Today’s dessert meeting could’ve gone… sweeter.
It was yellow cake today. Not a big fan of yellow cake since I’m never sure exactly why or how it’s “yellow.” If it had been a lemon cake, well, that would be one thing, but it was brought in by one of the Ashtons (this one from Acquisitions, I do believe). Whenever it’s an Ashton’s turn to bring in dessert for the meeting, he NEVER goes to the Konditorei. Instead, Ashtons often opt for the cheapest sheet cake around, usually from the grocery store. It always tastes like gloppy, tacky sugarloaf.
Philip (Dog Turd) Sutterman failed to show today. His “replacement” informed us all via email that he had been placed on temporary leave, and his return is “pending board approval.” What this means, essentially, is that Dog Turd finally snapped and in front of the wrong person. Since we’re now in book publicity, it was probably someone Stephen King-godlike.
I don’t get it though. Sutterman went on a health sabbatical for several months last year, some sort of zen-like holistic retreat where deep breathing and yoga-farting were on the menu. When he came back to work, he was certainly calmer, but his snide attitude remained — he’d simply have you in his office to call you on everything that was wrong with you as he always did, just with a cup of oolong and some bit of philosophical advice courtesy of retreat teachings he didn’t really seem to understand in the first place. The message was often the opposite of whatever it was he’d reprimanded you on.
So Sutterman is away again, and I suppose that should be a good thing, a GREAT thing for our authors at any rate. His replacement, however, I’m not so sure of. Her name is Kasey Barret, and she’s at least a good decade younger than the average person in this place. I’d never met her, had never even seen her until the dessert meeting this afternoon. We could hear her huffing and puffing and the smack-FLAP-smack-FLAP-smack-FLAPPETY-FLAP-FLAP of her shoes down the hall. She was already twenty minutes late for the meeting, something absolutely unheard of here. She burst into the room, all panting-bumbling apologies. Everything about the woman screamed Ill-Equipped For This. Her brown hair had probably once been carefully styled into a sleek asymmetrical bob, judging from the long, tapered ends around her face and the short edging from behind. Now though, it looked as if she’d spent too long in front of an industrial fan. Her pant suit, complete with trendy logo tee underneath, was rumpled and much too loose and lumpy on her.
And the flip-flops. She actually wore a pair of flip-flops. To a work meeting. Granted, they were pretty things — shiny black, lined with onyx rhinestones. Still though. To a work meeting.
Marcie leaned over and whispered at me, “She looks like she had herself a little woo-hoo before the meeting, huh?”
“How old is she? Ten?” I whispered back.
“I believe she’s twenty-six, plenty old enough to run this place as well as the next fruitcake,” said Grandpa Frank as he forked another huge bite of frosted yellow mush into his mouth. He chewed slowly and swallowed. Wiped around his mouth with his napkin, ever the gentleman. “And as much as I love the woo-hoo talk,” he said, “I’d appreciate it if you ladies wouldn’t gab around me as if I wasn’t here.”
Frank Haversham — “Grandpa Frank” for those of us who liked him — joined the firm last year. With forty years of publicity experience under his belt, and a lot of dishy stories about famous authors, he was hired on the spot as Director of Publicity Services, a title that was completely beneath him. Marcie and I thought he would’ve been a terrific CEO, but since Sutterman’s discovery of ebooks (he doesn’t really “discover” anything until it’s been discovered years beforehand — how’s that for a PR CEO?), the chance of Frank getting any sort of worthwhile control of the place was slim to none.
Just then, Kasey Barret, having scrolled around her iPad for a bit, looked directly at us from the other end of the table. “Hey…”
We stopped our chit-chat and glanced her way. I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks and something building, something I’d not felt in a long time.
It started as a dull thrum-thrumming in my head.
Kasey grimaced our way. “I’m twenty-eight, if you really wanna know. And I don’t have time for office gossip, outdated crap like that. If you have a problem with my age…If you think that’s gonna keep me from doing what I need to do around here, you can take it up with me in my office, and I’ll be more than happy to show you my credentials. Not that I need to justify myself to anyone around here…”
Then she dropped her gaze directly on me. “Especially to YOU, Jayne. That’s you, right?”
I tongue-scraped and then swallowed back the sticky bit of cake that had been clinging to the roof of my mouth before I answered. “Yes, that’s me. You’ve heard of me then?”
Kasey smiled flatly at me. “We don’t do parlor tricks at this firm, okay? Just remember that. And while Mr. Sutterman’s off, my rules apply. My rules. That means no more scuttling off work to save some mommy and her snot-nosed babies from burning buildings. No more of that kinda stuff while you’re on the clock here.”
“Well, that’s not exactly what I do whenever I get called in. I tend to stay away from fires,” I said.
As soon as I said it, the keening started in one ear. Then the thin buzzing of white noise, the crackle-pop of the static. I stared right at her. It was coming from her. That smile of hers, the voice.
I could just barely make out what she was saying over the din. “I’m sure the city will continue on, coping just fine without you playing superwoman. You need to work with the rest of the world, right?” She looked on at everyone else for approval, nodding as she did. “Am I right? She can work with us here, do the job she’s getting paid to do. I mean, if she can have time off to go on some superhero mission or something, why the hell can’t any of us get off work, too?”
My head was growing heavy. Everything went swimmy. Blurry. I heard murmuring from everyone around me. I felt a cool hand clasp around my wrist. A voice. “You okay? You don’t look so good.” Marcie, I think.
“She’ll be fine. Get her some coffee, Frank — That’s your name, right? Frank?” Our new boss’ voice was so teeny, far off.
And then everything came back in full-blown Technicolor brights. Everyone at the table was staring directly at me, mostly out of concern. Some were grimacing out of annoyance, I suppose. I glanced over at Kasey who had made herself comfortable in Sutterman’s favorite leather seat at the head of the table. She smiled and nodded primly at me.
“She’s fine. She’ll be all right. You with us now, Jayne?” she asked. There was a spark of something. A quick burst of light.
I knew I was the only one who’d seen it…and heard the noise one of Us produced.
Kasey Barret was Another. The trouble was — What sort was she?
I managed a cheery smile right at her. “Sure, yeah. And, listen, don’t worry about me missing any more work. Gotta pay the bills, right?”
“Well, that, and your website for the company is so sleek and user-friendly, we’d just hate to have someone else take over,” said Kasey, offering a wink in turn. “Now if everyone would open the Employee Manual PDF to page fifty-seven. We need to talk about changing some of the job duties this firm has on hand…We’re PR, right? We can SO do this!”
I think Kasey Barret is going to be much more than a little thorn in my side.
Well, at the very least, she’ll make things interesting.