The ‘staff’ meeting was like a photo shoot for some magazine, that was my first thought, as all the pretty people took their seats in their perfectly fit clothing and click-clack sounding shoes. There was an empty seat next to Sookie and she nodded that I take it, I opened by I pad to start taking notes. Not that I knew the first thing about what she wanted recorded or not, but I figured I’d wing it and by the end of it Sookie seemed fine and I wasn’t fired, so winging it worked. She introduced me as her new assistant and there was mumbled from a few at the back before she promptly told them that Paula wasn’t cutting her slack and had to go, that they’d accept me or they too would be fired.
It seems that the ‘fear of God’ was her approach to running her business. It seemed to work, they were all meeting targets and all problem free besides one or two issues with a certain product it seemed like this was a well sailed ship and it was running fine. I just hope I could keep up the pace. There was a lot of rushing around and a lot of learning as I went. I knew within five minutes of meeting Sookie that she wasn’t the most patient person in the world, and it seems her staff were just like that too. Everything was a big deal, every little thing effected a huge thing which effected the company. It was daunting as hell and that just in my first hour. Finally though Lafayette came to my desk, I saw him sauntering (and I really mean, sauntering,) down the hallway with some clipboards in hand. He was clearly in the art department, because he himself looked like an art project. I’d never before seen so much colour, and so much… false lashes on one man before.
“Yes, I take it you’re Lafayette?”
“Oh, baby, does my reputation precede me?”
“Um, no… Miss Stackhouse told me you were to show me around, plus you’re like the only person who’s talked to me today so…”
“Aw newbie,” he patted me on the shoulder, “yes I’m Lafayette and yes I do need to show you around so you don’t get that nice, tall self of yours lost and give Sookie a reason to chop your head off.”
“Not that she would, it’s far too pretty a head underneath all that fluffy unkempt hair and whatever those glasses are…”
He shook his head and rolled his eyes, “so come on, I don’t have all day.”
We walked and talked down the gleaming hallway, well I say walked, it was more like sprinted.
“That to the left is the copy room you’ll be in there a lot. Avoid Sophie-Anne she’s a whore and you’re new. So it’s fresh meat.”
“Who is -”
“Receptionist, red hair? Skirt practically around her waist,” he said as we walked clearly letting his distaste for her show.
“Oh, I don’t think that’ll be an issue, she showed me to Sook… Miss Stackhouse’s office and couldn’t contain her laughter.”
“Why was she laughing?”
I looked down at what I was wearing… “I don’t exactly fit in here right now. You all look like you stepped out of GQ.”
“You’ll learn, in time. Okay, in here is the meeting or conference rooms everything that isn’t handled down here,” he pointed to another large white room leading to more white rooms. I was starting to feel dizzy.
“This is the art department, we keep the wardrobe department, shoes, accessories, clothes, bags, everything that is delivered has to come down here to be unpacked, inspected, and hung for her inspection… This is anything from any designer for any given time. Since she works the magazine out of here as well on another floor.”
I nodded trying to write down what the rooms were for on my note pad. I left my I pad behind me.
“What are you doin’ boy?”
“I… taking notes?”
He raised his brow and shook his head as if he couldn’t really understand it.
“All…right. As I was saying pulls are taken here for photo shoots and interviews, reviews etc. They’re branding a lot of shit right now, and since the fashion end of things has suffered lately they’re looking to re-brand the company as Stackhouse Inc. It’s taking time since there are some personal issues standing, but all the shit falls under SCC right now, Sook is tryin’ to change that. She’s taking the ‘Couture’ started by her Grandmother -”
“Who started the business by hand making and stitching the clothes from vintage materials as far back as World War II,” I said, rather proud that I knew that.
“So you’ve read the welcome pack then, goodie for you. And yes. Her Grandmother did that and she insists on keeping it in the business name even though the business only produces five percent from the actual ‘Couture’ line a year… it’s a fucking mess. Sookie wants to make it more accessible, as she damn well should in these economic times, her old Gran won’t hear of changing the company name even if it makes things easier for Sook…” he shook his head, clearly frustrated as this seemed to an on going, and massive issue within the company.
“As her assistant, you’re basically her slave okay? I mean I could word it differently but she owns your ass. The good news is…” he wrote on a piece of paper and showed me a number. A very large, very impressive number, “that my tall one, is your starting salary. Christmas bonus is a percentage of what the company makes, so if we make good we MAKE good, you understand?”
I nodded, I knew numbers and this impressed me.
“Seriously? That’s… I’m an assistant.”
“No baby, you basically just signed your personal life over to Sookie Stackhouse, but you get paid well for it and that’s what matters. If you want to make it, you break it. And by it, I mean your ass. She expects a lot, she does, but that’s because she gives a lot too. She won’t expect you to work any harder, than she does. And trust, the girl she works in her sleep.”
I gulped, making him laugh.
“Don’t worry sweetheart, you showed up looking like… that. And she still hired you. You is lucky.”
“I guess so! And listen Sookie has a few chinks in her armour.”
“She does? She doesn’t look… chinky.”
“Are you going to tell me what they are?”
“You haven’t earned them yet, Newbie. Now I need you to take this… and these… and these. To Sookie.”
“Will I get to call her Sookie?”
“Most assistants don’t last long enough to get to that stage, baby, but who knows the streak of luck you’re having might stick and she might decide to keep you around. Like the office puppy. All massive and un-ironed….but cute and sort of helpful.”
“Did you just call me a -”
“Last girl that was in your position? I compared her to a field mouse. Be thankful.”
I didn’t understand that, but then again I assumed I wouldn’t really understand a lot of what he said. I took my files and my giant book of what looked like fabric samples and carried them to Sookie’s office. She was on the phone ranting at someone in French, so I just walked as quietly as I could and laid the stuff down on her desk. She nodded and I left. Done. Simple. I thought, and for THAT salary I could do shit like this all day every day.
Only my first day was literally just dipping my feet in the water, I really had no idea what was coming.
It was the end of a seriously stressful day on my part. The office was winding to a close, and I saw Eric shutting down his desk. So far, he’d done okay. He’d done all that was asked of him, and a lot that wasn’t – that was the key to why I decided to let him keep his job. The others before him just barely did as I asked with no initiative at all, he though? He reorganized the filing on his side, his desk and area were tidy and presentable. Unlike him. I would have to, at some point have a word with him on his choice of clothes, but since it was his first day and he did seem like the deer very much caught in the headlights, he had his chance to see what attire was expected, hopefully he realized that he’d be expected to fit in around us, not the other way around. He was after all just an assistant.
Lost in thought for a second I remembered what it was like when I was my Grandmother’s assistant. She wasn’t nearly as hard on me as I had become, but then again she gave nothing for nothing either and I earned where I was. Every minute I’d spent working for her since I was fifth teen meant I’d earned where I sat and I’d earned the right to run this business, even if she didn’t think so.
I sighed and signed off my laptop, before I knew it Eric was standing before me again, a somewhat sheepish look on his face.
“Is there anything else I can do for you, Miss Stackhouse?” He asked, politely.
“Yes. You can sign your contract, that is if it’s what you think you can do? Being here… being my assistant?”
I’d assumed Lafayette had given him his run through, I’d seen him preening over Eric earlier, and Lafayette was nothing if not a blabbermouth, he was an artistic genius, but still, a blabbermouth.
“I… Yes. Mr Reynolds went over it with me like you said he would, it … the money is fantastic I was really expecting … I mean it’s not to say that I think -”
“Mr Northman, can you just sign it so I can go home? I’m sure you’re anxious for your first day to be over with too.” I sighed and he nodded quickly scanning the contract, and signing his name.
“Good. I’ll call you in the morning with the list of tasks for the day, I’ll be out of the office till noon but I’ll need you here by eight to take care of the calls and messages, as well as a few deliveries we have at nine, then Sophie can man your phones, I assume you know how to filter -”
“Good, she can do that until you come back with me in the afternoon, I expect you to be at this address by eleven, I have a showing and I’ll be needing you there. Okay?”He nodded as I handed him the small piece of paper with the address on it.
“Good. Welcome to SCC, Mr Northman.” I said, reaching out to shake his hand. I might have been an ice-bitch, but I wasn’t unnecessarily rude.
He smiled, and I was almost taken aback. He had perfect teeth, and one of the most genuine smiles I’d seen in a while. It lit his whole face up. It was sort of beautiful.
“Thank you, Miss Stackhouse I mean you have no idea what this mean to me and my -”
“That’s all.” I said, okay, a little rude but really I was dead on my feet and even though I loved my Louboutins as much as the next girl, but I was almost tempted to take them off before I got to my town car. I couldn’t though, that would have made me look too human.
I didn’t know why I was so afraid to let them see me, but I was. Maybe I figured if they saw how fragile I felt or how lost I was, then they’d pity me and I realized early on I’d rather someone fear me, than pity me. So it’s just how it was.
I left my office and got into my town car that took me home where I had one message on my personal line.
From Pam, reminding me if I got home at five thirty I had a half hour to change and get ready for dinner at her place. I smiled, I could use some company, I thought as I looked around my very spacious and therefore very empty Park Avenue penthouse apartment. Tina greeted me with her usual hungry purrs and I obliged and fed her, and we cuddled for a few minutes while I finally got out of my shoes and into my oversized navy and white stripe sweater dress, some black pantyhose and much welcomed black patent flat pumps.
Comfort at it’s finest.
I looked around my empty home, filled to the brim with the best of the best in designer furniture, art work, designed to the last tea cup to fit my style. Floor to ceiling glass windows surrounded the front of the house, allowing me stunning views of New York in both brightness, but particularly in the darkness. It was inspiring in so many ways, it was no doubt a privilege to live there, I knew that I was very lucky. We’d always grown up comfortable, but it was nothing to what we’d become when the business went global, then the money became slightly obscene. The money isn’t the main reason I stuck around though. Ever since I was a little girl I loved playing in my mother’s beauty box, or her wardrobe, and playing dress up, to then dressing up other little girls and not so little girls. I believed all girls should feel beautiful, and that in creating the magazine to co-exist with other fashion labels and designers as well as our own brand range of that and cosmetics… well I loved it. And whenever I’d pass a woman in the street in one of our things, in a pair of our shoes, or clutching one of our bags. It gave me that feeling that I got as a kid dressing up. Excitement. And that’s why I stuck around, it’s why I loved it. What I didn’t love was the empty personal life having that small feeling meant, but like most things, I just dealt with it and moved on as best as I could. I patted Tina on the head, and grabbed my bag to make my way to Pam’s place. Wine would be had, laughs would be laughed and I’d have one killer of a hangover in the morning.
Totally worth it.
I gotten home to Brooklyn finally, having stopped to pick up Chinese food for dinner I was totally wiped by the time I got in the door. Having made six trips to the art department, as well as the magazine department itself where the writers were, then to the cosmetics section to pick up samples have them marked and leave the back, then three runs to Starbucks and a run for lunch in busy mid-day traffic.
Wiped is the only word to describe it.
I got home to my one bedroom apartment, I was greeted by a smile and a great big bear hug from
Emily. Emily, and her baby sitter – who was less bear hug person, more a polite smile person told me she was as good as gold – as usual, she added before telling us she’d see us the next day. Amelia was great, she lived two doors down with her daughter and her husband, and she kindly watched Emily for me after school most days so I could work. It worked out great since Emily and Taylor – Amelia and Trey’s daughter got on like a house on fire since they were in the same pre-school.
“So how was work?” she asked, looking up from her colouring enough for me to move it and set a plate in front of her.
“Good, I got a new job today.”
“Aw what? No more parrot visits?”
I laughed, thank Christ, no more Parrot visits, since my last temp was at a giant pet store.
“No. I’m working for SCC in the city. It’s Stackhouse Cosmetic and C-”
“Oh my god, I saw those ads on TV. Wow that’s a big place to work! What do you do? Do you do their math for them?” she asked, more confused this time.
“No,” I laughed, “not the math, but I’m working with boss of the whole thing. She’s tough but the money is so much better than before so that’s the huge plus here.”
She nodded. She was only five, but she was an old soul and always had been, wise way beyond her mere five years. I guess she had to have been, we both did. You see Emily wasn’t my kid, she was my kid sister who I was tasked with taking over her guardianship when our parents were killed when she was three. It was tough, beyond tough. I was in my twenties and then suddenly I had a kid to raise when I was just getting the hang of raising and caring for myself. Our parents died in a car accident when they were on vacation in Spain. My dad had taken mom on a cruise and mini tour of Europe for a month as an anniversary present, they made it back to where they were both from in Sweden for a week before heading to Spain, they never came home though. So that left me dropping out of my research programme that paid buttons, to take whatever jobs I could get so that Emily and I could survive. It was partly because it didn’t hold my interest as it once had, true, but mostly because all my interest and all my worry was focused solely on her now. It had to be. I was all she had. Sad thing was, she was more of a grown up than I was most days.
“I can’t live on Chinese food, Eric. I’ve a kid, it’s bad for me,” she shrugged biting into her chicken.
“Shush, and eat.”
“Amelia made me a snack when I came from school, SHE knows how to work her oven…”
I didn’t, so sue me.
“I told you, I’m learning.”
She just glared.
“Pop tarts and scrabbled eggs… I’m a growing girl I need more stuff than that.”
“And that’s why we have Chinese food, now eat, Squirt.”
She sighed but ate anyway and we both stuck in a DVD that she insisted we watch even though she fell asleep before we were a half hour in, as always.
We lived in a one bed roomed apartment, and she got the bedroom. Mostly because she was a little girl and I was not, and mostly because I wasn’t an asshole. We’d done it up in pink and white, with Princess wall transfers and glitter pink canopy, she loved her Princess bed, it made her happy, so that’s what counted. And that’s what I reminded myself when I got back ache from sleeping on the lumpy sofa every night.
I carried her into her room and did my best to remove her shoes and her little jeans, she could sleep in her pants and t-shirt, she did often when she fell asleep at movies, I hadn’t the heart to wake her to change anyway. I put her to bed and tucked her in, switching on her nightlight before I walked out of the room.
“Eric…” she said, sleepy still.
“G’night, I love you.”
“Love you too, now go back to sleep.”
“Mmmhm,” was all she got out before she turned and squished her face against her pillow, out like a light.
I switched on Law & Order, popped a beer and finished the remainder of my Chinese food before I got to sleep that night. I knew it would be a hell of an early morning rush, but I just kept thinking of the money. It would be a massive improvement on what we’d been living on, we could fix some stuff up… I wondered as I looked around the apartment, it wasn’t in bad condition or even in a bad area, we’d lucked out with a decent landlord and it was remodelled only a few years before so it was modern, but it was still in need of few fresh coats of paint, some new carpets, and it definitely needed a sofa bed, a large one, I’d been dying to stretch out on a king size bed for a VERY long time. It hadn’t happened yet. It would though, one day.
It was six thirty, I was up dressed and had breakfast …what wasn’t burnt…much, already ready. Emily was sitting on the couch, her hair all sticking up, half asleep on the couch watching Barney.
I hated that fucking dinosaur, always so damn perky.
“Okay kid, come on, washed, brushed and dressed before six forty five.”
“But whhhhhy?” she whined, “I don’t have to go to pre-school till nine! The clock doesn’t say nine!”
“I know, but I have to be in work by eight and if I’m not my boss lady, who did I mention was really tough? She’s going to be pissed at me and might fire me, so we have to hustle.”
“Where are you taking me…”
I hadn’t figured that one out yet. I text Amelia at seven just to politely see if she was awake, she didn’t answer instead I heard a knock at the door. A perky looking Ames was standing there in her fluffy bathrobe.
“Uh, hi, um well there is kind of. I got a new job yesterday…”
She smiled, “that’s so great! Oh honey I am glad. That other place was horrible… all those birds, you’re much smarter than that.”
“Thanks.” I smiled back, “but it’s for this huge business in the city, um, Stackhouse Cos-”
“Oh my God! I love all their stuff! I practically live in that woman’s shoes, they’re amazing… and the makeup is just to die for I mean -”
“Oh… Right… carry on.” She said, helping herself to some coffee.
“Well I’m working for Sookie Stackhouse -”
“Ohhh she’s meant to be a bitch,” she said and Emily over-heard.
“Ames you said bitch!”
“No I didn’t I said…itch.” She looked over to the couch where Emily was simply rolling here eyes.
“That doesn’t even make SENSE, how can a person be an ITCH,” Emily said.
“She should have seen some of my exes,” Ames whispered to me and I laughed.
“Problem is she’s a bit of a workaholic and as her assistant that means I have odder hours… so…”
“You were wondering if I’d take Em?”
She smiled, “Eric I told you, it’s not a problem, look I work from home and Trey is gone all day, after pre-school it’s nice that the kids have each other.”
“I sort of have to leave now.”
“She’s had breakfast…”
“I’ve had burnt eggs and a Pop-tart,” Emily interjected, and it was my turn to roll my eyes.
“It’s fine, I wake up at six anyway, Taylor is still asleep but we can work something out.”
“Ames, I want to pay you.”
She shook her head, “No, I told you before it’s not necessary. Really. She’s no trouble, Eric.”
“No, I know you say that and before it was amazing and so sweet because… well I couldn’t have afforded a babysitter on my money, but now, the money is better…”
“That usually means the job is hell…” She said.
“I’ve heard… but please?”
“No. I swear if you do I’m just going to give to Emily…”
“Can I buy an iPhone?” She asked from her spot on the couch.”No, you can’t, you’re five you don’t need an iPhone!”
Besides she had a cell phone one that could call my number and that’s it. We had a deal and to her word she’d stuck to it, and not even lost the phone, even thought it was old as hell, it kept us in contact during the day at least.I sighed, resigned in that I knew Amelia wouldn’t take the money, I’d figure out a way of paying her back though. I’d just have to think about it.
“Okay you’re a life saver, seriously, you sure Trey doesn’t mind?”
“Please, he’s off to work at eight anyway, he won’t even notice,” she smiled again and went and got her things together in her backpack.
“Okay, cool. Thanks again so much. Come on, Emily!”
I said as she dragged her little butt off the couch. “Coat, shoes, dress, socks – please wear them this time, and be good for Ames, okay?”
“Okay…” she whined.
“Hey… hey… look at me…” I said and she still looked at the floor. I scoop her up and stood her on the kitchen table so we were eye to eye, it’s the trick to doing her shoe laces too.
“I’ll give you guys a minute, Eric, drop her over when you’re ready,” Amelia said before she left.
“What’s wrong, Em?”
“So why won’t you look at me? Are you just tired?”
She shook her head.
“I miss Mom. I miss Dad too, but I want a Mom hug.”
My heart sank, yeah, kid… I wanted a Mom hug too, sometimes.
“I know, Sweetheart, but you know we talked about this…”
“I know, they’re in heaven and God needs them… But Eric, WE need them more.”
I hugged her and she wrapped her legs around me just hugging me as tight as she could. Most days she’d be fine, but then, days like these would happen and she’d go into her little shell until I pried her out.
“I promise things are going to be better, see with this new job? It means a LOT more money. So that means we can go shopping for new things, we can buy us both some new clothes and maybe some new toys.”
Her eyes lit up when I mentioned that.
“Yep! And maybe we can go see the Lion King again, soon.”
On Broadway, and she was a Disney nut. And in fairness, I was a little too by association.
She smiled. Praise the Gods, a smile.
“Okay that’s cool.”
“It is cool. I love you, you know?”
She nodded, “you’re a really good big brother… even if your cooking sucks,” she smiled and I poked her stomach before putting her on my shoulders to deliver her to Amelia. Just as I did my phone started beeping.
Shit, it was already after seven. I had to high tail it to work.
Day two should be interesting if it’s anything like Day one.