So I decided to come out and play with the kids from the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week as I haven’t been to recess for some time now. The website has had a facelift and some of the rules have changed so I feel like a newbie – oh well.
Ok – so ... I was given a prompt from MrsBear, I kinda had to rush it because I left it too late, admittedly, I’m not even sure if I ... yada yada yada, you can guess the rest. The prompt itself is at the bottom of the post.
I prompted Mare and got a lovely surprise with: I’ve Never Been a Fan of theMonster Mash – a lovely take on a popular genre!
Leasa wasn't the type of girl to moan or complain, so far the first day had gone as most first days do, no one remembered her name but it was always her turn to get the coffee and latte orders. It was still the dream job, she just felt like she might wake up soon.
Mrs Enid (as she liked to be addressed), stalked the length of the room like an impatient carnivore jonesing for its next meal. Most of the editorial team were sat around the long rectangular table that took up most of the conference room, a golden laptop sat at the head with its lid open in front of a chair that was larger than the rest. Mrs Enid's navy blue blazer rested neatly on the back.
"... can anyone give me an answer that will not get them fired on the spot?" She glowered.
There was a long pause, not because anyone couldn't answer the question but because Mrs Enid hadn't actually asked one in the first place. She was prone to thinking up stuff and not explaining anything, yet expecting career sensitive answers.
“So you’re all going to give me the silent treatment again? Ok, YOU’RE ALL FIRED!”
This time everyone in the room came to life, about thirty people speaking up at once, trying desperately to be heard, and in turn; save their jobs. Some even came off their chairs to be heard, which started off a chain reaction until Leasa was the only person seated, note book on her lap, waiting for Mrs Enid to speak so she could continue taking the minutes. The suggestions being fired across the room became a general mêlée of desperate comments and ideas, none of which could be heard.
Seated at the top corner of the immense table, Leasa got a front row seat to the evil little smile that had been forming on Mrs Enid’s lower lip, but after a few more seconds the woman decided she’d had enough.
“QUIET!” She shouted.
And like that, the room fell silent and everyone sat down in unison. Leasa couldn’t help noticing the effect was like a team of synchronised swimmers in the middle of a routine. Their faces were almost expressionless apart from an almost indistinguishable look of fear. The tabletop seemed more interesting because no one dared to look at Mrs Enid.
“So, where are we up to new girl?” Mrs Enid asked without looking to her left.
“The er, er the Marion Cotillard article.” Lease stammered.
Mrs Enid didn’t turn her head but Leasa could feel her looking sideways harshly as though something repugnant had just made a noise. “Who’s writing that piece?” She asked running a long fingernail along the back of her chair.
“It’s me Mrs Enid.” A young woman replied carefully.
“It’s satisfactory, but we have a preferred style of writing here at Random Girl Magazine so I suggest you look at some past issues and stop writing like you work for Cosmopolitan!”
Leasa felt a little sorry for the woman as she avoided 90% of eye contact with Mrs Enid. She looked almost as green as Leasa even though it certainly wasn’t her first day, or maybe it was her black rimmed glasses and brunette hair that gave her a sheepish librarian look. She was pretty not beautiful, Leasa thought, and could’ve pulled off a slutty-librarian-stripper look at a bachelor party if things ever got that dire. The brunette looked up, caught Leasa’s eye for a second too long, and looked down at some papers in front of her on the table.
Mrs Enid refocused her attention at a well groomed guy in a fitted black suit that didn’t hide the fact that he worked out regularly. Like everyone else he kept his gaze fixed on the table but Leasa caught a glint of mischief in his eyes.
“You! Where are we at with the men’s calendar?” asked Mrs Enid.
As he looked up his gaze swept to face Mrs Enid and he looked directly at Leasa for the briefest of moments that wouldn’t have been noticeable to anyone in the room except her. “I emailed it to you yesterday, Mrs Enid.”
“I know, but I didn’t reply because I chose not to read it, I’d much prefer if you showed us young man.”
At that, he stood up with a slight air of confidence under the watchful glare of the old lady and strode towards the gold laptop. “May I?” He asked. Mrs Enid nodded nonchalantly cutting her eyes to the floor in disproval. Her short black hair and pale skin making her face look sinister.
After a brief moment he’d loaded up a presentation, turned off the lights and flicked on a ceiling projector with a tiny remote lying beside the laptop. On the wall behind Leasa a logo with the letters RG in shimmering silver trim appeared and a slideshow commenced, mostly of semi naked men in gyms wearing deliberately ill fitting uniforms posing for the camera. He’d begun talking everyone through the slides with his shadow cast on the wall. Most of the audience had forgotten about the slides and was either staring at him or his shadow. Mrs Enid in particular was relishing the sight; her long nails had dug into the smooth varnished wood and as she watched, her fingers slowly scratched the varnish making not much noise at first, then growing louder as he bent over to load up a second file.
“What, what’s this? What are you doing?” asked Mrs Enid, breaking everyone out of their spell.
“It’s Susan’s presentation. She’s off sick and I said I’d do it for her, I have all her notes memorised.”
“If Susan valued her job she wouldn’t call in sick,” she picked a stray piece of fabric from her pencil skirt and shooed him back to his seat. “Have you put that in the minutes?”
It took a moment for Leasa to realise Mrs Enid was talking to her, like a high school kid trying to keep up in class, she jotted down everything she could remember from when the slideshow was interrupted. Mrs Enid threw her a cold glare and picked someone else to chow down on.
The meeting went on like this for another hour. Various employees got snapped at or humiliated. By the end of it all Leasa had decided that Mrs Enid was a cougar masquerading as a witch in a pencil skirt, and chalked up her first day as Mrs Enid’s PA, a lesson in fear management.
As the weeks passed, Leasa got used to never being addressed by her birth name and instead a mixture of ‘you’, ‘get me a ...’ and her personal favourite ‘PA Girl!’ were the popular choices.
The work itself wasn’t hard. In less than a month she’d worked out the witch’s routine, her likes/dislikes, and could just about read her mind for those times when she’d demand an answer to a question she’d never asked in the first place.
The other employees rarely spoke to her, but dished out looks of sympathy. Water-cooler conversation stopped whenever she walked by but the pay was solid and a good recommendation from the monster would get her closer to making a career dream a reality. Random Girl Magazine was made up of various divisions and it was the London branch that appealed to Leasa the most. Mrs Enid was reportedly very good friends with the overseas editor, so getting in her good books would prove fruitful.
Bad hair days weren’t the best start by any stretch but Leasa managed to get her locks into shape before leaving her apartment and catching a cab uptown to the RG building on the north end of Lexington Avenue. She’d survived thirty six issues of RG Magazine and Mrs Enid at some point had started calling her ‘young lady’ which was a step up by the monster’s standards.
She picked up her non-fat venti latte with cinnamon no sugar from Al at the coffee stand outside the building without having to ask. He knew her routine and had it hot and ready by 8.30am just as she got out of her cab. Al was as reliable as night and day. He tipped his hat as he tried to hand her the change she always refused and wished her a good day, as always.
The ride up to the 21st floor was made all the more difficult when Mrs Enid, Barry and Helen boarded on the 3rd. They must have been at the food hall, Barry and Helen reluctant slaves to the witch as she probably forced them once again to join her for an early morning breakfast; she hated to eat without something good to look at.
Helen’s hair was healthy looking as always, her slutty librarian look made all the more potent by her recent love of figure hugging suits and designer glasses. Barry had moved up in the world and since Susan had been fired two years ago, he was now deputy editor. He’d probably worked late nights with the monster in her cave to better his chances.
Helen furnished Leasa with a lingering gaze and the staff Christmas party from her first year at the magazine flashed past her eyes, along with images of Helen half naked in a broom closet and a massive drunken girl crush. Leasa felt the tension of the moment and shifted her weight so she would be as far away from Helen as possible in the small space.
The elevator ride was proving to be one of the longest.
Usually there was no sound but today the cables made screeching noises as they pulled the box up towards its chosen floor. 16, 17, 18, 19 – Leasa watched each number light up like they were bringing her hope. On the 20th floor the cables went silent and Leasa prepared to get off and walk quickly to her desk outside Mrs Enid’s enormous office when a sickening metallic sound ripped through the elevator shaft. The box shuddered and everyone shuddered with it losing their balance briefly. Whether it was their movement or the unstable supports not able to take the strain the entire box shook for a split second and another much louder ‘bang’ was heard overhead like cables snapping.
Leasa felt her heart jump out of her chest and a feeling like her head was floating inches above where it should be made her feel nauseas. There was a distinct feeling of weightlessness momentarily and then it sunk in that they were falling. The last thing she heard before blacking out was someone scream her name.
Muffled sounds and echoes possible voices attempted to climb into her ears. She wasn’t totally awake but the sensation of being held was her only comfort. As the seconds passed Leasa stirred some more and managed to open her eyes, blinking back the sudden attack of light. Her head was pounding and she had that coppery taste in her mouth like she could taste blood.
Barry and Helen were on the other side of the dented elevator, passed out, and possibly knocked out. They seemed to be breathing which was a good sign. Mrs Enid had vanished. The smell of expensive perfume filled Leasa’s nostrils and she recognised the scent immediately, which had the effect of bringing back the rest of her senses.
Two arms were wrapped around her tightly, and in her ear a gentle repetitive whisper – the words, Leasa you’re going to be okay, Leasa you’re going to be okay ...
"MrsBear's prompt for me was: A glimpse of compassion or kindness from an otherwise awful human being."