She sat at the edge of the bed. The sun had just barely risen, and the coolness of the morning dew had made its way into the apartment and cast a chill throughout the small space. Goosebumps rose on her exposed skin which is just her legs. His sweatshirt hung on her petite frame. It was always too big for her, and it felt even bigger now. The emptiness of the bedroom hit her when she reached for him, only to feel the softness of her tear-stained pillow instead of his skin. She reached into the pocket and pulled out a carton of cigarettes. She didn’t smoke before, but most days, the nicotine soothed the ache she felt deep in the center of her chest for just a moment.

You never think these things will happen. One moment you’re so happy. You’re on top of the world. Next, you are a shell of a person. You perform mundane activities to get from one day to the next. You take what you have for granted while you have it because you think it’s forever, but it’s not. Nothing is. Especially not people. People are the least permanent of all. They come and go as often as the seasons do, yet for some reason each time it surprises you. Until the next person comes along you try to grieve, but it’s almost never done right.

This apartment never felt like it was hers, and now that she was the only inhabitant, she felt more like a stranger in her own home than ever. Each step she took within those walls felt like trespassing. In this moment, in the quietness of her solitude, the cars driving by and the rain against the windowsill were almost deafening. That and her thoughts. It never made sense how you could think so much, yet also think of nothing at all.

Nevertheless, she did what she had to do. She put on her clothes and headed to work. This is what is necessary to survive the day. She comes home and goes to bed and does it all again the next day. Each night she laid in bed second guessing her choices. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. She never meant to entangle herself in another being the way she did. She was supposed to be able to be fine on her own as she always was before him. What was it about this one that left her in shambles? She had been with others before, and when they left, she moved on to the next. It was simple. She had a job to do, and she couldn’t let feelings get in the way. Feelings that weren’t supposed to be able to be felt by her, but she couldn’t tell them that. They would terminate her, and despite her current state, she wanted to live. She really did.

Imogen’s face burned as she opened the door to her apartment building. The frigid air and the wind are no friend of hers. Her slicked back ponytail left her exposed ears an intense shade of red, and her turtleneck was becoming itchy. She stuffed her hands in her pockets and started on her usual path to work. New York City was the fifth city she lived in in four years. It didn’t look much different than the others, but, God, did it feel different. Despite the constant ache in her calves and unbridled anger that came from walking the streets of the city, she felt so free and inspired here. This was the longest she had ever stayed in one place. Two years she had been here already, and so far, The Company had made no requests to have her transferred, and she didn’t mind it one bit. Imogen’s trek was about five minutes (six minutes and thirty-seven seconds, to be exact), and gave her the chance to get her act together before she entered work. The Company’s excuse as to why they put her in a building so close to headquarters was so she could get there with utmost urgency, but really, they just wanted to be able to keep surveillance on her. Because, God forbid, if she were to act out of line in the slightest, there would be no more Imogen Marks.

Imogen Marks. How can one describe Imogen Marks? She is stunning, beautiful in a way that isn’t conventional, yet she has the ability to make anyone fall in love with her. She’s charming, and quick-witted. Most importantly, she is the most intelligent and calculated person you’ll ever meet. Every move she makes has a reasoning behind it, a predicted series of effects that get her what she wants. Long, black, silky waves of hair flow down her back, almost always tucked away in a neat ponytail. And she has almost never fallen in love. Almost.

When Imogen was assigned to Charlie, she knew what to expect. This wasn’t anywhere near her first assignment, and she was used to giving herself to these people with no strings actually attached. She had a routine: figure out their day-to-day life and bump into them “accidentally.” Then, go on a date. There was never an instance where she was unsuccessful. They always fell for her. And she always made it out unscathed. Until Charlie, at least. When Imogen came to New York, she knew very little about Charlie. He was quite off the grid, so researching him was a difficult task for her. The difficulty was kind of intriguing to her, though. The easiness of social media was boring, finding out everything about a person in a heartbeat required little effort on her end. The ones who made her work harder, work smarter—those were the most memorable ones.

As Imogen reaches the familiarity of her work building, she shakes her thoughts away. Despite her job relying on her hiding her true emotions, if she thought about Charlie, she knew it would be evident on her face that she was hurting. Her whole body aches with the emptiness of him no longer being in her life. She is hurting and grieving, and if she let that in at work, she would never be able to reel it back in. She reaches into her jacket pocket and grabs her ID card, holding it in front of the scanner at the door before entering. A blast of warm air hits her, pleasantly washing over her and relieving her from the harsh winter air. After an elevator ride, she reaches her desk where she finds a folder marked “Confidential,” and sighs as she sits to open it. She knows this is her job. This is what she has to do, but how can she pretend to fall in love with someone new when she’s still in love with someone else? She’s never faced this problem before. Imogen has always kept her heart out of the equation.

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