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Story Notes:
I wrote this a while ago and finally managed to post it here. I hope you enjoy it.

I am happy, clutching the contract to my chest like a mother holding on to her beloved child and although my fingertips are pressed against the evidence, I cannot quite believe what has just happened.

I mean, I just landed a job with a huge local company called The Centre! (Why they got themselves such a weird name I have not yet figured out, but frankly I do not care.)

The salary is far beyond everything I have hoped for and as far as I have been briefed, the work will be interesting and also challenging to some extent. Now on my way out, I have my mind set on a nice bottle of champagne to celebrate with.

My elation suddenly subsides as I step into the hall. I don’t know why but even though it is one very happy day in my life, I have a frightening sense of foreboding as a woman approaches me. She looks right through me and everyone else who contributes to the initial crowdedness of the hall.

The reason for the sudden cloud that has moved in front of the happy sun that has been warming my spirits is quite obviously the horribly haunted look in her eyes which makes my heart ache.

I instinctively know that the anguish in her eyes wasn’t caused recently, that it is not due to a momentary sadness. It is permanent like a chronic illness or like a snake’s poison having spread through a human body.

Her pale face possesses a classic beauty that is accented by her elegant suit and the shiny black hair, but still her eyes are what I am solely drawn to.

Suddenly one single urge takes control of me:

I want to make this woman smile.

I have always been willing to share my happiness with others and I believe in the fact that a smile that you give to someone can save a day. Even a life, sometimes.

I know that I cannot heal her wounds but I want to help and make her feel good if even for a moment.

She is close to me now and her shoulder almost brushes mine as she passes me, without even acknowledging my very presence. She only reacts to me as I adress her.

“Hey,” I say and she stops, then turns around very slowly and, as I realize too late, menancingly.

“What?” I have not expected her voice to be such a low growl. A lighter tone would have suited those eyes of a shattered soul much better than this.

“You looked so sad,” I say without even thinking about it and touch her elbow very lightly. All I want is the tiniest of smiles. “Such a… such a beautiful woman should have a reason to smile.”

I notice too late that what comes from my heart in fact sounds like a very lame pick up line. Her eyes have turned cold and neutral and do not give away any kind of reaction to my ramblings.

She slightly bends forward and looks at the folder in my arms. “I see you are our newest employee,” she says and inside I marvel at the now rich quality of her voice that reminds me of red wine: Bitter but still warming you up inside.

“Yes.” I beam.

“Well,” she says. “Looks like soon you will have nothing to smile about anymore, too.”

Our eyes meet and my throat goes dry when I realize that she means what she says.

Her lips are suddenly close to my ear as she whispers in a breath that feels like acid on my skin: “You have no idea what you have just got yourself into with this hell called the Centre.”

Her scent still lingers as she walks away, her stiletto heels an angry staccato on the floor. I stare at her back, my heart thundering inside my chest and then finally receive what I have been waiting for all along.

She gives me a smile over her shoulder as she heads for the elevator but it is crueller than I have ever imagined a smile to be capable of being.

Suddenly I am everything but happy and all of a sudden the rainy November day outside seems inviting.

Chapter End Notes:
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