The Last Rae of Hope
Eura Abrams was a tall, honey haired, middle-aged woman with oversized tortoiseshell sunglasses, black high heels and an outdated, bright red power suit. Her unzipped luxury handbag was slung haphazardly over one shoulder, its contents threatening to fall out with every movement she made while crossing the conference room.
I kept thinking she looked a lot older than I thought she would be. I guess I imagined web novel authors to be around my age, just trying to get their writing out there and make a few cents to supplement their day job. Eura, however, was the granddaughter of a corporate mogul, so I guess this was more of a labor of love than anything else.
“Out.” She made a flippant gesture to chase her grandfather out of the room.
“Isn’t she adorable?” He laughed as he exited. As soon as the door closed behind him, she ran and jumped in the seat directly across the table from us with a squeal.
“You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to meet you!” She thrust out a hand towards me and I shook it politely.
“Actually ma’am, my name is Rachel. The person you’ve been corresponding to is Nora.”
“I know that.” She was still clasping my hand, shaking long enough now to be uncomfortable.
“Ma’am–” I started.
“Sorry, Eura. You know, Nora’s really the one who’s been a big fan of your work.” I tried to get her to shake Nora’s hand by leading her arm over.
She was staring at my face. “As I understand it, you’re responsible for number three, number eleven, and my favorite, number twenty-four. Too bad it’s against the rules.”
“Number twenty-four is the suggestion that Euphridia rewinds time before Oliver infiltrates the party and tells Rel what’s going to happen,” Nora clarified. Oh yeah, NoRaeNoWay and the 33 Opportunities for Improvement.
“Against the rules?” I asked Eura as I finally pulled my hand away from her.
“Yeah. Rewinding time has all sorts of consequences I can’t account for.”
“You have a certain set of rules about the story?”
“Yeah. All the content creators have to follow the rules now,” she sighed.
"Isn’t it your story?"
"The president has rules for all of us now, no exceptions. Not even for me." Eura shook Nora's hand, but she dropped it after just the minimal two shakes. “So I’m thinking, number nine, the second half of number fifteen, and a bit of number twenty-nine.”
Nora thought about it for a moment. “Seventeen?”
“No transmigration without mutual acceptance by the transmigrators. Also, there’s the whole body-soul compatibility coefficient to consider. The likelihood of finding a positive match is infinitesimally small.”
“Oh, of course, of course,” Nora agreed. Did she really understand any of this? Because I certainly didn't.
I looked between the two of them and got out a piece of paper and started numbering down the side, crossing off the numbers they mentioned were bad and circling the numbers they agreed on.
“Whatever are you doing?” Eura looked at me.
“Oh. I’m not going to remember any of this, so it’s best if I take notes.” I continued by writing out what number seventeen had meant and drew a line through it to show it was no good. Then I stopped. “This is still an interview, right?”
“Interview?” Eura looked at Nora for the first time.
“He didn’t have us sign the contracts yet.”
“Old man!” she shouted towards the ceiling.
“Yes, dear?” He was already coming in with papers.
“Oh. Well, it's about time. We don’t have all day, you know.”
He handed a contract to each of us. Nora simply went to the last page and signed it.
“Ah… You’re going to have to initial each page here to attest that you read it in its entirety,” he murmured as he pointed out a small line on the bottom right of the page.
“Yeah okay.” She went back and signed them, though I couldn’t imagine she saw any words with how fast she was moving. I tried to read it. Occupational hazards listed everything from paper cuts to dismemberment and, rarely, sudden death. Routine job tasks included sedentary actions all the way through repetitive movements and strenuous exercise.
“Did you just take every job description there is and put it all together?” I wrinkled my nose.
“Well, project coordinator is a very broad role with a lot of other duties as assigned, so we like to make sure we cover all possibilities!”
“Uh huh,” I sighed and gave up. I initialed all the pages and signed the contract. Rich people are weird. I handed my contract to him after he took Nora’s. Eura went to intercept the papers, but President Abrams moved them out of her range.
“Eura honey, they’re my contracted employees, not yours. So I’m the one who holds onto these.” Eura glared at him but didn’t reply. Instead, she turned to us. “Anyway. We’ll start tomorrow and–”
“Next week.” I interjected.
“That’s too long to wait!” She was obviously used to getting things her way.
“No. I have arrangements to make. I need to talk to Mother.”
“Mother?” Eura blinked.
“I think she’s going to notice if I’m not around. Maybe not right away, but eventually.”
“You… live with your mother?” She seemed quite surprised.
“Yes, some of us adults can’t afford not to.” I turned to Nora. “Commuting is going to be really hard on the both of us. We should probably look for places to stay nearby, or at least close enough to take the train in.” Is train-sick a thing?
“Oh, no, you’re not going to work here!” Eura suddenly laughed.
“Where are we going to work, then?” I asked.
“And where’s that, exactly?”
She pulled out her phone from her purse, spilling other objects on the table. “Let’s share contact information first and I'll text you the address where we’ll meet up.”
After doing exactly that, I got a text with an address. I looked it up online.
“North Catskill Winery and Renaissance Fair?” Maybe she made a typo.
“My place is just a little beyond it, but you can't find a route to it from the map. We can just meet up there. We can even go to the fair first! It’s an excellent source of inspiration for me!”
I wasn’t ready to answer her just yet. “Nora, this is even farther than I imagined. Think I should bring Chester with me? I don’t know if I’ll be able to come home every weekend.”
“Chester?” Eura asked before Nora could reply.
“Oh! Oh. Can I see a picture of him?”
I showed her my gallery of Chester pics.
“He’s so cute! Oh, he’s just adorable. It’s just too bad that my place isn’t exactly cat proof… otherwise I would have said it’s okay to keep him with us. He can stay with your mother and keep her company though instead. I’m sure she’s going to miss you.”
Who was she to talk to me like that? I get to choose what I do, not you! I looked at Nora for silent support, but she just shrugged nonchalantly. “No, I meant when Nora and I find a place to stay–”.
Eura interrupted me with a wag of her finger. “You’re staying at my place for the duration of the contract. It was in the papers you signed. Don’t worry though, I’ll arrange everything! Trust me, you’ll never want to leave!”
Post Chapter Omake
Nora: You named the entire chapter after yourself?!
Euphridia: No rule against it!
Nora: ... There is now!
Euphridia: Euphridia's Rule? No, you're going to have to come up with another name. That name's already been used.