Summer Intern

She took a deep breath, and gave the rest of the onlookers a thankful, apologetic smile. At least the anger had squashed the immediate need to cry but she still needed to get away from the avid curiosity.

They’d come to a halt outside the office Dr Thoth used when he was meeting with the graduate students studying under him, Psyche did something she never thought she’d do; she lifted her hand and knocked on the office door.

Dr Thoth proved surprisingly kind and sympathetic, allowing her to hide in his office while he discussed design prototypes with two of his research assistants. She left a short time later, calling a quiet thanks. He lifted a hand in response but continued to examine the cardboard-and-sticky-tape object before him.

She left the college, jumped on a bus at random, and spent the afternoon trying to study on a bench in a small park in North London.

On Tuesday she submitted her final assignments for both Analogue Imagery and Dr Thoth’s Ancient Design class. The only remaining barrier between her and the summer holidays was the Typography exam on Friday afternoon.

She spent Wednesday and most of Thursday wandering, taking photographs, imagining conversations with Eros about them. The school’s admin office messaged her at lunchtime on Thursday, asking her to drop by during the afternoon.

When she gave her name at the desk, the assistant on duty said. “Ahh yes, you’re the last one on the list. Here you go,” and handed her a large envelope.

It looked terrifyingly official. Was she being expelled as well? Although wouldn’t that involve meetings and things? She tucked herself into window alcove in the corridor and opened it.

Not expulsion, a summer internship. A paid one. At Z Corp. This was amazing, she read it again, it said the same thing. She was to spend the summer at Z Corp. Maybe she’d see Eros, maybe she could even assist on one of his photo shoots. She slumped. Maybe he hated her for what she’d done to him, and he’d reject or ignore her. What if he told everyone she’d been the one holding the acid? They’d all hate her. But it was Christos’s fault… She needed Persephone’s insider knowledge of the company and her practical advice.

She climbed the stairs to Janet’s classroom, to find it closed for renovations, and a note from her lecturer saying she in Scotland for the summer.

Would it help to ask Aglaura and Cilippe? Probably not, but she had to talk to someone. But when she got home, her flatmates were impersonating small whirlwinds in floral sundresses. They had no time to talk in their frenzy of last-minute packing.

Cilippe paused long enough to say. “We’re leaving tonight. Rent’s paid, Dad’s transferring money for the bills to your account. Yell at him if he forgets. We’ll be back in two months.”

Aglaura smirked. “Have fun looking for a job. We’ll be thinking of you as we’re sipping champagne on the yacht.”

It was supremely satisfying to say. “I don’t need to. I’m interning at Z Corp.”

That wiped the smile from their faces, until Aglaura squealed. “Employee discounts! You’ll be able to get us all the latest looks.”

Psyche thought her flatmate was going to start a shopping list then and there, but Cilippe’s phone pinged. “It’s the taxi, come on!”

They raced out of the door trailing half-open suitcases and bulging bags, leaving behind an almighty mess and blessed quiet. Quiet in which to realise she was taking the internship. Not just because she’d boasted of it to Aglaura, but because she wanted to do it. She loved good design, she loved what Z Corp did in putting an edge on elegance in everything they did. She’d learn more in eight weeks there than two years anywhere else.

The typography exam proved nothing more than a way to keep twenty students inside on a sunny Friday afternoon and everyone broke free as fast as they could.

On Saturday, Psyche got up late, made coffee and breakfast and studied the information pack for her internship. The dress code was clear, but simple, and she had enough to at least last her the first week. The directions were equally straightforward; orientation began at 9:30 on Monday at Z Corp’s iconic head office in the City. All information would be given out then, all questions answered. Assignments would be announced on Tuesday, and work would start in their allocated departments on Tuesday afternoon.

Still no word from Eros, and nothing in the Z Corp social posts, or the industry gossip accounts, about him. She wasn’t sure if that was good or bad, either way, she missed him.

Sunday dragged, but finally, her alarm announced it was Monday morning, and soon she was on her way to her first day of work.

She identified herself to a bored-looking older man behind the giant marble reception desk, and was directed to the second-top floor, where she joined a large group of equally nervous people of all ages.

She clutched the strap of her bag and tried to spot a seat in a quiet corner, but instead spotted Neela, the girl who’d had the bet on Eros asking her out, waving gleefully from the middle of a row, Jamal grinning beside her.

She half-waved back, then shuffled along the seats to join them.

Neela grinned. “How cool is this? Apparently, we’re the only ones accepted from our college, so we don’t have to put up with Patrick.”

Jamal leaned forward. “He messaged me yesterday, his mum pulled some strings somewhere and he’s spending the summer rotating through various departments at one of the big movie studios in Hollywood.”

Neela sniffed. “It’s way more than he deserves.”

Jamal shrugged and sat back, and Psyche leaned forward to be able to see him. “Thank you for dragging him off when you did.”

His brown skin darkened a little as he shrugged again, looking a little embarrassed. “He was being an idiot, and you already had enough to deal with.”

Neela put in. “Have you heard anything from… him?”

Psyche shook her head. “Maybe we’ll get some news through the grapevine here.”

Jamal sat up very straight and saluted. “I will attend to all gossip and report immediately!”

That made her giggle, and she breathed more easily still when she noticed he had his hand linked with Neela’s. She saluted him in turn, then turned to face the front as someone tapped on the microphone on the podium.

The following hours flew by as the new interns were briefed on the company’s history, its structure, the key personnel, customers, markets, mission and performance. Over lunch they met those of the previous summer’s interns who’d made it through to the grad programme and questions flew in every direction.

Neela seemed to be loving every minute of it. She spoke with everyone, collected phone numbers, social media accounts, email addresses and formed messaging groups. At one point, early in the afternoon, Psyche found herself standing next to Jamal, watching Neela charm contact details out of a group from the IT Department.

He looked so proud as he said. “She’s planning on opening her own design practice in the autumn so she wants to make as many industry contacts as she can. She says she’s going to be a go-to person for any kind of help or connection in fashion and design.”

Psyche asked. “And what are you planning?”

Jamal replied. “Learn as much as I can, as fast as I can, and try and work out what I want to do.”

She laughed. “Sounds familiar.”

As she staggered through the front door of the flat that evening, she wondered if her brain would ever recover. It was like having a month’s worth of lectures crammed into one day, and she’d yet to start the actual work.

Tuesday morning was slightly more sedate, but tension simmered through the room as everyone waited to hear which department they’d be spending the summer in.

Finally, envelopes were handed out, opened, and people began filing out of the room, comparing assignments and building directions with their friends.

Psyche took the one with her name on the front and pulled out the sheet of paper. She blinked, that couldn’t be right, the presenter yesterday had said PR didn’t take interns, and yet, there it was in elegantly printed black-and-white in front of her.

Neela asked. “Who’ve you got? I’ve been assigned to work wear in Apollo’s area.”

Jamal chimed in, looking pleased. “And I’m the opposite, night and lounge wear with Artemis.”

Psyche turned the page to show them. They both did a double take, and Neela said. “That’s a first. Everyone I spoke to yesterday said Aphrodite’s the only one exempt from taking interns. Baggage from some social media disaster back in the early days of time.”

So it did say ‘PR’. Psyche took a deep breath and stood. “Good luck you two, make sure you keep me posted on how you’re going.”

She smiled at their chorus of “You too”s, and tried to look confident as she made her way to the lift well.

She shuffled into the lift with five others and, when asked, said. “Level ten please.”

Everyone’s heads turned and the person pushing the buttons for floors said. “That’s PR.”

Psyche gulped and nodded. “Maybe it’s a typo. I’ll find out soon enough.”

Everyone else was going to lower floors, they watched her leave, wide-eyed and silent.

There was a wide desk with a man sitting at it, his skin and hair so perfect, Psyche thought he was a statue until he raised a classically arched brow and asked. “May I help you?”

She put the assignment letter on the desk in front of him. He raised the other brow. “How unusual. Please take a seat and someone will be with you directly.”

He grabbed the paper and vanished through a door. As it slowly inched closed, she heard his voice on the other side. “Darlings! You will never believe…”

A few minutes later, a young woman with walnut skin and waist-length curls in shades of brown and gold emerged and beckoned. “Psyche? I’m Harmonia, please follow me.”

Psyche stood and followed. Her guide moved like a tree in the wind, graceful and smooth, her sage dress fitted without a crease to her waist, then flowed out into a knee-length circular skirt. Psyche felt gauche and scruffy by comparison.

The woman knocked softly on an office door, then opened it. “The intern is here.”

The voice that answered could have commanded armies, or summoned rain to fall on a desert. Instead, it said. “Good. Come in please, Psyche.”

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