The Boy Next Door

By: Ella James
A Standalone Off-Limits Romance



Summer 2016

What would an aspiring writer wear? I never know. I’m kind of always tempted to go with a black pants suit, designer heels, and a sharp black handbag, but that’s too boring. I’m not a regular writer. I write children’s stories. Not books—films.

Bits of dialogue I write end up getting delivered by animated frogs and, on occasion, dancing rainbows. At the summer internship after my freshman year of college, I worked for Nickelodeon. I was sitting at the writers’ table on a show that hadn’t launched yet, helping make the pilot. Late one night, one of the animators needed someone to wear a long, stick-on tail and pretend to fall into a toilet—so he could train the camera on the person and then use it as a model for his animated monkey.

Yep, you guessed it. I was volunteered. I had to put on a giant rain boot and stick my foot into a toilet for about two hours, between the hours of two and four a.m.

I thought about that experience today—two years later—as I picked out the outfit for the first day of my summer internship at Imagine Luxe. I ended up going with a funky, sky blue, designer skirt suit, peep-toe heels, and a headband with a unicorn horn.

As I extend my hand to shake with a pretty, slightly older blonde girl, I wonder if the horn was too much.

“Hi Amelia, I’m Carrie.” She nods slightly, showing me the pointed ends of her pixie cut.

“Hi.” I give her my best I’m-not-insane smile, and she returns it.

“Great to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too.” I get dumb and super unfunny when I’m nervous.

“I’m one of the writers—er, story artists—” she says, doing air quotes— “on your team this summer. Our team lead asked me to come meet you and give you a quick tour.”

“Thanks.” I can’t help tilting my head back again, casting a look around the vast, round lobby. The Imagine headquarters, near Broadway in downtown Nashville, is a giant, gold dome that looks like something right out of a children’s film. The ceiling is peppered with windows, streaming light into the lobby. Which is a good thing, because in the middle of the lobby, there’s a tiny grove of willow trees.

“As you can see, we have a geodesic building,” Carrie says. “The elevators are back this way,” she says, sticking her thumb back over her shoulder, so it points toward a set of elevator shafts. “There are a couple of financial offices on this floor, supplies on floor two, marketing on three, screening on four, and pre- and post-production on floors five and six, with executive suites on seven and eight.”

I blink. There is no way I’m going to remember that, so I just nod.

“Oh wait, I forgot, there’s a cafeteria behind the elevators. Do you see it?” She takes a few steps to her left, so we can see around the elevators. I spot a couple of awnings set up like a mall food court, with metallic-looking picnic tables scattered in the middle.

“They’re open at all times, and there are two little rooms off every studio with cots and everything. It’s weird, the way we work here. It’s really immersive. You’ll see.”

She waves me toward the elevators, and we walk under an array of sparkling, colored metal butterflies, strung from the ceiling.

“The layout here is kind of weird,” she tells me as we step onto the elevator. “Every floor is one big circle, as you can see. We’ll be getting off on five, where a lot of the studios are. There’s a vending area up there, plus two exercise areas, plus a butterfly exhibit. It’s for the animators working on Herald, the one that’s coming out in August—about the butterfly. It’s beautiful.”

I make a face. “Butterflies are kind of awful. Have you seen those things up close?”

She smiles, but I swear, I think her eyes bug out. “I’ll have to look.”

Perfect. So I’m going to be the weird one. Why am I not shocked?

“Anyway,” she continues, brushing a palm over her short, spiky hair, “I think you’ll like the team they’ve thrown together. Pairing summer writing interns with permanent staffer animators, and intern animators with staff writers, is something Imagine has been doing for a while now—way before the Disney merger last year. Our team’s lead animator is from Disney, actually. He’s here from Burbank, just for this. They take the interns seriously because, obviously, in just another…”

“Year,” I offer.

“In just another year, you could be working here fulltime. I’ve gotta be honest with you, too, I think our top dog, Sara Blaise, kind of likes to make the permanent staff submit to the whims of an intern. Keeps us humble.”

▶ Also By Ella James

▶ Hot Read

▶ Last Updated

▶ Recommend

Top Books