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Week #6 (2023): Design Envy

February 14, 2023

Write about two characters who both want what the other has, without knowing the feeling is mutual.

Author’s Note:

Envy: the emotion that occurs when a person lacks another’s quality, skill, achievement or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it (Parrott and Smith 1993, via Wikipedia).

Brené Brown says that envy can often be mistaken as jealousy. Jealousy actually refers specifically to the feeling that someone else may be taking away a connection with a third person. Brené Brown thinks that we prefer the term jealousy colloquially because envy can have a component of maliciousness.

Also, if you’re interested in emotions at all, I’d highly recommend Brené Brown’s book Atlas of the Heart. It goes through all the recognized human emotions and talks about how to tell them apart, things to think about, and how to talk about emotions in general.

Image Credit: Anni Roenkae via

Rebecca and Castle met over a table filled with cheese danishes at Design Group Inc. on a sunny morning in August 1995. It was a first job right out of college for both of them. Rebecca had a communications degree with a minor in design from UC San Diego and Castle had a degree in graphic design from the Rhode Island School of Design. Rebecca was assigned to Design Group Inc.’s advertising group and Castle dove right into the company’s biggest video game design accounts.

Rebecca and Castle took vacations to Disney World together and visited each other’s families. They were friends. Castle lived with his boyfriend and Rebecca lived with two cats who glared at her when she stumbled into her apartment at three in the morning after nights out with Castle. They were all happy. For a while anyway.

Friday Night/Saturday Morning


“Becca only got that promotion because of your designs on the Zombie Apocalypse account.” I hear as I’m raiding the fridge for snacks after a night out on the town celebrating.

“Stop it. She totally deserves that promotion. She works really hard.” I yell toward the living room.

“I know she does. I’m just saying that you deserve it too. I mean, you know the video game accounts like the back of your hand.” A face pops up over the door of the fridge. “Hell, you did most of the designs for those accounts. Were you even considered for the job?”

I didn’t want to have this conversation. I wanted to be happy for Rebecca and just ignore the feeling of resentment building in my chest.

I say softly, “You know I put in an application and had an interview, but I don’t have training for the client-side of the accounts. It was a long shot anyway.”

He reaches around the fridge door and pulls me out of the cold and into a hug. “Castle, just because it was a long shot doesn’t mean that you can’t be sad about it, or still want the job, or keep pursuing a management position.”


“Good evening Christo. Belle. How was your evening?” I don’t wait for them to respond. They’re cats and I’m not that drunk. “I hope you had a better night than I did.”


“Yeah, that’s what I thought. I’m sure you didn’t have to pretend to be happy about being promoted in front of your friends all night. I’m sure you both just ate your food and snuggled into your beds and had a relaxing evening.”

I head to the kitchen to get a snack to absorb all the alcohol. Toast? Nope. Chips? Nope. Leftover Mac and Cheese? Hells Yes!

I shove the Tupperware into the microwave, fill up a glass of water, and grab a fork. When the microwave beeps I take my haul to the living room. Before I sit down I take out my sketchbook from the cabinet under the coffee table and set it on the couch. I cuddle up under a blanket to eat my Mac and Cheese and look through my sketchbook. Christo and Bell immediately start kneeding my legs.

I turn pages in between cheesy bites. There’s designs for the surf shop I worked at in San Diego and new designs for The Guardian, UC San Diego’s newspaper. There’s also artwork from my travels, minus vacations with Castle.

I never wanted him to see my designs or my art. I could spend a full day on a face and still not capture an emotion, whereas Castle could sketch a couple of lines and make a face grin in joy or cry in desperation.

I know I’m happy with my promotion. I’m good at what I do and the money is good, it’s just not really what I want to be doing. It’s taken the last five years working at Design Group Inc. to realize that getting my communications degree was for my mother, but my design minor was all for me.

I pull up my phone and click on the saved tab in my browser – online graphic design courses.

Three Weeks Later


“Castle, these designs are haunting. I can’t believe you captured the emotion on a ghost’s face so well. And that background gives me chills. Dynamo Games are going to love it,” Rebecca says around the side of my cubicle.

“Thanks. If you need anything else just let me know and I can whip something up.” I tell her.

She’s still staring at my sketchbook. She strokes the ghost daughter’s teary face with a finger. I’ve never seen her like this before. “Hey, are you okay?” I ask.

She startles, “Oh yeah fine. I’ve gotta get back. I mean I have some calls to make before lunch. I’ll catch you later Castle.” Then she bolts down the aisle.

I imagine Rebecca making calls from her new corner office, laughing into the receiver over the funny easter egg she’d just found in Zombie Apocalypse. Sometimes I sneak into her office when she’s out at meetings. The light from the landscape windows is great for sketching. At least that’s the story I plan on telling anyone if they catch me in there.


I get back to my office and immediately tear out a piece of paper and start to sketch the ghost’s face from the Dynamo Games campaign. I’ve been learning about how to depict facial emotions in my classes and I want to see if I can do it.

There’s a knock at the door and the clock on my computer says it’s already 2 PM. I’ve been sketching for three hours.

“Come in,” I call as I sweep my sketching supplies into a desk drawer.

“Hey there Rebecca, just wanted to check and make sure you were still planning on joining us for that meeting,” my boss Angela says from the doorway.

“Oh yeah.” I try to look busy instead of forgetful and absorbed in something that’s totally not my job. “I’ll be there in a few minutes. I just need to grab my notes.” I sweep my hands over the piles of paper on my desk. They’re accounting slips, presentation notes, and minutes and minutes of meetings. There’s not a single design or piece of artwork anywhere. This is not the life I want.

My boss seems to soak up the ruse and saunters down the hall, leaving the door open like she’s expecting me to follow directly. And I do.

When I get back to my desk an hour later I Google jobs in design.

Six months later


“She’s ready for you,” the secretary says, and I walk into Angela’s office with my head up and my shoulders thrown back. It’s my power position. Well, I’m trying it out.

“Castle, so glad we could meet. Have a seat,” she says.

I settle into a plastic monstrosity. For a design firm, I don’t know how anyone let her get away with ordering these chairs for her office. They look like a 3D printer spewed out a design instead of carefully constructing it layer by layer.

“I have a proposition for you.” Angela says this while grinning and leaning her elbows against the desk. “Okay.” I’m hesitant. The last time I was here she was telling me that I didn’t get the management job.

“I know the last time you were here I was telling you that you didn’t have enough customer-facing experience for a management job.” It’s like she’s read my mind. She continues. “Rebecca has been keeping me apprised of your progress along that front. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but she’s been putting you in positions where you’ve had to work with clients one-on-one and giving you more responsibilities within the video game accounts.”

I nod. Now that I think about it, Angela is right. Rebecca’s been putting me in those positions, but she’s navigated it wonderfully so that I hadn’t really noticed. I wonder what Rebecca’s been playing at.

Angela goes on. “Castle, you’ve done a fantastic job with everything that Rebecca’s thrown your way.” She pauses to take a deep breath. “We’d like you to take over management of all the video game design accounts, effective immediately, if that’s still something you’d be interested in.”

I’m excited beyond belief. I owe Rebecca a huge thank you, but I wonder if she knew I wanted a management job this whole time. I never told her or hinted at it. Wait. Wait. Wait.

“Um, yeah I’d love the job, but what about Rebecca?”

“I’m going to have to let her tell you about that.” Angela says.


Castle whirls into my office right as I’m dumping my windowsill plant into a moving box.

“What the hell Rebecca?”

I grin at him. “Are you going to take the promotion?” He nods. “Good, I told Angela you were the best one for the job, but I didn’t know if you wanted it.”

Castle sweeps his hand through my office. “What’s all this?”

“I quit.”

“You quit?”

“Yes Castle, I quit. Ever since I got promoted I realized that management isn’t what I want to be doing with my life.”

“What are you going to do then?”

“Well, I got a design job at Renfo Designs. They do design work for movies and I’m super excited,” I tell him.

“You want to do design work? I’ve never even seen you sketching. I didn’t know you even thought about doing your own designs.”

I toss him the sketchbook that hasn’t been packed into a box yet. All I can hear are pages flipping as I finish packing my boxes.

“Becca, these are fantastic. I can’t believe you never showed these to me.”

“I’m sorry Castle. When we met you were the designer.” I throw up some air quotes. “You went to the Rhode Island School of Design for heaven’s sake. How was I supposed to compete with that?” I sigh. “The truth is I was embarrassed, and compared to your work, mine really wasn’t great. But I took some night classes and brushed up on my skills. I’m happy with where I am now and I’m really enjoying it.”

“I wish you’d said something. It would have been so fun to go on art vacations.” Castle gives me a gentle smile.

“I know. I’m sorry. Can we still go on those art vacations?”

He laughs and pulls me into a quick hug before saying, “I have a confession too.”

“Go on.” I grin at him.

He takes a deep breath. “I wanted your promotion. I applied and interviewed for it too. I was devastated when they picked you instead of me. Art is fun, but interacting with people and art at the same time is next level for me. I never said anything because I didn’t want you to feel bad about getting the job. You deserved it.”

I can’t help but laugh. “Wow. I had no idea. I was just hoping that by throwing you into all those client situations over the last six months that you’d be okay with taking my job when I left. I had no idea you’ve been wanting that role this whole time. I really do think you’re the best one for it!”

“We are quite a pair aren’t we?” Castle asks.

“We certainly are.” I take one last look out my landscape windows. I really am going to miss the view. “Help me take these boxes to my car?”

“Only if we’re going out to celebrate tonight,” he counters.

“Absolutely, it’s not every day you get a promotion and I quit my job to follow my dreams. We deserve to celebrate!”

“Yes we do!”

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