Home > The Dirty Truth

The Dirty Truth
Author: Winter Renshaw




I didn’t see God when I died. I didn’t meet the Dalai Lama, the Buddha, Mother Teresa, or my beloved grandmother who passed unexpectedly when I was twelve. There was no parade of loved ones lining up to greet me. No bright light or radiant euphoria. Fortunately, no blazing hellscape. Just a simple, no-frills black void.

While the team of doctors who attended to me post–brain aneurysm assured me I was clinically dead for three minutes, not one of them can tell me where I went.

“Why aren’t you in the meeting?” My assistant, Leah, perches outside my office door, mouth agape as she double-checks her watch. “It started fifteen minutes ago . . .”

Blinking out of my trance, I close out of my hundredth “near-death experience” Google search of the week, close my laptop lid, grab my files, phone, and keys in one impressive swoop—and promptly spill my lukewarm coffee down the front of my ivory wool pencil skirt.

This is not me. But in all fairness, I haven’t been “me” since two months ago, when my life came to a screeching halt—literally—on the floor of my ex’s apartment.

Rushing to my aid, Leah plucks a handful of tissues from a nearby Kleenex box before falling to her knees and dabbing the burnt-umber stain in vain.

“It’s fine, Leah. You don’t have to do that.” I take a step back, arms still crammed with meeting materials.

I’ve been back to work exactly one week, and every time I turn around, I’m met with sympathetic regards and notoriously self-consumed colleagues suddenly jumping at the chance to grab a door for me, refill my coffee, or invite me to lunch like we’re old friends due for a catch-up.

That’s the thing about death. Or in my case—near death. Not only does it change you, but it changes everyone around you. At least that’s what I’m learning so far.

I’m still new at this . . .

Still finding my bearings . . .

Still trying to make sense of everything because the die-hard journalist in me demands all the answers and then some.

Leah rises, examining me with unblinking intensity as she motions toward the door. “I’ll phone the conference room and tell them you’re stuck on a call . . .”

“That won’t be necessary.” I straighten my shoulders, drag in a long breath, and gather my composure, because I’m going to need it once I throw myself to the judge-eyed wolves in the conference room.

“You’re just going to go in there?” Her confused hazel stare flicks to my coffee-stained skirt. “Like that?”

“As opposed to no-showing?” They’re not going to fire me for spilling my coffee. They can, however, fire me on the spot for not doing my job. They’ve fired people for lesser offenses, and for every sad sap they send packing, there are a hundred more lining the Manhattan sidewalk outside waiting to take their place.

“They’ll understand . . .” She worries the inner corner of her pillowy lips. “I mean, after what happened—”

“Leah.” I offer a tepid smile and move for the door. “I’m just a little late, and it’s just a stain . . . it’s not the end of the world.”

“I know, but . . .” She trails after me. “Maxwell’s here.”

I stop hard, my blood cracking like ice in my veins.

For five years I’ve typed my fingers to the bone for Made Man magazine, but the number of times I’ve been in the same room as our infamous editor in chief I can count on six of them. While the general public knows West Maxwell for his jaw-dropping good looks and larger-than-life persona, those who work for him know him for his rare presence and a reputation that sends most of his drones hiding behind cabinets, files, and laptop screens at the mere sound of his Italian loafers stepping off the elevator.

“You didn’t tell me he was going to be in today.” I tamp the disappointment in my tone. Leah’s nothing like my last assistant, a charismatic type A Columbia grad student who married some Rothschild she met in the Hamptons and peaced out before the ink was dry on their marriage certificate. “A heads-up would’ve been nice, hon.”

She bites her lip. “There was a company email that went out this morning.”


It probably pinged my inbox when I was thirty-nine pages deep on some near-death message board thread on this nineties-looking website that was crammed with all kinds of fascinating experiences. Experiences that were nothing like mine.

Exhaling, I pinch my nose. “I’m sorry, Leah. I didn’t mean to—”

“I have some yoga leggings in my bag,” she says, voice pitched higher, hopeful. “If you pull your blouse over them, maybe they’ll think they’re just regular leggings?”

It’s a thought.

And it wouldn’t be the worst option.

I tug one corner of my silk blouse from my skirt—only to stop when I realize it’s a crepey mess beyond fixing in this current scenario. I’d need a steamer, at minimum, and even then, those things take time to heat up and—no. There’s no time.

Two months ago, I kept a change of clothes in my desk for these kinds of mishaps—not that they ever happened. I was a bit more pulled together preaneurysm. And I was nothing if not prepared. But at some point during my stint in the hospital, they utilized my office as a makeshift space for temps and interns, and the dry-cleaned blouse and slacks I’d always kept on hand miraculously disappeared.

“It’s okay,” I say to her but also to myself, because it never hurts to hear those words. “It’ll be fine.”

Stopping at the little mirror by my door, I check my reflection, tucking one rain-frizzed chocolate wave behind my left ear before giving my cheeks a pinch for color. The old me would’ve had smooth, glossy curls, pristinely lined lips, and a creaseless, fresh-off-the-rack dress. I gather a hard breath and silently wish the hot mess staring back at me all the luck in the world, because she’s going to need it.

With my heart in my stomach and the burn of nausea rising up to take its place, I march to the end of the hall, push through the double doors emblazoned with Made Man’s masculine-meets-modern logo, and plaster the easiest, breeziest of smiles across my face.

The room turns silent, and one by one mahogany chairs creak as various colleagues twist to take a look at the woman of the hour—she who dared show up late for a meeting with our feared and respected commander in chief. Chin up and shoulders back, I stride toward the only available spot—which happens to be next to none other than Maxwell himself.

“Rough morning?” he asks with an unnerving aquamarine gaze so intense it almost distracts me from the blatant condescension in his tone. In this moment, I silently take back every Photoshop accusation I’ve ever lodged against this infuriating Adonis. The man is flawless. Truly. Not a single dark circle. Not a square millimeter of texture on his bronzed skin. Not a tooth out of place or a wrinkle on his white dress shirt. Sex appeal wafting off him like a fine cologne. But he could be the most perfect specimen of man ever to walk this earth, and it wouldn’t change the fact that he’s a bona fide asshole.

Someone chuckles from the far side of the table.

Papers shuffle.

A pen clicks.

My cheeks flush ten degrees hotter, graciously disguised under a conservative layer of filter-effect foundation.

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