"SO WHAT sort of work were you looking for, Laura?" Martin says. Damn. He's forgotten both my job offer and my name. He slept with my sister, but he can't remember me. I say: "Well, I've been a temp/PA for the last year or so. I was hoping for some sort of editorial assistant job or..." But he's already shaking his head. "No can do," he says. "I'd love an assistant, but the budget doesn't run to it."
The phone rings. "'Scuse me," says Martin. "Hello? Ah, John. Yes. Has she? Well, tough. We don't have any contracts, and she never met her targets." He puts the phone down, turns back, twiddling cufflinks.
He says: "Have you ever thought of going into advertising?" Have I ever. Wouldn't everyone like to sit around in a designer-heavy interior, having long lunches and making up puns over a couple of bottles of pouilly fume? "Well, of course I've thought about it," I say. "We may just give you a try-out here," he says. "As it happens, we've got a vacancy on our advertising team as of today. The sky's the limit if you do well." "So what do I have to do?"
"Come on." He leaps dynamically to his feet. "I'll introduce you to Ivana." I follow him out into the big room and towards the large group of people plugged into headphones. "This," Martin waves to them, "is our advertising team. Hello, guys." "Hello, Martin," they chorus. A terrifying Amazon patrols behind them in a Calvin Klein knock-off and Stuart Weitzmann spike heels.
"Gutt morning, Martin," she says. She has thin, thin lips painted dark scarlet, smooth, shiny, jet-black hair, gripped into a chignon. "Vot ken ve do for you today?" "Ivana," says to Martin, "This is Laura. She's joining your team."
Ivana looks at me, starting with the very top of my head, working over every inch of my body to my feet, and back up to my eyes. The lips, completely straight and clamped as though trying to keep her teeth from escaping, develop a small upwards curl on the left hand side. She gives me her hand, which feels like a small lizard in mine. "Gutt morning, Laura," she says. "Velcome do our team. Heff you zzold etverdisink before?" "No." Ivana blinks a couple of times, then gives Martin a long look. "She hess no eggzberience." "No, Ivana," says Martin. "That's why I thought we'd give her a trial period." Somewhere to my left, someone snorts, but I'm not sure if they're clearing their nose or sneezing. "Ah," says Ivana, and the other side of her mouth curls up. "A trial. OK. Ve go vit dat." "You'll explain the terms and conds, won't you?" says Martin, then slaps me on the arm and disappears.
Ivana produces a sheaf of paper. "Zese are ze rules," she says. "You vill be punctual, you vill stick to ze script, you vill meet your targets, you vill learn ze script, you will call ze vorst number. Gutt luck."
To be continued...Reuse content