A year has passed since Serena came to work at Zephyr Publicity – first as general assistant, latterly as deputy-chief copywriter – and everyone is absolutely delighted with her progress. Her press release in advance of the Disposable Baby Napkin Manufacturers' Association's annual awards ceremony won golden opinions, and the social-media campaign she orchestrated to promote Chocolateland's yoghurt-covered nut-bar was so effective that the CEO demanded that henceforth she should be set to work exclusively on his accounts.
All this has been highly gratifying to Serena's superiors, if less so to Serena herself. She is a tall, haughty-looking girl in her late twenties, with a taste for immaculate two-piece suits and a social life so exalted that the receptionist who takes her calls occasionally suspects that a practical joke is being played. Impossibly well-dressed men with cut-glass accents take her out to lunch, and she once caused a sensation by arriving at the office in a chauffeur-driven Bentley at precisely the moment that Zephyr's health-conscious MD was chaining her bicycle to the railings.
Prior to Zephyr, Serena had a job at the London Library. Before that, she was supposed to have abandoned a PhD. All this makes her a rather exotic adornment to the world of consumer public relations. Her colleagues, to whom she is infallibly courteous, are rather afraid of her, and her presence in meetings automatically results in an upsurge in behavioural tone: men adjust their ties and omit to swear when she is around, while the girls are reluctant to talk about what they got up to the previous night.
If there is a downside to Serena's meteoric climb, it is simply this: she cannot disguise her contempt for the tasks she is bidden to perform or the people commissioning them.
Now, no one minds occasional jokes about the client ("What a dreadful little man," Serena once remarked as the marketing director of a ballpoint-pen firm waddled jovially off the premises). On the other hand, they are less keen on disdainful remarks made in the client's presence; when Serena observed to its sponsor that a new brand of apple juice would be easier to promote were it actually to taste of apple, there was an audible intake of breath. Sometime soon Serena, alas, will go too far, and then, for all her undoubted talent, it will be back to the London Library.Reuse content