“Good morning, are you ready to be squeezed?” the receptionist asked into a wireless headset while she applied a garish shade of pink lipstick to her plump lips. After a short pause, she said, “Hold. I’ll transfer you,” and rolled her eyes.
Meredith smiled weakly at the woman and walked a little faster. It would do no good to make eye contact or show any signs of slowing down. The receptionist actively sought out unsuspecting coworkers to harangue about her shiftless husband, lazy kids, and shitty job. Meredith had made that mistake before.
The din of the newsroom caught Meredith off guard. Staff writers gathered in groups of three and four across the floor of low-walled cubicles. Excited voices led to fast moving fingers and feet, further fueled the frenetic atmosphere.
Meredith hadn’t seen the newsroom in such a frenzy since the last time pop sensation Beka Bond announced she was divorcing her music mogul husband, Jermaine Armstrong. This happened at least once a year and resulted in heavy paparazzi coverage of Beka’s nude instagram photos and footage of Jermaine punching walls. These were the stories news sites like Squeeze lived for; each writer could easily churn out a story or quiz cashing in on the soap opera unfolding before the media’s lens without having to create any original content.
“Morning Alec,” Meredith said to her cubicle mate as she plopped into her chair and turned on her laptop. “What’s going on?”
Alec Kincaid popped up, gopher-like, hands on hips. He sported a Hulk t-shirt underneath his tailored suit jacket. “I have no idea why you work here.”
“It’s a paycheck, my friend. Now spill.”
“Shouldn’t you squeeze it out of me?” He laughed.
Meredith rolled her eyes.
“It’s just another one of our esteemed Editor in Chief’s ideas at making this a legitimate and respected news site.”
“No publication named Squeeze will ever be legitimate or respected.”
“Nor will its writers, Meredith, yet here you sit.”
“You’re in a mood,” Alec eyed her suspiciously, “And for what it’s worth, I think this idea actually has some potential.”
“Oh…” Alec trailed off, his green eyes softening, “You had dinner at your parents’ house last night.”
“Yeah,” Meredith trailed off.
Alec jumped up on his desk, walked over the low wall separating his cubicle from Meredith’s, and sat down on her desk. He took her hands in his and said, “That bad?”
“Worse. My mother thinks I should be over it already.”
“Damn,” Alec let out a low whistle, “That’s cold, even for your mother.”
“Yeah,” Meredith said blinking back tears.
“For what it’s worth,” Alec leaned in close to her ear, “I think you are doing just fine.” He kissed her cheek. “Now buck up, babe. We all have to squeeze into the conference room to hear the pitch.”
Meredith pulled out her compact and peered at her reflection. Her eyes were still a bit puffy from last night, but all in all, she didn’t look horrible. She tucked the compact into her handbag and stood up.
“Ready?” Alec asked, a notebook in his hand and a pen tucked behind his ear.
Meredith nodded, “The jokes never get old to you, do they?”
Morning sunlight streamed in through the floor to ceiling windows lining one wall of the Squeeze conference room. Meredith groaned and shielded her eyes with her hand as she sank into a leather wheeled chair in the back of the room. Alec dropped his notebook into the chair beside her and adjusted the window blinds to block the sun from their faces.
“Bless you,” Meredith whispered, blinking.
Alec sat down, leaned in and whispered, “Please tell me you didn’t drink alone.”
Meredith ignored him and busied herself with opening her notebook to a blank piece of paper and uncapping her pen.
“Meredith,” Alec hissed, “We’ve talked about this.”
“Not now, okay?” Meredith whispered, her eyes pleading.
“Lunch then,” Alec sighed, “I’m worried about you.”
Meredith hated to admit it, but Alec was right. The pitch was decent. It sparked something in her and for the first time in months she actually had a pitch, a real pitch, not just the mindless celebrity gossip and quizzes she usually churned out. She ignored the sound of Alec’s foot tapping and stomach grumbling and opened a new word document on her laptop and began typing:
We all have a list in the back of our minds of things we’d like to do if only we had the time, the money, or some other innocuous excuse adults tend to use for all of the things not essential to keeping the day job or the rent paid. We’ll get around to them some day, we say. Let’s be honest; we’ll never get around to them. Something else will come up. We’ll have a kid or two. Lose a job. Take in a sick parent. The ‘some days’ become a broken record of ‘couldas, shouldas, and wouldas’ we’ll take out and play over and over again when we can’t sleep on our deathbeds. Or we can get out of bed on the second Saturday of September and knock of a few of those ‘some days’ off our lists.
Meredith bit her fingernails as she read the words she had written. She was rusty, that much was clear. The last time she wrote something she was passionate about, Connor was still alive. That’s okay though. She could work with this.
“Hey, you ready for lunch?” Alex asked as he shook the back of her chair to get her attention.
“I’m working on a story. Bring me back something?” Meredith said without looking up from her screen.
“Mere, we were supposed to talk, remember?”
“Can we do it later? I’m on to something.”
Shocked, Alec leaned in to read what she was working on. “I’ll be damned…” he trailed off.
“Shhh…” Meredith hissed.
Meredith continued puzzling out her piece, working on her angle. She decided to survey average people passing through the square downtown. The person with the most intriguing thing that they’d do ‘some day’ would be the focus of her piece. All that she needed was a good hook to entice people to stop and chat with her and a couple of solid interview questions.
“Hello Meredith,” a deep voice boomed behind her.
“Oh!” Meredith exclaimed as she scrambled to her feet, “Hello Steven.”
Steven Blanchard, Editor in Chief of Squeeze, chuckled and casually leaned his tall, tan, muscular frame against the wall of Meredith’s cubicle. “Have a minute?”
“There’s several high profile new releases coming out in the next couple of weeks. Do some research on them and come up with an article or two. Maybe a quiz about what movie you should go see if you’re on a date or a night out with friends. Pitch them by the end of the week.” Steven didn’t wait for a reply before he began walking away.
“Wait,” Meredith’s voice croaked, “I’m working on an idea for Some Day.”
Steven turned around, his hands in his pockets and wisps of his dirty blonde hair falling into his eyes. “Oh, that’s unnecessary,” he chucked, “There are plenty of other staffers pitching ideas for Some Day. Play to your strengths. Pitch some movie quizzes.”
Meredith fell back into her chair.
Alec returned twenty minutes later with two greasy, brown paper sacks in one hand and a drink tray containing two large iced coffees in the other. Meredith didn’t notice him return; her eyes glazed over and unblinking as another movie trailer played across her screen.
“What are you doing?” Alec asked, the thud of the lunch sacks further punctuating his question.
“Huh?” Meredith asked, removing the earbuds from her ears.
“What. Are. You. Doing?”
“When I left here half an hour ago, you were in the zone writing something real and now you’re watching movie trailers so you can make up a dumb quiz and a filler article. What gives?”
Steven sauntered by. “How’s the research going, Meredith?”
Meredith smirked and gave a convincing thumbs up.
“Excellent, keep up the good work!” He kept on making rounds of the newsroom, oblivious to the one fingered salute Meredith offered to his backside.
“Did you tell him that you had a pitch for a real story?”
Meredith glared at Alec, “He told me to play to my strengths.”
Alec balled his fists. The vein on the side of his neck pulsated. “What an asshole,” he seethed. “I’m going to talk to him.”
“No, you’re not,” Meredith said, standing. “You don’t get to pick my battles and you certainly don’t get to fight them. Okay?”
“Okay,” Alec sat down in his chair, stunned.
“Good,” Meredith grabbed her purse from her desk drawer, “I’ll be back.”