At the Top


I take a deep breath and push the air out, watching how my lips curl into a delicate ‘O’. I should have warn deep red lipstick, it’s more intimidating. Dad told me not to though. Apparently I need to ease the board into my leadership.

I shake my head and pull my fingers across my skin, from collar bone to collar bone before rolling my eyes and turning away from the mirror. Staring into my own eyes in the extravagant bathroom mirror doesn’t offer the courage I had been expecting.

I lean against the counter and mutter, “Screw Hollywood,” pushing two of my fingers up my nose and onto my forehead. My eyes close and I rub the bridge of my nose, pulling in deep, burning breaths. My phone dings and I flinch before grabbing it from the countertop and swiping it open.

DADDY CORTESE: You got this, Elise. The first independent board meeting determines what sort of leader you’ll be. I have no doubt my little girl will be the best CEO of the family. 

I scoff and ignore the message. Setting my phone down, I look up to examine the large metal contraption against the opposite wall. I know it’s supposed to be an art piece, probably cost the place thousands of dollars, but it looks more like a torture device to me.

“Screw Capitalism,” I say, reaching forward to touch the structure just because I’m probably not supposed to. The metal is cold and I smirk, wrapping my hand around one of the bars.

“Miss Cortese, they’re re-oh, I’m sorry.”

I spin around, still holding tight onto the sculpture. My assistant, who is actually older than me, stands in the doorway, glaring at my hand on the sculpture. I laugh and lean my elbow against it instead. “What’s up, Jane?”

She clears her throat and makes a show of looking away from me and down to her clipboard. “The board is ready to meet with you.”

“I’ll be out in five minutes.”

“Miss, they’ve been waiting for-”

“Five minutes, Jane,” I interrupt, pushing off the sculpture.

“Yes, Miss,” Jane says, ducking her head and disappearing out of the bathroom.

I roll my eyes and step forward, glaring into the mirror again. My face looks too much like my father’s, who’s looks too much like his father. The Cortese family looks too much alike, all of us. We are too much alike.

We have no other choice.

I groan and rip open my small, too expensive black bag and pull out a tube of red lipstick.

“Screw the Corteses,” I whisper, applying the makeup.



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