Yasmin Taylor-Lee strode down the main street of Sydney’s CBD the day after she fake-graduated from university. Which meant it was the day she was officially, as her mother so eloquently put it, ‘out on her derrière.’ Which was code for, ‘move out and get a job.’
Her mother didn’t know about the whole ‘fake’ part of the graduation, although she should have guessed. Yasmin was often cavalier with the truth – bending it in ways that suited her imagination, rather than actual reality.
In any case, Yasmin had decided that today was the beginning of the realisation of the dream she’d had since she was ten years old. Today, she was going to land her dream job at Warner Williams Corporation, working with the Felicia Pine on The Woman’s Standard.
Yasmin believed that she was destined to steer The Woman’s Standard into the next decade and beyond. Who better than a super-fan? And she was the biggest super-fan of all. For as long as she could remember, she’d scoured the back issues and waited by the mailbox for the latest delivery. She held a particular obsession for the magazine and everyone in it.
Yasmin nursed a hot chocolate in a coffee shop, scoping out the building opposite. Yasmin knew that she only had to flag Felicia down and wheedle her way into her dream job. And she would find Felicia at the offices of the Warner Williams Corporation. Somewhere inside, on one of the floors, Felicia Pine would be sitting in her office.
Yasmin absently fingered the penny on a chain that she always wore around her neck. It was an old penny, and where the Queen should have been, three women appeared instead. Three interlocking circles graced the other side.
The steel and black marble of the WWC building reflected the sun. The windows were tinted, as if to protect the identity of the celebrities inside. Just visible behind the windows were two oversized LED screens, stretching from floor to ceiling. They flicked from one glossy magazine cover to the next: single shots of wasting models and full-sized advertisements for luxury cars. The screen featured all of Warner William’s magazines, from those targeted to the high-end motor industry to fashion and teenage magazines, and of course, The Woman’s Standard.
She flattened out her shapely fifties’ frock and pulled at her auburn curls, springing them back into place. She checked her makeup in the small antique mirror she kept in her handbag, then she took a deep breath, smiled winningly, and crossed the street, heading towards the imposing glass foyer. She felt her stomach turn, as if she were approaching royalty, or a crying baby, or a small explosive device. Then she remembered her skill at telling porkies. Her heart slowed.
The people entering the building were uniformly stick-thin, head-to-toe in labels. Their made-up faces glistened with bright colours – lip glosses, eyeshadows, deep-tone mascaras. And absolutely everyone wore their designer sunglasses into the foyer.
Yasmin took a deep breath, slipped on her sunglasses and sluiced through the glass revolving doors, her heels clacking on the black marble floor. Beyond the swipe gates, the mirrored lifts glinted as they swished open. Every shiny surface magnified an elongated, distorted reflection. She might as well have entered a new world, and those around her were an exotic, carbon-based species.
The long concierge desk ran along the wall. A snooty receptionist languished behind it, with a severe bun and red lipstick slashed across her mouth like a surgical incision.
Yasmin took a breath. She put on her best smile and strode towards that desk, ready to start the rest of her life.
The receptionist flirted with a bicep-hearty man. He wore a suit with a white shirt and a black tie, which outlined the chiselled chest beneath. Neither one saw her approach.
“Excuse me,” Yasmin said, affecting a slight English accent.
The receptionist kept talking. Yasmin noticed the coiled earpiece in the security man’s ear and the walkie-talkie he lifted from his belt. He leaned over the desk casually, one arm resting beneath him.
Yasmin cleared her throat.
The receptionist peeled her attention away from the man. Yasmin saw his name tag: it read ‘Buckley.’
“Yes?” the receptionist said, clearly flushed.
“I’m so sorry to interrupt, but I’m running a few minutes late for my 9:30 with Felicia. Would you be so kind as to buzz me through?” Yasmin pushed her sunglasses up her nose and feigned disdain.
The receptionist eyed Yasmin. “Haven’t I seen you here before?” she asked.
“Yes, of course. I was here last week. And the week before that.” Yasmin leaned in. “We’re very tight, Felicia and I. We meet regularly, you know, to exchange ideas. In fact, I was the inspiration for last month’s cover. It was my idea to feature Nicole Kidman.”
“No, that’s not it.” The receptionist seemed wary and frowned. “You come here all the time. And sit over there. In that chair.”
“Are we okay here?” Buckley put a hand on the hip that held the walkie-talkie.
“We most certainly are not,” Yasmin huffed, her English inflection forgotten. “You’re delaying my meeting with Felicia. I suggest that if you don’t want to raise her wrath, you let me straight in.”
The security man gently grabbed Yasmin’s arm. “You have no business being here, ma’am,” he said. “It’s best if you leave.”
Oh, my. Yasmin was being thrown out of the Warner Williams Corporation!
“Well!” Yasmin huffed. She yanked her arm free. “I can see myself out, thank you very much.”
She noticed a worker passing through the security gates – which sprang open and hovered for a frozen instant in time.
She hurled herself at the gate, just as the arms clicked shut again. Her chest smacked into them. She ricocheted back, into the bear-hug of the security guard.
He manhandled her through the revolving doors and pushed her out onto the street.
“Please don’t come back,” he said, straightening his tie and reaching for the walkie-talkie at his hip. He pressed a finger to his ear. “All clear this end, Roger. Thanks.”
He watched her stalk away, waiting until she had crossed the lights at the next block.
Yasmin stumbled down Park Street towards the bus, frustration and humiliation threatening to spill over. Today was meant to be the day she finally met Felicia. She was destined to work at WWC. It was her dream. How could they turn her away?
She stood waiting at the lights, caught in her head, her surroundings a blur.
She only half-saw the black limo pull up beside her. Only half-watched the window as it slid open, revealing the tan interior. Only briefly saw a sunglass-wearing, bouffant-haired older lady, with a smooth forehead – clearly botoxed. The woman’s sharp eyes seemed to check outside for signs of rain. And then the window rose again and snapped shut.
It couldn’t be.
The windows were tinted so black that Yasmin couldn’t see through. Was that—?
No. Yasmin shook her head. Now she was delusional, on top of being recently shamed in the very office in which she hoped to someday forge her career.
But it was. Wasn’t it?
The woman in that limo looked a hell of a lot like Felicia Pine.
The pedestrian light turned green and bleeped, urging Yasmin across the road. But she stood her ground, there on the kerb. The commuters pushed around her, cursing. The lights flashed red again, then green for the limo, which turned the corner and – yes! – headed straight towards the WWC building.
Yasmin wheeled around and kept pace with the limo, which crawled in the early morning traffic. She followed it to the next block, then the next. It cleared the traffic and turned – right on cue – at Elizabeth Street. Yasmin ran as fast as her heels would allow and watched the limo pull into the car-park entrance. The limo driver slid her window open, speaking to the man at the ticket box by the gate. He wore the same security outfit as his colleague inside.
Yasmin didn’t think, didn’t rationalise, and certainly didn’t stop. She bent low and crouched beside the car as the gate rose. She moved with the limo. Both she and Felicia had entered the car park!
The limo’s tyres squealed slightly on the polished concrete as it slipped ahead, along the ramp. Yasmin checked over her shoulder. The security man hadn’t seen her. He tapped his walkie-talkie on the ticket box, lost in thought.
Yasmin followed behind the limo, but her heels wobbled on the smooth, sloping concrete. She took off her shoes and carried them in one hand. One of the heels had cracked - but what was a three-hundred-dollar pair of shoes, compared to this opportunity?
She ducked her head to see the floor below. The limo made a sharp turn into a reserved car space. Yasmin sprinted, going into a slide just as the driver opened the door. Felicia stepped out.
Yasmin jerked to a stop directly in front of a shocked Felicia Pine, editor of The Woman’s Standard and revered media personality for the last thirty years.
“Oh.” Felicia’s stiffened brow wrinkled ever so slightly.
Felicia Pine was fifty-two, but she could pass for early forties due to the amount of work she’d had done. Her straight shoulders and squarely planted feet completely dominated the space; this was a woman used to getting her way. She flicked her earth-toned scarf back over her shoulder, regarding Yasmin with a hard set to her lips.
“I’m sorry,” Yasmin said, hopping on each foot as she put her heels back on.
“Ah, ma’am?” the driver asked, moving to take Yasmin’s arm, and not in a friendly way.
“It’s okay, I just want to talk,” Yasmin said, backing up enough that Felicia could close the car door. The driver watched, on high alert.
“What is the meaning of this?” Felicia demanded, straightening herself.
“I’m so sorry, Ms Pine. I realise this is a little forward…”
“Don’t worry, it happens all the time,” she said.
“No,” Felicia said. “First time.”
“Well, I tried to make an appointment, you see, but you must be awfully busy, so I thought we could, you know, walk and talk?” Yasmin asked hopefully.
Felicia pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head. Her lips pursed as if to say “don’t try any funny business.”
“You have exactly one minute of my time, and we will stay right here,” Felicia said, fussing with a collection of manila folders.
“Oh, thank you, thank you so much, Ms Pine,” Yasmin gushed. “You see, I’ve been waiting for this moment since I was ten years old and I first discovered your magazine.”
“Starting a little young, weren’t we?”
“Oh no, I love your magazine. I have every issue. I’ve memorised all the editors – none as weighty as your good self.”
“Thirty seconds.” Felicia pretended to check her Cartier watch.
“So, I wanted to present myself in person because I would be the perfect head journalist on The Woman’s Standard.” Yasmin stepped back a little. She didn’t want to crowd her idol.
Her breath came in little pants – granted, she wasn’t in the best shape, but she was also in awe of the magnificent person standing right in front of her. She reached out her hand, slowly, towards Felicia’s shoulder, just to feel the silk blouse and prove that she was a real person.
“Stop that,” Felicia said. “I can see you’re persistent and sending you away empty-handed will only result in more of these ridiculous encounters.”
“Thank you!” Yasmin said.
“That wasn’t a compliment,” Felicia said. “But I’ll tell you something – we only accept recent graduates with outstanding grades and excellent work experience. We also like to see a healthy swathe of community service.”
Yasmin mentally noted everything.
“Awards don’t go astray either. We like to know you can write.”
Felicia sighed and shifted the weight of the folders. She turned from the limo, heading towards the heavy lifts that would whisk her directly to the magical world of The Standard.
Felicia turned back again, regarding Yasmin’s earnestness.
“Gargantuan Consulting handles all our recruiting.” The lift arrived, and she entered, her brusqueness returning. “And if you ever stalk me again, I’ll call the police.”