Catherine decided now was a time to get up and walk out before debris finds itself in her auburn hair and all over her new attire. She put her arms through her grey jacket’s sleeves, shuffles her papers together, and places them in her desk to protect them in case Woodford creates another small storm in the office. She whispers a short phrase into the ear of Marshton Brandt, “Coffee Break” and hurredly moves out of the offices of the tabloid paper and down the stairs into the common lobby of the Campman Building.
The Campman Building is nestled between the Armstrong hotel and grocer on Fullman Avenue. On the second floor is the Sunderville Alarm. The third floor houses the offices of ward #8 representative Cameron Lager and a small investment firm, Manos-Taurus. The fourth floor was unknown to Catherine. She hadn’t met anyone that works up there, nor did she have the curiosity to go snooping around there. The common lobby of the building is decorated all around with furnishings from the east: Persian rugs, Ottomans, and Japanese fire-lamps. Shelves of throw away books line the walls, along with pictures of building proprietors and famous events captured in the news. A small kitchen and wait staff is maintained by the owner, Joseph Campman, to cater to the business tenants. Catherine finds a reclining couch near a far off corner, waving off an approaching waiter. She removes her jacket, exposing her deep red blouse. She lies down in the couch, frees her feet from the pointed flats she wears everyday to work, and begins to collect her thoughts and compose herself for the remainder of the day.
Catherine Faber had hoped for a chance to make a mark in the career of news reporting. For years women have begun to assert themselves in several literary fields. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters from Norway was a major inspiration for her. She wanted to write stories about society and the average person’s existence in the city. She wanted to be a champion for the normal person and show that people like her could lead fantastic lives. Yet, editors like Woodford prefer stories in the style of Mary Shelley. News was being overrun by outrageous accounts of mad scientists and the consequences of their dalliances with dabbling in mastering the God’s domains. Newsprints follow the idea that where there’s magic, it’s fantastic. Catherine is dismayed that mundane life had become so menial.
A second body sits at the foot of the couch. With delicate hands Marshton Brandt rubs Catherine’s feet, eliciting a purr from her lips. “5 more minutes” she says.
Brandt stops manipulating her feet and motions to a waiter. “2 cups of Colombian. Milk and sugar in one. Black the other.”
As the waiter leaves Catherine teases Brandt. “So, I’m going to be used as a way for you to obscure the fact you can’t take your coffee without a few additives.”
“You are my beard.”
Catherine runs a hand over his face, “Could you even grow one? I wonder what you’d look like with a mustache.”
Brandt cocks his head askew, asking, “Would you want me to wear something like Woodford had last year?”
Catherine erupts with glee, placing a hand against her chest to catch her breath as she giggles maniacly, “Oh god, no! That little broomshaped thing under the nose? Martin, don’t you ever do that!” Catherine tossles his short blonde hair destroying the part he put in it on the right side of his head. Martin begins to slump down in embarrassment. His shirt just drapes over his body. Catherine can tell how thin is he underneath his black, button-down, pocketed shirt. He likes to leave his shirt untucked a bit, as it gives him a sense that he has a larger frame than he really does.
Martin muses, “Perhaps I’ll grow out my sideburns and let my hair grow long.”
When the coffee comes in, Martin offers to cover the cost of both their cups, which Catherine gladly accepts. She put her feet back into their shoes and both her and Brandt sit side by side in the couch, silently sipping their drinks.
Catherine is pensive about returning upstairs. She has not had the chance to develop any real story for the next edition of the paper. It has been over a week since she could turn in anything she felt was up to Woodford’s standards. The last thing she wanted was to find her way into Wallace’s sights. Attempting to make conversation she asks Martin, “Have you gotten any leads you haven’t been able to follow up on, lately?”
Martin shakes his head no and lets out a deep breath. “I’ve only got my own lead. I’ve been working on a story about new advances to help extract more energy out of the volcano dome. The new director has been on a media blitz about this technology.”
Catherine whines to him, “Maybe I can do a story about the people out in the woods and how they have to co-exist with the power-dome. You know if this technology will do anything about the soil blightening that has been spreading from the city into the valley?”
Martin shakes his head, “It’s only going to try and pull more energy out of the geothermic dome. All that means is probably more soot in the air and more dead trees. Woodford doesn’t care about who lives down in the valley. If you want personal stories, you should do a write up on a Privateer.”
Catherine scoffs at the thought. “You gotta find one that is personable. They’re hardly human or just live in their own fantasy world.”
“Perhaps you could find one whose fantasy includes a girl like you?”