Twenties Girl

Page 22


“What are you going to do?” ventures Kate anxiously. She clearly overheard the whole thing.
“I don’t know,” I admit. “What would Natalie do?”
Both of us instinctively glance toward Natalie’s desk, gleaming and empty. I have a sudden vision of Natalie sitting there: her lacquered nails tapping on the desk, her voice raised in some high-octane call. Since she’s been gone, the volume level in this office has dropped by about eighty percent.
“She might tell Shireen she had to take the job and threaten to sue her if she didn’t,” says Kate at last.
“She’d definitely tell Shireen to get over herself.” I nod in agreement. “She’d call her unprofessional and flaky.”
I once heard Natalie tearing a strip off some guy who had second thoughts about taking up a position in Dubai. It wasn’t pretty.
The deep-down truth, which I don’t want to admit to anyone, is that now I’ve got to know the way Natalie thinks and does business… I don’t really relate to a lot of it. What appealed to me about this job was working with people, changing lives. When we used to meet up and Natalie would tell me her stories of finding talent, I was always just as interested in the story behind the deal as the deal itself. I thought it must be so much more satisfying to help people’s careers than to sell cars. But that aspect doesn’t seem to feature highly on our agenda.
I mean, OK, I know I’m a novice. And maybe I am a bit idealistic, like Dad always says. But your job is one of the most important things in your life, surely. It should be right for you. Salary isn’t everything.
There again, that’ll be why Natalie’s the successful head-hunter with loads of commission under her belt. And I’m not. And right now we need commission.
“So what we’re saying is, I should ring Shireen back and give her a hard time,” I say reluctantly. There’s silence. Kate looks as pained as I feel.
“Thing is, Lara,” she says hesitantly, “you’re not Natalie. She’s away. So you’re the boss. So you should do things your way.”
“Yes!” I feel a surge of relief. “That’s true. I’m the boss. So what I say is… I’ll think about it for a while first.”
Trying to look as though this is a decisive piece of action instead of a cop-out, I push the phone aside and start leafing through the post. A bill for office paper. An offer to send all my staff on a team-building trip to Aspen. And, at the bottom of the pile, Business People , which is like the celebrity magazine of business. I open it and start flipping through the pages, trying to find someone who would make a perfect marketing director for Leonidas Sports.
Business People is essential reading for a headhunter. It’s basically endless photo spreads of thrusting, super-groomed types who have massive offices with plenty of space to hang up their coats. But God, it’s depressing. As I turn from one highflier to another, my spirits sink lower and lower. What’s wrong with me? I only speak one language. I haven’t been asked to chair any international committees. I don’t have a working wardrobe which pairs Dolce & Gabbana trouser suits with quirky shirts from Paul Smith.
Dolefully, I close the magazine and slump back, staring at the grimy ceiling. How do they all do it? My uncle Bill. Everyone in this magazine. They decide to run a business and it’s instantly a success, and it looks so easy…
“Yes… yes…” Suddenly I become aware of Kate making semaphore signals across the room. I look up to see her face all pink with excitement as she talks on the phone. “I’m sure Lara would be able to make space for you in her schedule, if you could just hold on a moment…”
She presses Hold and squeaks, “It’s Clive Hoxton! The one who said he wasn’t interested in Leonidas Sports?” she adds, at my blank look. “The rugby guy? Well, he might be after all! He wants to have lunch and talk about it!”
“Oh my God! Him!” My spirits shoot back up. Clive Hoxton is marketing director at Arberry Stores and used to play rugby for Doncaster. He couldn’t be more perfect for the Leonidas Sports job, but when I first approached him he said he didn’t want to move. I can’t believe he’s got in touch!
“Play it cool!” I whisper urgently. “Pretend I’m really busy interviewing other candidates.”
Kate nods vigorously.
“Let me just see…” she says into the phone. “Lara’s schedule is very packed today, but I’ll see what I can do… Ah! Now, what a stroke of luck! She unexpectedly has a vacancy! Would you like to name a restaurant?”