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Ain't no sunshine when she's gone

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It was a typical Monday morning at Scarlet. Typical if you considered the fact there still a staff working at the magazine, and everyone’s routines had somehow remained the same… except there was a glaring difference. If you were to peer into the glass walls of the editor-in-chief’s office, you would no longer see Jacqueline Carlyle with her Louboutin-clad feet stretched out across her desk, or perhaps walking her treadmill while working on her iPad. You’d see a different blond woman, one who stuck out like a sore thumb and looked like she had no business being there at all (which, goddamn, she really didn’t). Contributing to the false sense of normalcy, you’d see Jacqueline’s trusty assistant at his desk right outside her office doing his job, rolling calls, typing on his computer, but looking like a lost puppy who startled at the slightest sound coming from the office behind him thinking his master was there (only she wasn’t, there was an impostor there making those noises), and who had been forced to tell people all the time, especially on those first few days, that no, Jacqueline Carlyle was not available, and that no, he didn’t know when she’d be available again, but that yes, he’d make sure to let her know that they’d called. At some point he had stopped writing down messages and started making faces whenever he got off the phone, mumbling to himself. Ok, maybe not a puppy, maybe he was more like a senior pooch who was going senile.

 

Jane had no idea why she was comparing Andrew to a dog - maybe she was also losing her mind a bit. And, ok, maybe she liked looking at Andrew because he reminded her of Jacqueline, and whenever she saw him she’d think back to happier days. All she knows is that she should stop following him to the kitchen and trying to make small talk with the guy because he seemed to be weirded out by that - and, frankly, so was she. But the thing is, Jane was also trying to get some intel - had she been in touch? How was she? But especially - when would she be back? Would she be back at all? She forced herself not to think too often or too hard about that last one. The official word was that Jacqueline Carlyle was on "sabbatical", and while she was away, Cleo whasterface would be taking over the duties of editor-in-chief. Unofficially, and it was need-to-know info, which Jane had been privy to thanks to Richard (through Sutton), was that they were looking for a replacement and interviewing candidates for the job. It was not a sure thing yet, by any means, Richard still seemed hopeful they were just icing Jacqueline for a bit, trying to scare her into submission, because if they’d been truly serious about firing her and hiring someone new they would’ve done so by now, in order to create a smooth transition. Definitely smoother than this one, because this Cleo lady seemed more and more frazzled by her duties and responsibilities by the second, and the magazine was suffering as a result. If she’d wanted this, she was surely rethinking things now.

 

The weather didn’t seem to be helping matters, contributing to the gloomy atmosphere around the office. It was Spring, but the overcast skies and chillier than normal for this time of year temperatures weren’t helping anyone’s mood. Jane felt like she was living in some parallel universe and after a whole month of this insanity, she was more than ready for it to be over. This was NOT Scarlet. This was not the place she looked forward to seeing every morning. She and her friends had started spending more and more time in the fashion closet, and one of the weirdest parts about this whole thing (not to mention the only silver lining of sorts she could think of) was that they had started taking in strays (AND HERE SHE WAS WITH THE DOGS AGAIN). 

 

First it was Alex, of course, who’d started joining them in the closet a couple of times a day to complain about the state of things. Then, when Andrew had come in to look for some trinket or other, Jane had pulled him by the arm and dragged him down to the couch (this attachment of hers to the guy was getting weirder and weirder but she didn’t care), and not long after that, Sage had also started coming in with Alex. Soon there were so many people there  at times Jane feared there were more of them inside than outside, actually working, and she knew it was a matter of time before they got yelled at and were forced to disband. When Oliver had come in looking for Sutton that afternoon she thought the time had finally come, but he’d just stopped, sighed, and said to everyone, “We’re gonna need a bigger closet.”

 

***

 

It was Tuesday. Another typical “atypical”, “AJ” (After Jacqueline, as Kat had started referring to the new normal) Tuesday. Jane was mechanically typing on her computer when it happened.

 

“Good morning, everyone!”, she greeted everyone and no one, a tan goddess in a bright yellow dress. 

 

At first you could hear a pin drop in the room, every person frozen in place, holding their breath. And then, all of a sudden, movement started. Andrew let out a strangled shriek, practically jumping up from his chair, welcoming his boss back (Jane hoped he didn’t pee his pants), barely holding it together. Oliver had come out of his office to give  her a hug, whispering something in her ear that made her throw her head back and laugh, and it was that sound that made a still in shock Jane finally react, her eyes welling up. How she’d missed that sound. As everyone got up and started clapping, she’d made her way to the bathroom, hoping to get herself together before her boss saw her.

 

By the time she reentered the room Jacqueline was already in her office but everyone was buzzing about, whispering excitedly about her fearless leader’s return. It wasn’t long after that that a meeting was called and everyone was officially informed that Jacqueline Carlyle’s sabbatical was over and she was resuming her duties as editor-in-chief of Scarlet Magazine. Everything would be going back to normal. More applause followed.

 

Jane wanted to see her, talk to her, ask her things, but had no opportunity to do so - everyone wanted a piece of Jacqueline Carlyle after such a long absence, and it was all Andrew could do to keep up with her schedule, penciling in appointments and dismissing people not worthy of her time (with a huge smile on his face). Later she’d try and get some time alone with her boss, but for now, she was content with getting up from her desk from time to time and sneaking a peek at her office, where she could see her pacing and talking on the phone.

 

It might have been gloomy outside, but in Scarlet magazine’s quarters, the sun was, once again, shining bright.