PINK’s Stupid Girls interrupted her train of thought, the tinny sound erupting from her mobile as it danced across the desk. Clarissa didn’t have to pick it up to know who was calling her. She glanced down at the clock on her computer screen. 8.45pm.
“Shit.” She was tempted not to answer the call, but she knew Scott would keep ringing until she picked up. May as well get it over with.
“Hi honey.” Her voice sounded strained and overly jovial even to her own ears. “I’m leaving now.”
She stood, tucked the mobile into her neck and started collecting the papers from the desk.
“You haven’t left yet? I’m already at the Roystons. I thought you’d at least be on your way.” She heard a thump and imagined him slamming his fist against the steering wheel.
Clarissa grabbed at her briefcase and started throwing her files into it. Slamming the MacBook closed, she squashed it in with the files.
“I’ll be in a cab in five minutes, at their front door in twenty. See you then.” She disconnected before he could continue.”Shit. Shit.”
She had completely forgotten about the Roystons. She hadn’t even picked up some wine. Maybe they could stop on the way. She was half way to the elevator, pulling on her coat as she walked, when she heard her boss, Lex, start shouting.
“Wayne Crook is a hack. I want him on the next plane back to Sydney.”
Clarissa grimaced. Obviously Lex had heard about their star presenter’s on-location meltdown. It was hot gossip in the tea room, and while Clarissa was surprised by the news, she was also relieved Wayne wasn’t working on one of her projects. She noticed Lex was out of his chair and yelling. She quickly turned away. Not quick enough.
She waved and put her head down, stabbing the DOWN button, hoping he’d let her go.
“Lissa, get in here.”
Clarissa looked longingly at the elevator. So close. With a sigh she hurried back to Lex’s office and stuck her head around his door. “I’m on my way out. Can it wait ’till Monday?”
Lex motioned for her to sit down. Claire moved into the overcrowded office and settled herself on the edge of a hard backed chair, the sour smell of cigarettes heavy in the air.
“We’re fucked on the Discovery Prehistoric Creatures job.”
Lex leaned back in his chair, a deep frown an ugly stain on his face. “A crew in Cairns, some fucking park ranger ready to be interviewed, crocodiles fucking all around, and our presenter in the hospital having some kind of breakdown.”
“I heard. Danny will sort it out.”
Lex looked dubious. “My grandmother has more balls than Danny. I need you to provide back-up. You’ll fly to Cairns tomorrow.”
Claire’s stomach dropped. Not another lost weekend. Scott was going to freak. “I’m sure that won’t be necessary. I’ll phone Danny on my way home.”
Claire tried to sound calm and confident. “I think Tony Hop is free at the moment. Maybe he can present. We’ll be back on schedule by Monday. We’ll lose a day, but we’ll make it up when the shoot gets back to Sydney.”
Lex snorted, his large nostrils flaring. “I’ve heard that before.”
Claire held Lex’s eyes coolly. “Don’t give it another thought. It’s taken care of. I don’t need to go to Queensland.”
He opened the manila folder in front of him and pushed a pile of budgets and schedules towards her. Papers fluttered into the air and splayed out like a numbered collage. “And who’s gonna pay for these delays, hey? Do you know how much a day of idle camera crews is going to cost me?”
Claire said nothing and shifted her eyes to a spot behind Lex’s head. She wasn’t going to argue with him.. If she kept her mouth shut, he’d soon run out of steam. She focused on the bland cream walls and the disjointed cluster of celebrity stills, and wondered if there was any point in reminding her boss that she, Clarissa Watts, was the best damn Production Manager Life Productions had. If she said she could do it, the job was as good as done.
Clarissa put in the hours, she knew the schedules, the cash drains, the gripes, the petty rivalries and all the illicit gossip. Lex, on the other hand, was a has been. A red faced drunk. A fat slob more interested in beer and pies than the production company he had founded twenty years before.
Lex was still complaining about money and moving on to bitching about the editor on the job. He shook out a cigarette and picked up his lighter. “So I told Pam that I’d fire her ass if she ever did that again.”
Claire tuned out and prayed he’d finish soon. Lex lit the cigarette and coughed out a trail of smoke and a mouth full of spittle. Disgusting. She had to get out of there.
“So, I’ll call you tomorrow about Prehistoric Creatures.” Claire stood and picked up her briefcase.
“Step out on the balcony with me.” Lex nodded at the door to his private balcony. “I want to talk to you.”
He stuck the cigarette in the corner of his mouth, clamped down on it with his teeth and gave the rusted double doors a solid pull with both hands. They snapped open and a strong gust of chilly air hit Clarissa in the face.
“Lex, it’s really quite late. I have to…”
“Only take a second.” Lex leaned against the railing. “Come on, just stand in the doorway so I can see you.”
Clarissa turned to check the clock on the wall. 9pm. She was going to be so late. But, what could she do? She moved to stand near the door, the chill making her shiver.
“How long you been with us now, Lissa?”
“I don’t know,” Clarissa said wearily. “Four years maybe.”
Lex nodded. “I’ve been thinking, it’s about time you became a Senior Production Manager. How’d you like to oversee all the Discovery series as well as continue that travel show thingy of yours.” He snapped his fingers, searching for the name.
“On the Edge with Jack McCoy.”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
Clarissa stared at him, speechless. “Wow, I don’t know what to… I didn’t realize we needed another Senior.”
Lex took a deep drag on his cigarette and blew a trail of smoke rings at the doorway. “We don’t. I’m letting Francesca go. I told her today.”
“Why? Francesca’s a fantastic SPM.”
Lex shook his head dismissively. “She doesn’t have the time or the energy for the work since she had those brats of hers. She’s always wanting flexible hours. Turns her fucking phone onto voice mail all the time, and you can’t get her anywhere near a meeting on the weekend. It’s just not working anymore. We tried, but the fact is television is no place for mothers.”
Sadness settled like a weight on Clarissa’s chest. Francesca Spiteri had employed and mentored her throughout her entire time at Life. She was patient, fair and worked as hard as any of the men. And where did it get her? Fired at thirty seven because she’d dared to have two children in the last three years.
Lex was watching her closely, his deep set eyes looking black in the night, a cloud of smoke circling his head. “So, you want the job or not?”
Claire shrugged. “I don’t know what to say. This has kinda come from left field.”
Even as she said it, she knew her stalling wasn’t about the job. An unwelcome sense of loyalty to Francesca was circling inside of her, and then there was the matter of Scott. There were no prizes for guessing what he would think of the job offer. Every Senior Production Manager at Life Productions worked over seventy hours a week. Scott rarely stayed at the office past 6pm.
Lex frowned and tossed the cigarette stub onto the floor of the balcony. He ground it out with his boot heel. “Listen, don’t do me no favors. Jimmy Daniels would give his left ball to become Senior Production Manager for Discovery, so if you’re not up to it, don’t worry about it. I’ll set someone else up.”
He patted her shoulder as he walked back into the office and took his jacket from the hat stand. “Shut those doors will you.”
He walked from the office without looking back. “See you Monday.”
Claire stood rooted to the spot. What had just happened there? Had he offered her a job and then rescinded it all in one conversation? She felt the vibration of her mobile in her pocket. Scott. The clock now said 9.15pm.
Suddenly it hit her. This was her life. Her job was the only thing she was really good at. The only part of her life that was hers alone. She ran from the office and towards the lift. “Lex,” she yelled. “Lex, wait!”
He put a hand out to stop the elevator doors from closing. “What?”
“I’ll take the job,” she puffed, feeling a knot start to tighten in her stomach. “I’d love to be the new SPM.”
Lex grinned, flashing crooked yellowing teeth. “Of course you will. I never doubted it. See you Monday.”
Claire stood there panting, trying to collect herself as the elevator doors closed. She should feel excited, happy. Instead, all she felt was heavy, tired, depressed. She’d managed to sell out a friend and her husband in one fell swoop. What a way to end the week.
She checked her watch again and hurried back to Lex’s office to collect her briefcase. No time to think about it now. She had a sulking man to placate.
This story continues with Dinner Time Blues
Photo by meyshanworld