January 30, 2011

Temp Girl by Cathy Graham

      “Your coffee is total crap, Ellen. See if you can make it right this time,” Margot, the art director gave me the pained look she reserved especially for me. She flashed her dark eyes with the false eyelashes that were forever falling out. Just the other day, Judy had freaked when she saw one on the desk and thought it was a spider.
 
      “Yeh, Ellen,” Therese, the junior designer chimed in.

      "She’s hopeless,” Judy, the other designer agreed. “What can you expect? She’s only a temp. Look at the way she dresses. Doesn’t she know that thrift shop attire is passé?” The three women cackled together.

      All they needed was a bubbling cauldron to stand around instead of the water cooler.

      My face burned but I held my chin high. What was wrong with my clothes? My khaki army sweater was warm and it had all kinds of cool pockets to store things like my cell phone and my wallet.

      When I returned with their coffee, Therese and Judy were rummaging around on my desk.

      “What are you doing?” I demanded.

      “Where are the scans you were working on?” Therese asked.

      I pulled a CD from the pile. Margot snatched it out of my hand.

     “I can’t wait for the party at Mac Harris’ place tonight,” Judy said to Therese.

     Therese clasped her hands together and got a dreamy look in her eyes.

     “Mac Harris, the millionaire? He is so gorgeous!”

     “He’s also our best client,” said Margot. “His secretary called to say that everyone at Daring Designs is invited.” She noticed me listening in. “Don’t even think about going, Ellen. You wouldn’t fit in there anyhow.”

     Margot turned to Judy and Therese. “I suppose now is as good a time as any to let you guys in on a secret.”

     “Tell us,” Therese said.

     “Mac and I are involved.”

     “Really?” Judy said, her eyes wide.

     “You have kept that a secret, haven’t you?” Therese said, a skeptical look on her face.

     “Come on girls,” Margot urged. “Time to get ready. Mac awaits.” They turned off their computers and darted out the door.

     I put my head down on the desk and sobbed.

    “Don’t cry, Ellen!”

     A bald guy with a gold earring grinned at me from the computer screen.

    “Yes, it’s me. Did you think it was the janitor?” he said with a giggle. “Click on my picture.”

    I clicked and someone touched my shoulder, making me jump.

    “Martin, at your service! Here’s my card.”

    I looked at the card “Martin’s Makeovers – No one is beyond hope with Martin’s magic touch.”

    “How’d you get in here?”

    “I’m magic. I can do anything I like,” he laughed. “Now let’s get going. Don’t want you to miss Mac’s party.” He put his hands on his hips and scrutinized me. “Not much to work with but I’ll do my best.”
He waved his arms and smoke filled the air.

    “You’re going to set off the fire alarm,” I said between fits of coughing.

    “Darn, I didn’t think of that. Cancel the smoke effects. It’s just for show anyhow.” The smoke disappeared.

     He held up a mirror to let me see my perfectly made-up face and blonde hair swirled into an elegant chignon, topped by a jeweled tiara. Was that really me? The long, sleeveless, turquoise dress clung to my curves in all the right places. I wobbled in the stiletto heels hoping I wouldn’t fall over.

    “Martin, you’re a genius!”

    “Have fun sweetie!” He kissed me on both cheeks. “Now hurry. Jared is waiting with the limousine. Make sure to get back before midnight, okay.” I nodded and he vanished.

    Jared dropped me off at Mac’s mansion that stood high on a hillside overlooking the city. I climbed the stone steps and opened the massive front door. Hesitating in the ballroom doorway, I took in the splendid sight of all the beautiful people dancing. A hush came over the crowd and all eyes turned towards the entrance. I wondered who they were staring at and realized it was me.

     Then I saw Mac Harris. His brown eyes met mine and he smiled. He reminded me of a proud stallion with his dark ponytail, big white teeth and sleek physique. Mac came towards me with his hand outstretched. I resisted the urge to rub his nose and offer him a carrot.

      “Will you give me the pleasure of this dance?” I nodded and curtsied as best as I could with those awful high heels.

     We danced a slow dance as if we did it all the time. He was so easy to talk to, I felt like I’d known him all my life.

     “Who is she? She looks familiar,” I heard Margot ask as we waltzed past.

     Mac led me out to the balcony and kissed me. I was barely aware of time going by when the clock chimed twelve.

    “I have to go,” I said not wanting to leave.

    “But why? I thought we had this great connection. At least give me your cell phone number so I can call you,” Mac said holding onto me.

     I entered my number into his cell phone. “Thank you for the lovely evening. I’ll never forget it,” I rushed off and hurried down the stairs, losing one of my shoes. Blasted high heels! I took the other one off and ran barefoot.

    There was no Jared waiting with the limo so I had to catch a taxi home. I was back in my thrift clothes, my hair pulled back in a messy ponytail as usual.

    Margot was waiting for me when I reached my apartment building.

     “There you are, you charlatan.”

     “What are you doing here?” I asked. “You’re stalking me.”

    “I need to teach you a lesson, Temp girl!” she said and yanked me by the arm. “Mac Davis belongs to me.”

     “He’s not interested in you. You’re delusional,” I said, pulling my arm away. Judy and Therese grabbed me and wrenched my arms behind my back. They hustled me around the corner to a deserted fishing warehouse near the pier. So I didn’t live in that nice a part of town. I was a temp and they didn’t make very much.

       I could tell I wasn’t the first one here by the stench of urine and garbage strewn around. They locked me in a small room and I heard their car drive away. I searched the pockets of my army sweater and found my cell phone to call for help. Hurling an empty whiskey bottle at the window, I stood back as shards of glass sprayed everywhere.

      The phone rang.

     “Ellen, it’s Mac.”

     “Hi,” I said trying to sound nonchalant.

     “I have to see you again.”

     “I’m kind of detained right now.”

    “What does that mean?” Mac asked. “Your voice is strange. What’s going on?”

    “Watch out for Margot,” I said. “She’s crazy.”

    “What about her?” Mac asked.

    “She said she’s your girlfriend. Is that true?”

    “That’s insane.”

    “So is she.” I found an old barrel to stand on, grabbed the edge of the window and tried to swing my legs up. High school gymnastics had come in handy after all. “I’m in a bit of a predicament.”

    “Where are you?”

    “Would you believe I’m in the deserted warehouse by the pier?”

    “Why?

    “Margot locked me in here but I’m climbing out the window as we speak.”

    “I’m on my way.”I pulled myself through the dark window and jumped down to the ground. What a relief to land on soft grass. I sat in the darkness for the longest time until I heard a car drive up and I saw Mac run towards me. He had brought his Porsche which was brave in a bad neighborhood like mine. I put my arms out to stop him.

    “I’m not that girl you met at the party,
   
     “Of course you are,” Mac said pulling me towards him and kissing me before I could protest.

     “You don’t understand,” I pushed him away. “I’m not rich and important like you. I work as a temp for Daring Designs. I’m Margot’s little gopher. I’m a nobody.”

     “I don’t agree,” Mac looked at me. “True, you’re not much of a snappy dresser but I happen to know that you clean up real good.”

     “It would never work.” I turned away. “We’re from two different worlds.”

     “Okay. If that’s what you want. You give me no choice.”

     “What do you mean?”

     “I’ll have to hook up with Margot since she’s in love with me already.”

     I whirled around and glared at him.

     “You wouldn’t dare. Would you?”

     “Gotcha!” Mac said laughing. “You’re stuck with me. Better get used to it.”

     “Okay, but I must warn you,” I said wrapping my arms around his neck and moving closer. “I make terrible coffee and I’m a lousy temp.”

     “That’s okay,” Mac said kissing me until I gasped for air. “I want you for a permanent position.”

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