"No, I'm sorry I can't bring you, I would if I could and you know that!"
Cornelius emitted a highly dissatisfied squeak and continued to stare as Candice carefully wound her hair into a bun. She had gone to great lengths in terms of appearance and preparedness, yet the young woman still fretted over a variety of things. Perhaps her blouse wasn't proper enough, or perhaps she had completely forgotten to stuff an important document into her shoulder bag. "Oh well," she thought constantly to herself, "No use panicking over something you don't remember going completely wrong, it won't occur to you anyway."
A strand of hair had escaped from her bun, though Candice chose to ignore it. She had, again, walked herself through the complicated ritual of looking her best for the second day in a row, yet Candice was much more satisfied this time. Taking one last look in the mirror, she bent down to grab her bag, and turned to Cornelius once more.
"Don't you worry, dear," reassured Candice, her face near Cornelius's cage, "You'll always be my lucky charm. And remember: I put some extra food in there with you, but please pace yourself."
The little white mouse squeaked one more time as Candice marched to the door. Slipping her feet into a pair of tall heels, Candice looked back one more time.
"Goodbye! And be good!"
Undoubtedly, the office members of Flair knew how to immediately judge newcomers. What caught their attention was not what Candice was wearing, in fact their discrimination had nothing to do with her appearance. Rather, the uneasiness with which she stepped out of the elevator alerted them to a self-conscious personality.
"Pretty," remarked one woman to her neighbour, "But she acts straight out of the suburb."
"She better be bright, because I don't see what Mr. Bly could have possibly seen in her."
"Rumour has it that the two used to be romantically involved."
"Really?" exclaimed a man near by, "Well, I can see why he got rid of her."
As far as she could tell, Candice's nightmares surrounding big corporation fashion magazines had been realized. The snobbishness and the judgmental nature that she had seen in movies applied directly to the office of Flair. People pushed by her without bothering to return the smiles Candice offered them, and even the receptionist seemed cold. Candice glanced about her before cautiously settling into a chair next to a Hylian who looked to be a model. The woman paid no attention to her, and was, instead, keeping herself busy thumbing away at her phone with her manicured nails. Candice and she sat in complete silence, until the former mastered up the courage to, at least, attempt to make an entrance into the world of fashion.
"Hello, my name is Candice Berry," began Candice, holding out a hand.
"Hm," forced the model.
Finding the importance to be in appearing undeterred, Candice swallowed and continued, "Are you a model?"
"Yeah, something you'll never be," came the curt reply.
Drawing away, Candice dreaded the tense silence that would result as a consequence of her eagerness to socialize. Yet at that moment, a familiar figure walking towards her caught her eye. Garth Bly, dressed impeccably in a suit and loose tie, was approaching. The Zora's face had thinned over time, however, it was unmistakably Garth Bly, though significantly more groomed than in the past. He greeted Candice with a slight smile, and bid her to stand.
"It's been a while," he said to Candice.
"Hello, Garth," greeted Candice, "Thank you very much for offering this job to me."
"My pleasure," Garth returned, careful to be civil, "I always choose the most qualified, and your qualifications definitely stood out to me."
Despite the unfamiliar formality with which Garth said the last bit, Candice found herself turning red from the flattery. "Why, thank you again, but I'm sure..."
"Come along! There's much I need to show you. After all, I am a busy Zora, and you are my personal assistant. So, come with me."
Clinging to her belongings, Candice followed Garth, careful not to make eye contact with any of the scrutinizing employees at the firm. After all, if Candice could feel their stares burn into her back, why should she bother to look? Garth was leading her along an interminable hallway whose floor was covered with, arguably, the fanciest and the cleanest gray carpet in the world, which was quite a statement considering how there were many carpets in the world. For now, the fabric had officially become Candice's best friend, as the timid woman kept her head lowered, watching her feet pitter-patter on the ground. The buzz of the office surrounded Candice, though all voices and appliance noises seemed to blend together in one smorgasm of office sounds. The tap-tap of computer keyboards mixed nicely with the beep of phones, and the errrr from the office copier harmonized with the angry voices of fellow coworkers hollering at one another. Louder and louder, the office symphony sounded in Candice's head, mounting her anxiety with every note and rhythm. Her ears were about to burst, and she was losing the beat.
But just as Garth had saved her from potential financial ruin by offering her a post, the Zora salvaged her nervous soul by, finally, introducing her to a smaller office space. A stylish desk was equipped with an equally fashionable chair, and a state-of-the-art computer so elegant that Candice felt the urge to snatch the electronic device and bring it home. Beyond the office space was a pair of glass doors that led to a much larger office, which Candice correctly presumed to be Garth's working place.
"So," began Garth, "This is where you work. Answer all calls, remind me of all appointments, organize my folders, and so on. You're bright, I'll expect you to know what you need to do."
"Oh, of course!" remarked Candice, very eagerly, "Anything you need!"
To break the ice, Garth smiled at Candice, reassuring her that there was some sort of life in the entire business. Then, Garth promptly pointed to a file upon her desk, "You can start with that. There is a note for the layout designer so you'll know exactly what to do."
And with that, Garth walked through the double glass doors, leaving Candice to her own devices. Cautiously so as not to damage the oh-so-fashionable chair, Candice draped her jacket lightly over the back. Taking the package into her delicate hands, Candice found that, sure enough, a note was attached to the file, especially for the layout designer.
"Fin," it read.
"The few pages I am sending back to you are among the most disastrous I have ever seen from you. You need to take a look at them again. I would encourage you to do so if you would like to keep your job."
Candice's jaw dropped in horror. How could someone even think of trying to humiliate another person in such a way? Slowly, Candice bent over the desk and turned her to the right to see what Garth was in the middle of doing. To her relief, the Zora was on the phone and had not seen her. Gently, Candice unstuck the note from the package, and was so close to throwing the paper away in the nearest trash bin when a bit of pen soaking through the back caught her eye. Curious, as usual, Candice flipped the paper about, and found that there was another note at the back.
"And finally," the pen strokes read.
"Candice, don't you even think about throwing this piece of paper away."
Candice gulped, and grudgingly reattached the note to the file. Pulling towards a thick binder that had the words 'DIRECTORY' labeled upon its worn, black surface, Candice opened to a list and read through all the titles. She did not have to look for long before finding the layout designer.
"Fin Azari, Layout Designer. 8th Floor, Section E."
The binder then instructed Candice to take the divider marked '8TH FLOOR' between her fingers, and to flip to the floor map. Clearly labeled was each section of the floor, and Candice was relieved to see that Section E was near the elevators. File in hand and shutting the binder, Candice breathed deeply, then began her march through the floor.
Candice's fellow co-workers were no happier to see her the second time round. In fact, they were potentially even more averse to the newcomer. And so Candice managed to get to the cold, metal elevator, opening the doors and sharing the space with two aggressive-looking men in designer suits. To terrify Candice even more, both were leaving the elevator on the tenth floor, which meant that Candice would have to, somehow, squeeze past them. By the seventh floor, Candice's throat became scratchy. Then, the eighth.
"Excuse me," muttered Candice.
Rolling their eyes, the men let Candice through out onto another hostile floor.
"Section E, Section E."
Fortunately for Candice, Fin Azari's office was the first block from the elevator. Nervous, Candice took the time to examine the man at the computer. Strangely, she did not receive the same unfriendly aura from this Fin. Wavy, and flaming red hair was brushed back behind his ears, and his locks were short enough to expose a tanned neck. Fin was not an extraordinarily tall man, yet he was slightly above the average height of the average Hyrulean. He wore a short sleeved white shirt that was mostly covered by a black vest that clung somewhat loosely to his frame. From the loose and easy way he held a pencil with one hand, Candice was relieved to see that he would not be a threat to her. The fact made Candice bite her lip as she stared at the note she was destined to bear to Fin. Deciding that a friendly man deserved much friendlier comments, Candice removed the note and hid it behind her back with one hand. In the other was the package, which she held as she walked to Fin.
"Um," began Candice.
Hearing her, Fin Azari turned upon his chair and faced Candice. The man had the same features as a Hylian would, all except the absence of pointed ears. His dark complexion also puzzled Candice as she stood there, package in hand.
"Hello!" he exclaimed with a smile that, in turn, brightened Candice, "You must be the boss's new personal assistant. Please, Fin Azari."
Without hesitating, Candice took the outstretched hand, "Candice Berry."
"Oh, well, it's nice meeting you!"
Fin stared at Candice, waiting, as the latter struggled to find words to say. The personal assistant secretly wanted to ask the layout designer information concerning his heritage, as awkward a question as it was to ask someone who she was not familiar with. It was then that, with embarrassment, Candice recalled that she was to deliver the file to Fin Azari, and extracted the package from behind her back.
"Here," Candice presented the pack hesitatingly, "Garth wants you to take a look at them again."
"Ah! Thank you!" said Fin, receiving the file from Candice.
"Well, I'm going to go now so, yeah, enjoy the files!" replied Candice, turning on her heels.
She was almost out of the cubicle when Fin stopped her, "Wait!"
Biting her lip, Candice faced Fin, who had a mischievous smile on his face and had cocked an eyebrow. "The note?" he asked her.
"What note?" returned Candice, "I didn't see a note!"
"The note in your left pocket, sweetheart," remarked Fin.
Candice did not know exactly how to react, though she did eventually smile nervously, pulling the slip of paper from the pocket of her skirt. Fin chuckled and took the slip from her, informing her as he unfolded it, "The boss always has notes for me when this happens, so don't try and hide them next time, all right?"
With a strangely neutral expression that indicated to Candice that this was not the first time Garth sent such a harrowing note, Fin read the note before placing it near his computer monitor. To Candice's chagrin, she could no longer contain her curiosity, and found herself blurting out, against her wishes, a question that she had harboured for the past minute.
"What are you?"
"Pardon me?" asked Fin, slightly shocked yet smiling at her in a very boyish manner.
"Oh no," muttered Candice, alarmed, "I'm so sorry I didn't mean for it to come out that way."
"No, no, please!" returned Fin, "I seriously wasn't -"
"So, now that I've offended you, I'm going to go, okay? I'll just walk out of here, you can pretend you never saw me, or you can think that I'm really rude and obnoxious. And then, I'll come back here the next day hoping I won't see you because, really, I've made you feel bad. I've made you feel like a thing. And, oh, why can't I just control my mouth? Okay, well, um, either way, I'm gone! Poof! You, hopefully, won't need to see me for the next little bit. So, um, bye! You have a nice day and I will see you, hopefully, never!"
Fin sat there, frozen, eyes locked on Candice in fascination. Candice slapped her hands to her cheeks, characteristic of her when she was highly embarrassed, and attempted to make her way to the elevator. Unfortunately, Candice did not observe the obscure telephone cord that ran from the cubicle wall to a very old, outdated phone upon the desk. With a cry that was both pitiful, yet comedic at the same time, Candice fell to the ground with a thud, prompting the employees in other cubicles to twist their heads in her initial direction.
"Why?" she moaned on the ground, but looked up once she felt a hand on her shoulder.
Fin was cackling with laughter as he turned Candice until she faced him, leaned against a desk cabinet. Humiliated, Candice took her right hand and brought it to her face, attempting to hide herself behind her palm as she twisted away from Fin. A hand gripped Candice's wrist firmly before she could completely turn herself around, and drew her palm away from her head.
"Don't do that," said Fin, "You just made a little mistake, that's all! Don't be so worried about it."
"You don't understand," answered Candice forlornly, "I don't think I can cope."
Fin lost his smile, and now frowned at the personal assistant, "Cope with what? No one's here to hurt you."
"This...place," replied Candice, gesturing with her hand, "I didn't know I'd be so out of it all. I'm writing a book, you see, and all I wanted was a bit of money to live on but now I don't know if I can even continue in here."
"Hey, look at me. No, the chair isn't my head, look at me. You're doing fine. Garth wouldn't have hired you if you couldn't handle it."
A sad silence followed Fin's attempted, yet completely sincere, reassurance. Gazing at Candice, Fin was out of concrete solutions as to how he could comfort the newcomer. Other coworkers walked by, snidely looking at the two figures crouched on the carpet, as though one's weakness and the other's compassion made them inferior. It took moments before Fin knew exactly how to respond and break the bizarre atmosphere of the situation.
"And to answer your question, I'm half Gerudo and half Hylian."
This last statement piqued Candice's interest, and the red left from her cheeks. "Really?" she uttered.
Grinning once again, Fin nodded, "My mother is a Gerudo, and my father's the Hylian one. Actually, I lived in the Gerudotown quarter of the City as a kid."
"Oh! I love Gerudotown! Especially the spice shop, you know that one?"
Fin laughed to see Candice's eyes widen and brighten intensely, "Of course! It's one of the highlights of the quarter! Honestly, it's one of the only shops making money."
"But it doesn't stop there!" continued Candice excitedly, leaning towards Fin, "The buildings there are so exotic with the reds, and the oranges, and all the shawls hanging from clothing lines!"
"Yeah, I lived in one of those," happily remarked Fin.
"That's amazing! Half Gerudo, explains your hair and skin."
The two shared a giggle before settling for silence, once again. Then, almost simultaneously, Candice and Fin shot up from the ground, straightening out their clothes.
"I should really go," blurted Candice.
"I really should look at those pages some more," returned Fin.
Content, Candice strode out of the cubicle. However, she felt the urge to pop her head over Fin's desk, once again, before completely disappearing.
"Fin?" she said, catching his attention.
"Yeah?" he replied earnestly.
"...Thank you," said Candice, pausing to smile at Fin before making her way to the elevator.