Leap Year

(Unedited. Unrevised. First draft. Incomplete, but I did surpass my 500 word goal – big time. To be completed…tomorrow).

It was half past three in the afternoon. “Only an hour and half to go,” Liv thought out loud. She buzzed Morgan.

“Can you bring me a double shot of espresso?”
“Sure thing, Ms. Prescott.”

Morgan waited to hear a thank you that never came. It’s ‘will’ I bring her a double shot of espresso, not can. Yes, I can. Do I want to? No, I don’t, Morgan thought to herself. She did it anyway, as she always did and would deliver it to Liv with a contrived smile. Morgan huffed her way into the break room to prepare her boss’s fuel.

Liv sat back in her overstuffed leather desk chair. A self-satisfied warmth washed over her as she ran her hand across the mahogany finish of the executive desk. Her life was what some would call an enchanted existence. Liv was born into a family of old money. She attended the finest public schools and got into Yale without a problem – not based on earned merits but because her father and her father’s father were alumni and both had served on the Yale University Board of Trustees. She dropped out her sophomore year and moved to Los Angeles School was the only thing Liv had to put effort into. Otherwise, Liv never had to work hard for what she wanted, in fact, she felt entitled to everything that she was born into – and then some.

Liv didn’t leave anything to chance. If something didn’t come easy to her, she would lie, steal, or cheat to get it without the slightest bit of remorse. Some might say she was a sociopath but she was not. Privilege and vanity had narrowed her worldview. With this cocktail of imagined superiority, came ignorance to the consequences of her actions and the impact they had on others.

Morgan, on the other hand, had worked hard for everything she had. Her mother had died when she was seven years old, leaving her to grow-up with alcoholic and meth-addicted father who couldn’t care less about her or anyone else for that matter. All he cared about was where his next fix would come from. At fifteen years old she began working at an ice cream shop two blocks away from her home in the ghetto. She saved every dime she earned and daydreamed of saving enough to buy pretty dresses and books to fill her shelves. She had to hide her money well because if she did not, her father would use it to score without an apology. She moved out at seventeen and began working her way through college, hoping to someday become a fashion designer.

Instead, Morgan worked dead-end job after job and often had to take semesters off to save up in-between. When she graduated with an associate’s degree in fashion design from a community college, she began working for Pré La Vi, the fashion label that Liv was the CEO of. As Liv’s secretary and personal assistant, Morgan supported herself as she studied fashion design at Pratt in Brooklyn.  Her studies often suffered because Liv demanded a lot out of her and Morgan resented every moment of it.

Morgan tapped lightly on the foreboding frosted glass door that stood between her and Liv’s office. When she didn’t get a response she tapped a little louder. Still no response. She gazed up at the gold lion decal that embellished the door and snarled at it. A third tapping did the trick and Morgan entered the high ceiling space with the espresso in hand and her belly sucked in.

“Here you are, Ms. Prescott,” she said adorned with a smile.

“Yeah, okay,” Liv replied and waved her away as she pivoted her chair towards the large window facing the New York skyline. Morgan set the mini mug on a coaster and as she walked away, she allowed her abdomen to relax.

Liv ended her call with a frantic merchandiser who was fretting over a display for Pre La Vi at Barneys. Annoyed by what she considered an intrusion, Liv found a small bit humor and pleasure in the way her employees tripped over their words and feet to please her. In two gulps the espresso was gone and she returned back to checking emails. It was almost time to go home.

Morgan sat quietly at her desk. Nervousness had turned into full blown anxiety and she didn’t know if she could make it another forty-five minutes. She chewed on the end of her pen cap, a habit she developed as a kid when she was studying for an exam.

Liv looked up at the clock. Forty-five more minutes. She yawned deeply and felt her eyes glaze over as she continued to read emails. Damn that espresso didn’t do the trick. Morgan probably fucked it up somehow. She yawned again and stood up to stretch when all of a sudden she felt the room spin and she collapsed, hitting her head with a smack as she descended to the floor.

She opened her eyes to a worried Morgan hovering over her.

“Are you okay? I heard a loud noise in here and came in. You’ve been out for a few minutes. I think you need to go to the hospital.”

Liv groaned and touched her tender forehead. Fuck, this better not leave a bruise.

“No, no. I’m okay,” she growled.

Morgan’s hand retreated as Liv helped herself up to standing position. She brushed off her trousers and adjusted her blazer.

“I don’t have time for the hospital. I have too much to do for tomorrow.”

Morgan felt slightly relieved but the lump in her throat remained. She offered to call Liv’s driver to take her home.

“Yes, that’s fine. I should probably leave early anyway. Do not forget to complete the errands on the list that I gave you…” Live trailed off.

“This morning,” Morgan said for Liv. “Yes, I’m on it. I’ll check on the cake as soon as I leave the office and make sure that the banquet hall is fully prepared.”

“Okay. Whatever. Just make sure it’s done.”

Live began stuffing folders into her briefcase. She placed her hand on her forehead which was now throbbing and warm to the touch.

“Fuck.”
“Yeah, you may want to put some ice on that.”
“No shit,” Liv snapped.

Morgan looked down at her feet.

“I’m sorry, I don’t feel good. I’m going home to get some rest before tomorrow. I’ll see you then.” Liv walked unsteadily towards the doorway. Morgan was stunned by the apology.

“Happy Early Birthday, Liv,” Morgan said with feigned enthusiasm.
“Save it for tomorrow,” Liv said as she closed the door behind her.

Morgan stood in the office and looked at the espresso mug. She quickly grabbed it and put her ear at the door until she heard the elevator open and close. She hurried to the kitchen and washed the mug with bleach spray. She looked around. No one will know, she hoped.

§

On the drive home Liv reclined on the leather head rest with ice pressed firmly to her forehead. As she watched traffic from the back seat window, she grew irritated at the thought of tomorrow’s festivities. For someone with her level of self-importance, one might assume that a day celebrating her birth would call for utter glee, Not for Liv, it was just a reminder of the one thing she could not have her way – a birthday every year. She was born on February 29th, 1988. She always blamed her mother for being born on a leap year and berated her for not planning her cesarean better. Better meaning on a day before she went into natural labor twenty-seven, almost twenty-eight years ago. Liv liked to smooth over her dissatisfaction with her mother’s poor planning by entertaining the thought that this meant she held the secret to eternal youth. If she went by the dates on calendar years, she was only seven years old. The thought made her smile.

With traffic, she barely made it home before sunset. She walked into the foyer of her home – a sprawling estate just short of 9,255 square feet; 9,254.8 feet to be precise. Regardless, Liv found it privy to round up to 10,000. Liv made her way straight to the wine cellar and grabbed the first bottle she could find. She dusted it off without any mind to the label. Upstairs, she poured herself a large glass and took four ibuprofen tablets. Most nights she would either be in Manhattan having dinner or tying loose ends that she didn’t have time to do at the office. With her head aching and her thoughts clouded, she decided to save the fanfare for tomorrow and climbed into bed. She set her alarm for 6:40 am and did a final review of the guest list for tomorrow’s party. With a grunt, she tossed her phone to the other side of her King sized bed and neatly tucked herself under a triple stuffed duvet.

§

The alarm sounded off. From under a pillow, Liv threw her hand at the alarm but instead knocked over something. She pulled the pillow off her face and looked down at an ashtray on the floor with ciggarette butts strown across a cheap woven rug. Liv blinked twice.

“What the…” Liv trailed off as she looked around the room. She was not in her bedroom but in a large loft space with light timidly peeking through sheets haphazardly hung as curtains. Liv gingerly set the covers aside and stood up. She felt, different. And she had no clue where she was. She took a few steps forward and cried out, “Hello?” No one replied.

She stepped through a room divider and looked around. The loft was made of wood floors and there was trash everywhere. The kitchen was visible from where she stood and dirty dishes were piled atop each other in the sink and counter top. The alarm was still sounding. Liv turned back to the bed and looked for the alarm. It came from a phone, not her phone, but a phone. She turned the alarm off.

Walking into the larger room, she saw a door to what she believed might be a bathroom and she was correct. She timidly stepped inside and gasped at what she saw. The floor was covered in dirty clothes, the sink dripped loudly, and the stained toilet seat was standing erect. She walked over to the sink and looked into the mirror. The image that met her gaze was not what she was expecting.

…to be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

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