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‘Natalie’s Valentine’ is my entry for the Valentine’s Day Story Contest 2016.
Everyone deserves to love and be loved so I thought I might contribute a story which celebrates that.
All characters engaging in sexual relationships or activities are 18 years old or older.
“Scott’s a big jerk!”
Natalie blushed furiously as she realized she’d just shouted that out loud on the crowded Monday morning train. On top of the terrible heartache she felt from his breaking up with her the night before, with a text message no less, now her face burned with embarrassment. There was always one lunatic in the train. This morning it was her.
She leaned her forehead against her arm holding the overhead rail so she could hide her face. Her other arm clutched her shoulder bag tight to her stomach to keep its contents safe from pick pockets. In the two years she’d lived in the city she’d already discovered how clever their hands could be and she couldn’t afford to replace her laptop again.
Natalie looked at her reflection in the window she was facing as the train made its way through the tunnels towards the core of the city. The twenty four year old woman looking back at her was… pretty. She allowed herself that. Next to the other passengers she looked positively tiny at 5′ 1″. Her cheery and smart looking red overcoat hugged her body and hinted that she was maybe a little top heavy. Truthfully, she had a small amount of extra padding all over but there was just a little more in the chest area. Her mother teased her that the booby fairy had been over generous to her at puberty. Her body was otherwise normally proportioned, if petite. Finding fashionable clothes that fit her unique dimensions was a struggle.
She had thick auburn hair which fell in waves to her shoulders. Her naturally long lashes and pale green eyes were behind serious but attractive dark framed glasses perched on a nose with a slight upturn at the end. She wasn’t knock down gorgeous or tall and willowy like the models that continuously paraded through the office she worked at but she was pretty. Maybe cute was a better description. Or not good enough. She closed her eyes and fought back the tears. Biting her lower lip, she used the pain to push back the sadness.
Natalie gave herself a shake. She had to stop this moping! She had so much to be thankful and happy about! She made it out of the small town she’d grown up in, had her own small apartment on the outer edge of her favorite city, and best of all was working her dream job!
She did website production and design for Audacious!, one of the boldest and strongest voices in the fashion industry. She used her not inconsiderable skills as a web developer and graphic designer to add ease of use and more importantly brilliant style to a website that was once considered to be the least fashionable sites in fashion.
When she’d interviewed for the position she’d come equipped with a demo of what their website could look like under her skillful hands. The interviewer was so desperate for change she immediately called one of the junior execs and had him sit through the demo. He in turn dragged Natalie before the other execs who were in the midst of having their regular weekly meeting. Once more Natalie ran through her demo and impressed the entire team with her ideas for bringing them into the future. She had the job before she left the building that day!
Alex, her first boyfriend, had been the executive assistant of the junior exec who pulled her into that meeting. Unfortunately, he turned out to be more enamoured with her potential for upward mobility in the company than her. They’d dated for four months until he discovered she was happy with her current position and had no intention of going after the president’s job. He dropped her and latched onto a new and aggressive executive who joined the company shortly after her. Natalie later heard Alex and his beau were both fired for having sex on the president’s desk… and getting caught in the act by said president.
Scott worked in the Operations department. Natalie had to work closely with the OPS team as her work was so dependent on the servers and the software running on them. He had flirted with her unmercifully until she’d agreed to go on a date with him. Yes, he was a nerd but so was she… to an extent. They had some common interests and the first few months had been really great. They had finally reached the physical side of the relationship and while she admitted she wasn’t dazzled by his abilities in the bedroom it had been nice. Two weeks later she got the text. Coward!
She was dreading the technical meeting she had to attend in the afternoon. He would be there. Natalie dabbed her eyes with a tissue fighting back new tears.
No! She would be cool and professional. If the opportunity presented itself for her to speak with him as an adult to get closure she would. A shiver ran through her. She could certainly talk a poker oyna big game but sometimes she regressed to her small town timid nature.
Natalie came out of her daze as she’d reached her stop. She joined the crush to get out the doors and up the escalators to ground level. The February winds were biting and she was glad she only had a block to rush along to get to the front door of her office building.
She went inside and took the elevator up to the twentieth floor exiting into their reception area. Sitting behind the desk was Linda, a friend she’d made at the office. She was equally petite in stature but had very pale skin and raven hair in a pixie cut. Linda was one of their receptionists and immediately noticed Natalie’s reddened eyes. She shot her friend a concerned look as she spoke on the phone but Natalie just gave her a smile and wave as she slipped away to her desk at the far end of the floor. It was quieter here and Natalie was able to hang up her coat, flip on her workstation, and bury herself in her work. This was as close to bliss as she was going to get today.
She surfaced with a start at 11AM when her phone began to chirp. She glanced over and saw it was the main boardroom calling. The exec team!
“Good morning, Natalie speaking!” she said, as cheerfully as she could.
“Oh thank god you’re in, Natalie! Please join us in the boardroom!” The line went dead. That was Maggie her boss calling.
Grabbing her laptop she rushed down the hall and passed the reception area where Linda was still trapped by the phone. She made big eyes at Natalie to get her to stop and fill her in but she just pointed to the corner boardroom and rushed by.
Knocking on the door Natalie stepped inside. She immediately noted the glum face on Maggie and their lawyer whose name eluded her. He rarely left his office. The president was sitting back in her chair with a look that said someone’s head was going to roll. Natalie hoped it wasn’t hers.
“Natalie, we have a problem. Two actually,” Maggie said, glancing at the grim look on the lawyer’s face. “Our Valentine shoot has to be scrapped. Two of the models didn’t have work visas and one was underage.” Natalie looked at her boss in surprise. “Then we learned the photographer got his hands on the design and layout of the article and sold it to a competitor. We have to come up with new content and have it ready for the site by Thursday night!”
“That’s not a lot of time…” Natalie murmured and heard a snort from the head of the table. Her eyes flicked in that direction and froze as she was trapped by intense blue eyes.
Sonja Ellison was a force of nature. Gravity, the tides, hurricanes, and Sonja Ellison. Each was undeniable. Each got things done. With her 5′ 10″ height and her sleek, toned body she could easily be mistaken for one of the models who visited but her drive and charisma could not be contained.
She actually had been a supermodel when she was just a couple of years younger than Natalie. Fresh from Sweden she was an instant success with her striking beauty and bold presence but after just two years of walking runways and gracing magazine covers she tired of being the billboard for fashion trends. She wanted to be a key player setting those trends. The name of her website, Audacious!, was based on the insult hurled at her by a famous designer when she’d abruptly left the runway at one of his shows and told him she was destined for more than he could offer. Granted, for the name she dropped the ‘Bitch’ part of his insult. Ten years later she was going strong and that designer wasn’t more than a footnote in history.
“Our Natalie has a gift for understatement.” Sonja gusted out as she released her anger and ran her slim, long fingered hands through her white blond hair which she kept short and perpetually tousled. “Please take a chair…” she said looking for an open seat. The room was a little crowded this morning so she reached behind herself and pulled a chair up beside her as she moved hers over to make space.
Natalie sat next to the woman and set her laptop on the table’s surface.
The meeting resumed with the team throwing ideas out for a replacement shoot and anchor story. It seemed to be going in circles and the ideas were getting more and more risqué.
“Romance,” Natalie said quietly to herself as her mind returned to what was missing in her own life.
“Everyone shut up for a minute! Natalie just hit the nail on the head,” Sonja barked loudly and the room went silent. The blond turned her gaze on the stunned woman next to her. “Go ahead Natalie. Share your idea with the group.”
Natalie looked around at the expectant faces. There was a lot of frustration and anxiety in the room. She swallowed as her mouth went dry.
“I- I was just thinking it might be nice to remember romance is part of Valentine’s Day.” She saw some expressions turn thoughtful and took that as a positive sign. “There is so much emphasis on sex, why not slow it down and talk canlı poker oyna about how to bring romance back into our lives.”
She nervously glanced to her right and saw Sonja was beaming a smile at her.
“Slow it down… that’s perfect! That’s what I want people! Let’s hear some ideas!” Sonja smiled again at Natalie and reached over to give her hand a quick squeeze then sat back to listen.
Natalie was so surprised by the touch her body tingled. She tried to ignore it and listened closely as the discussion around the table took on new life. People had begun to think about what they found to be romantic and shared their thoughts. Soon they had too many good ideas, and a few bad ones, and they began narrowing them down. Natalie listened and made notes on her laptop, moving the concepts around between several lists as her mind visualized how to present the topics in an appealing way. Then as the discussion circled back on itself she mocked up a few quick pages unaware of the eyes that watched her screen with keen interest.
“Natalie, may we project your desktop as we talk. I think it would greatly help the others to see how their ideas are fitting into this new design,” Sonja said, leaning close to speak softly as the others bounced their concepts back and forth across the table.
Natalie was once again caught by the intensity of Sonja’s gaze and just nodded.
“Maggie, pull the projector cable down here. I want you all to see how your ideas are working. Natalie has a really good start on a new design,” Sonja said with a pleased smile. Natalie blushed.
Someone dimmed the lights and Maggie got the projector going as Natalie connected the cable to her laptop and shared her desktop with the projector.
Soon she heard pleased sounds coming from the group. The conversation picked up energy and they began to refine the concepts. Natalie opened a new document and began to list the deliverables that would be needed to complete each section of their new project. Names and dates were linked to the deliverables and soon they had their task list to make it happen. The timeline was very aggressive.
“OK people! We know what we need to do and we know how little time we have to make it happen. Natalie, please share your task list with the executive team. Here’s the address,” the blond said with a wide smile as she showed the address on her tablet.
With a quick nod and a smile Natalie created the message, attached the task list, and hit send.
“You got your orders! Let’s make this happen!” Sonja said and people moved. There was a lot of positive energy in the room as they made their way to the door.
Before Natalie could stand up she felt a hand on hers once more and looked to the president.
“Hang back for a second please,” the woman said and Natalie nodded.
Once they had the room to themselves Sonja pushed her chair back to be able to face the young woman. Natalie smiled nervously at the tall beauty.
“You’ve come to our rescue again,” Sonja said with a faint smile.
“What?” Natalie squeaked.
“This is the second time you were drawn into an executive meeting to dazzle us with your expertise and get us back on track. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your efforts. The team was highly energized by your suggestion and your new design. We just may have a chance to meet the deadline but people are going to have to work really hard and put in extra hours to make it happen. Since your time is key to this entire project your hours will be affected the most. I want you to know that I’ll be available for approvals at any hour. You’ll find me in my office until the update goes live. Okay?” Sonja tilted her head with a smile as she asked the question and Natalie couldn’t stop a smile from popping up on her lips in response. Sonja’s trademark head tilt was almost as famous as the woman herself and having one directed at her made Natalie feel honored.
“Thank you Ms. Ellison,” Natalie said demurely.
“What’s this Ms. Ellison formality? You can call me Sonja.”
Natalie struggled to keep her smile from becoming a grin and nodded. “Thank you… Sonja.”
The blonde’s eyes twinkled as she smiled and stood. She patted Natalie’s shoulder as she walked towards the door.
Natalie disconnected the projector cable from her laptop and saved her files before she left the boardroom. She was overly conscious of the light tingling on her shoulder where Sonja had touched. She was maybe a little overawed by the woman but she couldn’t help believe it was justified. She really was her hero.
It was lunch time so when Natalie passed through the reception area she was scooped up by Linda and dragged towards the lunch room. She tried to protest but Linda had waited long enough to hear the cause of her tears. Her friend grabbed her lunch from the fridge and led Natalie back to her desk so she could drop off her laptop.
“Where’s your lunch?” Linda asked as they sat in the double wide cubicle internet casino Natalie had scored when she took over the space from the previous web developers. As she was more than twice as efficient she was allowed to keep the space for herself. It also gave her space for meetings with her internal clients… or concerned coworkers.
“I have no appetite. It’s ok, go ahead and eat, I know you have to get back soon,” Natalie said to her friend.
“What made you so upset this morning?” Linda leaned forward to ask.
Natalie really didn’t want to talk about this as she was still riding the high from the meeting this morning and it was reminding her of the tech meeting at 4PM. It was too late. Her mood began to drop.
“Scott broke up with me last night,” she said quietly.
Linda gasped and reached out to hold her hand. “Were you two out on a date?”
“He sent me a text.”
“WHAT?!? THAT CREEP!” Linda screeched.
Natalie put her hand over Linda’s mouth to prevent any further outbursts. Her face blushed crimson and her eyes welled up as the morning’s light mood was ripped away, opening the wound on her heart once more. She shook her head to force back the pain.
“How could he do this to you?” Linda hissed.
“I plan on asking him that question this afternoon, if possible. His text was pretty vague outside of saying he wanted to break up,” Natalie sighed. She was really dreading the meeting now but she needed the closure. There were too many unanswered questions.
Linda leaned forward and rested her forehead against Natalie’s. “He doesn’t deserve you! He’s a big jerk!”
Natalie snorted as she heard the words she’d used herself this morning. Linda pulled back to look at her curiously.
“I may have yelled those exact words while I was on the train this morning,” Natalie admitted with a blush.
Linda cracked up. She had an infectious laugh and soon Natalie found herself chuckling along with her.
“Crazy lady on the train!” Linda joked and Natalie nodded as she smiled.
They shared Linda’s sandwich and talked about Linda’s last disastrous date until it was time for her to head back to reception. Natalie gave her friend a hug.
“Call me tonight if you are up to it and let me know how it went,” Linda said as she hustled off to her desk.
Natalie turned to her workstation and drank some water to try to settle her stomach. She should have refused the sandwich. Food on a nervous stomach was not a good idea.
Work was once again her salvation and she got lost in the preparation work for the new updates she was going to have to make once the deliverables began coming in. Speaking of which a file dropped into her inbox and she saw it was a draft of the text for the main story. Gabriel was one of their staff writers and she was always amazed by his gift with prose. The words just seemed to flow effortlessly from the man. She took a quick look and this piece was as good if not better than most of the work she’d read from him. Sonja would have final say but she added the document to her repository of files in preparation of building the new pages.
She got lost in the work and jolted back to the present when her alarm reminded her of her 4PM tech meeting. She grabbed her laptop and made a brief stop in the washroom to refresh her face with a little cold water and a new coat of lip balm.
She made her way to the next floor down where the operations offices were and managed to arrive just as the meeting got underway. She’d hoped her delay would prevent her from bumping into Scott but it seemed that he had the same idea as they met at the door.
Natalie felt a painful pang go through her heart as she looked at him. He was a handsome man with a decent body. It was the grey stuff between his ears she couldn’t fathom the behavior of.
Once inside matters were made worse by the fact that the only two remaining chairs were back by the far wall next to each other.
Dennis, the tech department head looked up at the two stragglers with an annoyed frown. “Take your places people. We have a lot to discuss today.”
Scott was doing his best to ignore Natalie but she could see he was really uncomfortable.
Dennis took the group through the schedule for the next round of server upgrades and maintenance. Natalie was asked if there would be any conflicts with site promotions and she confirmed the new schedule was good.
She felt Scott’s eyes on her and looked at him but he turned away with a sour look on his face. She spent the next hour in a fog as his presence and attitude were too distracting. She was grateful that all of Dennis’ questions for her had been addressed early.
The meeting finally broke up at 5:30PM and she snagged Scott’s sleeve before he bolted to freedom. He frowned back at her but she wouldn’t release the fabric until he sat back. The room emptied aside from a few people in the opposite side so Natalie leaned toward him and spoke quietly to pitch her voice for just them.
“What happened?” she asked him.
“What do you mean?”
“You dumped me. In a text message with no explanation as to why.”
“I was trying not to hurt your feelings,” he said and squirmed.
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