Nora walks into the belly of an intimidating skyscraper, swipes her card, ignores the married security guy who once tried to hit on her, and makes her way up the elevator. Twenty-three floors later, she pushes her way through the door of CircleShape Investor Relations Healthcare Consulting. 

Coming directly at her is her Work Wife, Zander, who at 23, is Nora’s connection to what the cool kids are saying these days.

“Oh, Nora, you’re even more skittles than I thought!”

Nora can’t remember if "skittles" is good or bad, but doesn’t want to come off as an Old Person. 

“I’m playin’, boo, I’m dying to come to your Big Fat Texas wedding!”

Nora does a little twirl for him and heads to her cubicle. After a winter full of panic attacks, Nora knows Sashi is right. Nora needs to get out of Manhattan. A Brooklyn migration doesn’t seem like the solution, but is she ready to pack it up and move back home to Texas? What are Nora's other options?

Nora plops down in her three-walled domain. Besides for a pair of heels under her desk and a Frenchie coffee mug reminding her of the dog she does not have, Nora's left as few personal items here as possible. Ready to escape the minute it’s financially possible - or socially acceptable - we might add. 

Nora definitely doesn’t want you to know this, but she made some extravagantly terrible decisions at the office holiday party, a mere month after she started. She’d rather not talk abut it, thank you very much. 

PING. The alarm on her computer brings Nora back to reality. It's weekly Team Meeting time. Nora takes a deep, purposeful breath to trick her body into relaxing. It never works, but it’s the thought that counts?

Soon Nora sits around a conference room table with four of her favorite people: Zander, Ashna, Xuan, and Mariah, the cute new college intern here for the summer. Nora leads a lively discussion of workplace banter, i.e. a charming story about her crazy Southern mother, while nibbling on a heap of break room Pringles and M&Ms. 

The energy in the room immediately changes when their Team Captain, Dane Ferguson, struts in. He’s the kind of guy you want to love because of his dimples, only to quickly unearth the fact he’s actually a huge dick.

“Before we start, Nora, I thought you might appreciate this.” 

Dane hands Nora a copy of the Wall Street Journal. A headline reads, “Snacking at Work: Study Finds Employees Gain 10 Pounds Per Year.” 

Nora refuses to react. He laughs.

“Come on, it’s funny.”

Dane takes the opportunity to give Mariah the up-down. Nora takes the opportunity to casually flick him off. 

Finally, Dane gets into work mode.  

“Ulla’s flight from Berlin arrives soon. I was supposed to take her to dinner to discuss the new Dandidozo clinical trials, but Jill’s insisting I make the new biz thing… So, who’ll go instead?”

Nora sticks her hand up. Having Ulla as a client is the one thing that makes this job remotely satisfying. Nora would love to get to know her better. Dane ignores her, pointing to Xuan instead. 

“Hamilton tickets with the in-laws,” Xuan says. 

“Ashna?”

“Dodgeball playoffs.”

“Mariah, what are you up to tonight?”

“Listen, Dane,” Nora interrupts. “I’m the one assigned to all of Ulla’s projects. Let me rise to the occasion.”

Dane has no cards left to play and begrudgingly agrees. 

It’s all happening! The Spring Miracle is upon us! 

Nora’s restless at her desk composing herself for tonight. There are a few broad questions she’s always wanted to ask but never had the billable time, plus Nora’s curious about life in Berlin. She’s been to London, Paris, and Rome during a backpacking trip in college, but she has zero clue about zee Germans. What were the guys like, she can’t help but wonder. 

Oh crap, Nora realizes as she looks down. Today she’s literally wearing the bottom of the barrel after forgetting to pick up her laundry this weekend. Plus, after a Sunday Funday date with Chadwick - date, of course, being a generous term describing spending time together in the presence of alcohol - she has enough dry shampoo in her hair to play Martha Washington in a school play. 

The only perk of working in Midtown Manhattan is the accessibility to everything you need to look beautiful in a three block radius. Crank up that Whitney Houston, we got ourselves a makeover montage! 

A Dry Bar appointment, quick stopover at the J.Crew sale section, and a dash through Sephora later, Nora’s dressed to impress. Right before she's about to hop into a Lyft and heads across town to fancy schmancy Marea feeling like Business Casual Beyonce, Dane exits the building. He whistles; Nora channels Sandy B.

Nora arrives to find Ulla Kohler, wearing the most amazing coat imaginable, outside smoking a cigarette. Nora, classic American 90s kid raised to believe cigarettes are death sticks, can’t help but think, “Maybe cigarettes ARE cool?” for the first time in her life.  

Based on Ulla's seniority in the company, Nora guesses Ulla is in her mid-40s, but Ulla's also one of those impossibly chic women who transcends time and age. Instead of wearing snoozy standard business profesh options everyone else, Ulla makes bold choices. Nora makes a mental note to ask Ulla where she shops. Of course she couldn't afford it now, but you know, #goals. 

“Ulla, great to see you!” 

Ulla stumps out her cigarette and then offers a double Euro cheek kiss. 

“Nora, thank you for entertaining me tonight.”

Nora confidently walks into the restaurant and up to the hostess stand. 

“Reservation under Dane Ferguson, please.” 

The brittle blonde studies her screen. 

“I’m sorry, ma’am, we don’t have anything under that name.”

“Okay, can you please check for Nora Randall?”

“Nothing.”

“Well, do you have any last minute cancellations for a party of two then?”

“We MIGHT have something around ten or so.”

Ulla walks out the door. Nora winces as she follows. 

Back outside, Nora gets on her phone to see what Open Table solution might solve this crisis. 

“Thank God we don’t have to be trapped in there! Did you see how stuffy it was? Why does Dane insist on choosing these types of restaurants for me. Does he think I’m so awful?” 

“What sounds more appealing?”

“Actually, I would just prefer a funny little bar, maybe one with a bit of food? Surely you know of something worthwhile.” 

Nora sticks up her hand and flags down a taxi. A little while later, the ladies walk under the Crocodile Lounge awning and into the tiki-themed dive bar. 

“You get a free pizza with every drink you buy.”

“God bless the States.”

After getting their beer and pizzas, the two find a table. Ulla stares Nora straight in the eye and raises her glass. 

“Prost.” 

“Prost,” Nora mimics. 

They sip in silence for a minute until Nora begins what she rehearsed during her blowout. 

“So, Ulla, the efficacy of Dandidozo looks amazing. The media coverage has been insane, like, this could be the cure for cancer, the magic bullet. The potential is crazy.”

Ulla doesn’t say anything so Nora continues. 

“And not just for humanity. The investor potential is huge for Füchs.”

Nora tries really hard to get her tongue to properly pronounce the umlaut but fails. 

“And we at CircleShape are really excited to help y’all on the Phase Three Clinical Trial announcements.”

She fumbles in her purse trying to get out the contract. 

“Nora, I would prefer to not even think about work tonight.”

Nora removes her hands from her purse and shifts in her seat. She realizes Ulla has managed to drink nearly half her beer. 

“Come on, surely you can keep up with a German.”

Nora follows orders. 

“So tell me about life in New York.”

“Six years ago, I moved up here with my best friend Sashi. Livin’ the dream ever since.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“This guy and I have been ‘talking’ for the past few months.”

“Is that the same as dating?” 

“Let’s just say, if a relationship is like a rock, talking is Jello. Very hard to nail down. To be honest, though, I am on a quest for something solid. ”

Ulla nods and takes a sip. Nora gets nervous with silence so she keeps going. 

“What about you? Are you seeing anyone?”

Ulla’s eyes well up. Out of nowhere she's sobbing. Nora is totally caught off guard. 

“Twelve years together, for what? For him to move to Singapore… And unfriend me on Facebook.” 

Ulla chokes on a sob. Nora shoves a wad of napkins in her direction before jumping up and disappearing for a minute. Nora returns with another round of drinks. Ulla takes a sip. 

“I went ahead and ordered us more pizzas too.” 

“Maybe my mother was right. We should have married. At least then he would have to answer my calls.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“He did not see the point, and I did not want to push.”

“So he just moved to Singapore?”

“No fuss at all.”

“What an idiot! Listen, someone who legit deserves you is out there.”

“Sorry I am like this. It is not right for me to complain to you; you’re not paid to be my therapist.”

“I just do that for the pizza.” 

Ulla laughs, dries her eyes, and raises her mug.

A few glasses of liquid courage later, Nora’s lit like a Lumee case

“So thanks to a blind date with a mobster, I now know Australia has the highest global wholesale price of cocaine due to all the transport logistics. Which makes total sense from an international distribution network perspective. I mean, you just never know what you’ll learn in this city.” 

Ulla’s eyes get serious. Oh no, has Nora finally crossed the line? She knew she needed to be careful, how did she let things get to this level? 

“Do you think you get us some Koks? Wouldn’t that be funny?!”

Um no?? But Ulla’s authoritative demands give Nora pause. Of course it’s a horrible decision, but after six years in New York, Naive Nora now knows cocaine is how the business world is run. She’s just a consultant servicing her client, right? Maybe it’ll even help her get ahead? 

“One of Chadwick’s friends could probably hook us up…?

Ulla nods with approval. 

Before Nora can talk herself out of it, they’re zipping down the Lower East Side to Chadwick’s club home-away-from-home, Fat Baby (which, as you can imagine, Sashi loves to point out how a little too 'on the nose' that is).

It doesn’t matter that it’s a Monday, plenty of hot 20-somethings dance to the Beiber blaring in the background, lights flash, hardworking-yet-half-naked women serve thousand dollar bottles of Grey Goose to tables of bros drowning their personal misery. 

Nora heads toward Chadwick’s posse at a table. Before she knows what’s happening, she and Ulla are throwing back shots. She asks one of the douchie guys if he’s seen Chadwick since he conveniently stopped answering his phone after his initial response. (Classic Chadwick move.)

“He’s in the back for a little pick-me-up, wanna joinsies?”

Normally no, but that is the reason for the visit. Nora and Ulla follow the d-bag to the private back room past the bouncer, who clearly only tolerates their shenanigans for what Nora hopes is some seriously generous palm greasing. 

Through a haze of smoke, Nora spots the Fat Baby himself in all his bloated banker glory straddled by a Bridge and Tunnel Hot Mess.

Nora stops in her place while the scene in front of her gets processed by her brain: 

CHADWICK IS MAKING OUT WITH HER ARM PIT. His tongue’s really getting up in its nooks n’ crannies. Nora doesn’t know if he’s making out with an armpit on purpose, or if he’s too “out of it” to know that it’s not a mouth... 

Either way, vomit. Literally. Nora tries to choke it back down but immediately realizes the floor is so gross she might as well add to the collection of bodily fluids it's seen in its lifetime. 

Out of the corner of her eye, she realizes the TV is playing tonight’s episode of The Bachelor. Not only is Chadwick cheating on her, he’s, like, really cheating on her. Tears stream down her face. Why is Sashi always right?? 

Nora digs through her purse for something to wipe her face with and finds the CONTRACT! Shit! Nora turns around expecting Ulla to be appalled with her behavior, but Ulla isn’t there. Where is she?? 

Nora’s eyes dart around the darkness until she spots Ulla getting cozy on the sofa with the douche, who OMG, 911, is unzipping his pants!?

Nora rushes in and yanks Ulla out of the room. Everything gets conveniently hazy around this point.

The next day Nora, rocking a hungover hodgepodge of business casual, types on her laptop... 

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"And now we know where the expression ‘Life is the Pits’ comes from.” 

Sashi, fresh out of the shower, shakes her head at her cautionary tale of a roommate. 

“I’ve seen Bachelor in Paradise contestants make better life choices than you.”

Nora rolls her eyes and slams her laptop shut. It’s time to face reality. 

A miserable commute later, she sloughs past Zander. 

“Tell me everything,” he demands. “Dane has asked me five times if you’re here yet. He and Ulla are waiting for you in the conference room.”

“I’ll give you all the gossip while I clean out my cubicle.”

Dane’s smirk stinks up the room. Ulla sits across the table from him. Nora drags herself to a chair next to her. Even though last night got way out of hand, she can’t help but feel close to her. 

“Ulla, let me start by saying, I’m sorry.” 

Ulla interrupts her. “Ja, I was just telling Dane about last night’s ‘contingency plan’.”

“I can’t believe you took her to the East Village! And Crocodile Lounge of all places… Do you really think that was appropriate?”

Nora and Dane make awkward eye contact. 

“Ulla, I’m so sorry for Nora’s behavior. Let me make it up to you over lunch at Marea, I’m sure I can talk the hostess into getting us a table. In the mean time, Nora, Jill wants to see you in her office.” 

Nora stands up but Ulla stops her. She plops back down

“Stay, Nora. You must hear this.”

Ulla pulls out the (slightly worse for wear) contract from her purse. Dane and Nora are both shocked. Nora has no memory of giving Ulla the contract last night, but then again all she can remember is the armpit. They shared a taxi? Nora kept apologizing and maybe she cried?

“One small change before I sign this. I want Nora to come to Berlin.”

Both Nora and Dane remain speechless. 

“Dane, you were right, the storm and stress of planning the Annual Meeting will be too much. I must have someone on-site to make sure everything is taken care of.”

Dane starts stuttering. “But, actually, Ulla, you see, the idea was for me to go to Berlin.”

Ja, but I think Nora would be a better fit for the role.”

The oxygen rushes back into Nora’s head. 

“I would love to go to Berlin.”

Next Up: Chapter 4