A/N: First things first, I'd like to apologize to everyone for committing to another story. Some small part of me is kicking and screaming, but the rest figures why the hell not? I guess whichever story, this or The Joys of Lycanthropy, you all like best is the one I'll put more time into, plus I've got enough words already written in TJoL to give me some time with this one. Let me know what you think, if this is worth continuing! Enjoy!
The inside of Adonna Marcleif's office was an explosion of color and coordinated design, visually pleasing yet singularly terrifying. Her walls were painted a pale blue with dark accents, her carpet was an atypical pattern, with swirls and shapes or mixed colors. Pictures hung on the wall, plants basked in the sunlight, pictures of her children sat on her desk. There was a drafting desk under the window and an easel beside it. The desk itself was a beautiful antique, hand carved in the seventeen hundreds. It had been in her family since her uncle, a designer for the uniforms worn in the revolutionary war, had had it commissioned. This woman knew of her heritage and was extremely proud of it, flaunting it whenever she could.
Mrs. Marcleif herself was what caused the office to become an intimidating hell. She was beautiful, for one, with stark green eyes, auburn hair, and porcelain skin. Young, successful, rich, used to getting what she wanted. She was the head of Marcleif Design, one of the leading design headquarters in all of L.A., with leading trends and brands in stores all over the world. She dressed, as such, in the highest fashion, with precise coordination and a certain amount of genius that no matter what I myself was wearing, I felt dingy and less than presentable. I might as well have shown up in sweat pants and a dirty tee shirt.
"I have an assignment for you," she said, her voice rich and cold.
I nodded, not speaking.
"Marcleif Design isn't just for the privileged, you know."
Is that why your latest batch of bras sell for two hundred dollars minimum? I thought with a sarcastic bite, but kept my face neutral.
"We must cater to our entire population. There is an endless supply of customers for high fashion here in L.A., of course, but our little city is more than movie stars. We are youth, and spontaneity."
I wondered if this was the speech she had likely already drafted to reveal the product I had yet to even create. It sure sounded like it.
"We are rogues, and rebels. We are the surfers and skaters and boarders, are we not?" Her brows hitched upward the smallest amount, indicating she expected and answer.
"Of course, ma'am. L.A. Has always been a hotspot for the young and adventurous."
"Young and adventurous," she smiled a bit, mulling over my words. My palms began to sweat, in the fear that I had given a wrong answer. Instead her smile split a bit further and she said, "I would have put it the same myself. You will be good for this project, Miss Cullen. I need you to venture out into that new world on the coast, find out what really makes that market tick, then recreate it in a way that is singularly Marcleif. An entire line."
I balked, surprised, eyes widening. "An entire line?" I asked, not caring that I would get rebuked for the reiteration.
"I just said that, didn't I? You were the most promising graduate from NYU, that's the only reason you're here now. You showed promise in your internship, but now the test drive is over and you're off the lot and into my hands. We need to make sure you can actually perform under pressure. You have three months to research, design, fabricate, and present a total of thirty items worthy of our market."
I nodded as my stomach rolled with growing anxiety. I had hoped my euphoria would last a bit longer, but reality was already kicking in. Three months for an entire line? I didn't even know where to start.
Mrs. Marcleif picked up a manilla folder from her desk and handed it to me. "This is what I expect. Workshop 3B has been reserved for your needs. If you need any interns to assist you, see Mark and he'll arrange something. Outlines for drawing fabrics up and pulling them from our stores can be found inside as well. You have a drafting station at your apartment?"
"Good. Dismissed. I'll check in with you in two weeks."
I nodded my head. "Thank you, Mrs. Marcleif. I won't disappoint."
"Good," she said, then bent her head to her desk. I turned and fled.
Outside her office was a rather beautiful waiting area, a wide open oval lounge with wrap around couches and tables. The far window extended over the entire wall and overlooked the bustling L.A. Streets farther down the hill side. You could see the Hollywood sign from here too. I sighed and wondered if I would ever have a beautiful office like this.
"So, I didn't hear any screaming," a higher pitched male voice intruded on my thoughts. "It can't have been that bad."
I turned around with a smiled to see Mark, Mrs. Marcleif's assistant, sitting beside his desk right outside her door. He wore a lavender dress shirt, a plum tie, and white suspenders. His honey brown hair was gelled up, and his teeth where dazzlingly white. He was also flamingly gay.
"Nah, I'm still in one piece... for now." I tried for a smile but it came out as a grimace.
Mark tsked and reached behind his desk, only to produce a tray of sweets. He was supposed to offer them to anyone waiting. I had already had mine, but Mark and I had grown close over the year or so I'd been working here. "Here hon, have a cookie and tell me all about it."
I smiled and walked over to lean against his desk, taking a chocolate cookie from the proffered tray. "Well," I said, after taking a small bite. "Mrs. Marcleif has given me an assignment."
"Oh no. Is it awful? You didn't get Project Granny Panties, did you?" He grimaced but I just laughed.
"No!" I said, horrified at the mere mention of granny panties. "Is that really a thing? Heaven help the interns. No, nothing like that. It's actually pretty cool. Could be really cool, I'm just a bit overwhelmed."
"Well don't leave me hanging! What is it?"
"I have to design a skate-surf-board line for the subculture on the coast, specifically."
Mark, in all his flamboyant gayness, fluttered his hands and squealed. "Oh, Alice, that is marvelous! Aren't you excited? You have to be! This will get you so far ahead if you pull it off-"
"If I pull it off," I interrupted. "And I don't know if I can. I need to have the whole thing, thirty pieces, squared away in just three months."
Mark waved a hand at my statement. "Please. I've seen Marcleif give out more than that with a shorter due date. You've got this, hon. I know all about Hell Week at NYU, and if you survived that, you won't have any trouble here. Just do what you do best, and you'll be fine." He laid a hand on my shoulder and smiled warmly, which I couldn't help but return.
"I don't even know where to begin, though," I said, weakly.
"Well," Mark said, musing. "Do you have any possible clientele in your family, or any friends that hang out on the beach?"
I smiled. "Yeah. Yeah, my brother surfs but he's not 'into it,' or anything. He just does it for fun."
Mark shrugged. "It's a starting point. Go for it."
I beamed. "I will. But if it backfires it's on you, and as such I will have no choice but to draw boobs on every single one of your ties."
Mark gasped. "Alice Cullen, that is not even funny."
"That's why I was kidding," I smirked and punched him lightly in the shoulder. "I'm gonna call Em now, so I'll see you later, alright?"
"See ya, hon!" Mark called, then turned back to his computer screen and began typing away.
I walked through the building in a daze, not really coming to until I was seated in my car down in the parking garage. I took a deep breath the sifted through my bag until I found my phone. It rang three times then, "Yo Short Stuff! What's goin' on?"
I laughed out, "Hey Emmett. I need your help."
"Oh yeah? What with? Bear in mind that my strict 'no modeling' rule is still in effect. Unless you need Rose to model, in which case yes."
I rolled my eyes. "No, neither of those. I actually just need your advice on a new project I just got."
He paused. "You need my help with a Marcleif project? Alice, I don't think you're talking to the right guy. Here, let me go get Rose-"
"No! See, that's the thing. It's not a fancy line, it's a skater-surfer line. I need to design one, and I'm lost. Where should I start?"
Another pause, then, "Seriously?"
"Yup. Thirty items, surf, skate, a boarding. I'm running blind, man. Help a sister out."
"Hell yeah! Okay, I've got a friend who runs a skate shop, she handles all my stuff and she's totally awesome. I'm sure she could help you."
"It's as good a place as any to start. Can you give me the details?" I fished a pad of paper and pen from my console.
"Yeah, her shop's down in Santa Monica, right near the beach."
I scribbled down the address with a smile on my face.
There was something refreshing about driving down Ocean Avenue. Every new mile took a year off the soul until you couldn't help but smile. I had my Porsche's top down, sunglasses on, short hair blowing in the breeze. It was a balmy eighty some degrees outside. On the right side of my car I could see the ocean through buildings, and beaches packed with people. Surfers popped in and out of waves, skateboarders zipped along on the sidewalks. Finally my GPS dinged, letting me know I was getting close. It wasn't long until a red brick building came into sight. Above the door was an artfully designed piece of graffiti reading 'Olympic Surf and Skate.' I pulled into the lot behind the building, parked my car, and hopped out eagerly.
Emmett told me he had met the store's owner back in college and that they had been close ever since. When I asked him if Rose had any reason to be jealous Emmett laughed and said, "Bella's in a class of her own and in my mind, practically one of the guys." All in all, I was eager to meet her. Emmett had also told me there wasn't a single person on the coast that knew more about Cali Culture than Bella did.
I pushed open the back entrance door and walked into an explosion of color and design. Graphics popped out at me, some I recognized and some I didn't. One wall held what must have been hundreds of skateboard bodies along with wheels, and the opposite wall held longs rows of surf boards. In the middle of the store there were racks of clothes for all disciplines. Bathing suits, board shorts, pajamas, even Fox and Rider boxers. I looked up and saw the store had a loft as well, stocked with more clothes and snowboarding gear. I smiled, reminding myself that I'd have to thank Emmett for this later.
"Hey there. You must be Emmett's sister? Right?" A voice, lower than mine and a little bit raspy called out from amid the shelves. I wove my way towards it and found a tall, slender girl leaning against the counter in front of the skate boards. Her wavy brown hair, intermixed with blue and blond streaks, cascaded over her shoulders and down to her lower back and was tamed (for the most part) under a wide brimmed hat, embroidered with the letters 'DC.' She wore a tank top with the same logo, gray and green and blue, with black skinny jeans. Bulky headphones hung ground her neck, and she had snakebites in her lower lip.
I smiled. "Am I that out of place?"
The girl who I assumed to be Bella grinned. "Only a little. Mostly, you don't have the dress for it but you also look like Emmett, just a bit."
I shrugged my shoulders. "The dress thing I'm looking to fix, the Emmett part, well, isn't a little early in our friendship for you to be insulting me?"
Bella laughed and her face split into a smile. She held out a hand which happened to be attached to an arm, one I noticed for the first time to be tattooed with an under water theme from wrist to shoulder. Waves crashed up her forearm, whales and sharks and tropical fish swam in circles up and down. On her shoulder an octopus was looking at me a little funny. "I'm Bella Swan," she said once her laughter had subsided.
"I'm Alice Cullen," I smiled, shaking her hand.
"So how can I help you?"
"That bad?" Bella joked.
I grinned, "Not for you, just for me." I outlined the basics of the project to her. "I," I said, pointing to myself, "know nothing about any of it. Emmett said you were an expert and pointed me your way."
Bella's eyebrows perked up and she whistled. "Marcleif, huh? I've heard of it. One of their shirts is about the same as my rent each month. Not many skaters can afford shit like that."
I laughed and shrugged. "Yeah. But that's the thing, it's supposed to be changing the way people look at Marcleif. Or something. I don't know, but I can pay you a consultant's fee and everything-"
Bella held up her hands. "I'm gonna stop you right there. First off, you're the Bear's little sis, and second off, I love bringing new blood into the lifestyle of the coast. No need to charge for that."
I grimaced. "You'll probably want it after how much I'll bug you about all this, if you agree to help me out that is. Three solid months of me pestering you? No one should have to endure that for free," I said, laughing.
Bella laughed too. "Nah, don't worry about it. It's the hot season right now, if you hang around the shop and wallflower for a bit, you'll be sure to pick up whatever you need to know and I can answer all your questions. Teach you about the brands, what makes them different and what makes people wanna spend their hard earned green on them." She shrugged. "No sweat."
I looked around the shop and said, "This place is seriously awesome."
Bella beamed. "It should be! I pour out my blood, sweat, and tears on a daily basis."
"Sounds like a lot of work," I chuckled.
She shrugged. "Yeah, but it's worth it." The door dinged and a group of teenagers meandered in. "One sec," Bella said to me, before raising her voice to the new comers and asking, "What's up?"
"Nadda," one boy said. He was tall with hair so blond it was nearly white. "Lookin' for some new wheels. My fuckin' dog chewed up one of the ones I've got now."
"Street or Park?" Bella asked.
"Street. Blue, I think, to match my board." The boy held up a skateboard, the underside of which was a gnarled representation of an underwater scene, complete with sharks and mauled fish, like a considerably more macabre version of Bella's tattoo.
"I like it," Bella said, grinning. She turned and pulled a few off the racks. "We've got Unlimited, Jakson Co. and Hurley."
"Whatever's cheapest," the boy said.
"Right-o," Bella said and slid the Jakson Co wheels across the counter. "Twenty bucks."
The boy sighed. "Aw, shit." He turned around to look at his friends. "You guys got any cash? I've only got seventeen."
"Hold on," Bella said. "No sweat. A discount, and maybe you'll come back later on if you need anything else?"
The boy grinned and said, "Hell yeah." He swept out a hand and Bella met him in some kind of high-five turned clasping on the hands. "Sweet. I'll do you one more and let all my friends know where you're at."
"Solid. Want me to put those on for you?" She asked with an easy smile.
The boy shrugged and said, "I've got it, thanks anyways."
"Alright then," Bella shrugged and waved a lazy hand in farewell as the kids left the store.
Once they were gone I asked, "You can just do that?"
Bella said, "All this stuff in here is used for heavy activity, it breaks and wears thin. Customer loyalty keeps this shop alive, forget a few extra dollars."
I laughed and said, "Well, isn't this a drastic change from working at Marcleif? Like a breath of fresh air."
Bella laughed as well and said, "Well hey, I'm happy to help out. We got ourselves a deal? You hang out around the shop, I'll teach you what you need to know, maybe offer some advice?"
I sighed and said, "I need to give you something in return, though. Otherwise it's just not fair."
Bella tapped her chin in thought. "I guess you'll just have to pick up my lunch tab every now and then. Eventually I might even put you on some customers, test your knowledge or whatever."
I smiled. "That sounds better, now I won't feel so guilty."
"Good! But, before we seal the deal, I have one final question for you."
"Hit me," I said.
"Are you a dog person?"
I blinked. It wasn't what I was expecting. "Well, yeah. I love dogs! But how is that-"
Bella cut me off with a whistle and suddenly from up in a loft came the sound of clicking claws and thudding paws. Down the stairs flashed a blur of gray and white mottled fur. It dodged between racks with expert precision and I smiled. When the blur came to a halt it had become a dog. The creature had a build that reminded me of an Australian Shepherd but it's coat was a piebald mix of white and blue merle. His eyes were deep brown, the same shade as Bella's, when I thought about it.
"This is Argo! Official shop mascot, my most valued co-worker, and Santa Monica's most famous surfing dog."
I giggled and knelt down, ruffling the fur around his neck. "Well hey there, pretty boy!"
He wuffed in response and cordially licked my nose.
"Now that you two have been introduced, there's just one thing left to do," Bella said, voice surprisingly grave.
I looked up, quizzical, only to see a smile on her face and a hand extended.
"We've got to shake on it." She smiled.
So we shook.
A/N: Off to a good start maybe yes? I think this could go places! Let me know what you thought! I need to make sure it's worth splitting my time, so if you want more let me know!