Chapter 1 - Spark
sipped on her glass of wine as she pretended to be interested in the
conversation going on around her.
How is it that in an agency full of extroverts I always get stuck with the most boring people, she wondered, as John the finance guy finished up his story about prime numbers with a flourish of his strangely shaped head. Stop staring at it, Naomi! She dragged her eyes away and took another sip of wine. Ugh. Personally she was a vodka girl, but there was no chance of the boss splashing out on spirits for the Christmas party when they’d just lost the big American Express account last month. That’s why this year’s party was outdoors in the paved carpark of the agency instead of the usual swanky bar down on Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour.
Surveying the crowd around her, Naomi nodded politely at some and released a small smile from her usually stoic face as she caught some flirtatious looks running between James Cook – the agency TV Producer – and Effy Stonem, Head of the Creative Department. As if it isn’t obvious already, she thought as she watched Effy slip off towards the bathrooms, Cook a few “inconspicuous” seconds behind. Not that agency hook-ups were anything new, in fact she was sure it happened more here than in most industries, considering how freely the booze flowed most nights. There was a reason the younger staff members called the agency “Ho-gilvy” instead of its real name, Ogilvy.
Tonight was odd, though. There wasn’t the typical excited buzz or air of impending debauchery. Even the usual suspects who could be counted on getting up to trouble (usually the creatives and the PR ladies) were looking a bit glum as they swigged from overfilled wine glasses. Naomi was glad she was driving tonight. She’d be able to escape soon now that it was almost dark.
Suddenly someone pumped the volume of the music and the PR girls gave a collective screech, sloshing sav blanc haphazardly onto the ground then giggling at each other.
“Sorry!” Naomi heard yelled over the crowd.
The music cut out before the opening chords of a new song floated out above the crowd, already more upbeat than the previous selection. Naomi smiled as she recognised Katy Perry’s song ‘Firework’. It was one of her secret favourites to jump around to when she was at home with no one to judge her on her music choice. Katy Perry didn’t exactly personify the feminist values Naomi prided herself on.
Katy Perry’s husky voice rang out with the opening lines to the song.
“Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in…”
Katy Perry’s voice is husky, but not that husky, Naomi realised just as a cheer went up from those near the stereo system.
She caught a glimpse of the colour red and a small figure appeared above the crowd, standing on a makeshift stage someone had cobbled together near the back of the carpark space. Emily Fitch, the new copywriter. She was singing, nervously at first. But responding to the roar of the crowd she began belting out the lyrics as she reached the bridge of the song, amping up the crowd and winking cheekily to people in the front row as she strutted around the stage. Their cheering was contagious, and soon the hundred or so people who worked at Ogilvy were bopping along.
God that’s a sexy voice, Naomi thought.
Shit. Naomi looked around as if someone could have heard her.
What are you on about, she reprimanded herself. But she found herself helpless to tear her eyes from the petite redhead as she hopped down off the stage and began interacting with the crowd, gaining cheers from her workmates.
Emily sauntered through everyone and locked eyes with her creative partner, JJ, as she sang. Despite herself, Naomi couldn’t help but watch.
“You don’t have to feel like a waste of space
You’re original, cannot be replaced.”
Emily switched her attention to Effy, the mysterious brunette with those oddly piercing blue eyes.
“If you only knew what the future holds,
After a hurricane comes a rainbow…”
Naomi watched from about five metres behind as Effy smiled at Emily in return. They’d obviously bonded in the short months Emily had been at Ogilvy, even though Effy was notoriously difficult to connect with. Well, that’s what Naomi found anyway, not that she was the best at personal connections. She watched as Emily smiled back and moved on, singing the next lines to the agency receptionist, Pandora, a bubbly, nutty blonde with a penchant for pigtails. Emily spun Pandora playfully.
“Maybe the reason why all the doors are closed
‘So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road…”
Suddenly Naomi panicked, realising she’d been swept along in the moment and Emily was now standing but a few metres in front of her. It was too late as the redhead swivelled her eyes to meet hers and Naomi found herself unable to look away as Emily walked slowly towards her.
“Like a lightning bolt, your heart will blow,
And when it’s time, you’ll know
You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine…”
Faintly Naomi could hear catcalls and whoops from the others in the crowd. Emily was a popular new member of the agency as well as being openly gay, and everyone knew a few girls in the office had fallen to her charms already, straight or not. They were probably all thinking Naomi would be next, and that infuriated her.
But before Naomi could react Emily had broken her gaze and was dancing her way back to the front, still singing. A red blush broke over Naomi’s cheeks and she watched two of the agency boys lift Emily back on stage. What the fuck was that, Naomi? She shook herself angrily and turned away from the stage, just missing the emotion that flitted over Emily’s face as she looked over the crowd and saw Naomi leaving.
Embarrassed at herself, Naomi pushed her way towards the entrance doors to the agency. Behind her she could still hear Emily’s voice ringing out.
“Boom, boom, boom,
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon...”
She slammed inside the reception doors and they closed behind her, cutting off the next lyrics of the song.
“It’s always been inside of you, you, you
And now it’s time to let it through…”
Naomi looked around the deserted reception area and pushed her blonde hair back from her face as she let out a shaky breath and walked towards the agency kitchen. Water, that would clear her head.
Naomi jumped as a British voice rang out from behind her. She turned to find James Cook with his arms full of agency beers.
“Cook! God, you gave me a fright you wanker!”
“Aww, Naoms. Don’t be like that. Look at you, wound so tightly.” Cook slurred slightly as he spoke, he’d obviously been making the most of the free booze. “You know what? I think the solution might be a bit of a willy-waggle with the old Cookie Monster here! I think you need some release.” Cook flapped his tongue at her and thrust his crotch suggestively.
Naomi crinkled up her nose in disgust.
“Cook, you couldn’t make me come if you stapled your tongue to my clit and stood on a cement mixer”, she quipped.
Cook looked around incredulously, although there was no one else in the room. “Bloody hell, Blondie, you should be a copywriter! I think you’re in the wrong role with those kind of language skills!” said Cook with a grin.
Naomi struck a musing pose and said playfully: ‘Yes, except usually in advertising we’re trying to appeal to chauvinist wankers like you, Cook, not get rid of them.”
Cook jumped excitedly, beers dropping out of his grasp. “Ohhh, Blondie, you’re on fire tonight! Toosh!”
“It’s tou-ché, Cook. And that’s why you’re just a lowly TV Producer and not a copywriter either.”
Naomi put down her water glass and turned to leave. As she walked away she glanced back over her shoulder and gave Cook a wink. He laughed. God, I’ve had more wine than I thought. I may even be flirting with Cook, of all people.
Cook yelled out from behind her: “If you ever want to show me what other superb things you can do with that mouth of yours I’ll be waiting, Blondie!”
Naomi merely raised her hand above her shoulder and pulled the finger as she continued walking away. She could still hear Cook’s laughter as she left from the side door then made her way towards the Ogilvy parking garage. Admittedly, she had a small smile on her face. She did enjoy Cook’s outrageousness from time to time. As long as he didn’t think he could actually get anywhere with her they’d be okay. Not with his track record, ugh.
One thought led to another and Naomi found herself with her mind back on Emily and her ballsy performance tonight. She’d probably found another agency bimbo to flirt with by now. In fact they were probably sucking face in the toilets or something gross, no wonder Emily gets along with Cook so well. Yeah, they’re both slutty, popped bitterly into Naomi’s head. Or maybe they’re just not afraid of their desires, not afraid to be their true selves; piped up another voice. Naomi quickly squashed that one. Work was for work, not for socialising and flirting and all that carry on. She’d worked too hard to gain her reputation for being an amazing Account Director. Intelligent, a strategic thinker, great with clients. She was good at her job, and her sexuality or gender or social life had nothing to do with it. That’s what was important.
Naomi’s heels clicked across the concrete floor of the parking garage. She tried to banish all unwelcome thoughts as she slid behind the wheel of her car and rummaged in her bag to check she had her house keys. Dammit! Stupid girl handbags with so many stupid girl beauty products, bloody adhering to bloody unobtainable standards of female beauty…
So worked up was she that Naomi didn’t hear the soft footsteps approaching. There was a hissing noise and Naomi jumped as she realised someone was bending down at her open car window. She looked up, startled, and found herself staring into gold – bright, dancing gold. Then the sparkler lowered and there behind it was the redheaded girl who had already wriggled her way into Naomi’s thoughts.
Naomi had never been this close to Emily before, and suddenly, illuminated in the light she saw everything at once. Her porcelain skin, her red lips, the way her hair curled across her forehead. But most of all, she saw soft brown eyes looking straight into hers. Naomi’s heart was pumping wildly; it felt like it was trying to escape out her throat. Say something, the voice in her head screamed, whether at Naomi or Emily she wasn’t sure. But Emily simply looked at her. One, two, three seconds, looking at her. Like she could look into her. Then handed the sparkler through the window to Naomi.
“Drive safe, Naomi.”
And with a small smile Emily stood and walked away, back towards the party. Naomi looked down at the sparkler still burning in her hand, captivated by the jumping sparks. She realised she’d been holding her breath, and let it out in a rush. When Emily had said her name, it felt like the first time anyone had said her name. It had never before evoked the same kind of response deep in Naomi’s chest. She suddenly had the feeling that she wasn’t quite as in control as she thought she was.