this is just to say

...hello! And that I am alive, just getting my ass kicked by the adjustment to full-time work. (Also that I've admittedly been spending more time socializing than writing the past couple of weekends...)

But more is coming. More of me, more of Riley, more of Chaucer, more of everything. There is no shortage of content, only of time.

I'm moving in a couple of weeks so I need to spend most of my free time getting for that. But once I'm settled I'll be closer to work (read: shorter commute! more leisure time!), which will make everything a lot easier. I hope.

In the meantime, much May love.

goats

Riley is worried about the goats. Goats she's never seen. Goats she knows next to nothing about. Goats the sale of which was arranged over the phone, triangulated between herself, her boss, and a gentle-sounding rancher named Flavio.

Flavio called Riley late on Sunday, troubled about the circumstances under which he'd just delivered four goats (including a baby and its mother) to one of Baxter's properties. Namely: in the dark of night, to a peculiar man he'd never met before, who paid him by check. A man who'd insisted on the late-night delivery, despite Flavio's objections. (I'll pay you extra, whatever you want. Money's not an issue. Just bring the goats tonight. Can you do that? Can you drive them down tonight? If not I don't want them. I'll find someone else.)

"It's okay," Riley assured him. "The check isn't going to bounce." Riley told the rancher a bit more about her boss's businesses so he'd feel at ease. "He's weird. For sure. But there are caretakers on that property, and the animals will be looked after." This was only a slight exaggeration of the scarce information she had. She knew Thorne had a few acres of land in Palo Alto, and that there were animals on the property. She knew that at least one gardener visited regularly, and that there were tenants living next door whom Baxter paid to handle some of the upkeep. But she couldn't say--not with any genuine truth--that the goats were and would be fine. Not yet, anyway. But damned if she wasn't going to make sure of it, as soon as possible. Riley loved goats.

Which is what she changed the subject to, with Flavio. A baby! Three weeks old? Riley asked all the questions she could think to, about what the animals would need that Baxter and his staff might not know.

"Hopefully I can go see them this weekend," she said. "I've let Thorne know how much I'd love to visit the ranch, and when I do, I promise to report back. With pictures," she added.

After she'd ended the call Riley reflected, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, on the unpredictability of her job. Yes, her boss could be nightmarishly difficult. Yes, he took sadistic delight in making her jump through hoops of fire. But then: goats.

Goats.

see no evil

Of all the stupid, pointless, utterly time-wasting--

Riley's inner monologue was interrupted by his call. She plugged her left ear against the chaotic din of the bustling toy district and pressed the phone tight against her right. "Hi, Thorne." 

"Hey babe. So what's going on? Did you get the monkeys?" 

"Well...no." Riley took a deep breath, steeling herself. Nothing to be done. It was her fault for getting such a late start today. "The shop is closed. It was closed when I got here." She paused, then added slightly defensively: "All the others are still open."

Thorne sighed heavily, and she felt herself slip down a notch. Maybe a few. This was not the indispensability she was going for. But goddamn it, it was ninety degrees in downtown Los Angeles today. If she'd come out any earlier she'd be soaked with sweat and useless for the rest of her day off. As it was she was already overheated, grumpy, and way behind on sleep.

But Thorne wasn't in the mood to yell. Maybe he was tired, too. She was going to get off easy today. "Alright well maybe she just went to lunch." At three thirty? Riley was doubtful. "Check the other stores in the area and the double back to hers, okay?" 

"Yep. Will do." Riley stopped there. She wanted to say something assuring and competent-sounding, about how she'd do laps up and down the noisy, filthy streets until she found her boss's monkeys. She wanted to tell him that she'd had the sense to call ahead and get the shopkeeper's assurance she'd be there until five, and that when she'd walked up to a shuttered storefront she'd immediately begun hunting elsewhere. But she knew that as far as he was concerned, the conversation was over. Orders had been issued. Time for the soldier to salute and fall out.

She slipped the phone back into her pocket and took stock of the situation. Her assignment was simple enough: find a store that sold or would order the talking, dancing, battery-operated stuffed monkey that for whatever reason Thorne Baxter had taken a liking to, and buy $1000 worth of them, so he could pass them out as gifts. 

But it wasn't the assignment that was troubling her, despite the fact that so far no one in the dozen shops she'd visited even recognized the toy she dangled in front of them hopefully, much less were interested in ordering it from China. It was the inanity of the errand. This was not what she'd signed up for. This did not even remotely resemble light office work. And this was just the latest in a series of utterly random and seemingly absurd projects Baxter had tasked her with since starting. And at some point, Riley was sure, that list would be complete, and she'd be out of a job. Because how much nonsense could one eccentric millionaire inventor cycle through before he got bored and got back to real work? And what would she assist in then? Riley knew Baxter was too much of a control freak to delegate any important responsibilities. He simply thought everyone was too stupid to get it right. How many times had she heard him ranting? Gotta do it myself. Gotta do every last goddamn thing myself. Bunch of idiots around me. Bunch of fucking idiots!

Riley shrugged it off. No use worrying about things that hadn't happened. For now, anyway, she had something to do, and something to get paid for. That's all that mattered. If she could come through for her boss on the small things, maybe he'd entrust bigger things to her down the road. Then she'd be indispensable. It was possible. 

An hour later, however, and Riley had not come through. The monkey Thorne wanted was apparently one of a kind. A fucking unicorn. No one knew anything about it. They shook their heads helplessly, some even averting their eyes as if what Riley brandished were dangerous. Crawling with Baxter's bad vibes, perhaps. Oh sure, there were other monkeys. Plenty of soft, cuddly, plush dolls with embroidered smiles and squishy tummies. But none of the rough, black-furred, mean-looking toys her boss liked. What was it about them, anyway? And why monkeys? Why not teddy bears? Everyone loves teddy bears. Monkeys, though--there was something going on there, Riley knew. Some hidden insult. Some message Baxter wanted to send. You are all fucking monkeys, every last one of you. And I am king of the jungle. 

An old man in a tattered t-shirt and jeans pedaled by in front of her, his bicycle retrofitted with a platform for stacking flattened boxes. The jumble of cardboard was strapped down tight--the discarded shells of mass-produced, factory line fun. On impulse, Riley snapped his photo, and he smiled at her. She nodded back, then marched forth on her fool's errand feeling, for some reason, ever so slightly less foolish. 

---

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Hey kids, how goes it. Listen, if you're enjoying Riley's adventures here then come check her brand new Instagram account, @righthandriley! Expect exclusive, behind-the-scenes content (namely, photos) that you won't see here, plus captions so long you'll instantly regret following! Or maybe not, maybe you're a glutton for my shitty prose.

I'm keeping the account private and capping the follow count off at 100, since I do need to be careful about privacy and I guess I have some dumb idea that I can keep things under control that way. Probably not. It's all probably a huge mistake. But my mistakes have always been your entertainment, amirite? Also I'm not accepting follows from private accounts, sorry. But as long as you seem normal and not nefarious, we're good.

- E

Mia

"She's a gold digger. Plain and simple. Like all women. They just want to use me. Suck my blood. Drain me dry. You see it, right?" He glances at his assistant, but the neutral expression on her face fails to satisfy him. "No, you don't see it. You don't see it."

Baxter jerks angrily in his seat, gripping the wheel of the Mercedes and shaking his head in disgust. Disgust at what, Riley isn't sure. The woman in question, Mia? Herself? All of the above? 

She doesn't say anything, because she doesn't know what to say. This is the hardest part for Riley: resisting her instincts to speak up. To speak out. To disagree. Because there is no disagreeing with Thorne Baxter. Not yet, anyway. Right now there is only compliance. And lots of nodding, with pursed lips to express sympathy. But in her head--well, that is a different story. In her head there is an endless stream of sarcasm and eye rolling. 

Yes, Thorne. I see it. I see how put upon you are. How unfair the world is to you. What a victim you are, with your millions, your endless resources and privilege. It must be so hard for you. 

"It's definitely weird," she says carefully. This is tricky ground. Baxter expects agreement, expects her to be one hundred percent in his corner in all his many battles--but he can tell when she's faking it. Conversations with her boss can quickly become minefields in this way. "I thought she had her own money--" she starts.

"Ha!" Baxter's contempt flies like spit at the windshield. "No way. No, no, no. Let me tell you something, okay? Women over forty? They get fucking weird, man. They go crazy." Thorne screws his face tightly at the horror he describes. "The ones that have kids, that are divorced? They're desperate. They have no fucking money. Leeches. They just want a meal ticket. And the ones that don't have kids? Loony birds. They lose their minds." He nods at his own wisdom. Riley sits motionless, strangely fascinated by his hatred. "This chick? Mia? She's no different. Saw me, saw a free ride."

It all started at brunch on Saturday. The blind date Riley was paid to sit in on, for reasons she is still not clear on. The one with lovely, funny Grant Bloodworth, who set it up. Thorne was especially dickish to her that day, despite all plans to assert herself, to make clear her refusal to be ordered around like a dog. Or maybe that was why. Squash the rebellion early. Nip it in the bud. Can't have the help thinking it deserves humane treatment. 

Anyway, that was the day he met Mia. He really liked her, at first. Riley did too. She was fearless in the face of Baxter's assault. Sassy, self-assured. She met his pushy come-ons with good humor, more patience than Riley could believe, and a generous helping of wit. Spoke lightly of her connections in entertainment, politics. Casually dropped the right names to set Baxter's interest on fire. But there was something else to Mia, Riley could sense it. An anchor of experience that she recognized. Hurt of some kind. Loss. Determination to get back to the top where she'd been. If Mia was going to be used, she was going to use back. 

In the days following brunch, Thorne was whipped into a suitor's frenzy. He texted Mia constantly. Rather, Riley texted her constantly. Handling her boss's phone conversations had quickly become one of her duties. For one thing, Baxter was usually driving, and didn't have the patience to wait until he'd stopped to send a message himself. For another, his grammar and spelling were atrocious. And so it was Riley's job to handle the phone and the texting. Women. Setting up dates. Business discussions. Exchanges of information. Directions for Baxter's various vendors, employees, tenants, and other associates. All in Riley's hands. 

But something went wrong somewhere. Mia pushed too hard, too soon. Tipped her hand. Asked for something. A piece of jewelry. Expensive. Testing Baxter. Seeing what she could get from him. And what she got was an explosion of indignation the shrapnel of which was still raining down on Riley.

"This is what I'm talking about. All this shit. People. They just slow you down. You can't have friends. You can't get married. You gotta stay free." He eases into his words. They are a familiar, safe space. His prayer to himself. "You gotta look out for yourself, and only yourself. You know how much money I'd have if I'd let some wife get a hold of me? If I'd had kids?" Riley knows the correct answer, but lets her boss push through his whole monologue uninterrupted. "None. None. Relationships are just a big fucking drain. You can either have money and happiness in this world, or you can have relationships. Isn't that crazy? Isn't that a trip?" They're at a stoplight now, and Baxter takes the opportunity to give Riley a long, searching look. "You get it now, don't you? You see it?"

Riley looks at her boss, sadder for him than she's ever been for anyone. "I see it," she lies, feeling herself land safely on the far side of the minefield. "I get it."

The light turns green, and the Mercedes drives on. 

that idea

This is a mural on a wall beside a building to which I'm considering moving. I can't imagine walking by a better message every day.

Absolutely.

ever being anything

I want you too much, he said, to just keep you a little while. And then he set me free.

And I said nothing, because I would not argue for my own captivity. I said nothing, but this is what thought:

How much time would be enough with me? On what clock does "enough" chime, anyway?

Must you see my hair turn white, my skin grow ashen? Or perhaps that's too much time? Would the heavy hips and wrinkled smile of middle age satisfy you instead?

How about just five years? Is five years adequate? Do you think you could come to hate my quirks and bad habits by then? Be tired of my selfishness and temper?

Maybe you only need a year. Three hundred sixty-five days of my life tied to yours, to make you feel you'd gotten your money's worth. Your return on investment. Because why else bother, right? Something to show for it, or nothing at all?

What if I said, you can fit that year in a weekend, if you do it right. What if I said, you can know someone completely, in the ways that matter anyway, just by noticing what makes them laugh? By letting them show you how to touch them. By accepting their vulnerability. 

What if I said the whole spirit of love can be contained in a single kiss? And that fifty of them is a chest of riches you could choose to be happy with, if you wanted. Who stands in a warm, soft rain, and demands of the sky a storm? Especially when the rain feels so good. 

You can't keep anything in this world. Nothing lasts. Some moments are just moments. Others can span years, if you archive them properly. I'll collect what I can and be grateful for it. 

That's what I thought, when a little of me wasn't enough.

on the job

Well, I won't say that my Imposter Syndrome has subsided, because that's a phenomenon that affects high-achieving individuals, not the nominally accomplished such as myself. But whatever it was that made me afraid of being found out for the incompetent, unskilled yahoo I am--that's gone. Because as it turns out, I'm pretty good at this assistant stuff.

Being an assistant is just a matter of being thoughtful, really. I know that sounds like I'm puffing myself up. And maybe I am. But that's all the job is. If you're already a considerate person, being someone's right hand (boss's words, not mine) comes easy. All I do is try to anticipate his needs as best I can, which gets easier the more I know him. And as we spend a lot of time together--the entire work day, in fact--that's happening quickly. The hours have ramped up, too. This past week I worked every day, including Saturday. Which leaves me exhausted today, but also grateful for the paycheck.

It's surprisingly fulfilling. There is absolutely no glory and praise is rare, but I'm satisfied by the little things. Remembering something important he would have forgotten. Finding information he can use. Even just making him laugh when he's getting tense. Often I do things he doesn't even know about. Discreetly calling ahead to a restaurant or an appointment, to warn them he's running late (if he were to hear me he'd get annoyed, maybe even feel criticized). Creating new contacts for this phone, from the business cards he collects. Like I say, little things. But little things are not his specialty. Big things are what he's good at, so I try to free him up so he can focus on those.

There's a personal element to it, too. He's a bit...socially awkward. Abrupt. Sorely lacking in self-awareness. He can crash a conversation into the ground pretty quickly without meaning to, whether it's in a boardroom or on a date. So he likes me to be there with him. After one of the first dinners, he took me aside and looked at me pleadingly and said, "I know I'm weird. I'm working on it. Will you help me? Will you watch my back? Can you do that?" Or something along those lines. And that was the moment I knew that despite how challenging he can be, I'd stick around for at least a while. I respond to vulnerability and honesty.

And it's been like that since. He brings me to meetings, professional and social, that I have no real reason to be at. And sometimes I can tell the others there are curious about my inclusion. But then my boss will blank on a name, or falter at a joke he doesn't get, and I'll smooth the moment over with what I guess have turned out to be pretty decent interpersonal skills. And I'll feel useful, and empowered. And I kind of love it.

There are other perks, too. I've already mentioned the meals, but they've become such an awesome part of the job that they bear mentioning again. I'm saving a ton on groceries, and eating in restaurants I'd probably never get to on my own. My boss will be randomly generous in other unexpected moments, too. Recently I was ordering him a bunch of personal stuff from Amazon (toiletries and the like) and he told me to throw whatever I needed in the cart too. Boom, free cosmetics. Then there was a night last week when he knew another employee and I were out getting dinner together after work. He texted her to say save the receipt, the meal was on him.

And then there's how laid back an environment I get to work in. Since it's just a private office, the atmosphere is relaxed, even though it's Beverly Hills. Often we're out running errands and I'm never expected to wear anything fancy or uncomfortable. In fact my boss prefers me in casual clothes. (I still try to be polished, though. It's Beverly Hills and Bel Air for Pete's sake.) These might seem like small considerations but I don't take them for granted.

It isn't all roses and rainbows, though. He can be rude, controlling, and impatient. If I so much as take too long to "clean up" (as he calls it) his dictation (which is often incredibly fragmented and grammatically garbled), he'll snap at me to forget it. But while a younger version of me might have gotten upset, it doesn't bother me. I just quietly finish on my own and then circle back to it when the opportunity arises. I don't take his personality personally.

He's just...complicated. It takes a compassionate person to work for him, or even to be his friend. He means well even when he falls short of doing well. In a way he's his own worst enemy. And that's something I can relate to, completely. And it's a lot easier to forgive someone shortcomings that you understand yourself.

Those are the broad strokes. Of course, me being me, I've quickly honed in on the fun stuff. The drama. The intrigue and conflict. The money. Oh, the money. The women. The extremely wealthy, somewhat famous, and entirely too entitled. All the stuff that makes for wonderful blogging. I can't, though. Not explicitly. If you want that stuff, you're going to have to read the book.

So. Let me state officially that everything I write under The Life of Riley tag is inspired by true events, but is not pure truth, by any means. It's just a fun way to creatively express some of the crazy experiences I'm having these days. A way to keep writing, even though now I have so much less time to do it. Who knows. Maybe down the road it could become something more than just blog posts. We'll see.

Why "The Life of Riley?"

Well, I've always loved the song. It takes me back to being a teenager and discovering my love of writing. But it was the lyrics themselves that really gave me the idea:

Lost in the milky way
Smile at the empty sky and wait for
The moment a million chances may all collide

I'll be the guiding light
Swim to me through stars that shine down
And call to the sleeping world as they fall to earth

So, here's your life
We'll find our way
We're sailing blind
But it's certain, nothing's certain

I don't mind, I get the feeling
You'll be fine, I still believe that
In this world, we've got to find the time
For the life of Riley

From cradles and sleepless nights
You breathe in life forever
And stare at the world from deep under eiderdown

So, here's your life
We'll find our way
We're sailing blind
But it's certain, nothing's certain

I don't mind, I get the feeling
You'll be fine, I still believe that
In this world, we've got to find the time
For the first time

I don't mind, I get the feeling
You'll be fine, I still believe that
In this world, we've got to find the time
For the life of Riley

All this world is a crazy ride
So, take your seats and hold on tight

So, here's your life
We'll find our way
We're sailing blind
But it's certain, nothing's certain

I don't mind, I get the feeling
You'll be fine, I still believe that
In this world, we've got to find the time
For the first time

I don't mind, I get the feeling
You'll be fine, I still believe that
In this world, we've got to find the time
For the life of Riley

That's my life in song, if ever my life were to be in song. First there's the expression's actual meaning: an easy and pleasant life, without hard work or problems. So yeaaahhhh. All kindsa layers there. "Sailing blind, certain nothing's certain?" Check. Always being fine, in spite of that? Check. Is my "world a crazy ride"? Feels like it to me.

But above all, writing is my "guiding light". And even though everything is changing dramatically yet again (new job, ending relationship, moving...), I know I'll be happiest if I continue to make time for it. If I make time for the life of Riley.

I'll make as much time as I can for her. I hope you like her story.

green II

The phone rings only once before a woman sounding entirely too nice to do any sort of business with Thorne Baxter answers. The sweetness of her voice makes Riley want to hang up at once. Pretend she didn't get through. Lie and say the number was no good. Anything to keep her boss out of this poor lady's life. But nothing doing. He's sitting right there, watching expectantly as she moves systematically down the scrawled list of numbers he shoved at her within seconds of sitting down.

"Yes, hello. Are you...are you someone I could talk to about goats?" Riley has no idea how to phrase her request, largely because she doesn't comprehend it. Baxter rarely gives her more than the bare minimum of instruction to go on, when he assigns her a task. He prefers to keep her slightly unsure, so that when she inevitably asks questions, he can be impatient with her for not understanding. And so Riley has learned to pay extremely close attention at all times, in hopes of knitting together the random strands of Baxter's desires ahead of his expectation that she fulfill them.

It is exhausting.

It is, thankfully, part-time.

Mercifully (it's the third number down on the list and Thorne is getting annoyed at her poor success rate), the woman on the other end of the line is indeed someone to talk to about goats.

"Wonderful," gushes Riley, hoping to offset her boss's inevitable future rudeness with as friendly a tone as possible now. "I'm afraid I've never rented goats before, so you might have to walk me through the--"

"Buy!" snaps Baxter. "I don't want to rent them I want to buy them!" He rolls his eyes at his assistant's incompetence, and Riley catches Grant Bloodworth politely look down at his coffee.

"Actually we'd like to buy them, sorry. Do you have any to, ah, sell?" Riley has to shout this last, as Baxter has chosen this moment to finally explain to her what it is he wants. (I just want four or five goats to live on one of my properties and clear the grass. That's all. Tell her I just want to buy some goats, I'll pay whatever she wants, but they need to be delivered today or tomorrow. Just find me some goats. Come on, girl!) 

This new information doesn't matter, however, because the woman on the phone has just inquired of Riley where the goats are wanted. And they are wanted some four hundred miles away from where they currently exist. "Oh, you're in Sonoma..." repeats Riley for the benefit of her boss. "That might be too--"

"Hang up! Just hang up!" (Which she does, but only after thanking the woman kindly for her time. Because no matter how poorly her boss might conduct himself in his business and interpersonal affairs, Riley has pledged not to let him rub off on her.)

Grant is first to break the silence following the call. He puts a hand lightly across Riley's wrist. "Darling, I can find you goats. My dear friend Alex has a massive orchard, and keeps several of them. I'll speak to him and then pass his info along to you."

Riley could kiss him. Not for the referral, which she suspects won't be good enough for Baxter (it isn't) but for his gesture of warmth in front her boss. Any reminder that she is flesh and bone and feeling, not some robot to be loaded up with commands and functions. She silently renews her determination to use today's brunch as another such a reminder. Riley sits up straighter in her seat as the waiter approaches.

"I want my usual. The Baxter omelet." Thorne hasn't even given the waiter a chance to speak. "What's your name? Mario. Mario, listen. I'm gonna take care of you, okay? But listen to what I want. I just want the omelet I always get, ask Sally, you know who Sally is? Good. Ask Sally what I get. She knows. Just the omelet and two plates. We're gonna split it." At this he waves a hand dismissively toward Riley. In all the time she has worked for him, in all the restaurant meals they have shared together, not once has she been allowed to order for herself. So this is no surprise.

But...it's Saturday. And, she reflects, I wasn't even supposed to work today. This is my day off. I'm doing him a favor, by even coming here today. I'm basically being a wingman, and he knows it. It's Saturday, she repeats to herself, gathering the courage to speak up. 

"Could I just..." Riley puts out a hand to receive one of the menus the waiter holds. But Thorne is having none of it. "No, just the omelet for the two of us." He yanks the menu out of her reach. She blinks, fast, while Grant orders his own breakfast.

Again it is Grant who cuts the tension. "What is it you don't like?" he puts to Riley, and she recognizes the opportunity to use an allergy, or a strong food aversion to explain why she wants to order something else.

But Riley can't help herself. Months of biting her tongue have left her with nothing the faint taste of blood in her mouth. "Being told what to do," she says dryly. Half-hoping the humor of the remark will carry her safely across the grave she probably just dug herself. Knowing, of course, that it won't. Even Grant winces, splashing his cup down heavily.

"Then you can bring your own money next time." Thorne's retort is barbed, certainly, but there's something even nastier in it. Something resentful. Riley isn't sure what it is, but she supposes it has to do with her boss's need to keep her as low--and lowly--as possible. A king doesn't feel kingly without servants to provide contrast. And Thorne Baxter needs desperately to feel himself a king.

Riley knew it was coming, had walked herself right into it. Still, it stung. They always did, Baxter's snipes. The trick was to shrug it off and quickly change the subject before he got himself worked up to even more anger.

And as luck with have it, a change of subject had just arrived at the table. Five foot five. Curvy, dark-haired, and dark-complected. In a graphic t-shirt (I rock, you roll), sleek black riding pants, and lightly clutching a dove grey ostrich Birkin. A single statement ring coiled like a tiny gold snake around olive-skinned fingers polished in cocoa. This must be her boss's date. Naturally Riley knows next to nothing about the woman, who greets her with a flashy smile as Riley excuses herself from the booth.

"So nice to meet you. I've got to make some calls about goats, and rather than shout in everyone's ears I think I'll just step outside..."

"Goats?!" the woman, introduced now as Mia, exclaims with delight. "I love goats!" Riley catches the flicker of irritation that crosses Thorne's face. Took the attention away from you, did I, old boy? Made my job sound interesting and fun? Have to acknowledge that goats are lovely and lovable animals and not just more bodies for you to boss around?

Riley was glad to have a reason to escape for a few minutes. She took her time making calls, learning about the various species of goats available, leaving voicemails for the ranchers to which she was referred. More than anything she wanted to be able to return to the table triumphant, to announce that suitable, geographically close goats had been found. Alas. When Riley returned to the table it was to declare her failure. Just as Baxter preferred it.

At least the food had arrived. Something to keep her boss happy for a full ten minutes. And, Riley as soon realized, the arrival of Mia was an even better addition to the table. Because Mia--despite every aspect of her appearance suggesting otherwise--was definitely another ally.

green

Riley is choosing an outfit for brunch. She holds the double doors of her closet open and scans the clothing inside. But really, this is just going through the motions. She's already made up her mind. A dress. Something altogether unlike the bland, unassuming pants suits she's worn all week. Something bright and daring. Something that hints at the life he doesn't know a thing about. It's high time he was reminded that she has that life. Outside of his demands. Beyond his reach. Free from his tyranny.

She weighs her options, calculating the impact of each. A sheath will accentuate her slimness, the one physical trait of hers he dares to comment on. (And comment he does, with unapologetic approval. You're lucky you're thin. Most women aren't so lucky. Riley has to bite her tongue not to correct him in these moments. Luck has little to do with it. But of course, everyone's else's success is just good fortune; his, however, comes from hard work and perseverance.) A sundress would be pretty, but pretty isn't what she's going for. Striking. That's what she wants to be. Striking enough to cast a slight shadow over his date, who'll undoubtedly be attractive--though older than Riley.

The dress she settles on is almost scandalously short. Tight across the top, cut narrow at the armholes to show off her shoulders. Playful pleats fan out from a snug empire waist. Mid-weight fabric woven in purple and pink hues that complement her auburn hair. It looks expensive. It was expensive. Riley may not have much to spend these days, but she has always known how to shop.

---

She takes an Uber to the restaurant, a luxury she'd never indulge in herself. But those were his instructions, when he invited her last night. Take an Uber. Black. Take an Uber black. Bribed is really the better word for it. Because this isn't a social event. This is work.

Riley is being paid to go to brunch with her boss this Saturday morning.

With her boss, with some woman he's never met, and with another male friend. She's not really sure who either of these others are, or what their relationship is to the man writing her paychecks. She only knows he needs her there, for various complicated reasons, and is willing to compensate her for the time and effort. So after several weeks of having his casual invitations rejected, he's upped the ante. I'll give you some green. We'll count it as a work day. Just be there at eleven. 

And so here she is, walking briskly down the boulevard in blazing sunshine, to a Hollywood restaurant as famous as the celebrities who've dined in it over the past hundred years, wearing a dress she knows will catch her boss off guard and possibly annoy him. Because she's only supposed to look so good. Good enough to make him look good--not good enough to shine herself. The assistant who should be seen, not heard, and only noticed in passing anyway. The prop to increase his social cache and, when necessary, leverage against the women in his life. Leverage but never threaten, because who is threatened by a nobody?

Well, it's Saturday, and I'm not a nobody on the weekend, thinks Riley. Nope. I'm a real human being, with brains and personality and yes, even sex appeal.  

She arrives before him, panicking slightly when she doesn't see his scowling face anywhere in either of the restaurant's two rooms. If she's fucked this up, if she's at the wrong restaurant... She dials his number on her cell phone, wincing at the clipped tone in which he answers. As if she's already done something wrong. But no, it's the right place; he's just running late. He tells Riley to find Grant Bloodworth, who should be there already, seated at their regular table. Riley has no idea who Grant Bloodworth is or where the regular table is, but as everyone else her boss associates with is either rich or famous or both, she suspects a quick check of Google will show her who to look for.

She's right. Grant Bloodworth is a renowned celebrity stylist. Dark-haired and pale, with the tragic skin of an aging rockstar. Most photos show him wearing a hat of some variety. Riley lifts her eyes from her phone and sees, in a semicircular booth against the wall, a shriveled looking man in a black homburg, hunched over a coffee cup. Bingo.

She approaches with a trepidation that proves immediately unnecessary. Grant greets her before she can say a word, rising to shake her hand and calling her, surprisingly, by name. Either he's got a great memory, great manners, or Thorne has been talking to him about her at length. Riley scoots awkwardly into the booth, knowing her boss will want to square off against his friend from the opposite head of the table. She casts about for small talk; not something she ever has trouble with, but it's early and she's still groggy from a late night out with friends.

Turns out, so is Grant. "You'll have to forgive me, love," he pleads in a charming Cockney accent. "Had a lot on my mind last night, so a friend gave me a Xannie. Didn't know they were so strong!" He chuckles, flashing stubby, yellowed teeth in a genuinely warm smile. Riley likes him instantly. And it becomes clear, as they pass a few minutes chatting, that Grant is an ally. Familiar with Thorne's...challenges. "What's it like to work for him, then?" he asks politely, throwing her a glance that tacitly acknowledges everything he won't say out of loyalty and she can't say out of fear. Riley is relieved, as ever, to meet someone who gets it. Who gets Thorne. Who knows how awful he can be. Who likes him anyway. As she does--in spite of everything.

And then suddenly, as if summoned by their conversation, Thorne himself appears, in the usual getup. Black jeans, black t-shirt, black combat boots. Leather jacket that likely cost more than Riley's sofa. The usual accessories, too. Silky ivy green scarf. Vintage black leather doctor's bag with the luggage tag attached, the one that Riley's eyes go to every time he screams at her. IF FOUND CALL (323) 555-1234 REWARD $10000. And the hat. An olive cashmere gatsby he wears absolutely everywhere, weather notwithstanding. Thorne Baxter cuts an imposing and stylish figure, there is no denying that. Riley now wonders whether it was Grant who helped him get that way.

But her moment's worth of reverie is short-lived, because her boss is already issuing commands, muttering to himself about the day's agenda (Agenda? I thought this was just brunch...), seemingly irritated by things that haven't even happened yet. It's all Riley can do to scarf down a slice of buttered bread before she's scrambling to take notes, make calls, and check Thorne's email for him.

The third guest--whom Riley has now surmised is not only a potential romantic interest but a possible business partner as well--hasn't even arrived yet.

suddenly so precious

Well, I said I wasn't going to talk about work. But that was before I realized that work makes for some excellent material. Also: if I don't talk about work, there won't be much blogging going on at all, because that's a large part of where I'm spending my time these days. I do need to maintain some privacy (no names, no specifics), but I feel comfortable that I can manage that boundary and still share some of the more entertaining stuff. Because woo boy is it entertaining.

As I said before, I work in Beverly Hills. The office is in what's known as the Golden Triangle, a super luxe shopping and dining area right in the heart of the city. Every day I walk past some of the most expensive boutiques in the world. It's a kick. When I have some extra time I'll try to get there early and take photos. Gorgeous shopfronts, everything immaculate and gleaming. Yes, conspicuous consumption, yes entitled rich people--but I can't help find it a beautiful and welcome escape from a comparatively dirty downtown. I desperately needed a change of scenery, and wow did I get it.

I work odd hours. Middle of the day. I start anywhere from 11am to 2pm and work anywhere from 8pm to 11pm. That includes after-work dinners or cocktails. The hours are unpredictable because my boss is unpredictable--even to himself. (I'll get back to that.) To get to work I take the train, then the bus. It's an easy, straight shoot, and I don't mind it at all. Driving in LA has always been a personal nightmare of mine, and I use the commute to answer emails, catch up on Instagram, text friends. I am thrilled to be able to continue life car-free for the time being.

Right now I'm working three to four days a week. My boss knows I'm keen to work as close to full time as I can, and he's been great about having me come in whenever possible. To that end I'm working hard to figure out the best way to be of use to him. Indispensable, even. Because that's my goal. It's not a glamorous job and it doesn't pay loads--but it's kind of totally amazing for a lot of reasons. (Which I'll also get back to.)

Basically, I'm an assistant. Part office, part personal. I just do whatever needs to be done. Sometimes that's drafting emails or making calls or doing research. Sometimes it's running errands. Sometimes it's tagging along on a trip to an offsite facility, just so my boss can use the carpool lane. (He doesn't say this, but I'm 99% sure that's the case.) Sometimes it's trailing after him, toting his bags and files, while he makes the rounds near his office. Jewelry stores, the ophthalmologist's, his plastic surgeon buddy. He'll stop in to socialize for a few minutes, and I'll hang out while he gets a quick hair cut, say, or take notes when someone has some information for him. I always have to be on, and alert to direction. I definitely get ordered around, and to make my friends laugh I play up the under-appreciated, downtrodden assistant angle.

But the truth is I love it.

The first few nights when I got home, I just lay on my bed stunned and exhausted, trying to process everything. Because there's a lot to process with my boss, who is an exceptionally unique and occasionally challenging person. And when I had strength enough to do so, I cried. Not because I was unhappy, but because it dawned on me that I'd passed a whole day, then two, without obsessing about my own life. Without thinking about myself at all. Without worry, anxiety, or the demons of depression poking at me all day. The relief was overwhelming. And every day as I get more comfortable and confident in the job, the air grows even sweeter. I feel normal and productive for the first time in a very, very long time. It's a sort of soft-blooming happiness for which I am grateful every second of the day. Maybe happiness isn't the right word. Maybe it's just self-esteem. Maybe it's happiness born of self-esteem. Whatever it is, I'm enjoying it immensely.

So. Now I've got to explain a little what it is about my boss--and therefore the job--that's difficult but simultaneously but great. In a nutshell, he's an eccentric. Brilliant but strange. He's an inventor and an investor, a businessman and an entrepreneur. He's made a lot of really cool, society-advancing shit. His ideas are all progressive, and at the end of the day he wants to help people live better and more safely. And he's made a lot of money working towards that goal.

But, as with many overachieving workaholics, he can be demanding. Impatient. Hot-tempered and moody. Indecisive. Highly opinionated. And all of that can make for a slightly destabilizing work environment. His agenda changes day to day, and therefore so does mine. Sometimes we only put in a few hours of real work before cutting out to have drinks at his Bel Air mansion. Yes there is a Bel Air mansion. And five cars. And all sorts of kooky rich-person nonsense. And honestly? I love it all. It keeps me on my toes. It forces me to flex muscles I didn't even know I had. Tact. Flexibility. Stamina. Patience. All while working to advance someone else's objectives, for once in my life. It's wonderful.

There have been, already, several hilariously WTF moments. Last week I found myself sitting in a five star restaurant, the only sober person at a table with my boss, two beautiful but perhaps overly, um, improved Greek socialites, and an Englishman who owned one of London's most famous music venues in the '60s and whose great-great-great (?) grandfather invented the plate. Supposedly. The Englishman is harmless enough though a bit of a blowhard who rather enjoys bossing yours truly around. I'm not going to say I smiled to myself when he knocked a full glass of ice water into his lap but I'm not going to say I didn't.

The women, who I'd later find out are friends of fifteen years, were having a screaming match. In Greek. I was seated between them. Now and then one would lean in to me and demand to know what the other had said. Thankfully these requests were made in English, but it didn't make playing the diplomat any easier. It was a great relief when they suddenly, unexpectedly made up. Then, since the table was wedged tightly into a corner of the restaurant and the women couldn't stand up without disrupting everyone, I was asked to give each a hug for the other.

During this entire affair I was the only one really eating anything, which my boss noticed with approval (he has many quirks, and one of them is having very particular ideas about what one should eat - in the many meals we've had together already, I've not once been allowed to see a menu for myself). In fact he ordered an entire second round of food I'm pretty sure because he knew I was still hungry. The restaurant we were at is rather famous but as it's one of my boss's regular spots I'm gonna leave that detail out. Suffice to say I ate very well that night.

This is one of the perks of my job: meals. Good ones, at great places. As I mentioned above, my boss is a wee bit controlling about ordering...but I'm completely okay with that. The food is always amazing and I'm never allowed to pay or even chip in. Perk indeed.

As to downsides, well, the hours are a bit tricky. Of course I like not having to be anywhere at seven am, but as I'm determined to keep on top of other already-standing priorities in my life, I still have to get up early. I pledged to myself when I got the job that neither Chaucer nor my health would suffer for the change. That means getting up at eight am, so Chauc can still get his full, ambling walk, and I can still work out. I have to exercise before work; I'm way too pooped afterward. And I have to exercise period, for my sense of well-being. That's non-negotiable. So no sleeping in, despite the later start time.

And then it's a bummer to get out so late, particularly on Thursdays and Fridays, the prime go-out-with-the-friends days. But we're making it work. Saturday I finally caught up with Krista and we had a blast of an evening. Love that girl more all the time.

Anyway, that's the overview. There's much more to it all but now you've got the general picture.

More when time, suddenly so precious, allows.