Enemies in Plain Sight by Sophie Harrison

Mark

I’ve been waiting on this job for a long time. Once I set my sites on moving to the city I knew I’d have to work at the same firm as Jessie. Me and Jessie have been friends since elementary school and we were especially close in high school but after graduation we all kind of went our own ways and I haven’t seen her in six years—well six and a half. But first I had to get a degree and I naturally assumed that if I got the same degree as her, and from the same school, that I’d be appropriately eligible for the same job. She was my motivation the whole way. Whenever I got buried under debt or lost sleep to keep up with the extra classes—I had to take 18 credits per semester so I could finish in three years since she got a head start. But I knew it was inevitable that I would end up here.

Now I’m sitting in the over-plush waiting room of what has to be the hottest lobby in New England with a faux designer suit and bunched up gold toe socks. My appointment with Jeffery Jacobs was scheduled for 1:15 sharp and it’s currently 1:45. I’m sure that once I get back there they’ll give me some lavish apology and explain the last-minute, overly important meeting Mr. Jacobs had to attend, but I won’t care. I will smile and nod, hoping that the sweat from my hairline doesn’t trickle down my nose to blot the sign in form. I will be polite to the receptionist and I will kiss ass all day, even to the janitorial staff, I will give Myers & Jacobs absolutely no reason to overlook me. I have one shot to get this job and no other options.

 

Jessica

I’m literally swamped right now. I have a massive event to plan for Covergirl Cosmetics for next Saturday and it’s one of the most impossible events. They throw the same gala every year and expect more extravagance and glitz every time. If I managed to get them the hippest DJ one year I was expected to have a live performer in addition to a DJ the next year. It was like the snowball of anxiety that just rolls right out of my grip and the further it gets the faster it flees and bigger it grows.

Thankfully I’ve already taken care of the entertainment dilemma for this year—and don’t worry it was the biggest hassle they could’ve possibly made it—but now it was time to find the visual entertainment. Covergirl expects to not only have a full wait staff from the catering company but also a fleet of models. I’m not sure what I’m actually supposed to be looking for other than a pretty face but apparently there’s something since the position requires a full panel interview. Literally, they get their make-up done and mingle. Am I supposed to test their typing skills to find job eligibility or something?

Either way it’s 1:30 now and Nina usually drags me to lunch by noon so I’m officially rotting from the inside out with hunger. I was going to go down the hall to Nina’s office to figure out why we weren’t eating yet but she’s coming into my office already before I got the chance.

“Thank gawd. I’m starving what are you doing? You are the foodie how did you even make it to 1:00 without eating?”

“Sorry, I’ve been dealing with this new security company all morning. Apparently I’m supposed to have more than just a driver’s license to prove that I am who I am. I mean if I can fake a license then I can probably forge my name on some incoming mail.”

“I didn’t even know you had a security system.”

“I didn’t before. But last night right before I went to bed I heard some glass break or something and when I went downstairs my front window was totally shattered.”

“Ohmygawd Nina, are you okay? Did you figure out if it was an accident?”

“Well I thought it might have been but I wasn’t sure so I peeked out the side of the curtain and I realized that there was a rock in my living room floor. Someone threw it in to purposefully crack my window. Who does that?”

“Did you actually stay there all night?”

“I was more freaked out to walk outside to get to the car. I didn’t park in the garage ‘cause my new dresser just got dropped off so I would’ve had to walk right through the dark part of the yard where the rock was probably thrown from. So I just called the police station. I didn’t want to call 911 cause no one was trying to get in or anything and then Joe just stayed over with me.”

“I hate to sound insensitive, and we can keep talking about it over lunch, but do you want to head on down? I’m starving and I don’t have much time, I’m swamped with Covergirl as usual.”

I decided to take the file with me to the café to look over. I wouldn’t really have time or focus to delve into it or anything while we were eating but at least I could mentally log what I had left to do. But our office is so overcrowded with applicants that I want to lock my door first once I scope the room and see some of the “characters” who would like the job.

Holy shi….

“Nina, get in here.” I have to drag her back into the doorway with me. It’s like the teachers holding up the small stack of papers by their mouths to block what they’re saying, I feel hidden by the six inch door frame. “It’s Mark. What is he doing here?”

“Okay….I don’t know who Mark is or was to you but he’s one of Mr. Jacobs’ 1ish interviews. I scheduled it. If I remember his resume right he kind of has the same qualifications as you.”

Oh gawd I’m doing the awkward eye dart thing. I always to it when I get nervous and then I make accidental eye contact and that person knows the rest of the room sweep is just to pretend you’re not actually watching them and just giving you a second excuse to look at them when you glance back across.

“That’s literally impossible. He was a totally freak in high school. Not like the nerd freak who seems distant but is secretly acing all of the classes and is gearing up to be valedictorian, but like the Radley recluse who pretty much stopped going to school senior year altogether and kind of did whatever he wanted on the days he did show up.”

“Jessica what is the big deal? What is it some middle school crush become high school heartbreak? Ha.”

“No. This kid was so cute when we were in middle school. Which was kind of hard to admit at first since he was also our elementary school booger eater, but he was actually our most popular guy. He was the quarterback of our football team too, and that actually carried a little bit of weight around the school even though our team didn’t actually win…”

“Okay I thought you were the one that didn’t have much time?”

“Well long story short senior year he had some creepy obsessive crush on me and ended up staying after school one day when I had to make up a pacer test for gym so that he could meet up with me alone in the locker room when I showered.”

“Seriously? You’re this stressed out because some nerd in your graduating class had a crush on you?”

“Don’t make fun of me. He got suspended and everything. He had to stay a certain distance away from me and even got switched out of our English class because we weren’t allowed to be in the same classes either after that. They made it kind of a legit ordeal. It was stressful.”

Oh seriously. I did it. I did the eye contact thing and now he locked in. We made the uncomfortable eye contact and now he knows I’m talking about him. Oh my gawd….

“Okay well he’s the most likely to get the job because on first round of panel he got five out of six approvals to be hired. So you might as well just go up and say something. Well actually I will…”

 

Mark

            Oh Lord. She is starring right at me. I wonder what she’s talking about—probably my Gucci suit. I forfeited an entire month’s rent on this and I haven’t used warm water in three weeks just to save some money when the bills come in.

            I should probably go say something. We’ve made eye contact four times and if I keep redirecting she’ll think I’m the same creepy kid from high school. I’ll just maturely walk towards her and extend a firm but gentle handshake. I have to be business professional but I can’t let my nerves cripple her metacarpals.

            Alright just calm down…

            “Hey. Jessie. How have you been?”

            “It’s Jessica now. Just like it’s always been actually…how are you?”

            “A little nervous actually. I, uh, I worked really hard to pay for school so now I hope that all the money was worth it. I just need a solid start to help cover some of the loan debt.”

            “Oh yeah I’ve been there. Still there actually….This is my friend Nina.”       

            “Oh yeah I talked to her on the phone. She actually set up the interview for me.”

            “Alright well were going to head out for lunch.”

            “Would you like to come?”

Wow, that’s what they were talking about I guess. Jessie really does want to eat. Girls know each other and they know the code or whatever it is. Nina wouldn’t ask unless she knew Jessie wanted to and Jessie would only make someone else ask if she wanted to distract from the fact that she’s interested.

“I would but I still haven’t gotten in with Jacobs. I’d die if I waited this long just to lose the job for eating when he’s finally ready.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll just leave him an invoice that we took the newest potential employee out for lunch to save face since you’ve been waiting for so long.”

Alright, this is my in. If this goes well I don’t even have to get the job. The job would still help, but we’ll just exchange number and stay in touch. We’ll actually become friends for once.

“Sounds great. I’ll buy?”

“Oh absolutely not. It’s on Mr. Jacobs today.”

Jessie has hardly talked at all. I wonder if she’s nervous. Nervous girls usually use their friends as a crutch, let them do all the talking and awkward starter conversation until they can piggy back and say something witty and flirtatious.

Jessica

            “Nina, are you insane. I can’t believe it. What were you thinking?”

            “Really Jessie it cannot be this big of a deal. He’s a grown adult now I’m sure he’s out of his awkward creeper phase. You have got to let this go.”

            I mean it is just lunch. It’s not like were alone and at least this way I can feel him out a little and see what he’s like especially since he might get the job. I might have glimpsed at his file before we left the office just to see. Apparently he’s over qualified for the position we have open. But he did mention that he just needed any job to get the ground work out of the way. Maybe he wants to start especially small to learn all the ropes before he tries to apply for the big leagues.

            Either way this has left me at a high top table on the back patio of mine and Nina’s favorite bistro. We always come here whenever there is a reason to swipe the company card. It’s not fine dining or anything close. Just a splurge compared to the salads we usually get from the first floor cafeteria.

            Well actually I hate to be the one to admit it, but he looks really good. His cheek bones kind of arch up right by his ears, not in the over pressed I’ve had Ken-doll inspired surgery, but the way that looks like he’s been airbrushed for the cover of People. His eyes are Bradley Cooper-esque and he’s rocking the hair that’s long enough to shuffle around that can look a little bed-head but at the same time look perfectly styled.

            I’m really actually having trouble focusing on this lunch. His teeth are literally perfect and he just keeps smiling and kind of chuckling when he talks. No chuckling is wrong, that sounds cheesy or awkward. It’s like a polite small ha at the end of witty commentary.

            “Yeah, I was actually Norman Bates in high school. I didn’t quite get to kill anyone for my mom yet, but I was basically as appealing as good ‘ol Norman. I even gave Jessie here quite the scare. Right?”

            That Jessie thing was catching. I’d never let anyone give me a nick name before but wow when he says it it’s so demure and sophisticated. I was getting pretty well acquainted with the idea of being Jessie.

            “Oh stop, you were not that bad.”

            “Oh really Jessie? Then why were you so nervous to join us for lunch?” Oh dear gawd Nina. I sometimes think I might literally kill her. She always does this. She’s so much more forward than I am and she loves to push my comfort zone.

            “I was not nervous! I was just….” Oh great, my voice just went up ten decibels and I’m pretty sure my face in consumed by red—no that that will show anyone I’m embarrassed and caught off guard or anything.

            “No really, it’s fine. I wouldn’t have even agreed to it if I was you. I was a creep. I followed you into a locker room. I don’t think there’s really a further violation of privacy than that.”

            “Really though, I was a dramatic high school girl I’m sure I managed to over-dramatize at least some part of it. But I really have to get back and finish some of this party I’m so far behind where I technically should be by this late in the day. It was nice seeing you. Nina, you’ll pay and help Mark find his way back?”

            “Yeah that’s why I’m here.”

            Oh gawd. Why is he standing? He could just give a completely appropriate and suffice business hand shake from a sitting position. I swear if he goes in for a hug I’m just dodging it. I’m not just letting it happen. I’ll just lean out of the way, kind of smile with a slight wave and then I’m gone.

            “Nice seeing you again Jessie.”

            Good. It was just a firm handshake with eye contact. A little bit more intimate than if it were strictly the first meeting but nothing too intense to make her think about the years she did know him—fortunately.

Mark

            She looks amazing. I should really be focusing on what Jacobs is saying but I can’t get the image of her pink shining lips out of my head. They were shiny but not sloppy like when some women try apply lip gloss right before a meal and it just slurs everywhere.

            Even better she rushed away from the table and left the manila folder under her plate. I’m not really sure why she even brought it because she didn’t look at it a single time while we were at the table but Nina didn’t make note of it being there at all, so I just slipped it into my bag.

            Lunch went very well so I’d assume that if I just got a short chance at conversation to partially make plans—plan on meeting but not in so many words as a date, just a cup of coffee or quick lunch break later this week—so I’ll just walk it down the hall when I’m done here.

Jessica

            “I’m going to head out early and take this Covergirl project home. I freaking lost my update file so I’m going to have to go home and redo the entire write up so that tomorrow when I get in I can show Meyers what all I’ve actually gotten done. Even though it feels like literally nothing.”

            “Didn’t you have the file in your hand before lunch?”

            “Yeah. I was going to take it with us but then I got totally distracted by Mark and I have no idea what happened to it after I went back to lock my office. But thanks for that by the way, calling me out in front of him.”

            “Ha, I did not call you out. You just have to chill out.”

            “Well ill kill you for that later, but if you want to just head to my apartment after you get off. Were the same size suit and we’ll order Chinese for dinner. We can be right out of a rom-com sweet sixteen party. Instead of going back to that creepy boarded up window of yours.”    

            “I have to go home a little bit early too to meet the security company to install the system and set a password and everything so I might as well grab some clothes and stuff but yeah that definitely sounds better than staying at my house.”

            Now that I’m actually in my apartment I’m second guessing inviting Nina over, it’s kind of a wreck in here. If I just throw all my clothes in the laundry closet and do the dishes though its pretty much okay. It’s not like I have bugs or anything, just a few too many clothes and some not-yet recycled pizza boxes. It’s not my fault. I’ve been really busy lately and working all night. You wouldn’t believe some of the demands this job can make.

Mark

            I’ll just walk up to her door and knock. That’s the simplest thing a person can do. Knock on a door, wait for it to be answered, then relay the message. But she’s not answering. That’s got to be the second easiest thing: open the door when it is knocked on.

            Oh great Nina, she probably knows where Jessie went.

            “Hey, I have to give this file to Jessie, it seems pretty important. Do you know where I can find her? I think she’ll probably want this file today for that work she said she had to get back here for.”

            If Nina thinks the file is important, which it is, she’ll probably be more apt to help. Not that she wouldn’t be helpful otherwise, but if she thinks it’s for personal reasons she might not care as much, she just met me, versus if it’ll help out her friend’s career.

            “Oh she had to leave early today for…oh my, is that the Covergirl file, let me see that.”

            Did she just take that? She just ripped that out of my hand? That’s not very businesslike, I’m pretty sure that she’s supposed to be more professional towards applicants.

            “You’re a life saver Marcus. She just went home to redo this entire file. I’m staying over with her tonight so I’ll just take it with me. I’ll be sure to let her know you brought it back. Good luck on the job.”

Jessica

            Shit. I’ve already been home for two hours and I haven’t started the file at all. I mean the apartment is almost presentable, so that’s good. It would be goo of me as a host to go ahead and shower too. I don’t want to make her feel like she’s taking up my warm water or in the way of me getting ready.

            So that’s what I’ll do, shower and then hope that she doesn’t get here before I’m done.

            She didn’t. I showered and I’m halfway through this update file and I went ahead and called in the food. I’m a host but she’s also my best friend so she knows me better than to expect me to wait much later than this to eat.

            She’s finally here and even brought me my Covergirl file—yay—except I already finished redoing it about twenty seconds before she rolled in. Apparently she only remembered she had it after she saw me typing up the last page of the new report.

            I need to get up and exercise and now that I’ve done the same report twice in one day I think I have suffient reason to go to bed before late night TV even starts. But Nina doesn’t care. I told her she can stay in the living room and do whatever she wanted and come in to the room whenever she got tired.

Apparently that didn’t ever happen because there’s some incessant banging right now and I rolled over to grab her because I’m terrified and she’s not even here. In the living room she’s on the couch staring at the door like the missing costar from Poltergeist and tells me not to move.

Obviously I’m going to look. She may be the more outgoing one socially but I have to know who’s caving in my door in the middle of the night. You don’t live in a high-rise in downtown NYC and stay skittish about freaks roaming the halls at night.

I’m not an idiot. It’s not like I’m going to open the door and invite the crazy in, but it’s probably just the drunk guy that lives on the floor above me because he does this all the time. And at the same time, if it isn’t some drunkard or crazy neighbor I’m going to be a little nervous and probably call someone.

I just bang back on the door and then hurry and look in the peephole and I can barely see the figure of someone as they bolt out of the way and down the hall. They didn’t look particularly threatening but they didn’t move like someone who’s just had a few extra shots. I’d seen them leave so I thought I’d just leave the chain on the door and crack it open to peek.

When I saw the oversized rock on my mat in a pile of glass I slammed it shut. I don’t have any glass on my front door.

Mark

I can’t believe I missed her yesterday. That was the perfect excuse to talk to her. But the office left me a message this morning to call Jacobs today and hopefully that’s with good news. Or at least news that will give me a reason to go back.

A week? Seriously. They said I have the job and they need me to come in a week from today. What am I supposed to do for an entire week? I really want to ask Jessie to hang out but if I just show up at the office for no reason it’ll freak her out.

Jessica

“So are we allowed to talk about it now?”

“Jessica do you not get it? Obviously someone is trying to do something. I mean I didn’t examine the rock it’s not like some serial rock thrower but someone left that there. They got another rock dented your door with it and left it in glass? They’re showing me they knew where I was. When is the last time I’ve ever stayed at your house? How would anyone know where you live and that I’d be sleeping there if they hadn’t followed me?”

“Nina, really? Who would’ve done it? You don’t have any crazy ex-boyfriends or delusional competitive employees. I’m sure it’s someone from the office freaking us out. I mean admittedly the damaging of so much property isn’t exactly that funny but….It’s fine.”

“I don’t know. I just hate it. I don’t feel comfortable. If they know where I live but they know when I’m staying with someone else too…where do I even go? I’m staying at Joe’s tonight. At least I’ll keep you away and he’ll be protective ‘because he’s a man.”

“Yeah just let me know if you need anything.”

I know I’m imagining this. It’s got to be one of those dreams where it feels so realistic when you think you’ve woken up from a dream and you get really involved as if it were reality but then the dream keeps happening to you. There’s no way that I’m waking up to this noise again. I flipped on the lights and even sat there for a second to see if I felt woozy enough to pretend it was a dream.

But don’t worry, this is real life. It’s been literally every night this week. Literally five consecutive days since Nina stayed over and some freak has come at 2ish every night and crashed through my front door. He must not actually want in because he could have definitely gotten in by now.

Apparently I have some concerned—or easily irritated—neighbors because the cops knock on my door about thirty seconds after the banging finally stops. But when I actually open the door, the normal rummage isn’t at the door.

I try to explain to them the story Nina has come up with, but it’s a rock. It’s hard for me to be genuinely terrified of a rock. Repeating the word itself to the NYPD so many times in a row makes me feel laughable as it is. But at the same time, why would they keep doing it? And if they really were trying to freak out Nina and knew where she was why were they sticking around my apartment now that she’s gone.

Mark

Finally. Monday morning. I wonder if she’ll notice that I’m wearing the same shoes. I’ve noticed that even men around here are expected to change their shoes far too much. We’re men. Why do I need designer shoes and why would I want so many to choose from if they’re all black. That’s just more of a chance to mess it up.

But it doesn’t matter. I have on a different suit, well the same suit, but it’s a different color, so it’s mostly a different suit. And I will take her to lunch today. Man up and just ask.

Jessica

I can’t believe he actually asked to go out for lunch. It’s his first day on the job and he’s still being trained on what his job actually is. More than that, I’m his supervisor so I probably shouldn’t have agreed but I kind of really wanted to.

Nothing surprised me more but I actually looked forward to getting to talk to him alone.

“So how is it? Your first day on the job I mean.”

“It’s actually not too bad. The guy who’s training me is a little dull, but I think I’m actually going to enjoy it.”

We really aren’t talking about much important but I’m flirting. Not just some of the accidental flirty moments—which, don’t worry, are happening too—but I’m trying to flirt, to let him know I want to be here. With Mark Graven. Seriously? The booger eater turned jock mutated back into a swamp thing? And now he’s back in my life as Mr. GQ.

“I really need to get some of my notes for this meeting I have in about an hour. My apartment is about one block passed the office. You can come if you want. Or when we pass you can head on back to work.” I know it’s super obvious that I’m trying to extend the date and that I’m hinting at getting him familiar with my apartment but I actually don’t even care. I just want him to keep being around.

“Yeah that’s fine. I’d like to see how the well-established half lives.”

“Oh whatever.” Okay, now I might be over-flirting just slightly.”

My whole door is buckled into the center. We barely got to the stop of the steps and I could see my mangled yellow door dangling from its hinges. I painted it yellow when I first moved in because I thought it made the city seem less rough, more southern and safe like back home.

My lock cringing from the pressure that apparently blasted it from where it’s normally plated inside the frame. The couch is flipped backwards and all of my windows are open. The frigid air just adds to the fear that I’m working on. But what is it for? Everything in the living room has been rummaged through, but nothing is missing. I checked everywhere.

The police officer said that it’s not an option, I have to sleep somewhere else tonight. I don’t want to even tell Nina, let alone drag her down with me since she’s already freaked out, so when Mark offer his place I didn’t hesitate too long to say yes. He even offered to take the couch so I could feel safer locking myself into his room.

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