Victoria took a deep breath, her gaze locked onto the pavement below her feet. The sun was beating down on the ground, scorching asphalt with its bright beams of light. It wasn’t uncommon during a summer in the Southwest, yet she never got fully used to it.
Nevertheless, she kept her head above water. She approached the two glass doors in front of her, raising her chin marginally. Her lip was soft under her teeth, gnawing gently at the thin layer of skin. Warmth surged through her body, and she valiantly strolled through the doors.
Immediately, a voice perked up from inside. Victoria’s eyes darted to locate the speaker, adverting her attention.
“I have a meeting with Ms. Rodarte-Quayle,” Victoria spoke up, her expression soft and friendly. A few minutes later, she was sitting in the middle of a room full of people, waiting to meet the woman that Gustavo had spoken so fondly of. Mike spoke of her, yet not fondly at all, which somehow made Victoria more curious about her. She was wildly nervous and what felt like almost every outcome of the situation played in her head at the same time, both positive and negative.
“Ms. Rose?” A soft male tone contrasted the other colliding voices in the room. Victoria’s head lifted swiftly, her gaze fixating on his expression.
“Yes,” she answered briefly.
“She’s ready for you. Her office is just down this way.” He beckoned her with a short motion of his hand, pacing down the hallway and through plenty of cramped cubicles. Phones rang one after another, and German and English sentences intermingled together. Finally, he stopped in front of a large room, wrapped with closed blinds behind glass. He began talking again, but Victoria only heard white noise, her gaze locked onto the grey carpet.
The clatter of the blinds slapping against the door caused Victoria’s head to snap upwards, her heart already racing. A small woman — maybe a few inches over five feet — stood in the doorframe, her brown hair resting comfortably on her shoulders. She had a welcoming smile on her face and beady hazel eyes, along with a grey skirt and a blue blouse. Victoria couldn’t help but notice that her eyes were captivating; however, she kept control over herself and entered the office as the woman had asked.
“Ms. Rose,” she greeted, “Lydia Rodarte-Quayle.” She extended a hand to Victoria, a friendly smile accompanying her gaze.
Victoria took her hand, smiling in return. She mimicked Lydia, lowering herself into a seat across from her. Her mouth flattened as she prepared to listen, resting her hands on her thighs.
“I have some of your paperwork, but I need your driver’s license as well. Could you hand that over, please?” Lydia reached out an arm while Victoria fumbled with her wallet for a moment. A muffled ringtone seeped out of one of Lydia’s desk drawers, and she swore under her breath before sliding the drawer open and answering the phone. Victoria gently placed the license down on the desk in front of her, and Lydia shot her an assuring glance while she greeted the person on the other end of the phone.
“I am working right now,” she hissed. Victoria’s eyebrows raised with concern, and she parted her lips slightly. Lydia’s brows were shaped downward, her lips faintly trembling with anger. “Don’t you know how to-”
She stopped abruptly. Victoria couldn’t hear a word coming from the other line, so she laid back and waited patiently for Lydia to finish her phone call. Her eyebrows loosened as she listened further, becoming more upset rather than agitated.
After a moment of silence, Lydia opened her mouth to speak. She mumbled a tiny “okay” before hanging up and tossing her phone back into the drawer, her gaze still fixated on the ground for a beat after she hung up the phone. Taking a moment to collect herself, she turned back to Victoria, shooting her a warm yet exhausted glance.
“I’m sorry about that, Ms. Rose.” She picked up the license sitting on her desk, eyeing it before calling for her assistant to make a copy of it. While her assistant left, Lydia’s eyes darted back and forth across the floor, lost in deep thought. Victoria’s thumbs rubbed against each other as she locked her eyes onto her shoes, watching Lydia periodically in the corner of her eye.
Lydia abruptly planted her hands on her desk and turned her head to look at Victoria again. “Could you get lunch with me?”
“Right now? Um, yeah... sure.” Her gaze followed Lydia as she stood up, beaming brightly as she lead Victoria through the building to the front doors. She opened the passenger side door for Victoria and sat beside her, resting both of her hands on the steering wheel.
The drive wasn’t long. Lydia seemed jumpy — like something was terribly bothering her — and Victoria’s heart dropped lower into her stomach each time she saw Lydia twitch. She knew better than to ask, though, so she decided to keep her head facing forward, her eyes stuck to the road, her hands folded over each other in her lap.
Lydia once again opened the door for Victoria, and she followed Lydia into the cafe. She scanned the area; it had a rustic feel — it smelled like coffee, the lights were dim, and the place felt cozy overall. Lydia chuckled quietly to herself, noticing the innocent awe painted on Victoria’s face.
She snapped her head to face Lydia, raising her eyebrows. “What?”
“Nothing,” she giggled, “follow me.” She paced through the wooden tables, settling on a chair at the back of the cafe. Victoria slid onto the chair across from Lydia and shot her a quick smile.
“So why did you… take me out here? To lunch, I mean? Something we can’t discuss in your office?” she questioned, keeping her voice low. Lydia opened her mouth to respond, but the waitress approached their table.
“What would you two like to drink?” The waitress held a small notepad and a pen in her tiny, fidgety hands. Lydia looked up at her and smiled briefly.
“I would like a cup of hot water, filtered, please,” Lydia spoke clearly, her fingertips rubbing against the jagged edges of the stevia packet in her hands. The waitress nodded and turned to Victoria.
“Just water, thank you.”
“Alright, I’ll be back in a moment with your drinks.” As soon as the waitress turned away from the two of them, Lydia returned to Victoria.
“I just wanted to get away from the office. That’s all.” She smiled softly. Victoria brushed the hair out of her face, her gaze still wandering around the cafe. Lydia, however, studied Victoria’s expression, feeling her heart flutter against her ribcage. Something about the way she gently twitched every time she took in parts of the atmosphere made Lydia’s cheeks flush.
Both were dragged out of their trances by the waitress arriving with her hands wrapped around their drinks. She placed them down on the table, smiling innocently.
“Can I get you anything else?”
“No, thank you.” Lydia nodded. Victoria essentially muttered the same phrase.
The waitress nodded politely one last time before spinning around and bounding off in the other direction. Lydia lifted the mug to her lips while her gaze rested on Victoria. She returned the glance, taking a sip from her own glass.
While Lydia gently placed her mug back down on the table, she pursed her lips into a smirk. “You know, Mr. Fring respects you. He spoke plenty about you before. Mr. Fring’s respect isn’t easy to earn. You should be proud.” She ended her sentence with a brief chuckle.
“I’m… really glad to have his respect, then.” Victoria lowered her gaze to the table, feeling a slight wave of embarrassment wash over her. Lydia watched as she hid behind her hair, pressing the edge of the glass to her lips. When Victoria lowered the glass, she fixated on her lips. Her head rested in the palm of her hand while she observed her facial structure — her eyes, her lips, her cute nose, her cheeks… Lydia felt her heart beating quickly. She was becoming infatuated. She was a businesswoman. She promised herself to never let feelings get in the way of business, especially not while working with Fring.
“I-I have to get back to work soon,” Lydia stuttered, pulling herself out of her own daydream. “Can I drive you home?” She pursed her lips into a gentle smile.
After a few minutes, Lydia and Victoria were walking out of the cafe. Victoria’s steps matched Lydia’s subconsciously, and she was too caught up in trying her best to not make a fool out of herself to realize it.
The drive home was mostly quiet except for quick directions. When they arrived, Lydia got out of the car and walked around, opening the door once more for Victoria. She stood up and shuffled out of the way, allowing Lydia to shut the car door. Victoria glanced at her with a soft expression before turning around, but before she could fully turn around to walk to her front door, Lydia grabbed her jaw and pressed her lips against hers. She inhaled her scent, almost drowning in the sweet taste of her lips, refusing to feel regret about the choice she had made. She allowed herself to appreciate it.
Victoria moved along with Lydia, her hands settled on her hips. Their lips split, yet the kiss faded much later than that. Both women blinked in surprise, then locked eyes. Lydia lifted her head slightly to place one last chaste kiss on Victoria’s lips, and then her hands pulled away from her body.
“Goodbye, Victoria,” she giggled, her heels pattering on the concrete as she walked to her car.
“Goodbye, Ms. Quayle.” Victoria was still in awe at the situation.
“Please call me Lydia, honey.” She shot her one last bright smile before ducking into her car. Victoria muttered a short ‘okay’ that barely escaped her throat.
She stood idly, her gaze following Lydia’s car as it sped away.
Lydia was definitely greater than Gustavo Fring had chalked her up to be.