NYC, Danielle

This is a snippet from a work in progress about David Cairo (pronounced “kay-ro” like the town in Georgia), the protagonist in a trilogy I’m working on, set mostly in Atlanta.

Danielle Perkins could not understand the discontent that often gripped her. She had, to the best of her knowledge, the life she always thought she wanted. She lived in a loft-style apartment in Greenwich Village. She was working on an advanced degree in her chosen field of study, Economics. She played the cello. She had a comfortable relationship with Carol, a slightly older woman with whom she had lived for nearly two years. For all intents and purposes, Danielle should have been exceedingly happy but she wasn’t. She derived no pleasure from anything she did, from anyone she knew, or from anywhere she went. Her life was mundane, unexciting, and she longed continuously for some glimmer of the dreams which had brought her to NYC.

Danielle was from Los Angeles, but always felt more connected to the East Coast, New York in particular. Her parents had come from there and had filled her early life with stories of the lives they’d left behind. New York, for Danielle, became more than a destination, it was an obsession, the focal point of all her efforts. She watched every Woody Allen and Martin Scorcese movie on video and had taken to wearing turtlenecks and sweaters, even though the temperature rarely warranted doing so, and drinking espressos long before they were fashionable. When she received word she’d been accepted for graduate school at NYU, she could not contain her joy, and ran, screaming through her house, waving the letter.

Danielle’s life was further complicated by the existence of David Cairo, the administrative assistant for her department in the college. She found him to be insufferable, anti-social, and generally annoying, in ways she could barely comprehend. It seemed to her his favorite word was “no” and he was filled with numerous excuses why things could not be done, usually with little or no consideration of them beforehand. She generally tried to avoid interacting with him at all and often developed a peculiar, nagging ache in the pit of her stomach whenever forced to visit his office.

David had also been a student a few semesters before Danielle started, and had worked in the department as an administrative aide. He assumed his current position several months after Danielle was admitted into the graduate program. Being close in age to the other students, David was frequently invited to functions outside of work and it was here Danielle had her biggest issues with him. She recalled, one year at a Halloween party, she’d spent several days working on a costume to wear, finally going as a fairy princess with transparent wings, and a wand that sparkled when waved. As soon as she arrived, David made a beeline for her and started calling her “Tinkerbell” when it should have been obvious to anyone paying attention that this wasn’t the look she was going for at all. Her spirits plummeted and she just couldn’t enjoy the party afterward. Even the compliments she received on her costume from the more refined guests, and repeated requests to demonstrate her sparkly wand, could re-ignite her enthusiasm. She was severely depressed for days afterward.

At length, Danielle knew that if she was ever to be truly happy again at school, and perhaps even in NYC, she would have to destroy David. She did not know how, but she knew it would happen, sooner rather than later. To accomplish this, she’d begun to feign interest in him, inquiring about his health, or making small talk about the weather, or some item of interest in the department. At first, he seemed unsure how to react — Danielle had rarely shown much interest in him at all, and only in an official capacity — but, as she seemed to gain his trust, he opened up more. She knew she was on to something, and decided to move up her timetable. Danielle asked David out for coffee after work, and he even seemed willing, before abruptly cancelling, saying he had an emergency to tend to. Later, Danielle saw him at a cafe near campus, seated with a slim, attractive, exotic-looking woman with whom he seemed embroiled in a heated conversation.

The following day, Danielle entered David’s office to find the same woman seated on the couch.

“Danielle Perkins, Sahara Montague,” David said as he passed Danielle, on his way out with a stack of pages in his hand.

Sahara rose and extended her hand, staring deeply into Danielle’s eyes as she said in a husky voice, “So nice to meet you.”

Whatever plans Danielle had for David were completely forgotten as she found herself lost in Sahara’s eyes, the intensity of her gaze. Self-consciously, she took Sahara’s hand and mumbled something like, “Pleased to meet you.”

“Are you a co-worker?” Sahara asked.

“Me? Oh, no, I’m a student here.” Danielle suddenly felt as though someone had stripped away all her clothing, and she forced herself to look away from Sahara. “Will David be long?”

“Who knows?” Sahara said, resuming her seat. “He’s copying something, I think.”

“How do you know one another?” Danielle said.

“That’s a rather loaded question,” Sahara said with a laugh.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry. It’s none of my business.”

“No, no, it’s not that. It’s just complicated.”

Just then, David returned and inquired what had brought Danielle into his office. Danielle’s sense of purpose returned and she said, “Oh, well, I was going to see if you’d like to grab some lunch.”

David glanced at Sahara, and shook his head. “I sort of have plans.”

“Nonsense!” Sahara said. “Davy’s just being a bore. We were just talking about getting something to eat. Why don’t you join us?”

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” David said. “I’m sure Danielle has much better things to do than listen to us argue.”

Danielle looked between them. “Well, I wouldn’t want—”

Sahara rose and placed her hand on Danielle’s shoulder. “Oh, please. Say you’ll join us. I’d love the chance to get to know you better.”

Danielle stole a glance at David, who rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh.

“I’d love to,” Danielle said.

“Perfect!” Sahara said, taking Danielle’s arm, and leading her toward the door. “Danielle is such a lovely name. May I call you Dani?”

“I guess,” Danielle said.

“I’m sure we’re going to be fast friends,” Sahara said. She paused to look at David, who had not moved. “Aren’t you joining us, Davy?”

David shook his head, and reluctantly followed them out.

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