Think Outside the Boss - Olivia Hayle



I’m sorting through junk mail when my fingers gloss over a thick golden envelope. My address is handwritten on the front in sprawling black letters, but there’s no name. Mentally, I run through all my friends who might be getting married… no, no and no.

Golden envelope in hand, I sink onto my kitchen chair and flip it over. It has a black wax seal. Stamped into it is a mask, the kind people wear to fancy masquerades in movies. I’ve never received anything like this.

If this is junk mail, it’s gotten very classy.

Can it be to the previous tenant? I’ve only lived in this studio for a month. Best to make sure… I tear the envelope open with a kitchen knife and pull out a card-stock invitation with gold, printed lettering.

Dear Rebecca Hartford,

It’s a new month, and that means new sins to explore. Join us at the Halcyon Hotel at ten p.m. the following Saturday and wear the accompanying mask as proof of invitation.

Don’t forget that secrecy is fun, phones are not (no one likes a tattletale), and everyone looks better in lace. Or disrobed. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

Yours in pleasure,

The Gilded Room

Oh God.

I read the invitation twice to sort through all the innuendos.

The Gilded Room? Everyone looks better disrobed? Rebecca Hartford, you minx!

This might be the most elaborate practical joke I’ve ever been on the receiving end of. Peering into the envelope, I find a mask lined in delicate black silk, two feathers curling above the cut-out eyes like eyebrows. Black jewels crust the bottom half, and three words are written in gold cursive along the edge. United in pleasure.


Maybe not a practical joke.

I open my laptop and type the Gilded Room in the search bar. A bunch of newspaper articles have been written about the organization, but not a single one of them features pictures. I click open the one entitled A night in the elite’s world of pleasure.

What I read makes my eyes widen. The Gilded Room is one of New York’s best kept secrets, primarily because those in it don’t want to be known. They don’t want to be seen, heard, and especially not pictured. The Gilded Room guarantees anonymity to its high-flying members, many of whom pay over twenty thousand dollars for their yearly memberships.

I scroll down, my eyes scanning paragraph after incredible paragraph.

Rules are simple. No one is invited that isn’t rich, beautiful, or both. Anyone caught with a phone is immediately expelled… and women have all the power at these parties. There are whispers of politicians attending Gilded Room parties, football players, billionaires and media tycoons… but if they have, the journalist couldn’t find anyone willing to talk. It seems this is the only venue among New York’s upper echelons where name-dropping isn’t the norm.

I close my laptop and stare down at the mask and invitation, now lying on my sofa table. Who had Rebecca Hartford been, to be invited to a party like this? I know for a fact that the previous tenant had left the country, my landlord telling me she’d been offered a job in Hong Kong. Contacting her about this feels out of the question.

What if I go myself?

The idea makes me smile. Secret sex parties for the rich? I’m not rich, nor a partier. I am sex-interested, though. It’s been a long time since I last…

What am I thinking? Of course I’m not going.

I toss the invitation and the mask in the paper-basket and the lid closes decisively behind them. Besides, I have things to do, like preparing for the internship of a lifetime. I’d worked too hard to get accepted into Exciteur Global’s Junior Professionals program, and my first day as a trainee is on Monday.

I have things to do before then.

Get three new pairs of stockings to go with my professional outfits. Unpack the last of the moving boxes. Schedule a time at the DMV to update my driver’s license to New York instead of Pennsylvania.

Attend secret sex party is nowhere on that list.

I make it almost an hour and another moving box unpacked before I fish the invitation and mask back out of the paper-basket. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I put on the black, feather-adorned mask.

I look moderately pretty. Thick, dark hair, and more than my fair share of it, thanks to my Italian mother. Quite short, but I like to think I’m just petite. Eyes that are a muddy sort of green. It did say you had to be rich