Glimmer - Beth Kery

ONE

Alice Reed was used to hiding her nerves. She was used to hiding almost everything. Today was different though. She could have disguised her anxiety about her upcoming interview as easily as she could have ignored a provocative mathematical challenge.

“Don’t worry about it. It’ll be a piece of cake. Just focus on what you know. You’re pretty damn awesome when you do that,” Maggie Lopez said soothingly as she stood over Alice and gave her a friendly but critical once-over. Maggie was her graduate advisor at Arlington College’s executive MBA program. After a series of initial screwups that now looked like serendipity, Alice rented the apartment above Maggie’s garage. Most importantly, Maggie and Alice had become friends. She respected Maggie’s opinion, so her anxiety ratcheted up even higher when she saw her mentor’s slight frown as she stared down at her. A horrible thought hit her. She plopped her hand palm down on the top of her head.

“Shit. My roots. They’re showing, aren’t they? I forgot to color them. I got so caught up in running those numbers last night, I forgot about everything,” she moaned as she flung herself out of her chair and rushed to the mirror mounted on the wall in Maggie’s office. She was a decent athlete, but unaccustomed to wearing anything but combat boots, flip-flops, or tennis shoes. She nearly took a header in her new interview pumps.

Maggie sighed in amused exasperation behind her. “Only you would forget an interview for a chance at the most coveted executive training program in the United States—the world—because of some inconsequential calculations.”

Alice stared wide-eyed into the mirror. Her face looked especially pale due to her anxiety and the contrast between her short, near-black hair, navy suit, and lined dark blue eyes.

“You were the one who asked me to run those inconsequential numbers,” Alice mumbled distractedly. She flattened the hair next to her part and peered furiously into the mirror, as if she held her reflection responsible for all her many shortcomings. Sure enough, there were the telltale glimmering, reddish-gold roots. “Fuck it,” she muttered through her teeth. “This is a joke anyway. Durand has never sent a recruiter to Arlington College’s MBA program before. Is this another example of famous Durand charity?” she demanded, rounding on Maggie.

Maggie had grown immune to her frowns and sharp tongue in the past two years, however. She knew damn well that Alice’s bark was much worse than her bite.

Usually, anyway.

“Don’t you dare put down this program,” Maggie warned with a pointed finger and an ominous expression. “I happen to be extremely proud of it and everything we’ve accomplished in the past few years, thanks in large part to your brilliance, hard work, and groundbreaking research. Am I surprised Durand asked to recruit from our graduating class? No. I’m not,” Maggie added with finality, when Alice gave her a half-hopeful, half-doubtful look. “The philanthropy and profit article sent shockwaves through the business community. Now stop feeling sorry for yourself,” she said as she dropped into her desk chair, making the springs protest loudly.

Alice’s pique deflated.

“I am proud of the P and P study,” she said honestly, referring to the groundbreaking business article she and a few other grad students had published with Maggie as the lead researcher several months ago. “Did Sebastian Kehoe tell you he was coming to Arlington because of the study?” she asked. Kehoe was the vice president of human resources for Durand.

“No.”

“Then why is he?” she grumbled.

Alice halfway wished Sebastian Kehoe had continued to ignore her little college. She performed best in solitude. It grated to have to sell herself