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Chapter 6 : Radio, Radio
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A/N: Please let me know what you think. Whether you liked it or hated it or if I mentioned your favorite color. I want to know your thoughts.
Wendy fiddled with the hem of her newly-purchased, knee-length business skirt. She was in the waiting room for the third interview of the day, for the second day in a row, and it was obvious now that her uncle really wanted her to have a conventional five-day-a-week, nine-to-five, soul-sucking office job. She’d been trotted around like a trick pony, proving that she could answer phones, take dictation and type with the best of them. It wasn’t even as if she wasn’t without work experience. She’d worked as a secretary at her father’s office for several summers, despite her particular loathing of being inside while outside was so much nicer.
Her hair was pulled back into a bun, in an attempt to conceal its choppy length and purple streaks. Most of the businessmen she’d seen had still commented on them. It set her teeth on edge to see the way they looked at her – the same way her father had after Gramps had passed on, only without the tinge of sadness. The disapproval was all there, though.
Now, the interview schedule was running late and she was losing her patience. Not only were these battery of interviews nerve-wracking, but Wendy knew she wouldn’t be able to relax until they were done. She smoothed the wrinkles out of her skirt.
The door to the reception room opened and a lady in her early fifties poked her head in. “Is Clara Stephens here?”
“That’s it!” Wendy hissed, particularly vehemently, standing up and walking, in faltering steps because of the high heels, toward the exit.
“Miss?” said the woman, “Miss! Wait!”
Wendy stopped and turned her head. “What?”
“The boss will see you now.”
“About damn time,” Wendy muttered, and marched as sure-footedly as she was able to through the door, leaving the four other girls in the waiting room to look around in confusion.
The woman left her at the solid door of an office with a nameplate that read “Hugh Andrews”. She knocked and was greeted by a loud “Come in!”
The man seated before her and indeed, the office itself was not at all what Wendy had imagined. She’d thought his desk would be neat and orderly, his office full of leather and dark wood, and his hair a salt and pepper color any executive would be proud of. Instead, she was faced with an executive with blond hair who couldn’t have been older than twenty eight. His desk was completely hidden beneath sprawling paperwork of varying sizes and colors and the afternoon light through the window behind him was temporarily blinding.
“Please, sit down,” he said, flashing her a huge, pearly-white smile. He had a very crisp accent, and he sounded almost like a BBC anchorman.
“No. I won’t be here that long.” Wendy said, crossing her arms her chest. “Look, can I say something?”
“You just did, but you may continue, Miss …?”
“Finch. Wendy Finch. I know you’re busy or whatever, and you obviously have a lot of work to get through,” she said, gesturing at the paperwork in front of him, “but you can’t treat people like this. I mean, it’s one thing if you’ve got meetings or you’re interviewing other people but some of those girls have been waiting over an hour. It’s not fair to any of them for you to keep them here when they could be at other interviews.”
“You’re absolutely right. And you’re the only one to point it out. Which is why you are the only one in my office. Please sit down,” he answered, gesturing to the chair. Wendy cocked her to the side, but crossed the room and sat.
“Miss Finch, I instructed Mrs. Williams to keep you all in the waiting room until one of you expressed frustration or decided to leave.” Wendy started to say something, but Andrews held up a hand to stop her. “I need a secretary who will stand up for herself. I don’t need a girl who will wait all day for things to happen. I need a secretary who impatiently demands things repetitively from all my departments. This is, after all, a newspaper. I need my stories yesterday. I’m surprised it took one of you so long to walk out. I had to send Mrs. Williams with a fake name to annoy you.”
“Mr. Andrews, with respect, what kind of interview is this? I mean, what the Hell did you mean to accomplish?”
“I threw you off-balance, didn’t I?”
“Well yes, but-”
“Learned that you don’t like being walked over, have a sense of justice and are vaguely impatient, didn’t I?”
“Then, you’re hired. Now, get out.”
Wendy stood up and started walking out, bewildered and wincing a little as the heels pressed against the blisters she’d been forming all day.
“And Miss Finch?”
“Yes, Mr. Andrews?
“Your hair –” Wendy stiffened, preparing for the disapproval but it didn’t come. “I like it.”
“Thanks,” she said, looking over her shoulder. Then, she opened the door and attempted not to stumble on her way out.
Wendy sat down at her desk after “making the rounds” as Hugh called it. She’d been to every editor to tell him that his staff was running behind, and she needed their finished copies to give to Mr. Andrews. She’d found in the first twenty minutes on the job that Mrs. Williams and herself were the only persons in the entire office to be allowed to call him Hugh. The rest referred to him as The Boss or Mr. Andrews. He said it was because the Ancient Romans had used a slave to whisper in the general’s ear and remind him that he was only mortal. Mrs. Williams said it was just because it got his attention faster.
It had been about four weeks since she’d been shooed out of Hugh’s office, and though Wendy still had a lot to learn about the publishing process, she was a pro at leaning on the editors to squeeze the stories out of their reporters. She knew, even, how to make the editors feel pressure when the deadline was more than four hours away, which Mrs. Williams said was an accomplishment. She may only be a secretary, but she had the third most important job at the paper – and she was good at it.
She never thought she’d be at home in an office. And yet, she liked it here. And Hugh even let her listen to the radio, if she kept it really low, since the other employees couldn’t hear it from outside of her little alcove. It turned out that only having to answer to the boss had perks that some of the Oxford educated reporters never seemed to have considered. It didn’t hurt that she was the only girl who hadn’t run, crying to the bathroom when the boss yelled at her for the first time. Nor did she blubber when he’d blamed her for things that weren’t her fault. And there was the fact that she’d actually recklessly yelled back at him when he accused her of something that had been his mistake. But somehow, her abandonment of good working protocol seemed to be what kept her around.
Sure, Hugh had stormed off and fumed in his office for a while, before paging her on the phone system. Then, he’d complimented her on her continued ability to stand up for herself and given her the rest of the day off. Mrs. Williams said it was just because she was the first secretary in over a year to make it past a week. Wendy still nursed a little ember of pride. This was a job she was good at. And it made enough money for her to start a small savings account apart from what she paid to her uncle in rent and the payments she’d been making on the repair bill. She wasn’t sure what she’d use it for, but she wanted to save it anyway. Extra money always had its uses.
The phone on her desk trilled, shaking her out of her thoughts. She picked up the receiver quickly and answered with professional poise, “Good Afternoon, Daily Gazette, this is Wendy Finch. May I help you?”
“Yes. Um. Hi. I was calling for the sports editor? I need to ask a question about mug-, excuse me, rugby.”
“Well, I can transfer you, but this is the number for the office of the editor in chief for future reference,” Wendy informed, softening her tone a little but not dispensing with the formality overall. She was still privately wondering what kind of rugby question James could have that he’d need to ask a sports editor about. Weren’t there rule books and other sorts of sports-related books that could answer that for him?
“Oh. Great. Lily didn’t tell me you were working for the Gazette. She just said you were a secretary somewhere,” James continued inquisitively. Wendy had learned that this was a very common personality trait in reporters – the utter inability to stop asking questions when they were either impertinent or just wasting time.
“Well, here I am. Now, I have another thing to attend to, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll transfer your call now.”
“Certainly,” James intoned, drawing a breath as if to continue, but Wendy had already begun the switch, so his next words were lost to her.
“Was it a reporter?” Hugh asked, conspiratorially from somewhere over her left shoulder. His habit of sneaking up on people was not amusing to her at all, especially since she was the subject most often being little less than three steps outside of his office.
“Yes. I think he’s doing a fact check on a minor sports rule. I’m not sure why he didn’t just check out a book.”
He shrugged, “Some of the minor newspapers don’t have the time. And most of them don’t employ fact-checkers so it falls to the reporters to get everything right.”
“I see,” Wendy acknowledged, shifting some of the paperwork on her desk to get a form she needed one of the new interns to fill out. The song on the radio changed and a soft Debussy orchestral arrangement faded into silence, followed immediately by Bach.
Hugh’s eyebrows shot up to mid-forehead. “I thought you were a rocker,” he accused, looking pointedly at the visible streaks in her hair.
“That doesn’t mean I’m musically illiterate. Besides, it’s Wednesday.”
Her boss looked incredulous, “What does Wednesday have to do with you and your date with Mozart?”
“Everything. Wednesday is Classical Day. And this one’s Bach.” Wendy said, finishing up the papers she was working on, and emphatically punching in a staple.
“You’re dodging the question. I may be a stuffy old editor now, but I used to be a reporter. You’re dodging.”
“And you aren’t old. Hugh, I’m trying to do my job here.” This statement was punctuated with a sharp ring on the telephone on her desk. She looked at her boss pointedly and reached for the receiver, “Good Afternoon, Daily Gazette, this is Wendy Finch. May I help you?” Hugh appeared to lose interest, and wandered toward the Current Events editor.
It was Sirius Black’s voice on the other end. “Yes. May I help you?”
“It’s Sirius,” he said needlessly. “You just finished payment on the repair bill. But there was an excess of about twenty quid.”
“Yes. That’s for you. You didn’t have to come in so early. You deserve it. Besides, I had to pay you back for that drink at the concert.”
“But –” he began, revving up to tell her that he wouldn’t take it.
“No buts,” she said and she hung up just as Hugh turned back to her desk.
“What was it about, Wendy?” he began, as soon as he was in earshot.
“Just a wrong number,” she lied, not wanting to tell him she’d gotten a personal call at work. She didn’t even know how Sirius knew she worked here if James didn’t.
“So, about ‘Classical Music Wednesday’…” Hugh trailed off.
“What about it?”
“Where does a girl who clearly loves rock acquire taste in music?”
“Haha,” Wendy said sardonically. She looked down at her desk, continuing her tasks for some time before realizing that Hugh hadn’t moved. He was still waiting for an answer. “My gramps used to tell me that it was all well and good to like one kind of music more than another, but that one must try to appreciate the thing in all its forms.”
“And you are trying to appreciate classical music?”
“Actually, I got that one down when I was about eight. Now it’s good background noise. But I haven’t quite mastered Country music.”
“You are a delightfully unexpected person. Have you finished your paperwork?”
“Yes,” she answered, looking at him a bit quizzically.
“Then, take the rest of the day off.”
“Don’t argue. Just go.”
“Yes, sir,” Wendy saluted and grabbed for her purse. As she stood up, she thought she heard him mutter something along the lines of ‘getting away from Beethoven’ as he switched the radio off. “Have a good weekend, boss!”
“You too, Wendy.”
Behind her she heard the phone ring and because of classical conditioning, she turned to answer it, but Hugh already had the receiver. “Good afternoon, office of the editor, may I help you?”
Wendy couldn’t hear what was transpiring on the other end, but she saw him frown, then look confused and then finally pass her the phone, saying, “It’s for you.”
“Hello?” she said, her features contorted into a mask of confusion.
“Yes. I need you to come over, now. Just leave work. Tell them your uncle’s sick.” There was a hard line of urgency in her voice that made Wendy pause a moment.
“Is something wrong?”
“Okay. I’m on my way.” Wendy set down the receiver with a crisp click and answered Hugh’s questioning look with a quick reassurance that she just needed to help out a friend and thanking him again for letting her off. She didn’t really want to jinx her uncle into being unhealthy.
She charged down the stairs and walked the three blocks from her work to Lily’s apartment faster than she’d ever managed it before. She took the stairs up two at a time and raced to the doorway, rapping on the door as hard as her breathing.
Lily answered just between knocks, yanking the door open. Beyond her, Sirius, James, Peter and Remus were crowded around in the living room.
“Hey. What’s going on?”
“Hurry. Get inside.” Lily grabbed her roughly and pulled her over the threshold, slamming the door behind her and bolting it. “Wendy,” she snapped, “what color and pattern were my sheets when I was thirteen?”
Wendy tilted her head to the side, thinking. “They were tie-dyed pink, green and yellow. Your folks were ticked when they found out you used their best pots.”
“Good,” Lily affirmed and then gave her a rough shove out of the small entry way. Then she drew a strangely shaped piece of wood out of her pocket and turned to the door, murmuring strange words to it.
“Lily?! She can see you!”
“Doesn’t matter,” Lily said, shaking her head. A chorus of protests got louder from the living room. And Wendy stood transfixed by the light extending from the object in her friend’s hand.
It took a moment for her to regain the power of speech. When she got it, she calmly asked, “What the hell is going on?”
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