In my Dreams

After returning from university, Kate began to think that her future wasn't going to be as exciting as she once dreamed. Not even a job at a London based PR company seemed to be offering much hope. However things change when she finds herself working as personal assistant of a very famous British actor. Life takes an interesting turn for a short while before things start to get complicated...

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1. Chapter 1

 

Monday mornings.  Will they ever get easier?

As I stared at my bewildered expression in the mirror, toothbrush in mouth, I began to wonder how I’d managed to survive my first seven months at Zenith Media.  Since leaving university, my life seems to have become an indistinct haze of early mornings and late night microwave meals – much to my mother’s despair.  I know I should ‘count my lucky stars’ and ‘be grateful to even have a job’, as my best friend Rachael reminds me, every time I get five minutes to rant to her over Facebook or text.  This is what our relationship has whittled down to over the last few months; the odd online chat or swift text while demolishing a sandwich in the minus five minutes I can grab for lunch.

I curse myself for ever complaining about being ‘busy’ or ‘snowed under’ with uni work.  University was a breeze; A three year holiday.  A false pretence which leads us to believe that life will be so much easier once we’ve completed every several thousand essay we’re asked to complete.  Right now, I’d take sitting in the student library, earphone surgically attached to my ears, tapping out a few hundred words every hour in between gossiping with Rach about what had gone down the previous night at any given nightclub.

Actually, I should consider myself lucky.  It was barely five minutes since I’d packed up my student belongings and moved back home, before I’d landed a job at Zenith.  A degree in Media Studies doesn’t really lend itself to many career choices.  As many others on my course, we all set out with visions of becoming distinguished journalists, ground-breaking film directors or running our own record label.  No such luck.  One year into the course and it was startlingly clear that a very small minority of us would actually make it into the media industry at all and we quickly began to understand the term ‘Mickey Mouse course’.  As delighted as mum was with the opportunity to call me ‘Kate Baxter BA Hons’, it was evident that I’d have to set about forging some sort of career for myself post university.

After despairing over my future and contemplating another two years of studying at Journalism College, I began sending pleading letters to every company even remotely media related that I could find on the internet.  Within a week I was sat in the offices of a media sales company that promised work with corporations directly related to the TV and film industry.  The job was offered to me in the interview room and I began to think that perhaps my future life was going to be easier than I’d been led to believe.  Reality came crashing down when I read the small print of the contract and realised that I was being employed to drive door to door sales of Sky packages to unassuming homeowners. 

Walking through the front door that night was particularly uncomfortable.  The text I’d managed to send mum informing her of my success (from the toilet cubicle outside the interview room - pre contract signing) had certified an unjust celebration as I stepped into the living room.  Champagne, or rather Brut from the back of the cupboard from last Christmas, burst open and splashed mum and dad’s disturbingly delighted faces.  Before they’d even had a chance to break into a painful rendition of Cliff Richard’s ‘Congratulations’, the look on my face broke their frozen, toothy smiles.   This led to dad grumbling for the rest of the night about those ‘bloody universities’ and their ‘ridiculous courses not preparing people for the real world’ whilst mum consoled and assured me that there were plenty of real companies out there that would see my potential.  It was hard to believe her but I nodded through my sodden hankies and promised her I would persevere.

Several weeks (and a few hundred more letters) later, I received a letter inviting me to interview at Zenith Media – a Public Relations company based in London.  Mum couldn’t hide her anxiety over the thought of ‘losing’ me again after having just come back home from uni but she knew as well as I did that I had to take anything I could get.  My expectations were low.  Even though I found myself sitting in the first class lounge of an express train, whisking me directly from Newcastle to King’s Cross Station, a big part of me was convinced that this would be another epic let down.  The ‘all expenses paid’ travel and overnight accommodation failed to incite any real hope for a positive outcome. 

I arrived at Zenith’s Headquarters at precisely 10.36am, leaving me just enough time to compose myself and go over the many reasons why I’d be the best candidate for the job.  It was a long shot.  Whoever got the job would be personally assisting Zenith’s TV and film clients; it sounded too good to be true.  I’d looked at the firm’s website in the week prior to the interview and tried to get an idea of who their clientele were.  I couldn’t find the information I was looking for.  Either they represent people so rich and famous that they wanted to keep it from the general public or they represent people who aren’t interesting enough to brag about on their site.  It was safe to assume the latter, I thought, due to the fact that I found myself awaiting interview.

I’d convinced myself there was never any way that I’d get the job.  A young, plain, straight-out-of-university candidate, without enough money to have any real fashion sense, versus the two sleek and stylish girls that sat opposite me in the waiting area.  Either one of them surely had it in the bag.  They probably had volunteered for some hip fashion magazine or had a rich relative in the business.  Perhaps their looks were the shoe in they needed.  Whatever they had, I certainly didn’t.  I couldn’t really understand why I’d been called in to interview against them.  Maybe I was there to just make up the numbers; I began wishing the next 6 hours away and envisaged the relief of the journey home in the morning.

At 11am the first girl was called into the meeting room.  With a name like ‘Clara Hawthorne’, she could have easily been a celebrity herself.  The other girl and I sat opposite each other, in silence, avoiding eye-contact.  This worked well for me as I’d always struggled with awkward conversations; discussing the weather and feigning interest in other people’s anecdotes was not my forte.  Some people may get the impression that I don’t have much to say or that I’m so dull I can’t strike up a conversation but in reality I was quite happy keeping myself to myself and observing situations rather than trying to be in centre of them.

After putting down the week old copy of Vogue (and pretending that I was absorbed in its pretentious fashion articles) I heard the doors open and Ms Hawthorne re-enter the waiting area, looking positively pleased with herself.  She’d nailed it.  Obviously.  I tried to brush the crushing thoughts from my mind and convince myself that I had just as much chance as her and her perfectly coifed look.  Mum and Dad drifted back into my head and I envisaged going home and telling them great news.  It was akin to the ‘winning the lottery’ thoughts that people torture themselves with every time they buy a ticket.  Nevertheless, it did the trick.  I could do this.

I heard the door open once again and my name floated through the air, announcing that it was my time.  Ms Hawthorne and the other candidate sat side by side and glared in my direction; One with a glimmer of smugness on her face, the other with a hint of envy and fear.  I almost felt I should reassure the other girl that she had nothing to worry about but then I realised that she was probably just anxious that she was the last one to be interviewed and the tension was getting to her.  That was one thing I could be grateful for.

My steady, sharp footsteps into the sparse room did not betray me; they hid my inner nerves and drew attention to my presence.  A well-groomed, middle-aged man acknowledged my arrival and motioned for me to sit in the slightly-too-low chair opposite him.  This chair had been expertly chosen to make people, like myself, feel below those that sat on the ‘important’ side.  The George Clooney-esque man was flanked by two perfectly maintained young women.  Neither could be that much older than me.  I wondered, for a brief moment, how they got into such jobs but then reminded myself that just about everyone I had glimpsed passing through the doors to Zenith had either impeccable style or beauty. 

30 minutes and I was out of here.

I assumed the man was Kyle Ford, as his name was on the desk, matching the name that was written on the letter I had received, and the fact that when I greeted him as ‘Mr. Ford’ he smiled and extended his hand to me.  I was introduced to Marie Johnston on his left, Human Resources Manager and Aliysa Clarke on his right, a Supervisory PA and the woman who I would be working alongside should I be lucky enough to make it through the next 27 minutes and counting.  Marie seemed pleasant enough and smiled genuinely (I thought) whenever I spoke.  Aliysa unnerved me a little.  Her face appeared frozen, staring at me in a way that perhaps was intended to make me feel self-conscious.  It was working.  I focused mainly on Kyle, trying to appear self assured and confident in the things I had to say. 

“Of course you do realise, Ms Baxter, should you be successful in gaining a position at Zenith that our clients require absolute confidentiality at all times – disclosing any information, even to those you call friends, is considered a breach of contract”.  Three sets of eyes studied my face for my reaction.  Aliysa’s eyes, in particular, stared in anticipation.  Perhaps she was waiting for my never to falter.  I imagine she would enjoy that.

“Of course, Mr. Ford.  I completely understand the need for complete trust and respect for all of your clients.  I can imagine how rare that is in today’s society.”  Did that really just come out of my mouth?  I was surprising myself on many levels.

“Well, that concludes any questioning on our part.  Is there anything you would like to ask before our meeting is over?” Ford inquired, as he removed his glasses and set them on the desk.  I wasn’t prepared for being given the opportunity to ask questions and was unsure whether this was all part of the test.  I reminded myself that I should remember this for my next interview.

“I think you have covered anything that I had in mind Mr. Ford.  Although, I would like to ask when the successful candidate would be starting their role?”.  Dream on Baxter.

“Well Ms. Baxter, we are in need of someone to start next week.  We have many clients are eager to ensure that we can meet all of their requirements.  Is that something you would be able to do?”  He glanced at his watch and I realised that I’d been in that office longer than I had expected.  Perhaps he was getting tired of our meeting.

I answered without hesitation “Of course, I’d be happy to start with immediate effect”.  I realised immediately that I sounded incredibly young and eager – this was confirmed by the glint of a smirk of Aliysa’s face.  Great.

We said our goodbyes and I was grateful of the cold air that hit me as I entered the reception area again.  Two sets of eyes were on me immediately which instantly reminded me that, no matter how well I felt it had went, there were two other candidates that almost certainly had an edge over me.  The train ride home reclaimed my thoughts and I longed for the safety and warmth of home.

The three of us were taken on a tour of the building and presented with a buffet lunch while Mr. Ford, Marie and the ice-queen (immature.  I know.) decided who was worthy enough of the job.  I kept to myself while the other girls discussed previous jobs and haplessly tried to name-drop every few minutes.  From what I could overhear, Clara had once met Victoria Beckham at a launch party for some magazine she had been temping for.  More than likely, she’d caught a glimpse of her from across a room, crowded with equally pretentious and shallow people who now all claim to have met her despite being separated by velvet ropes and security guards.  Pessimistic, I know, but I was always very doubtful of those who found substance in these meaningless anecdotes.

Being around these girls had, however, made me overly self conscious and I was sure that every person that passed by us was wondering why I was here.  The sound of my name broke the tension in the room and I resigned myself to the fact that I was the first one to be called back in to hear the bad news.  Kate Baxter just wouldn’t fit in with the likes of Kyle Ford and Aliysa Clarke.

With a face of acceptance and understanding, I re-entered the now familiar meeting room.  Once again, I was met by Ford and his women as I took in their practiced pleasant-yet-apologetic smiles.  Inside I was cringing.

“Ms. Baxter.  Thank you for waiting.  I trust you have enjoyed the tour of our headquarters” he stated.  It wasn’t a question; the building and interior were impressive to say the least.

Putting on my most gracious voice, I sweetly replied, “Very much so, thank you.  Zenith Media is an impressive corporation.  I am grateful for the opportunity to come here” and I’ll be even more grateful when I get to leave.

“Well, Ms. Baxter. As I’m sure you are aware, it is our job to ensure that every appointment we make for Zenith will be the right one and that they can ensure our policies are met to the highest degree.”  Here it comes.  The contrite letdown.  “With that said, we feel that we have made the right decision today...” he pauses, presumably trying to find the right words so that he doesn’t upset the young girl sat in front of him.  Marie is filling out some paperwork and Aliysa, as always, is staring right at me.  I’m sure she is secretly loving this.  I contemplate thanking him for his time now and saving him the worry.

“...which is why, Ms. Baxter, Kate, we would like to offer you the position of Junior P.A. here at Zenith Media.”, He smiled and joined Aliysa in staring directly at me, waiting for a response.  Marie also looked up and give me a warm grin.  I must have stared back at them for almost a full minute before my brain kicked back in and told me to respond.

My desire to remain composed was betrayed by the look on my face and inability to utter a coherent full sentence.  Whatever qualities I had displayed in the interview that had led them to believe I was the right candidate for the job, certainly hadn’t been carried through to this moment.  I fumbled my way through awkward handshakes and thanking all three of them far more than I should have.

As I exited the building shortly after, I could not contain my elation.  I’d be receiving my welcome pack, job description and company policies through the post in time for starting my post the following week.  My face quickly became sore from beaming.  Not even the sight of Clara Hawthorne, who gave me the iciest of looks, and the second girl (who almost definitely looked like she had been crying) could shake my buzz.

Me.  Kate Baxter.  Junior P.A. to the stars.  Unbelievable.

So here I am.  Seven months in and struggling to remember what life was like before now.  I scraped my blonde hair back into an unruly bun, slapped on layer of tinted moisturiser and finished with a hint of lip balm before dashing out the door.  This has become the norm.  

I love it.

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