What the hell was she doing?
She gazed up at the big, shiny building from her old battered car. It towered above her like an intimidating giant made of cold metal and mirror. If she walked in and did what she was about to do, she would be breaking the law!
But what other choice did she have?
Ok, so maybe lying on your CV to get a job wasn’t exactly ‘breaking the law’ per say. Maybe it was just twisting and manipulating it, a tiny bit. Not that bad, right? It certainly wasn’t the same as hacking up people with a chainsaw and then using their hair to stuff your pillow cases.
No! She shook her head. Lying on a CV about a job you had absolutely no idea how to do it- in real life anyway- was bad. She looked at herself in the rearview mirror and adjusted her short, mousy brown wig and huge, ridiculously unfashionable glasses.
Both the wig and the glasses had been props from the last TV show she’d acted in; she’d played the part of ”Executive Administrative Assistant to the CEO." So when she’d seen that exact job offered in the job section of the paper two days ago, she’d taken it as a sign. Especially since she had all those pesky credit card debts from that boob job she’d had eight months ago because she’d thought that having bigger boobs might get her more work as an actress.
It had almost worked for a while though. It had gotten her a job playing Sylvia Gonzales, Executive Administrative Assistant to the CEO of an experimental, secretive government laboratory testing facility, on a terrible Telenovela that had been dubbed into Spanish and had only been screened in Paraguay.
The job had lasted exactly 3 weeks, before her character had been viciously killed off by the evil twin brother of the CEO, who for years had been presumed dead when his private jet had crashed in the Amazonian rain forest. Except he wasn’t dead (they never were in these types of shows, were they?)
As it turned out, the brother had been taken in by a wild tribe of cannibals, who’d taught him to be very evil and instructed him in the ancient practices of killing people with poisonous darts made from the slimy stuff found on the backs of venomous tree frogs... (Exactly how her character had dramatically died, btw.) A death scene she hoped no one ever saw, due to serious overacting!
She sighed loudly and rolled her eyes! What a pile of crap. Thank God no one in South Africa had ever seen the show, and hopefully, no one ever would. If they did, she would really be putting the last nail in the coffin of her so-called “acting career”. But at least she’d scored this wig and glasses from the show, which she was now wearing for the job interview in precisely ten minutes. She wasn’t sure why she’d decided to wear the ugly disguise; perhaps it made her feel better about lying. It made it feel more like an audition for a role, than an actual blatant lie to get a job.
She climbed out of the car and adjusted her wildly out-of-fashion dress, also a prop from the show, and headed for the building clutching her CV in her now shaking, sweaty hands.
How hard could it be? All she’d done in the show was answer calls, staple papers together, file stuff, shout things like ”Put the facility on emergency, quarantine lock-down" and ”there’s been a breach in the lab and the rats have mutated" not to mention have sex with her boss (and his evil twin) on their desks. Not that she would be having sex with the CEO, well, she hoped that wasn’t part of the job description anyway. In her limited experience, CEO’s were always old and uptight and smelt of cognac and cigars and dusty country clubs.
She carried on walking, forcing her head into the air in the hopes that faking confidence might actually help allay her fears. She was good at faking, she was an actress, after all. Not a great one, maybe that’s why she didn’t get that many jobs. She wasn’t terrible, per say, but she wasn’t going to be bringing home an Oscar anytime soon, or in this lifetime. But she loved it. She cursed loudly as she walked. Why couldn’t she have loved, or been good at accounting, or lawyer-ing, or doctor-ing or something sensible like that? Something that ensured her fridge was stocked with more than an old jar of peanut butter.
The building was even more intimidating on the inside. The entrance hall looked like the interior of a modernist museum, complete with very uncomfortable looking steel chairs that looked more like sculptures than actual things to put your butt on.
“Hi,” She walked up over to the terribly busy looking receptionist. “I’m here for the job interview, Doris Granger.” She smiled, trying to hide the embarrassment at the fake name she’d chosen. What was she thinking? Doris! But it did have a certain studious, hard-working executive assistant sound to it, didn’t it? It was definitely better than Poppy-Poppy-Tiger- Lilly- Peterson!
Yes, she wished she was kidding with that one. But she wasn’t. Her mother had been a florist who had somehow thought that naming her daughter after every flower that ever existed was a good idea. It was not. She’d been teased at school relentlessly by all the kids named Emily and Catherine and that bitch, Bronwen!
“Have a seat,” The receptionist said pointing at the “chair.” She smiled and approached it tentatively. She lowered herself onto the avant-garde metal thing and, yes, it was definitely the most uncomfortable thing she’d ever sat on. She looked around for something to entertain herself and grabbed for one of the magazines on the table.
“Property Development Now”
Aaaahhh... so that’s what this company did! Property stuff! She shuddered, she should have known that, and she couldn’t believe it had only crossed her mind now to wonder what this massive intimidating steel building, and all the people it clearly housed, did.
But it was called Stark and Son- so she’d assumed law firm. Clearly, she’d been very wrong. Maybe the job wouldn’t be so bad, maybe she would get to look at pretty French Style Villa’s all day and dream about something she would never have... cheerful thought.
“I have NEVER been treated so, so….Aaah!!!”
Suddenly, a loud noise made her look up. A woman, also dressed like she was going to an interview, rushed out the lift shouting and wailing. She raced across the floor and when she got closer, Poppy could see the tears streaming down her face, “I’ve never! He’s... He’s....I hate him!” She flung the doors open and threw herself out the building dramatically.
“What the hell?” Poppy muttered under her breath.
“Good luck to you,” The receptionist said with a smirky, sounding smile in her voice. “He’s in a mood today.”
“What?” Poppy looked up at the receptionist who was smiling to herself. “Another one bites the dust.” She flicked her eyes up to Poppy and then back down to her computer and chuckled. She looked amused, worse, she had a knowing smile on her face as if this kind of thing happened all the time. Maybe it did?
“Sorry... uh, what do you mean?” Poppy stood and walked over to the desk.
The receptionist looked up at her and raised a curious brow, before looking around to see if anyone was listening. She leaned across the desk and whispered in a conspiratorial tone. “Mr. Stark, well, let’s just say he’s not exactly easy to get along with.”
“Really?” Poppy swallowed hard and clutched her CV even tighter.
The women nodded. “He’s made almost every one of his staff cry at some or the other time. Oh... and you better know how the hell to do your job, he doesn’t like inefficient people or take kindly to—”
The phone interrupted her and she answered quickly. “Yes sir, Mr. Stark,” She paused and looked up at Poppy. “Yes, there’s one more.” Another pause as she listened intently on the phone. “No, I’m afraid I can’t tell if she’s an incompetent airhead with no real qualifications like the other one.” The receptionist smiled up at Poppy and gave her a wink. “Ok. I’ll send her up.”
“Um....” A severe case of nerves gripped her. “Maybe...” she started backing away, “Maybe I’ve made a mistake, maybe this job isn’t really for me after all and...but thanks, and sorry to have wasted anyone’s time...”
She didn’t wait for a reply and scooted out the door as fast as she could. The guy sounded like a total dragon and even though she was desperate for money, she really didn’t want crying to be part of her everyday job. She cried more than enough already. Take last night for example, that TV commercial for the nasal spray had totally choked her up. Finally, that little girl could breathe easily at night thanks to good sinus health.
But then she saw it, and stopped dead in her tracks...
“HEY!” She yelled as she saw her car being lifted up onto the back of a tow truck. “What are you doing?” She raced over to her car and the traffic officer standing next to it.
“What’s going on here?” She was out of breath from her sudden sprint.
“Are you the owner of this vehicle?” The man asked in that firm police tone that is meant to strike terror into your heart. Which it did.
“Why?” She asked cautiously.
“Did you know this was a no-park zone.” The traffic officer pointed to a sign that was barely readable because most of the paint had peeled off.
“That?” Poppy protested. “But you can’t even read that, how was I supposed to know it was there. That should be illegal by the way, having a sign that no one can read. How are people supposed to...uh, uh—”
The traffic officer raised a brow at her and pointed to the floor as her car was pulled away. She followed his hand and looked at the ground beneath it.
“OH! That.” She swallowed hard. She was fucked now!
“Yes, that,” The irritated looking traffic officer answered in a highly sarcastic tone. “That giant red cross through the big yellow word ‘parking’ is kind of a dead giveaway, don’t you think?” He flashed her a patronizing smile.
“Sorry. I guess I didn’t see it.” How the hell hadn’t she seen that! “I’ll move my car if you stop towing it,” she started digging through her bag for the keys.
“Too late for that now,” he said, sounding pleased with himself and tearing a piece of paper off his notepad. “R3, 000 get’s it out. But you’ll have to come down to the impound to get it out. Have a nice day, mam.”
And with that, he, and her car, were off. She watched her car being pulled down the road and then looked down at the ticket. Asking her to pay R3, 000 was like asking her to pay a million. She just didn’t have that kind of cash.
She looked at her CV again and then up at the cold, steel building and straightened her dress.
“Oh well, here goes nothing.”