Short Fiction: Fraternization

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A little piece of fiction that’s been hanging in my head for awhile. It’s too long and too schmaltzy, but I don’t have time to shorten it – and we’ll just chalk it up to the self-indulgence of the hopeless romantic, eh?  Constructive criticism welcome.

Photo by Chris Costes

It’s the first day of my dream job. Everything is perfect. I sit at my mahogany desk and try not to cry.

I didn’t even apply for this job. The offer came out of the blue, on the heels of seven other unsolicited offers. Higher salaries, better benefits, but I turned them all down. I didn’t want to leave him.

But I couldn’t turn down this one.

The worst part was telling him. I was shaking that morning as I rode the elevator to the fourth floor. No amount of daisy-petal pulling could compare to this moment.

I was finally going to find out if he loved me.

I imagined how it would go – you know, best case scenario fairy-tale ending.

I’ve received an offer for the editor position at the Times, I’d say, You know how much I love working here, but this is the job I’ve dreamed about for as long as—are you alright?

 I’d interrupt myself at this point because I’d notice how crestfallen he had become.

Christy… he’d stammer, I just…don’t think I’m ready to lose you. I know I’ve never told you how I felt—but I’ve always loved you.

Of course that wouldn’t happen. But I was hoping at least for a hint of disappointment. Something that would tell me he cared. Well, I knew he cared. He cared about everyone—treated us all like royalty Monday through Friday for the two years I’d worked for him—but he’d never shown a hint of anything more, and neither had I. I’d been so careful not to.

I arrived at his office. His door was open, as usual, but he was hunched over his address book. I knocked. He looked up. He looked tired, sad, nigh despairing! I wondered if he’d already heard. If he was already grieving for me. He welcomed me in, his eyes searching my face. I sat down across from him, took a deep breath.

“I’ve received an offer,” I began. His expression froze. “For a job,” I dropped my gaze to my fingers, twisted in my lap. “As an editor. At the Times. It’s um—”

“Christy, that’s fantastic!”

I looked up, surprised at his tone. His whole face was suddenly brighter.

“That’s the job you’ve always wanted, isn’t it?”

“Well, yes. I—”

“You deserve it, you know. You’ll be the best editor that paper’s ever had.”

“You’re not…upset?”

“Upset? Of course not. I’m happy for you. Aren’t you happy?”

He looked doubtful for a moment, but I couldn’t disappoint him.

“I’m thrilled,” I forced a smile, “Just a little sad to leave this place.”

“We are going to miss you around here.”

We. Not I.

It’s replaying that part of the conversation that makes me finally break down.

And here in my new office, I don’t even know where the tissues are. I’ll have to make a break for the bathroom to bawl my eyes out on a roll of toilet paper.

I collide with my new boss as I’m bursting into the hallway.

I apologize and offer a fake laugh, but it’s too late. She’s seen my red eyes and runny nose.

“Oh, dear,” and she pulls me back into my office and shuts the door, producing a pack of tissues from a drawer. “What’s happened?”

I consider making up a story about a dead aunt, but one glance at her concerned expression and I decide I can’t lie to her.

“He doesn’t love me!” I blurt before hiding my face in my hands.

“Wha…who?”

“My boss. My last boss. When I told him…” quivering breath, “I was leaving,” sob, “he even looked h-h-h-appy. And now I’ll never s-s-s-see him again.” Involuntary wail. Oh, gravy. I haven’t been on the job four hours yet and I’m going to get fired for blubbering like a preteen over a crush. “I’ll get over it!” I gasp, raising my head to look her in the eye and nod—repeatedly, because I have to convince myself as well as her. “Please, I’ll get over it. I’ll be the best editor you’ve ever had, I’ve just got to—” quiver, sob, “Compose myself.”

She shakes her head. “Don’t you know how you got this job?” Her voice is high and constricted, like she’s about to laugh.  “Your boss called to recommend you.”

“He…” heart drops to gut. “What?”

But I already understand.

He knew I was in love with him. I hadn’t hidden it as well as I thought. And rather than hurt my feelings, he found a better position for me elsewhere. All those offers. He must have been calling in favors all over town.

More wailing, sobbing, nose blowing. Where are Ben & Jerry when you need them?

“Christy!”

I snap back to attention and realize my new boss—or new ex-boss?—has been trying to tell me something.

“When he called,” she said again, her voice steady, “And told me you were perfect for the job, I asked him why, then, was he letting you go? And do you know what he said?”

I sniffed, shaking my head.

“Because—and these were his exact words—‘I constantly have to remind myself not to kiss her.’ You see?”

I stare at her.

“He couldn’t make a move while you still worked there. He didn’t want you to feel like your job depended on a relationship.”

“He…he didn’t say that…”

“Are you calling me a liar?” she planted her hands on her hips.

“I…” I’m floundering now, lightheaded. Maybe I’ll faint like a woman in an old movie. “That’s not…”

“And now here he comes to take you to lunch, and I’ve ruined the surprise.”

She’s looking out the window down at the parking lot. I lean forward to see. It’s him. Heading for the door like he’s on a mission. A bunch of flowers in his hand.

I look at my new boss. She looks at me and grins. “Told you.”

I smile. I forget to breathe. This must be what giddy means.

“You have about twenty seconds to get that eyeliner cleaned up. You look like a zebra.”

She turns on a heel and walks out. I scramble for more tissues.

First day of my dream job. Everything is perfect.

UPDATE: The second draft of Fraternization is now posted!

About Stephanie Orges

Stephanie is an award-winning copywriter, aspiring novelist, and barely passable ukulele player. Here, she offers writing prompts, tips, and moderate-to-deep philosophical discussions. You can also find her on and Pinterest.
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26 Comments

  1. I must also be an incurable romantic. Lovely story…

  2. Nicely written, Steph. Hints of Devil Wears Prada/ Bridget Jones/Mills’n’Boon.
    I do wonder whether such a drippy girl would be suitable for a high power editor’s job … but it worked in DWP and BJ, well done.

    • True! Honestly, I added all the crying for dramatic and comedic effect. Which is a poor excuse. Perhaps just changing the job would fix it? I really just picked Times editor as the first job I could think of with a desk (aside from my own job, which I really couldn’t use). I’ll think on that. Thanks!

  3. The end had me smiling like an idiot!Love it 😀

  4. You’re probably right about this being too schmaltzy, but I think all your female readers will forgive you and your male readers will cope until the next time. The first paragraph’s contradiciton is just perfectly pitched. If I have a criticism it’s that the middle gets a bit saggy – it takes a while to get to the meat of the story, and then the conversation with the editor feels a tiny bit too perfect. Maybe you could mention that she and the editor had hit it off already – during the interview process or something?
    Anyway, good story and all schmaltz is forgiven!

    • Great points! I agree with you. I’ll look for ways to get rid of some exposition and tighten it up. The convo with her boss, yes, I had a feeling I’d need to do something more to establish her character. You have confirmed it!
      Thanks! : )

  5. Ah romance. Always good for a little cry 🙂

    Definitely schmaltzy but what good romance isn’t? I think it could be tightened up some but overall its sweet 🙂

  6. This is super cute. I am a sucker for happy endings. Loved it!

  7. I’m in awe. As a hopeless romantic myself, I hung on every word and loved the ending. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. I love this piece and was disappointed as I scrolled down and noticed how close to the end I was. Wonderful story. Captivating.

  9. You write dialogue very well. The flow of conversation here is something many would do well to analyse. Okay, so this is a total tissue-wetter, but there is a whole dirge of despair fiction out there, someone has to make the sun come up!

  10. Okay you got me too. I love this idea, and if you had time to work on it, you’d have me even worse. There’s a bit of a telling quality to parts of it, and the conversation with the new boss seems too convenient… but other than that, I was glued. The “constantly have to remind myself not to kiss her” line is killer–one of those lines that will stick with me. How refreshing to read something happy!

    • Telling – yes! You’re exactly right. I need to show more. And I will eventually find time to work on it. All good suggestions here.

      I’m glad you like the kiss line! I was worried about that one being over-the-top, but probably the next thing the boss says is my real problem – too convenient, as you say.

      Anyway, glad I “got” you!

  11. Excellent story. Very well written. I enjoyed reading and can’t wait to pour through some more here!

  12. Awwww… It’s very sweet, though I was wondering about how her new boss’s motivations. The interaction between protagonist and new-boss would make more sense if they knew each other better and had a rapport.

  13. Pingback: Fraternization – revised! « BeKindRewrite

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