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Broken French
Author: Natasha Boyd

Chapter One

 

 

JOSIE

Charleston, SC, USA

 

I pulled a pillow over my head to block out the sound of an early alarm beeping incessantly through the thin wall in our downtown Charleston apartment. When the sound didn't stop, I flung the pillow off my head and blinked my eyes open. "Tabitha!" I huffed on a moan. "Why?"

There was no answer, but the clinks and bangs of antique pipes running water to the shower down the hall in our only bathroom answered for her. Tabs must have forgotten to turn off her alarm clock. It was a good thing I was getting up early anyway. Today would be a turning point for me. I felt for my phone and squinted at the screen. It was way earlier than I’d normally get up, but there were two missed calls from my mother. She was as anxious about my presentation today as I was, and she’d transferred that agitation to me without even trying. No amount of “I got this, Ma,” could stop her motherly worrying.

I padded through to our tiny kitchen and sighed with relief to see Tabs had started the coffee before showering. I’d call my mother back as soon as I could think straight.

The water in the shower turned off and while I poured coffee, there were the sounds of makeup bag rummaging, and then the hairdryer. She must have a fancy client meeting today. Something dropped, and she hissed a curse. I poured a second cup and knocked on the door. “Seven a.m. wake up? Who’s the client?”

The door opened and she poked her face out, brown skin shining and vibrant. “Coffee? Josie, you goddess.”

“You’re welcome.” I leaned on the doorjamb as she took the cup.

“My girl in France quit yesterday. She was supposed to start in three days. I have a video conference call with the family in a couple of hours. Well, the dad. He’s a single dad. Filthy rich. A filthy rich Frenchman who probably wants his money back.” She grimaced.

“So, you’re dolling yourself up to get him to what? Change his mind? Ask you out?”

“Hey!” she protested with a grin. “To look professional, of course.”

I smiled. “Okay.” It was no secret that Tabitha, in running her own agency providing exclusive, highly vetted nannies to the rich and famous, was hoping that one day she’d find her own happily-ever-after. A single dad would definitely fit the bill. She wanted a successful business and then a family, in that order. She’d accomplished the first within several years of us graduating college.

“Stop, Josie.” She rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “I was hoping to find him another nanny, but I’ve exhausted all my available people and it’s so last minute. I’m about to let him and his daughter down. I’ll ask Meredith if she knows of anyone when she wakes up. Anyway, I’ll be out soon.”

“Good. I also need to look professional today.”

“You always do.” She turned to the mirror to finish her eyeliner as she talked. “You’re going to do great. You know you’re going to get this promotion. You’ve put in the time and the work, and from what you’ve shared with me, you always have the best designs. I don’t know what historic Charleston would do without you looking out for its aesthetic.”

“Ha ha.”

“I’m serious! It actually came up in conversation yesterday. I meant to tell you. I was at the bank and some big wig was congratulating them on renovating while enhancing the historical elements and the bank manager mentioned your firm. So you can guess I immediately jumped in and told them your name and how you were the architect to watch.”

“You didn’t!”

“Of course I did. No point in letting that old lecherous boss of yours get all the credit when it’s your designs getting him the praise.”

“That’s what being a part of a prestigious firm is about. It’s a team effort. Besides, my immediate boss is a sweetheart, it’s the other partner, Mr. Tate, who holds the lecherous distinction.” I’d adored that project. Most of our projects these days were new construction though.

She snapped open a case holding the fake eyelashes she always wore for video conferencing. “And that’s another reason you need your name on the team door. So you can start changing the workplace culture.”

“We’re only as good as the work we all put forward,” I said, parroting the company motto. “And name on the door? Hold your horses. I’m trying to make senior associate, not buy in to partner. It will be a while until I can afford that.”

“I know, love. Student loans will kill us all. But seriously, you are the best young architect they have. You can’t tell me that frat boy nephew of Mr. Tate’s has one ounce of your talent.”

I took a sip of coffee to hide my grimace at her accurate assessment of our most recent hire, Jason. “I don’t like to speak ill of people. Anyway, hurry up, glamor puss. I need to shower.”

She tutted before dabbing some gloss on her lips and giving herself a side-to-side preen in the mirror.

“You look great,” I said.

She came out the doorway and pointed at me. “And you’ll have your name on that masthead before long. But in the meantime, after you get this promotion, maybe we can all move to that new building by the marina and finally have a view.”

Our main picture window looked over a cobblestone alley and faced the brick side of the next row of homes. It was a beautiful brick wall as brick walls went. Antique, built hundreds of years ago, and adorned with earthquake medallions. But it was still a wall. A view could be nice.

I grinned. “Thanks for the pep rally. And I’m all for a view, but don’t sell me on a view of boats, you know how much I hate boats.”

Tabs closed the door to her bedroom but not before poking her head back out. “You hate being on a boat. Looking at boats is not the same thing.”

“Fine,” I conceded with a laugh.

I showered quickly, tying my hair out of the way, glad I’d had the foresight to wash and blow it out the day before.

Meredith, Tabitha, and I had moved in together after college. I’d still had a year of architecture grad school, but Tabitha was already earning a decent income from the agency she’d started out of her dorm room, and Meredith had just started at a small investment firm courtesy of her family connections. We’d lucked out when we’d found this apartment on the top floor of a converted row house in downtown Charleston. It was in the historic district. I loved the historic district. There were some of the best restaurants in the South on our doorstep, architecture to admire, and history to steep in. And girls’ night with some dancing and a couple of martinis was never more than a few steps away. But we were definitely cramped and still all sharing one bathroom. Almost four years later and the other two could afford more, but I’d been paying off student loans, with plans to then save every nickel in order to one day buy in as a partner at my firm. I was determined to be the youngest partner in the city. Before then though, I had a promotion and pay raise to negotiate. After that, I might consider moving.

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