For previous posts, visit THE JAMIE TALES page.
Jamie stood outside Madeleine Elliot’s door. Of course, she had tried to step inside, but her feet failed her quite miserably. And with good reason. She had just insulted the very person who just might decide her future.
“When you get over it, Miss Vinci, you may step into my office,” Madeleine said as she sat behind her desk, which state was not unlike the one outside. Jamie could not tell if she was still amused or already irritated. “Only, could you please do that sometime this instant?” Maybe irritated.
Jamie’s feet surprisingly came to life. No use delaying it. She walked into the office and stood in front of Madeleine, Judge and Jury.
Oh, God, I have to say something… “I’m – uh – really sorry about – ”
“But I – ”
“Save it and sit down.”
Nice going. It seemed that she was forgiven for the time-being. But would the incident be easily forgotten?
Jamie handed over her portfolio and a copy of her resumé then did as she was told. She was not used to being ordered around, not even by her college professors. This time, though , she could adjust and make the exception. After all, this was what the real world was. So she dared not speak not unless spoken to. Meanwhile, Madeleine went through her papers poker-faced.
Jamie took the opportunity to survey the office, to see a glimpse of Madeleine’s persona, to know who she was dealing with. Maybe she could say a praise or something. That could help…Nah. She dismissed the idea long before it could settle in her head. She was not into such practice. Supposed that she got in? She did not want to be stuck on the idea that maybe she got in because of sucking up. Her father would turn in his grave. If he wasn’t cremated, that was. No, she would just sit still, take a look around, and keep her mouth shut.
Well, Madeleine Elliot was one messy lady, that was for sure. Her desk had more things than spaces that Jamie could actually see. It was a wonder that Madeleine knew which to do first, if ever she did. There were some magazines (possibly the rivals, just to see how theirs fared), pictures (possibly being considered for the next issue), and articles soiled with quite a lot of red marks (most possibly bloodied by the ‘sword’ wielded by Madeleine). She had a computer screen on the table, but she was probably one of those who liked to work the old-fashioned way.
On the other hand, to call her messy would probably be an injustice after all. Messy desk aside, everything was almost spic and span. The books on the shelves on her left were in order and alphabetically arranged. The few paintings hung straight and well, so were the framed front covers of some Nutshell issues. To Madeleine’s right, a section is reserved for a television, neatly arranged CD’s and tapes, and more publications. Surprisingly, there is a bottle of expensive wine and two glasses beside it. And the floor! It seemed like it had yet to see the day that somebody would step on it.
Maybe Madeleine Elliot is all about control and keeping it. Or maybe she was just plain neat. Practically.
She was still scanning the portfolio so Jamie had to content herself with studying the place some more. Then her eyes fell upon the lone picture displayed on the wall…There were two children – a girl in her early teens and a much younger boy with similar blond hair and blue eyes. The girl seemed to be doting on the little boy.
Judging by looks alone, it was Madeleine and possibly her little brother.
Jamie squinted her eyes to see the picture better. Where had she seen that boy before? And that charming smile! Charming, though it bothered her a bit, for some reason. Come to think of it, the Adult Madeleine even looked familiar to her. Jamie fought the urge to stand and take a closer look.
“Uh-hurm!” Madeleine harrumphed and Jamie almost jumped to her feet. She did not know that Madeleine had finished going through the portfolio that was now laid on the table. “That girl was me, hi. And that’s my little brother Anthony.”
“Oh. He’s – uh…”
“…a charming little devil, wasn’t he? Used to dote on him when we were kids. I don’t anymore, though. Heck, I don’t even like that kid now.”
“Oh…” Should Jamie even ask – ?
“What happened?” Madeleine asked for her. “He grew up. Unfortunately, grew up just like his father.”
“Well, you do still hang that picture on the wall so maybe, you still like him? That must tell you something…”
Madeleine stared for a while, blinked once, then agreed. “Yes, that does tell me something…That I’m an idiot.” She stood up, took the picture off the wall, and stashed it in the wastebasket, to Jamie’s utter surprise. She then sat on the edge of the table and fixed her eyes on the interviewee.
Jamie tried not to squirm. Nice going, she scolded herself for the second time. It was clear that Madeleine had some kind of family issue. All Jamie had to do was to shut up and listen. But oh, no, she just had to open her big mouth!
“So, Miss Vinci, let’s hear something about you. Aside from you having a sarcastic and rather nosy personality, that is.”
The sudden shift of focus back to her caught Jamie off-guard. She had been too engrossed with worrying about her big mouth that she practically forgot what she was there for in the first place.
She sat up straight and cleared her throat. “Okay…I just graduated from Harvard – ”
Madeleine snorted. “Harvard, Yale, Boston, yeah, yeah, yeah. Like it really matters to me.”
There was silence for a while. When Madeleine did not say anything anymore and looked at her expectantly, Jamie realized she was to continue. “I finished Creative Writing – ”
“Four years! Four-freakin’-years studying Creative Writing! My cousin Rupert finished Law and now, he’s a well-known novelist. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it, I say. Simple as that. Now, have you got it, Miss Vinci?”
For a second, Jamie was taken aback before she realized what it was about. So! Madeleine Elliot was into big time intimidation, eh? Unfortunately for her, Jamie was on her game. Jamie decided she was not about to allow herself to be intimidated. At least, she hoped not to be.
“Yes, I think so.”
“Think so or know so? ‘Think’ and ‘know’ are two different things, my dear.”
“I know so.”
“Let’s proceed with the getting-to-know-you stage then. Tell me more about yourself.”
She proceeded. “I have been writing ever since grade school.” Madeleine yawned. “In fact, I was editor both in grade school and high school. I also wrote in college, and I also had some stuff submitted and published in – ”
“Alright, stop right there!” Madeleine interrupted her in mid-sentence. “Look, when I said, ‘Let’s hear something about you,’ I didn’t say, ‘Let’s hear you recite what’s on your resumé.’ I told you to tell me something about yourself. Tell me something I don’t know yet! Can you do that? Now don’t give me that how-am-I-supposed-to-know-what-you’d-like-to-hear look. Just talk. If you want to bore me with your childhood, so be it.”
By this time, it would be interesting to note that Jamie was starting to get really annoyed. Indeed, Madeleine had the right to get mad at what happened earlier, and although it was actually Madeleine’s fault, anyway, Jamie did still try to say sorry. If this was some kind of revenge…Jamie calmed herself down. She promised herself not to be intimidated, didn’t she?
So calmly, she said, “On the contrary, if I talked about my childhood, you would be immensely entertained. However, even if I started this instant, I am pretty sure we would be finished by tomorrow…Miss Elliot, all I can say is I am a writer. That’s what I do. That’s what I am. If you will accept me here, I will be an asset. That is not a promise–that is going to be the fact. If you want, I can even do a Dear Jamie kind of thing, if that’s what it will take for you to believe in me.” Madeleine raised a brow. “The point is, your magazine can use someone like me in your team. I’m hard-working, I’m creative, and most of all, I am eager. Isn’t that what this publication needs?”
There. She said it. Jamie had just unabashedly promoted herself. She wasn’t about to hit around the bush anymore. She would surely be interrupted, anyway. Madeleine was a direct kind of person. Why torture themselves with little unimportant facts about Jamie’s childhood? If Madeleine could get pass the scare-the-newbie-process, she would take Jamie. If not, tough luck, maybe more for Madeleine.
The editor’s brow was still raised. “So that’s it, huh? I should take you in just like that? Take it or leave it, huh?” What followed was totally unexpected. Madeleine laughed! With genuine laughter, to Jamie’s disbelief. Madeleine laughed and almost choked. After a while… “You’re pretty funny, you know that?”
“It is so hard to place you, you’re almost interesting!”
Almost? “Well, you are, too. Almost interesting…”
Madeleine raised her hands. “Hey, hey! I just laughed so don’t go b****in’ on me alright? That’s a good thing.”
In what way exactly?
“That means you’re in.”
What? “What?” Jamie asked, bewildered and wide-eyed.
“You’re in! From now on, consider yourself employed.”
“Really?” Jamie’s eyes, if it could be even wider, would have eaten her face. Did she just hear right? “You mean I got the job?” You did not even read samples from my portfolio!
“You need to clean your ears, though.”
“Oh, my God!” Jamie exclaimed in total excitement. “I’m in! I actually got a job! I – ”
“ – will be handling the Dear Jamie column.”
“ – will be handling the Dear Jamie column…?” Jamie’s smile faded. And will be throwing myself from this building! Surely Madeleine wasn’t serious? Maybe she did need to clean her ears more. “Uh, Miss Elliot?”
Madeleine got back to her chair, smirking from ear to ear. “Call me Madeleine.”
“Madeleine…I’m not…really handling the…uh…Dear Jamie column,…am I?”
The editor had her amused expression again. Jamie thought that perhaps, it would have been better if she was frowning. Madeleine crossed her arms across her chest. “Well, if my memory serves me right – and it always does, plus the fact that it just happened a while ago – someone in this room just said, and I quote, ‘If you want, I can even do a Dear Jamie kind of thing, if that’s what it will take for you to believe in me.’ End quote. Was that you, or was I talking to myself?”
Jamie’s heart sank. This was not what she wanted. She wanted to make a big splash as a writer. Instead, it was going to be a one huge belly-flop! “But Miss Elliot…Madeleine…!”
“Buuuut what, Miss Vinci?” Madeleine seemed to be getting rather annoyed with her again.
“Madeleine,” breathe, breathe, “I’m a creative writer, and – ”
“Yes. And that’s why I want you to create the solutions to our readers’ problems. Cre-a-tively.” This time, Madeleine was doubly serious.
The older woman sat up straight and looked Jamie in the eye. Obviously, she had enough of the conversation. “Look, kid. I thought you needed the job. Well, here it is. All you need to do is grab it. Now, if you don’t want it, just tell me, and I will appreciate it if you leave now. There’s plenty of other people outside of this room waiting for a chance like this…So, what will it be?”
Jamie tried to think it over. However, she did not exactly have a choice, did she? …She smiled. What had she got to lose anyway?
Madeleine took this as a yes. “Attagirl! Now, scoot!” she said as they shook hands. “When you get out, tell my secretary, if he’s there, to show you around and let you pick a table. Go, go, and leave me in peace! And, oh! Grab a resumé from his table and announce the next victim, whydoncha?”
Jamie consoled herself. It was a job, after all. All she had to do was tell the readers to jump from their buildings.
Copyright © J.Gi Federizo
For more of Jamie’s ongoing story, visit THE JAMIE TALES page.