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The Perfect Illusion

By´╝ÜWinter Renshaw

Chapter 1


Mari



Dear Mr. Rutherford,

I humbly request for you to accept this as my two weeks’ notice. As of Friday, May 26th, I will be stepping down from my position as your personal assistant. I’ll do my best to ensure this is a smooth transition for the company.

Sincerely,

Maribel Collins



I press my pen into his thick cardstock, scratching out my neatly written resignation before crumpling the paper in my hand and pushing it to the corner of my desk. It’s too nice, and Hudson Rutherford does not deserve nice.

It’s half past seven, which means I have thirty minutes to come up with something better than this—something that’s going to leave a lasting impression.

I’m his third personal assistant this year and it’s only May. There’s a reason no one can tolerate working for him longer than a month or two, and someone ought to point this out to him.

Might as well be me.

Clearing my throat, I try again.



Hudson,



You’re rude and inconsiderate, and I no longer wish to work for you. You think the world revolves around you. Your excessive wealth disgusts me, as does your secret Rolodex of women’s phone numbers that you keep hidden in your third desk drawer on the left. Your good looks are overshadowed by your vanity and arrogance, and your kindness, I’m convinced, is non-existent. You treat your employees like indentured servants, and you’re the most hypocritical asshole I’ve ever met.

I work sixty hour weeks for you without so much as a thank you, a raise, or a glowing performance review. I’m tired of running your menial errands, and I didn’t spend four years in college to make photocopies and coffee.

I didn’t sign up for this.

You lied to me.



With zero fondness and absolutely no gratitude,

Mari



Sighing, I crumple this one too. I think my message got lost amongst all the spiteful word vomit, and the last thing I want to do is come across as trite.

Fed up is what I am.

Tired.

Underutilized, underpaid, and overworked.

But not trite.

I toss the wrinkled paper in the waste basket and grab one last sheet of letterhead. Ditching the formalities, I decide to go a more direct route. My mother once told me it’s not in what you say, it’s in what you don’t say. And my father always says actions speak louder than words. Maybe I’ve been overthinking this whole resignation letter? With my pen firmly gripped, I scrawl my final version.



Hudson,



I QUIT.



Mari



It’s perfect.

Smirking, I admire my work, fold it into thirds, then slide it into a cream-colored envelope with Rutherford Architectural’s logo in the upper left corner. Licking the seal and scribbling his name on the front, I stick it on top of a pile of mail I plan to hand to him the second he arrives. I’ll give him a moment to read it, and while he’s doing so, I’ll pack up my things and make a beeline for the elevator before he has a chance to stop me.

“Mary.” I glance up from my workstation to see Hudson strolling into work in his signature navy suit and skinny black tie. He’s early today.

“It’s Mari,” I correct him for the millionth time, inhaling his cedar and moss cologne. It’s the only thing I’ve come to like about this man. “Rhymes with sorry—remember?”

His eyes narrow in my direction, and as he angles toward me, I see his right hand lifted to his ear. He’s on the phone.

Hudson says nothing, only gathers the mail from the corner of my desk and strides down the hall toward the enormous glass-walled office that tends to make my stomach twist every time I have to walk in that direction.

This entire office space was his design. Glass walls. Zero privacy. Everything is clean-lined and modern. Chestnut-colored leather seating, white walls, reclaimed wood, and custom mid-century modern lighting installations are working in tandem here to create a space buzzing with creative inspiration, and all decorative accessories have to be approved by the head honcho himself. I tried to bring in a gray ceramic planter last month for my dendrobium orchids, and Hudson said it was too drab and industrialist. He claimed it would fuck with his energy—and he uses words like “fuck” and “energy” because he thinks he’s some kind of renaissance boss.

My heart’s pounding crazy fast, and I’m stuck trying to determine if I should bolt now or wait. Hudson usually checks his mail first thing in the morning, but for all I know, he’s still on his phone call.

Drumming my fingers against my glass desktop, my feet remain firmly planted on the wood floor, though they may as well be frozen solid. The second my phone rings, it sends my heart leaping into my throat. I’m not afraid of him—I just hate drama. And I have a feeling Hudson’s going to try to make this into a big thing.

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