I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair--it just won't behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, to bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope that I look semi-presentable.
Kate is my roommate, and she has chosen today of all days to succumb to the flu. Therefore, she cannot attend the interview she'd arranged to do, with some mega-industrialist tycoon I've never heard of, for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for and one essay to finish, and I'm supposed to be working this afternoon, but no--today I have to drive 165 miles to downtown Seattle in order to meet the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. As an exceptional entrepreneur and major benefactor of our university, his time is extraordinarily precious--much more precious than mine--but he has granted Kate an interview. A real coup, she tells me. Damn her extracurricular activities.
Kate is huddled on the couch in the living room.
"Ana, I'm sorry. It took me nine months to get this interview. It will take another six to reschedule, and we'll both have graduated by then. As the editor, I can't blow this off. Please," Kate begs me in her rasping, sore throat voice. How does she do it? Even ill she looks gamine and gorgeous, strawberry blond hair in place and green eyes bright, although now red rimmed and runny. I ignore my pang of unwelcome sympathy.
"Of course I'll go, Kate. You should get back to bed. Would you like some NyQuil or Tylenol?"
"NyQuil, please. Here are the questions and my digital recorder. Just press record here. Make notes, I'll transcribe it all."
"I know nothing about him," I murmur, trying and failing to suppress my rising panic.
"The questions will see you through. Go. It's a long drive. I don't want you to be late."
"Okay, I'm going. Get back to bed. I made you some soup to heat up later." I stare at her fondly. Only for you, Kate, would I do this.
"I will. Good luck. And thanks, Ana--as usual, you're my lifesaver."
Gathering my backpack, I smile wryly at her, then head out the door to the car. I cannot believe I have let Kate talk me into this. But then Kate can talk anyone into anything. She'll make an exceptional journalist. She's articulate, strong, persuasive, argumentative, beautiful--and she's my dearest, dearest friend.
The roads are clear as I set off from Vancouver, Washington, toward Interstate 5. It's early, and I don't have to be in Seattle until two this afternoon. Fortunately, Kate has lent me her sporty Mercedes CLK. I'm not sure Wanda, my old VW Beetle, would make the journey in time. Oh, the Merc is a fun drive, and the miles slip away as I hit the pedal to the metal.
My destination is the headquarters of Mr. Grey's global enterprise. It's a huge twenty-story office building, all curved glass and steel, an architect's utilitarian fantasy, with GREY HOUSE written discreetly in steel over the glass front doors. It's a quarter to two when I arrive, greatly relieved that I'm not late as I walk into the enormous--and frankly intimidating--glass, steel, and white sandstone lobby.