“You going away at all?” He doesn’t look at her.

“I might.”

Shel hopes this works to get rid of him, but he just sits here, leafing through the magazine with his pant leg hitched up to reveal a bright pink sock. Maybe if she acts like she’s working? She opens some documents on her computer and makes that call she’s been putting off. Still, he sits there, all slouchy and comfortable.

“You’ve gotten to be pretty friendly with our new rock star, haven’t you?” He doesn’t even look up from his magazine as he asks this.

“Who?” Shel knows who he’s talking about but wants to hear him say her name.

“Moira, the godsend who is going to save us all.”

“We need salvation? Hmmm.”

Fielding closes the magazine and it’s fun to see him quickly tuck his annoyance away.

“You see the books. You know why I was brought in.” He squints a little, “Don’t you?”

“What I see and what I know aren’t any of your business.” Shel feels wonderfully revved up. “Right?”

Fielding rises, straightens the crease in his trousers and nods. Shel suspects that she hasn’t made a friend here but doesn’t much care. She’s got a meeting later with Ms. Chaney and hopes there will be an opening to find out what the deal is with this character.

“Have a nice day.” She offers to his back as he leaves.

As it turns out, Shel doesn’t need to bring up the subject of Fielding. Ms. Chaney is her usual dry, concentrated self when Shel comes in for their 2:30. It’s their weekly meeting where they go through the new ones, the money makers and the ones to cut loose so Shel gets a surprise right from the minute she sits down with her pad and pen.

“Close the door and put away the pen and paper.” Ms. Chaney doesn’t have a computer, she has Shel and right now she’s frowning over a pile of contact sheets. Shel does as she’s told and sits back down. And waits. And wonders what’s up.

“So has our heir apparent been snooping around you, too?” Ms. Chaney straightens up and sighs, pushing the glossy pile away.

“Fielding? Some.” Shel has never mistaken her boss for her friend, not at any job and certainly not here.

“Everything I’m telling you today is confidential.” Ms. Chaney looks like she needs a cigarette or a drink. Shel nods. “I brought him on in a moment of weakness, thinking that we needed a meaner version of me out there and now I think he’s planning a coup.”

“He says we’re in trouble.”

“We’re always in trouble; everyone in this business is.” She snorts and reaches for one of the contact sheets, pushing it towards Shel. “What do you think?”

Shel takes the sheet, careful not to show anything. The woman in the shots is one of those luxurious exotic dark creatures that you see more in European magazines.

“Moira’s going to be played out any day now. I can feel it. We need to stop relying on The One and widen the field again.”

“I’m not the one you want to be talking to about this.” Shel sets the contact sheet down. This is ridiculous.

“You’re exactly the one I want to be talking about this with; you’re the one sitting out there day in and day out, listening and seeing what’s coming through the doors. And what’s not.”

“And you want me to tell you what? Yes, ditch Moira and go all out for diversity?” Shel wants to get out of here but sits still. “I answer your phones, I file your paperwork, I keep the peace out in front. I don’t know one thing about fashion or beauty.”

Ms. Chaney smiles and sits back, nodding.

Spring fashion week was slightly off this year but you couldn’t tell it by Moira who rushes in to see Shel almost daily, breathless and bulging with stories of who she’s seen and who’s wearing what. Six months ago, Shel wouldn’t have noticed anything was amiss herself, but there’s no putting scales back onto wide-open eyes.

“Ya know, if this is boring you, you can tell me to shut up.”

“Hmmm?” Shel is expecting a summons in to see Ms. Chaney who left the Dior show early and has been holed up in her office since. The lights on most of her phone lines have been blinking on and off for hours.

“Shel, are you pregnant?”

“Hmmm. What?” That got through and Shel has to laugh.

“If we want to be serious here, maybe you can tell me why my bookings are off.” Moira tilts her head and waits.

And here we have it. Shel has known this was coming and had composed several pitch-perfect responses none of which are within reach right now. Fielding has been as good as his word on the other front, his carefully cultivated bevy of versatile, interchangeable, and ever so boring products have been launched like a midnight assault on some imaginary bulkhead. He’s having a grand time of it and Shel wonders what devil she’s in bed with at times. Times like now with Moira’s exquisite eyes turned on her with confusion. And… she is saved by the bell. There’s Ms. Chaney at last, buzzing for her.

“It’s just how these cycles run, kiddo, don’t worry about it.” That was helpful. “You have that show in the morning; don’t be out late.”

Photo by Raden Prasetya on Unsplash


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