Circles and Circles: Chapters 1-3

I know I haven’t completed posting Best For Me yet, but I promise that it’s next on my list. This one, however, was the first real multi-part Clomle fic, way back in the day. Here’s hoping it’s new to some of you or old enough that you can enjoy reading it again.

Rating: U.

* * * * *

Chapter One

Spencer Carlin felt her calves tighten in protest as she came to the end of her jog. Her daily ritual seemed to be getting longer and longer, and she knew that her body was growing leaner and leaner with the change. She ran up the steps of her apartment building and flashed a smile at the security man, his focus on the monitors briefly broken by the attractive blonde passing. The elevator car was empty on her ride up to the eleventh floor, a fact which Spencer embraced, as she leaned wearily against the hand rail, her body damp with her exertions.

Making her way into her apartment, she made for the shower, losing clothing on the way there, and practically groaning with the feeling of the hot, hot water steaming down her body. She luxuriated in the shower for too long and had to will herself out of the shower and into her clothes, knowing she’d be late for work anyway.

Today was a bad day, Spencer decided. She knew that they came – and that she just had to deal with them – but, somehow, with every bad day that passed, it seemed harder and harder to push herself on. If she was going to be honest with herself, she would admit that all she wanted to do was keep jogging; if she thought she could, she would run for hours and hours. Spencer sighed. There was no time: she had to get to work.

As she opened the door to her office, she was greeted by the flashing smile of her receptionist. He raised his eyebrows at her, and gave her The Look.

She raised her eyebrows back, daring him to say something. He took the pencil out of his mouth.

“Your nine o’clock appointment is in your office. Daniel wanted to know if lunch was still on. Your dry cleaning will be here at seven. And you are not – I repeat NOT – allowed to be late for tonight. I’ve been told.”

Spencer flashed him a grin.

“Tim, if you got any better at this… I’d have to kill you”. She took the folder he handed her and glanced at the name: Portia de Francesco. The name rang no bells. New client?

Spencer made her way into the office and smiled at the blonde seated in the chair at her desk. She made her way around to her own chair, placing her briefcase on the floor, and leaning across to extend a hand to her new client. They shook hands briefly, and Spencer sat down.

“Ms de Francesco, so nice to meet you,” Spencer felt like her smile was plastic.

“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, Ms Carlin. You’re a difficult lady to see. So much in demand these days.”

Spencer blushed slightly at the praise. She knew it to be true, but she still felt uneasy at hearing it. Her work had taken on a life-force of its own and if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was so easy to throw herself into it, she wouldn’t have gotten so far lately. Even today, as wooden as she felt, the opportunity to pick up something new and totally lose herself in it made Spencer sit up and listen.

“What can I do for you, Ms de Francesco?”

“Call me Portia, please.” The blonde smiled. “My company has a project which we’d like you to illustrate. We think you’d be perfect for the job.”

Spence waited a moment, expecting the woman to give more detail. When it became apparent that no more was to be forthcoming, she put her hand on the desk.

“What is this project?” She was curious now. “A book?”

Spencer had built herself quite a name as an illustrator. Over the years, her talents had blossomed and her beautiful work was now very sought-after. She mostly illustrated children’s books, lovingly turning the prose into eye-catching scenes that delighted children everywhere. Occasionally she branched out: into graphic design; into anything, really. She was curious to find out what this project would be. She felt a familiar strain of adrenaline pump softly and was grateful for the feeling against the numbness that persisted everywhere else. It was no wonder she threw herself into work.

Spencer waited for the reply.

“It’s -” Ms de Francesco paused, a wry smile on her lips. “It’s really a secret.”

Spencer raised an eyebrow.

“Is this a joke?” She didn’t think it was funny if it was. “How am I supposed to work on something when I don’t know what it is?”

“No, no,” the white-blonde woman moved to reassure her. “We have no intention of keeping you in the dark. It’s just that my boss was quite specific, we…. We can’t tell you yet.” Portia looked strained, aware of the sheer ridiculous nature of what she was saying.

Spencer took this in with a slightly disbelieving look on her face.

“You want me to work on something, but you can’t or won’t tell me what it is yet, and you want me to agree to it now?” Spencer sat back. “Is it illegal?”

The other blonde laughed prettily.

“No, it’s definitely legal. You don’t have to commit now, either, Ms Carlin. We’re happy to have you commit once we’ve been through everything thoroughly. Consider this -” she paused, “an offer of interest.”

Spencer had to admit she was hooked. A little mystery, a new job, could be just what she needed right now.

“Okay,” she replied, despite her head throwing off some warnings. “Consider me interested.”

* * * * *

Chapter 2

Spencer got home from work as the darkness of the autumn evening closed around her. She was getting home later and later these days, and had to make an effort to leave earlier. She unlocked the door of her apartment, and let herself in.

She busied herself making dinner, tidying up, generally musing about. As she dusted, she made her way along the bookshelf, to her photos of her family; they were smiling, larking about in the way they always did. Spencer wondered if they were ever as happy as they looked in those photos, before things fell apart.

But they did fall apart, Spence, a voice whispered in her head. They did.

She picked up a photo of her and Glen, smiling. He was ruffling her hair, and she had her arms around his waist, hugging him from the side. Spencer felt the warmth of tears slipping down over her cheeks. Dropping the duster, she hugged Glen’s photo to her chest and fell into a chair. Pulling her knees up, she buried her head and sobbed.

It had been eight long years since the night that Glen had died, and the night that Spencer had watched the world as she knew it twirl away. She could remember the night like it was right in front of her, and the clutch in her chest had barely lessened since.

With the smell of rubber burning off the bitumen, Spencer stood, watching in horror as the red convertible stripped backwards in a cloud of smoke. The sound of flesh hitting the pavement, of Glen’s tortured screams. The vision of red and blue lights as they shone, spinning, in the puddles. The numbness in the cold, watching the solitary figure walk away into the fog and the night.

Spencer jerked out of her reverie, squeezing her eyes and trying to still her shaking body. It was too hard at this time of year. She jumped up, placing Glen back on the shelf where he belonged, and began her long nightly ritual of cleaning her apartment from top to bottom. This time, she would exhaust herself completely. This time, she would sleep.

* * *

Spencer reached for the office door, and glanced up at the clock. She grimaced. She was getting later and later. Tim looked concerned, as he handed her the day’s mail, removing the pencil from his mouth.

“Later and later, Boss.” He leant back in his chair. “Am I gonna have to start making you toast to get you here on time?”

Spencer couldn’t help smiling in reply.

“Wouldn’t help, Tim. I wouldn’t eat it.” She started towards her office, leafing through her mail absentmindedly.

“Boss, your 9.30 appointment is in there,” Tim warned.

Spencer stopped in her tracks. What appointment? She could feel her brow furrow, and knew that she had to start paying more attention to her life. Even work was slipping now.

“Tim, do I even HAVE a 9.30 appointment?” She looked at him, hoping he would tell her he was joking. She needed some time to sort out her projects. Workaholic or not, she was starting to feel just a tad overloaded.

“Ms de Francesco rang earlier,” Tim replied, looking puzzled. “She said you’d arranged it yesterday.”

Spencer knew that things were slipping a little, but she could remember yesterday very clearly, and it had NOT involved making a 9.30 meeting with Portia.

She marched into her office, partly interested and partly disgruntled. The white-blonde woman sat in the chair by her desk. When she saw Spencer, her face formed a wry smile, but somehow Spencer was not amused.

“We had a 9.30 appointment?” Spencer demanded. “I usually expect appointments to be agreed on by both parties. I believe it’s part of the social graces.” Spencer knew she sounded disgruntled.

“I’m sorry, Ms Carlin. I know it was rather rude of me, but we are very keen to have you working with us as soon as possible, and, well, the timeline your office boy was offering us was less than helpful.”

Now Spencer was really mad.

“Ms de Francesco, my ‘office boy’ – as you choose to call him – makes those decisions on my behalf because they’re what I want!” Spencer replied pointedly. “I may be willing to have a look at this project of yours, but I have other work to do, important work that is also on a strict deadline. I must say that this is hardly endearing me to your little project.” She practically spat the last word.

Portia seemed unmoved by the reply.

“Ms Carlin, I really am very sorry.” Her voice seemed to have smoothed in an effort to become soothing. To Spencer’s annoyance, it was working. “I promise that I want nothing more than to arrange a time for you to stop by our offices to get a better handle on this project.”

“You could have arranged that through Tim,” Spencer pointed out, “my ‘office boy’.”

Portia smiled. Her teeth so white they were almost blinding. “And be given a time somewhere in the next few months?” She tossed her hair over her shoulder. “Ms Carlin, all I’m asking is that you come to our offices tomorrow afternoon to meet our client.”

Spencer sighed.

“Fine,” she accepted flatly. It seemed easy.

And you want to know what the hell is going on, her mind threw at her.

* * *

It was cold out, and Spencer was glad for her leather jacket. It had been a present from her father, and she treasured it. Nonetheless, she could feel the icy-cold wind cut through her at knee level, and she was glad she was close to her destination. Once again, she pulled the card Portia had given her out of her pocket, and tried to make some sense out of this.

AAD RECORD PRODUCTIONS

It was bold and striking, if a little boring, the artist in Spencer added. It also didn’t make any sense. Why would a record company want to talk to her? Spencer illustrated children’s books. That was hardly a style that a hard-edged music company would find interesting. And what was so secret about all of this? Why didn’t they just tell her what they wanted? Designing new business cards for them would be start, Spencer mused.

She went in the front door and was grateful for the sudden burst of warmth that enveloped her. She had to admit she was a little surprised. She didn’t know what she’d expected from a record company, but somehow, she thought it would be edgier. This just looked refined, like a lawyer’s or an accountant’s. Spencer rethought that; it was a little too refined for an accountant. She never did like accountants.

At this point Spencer realised she was nervous, babbling in her own mind. The feeling threw her a little. It had been so long since she’d felt anything much at all that the anxiety was surprising. She made her way to the desk and spoke the receptionist.

“I’m here to see Ms de Francesca. I have an appointment.”

The girl behind the desk smiled.

“Of course, Miss Carlin. If you’ll take a seat, she’ll be right out.” Spencer looked surprised. How had the girl known who she was? The receptionist – whom Spence had to admit was kind of cute – flashed her a grin.

“She only has one appointment this afternoon.”

Spencer grinned back, and took a seat.

She managed to amuse herself for ten minutes with the latest Cosmopolitan before the familiar figure of Portia strode towards her. Spencer stood to meet her.

“Ms Carlin, so glad you could come.” The blonde took Spencer’s hand in her own and shook it.

“Call me Spencer.”

Spencer had never really liked formality all that much. It somehow reminded her of her mother’s less-stunning qualities. Spencer forced the thought of her mother out of her mind.

“This way.” Portia led the way across the foyer and through a door on the other side, stopping only to punch in a code. Spencer followed, anticipating growing. They moved down a corridor, and eventually came to a door. Portia opened it and they went in.

Spencer found herself in a small antechamber, and followed Portia into the production area of a small recording studio. Through the glass, she could see a brunette, guitar in hand, crooning softly. For a second, her heart flew, pounding as though it was going to burst out of her chest. Although the brunette was facing away from the glass, there was something there that was so familiar. It was only when she tuned into the soft, sweet music coming from the booth that she knew what it was.

* * * * *

Chapter 3

Spencer watched the brunette strum the guitar while her soulful tune filled the studio. It reminded her so much of Ashley, she could barely breathe. But this wasn’t Ashley. She knew that right away. She would have known Ashley from a mile away, from a scent, from a flash of an image. This girl reminded her of Ashley as she knew her ten years ago, when they had first met. The voice was melodic and powerful, but it wasn’t Ashley’s.

Spencer shivered slightly and stood back. She listened to the music as it melted away, and found her eyes fixed on the young girl who put down her guitar and turned around. Spencer found herself staring at one of the cutest girls she had seen in a long time. Her hair was auburn-tinged, Spencer realised, now that she could see it better in the light. Her smile, crooked though it was, seemed to light up her face. She seemed to possess a warmth that Spencer found herself absorbing.

The brunette came through the door to the sound engineer’s booth, jeans slung low on her hips, her halter top showing just a hint of stomach. Spencer felt her insides lurch sideways. She quickly pushed her thoughts in a less-distracting direction. This girl looked like she was barely past jail bait age.

Get a grip, Spencer, she thought.

Portia stepped forward, her hands reaching out to the musician.

“Riley, Riley, that was fantastic. You’re sounding just amazing.” She pulled the girl over to Spencer, and introduced them. “Riley, this is Spencer, the artist we’ve been talking about. Spencer, this is Riley, our new prodigy.” The blonde smiled smoothly.

Spencer reached out and shook the young girl’s hand. “Pleased to meet you”.

To her surprise, a flush fell across the young girl’s face. She looked at the ground, shyly. “It’s an honour.”

Spence looked taken aback. “It’s… it’s no honour,” she replied, laughingly. “Your music is amazing.”

Riley looked pleased. Spencer felt a tug at her mouth as she smiled, almost involuntarily. There was something about this girl that Spencer really liked. She found herself quite irritated when Portia stepped in, all business, to bring Spencer’s attention back to more mundane matters.

“Ms Carlin, if you’d like to step this way, we have a proposal we would love to run past you.” The blonde’s emphasis on the word ‘love’ rubbed Spencer up the wrong way.

The more she spent time around Portia, the more she found her fake. She shrugged it off. Sometime in the last few days, since the arrival of Ms de Francesca, Spencer had found her emotions in turmoil. She wasn’t sure if she was happy that she wasn’t numb, or completely thrown. She tried to get a hold on her feelings.

“By all means, Ms de Francesca. And again, it’s Spencer, please.”

The icy blonde smiled. “Portia.”

Soon Spencer found herself seated at a large oval table, in what could only be the boardroom of the company. Portia and Riley were the only two vaguely-familiar faces at the table. There were two men in bland business suits and another young woman who, by the laptop she had in front of her, Spencer could only assume was the administrative assistant. So, this must be their pitch. Spencer still had no idea what she was doing here, or what the heck they wanted her to do.

Portia was clearly in charge.

“Ms Carlin, what we ask from you is really quite simple. Riley here is our newest singer, and her debut record is something we expect to be spectacular.” Riley blushed and looked down at the desk.

Spencer had the overwhelming urge to take Riley by the hand and take her somewhere where she could actually breathe. Spencer had never felt at home in meetings like this and it took no great insight to tell that the young musician was completely uncomfortable. Spencer somehow felt vaguely reassured by her urge to mother the young girl; at least it wasn’t an inappropriate emotion.

“From the little I’ve heard of Riley’s music, I don’t think you need to be worried about that,” replied Spencer.

“Well, we think that you would be the right person to market her,” Portia smiled.

Spencer sat looking confused, if not slightly stunned. “I’m not a marketing agent. I’m an artist, an illustrator,” she pointed out.

“What we have in mind for this marketing campaign is something… different. We don’t need the same old photos and paraphernalia. We would like you to design all the angles for us: the album cover, the inserts, posters, everything.”

Spencer raised an eyebrow. “I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m not even sure what you’re after, or if I’m the right person to produce it.”

“Actually, Ms Carlin, our orders are to let you guide this project as you feel best. Having seen some of your work, we think that the concept of a completely-illustrated campaign will be refreshing.”

Spencer wasn’t quite sure how best to respond and so continued to voice her uncertainty. “I’m really not sure if I can give you what you need.”

“Ms Carlin, I assure you that all you have to do is draw. We’ll tell you what marketing tools we’re planning on using. You can have as much artistic license as you please, and we’ll implement them. We have a great deal of faith in your work.”

Spencer somehow knew that her protests were going to go nowhere. And she also knew that she was going to say yes. It was crazy. This was not her normal kind of job. She had no idea what she was going to do, and had no idea why she was saying yes.

“Okay, I’ll do it. But Riley has to have input.” She surprised herself with that one.

“Of course,” Portia agreed warmly. Spencer kept her eyes on the young musician, and returned the smile she got.

Riley’s grin grew.

“I’ve seen some of your drawings. I loved them. I can see why Ashley wanted you on this project.”

A silence descended upon the room. Spencer stared at the young girl, oblivious to Portia’s sudden attempts to end the meeting without speaking.

What had Riley just said?

* * * * *

Next up: Chapters 4-6 [U]

5 Comments

  1. smurfturkey
    Posted 27 February 2009 at 2.55am | Permalink

    YAY!

  2. dev0347
    Posted 27 February 2009 at 2.48pm | Permalink

    Hee! I agree.

  3. Ringo
    Posted 28 February 2009 at 12.16am | Permalink

    I see your “YAY!” and raise you a “WOOHOO!”

  4. evilgiraffe
    Posted 9 March 2009 at 7.22pm | Permalink

    I see your woohoo and raise you an AWESOME!

    I had totally forgotten about this fic and it took me a wee while to remember it as I was reading and now I kind of do so know it is going to be great (well duh) but not enough that I can actually remember what is going to happen. Yay!

  5. April
    Posted 19 December 2010 at 4.03pm | Permalink

    hmmm this is getting interesting…

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