miracle would happen and a bag of money would drop on her head as she left work today.


Um, Shrug....
The elevator doors opened to the top floor, the office floor for Enchanters Inc.

“Adam!” Adam jumped back into the elevator. Tía Pat chuckled as she went forward. “Mrs. Johnson!” Fifi Plum, the Enchanters Inc. secretary, bounded towards them. “You guys are here!” She clapped and her sparkly white acrylic nails clicked loudly. “Aw, no Celine? I love watching her.” Fifi pouted.

“I know, conejita.”
Tía chuckled and patted Fifi’s arm. Adam quietly came up behind Tía. “But Eric wanted some father-daughter time.”

“How sweet! You guys are totally couple goals.” Fifi cooed.

“Thank you,” Tía smiled at Fifi as Adam huffed. “Will you take us to the meeting room, conejita?”

“Of course!” Fifi bounced and turned to lead them to the back offices. “And Mrs. Johnson, you look great! Your tan glows against the white, and those black flats are just perfect for the fall-winter season. I wrote about how flats were the practical footwear of the season since they have nice friction.”

“That is very smart, Fifi.” Tía smiled at Fifi and Adam let out a huff.

“I hope you weren’t writing during company time,” Adam muttered.

“Adam!” Tía snapped and Adam bared his neck to her.

“It’s okay Mrs. Johnson. Lukie always said that Adam’s bark is worse than his bite.” Fifi smirked. Adam frowned as Tía chuckled.

“Are any of my siblings here?” Adam asked lowly as he pulled at his collar. Fifi glanced back and nodded. Adam noticed the bright glint in her eyes and the extra bounce in her step. He was sure her hips shook a little too.

“Yep! Connie and Lukie are here. Looking great as always.”
An overly sweet scent drifted from Fifi, making Adam wrinkle his nose. “They’re waiting for you guys,” They were headed to the back meeting room. It was windowless and soundproof, somewhat resembling a hospital room with its sterile white walls. There was a dark oak rectangle table with six black leather chairs. Sitting in two of them were his siblings, Connie and Lucas.

“There they are!” Lucas cheered and lifted his arms. As he leaned back in his chair, his Italian shoes went on the table. “We were waiting for forever, hermanito!” Lucas smiled at them and put his hands behind his head, stretching his navy blue sweater.

“Sorry,” Adam muttered as he slid past Tía and Fifi. His eyes stayed downward as he went to a seat.

“Adam?” Adam looked up at Lucas. Lucas’s smile fell and guilt gnawed at Adam’s empty stomach. He began to pull at his sleeves.

“Stop that.” Adam froze at Connie’s command. He looked at her and noticed that she was also wearing jeans, but she was wearing a nice suit jacket and a red blouse on top.

“Sorry.” Adam put his head down and fisted his hands.

“Constance! You can’t use your cop voice with our little brother.” Lucas pouted. A smile flashed on Adam’s face. He glanced up to watch the brewing fight as he prepared for the meeting.

“Off the table, scoundrel,” Connie growled as she got up. “And you may be my twin,” She went towards Tía, and pulled Lucas’s jeans, moving his feet off the table.

“AY!” Lucas’s feet fell to the floor and Lucas stumbled out of his chair.

“But you DO NOT call me Constance.” She snapped at Lucas before looking at Tía and Fifi. “Hola Tía,” Connie hugged Tía and kissed her cheek.

“Hola, mija.”
Tía hugged and kissed Connie’s cheek. Then she held Connie at an arm's length and examined her. “And I don’t see any damage.”

“Did you check her knuckles Tía?” Lucas piped up behind Connie. “It’s been a while since she’s hit someone.”

“Well, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you,”
Connie smirked back. Lucas opened his mouth, but Tía cut through it.

“Connie, Lucas,”
Both of them looked at Tía. “Not today.” She ordered with a wag of her finger.

“Yes, Tía.”
Connie sighed and moved away from Tía, letting Lucas go in for a hug and kiss.

“As you wish, Tía.” Lucas smiled at Tía before looking to Fifi. “Thank you, princessa.” Lucas kissed Fifi’s hand lightly as he stared into her eyes. A sweet scent drifted from both of them as Fifi blushed. Adam’s nose wrinkled again. He felt eyes on him. Connie and Tía stood next to each other and both of them were looking at him. He looked back at his papers.

“Anything for you, Lukie.” Adam’s grip on the papers tightened as Fifi giggled loudly.

“Well if that’s the case, could you get us some food?”
Adam looked up at Lucas’s request.

“You didn’t eat breakfast?”
Adam asked with confusion. Lucas and Connie were morning people. And Adam knew Lucas never passed up an opportunity to cook. He said it impressed women and kept him fit.

“Did you?” Lucas rose an eyebrow at Adam.

“Uh, no.” Adam shook his head. The last thing he remembered eating was his turkey sandwich for lunch.

“I’ll get you all something fresh!” Fifi bounced off excitedly, leaving Adam with his Tía and siblings, who were staring at him. Their scents had an odd spicy or heavy hint to them.

“So, um,”
Adam began to tap the table with his pen. “How,”

“You look like you pulled another all-night,” Connie stated, interrupting Adam’s horrible attempt at small talk. Adam stopped tapping and blinked at Connie.

“Uh, I did. Did you?”

“No,” Connie came toward him. “Like a sensible person, I sleep at my apartment and wake up early to go to work.” She sat on the table next to him. She was barely able to look down on him. “There hasn’t been one case where I needed to stay at work all day.” Connie crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at him.

“There’s the winter rescues you help with,” Adam said as he began tapping his pen on his hand. “You never stop on those. And the few missing persons cases you had. By the way, congrats on finding the little girl that got lost in the Red Forest. The force is lucky to have you.”

“You could’ve congratulated her if you were at Family Dinner a couple of days ago,” Lucas chided as he came over to Adam. Adam froze. He was so worried about getting the proposal done on time, he forgot about the family dinner. That was probably why father was mad at him and moved the meeting to today.

“Crap,Adam whined and ran a hand over his face. Lucas chuckled as Connie sighed.

“I knew you forgot.” They said in unison. They glared at each other before Lucas continued.

“You could’ve joined father in praising Connie’s dedication and amazing secrecy.” Lucas leaned on Adam’s chair, tilting it back and away from the paperwork.

“Ah!” Adam let out a bark as his arms flayed about. He caught the edge of the table, panting as his heart pounded.

“Hermanito!” Adam looked at Lucas. “Calm down,” Something touched Adam’s hand. He tensed and a tiny whine escaped him.

“Adam, calm down.” Adam looked at Connie who was leaning into his space. He cowered from her. He did something bad and now, not only was father mad, they were mad at him too.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry.” Adam apologized as his grip on the table tightened. He felt his teeth get sharper. “Not now, not now,” Adam growled to himself. He took a couple of shaky deep breaths and slowly his teeth grew flat. “Sorry, I’ve been, very, busy.” Adam panted.

“Father told us Agatha quit,” Lucas said softly.

“What happened?” Connie leaned in and put her hand down. Adam gulped.

“He’s our brother, not a perp,” Luca growled. Adam sat up as the hairs on his neck rose.

“Stop telling me what to do!” Connie snapped. Adam tried moving away from the argument, but he had nowhere to go. He looked at Tía for help. Her teeth were bare.

“STOP.” At Tía’s bark, everyone froze. “Now we are going to have a nice family meeting to start our day. And I don’t want you two,” she pointed at Connie and Lucas. “Fighting, at all.”

“Yes, Tía.” They pouted. She glared at them for a bit, making them squirm, before turning to Adam.

“And you,” Adam stood up stopping Tía from lecturing him. “Adam, what are you doing?” Adam kept silent as he stared at the door, his hands fisted tightly. He wasn’t trying to be rude, he just smelled a familiar strong clove scent. A scent that sent his stomach sinking.

“I brought food for you, Mr. González.” Fifi came into the room, her bounce gone and a sharp tang to her usual sweet scent. She set two platters down, one of fruit and the other with crackers, ham, and cheese.

“Fifi, why,” Lucas stopped as Fifi gave Luke a small shake of her head and went to the door. And in the doorway stood Pedro González. His face was in his perpetual frown aa his eyes scanned the room. Adam looked away when they came close to him. The air in the room grew heavy and Adam pulled at his collar to breathe.

“You ordered food, Lucas?” He asked lowly. Lucas stood up straight but never lost his smile.

“Food helps to keep people focused and boosts morale, father.” He put his hands in his pockets as he got closer to their father. “Just trying to set the mood. Food always makes things go down easier.”

“That’s my boy!”
He smiled and patted Lucas’s shoulder. “Now,” His smile disappeared. “Go sit down.”

“Yes, sir,” Lucas said quickly. He went back to the seat he was at when Tía and Adam came in. Connie went up to their father next.

“Father,” She kissed his cheek lightly. He hugged her back.

“Good morning, dear hero.” He said sweetly. Connie rolled her eyes, but she smiled a bit before sitting down in the seat next to Lucas.

“Buenos días, hermana.” Father looked to Tía and kissed her cheek. She smiled and kissed his back.

“Buenos días, hermanito.” She smirked as she pinched his cheek. He rolled his eyes. went to sit down at the head of the table. He stopped at Adam’s seat.

“If you weren’t willing to dress for this meeting, you might as well not have shown up.” He sneered. Adam winced as he looked down at his wrinkled and rumpled clothes.

“Sorry,” Adam whispered.

“Don’t be sorry,He snapped at Adam. Adam flinched and a whimper came out. His father’s nose crinkled in disgust. “Be better.” He snarled. Adam nodded and bared his neck. His father just turned away and went to his seat at the head of the table. Adam felt his siblings' eyes on him. He felt Tía sit down next to him. She reached out for him, and he drew away from her. He had to focus on the meeting. He had to be better. Pedro clapped his hands. “Let’s get started.”

While this was going on. in Tall Tales Tourist George Stone was saying goodbye to a pair of siblings.

“Thank you so much for your purchases, Mr. Michael and Miss Amy,” George winked at the girl as she left.

“Thank, you.” She giggled and the guy rolled his eyes.

“Come on!” He pulled her out of the shop. George just smirked and waved.

“Bye.” After the customers left George closed his cash register. “Rueben, I’m taking my 10. Just gonna go thank our amazing competition for the customers. I’ll be back.” George yelled.

The Thorny Rose Curiosities Shop was across the street and it was one of the newer tourist shops. The owner, Marie Baggett, had a cheesy taste in her merchandise and costumes. As George stood outside, he glanced inside and saw his primary objective, Tsuki Bella. Despite Marie’s cheesy taste in merchandise, she had fine taste in workers. George straightened his black t-shirt, put his hands in his jean pockets, and slid in as someone went out.

“Well, well, well,” George looked around leisurely. He spotted a man eyeing his Tsuki. He strolled next to Tsuki’s register and settled next to it, out of the way of customers. “While I thank you for the customers, babe. Being throny is just in the name of the store. You don’t have to be that.” He smirked.


Reuben turned from where he'd been carefully stacking bobblehead figures. "Er, yes, right, I can watch the shop!" he stammered eagerly. Only to see that George was already out the door. "Oh. Right. I guess you're gone. And I'm... talking to myself." He sighed and finished stacking and went to the window where he stared out shamelessly, trying to see George. Of course, George was out talking to that girl again. Reuben didn't understand George's fixation on Tsuki when there were so many other girls with a lot more to offer, but he didn't judge. He just wished he understood and, more than that, he could figure out a way to get Tsuki interested in George.

Meanwhile, across the street, Tsuki looked up from her screen and looked George over. "Oh, look, it's the man who never works and yet somehow manages to keep his job," she remarked dryly. "Did you hand it all over to Reuben again? I hope you thank him enough for doing your work." She was careful to keep her voice low but with a distinct disinterested tone. After the day she'd had, she was not interested in dealing with George. He seemed harmless enough, if a bit pushy, but something about his eyes always unnerved her.


Um, Shrug....
Adam held his pen tightly throughout the whole meeting. It was mostly a standard meeting. First, the review of the family guidelines. After that, Connie’s notes on any changes in the town’s population with Lucas interjecting, Tía or their father intervening, Then it was Lucas’s turn to give the summary of the company’s standing and profits as Connie interjected. Again, Tía or their father would intervene, and the meeting goes on to the report of time during the shift. This is usually the only moment Adam would talk, but their father skipped over him as easily as breathing. Everyone else noticed. Lucas gaped but ultimately looked away, Connie just frowned and averted her eyes, Tía attempted to touch him again but he pushed her away. He didn’t even know if he could stomach the fruit she put in front of him. He was getting the cold shoulder from their father. Their father was infuriated with him.

So, Adam stayed silent for the whole meeting, twisting and turning his pen. Finally, their father dismissed the others. Adam heard his heart began to race and attempted to slow it down by bouncing his leg. It didn’t help. Nor did the sad or pitying looks everyone else gave him as they left. The silence afterward made the pounding echo in the room.


Adam yelped as his father’s hands slammed the part of the table across from him.

“I see you still don’t have control.”
The cold tone his father had, sent chills down his spine. Adam glanced up. His father was standing across from him, the table between them. Adam glanced away and took a deep breath through his nose.

“I, um, I’ve been busy.” Adam stuttered. He felt normal. Terrified, but normal.

“Busy is not an excuse. You are a González!” His father banged the table again. This time, Adam just flinched. “We come from the proud line of Gonsalvus. And do you know what they were known for?”

“Control and power,” Adam said softly.

“Control and power!” His father yelled. “Maybe if you weren’t so lazy and stupid,” Adam fisted his hands at those words. “Then you wouldn’t be so busy. And, you could attend family dinners.”

“I was working on a proposal.” Adam defended and looked at his father.

“The Villeneuve proposal?” His father crossed his arms and Adam swallowed. He looked down at his papers

“Um, no.” Adam quickly got his papers and stood up. “But!” He quickly put up his hand when his father opened his mouth. He ignored his father’s furrowed brow. “I did put a proposal for you!” He handed the papers to his father. He took them.

“What is it for?” His father asked slowly. Adam relaxed and pulled on the lapels of his jacket.

“It is for the consideration of letting the streaming service have access to our hometown anthology to make movies or even a show.”
Adam smiled as his father opened to the first page. “And Villeneuve is not comfortable with her works being on screen, especially since it's not finished. She also wants to see how the streaming service will involve the original content creators. So I thought if we could move up her date for the last book,”

“Did you run this by Agatha?” His father held up the proposal. Adam let go of his jacket and began scratching behind his ear.

“Um, she, um, quit before I could,” Adam admitted quietly.

“That explains why it’s utter garbage.” His father threw down the proposal. “There’s at least seven misspelled words and sixteen grammatical errors on the first page alone, pendejo! El burro sabe mas que tu!” Adam flinched at his father’s words and looked to his shoes. “And that’s another assistant that you couldn’t keep! What is wrong with you?”

“Her perfume smelled bad.”
Adam left out how it was Agatha that quit. Not because he cared about her, but that there was no point.

“I don’t care! You are ruining the family name and company!” His father panted but he stayed in the room. Adam armored himself for whatever tirade came next. His father shook his head and sat down. She thought you could run her company.” Adam grew cold. “I tried warning her that you were too stupid to even run our shoe company. You can’t even keep an assistant! But she insisted and,”

“I can run Rose Hills Publishing!” Adam stated loudly. His father looked at him.

“What?” He sneered. Adam leaned over and put his hands on the table.

“I can run Mom’s company.” Adam kept his eyes on his father as he stood up.

“So you say.” He matched Adam’s pose. “But you have not persuaded Villeneuve to agree to the streaming service’s movie deal, you cannot keep an assistant for more than two months, nor can you even write a decent proposal. You have shown me nothing.” His father glared at him and Adam set his jaw.

“Then give me three months.” Adam held up his hand, three fingers. “Three months to persuade Villeneuve and propose the anthology series with an assistant.” Adam felt his heart pound after he finished speaking. His father sat down slowly.

“And if you don’t?”

“Then you can fire me and put whoever you want!” Adam huffed. His father rubbed his chin.

His father rubbed his chin. “If you find an assistant by the end of the day, I will give you three months to present me with a perfect proposal and a signed agreement from Villeneuve to the movie deal.”

“Done.” Adam nodded. His father held up his hand.

“If you don’t find an assistant by the end of the day or present me the agreement and the perfect proposal in three months, I will fire, no.” A wicked glint flickered in his father’s eyes. “I will demote you. You will take, what is that old janitor's name?”

Adam answered immediately.

“Glen, ah yes. He is getting pretty old. You will take his job as a janitor.” A smirk flickered on his father’s face before it settled back into his perpetual frown. “Do we have a deal?” His father held out his hand. Adam gritted his teeth. He hated gambling, there were always risks. It put people in desperation. But this was his mom’s company, and he was desperate to run it. Adam took his father’s hand.



George chuckled at Tsuki’s wit. It was cute and effective in bantering. With her, bantering was as fulfilling as pushing a glass off the edge.

“Well, I will tell the owner to give him a bonus.”
George winked back. “Plus, I am doing my job. I have to keep an eye on the competition.” George looked around. “Though, I have to say. While it looks good, it’s not much.” George felt his canines go a bit sharp as he smirked. He would usually pull them back, but he liked how they made people squirm.


Yes, because the owner answers to you, oh mighty master of the business, Tsuki thought sourly. She knew better to say it out loud. Well, maybe if she was big enough to follow up her sharp words with some power, then it would be another story, but as it was, she did not dare. And was it just her, or were his teeth sharper? It gave him a wolfish look. No, not wolfish, vampiric. Heh, Count Chocula! Now that wouldn't get her slapped! Though it did make her smirk at the thought.

Tsuki bit her lip before answering. "He certainly deserves it being your friend and ally," she said as sweetly as she could manage. "With a friend like you... but if you will excuse me, some of us have to work."


Um, Shrug....
“Adam.” Adam ignored the call as he stomped out of the meeting room. “Adam!” He needed to get an assistant and fast. Someone grabbed his arm. “Adam!”

He snapped at the person and pulled away from their grip. A growl vibrated in his throat. Everyone backed away from him. Lucas was holding his hands up.

“I told you not to touch him,” Connie whispered to Lucas.

“I just wanted to make sure you were okay. Okay?” Lucas said calmly.

“Fine,” Adam growled and turned away.

“What happened? Is everything okay?” Connie attempted to follow Adam, but her short stature could not match his long strides. “What did father say?”

“Gotta get an assistant.” Adam huffed and went into the elevator. He turned to see Lucas and Connie get in with him. Tía frowned at him. He looked away from her. The burning that was pushing him, cooled down to a simmer. He felt a bit more normal before the elevator doors closed, his siblings with him.

“Well, that’s good! I have some girls that you can take a look at and,”

“I need someone who can do their job.” Adam eyed Lucas who was glaring up at him. Connie was snickering.

“Can’t get mad if it’s true.”

“Fifi can do her job!” Lucas defended and crossed his arms. “She’s very,”

“Flexible,” Connie snickered.

“NO!” Lucas enunciated. Adam smelled a sour scent.

“You smell like a liar,”
Adam stated quickly as the elevator doors opened. Lucas was gaping and Connie was cackling as Adam slid through the open doors. He walked through the hallway to his office, ignoring his siblings’ calls.

“Mr. González!” Adam turned to see Emma running towards him. Adam turned back around. “Mr. González!” He heard Emma go faster. He went faster. He reached his office and slammed the door shut. It shook his room. He hoped it would keep people away. He had to find an assistant.


Adam growled at the rapid knocking at his door. He pulled open his door.

“WHAT?” He barked. Emma jumped and held up shaking papers between them. Something tangy hid in her usual apple scent.

“You, um,” Emma stuttered as she straightened herself. The tangy scent still stayed. “You said that we could talk about Crane’s illustrations after your meeting.” She held out the papers. Adam took the papers and he felt a twinge of guilt when she flinched. He took a deep breath.

“Get Paige.”
He ordered. Emma nodded and peeked outside the door. He heard Paige shuffle forward. Adam turned and took a quick look over the papers. He faced the women. “Where’s Dabija’s illustrations?”

“What?” Paige, the elderly mousey woman with a slanted nose, gaped. Adam tried holding in the frustrated growl threatening to escape his throat. The way that both women’s eyes widened and the tangy scent spiked meant his growl won.

“Where are Dabija’s illustrations?” Adam enunciated loudly.

“We don’t need them. We have Crane’s.” Emma stated as she stood straighter. Adam gritted his teeth, then glared at Paige.

“Do you agree?” He felt the growl enter his voice. He tried swallowing it down as Paige answered.

“Do I agree with what, sir?”

“This!” Adam thrust the papers at her. Paige moved away from them, before slowly taking them.

“Well, they are classy. Just over our price range.” She said quietly.

“I know!”
Emma cut in. “But if we were allowed,”

Emma stopped talking as Adam walked past her and towards the elderly woman. “You are overseeing the rest of the process for this book.”

“I thought,”

She is lead!” Adam barked at Emma. Both women jumped and Adam ignored the tangy scent that overtook his office. He looked back to a slightly shaking Paige. Adam took a deep breath. “Sorry. I want an overview of a contract for Violetta Dabija or any other illustrators that you approve of within our budget. Consult the author on his opinion as well.”

“Yes sir.” Paige nodded and Adam dismissed her with a tilt of his. She left quickly. Adam turned to Emma.

“Tell me, Miss Emma, what would you do if Crane did not ask or listen to you or the writer about his drawings?”
Emma opened her mouth and Adam held up his hand. “And if he refused to change them without acknowledging you or the writer?”

“That violates the author’s message and he would be fired immediately.” She answered quickly.

“So, I should fire you?” Adam walked past her and to his desk.

“I beg your pardon!” She exclaimed. A familiar musk replaced the tangy scent.

“You disregarded your partner, myself, and this company. The company is created to create stories for the people, not stories for sophistication.” Adam said as he sat down.

“You, you cannot be serious! Mr. González,” She came and put her hands on his desk. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. “I respect your opinion but, if we do not take risks, then we cannot become better. I should not be fired for attempting to take a risk and bettering the company.”

“Bettering the company is my job.” Adam snarled. “Your job is to make sure the story is published and please everyone.” Emma gasped in offense, but her hands were still on his desk.

“Well, Mr. González, when I am working for such a barbaric, arrogant, and awful man, it is hard to please anyone.” Emma snapped back. Adam’s eyes narrowed.

“Then quit.”

“What?” Emma blinked dumbly.

“Quit!” Adam barked. Emma jumped back, finally taking her hands off of his desk. Just in case, Adam stood up and put his hands on his desk. “Get your things and your severance check and get out. Or go back to your desk and bring me what I asked for. Just, get out of my office." Adam snarled his last few words, but he didn't care. He felt so caged, and irritated, and angry. He needed to go for a walk. He needed to find an assistant. With so much on his mind, he had a hard time seeing that Emma’s eyes were watering.

“I-I-I,” Emma’s stuttering and the return of the sharp tangy scent irritated Adam.

“Get out!” He barked. She jumped and ran out of his office. Silence rang through his office. Which allowed for the whispers from outside his office to drift in.

“There goes another one…”

“So heartless…”

“Why did we get him…”

“What a monster…”

Adam sunk back into his chair and ran his hands over his face. How was he ever going to find someone willing to be his assistant now?

George watched Tsuki bite her bottom lip, his eyes zeroing in on her full, plump, bottom lip. Her mouth was a bit runny, but man, it looked delicious. He would love to take a bite out of that lip too.

“Some of us have to work.” George blinked and he realized that Tsuki was talking. He stood up and pushed himself off the counter.

“True, but,” George looked around the shop dramatically then he leaned in. “Honestly,” he whispered. “Do you really want to work in this tacky little shop?”


Tsuki steeled her backbone, refusing to give in to her instinct to draw back from the lean. No, no, she would not let him intimidate her. Not in her shop! Well, not her shop, but this was still her turf! He was not allowed to intimidate her on her turf! Or more accurately, he was not allowed to see how badly he unnerved her. Never mind the fact that she wanted to flee, she was not going to run from such a-a-a catty prick as this wannabe thug! He could bully her outside, but he couldn't bully her here.

Smiling sweetly, a glint in her eye, Tsuki put her hand on George's shoulder and firmly pushed to make him back out of her space. "Better this little tacky shop than the one across the street," she told him, an edge in her voice. "But you want to know what I want? Really?" Her smile grew sharper. "Too bad, because it is none of your business. Now please kindly remove yourself from the premises before I call the manager about the competition snooping around and harassing his employees."

Her eyes were steady. Her hands did not shake. She stared him right in the eye, daring him to blink first.

Inwardly, her heart tattooed a painful bruise on her ribcage.


Um, Shrug....
“COME ON!” Adam barked as he slammed his phone onto the receiver. All the résumés he looked at were no good. Either they did not fit the criteria, or when he called, they declined his demand for a sudden interview. He knew it was not their fault. There was no time to prepare. He had no time. Adam dropped his face into his hands and breathed deeply. He felt the hair on his face grow fluffier. Maybe he needed a walk.


“Not now,” Adam growled through his hands.

“Do not growl at me, young man.” Adam snapped his head up at Tía’s reprimand. She stood in the doorway, papers in her hand.

“Tía,” Adam rubbed his face, and the fluff became coarse hair again. “Sorry, I just,”

“You need to go eat.” She came towards him. “And a walk.” She put the papers down on his desk and began carding her fingers through his hair like Mamá did. Adam couldn’t stop himself from leaning into the touch. “You’re feeling a little fluffy, mijo.” Adam blinked and pulled away from her.

“I gotta find an assistant.” Adam insisted.

“I know.” Tía huffed. “That is why I am here with these.” She gestured to the papers on his desk. Adam looked at them. They were résumés he hadn’t seen. “I had Fifi go through the paper ones and pick those she thought were appropriate for the job. She picked a few good ones.” Tía explained as Adam went over the résumés. There were five in total and they all had potential. Adam nodded in approval.


“You,” Tía took the papers from his hands. Adam gaped at her. “Are going to go out. Whether it is for food or a walk, I don’t care. But you are leaving this building for an hour at least.” Tía commanded.

“But, but, the enter, intern, interviews!” Adam stuttered. Tía sighed.

“I will call the candidates and schedule their interviews for later today.” She said as she realigned and stacked the papers in her hand.

“No,” Adam shook his head. “I can’t let you do this. You should be at home with Tío Ben and Cel, not here helping me. I’m fine. I can handle this.” Adam knew she heard the added, I can handle him. Tía huffed and came around the desk.

“Mijo, your mother would be worried sick if she saw how ‘fine’ you are.” Adam fisted his hands and looked away from Tía.

“If Mamá were here, she would have an assistant.” Adam grounded out. “I don’t. So I need to get one.” He held out his hand. When nothing went in them, he looked up. Tía was observing him with careful eyes. Adam sighed. “Tía, please.”

“Fine.” Tía placed the papers in Adam’s hand.

“Thank you,” Adam pulled the papers but Tía held onto them. Adam looked back at her.

“I expect to see you with an assistant when we come to pick you up for dinner, deal?” Tía’s eyes burrowed into him. Adam opened his mouth to refuse. While Tía made amazing food, he always felt odd at their dinners. Like he was intruding. But, Tía wouldn’t let go unless he agreed.

“Okay.” Tía smiled.

“Can’t wait to meet her mijo!” She got off his desk and went to the door. She looked back and pointed at the papers. “And really look into the first one. She’s a great candidate for our scholarship program too.” With that little tidbit, she left. Adam grabbed the first paper on the stack.

“Tsuki Bella Nakamura…”

George glared at Tsuki and held back his will to fight. If it slipped out, his pupils might elongate. Tsuki’s words were too sharp for her own good. His shop, tacky! She would be blessed to work there. And just last week, he had three enjoyable nights with three different girls, yet he always came back to her. She should be happy! She shouldn’t be so aggravating.

“Tsk,” George tsked and pushed himself away from her. “My break is almost over anyway.” George walked away from Tsuki. He stopped at the door.

“And just so you know, Tsuki,” He glanced back at her and smirked wickedly. “You and your father can’t afford for you to act like such a princess. Treasure what you have before I get bored.” He left the shop with a wink and we
nt back to his across the street.


Tsuki rolled her eyes as she turned back to work. "Treasure what, exactly? An obsessive stalker that I can't justify calling the police on?" she grumbled. "And you're one to talk about princesses. You're like the Queen of Sheba strutting around this place like you own it." She sighed softly and morosely poked at the buttons on her computer. "But at least you have the bravery to say all that to someone's face and not talk to yourself like a crazy person." She glanced out the window. It sure would be nice to tell him off someday in a language he would understand. Someday.


Meanwhile, Reuben was patiently attempting to help a customer in his slow, charming, if bumbling way. The customer looked on with curiosity as Reuben pulled down one item, then had him put it back and fetch another and another. The man didn't even look at the items. He seemed only interested in getting Reuben to fetch things and put them back, and Reuben quietly did as asked.


Um, Shrug....
George came into his shop and saw Reuben fumbling around to help a customer. George rolled his eyes as he clocked in. While bantering with Tsuki was fun, her rejection was always annoying. She was his, and she needed to realize that. Maybe he should mark her? He could do that tonight, but right now, he had to deal with Reuben’s incompetency.

“If you’re interested in buying something,” George called from the register. “Please let me help you.” George walked towards the customer. “Reuben needs to go on break.” George glanced at Reuben and nodded to the cash register so he could clock out.

Adam sighed and picked up the phone. He dialed the number on the résumé for Tsuki Bella. It stated that she was currently working at Thorny Rose Curiosities Shop. She would most likely be working, but Adam couldn’t wait. He needed an assistant to keep his job and he justified his impatience with the reasoning that if she wanted the job, she would answer.


"Oh, okay," Reuban said. His brow knit in confusion as he walked to the register and quickly clocked out. Had he done something wrong? He'd only done as the customer asked. Why did George look so angry? Hidden angry, but angry.

"The big guy was fine, fellow," the customer said, smirking. "I think I've changed my mind. I don't need anything after all." He turned and walked to the door.


Tsuki finished stacking a pyramid of bobbleheads and hurried to the phone. She managed to grab it on the third ring, lunging over the desk to get it in time. "Thorny Rose Curiosites Shop, how may I help you?" she wheezed as she slid off the counter to her feet. Lunging across a desk, not a good idea. Especially if you are answering a phone. She put a hand over the receiver to muffle her gasps as she caught her breath.


Um, Shrug....
George gritted his teeth to keep from growling or hissing at the infuriating customer. He hated pesky tourist that window-shopped or wanted to mess with the locals. That was his job. George turned to Reuban.

"Next time," he seethed. "Make sure a customer buys something. Don't get something for them unless they buy it." He ordered with a pointed finger.

"Thorny Rose CuriositIes Shop, how may I help you?"

Adam blinked and gaped at the breathless tone of the person answering the phone. A pang of guilt hit him a bit, but he swallowed it down and recomposed himself.

“Hello,” Adam cleared his throat. He really hated talking on the phone. “I’m looking for Tsuki Nakamura. This is in regards to her application to Rose Hills Publishing.”


"Okay, but, um, how am I going to know if they want to buy it if I don't let them get a closer look?" Reuban asked meekly, holding his hands together in front of him protectively. "He said he was looking for something important. I didn't think I was allowed to tell him no."


"Oh... OH!!" Tsuki straightened herself and cleared her throat. "Uh, yes, this is her. Hello. I did not expect you to get back to me so soon."

Or call her at work, but she supposed if they wanted a quick answer, work was the best time. She steeled herself. If they wanted to move quickly, that meant she was about to get told "No." Oh well. It wasn't like she had much hope for this job, anyway. She'd have to take it like a big girl and hear him out. At least they were nice enough to call instead of toss her application in the trash and leave her waiting until she gave up.


Um, Shrug....
“Yes,” George exasperated. He took a deep breath through his nose. “Don’t say no, but only get something if the customer specifies what they’re asking for. Such as our color-changing glass rose.” George explained slowly. “If they are just ‘looking for something’,” George made air quotes. “Leave them alone. Got it?” George really should get someone more suited to the job. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were supposed friends and having Reuban around made him seem nice, George would’ve fired him a long time ago.

Adam began scratching behind his other ear. He hoped her sudden change was because she wanted the job.

“Yes, well, we are in need of a new assistant as soon as possible.” Adam kept the right now from going off his tongue. “If you come in today, we can go through an interview. And only today. No other time is available.” Adam hoped adding that would make her more willing to come. Granted, the other applicants still denied the offer.

Adam rubbed his chin. Was he coming on too strong? Well, he was desperate and he had no time. What did Lucas always say when things like that happened? Welcome to the world of adulting. That felt horribly right.


"Oh. Okay." Rueben pouted a little then peered at George. "Why are you so unhappy right now? Did something bad happen? You seemed so happy when you left." He leaned forward invitingly, his round face open and innocent.


Tsuki's jaw dropped. She didn't say anything for several seconds while her brain assured her that she had, indeed, heard the words that her ear said she'd heard. "What... really?" she squeaked. Catching herself, she tried to pull herself together and not stammer. "Um, yes! I would like to come in, but right now I am the only one in the store. I cannot leave my post until after three. Is that too late?"

Darn it! She was starting to sound desperate. Reign it in, Tsuki. No job was worth groveling for unless it really was her last hope. Be mature, be put together, be respectable! And don't slur or stammer! Three O'Clock wasn't that late. Hopefully, if they really were desperate, they could wait until then, right? It wasn't like it was their job on the line if she didn't get there in rime.


Um, Shrug....
“None of your business.” George snapped. He was not going to tell Reuban how he was rejected again. The oaf wouldn’t understand that rejection was simply part of the hunt. Every mouse he caught, tried to bite or scratch at him. Those ones were always the best to eat. George turned away from Reuban.

“Put everything you got out away and go clean the bathrooms!” George ordered with a flippant wave of his hand. He went back to the register, waiting for his next prey, the customer, to appear.

"What... really?"

Adam pulled the phone away from his ear and let out a small whine. He hoped that squeaking was a one-time thing. The assistant before Agatha was a squeaker. Adam barely lasted three days with those grating noises. If he hired this girl, and she was a squeaker, he would have to last all year with her.

"Um, yes!"

Adam quickly put the phone back to his ear when he heard the girl’s voice. She continued on to explain that she could only come after three because of work. Integrity and dedication were nice qualities.

Adam bit his lip. Tía and her family usually had dinner at seven. So, they would probably pick him up around six-thirty. He also had to get whomever he chose hired and put in the system. That would take at least an hour, plus another hour or thirty minutes for the actual interview. It would be a close call, but do-able.

“3:30 will be your interview then.” Adam could call the other applicants and see if they were willing to come in as well. He had a feeling they wouldn’t be, but it was worth a try. Also, get the hiring papers ready. His father would most likely check for his assistant in the company’s system. At the remembrance of his father, Adam remembered the business etiquette drilled into him.

“Does that work for you?”


Rueben drooped but did as he was told. George sure could be mean sometimes, but at least he didn't usually make fun of him. That was nice. And George was so cool otherwise!

"Yes, 3:30, I can do that," Tsuki promised. It wouldn't give her enough time to change, but maybe she could pick up a shirt from the dollar store on the way there. Anything would be better than this garish yellow with the store logo. "Thank you for this opportunity, sir, and I look forward to meeting you!"

She hesitated. Was there anything else she was supposed to say or ask? She didn't think so. She didn't know his name, but who knew if this guy was the one who would be conducting the interview? Oh well, it was too late and really awkward to ask for his name now.

"Is there anything else, sir?' she asked as a customer walked in the door.


Um, Shrug....
Adam tapped his chin and bit his lip. Was there anything else? Directions? But he was horrible with those. He just had to keep it simple.

“Come to the Enchanters building and go to the twenty-first floor at three-thirty,” Adam ordered and hung up. Adam rubbed his face and let out a loud exhale. Now, at least one person was scheduled to get the job. And despite being a squeaker, she seemed eager and willing to work with the time crunch. Unlike the other applicants.

“This, this could work.” He had hope. He could keep his job. Well, he could, if this one woman agreed to the job. This girl, Tsuki Nakamura, held her job in his hands. Adam gulped.

“I should try to get one more.” Adam looked down at the stack of papers. Just a few more calls and he was done. Well, at least with the hard part.


The second the minute hand reached the 12, signifying 3 O' Clock, Tsuki was out the door and on her bike. She rode to the dollar store and bought a plain white shirt to wear then used their restrooms to change. With a black sweater over the shirt and her simple navy blue skirt, she didn't look too bad. Still more casual than she would have liked for a job interview at Enchanters, but it was better than the yellow shirt. She folded it up and managed to make it fit in her purse. There! Ready.

The bike ride took fifteen minutes, five longer than she would have liked, but the rush hour was starting to pick up. Even so, she arrived five minutes before her interview. Perfect! She ran a brush through her long black hair, applied tinted chapstick, and walked in confidently.

Or at least as confidently as her shaking knees would carry her.