A/N: I never expected to get as far as chapter two. It’s been such a long time since I had sat down and written like this, written more than a paragraph, let alone a chapter. I hope I can keep this up. Please note this isn’t edited. It’s raw. I just went at it so there are plenty of mistakes probably.
Allison pulled at the skirt of her pastel blue dress, feeling uncomfortable in her own skin at her father’s office party. Her stomach felt empty, despite the salad she had previously eaten. After spending a good twenty minutes in front of the mirror in the woman’s restroom, Allison had managed, barely, to talk herself into showing her face to the crowd of and mingle with her father’s co-workers and clients like she knew he wanted. She couldn’t help but be shy.
The floor of the office building they were all on was filled with cubicles and topped off with private offices for not only her father but for the major editors just one rank beneath him. The atmosphere was stuffed with pristine people dressed in expensive suits and dresses, high heels, and fake smile accompanied by fake laughter.
“Ally,” called her father a few feet away. She felt his hand grasp her arm and pull her into a little grouped circle.
“You remember Jackson Willis?”
Of course Allison remembered Jackson. Her father introduced her to him every single party.
“Professor at the university, yeah,” she responded as she pulled her softly-tinted pink lips into a believable smile. She took his outstretched hand and shook it was respect.
Not only was Jackson her father’s old professor, but he was also a loyal client with two books out and one on its way.
“Man, Tyler. Your daughter is beautiful!” he complimented as if Allison couldn’t hear him.
She held her smile as her father put his arm around her. Here it goes, she thought, suddenly wishing she could turn invisible, that she wasn’t there at that stupid office party.
“She’s on the honor roll again,” her father boasted, pointing a finger at her as if she were a prized possession.
Her cheeks heated up and her smile faltered for a moment. She despised this sort of attention and no matter how many times her father had put her in the spot light like this, she had never been able to get used to it.
Her eyes wondered over to the two other men in the circle. One, she recognized as her father’s closest friend and one of the editors here, and the other a stranger.
Although once her father’s professor, Jackson, was a man younger than what he should have been when Allison had first heard of him, she imagined a withered old wise man. Instead, a man with dark hair and slightly gray streaks, sun-kissed skin, and a happy 54-year old man had shook her hand when she finally had the chance to meet him. He was kind and a try-hard at being funny, but he never attempted at holding a conversation with Allison. She was never sure of what to think of him and that had always bothered her.
Her father laughed at something Jackson had said when he turned them slightly to where they faced the stranger in the circle. “Allison, this is Darren Moore. He’s a brilliant new professor at the university and now one of our new clients.”
Darren, the stranger, reached out a pale hand to Allison. She shook it, looking over him as she studied him. He had to be close to thirty years old with big hazel eyes, beneath thick black eyebrows and short black hair. He was handsome, in a way. And of course he just had to be a professor. Why else wouldn’t her father introduce them?
“Pleasure to meet you,” he said warmly, flashing her a friendly smile before Allison took her hand back.
“Hopefully Allison will have you as a professor as well, Darren,” said her father with enthusiasm that made her cringe.
Darren watched her and sensed her unease with the conversation about college somehow.
“Excuse me,” she said immediately as she slipped away from her father and away from the group. Her father had already began to talk about something else, missing the fact that she had escaped.
She found the door to her father’s large office, slipped inside, and relaxed as the door shut behind her and drowned out the noisy conversations. The still silence wrapped around her like a security blanket and she sat down in her father’s leather desk chair, feeling at peace for the first time that night.
She eyed the belongings on the desk from the photo of her from the last time the school had their picture day to the black mesh can holding red felt tip pens and black Pilot G-2 pens. She had been in here hundreds of times and just like any other time, she took out one of her father’s spare notepads form his bottom left desk drawer and began writing.
She only wrote when she was bored. It’s what she did with her spare time back at school when she should have been doing her homework or maybe even studying. She loved to write, but only during moments like this.
Suddenly the office door opened and readying for the scorn of her father for so many reasons, she let out a breath she had sucked in sharply when she saw it to be Darren, not her father.
“Oh. Sorry,” he said with wide, earnestly apologetic eyes.
“No, it’s fine,” replied Allison, wondering what he was doing in here.
He must have somehow sensed her wondering that. Pointing to the door, he shrugged. “Was just looking to escape for a moment. Not one for large, crowded gatherings like this,” he murmured.
The door shut, taking its light with it and leaving the two drenched in the low lighting of the desk lamp her father always had on. It gave enough light to write and read perfectly fine at the desk, but only cast a thin sheen of light around the perimeter, barely allowing Allison to make out the expression on Darren’s face.
Allison nodded, believing his explanation as she went back to her writing regardless of how aware she was of him.
In the corner of her eyes, she watched him slowly walk around the office and closer to the lighting where the bookshelves housing her father’s prized published books from his clients were illuminated by the light just enough. All the while, half-focused on the words she was writing.
At some point, she felt his eyes on her.
“What are you writing, if you don’t mind me asking?” He walked over to the desk and towered over it.
She shrugged. “Just some story,” she said, feeling her cheeks go hot.
“A story? About what?” The light shown on his genuinely curious face and she fidgeted a little bit in the chair as their eyes locked. In this lighting they looked green. But focusing this close, she could pinpoint the gold flecks in them.
“Romance,” she answered.
A short, soft laugh escaped from his mouth. She watched as he nodded his head, trying to read her writing upside-down. “What kind of romance?”
“Teenage. High school.”
Suddenly the two heard the party become loud as it seeped through the door. They were cheering on something. It made Darren sigh, as if he were about to force himself to do something he didn’t want to but knew he had to.
“I’d better get back.”
Darren headed for the door and as his hand clasped the doorknob, he turned and looked back at Allison.
“I’d love to read your story sometime. I love romance,” he said as he opened the door and left her by herself.
She sat there at the desk, in shock that someone genuinely wanted to read her writing, someone who wasn’t her father who was only there to judge if she was good or not.
“Hmph,” she grumbled as she ripped the few filled pieces of paper and stuffed them in her purse, putting everything back where she got it from as she forced herself to return to the party, hoping that it was almost over.