E & Jbydestinie21©
This story was co-written by Browncuriousity, please do not reproduce without author(s) premession.
Evelyn Masters sighed as she cut across three lanes of traffic to get of at the Maple St. exit. More than one person was laying on their horn and giving her impolite hand signals. Thanks to her mother she had nearly missed her exit.
"Evie girl can you hear me?" Her mother shouted through the phone.
"Yes Mama, stop yelling I heard you just fine." Evelyn said nearly yanking the hands free set off of her head, when the older woman's voice startled her.
"Well you never know with those cell phones."
Evelyn almost laughed out loud, her mother clearly had no idea what was up as far as modern technology went. Her urge to laugh was immediately followed by the urge to scream as her mother went on.
"It's time you got over all that mess with Topher and move on. What you need is a man."
Evelyn sighed, smacked her lips then sighed again. She was sorely tempted to hang up the phone but she hadn't gone crazy quite yet. She knew her mother meant well but she was getting on Evelyn's last nerve. After the way Topher had used her, broken her spirit and taken off with all her money (down to the change she kept in the catchall compartment of her car) the last thing she wanted to do was traipse blindly into another relationship. Besides with her business growing like it was the last thing she needed to complicate her life was a man. Granted success wasn't something you could cuddle with on a long stormy night but then again success couldn't runoff with all your money and your best friend to boot.
Her mother went on talking the same as she always did no matter how much Evelyn sighed. I know Topher really hurt you but that was two years ago and it's time to get over it and move on with your life. You're a beautiful woman, you might as well get yourself a man while you can and go ahead and settle down, and after all you're not getting any younger.
"Mama I've told you before I don't need a man to make me happy. You should be proud of me for making on my own not encouraging me to chase after some clown who'll give me his last name in exchange for my freedom."
"Marriage isn't a prison Evie"
"Well it's not a beauty contest either Mama, what do my age and looks have to do with finding a man who will really and truly love me?"
"Girl it has everything to do with it, you..."
Evelyn pulled into her parking space in front of Design and Conquer, the interior design company she had started out of necessity after Topher had robbed her blind.
"Mama I'm running late for work," she said cutting off whatever the woman had been about to say.
The two women said their goodbyes before Evelyn flipped her cell phone shut and let out one heartier sigh before removing the headset and tossing the phone into her already overstuffed tote bag. She had tried a brief stint with a briefcase but in the end the overfull tote nag had turned out to be more efficient and suited to her needs.
As usual Evelyn had arrived an hour earlier than her employees, well make that employee, since Jade had married a doctor and up and quit two months ago. Things were hard with only her and Donnie working, which is why she was accepting resumes and screening interviewees. In fact she had two interviews scheduled this morning and she was praying to God, Buddha and any other entities who might be listening that one of the women coming in today would be the designer she was looking for. Sitting down behind her slightly cluttered desk Evelyn looked over the resumes she'd set aside the evening before for review. Both perspective employees were qualified so she wouldn't be able to decide based on education and experience alone.
She'd interviewed a handful of other applicants but had yet to find someone she was sure could do the job well as well as represent the company in a positive way. Two of the people she'd interviewed had been right out of college and lacked the experience needed to design with confidence and skill. She would have truly loved to give one or both of them a chance but she hadn't become one of the city's foremost designers by wearing her heart on her sleeve. As a business woman she just couldn't afford to take those kinds of chances , after all her livelihood hung in the balance and more importantly so did her reputation.
The third interviewee had been almost perfect except for the fact that she had two children both under the ages of five years old and there was to much of a chance that she'd be called away from work because one of her children were infected with whatever it is children get infected with. Plus the woman had stated that she wouldn't be able to travel much which was sort of a big deal when it came to having to attend estate sales or spend a few days antiquing for unique pieces, to say nothing of scouting potential artists whose works would lend a certain ambience to whatever room or rooms that the company was hired to decorate.
The very last applicant had seemed perfect at first but after talking to him for a few moments she'd found that he was both self centered and spoiled and in a business that was all about pleasing others those traits would hinder even the best designer. Evie hoped that Lillian Rogers or Donna Martins would be the person she was looking for because if not then she'd just have to pick from the applicant pool and hope for the best. Donnie Mitchell showed up a half hour before D&C was due to open and as usual he was dressed to kill in a pair of snug boot cut Ralph Lauren jeans, a tan polo sweater and a dark brown leather Bruno Magali Nappa blazer, all of which he paired with a stylish pair of Cole Haan slip-ons. If Donnie weren't gayer than a three dollar bill she might have considered getting with him based on his fashion sense alone.
"Hey boss lady." He said sashaying, yes that's right sashaying, maybe all gay men didn't do it but Donnie S Mitchell sure did and he did it well too.
He set down two brown two dark brown paper cups on her desk. No doubt they contained coffee based drinks. Donnie always stopped and picked up their pre work coffees, some would be inclined to think he was being a kiss ass but Evie knew the truth. D had a raging Man crush on Anselem the owner of the specialty coffee shop which just so happened to carry her very favorite Caribbean coffee made with fresh coconut milk. Evie had offered to pick up the drinks on alternate days but had ultimately given up since D insisted on handling all caffeinated beverage interactions, Evie wasn't even about to try and push the issue either because when it came to hissy fits between them the queen trumped the straight every time.
"What's good Evie?" He asked propping himself against the corner of her desk.
Before Evelyn could respond the front door opened and a tall woman walked through the door. Her suit was tailored within an inch of its designer label life, and while it was classy it was still altogether too tight, too short and too low cut to be considered as a typical business suit. Not to mention the bright orange color of the material. On any other woman the suit itself might have looked downright unprofessional but somehow this woman pulled it off with grace that would make her millions, if she could somehow bottle it. The stranger was the type of woman that other woman instinctively disliked, the type of woman that made you want to adjust your clothes and check your makeup even when you knew it was perfect. No doubt she rose from the bed looking like a cover model.
Her strong features were almost completely unadorned by makeup and her long thick hair had a natural wave that made her look slightly disheveled, but not unkempt. Evelyn didn't really mean to stare but she knew she was. The woman was the color of deep dark bittersweet chocolate. She looked like she would taste smooth and cool. Her eyes were clear and brown with flecks of gold near the centers that made it seem like light was trapped inside of her eyes. She was tall and lean with a good handful of curves to keep her soft, instead of all angles and sharp corners. Her fullness was reflected again in the lushness of her lips blooming like a dark flower beneath her high cheekbones and wide set eyes. It crossed Evelyn's mind that she was being rude but before she could snap out of it,
The woman walked over to Evelyn's desk and placed the black leather bound portfolio she'd been holding atop the smooth cherry wood finish. Before Evelyn could so much as glace at the portfolio the woman had presented her with, the stranger sat in the leather chair directly across from her and crossed her long legs. Evelyn couldn't help but glance at the ample display of leg the woman was showing, as her orange skirt crept up. When she realized the direction her eyes had wandered in Evelyn snapped her eyes to the woman's face. She had only looked for a moment but she somehow had the impression that she'd been caught. The woman held Evelyn's gaze for a moment and allowed a smile to creep around the corners of her full lips before speaking.
"I'm Jerusalem Baptiste, and I'm going to change your life."
"I'm sorry have we met?" Evelyn said blinking in surprise at the woman's comment
"I'm your new designer" the woman said without even a hint of doubt in her voice.
Donnie made a sound akin to a snort and Evelyn glanced at him before turning back to the woman, somehow she was not quite sure what to say, she was rarely out of control of any given situation and so the mere presence of this unexpected visitor unsettled her.
"You'll have to submit your resume and then schedule an appointment then come in for an interview." Evelyn told the woman, dismissing her.
"That's not going to work for me," Jerusalem said meeting Evelyn's eyes and holding her gaze.
Evelyn was losing her patience just a little and when she spoke her voice held a razor sharp edge.
"Well then I guess you're not going to be working for me." Jerusalem laughed a low deep sound, she didn't seem at all concerned nor did she make any move to rise from the chair and be on her way.
She leaned forward after a moment and for some reason Evelyn couldn't look away from her deep brown eyes. She didn't even notice Jerusalem undoing the clasp that held the portfolio closed. The woman had settled back into the chair before Evelyn glanced down. She would have closed the case and sent the woman on packing if the design of the room on the very first page hadn't literally taken her breath away.
She looked through the leather bound photos encased in plastic covers without saying a word, this woman definitely had talent that went beyond color composition and a good eye for furniture. She had that intangible something that Evie had been looking for but hadn't been able to fully define. When she was done with the photos she closed the portfolio case clicking the gold clasp into place.
She had removed the resume that Jerusalem had included and even glanced over it she noted the woman's extensive experience with design companies in New York City and Chicago she also had more than enough schooling to make her qualified for the job twice over, she'd even included a number of glowing recommendation letters and some tear sheets from accredited interior design magazines that her work had been featured in. The rooms had been pictured in the portfolio but Evie hadn't realized they'd been published in magazines as well. She wasn't the least bit surprised based on the quality of the work
. Jerusalem was watching Evelyn with an expression of complete confidence and, her expression was blank but not inattentive. Evelyn watched the woman watching her, she almost wanted to see which one of them would speak first, she wanted the woman across from her to make show some sign of humility but judging from the little she'd learned about Jerusalem in the last few moments she didn't seem like the type of woman who would ask for anything let alone beg. Besides with her qualifications and talent she could get a job at any number of interior design companies, and though she was reluctant to admit it Evie wanted this woman to work for her. She had talent and she was clearly confident, although Evelyn wasn't completely crazy about the way the woman had just walked in expecting to get hired.
"I'll review your resume and get back to you in a day or two I still have other applicants to interview." She told the woman wanting to knock her down a few pegs.
Jerusalem stood and reached into the pocket of her suit jacket, she handed Evelyn a business card before picking up her portfolio and turning to walk away without a word. When she reached the door she turned back and winked then she left.
"mmm mmm mmm" Donnie murmured when Jerusalem had departed. The three syllable sound spoke volumes.
"You gonna hire her?" he asked.
"You know I am D."
"I was just making sure girl, if you'd have said no I was going to have to fall on my knees and plead, I mean hell you saw her work."
"Don't worry D, you don't have to beg and you certainly don't have to get on your knees. Kneeling in front of a woman might kill you any damn way, your heart would just up and fail."
He laughed as he rose from the position he'd settled into upon his arrival "Girl you're tetched."
"I just might be." She said more to herself than Donnie.
The workday went by swiftly enough and much to Evelyn's chagrin the applicants who'd showed up had been sorely under qualified she knew she was going to hire Jerusalem but she'd have loved to be able to say she'd at least considered someone else. As she drove home that evening Evie couldn't help but smile when she thought of the way the woman had just walked in and all but demanded a job.
It was something she herself would do, but it had taken her years to gain that type of confidence, something told her that Miss Jerusalem Baptiste had been born with it. It was two days before Evelyn called the woman back to tell her that she had the job, the phone call didn't go exactly as planned. Evelyn had wanted to draw her answer out and make Jerusalem think that she wasn't f nearly falling down on her knees and praising the good lord that he'd seen fit to answer her prayers. But as it turned out she didn't have the chance, before she could even say hello Jerusalem said
"When do I start."
Evelyn told her she could start Monday and then hung up, more than a little disgruntled that Jerusalem had stolen her thunder.
"Damn caller ID," she murmured to no one in particular.
Donnie looked up from the phone call he was currently on and raised his perfectly arched eyebrows in question. Evie shrugged at him and offered a little smile. She couldn't exactly explain why she was so put out all she knew for sure was that she was indeed put out by Miss Jerusalem Baptiste. Evelyn put the woman from her mind for the time being and went on to complete the few appointments that she had scheduled for the sleepy Friday afternoon. Jerusalem Baptiste hung up the phone and chuckled to herself, she had fully expected to ***** get the job but the fact that she'd pulled it off still satisfied her to no end. She was a woman who was used to getting exactly what she wanted, in fact sometimes it was just to easy. Getting the job had been simple but she had a feeling that Evelyn Masters wasn't going to be such an easy challenge to conquer, which was exactly why Jerusalem was going to make it her business to conquer the woman. It had after all been ages since she'd had a decent challenge and beyond that...well hell she just wanted to and that had always been reason enough. *** Jerusalem came into Evelyn's office on Monday in another one of her tight form fitting "business" suits. This time the color was heather gray. Her hair, a fluffy soft big wavy dream seemed to float upon her shoulders and bounce with every step she took in her high heeled pumps. She pulled off her dark shades and faced Evelyn, who noticed that the complexion of her cocoa brown skin was nearly flawless.
"So," She said, shifting the gaze of her expressive brown eyes between Evelyn and Donnie, "Where's my office?" Evelyn almost choked on her coffee,
"You're office? You work out here."
Evelyn motioned around the reception room where Donnie's and another desk sat in their own corners cluttered with sketch books and magazines.
Jerusalem made a face, "Are you serious?"
Evelyn felt her blood boiling. What made this woman think she was so damned special?
"Associates work out here."
"No offense Ms. Masters, but..."
"Evelyn," Evelyn held up her hand in a non confrontational fashion, "You can call me Evelyn."
"Actually I prefer Ms. Masters. And I prefer for you to address me by Ms. Baptiste. I just want to keep things as professional as possible." Donnie and Evelyn glanced at each other.
"And me being out here without my own space to work is so unprofessional."
"Jeru—I mean, *Ms. Baptiste*," Evelyn said correcting her own mistake, "You must understand that—"
"Look," Jerusalem put a hand on her hip, "You have your own office correct?"
"I own this place," Evelyn scoffed.
"Well do you want to own this 'place' or this whole damned city?" Jerusalem asked. "I can give you everything you need. I have all the connections, all of the talent, all of the experience and skill to bring in multi-millionaire customers." She glared fiercely at her boss. "So as you can tell I am more than adept as a business woman. But above all I am an artist. And I need what I need in order to work. I cannot be out in the open in this way..." She turned to Donnie, "No offense."
Donnie smiled and said, "None taken Ms. Baptiste." Evelyn narrowed her eyes at the woman. She could have choked Donnie, for his little "none taken" comment. She was about as offended as she could possibly be. She couldn't believe what she was hearing,
"What do you suggest? That you take my office?"
Jerusalem said nothing just stared at the woman.
Evelyn laughed, "Oh my goodness. You are a piece of work." She shook her head.
"Listen, if you think I'm just going to..."
The phone rang and Donnie lunged to answer it,
"Design and Conquer, Donald speaking..." He looked up with a look of shock on his face. Evelyn motioned with her hands in a pulling motion towards the young designer. What was wrong?
"Yes, she's here, hold please." Donnie put the call on hold. "Evie, you will NOT believe who that was!"
"Jeffrey Garner." Jerusalem said matter of factly as she looked at her nails.
Evelyn looked back and forth between Donnie and Jerusalem, "Was it?"
Donnie gulped and nodded. Jeffrey was a huge Real Estate mogul known for building luxury complexes all over town. She heard that that he had needed a designer for his new sky high restaurant downtown on the top floor of one of his towers. It was nothing like say, designing for a whole complex but it was huge. She had been trying to get her hands on this account for sometime but never had the connections. Evelyn was in awe yet resentful. She looked at the statuesque woman knowing that this was a battle that Jerusalem had won. She sighed.
"Shall I take the call in my office?" Jerusalem asked.
Donnie gave her a pleading look.
Evelyn gritted her teeth but tried to appear non-plussed. "Fine Jeru—Ms. Baptiste. You can take the call."
"Thank you," she said as she sauntered to Evelyn's office. After she'd left Donnie made a fainting motion by pressing his forearm to his brow and tossing his head back,
"Oh my God, could you believe it?"
"No," Evelyn said bitterly. "In fact I can't. Who does she think she is?"
"It's just an office Evie. One you barely even use" Donnie said clasping her shoulder,
"Just work out here with me, it's no big deal right?"