This story is by Krystyna Khara and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Angie kept her workplace in order. She spotted the shadow grey envelope on her desk. The envelope was clear with no sender name, address or stamp. She opened it and read a card inside.
Angie worked in a fashion online magazine over a year. Before she got this job, she had written a few articles for various editions. It was a great career shift for her when her current chief Andywitz invited her to this magazine.
Andywitz was dapper. He watched his reporters through the glass wall. Joan was precise as usual. Kathryn greeted everyone in the office with her sly smile. Finally, Angie – the sleek tall blond came in. He called them all for an editorial meeting.
“Next week, one of the major fashion events happens. A few local brands are going to be presented at New York Fashion Week. I want you to found out their plans, their vision and shows conceptions. I want your interviews with creators, collections’ previews, everything. The one, who brings the best topic for a Friday long story, flies with me to NY. That’s means this reporter will be covering all major events straight from NY. Your news will be in a top for a week. Any questions?”
“Does Elsa participate?” asked Joan.
“Yes, she is a staff-reporter, as you are.”
“She has never appeared in the office,” remarked Angie.
“She works remotely. Girls, I expect a really good stuff from you. Get to work!”
Reporters came back to their desks. Angie noticed the shadow grey envelope. She opened it and read a card inside “It’s a showtime. Jelly, tell me, who’ll drop out first: Joan or Kathryn?”
Angie jumped out of the chair and interrogated the administrator asking who put a letter on the desk. He only shook his head. Angie’s emotions drew the attention, and soon all the reporters were discussing this matter. Joan took it personally accusing that she always knew that Angie underestimates her abilities. Kathryn suggested that funny face send it to herself. Finally, Angie ripped and threw the letter in the bin.
When working day was over, Angie and Joan got in the same lift. At first, they kept silence, then Joan said that this letter made everyone show their real face. “Among all of us, only you could be questioned something like this”.
When Angie reached her rented basement apartment, it was already late. She wanted to work a bit for tomorrow. Suddenly, her phone received a message from the unknown contact.
“All masks removed. Jelly, tell me, who deserves to lose: Joan or Kathryn?” The irritation flashed across her face. She texted: “Joan” and hit the send button.
Next morning Angie and other reporters spend having appointments and doing research. Only by noon, Angie and Kathryn reached the office. Joan’s desk remained empty.
Angie watched the conversation between Kathryn and chief through the glass wall. He seemed to be excited about her topic. She leaned forward on her desk when Kathryn passed her by with a victorious smile.
“Did you text me last night?” Angie tore into her.
“I’d never sent you a word. Even don’t have your phone number,” replied Kathryn.
“Don’t lie. You could do everything to go to NY. Where is Joan?”
“Do you feel well, funny face? I have no idea where Joan is and I don’t care!” Kathryn had always thought that Angie once lost her track to a modeling agency and ended up in fashion editorial by accident. She continued, “My topic is the best one. Even Elsa’s style won’t succeed this time. I have no time to waste with you. I’m leaving for an interview.”
Angie stayed late at work. She waited for a call from American colleague. Passing the time, she looked through last Elisa’s article. She found herself envy of Elsa long ago. They had started writing for the magazine around the same time, but Elsa already got a personal column.
Angie’s phone rang. The new message appeared. “Someone works late at night, while others just get things for nothing. Who doesn’t deserve to go on: Kathryn or Elsa?” This text sent chills down her spine. Taking into consideration the absence of Joan today, she preferred to ignore it. Tonight she took a cab to get home.
Angie started a day with a gallon of coffee. She didn’t sleep well and felt shaky going to the office. When she came, the office was closed. She had to wait for Andywitz to open it. He looked concerned, and shared with her sad news, that the car hit Kathryn near the editorial yesterday. Then they discussed Angie’s proposal for a Friday long story. Andywitz realized that she and Elsa were working on the same topic. Now everything depended on the writing skill.
Angie hurried to sit down. She had just switched a phone since yesterday message and instantly received a new one, “You didn’t choose. No reply means they both are worthless.” Whoever was behind these messages, it went too far. Angie denied believing that it could relate to recent events. “Elsa is all right, isn’t she? ”
“Hey, Angie! Someone left the flowers box for you. Must be from your admirer, ha? ” The administrator put the shadow grey box with roses on her desk. Angie picked a card from the bouquet, “Tonight, we celebrate how far we get!” there also were an address and time.
She hesitated to enter the restaurant. It was a classy place; she had taken an interview there, but couldn’t afford anything more than espresso. She stepped inside; waiter conducted her to the table.
Angie yelled, “What are you doing here, Joan?”
“Please, have a sit. ”
“I don’t understand. Did you send those messages to me?”
“I’m here to deliver you an offer from Elsa,” Joan had a bruise on her left eye and looked battered. “She wants to meet you tonight on the Fan bridge. She knows that you both work on the same topic. In her opinion, you have equal chances to go to NY. So, it will be better, if you decide by yourselves, who’s going to submit the final draft to Andywitz. You should come to the Fan bridge by 22:00” with last words Joan stood up and left.
Confused Angie wanted to run for her, but waiter stopped her. He suggested her to stay because super had been paid for her.
A new message came to Angie’s phone, “Stakes are high. Who deserves to win: Elsa or Angie?”
In the middle of the bridge stood a young woman in a long stylish trench coat. Elsa’s dark hair blew in the wind. There was a slight hint of curiosity on her calm face as she watched Angie coming.
She greeted her, “ Hello, Jelly!”
«Don’t call me like that» Angie was gloomy.
«Why? When we met the first time everyone called you so. Everyone wanted to be a Jelly’s friend,” Elsa made a pause to enjoy Angie’s confusion.
“You were so popular in high school. And I was Lizzie, your shy friend. Do you remember me? You betrayed me for a party invite. Geez, I was crushed. My family decided to save me by moving to another town. You missed my disappearance.
See, I was your shadow until I discovered you are fading. No friends, no lover. You live alone in this dusty basement hole. If Andy won’t offer this trip, you won’t proceed anywhere. You’re such a dummy, go every road which life drags you. Kathryn was right. You could be very good for modeling unless you wouldn’t afraid of the camera. So tell me, Jelly, what are you going to do, now? ”
“What should I do?”
“Every decision has a consequence. You had made a choice. A car hit Kathryn on her way to the office. Now, if you admit that I’m better and obey me, no one finds out about our little game. Going to the police isn’t an option, you have nothing to claim,” Elsa greened and add, “or, you can choose yourself, of course.”
A few days after Angie sat on a first class seat next to Andywitz taking a flight to NY. She listened to music, read a few articles, watched a movie and discussed with chief their plans for a next few days. Her wrist pained sometimes, but that wasn’t serious. Her gorgeous maxi dress hid all the bruises. She didn’t notice. Nobody noticed that her shadow had gone.