The Boss Project by Vi Keeland



“I, uh, was eating cherries.” I looked down at my stained blouse and offered an apologetic smile. “When I’m nervous, I snack, and I passed a fruit stand that had Bing cherries. They’re my weakness. Though I realize now it wasn’t a good idea fifteen minutes before my interview.”

The woman’s forehead wrinkles deepened. To be fair, my shirt was speckled with more than one or two cherry stains. If there was any shot of saving this interview, I had to jump in and try to make her laugh with the truth.

“I dropped one cherry,” I continued. “It bounced and left red dots in three places before I could catch it. I tried to get the stain out in the ladies’ room. But this is silk, and it wouldn’t come out. So then I had the bright idea to make it look like a pattern. I had a few cherries left, so I bit them open and tried to replicate the marks.” I shook my head. “It didn’t work out too well, obviously, but my choices at that point were to go shopping for a clean shirt and be late for our interview, or try to pull it off as fashion. I thought it wouldn’t be that noticeable…” I sighed quietly. “Guess I was wrong.”

The woman cleared her throat. “Yes, well… Why don’t we get started with the interview, shall we?”

I forced a smile and folded my hands on my lap, even though it seemed like I already didn’t get the job. “That would be great.”

Twenty minutes later, I was back out on the street. At least she didn’t waste too much of my time. I could grab some more delicious cherries and still have time to stop at a store for a new shirt before my last interview of the week. That put a spring in my step.

After I stopped back by the fruit stand, I jumped on the subway. I’d grab a new shirt somewhere between the train station and my appointment.

But two stops into my trip, we screeched to an abrupt halt and didn’t move for the better part of an hour. The guy sitting across from me kept staring in my direction. At one point, I dug into my purse for something to fan myself with, because the train was really starting to get hot. He looked down at his phone and back up at me two or three times. I tried to ignore it, but suspected I knew exactly what was coming.

A few moments later, he leaned forward in his seat. “Excuse me. But you’re that bride, aren’t you?” He turned his phone to show me a video that I wished did not exist. “The one that blew up her wedding?”

This wasn’t the first time I’d been recognized, though it had been at least a month or two since the last encounter, so I’d hoped the insanity had finally passed. Guess it hadn’t. People sitting to the left and the right of us on the train were now paying attention, so I did what I had to in order to escape being bombarded with questions once I admitted the truth: I lied straight through my teeth.

“Nope. Not me. But people have told me I could be her twin.” I shrugged. “They say everyone has a doppelgänger somewhere. I guess she’s mine.” After a pause, I added, “Wish it was me, though. She’s a badass, isn’t she?”

The guy glanced down at his phone again and then back up. He didn’t look like he believed a word I’d said, but at least he let it go. “Oh. Yeah, sure. Sorry to bother you.”

Another hour later, the train finally started moving again. No one had even bothered to make an announcement about the holdup. By the time I got off, I only had about twenty minutes before my next interview, and I still had on my cherry-stained shirt. And…I’d dropped a couple more as I binged while sitting on the hot train. So I rushed up the subway stairs, hoping I could find something presentable to wear on the way to my appointment.

A few buildings down from my interview, I finally found a store with both men’s and women’s clothing in the window. A saleswoman with a heavy Italian accent offered to help as soon as I walked into Paloma Boutique.

“Hi. Would you have a cream silk blouse? Or white? Or…” I shook my head and looked down. “Basically anything I can put on with this skirt?”

The woman eyed my top. I gave her credit for not reacting. Instead, she nodded, and I followed her to a rack where she pulled out three different silk blouses. Any of them would do. Relieved, I asked where the fitting room was, and she started to walk me toward the back of the store. But when someone called out from the register, she pointed to a door and barked something at me in a mix of Italian and English. I thought it might be “I’ll check on you in a moment,” but whatever. It didn’t seem too important.

Inside the dressing room, I looked at myself in the mirror. My lips glowed bright red. The pound of cherries I’d eaten on the train must’ve stained them. “Shit,” I mumbled and rubbed at my mouth. But it wasn’t coming off before my interview. Thankfully my teeth had been spared. Those damn cherries had turned out to be a disaster. Though I didn’t have time to deal with anything else, so I shook my head, pulled off my ruined top, and took one of the blouses from the hanger. Before I slipped it on, it occurred to me that perhaps I should clean up a bit. The hot subway car had left me feeling not too fresh. So I grabbed my purse and fished out an old wet wipe from a wing place I’d gone to a few weeks ago. Thankfully, it was still moist. A lemony scent wafted through the air as I raised my right arm to wipe, and I wondered if that smell would transfer to my skin. Curious, I bent my head and sniffed. Which was exactly the position I was in when the fitting room door whipped open.