FRIDAY 04th JANUARY 2013
Happy New Year Littlewolves!
2012 was a great year for my writing – not only did I write my first draft of an 80,000 word novel (Miss Pooshoe), I became part of the amazing support network that is Melissa Foster’s Awesome Support team (#GoTeamPIF). I revamped The Ruby of Egypt manuscript, which is currently with an editor, and have given the book cover a makeover (done by a creative close friend) – so keep toot for an unveiling of that early this year!
Plans for 2013? More editing of Miss Pooshoe and possibly the start of another writing project.
Speaking of Miss Pooshoe….who wants a New Years treat and a read of my first chapter??
Well, look no further as here is a sneak peak at Chapter One. I am still in the throes of editing but here’s a teaser to give you an idea of what Miss Pooshoe is about…..
The aromatic smell of Susan’s perfectly percolated coffee enveloped her office and wafted comfortingly up my nose as I sat, poised at her desk, silently urging her to finalise her phone call, anticipating her delegation of my next Mission.
I had always found the smell of coffee comforting; I think it stems back to my childhood when I was awoken by its fragrance – the abundant, dependant drug my mother required to consume in order to face the day ahead; commencing with the stressful task of dragging me out from the comforts of my pit to be ushered off to school.
Back then, I didn’t really pay much attention to coffee; my mother had drummed it into me that it was a nasty unhealthy habit as she ensured I drowned myself in glasses of milk. To be honest, it didn’t really interest me that much anyway; it was a drink for grown-ups. I just liked the smell.
Nowadays, it was my turn to be the addict.
Susan always had freshly brewed coffee ready for me, for us, to sit and sip and savour as she informed me of the work that lay ahead.
Susan Delany, my line manager and Business Manager to the Department, as well as full time wife and mother.
She just oozed the art of juggling, making it seem effortless. She had earned this role; having worked in the company for twenty years and being the most knowledgeable, yet approachable manager.
I watched her, as she intently listened to the other person on the phone; balancing it between her shoulder and cheek as she skimmed through files and scribbled notes. At one point, she dropped her pen and somehow managed to slide her shoe off, grab the offending pen with her toes and bend it upwards towards her hand, a magical acrobatic work of art as if she had been born to do it – a talent that clearly raised her above the rest.
She rolled her eyes at me as she caught my surprised gaze; more at the other person on the end of the phone than my flabbergasted expression.
I forced a smile back at her, growing impatient, eager to be allocated my Mission.
Susan was one of those sickening people who had made having a family and holding down a ‘very important job’ (words of my mother, not mine) seem so easy. Her svelte figure elasticated, pinging back into place not once, but three times following three births in which the babies appeared to swiftly slide out. Three times! No doubt if I chose to become impregnated three times that my body would more than likely sag and roll in every direction out of protest. It would rebel; ensuring the angry stretch marks were engraved there for life and that my boobs and belly would forever grace my knees with their presence.
You would have thought at first Mother Nature was just being polite, and left her scar free and back to a teenage size in no time. The second time I wavered, then recovered as I thought, ‘Hey it must be in her genes’.
The third time however, I just felt pure, wretched jealousy. No person is that fortunate!
What made matters worse was that Susan was not only my boss, but a boss I actually loved.
She was genuinely unaware of how pretty she was; how her knowledge got others in an awe-inspiring spin and how her warm personality embraced and wrapped itself around you, pulling you reluctantly in.
She had all the assets that you envy in a person but all the personality and attributes you love.
That’s why I loved working with her. She was passionate, focused and driven and her enthusiasm sparked you on.
So today was no different; me inhaling and getting high on her lovely caffeine fumes, Susan managing to seal a deal over the phone or delay a meeting that she really had no interest in attending.
Aware I was growing restless by the incessant tapping attack my pen was taking out against my notebook, Susan indicated towards the sanctuary of the lovely cafetierre across the room.
I tiptoed across, a habit that Susan often laughed about as her office had a fluffy, soft carpet that drowned out any heel clicking on the floor. Yet I still insisted on doing it whenever she was on the phone. I looked at her to offer a conspiritual grin at the tip-toeing, but she appeared far too engrossed in the conversation.
As I started pouring the first cup, I noticed that the tone of authority in Susan’s voice had changed; it had taken on air of annoyance, I would actually go so far as to say despair.
“That can’t be right,” I caught her saying, “I know, I know Geoffrey that they were proposed at the last meeting. I just can’t believe they have actually approved them and gone through with it, and so quickly as well!”
Geoffrey McGuire was one of the Directors at our company; McGuire and Stanton, a well-established PR company for which I was their Project Co-ordinator.
Although it was not rare for Susan to be conversing with Mr McGuire on the phone, but in such a manner and at this time of the morning was pretty unusual.
I had my back to her as I poured the second mug of coffee, ears well and truly pricked up at this point.
“I need it in writing, Geoffrey. I need this email now. I am so sorry to be blunt but for something of this nature, I would like my facts straight before I take the next step.”
This line of conversation was not uncommon; Susan did like to have all the specifics before she proceeded.
I splashed some cream in both the coffees, dunked a dollop of sugar in mine and gave them a courtesy stir before tiptoeing back to the table.
I placed the mug next to Susan before slipping back into my chair. She barely registered this gesture as she was hunched forward, eyes scrunched up, peering through her glasses as she stared intently at the computer screen.
“I’m looking at them now Geoffrey,” was the most words she uttered through her ‘uh-huh’ and ‘I see’s’ that seemed to pepper their conversation.
I took a loud sip of my coffee, half in an attempt to get Susan’s attention and remind her I was still in the room, half to let the delicious caffeine ooze through my veins and kick start me for the day.
I had already consumed my usual cup of morning coffee at home whilst applying my make-up; however it was tasteless in comparison to this and didn’t seem to have the same effect. It was more in an effort to get my bowels moving before work.
The call was eventually finished, signalled uncharacteristically by Susan as she half slammed down the phone and let out a huge sigh.
I allowed myself to slip her an enquiring look, which she immediately brushed off as she nervously seemed to busy herself searching for something on her desk.
Rather than sit down opposite me and settle into her usual routine of letting off steam about whoever had been pestering her on the phone or panicking that she had a few major deadlines ahead; she stayed rooted at her desk.
Susan clicked hard at the computer. This was then followed by the printer whirring angrily into action, spitting out sheets of paper which she then snatched, letting out another huge sigh as she held her head in her hands as she read through them. Her head shook slowly from side to side at times.
She continued to read the print outs, alternating this with occasionally squinting at her computer screen for clarification; as if somehow magically the text had altered as it was transferred into ink.
“Sorry about this, Maggie,” she eventually mumbled.
“It’s ok,” I answered, knowing it clearly wasn’t as I had a terrible feeling start to sink in.
That ‘gut’ feeling that everyone seems to go on about, the one where ‘you know something’s wrong’. Until that moment, I had never believed in such nonsense and had scoffed at others who had expressed such feeling.
However, in that instant when Susan eventually stopped faffing about her desk and halted her reading of the print outs; hanging her head low, then taking a deep breath, calmly staring straight back at me, I knew.
I just knew.
That phone call had not been good news at all.
Susan’s eyes looked panicked, sad almost. An emotion I had rarely seen her convey and it frightened me.
This was my boss; an ultimate warrior of a woman who I looked up to and quite clearly worshipped, who was showing a sign of weakness; which meant it had to be bad as Susan rarely let anything defeat her.
Oh no, I thought. We haven’t got as many deals coming in this month and they are going to have to start cutting people’s salaries. The last two months had been a lot slower than normal, but I had just brushed that off as it being February and business was taking it’s time to pick up after the New Year.
“I’m so sorry,” her voice wobbled, breaking me from my thoughts.
Now I was confused, what was she sorry about?
Susan slowly uprooted herself from her desk and pulled out the chair opposite me at the table; all part of her usual routine only this time it was minus the huge work folder, which had been replaced with the offending computer print outs.
Once again, my ‘gut’ told me that something must be truly wrong.
That huge work folder was a Bible to us both, full of all our clients, deals and on-going work. Despite the fact I had it all typed onto our database, Susan still kept the ‘Folder’ as a backup, referring to it in our weekly meeting.
I must have been staring at the print outs in front of her as she reached out to touch my arm to grab my attention.
I jumped slightly as I tried to gather my thoughts and pay her my full attention.
“I think we should reschedule this meeting,” she simply said.
“What, this one?” I was confused, “But why? I’m here now; we may as well talk about last week’s progress and any new projects.”
The last part was said with re-enforced hope and Susan detected the plea in my voice, which had taken me by surprise, I hadn’t meant to sound so desperate to want to continue the meeting.
“I know, I know Maggie, I just don’t think it is suitable that I talk here and now with you. There are procedures I must go through and routes that I must go down and I want to deal with this officially.”
“Have we received a complaint?” I pushed, emphasising the ‘we’ in hope it wasn’t aimed at just me.
Susan shook her head.
In a bid to stabilise the situation and bring normality to it, I started to get my own papers out; my Performance Papers, a document of statistics and progress of the previous week, “Well, the Sheldon case is coming towards completion, although we were in the red for our target last week. I had a word with Martin who provided me a report explaining why they had missed their target. It seems that they have one girl on the sick and they are so short staffed in that area….”
“Maggie,” Susan broke my trail as she once again touched my arm. Susan was a touchy feely person anyway but there was something about the way she kept doing it that unnerved me. “Maggie, I’m afraid that this will become a regular problem for the company.”
“What, the red targets?” I asked slowly, unsure if I knew where she was going with this or if I even wanted to know the answer.
Susan coughed and looked uneasy; she glanced up at the ceiling and appeared to be blinking away…tears? “Well, yes in a sense.”
She shifted in her seat, all the cool, calm exterior of her business persona being drained away to reveal a vulnerable friend.
I took a nervous sip of my coffee, it somehow not having the same effect on me as earlier as it now tasted cool and sour, as I looked at her – urging her to go on.
“You see Maggie; you are not stupid and will have picked up on the fact that our work has, well, been quiet for want of a better word for the past couple of months.”
“I’m afraid there will be more missed targets in the months ahead, which will affect our relationship with clients. They will lose trust, confidence even and that is not good for us. In turn, we will lose more work; you know how the system goes, one big vicious cycle.”
Again, I nodded, scared to do anything other.
“The reason for the red targets is like you say in your report, mainly staffing issues. Unfortunately, the company does not have the money to provide cover for that area, particularly the Sheldon project,” she leaned in closer before throwing up her hands in exasperation, “Well, off the record I think they do and that they are getting their priorities wrong but hey, what do I know? I have only been in the Business twenty odd years!”
“But you’re the Business Manager, why don’t you fight that corner to get staff for the Sheldon project? If we lose them, we lose a lot of income. Surely it would make sense to pool all our resources into that until it’s finished?” I couldn’t help myself; the words were out my mouth before my brain was in gear.
Susan was used to my honesty and nodded in agreement, “You’re right Maggie; however the Directors have gone over my head and made the decision themselves. I can’t overturn it and as far as they are concerned, they don’t want extra help on the Sheldon case.”
“So basically, my Performance Paper is just going to be a sea of red and bad reports for this year? That will look great at the annual board meeting!” I said sarcastically. It sometimes made me wonder who was running this company. Susan did an amazing job, but every now and then the Directors seemed to pull rank and make (very bad) decisions.
Susan took a deep breath and seemed to touch the edges of her eyes, as if catching offending tears that were escaping. “That’s another issue.”
I stared at her, “What, my report?”
She shook her head, “This is what I meant when I said there are certain routes I have to go down. What I am going to tell you though is in the strictest of confidence and I know that I can trust you.”
I frowned at her, she knew she could trust me anyway; we had always worked on confidential cases and dealt with HR issues together, why did she feel the need to re-iterate this?
As if reading my mind, “Maggie, I know I don’t need to say it but I wanted to reinforce it. The reasons for the short staffing aren’t going to go away. You know we haven’t employed anyone for a while now; we haven’t replaced anyone who has left or recruited any school leavers. There has been a reason for this.”
My intuition grew stronger now, I sucked in my cheeks in anticipation.
“Basically, I met with the Directors last week at our monthly Senior Management Meeting. I haven’t told you entirely what was discussed,” she raised her hand in defence, “mainly on a protective note as I didn’t believe it myself and at the time they said they were proposals anyway.”
“Basically, the company is in a worse financial state than we thought and that is why recruitment hasn’t been pushed.”
I let out a sigh of relief, “So recruitment is on hold, that’s all?”
Susan shook her head, “No, Maggie, that’s not all.”
She dabbed her eyes again.
I sat and stared in silence now.
“The company owes money and in order to recoup that debt, they are going to have to let some staff go.”
My heart sank. All those poor Project Assistants, Designers, Web Technicians, Marketing Assistants, what were they going to do in this climate? I had always believed our company to be safe as we thrived on being busy and working with the highest of clientele. I couldn’t quite believe it was this abysmal.
“But what will people do?” I whispered
Susan shrugged, “The proposals have apparently been approved late on Friday night and that is what they have emailed me today. It is the proposed cuts and savings in salaries. It also goes into detail about which roles are to go and how the company will be remodelled.”
“They did all this without you?” a rhetorical question that I meant for no answer.
Susan tried to hide her disappointment and frustration at this fact but it was quite clear that once again the directors had gone above her and pulled rank, despite her in-depth knowledge of the finances. “They needed to get a report together by this morning as they are going into a meeting with the Unions to start the 90day consultation.”
“That soon?” I gasped. Oh, those poor people.
“That’s not all,” Susan said again.
I paused, unsure if I wanted her to go on.
“When I have viewed the proposals and charts, I am extremely sorry Maggie. But your job is not on there.”
And on that jolly note – Wishing everyone all the health and happiness for 2013
Love Missuswolf xxx