(drum roll, announcer voice)
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, welcome to the unveiling of…..Amanda’s first novel!
(applause, screams and cheers)
Well, this isn’t quite my first novel, it’s really my second. But my first needs a lot of work. So I’m going to start this column with scenes from this book. It’s currently in its second draft and I feel like I have a pretty good idea of the revisions that need to be made in the third draft, but I would love your feedback! Going from the beginning, so today is…the first scene. No set up needed.
(This is a little nerve wracking….)
Clouded, by Amanda Moon
I whisper a prayer and push open the door to Clouded, Incorporated. There is no one at the reception desk yet, but I can hear the sounds of people starting their morning routines all around me. Chairs scrape against the floor, computers ding as they wake up, doors open and close. Someone is putting dishes away in the kitchen, I hear the plates and cups as they clink against each other.
It has been three weeks since I was last here right before Christmas vacation. I feel awkward standing in the entryway and I’m not sure if I should go find Laura, the office manager myself, or if I should wait until Nicole is back at the reception desk and check in. I recognize many of the people walking around, but those that see me either don’t know who I am and don’t want to stop and find out, or don’t realize I’m no longer an intern.
“Oh, Addie, good, you’re here,” Laura says as she run-walks from the kitchen toward the corner office carrying a steaming cup of coffee. “Head into the conference room, we’ll be right there.”
The office door is closed behind her before I have a chance to respond. The office she just entered is Seth Mitchell’s, the president and CEO of Clouded. It’s in the front corner of the building, and I get nervous just looking at the door. He built this empire from the ground up. My goal is to get the opportunity to learn from him.
The office is a two story modern-brick building. The wide, iron and wood stairway to the second floor loft is just to the right of the reception desk. Behind me, tinted windows stretch from the floor to the roofline, making the building feel even taller than it really is. The layout of both floors is essentially the same, a large common area in the middle with cubicles and general work spaces surrounded by offices. The corners of the building are reserved for the larger rooms. The back corners of the first floor are the conference room and a listening room, the front corners are Seth’s office and the reception area. The second floor has a kitchen and a break area in the back corners.
I had interned at Clouded for six months, leaving just before Christmas with the promise of great recommendations if I found anything to apply for, but no leads on any job possibilities. Then, last week, Laura had called, told me they were hiring, and asked if I could come in for an interview. There were no details, no explanation of what had changed in the last four weeks that necessitated a new employee.
I smile at the interns as I make my way past the cubicles to the conference room. By interning, we committed to work, without pay, for the company for at least one thirteen week semester, hoping to gain experience and make connections that will one day lead to a job in the music industry. I notice my old cubicle is empty, the large #6 is still hanging on the wall. It was there to remind me and everyone around me what number I was.
“It’s just easier than trying to learn everyone’s name. You understand, interns come and go so quickly in this business…” Laura had told her on the first day of the internship.
I peak inside the few office doors that are open as I walk by. Each has the same glass and metal desk: ultra modern and minimalistic, a physical reminder that, when you are doing your job well, the artist will be the only one that is noticed. Some walls have gold and platinum record plaques, others have concert posters. I used to think you could judge a person’s success by what was on the wall. Really, the only thing you can learn is their decorating style and how much they like to brag.
In the conference room I choose a seat in the middle of the table and pull my coat tighter around me. I remember from interning that a flaw in the building’s ductwork prevents the room from receiving any heat when the door is closed. Nicole is supposed to check to be sure it’s open whenever there isn’t a meeting, but judging by the temperature it must have been closed all night. The walls are lined with gold and platinum records from artists I worked with at Clouded, many of whom I’d been a fan of since long before I’d moved to Nashville. The comfortable leather conference chair and the cold, quiet of the room subdue my nerves. The exhaustion that I have been battling the entire morning takes over and I have to fight the urge to lay my head down on the table and go to sleep. Besides interning, and taking a full load of classes at Belmont University, I a full time job at the front desk of a swanky downtown- Nashville hotel. Twice a week I overnight, from 11:00 pm to 8:00 am. the other three nights I work the evening shift from 3:00-12:00. I hadn’t known I’d be working the overnight shift when I agreed to the interview. By the time I had my work schedule I was afraid I would look undedicated or irresponsible if I had tried to change the appointment. I’m debating whether to go to the kitchen for a soda when Laura walks in, followed closely by Josh and Jonathan. The three of them greet me and choose seats on the opposite side of the table. I’m worried I might be overdressed .
Laura is the office manager of Clouded, and was the first employee Seth ever hired. Her long black hair was hanging straight down her back, not quite dry, leaving moisture spots on the shoulders of the red cardigan sweater she was wearing. Josh and Jonathan are two of the managers at Clouded. They spend their days coordinating the lives of the bands they work with, everything from personal appearances to recording schedules. Jonathan is wearing his typical uniform of khaki pants and a plaid button down shirt. Josh’s outfit is the same thing he wears every day: jeans and a ringer-t. I had been torn when picking out my clothes for the interview. After interning, I knew the office was very casual and that most people wore jeans every day, but I had always been taught that you dress up for interviews, so I chose a simple black dress and flat shoes.
“How are you doing? Did you have a good Christmas?” Laura asks, taking a sip from her coffee cup. It’s a different cup than I had seen her with when she went into Seth’s office.
“I did. “I stayed here, but it was nice.”
“Oh, it’s too bad you didn’t get to go home! I know you would have liked to see your family!”
I nod. She’s right, I would have loved to go home. But I couldn’t get the time off from the hotel, and I’m trying to save as much money as possible. I’m considering how much of this to explain when the door opens again.
“Great, you’re here!” Laura says as Seth walks in. Immediately I’m happy I chose the dress. Seth is dressed in a impeccably tailored gray pinstriped suit with sea-glass green shirt underneath. His brown hair, slightly long, is just starting to curl along the nape of his neck and above his ears. It looks at once perfectly messy and perfectly styled. His eyes, the exact color of his shirt, do a quick scan of the room. He overlooks me completely, making me feel even more nervous. My hands began to sweat despite the temperature of the room. I glance at Laura and she smiles in what I know is meant to be a look of reassurance, but it doesn’t reach her eyes.
“Number Six,” Seth says glancing quickly at me and choosing a seat at the head of the table. My heart sinks. I hate being referred to as a number. I had made it my goal to make Seth learn my name before I was done with my internship. I guess I failed.
If my face registers my disappointment, Seth doesn’t notice. He nods Jonathan. “Jonathan is taking over Shreds. He’s going to need some help with the accounting stuff here while he gets that up and going. The pay is $10 an hour. How’s that sound?”
He has a file in his hands and starts flipping through the papers, not looking at me. I wonder if the file has anything to do with me. Maybe it’s my resume? I glance at Laura and Jonathan for some sort of clue and get nothing.
“What is Shreds?” I ask, directing the question somewhere between Seth and Jonathan since no one is looking directly at me.
Seth rolls his eyes, looking at Jonathan. I feel completely lost.
“We didn’t get a chance to talk about that, did we?” Laura says, overly cheery, absorbing all of Seth’s attitude and turning it into vocal sunshine.
“Shreds is,” Jonathan says, leaning forward and folding his hands on the table, “our full-service merchandising company. We are giving all of our artists the ability to maximize their peripheral profits by cutting out the middleman. We will be the designer, the manufacturer, and the distributor for all of their merchandising needs, from CDs to t-shirts to lunch boxes.” He glances quickly at Josh, who is smirking, watching his coffee like it might start to do tricks. I can tell he wants to laugh out loud. Is he laughing at me, or at Jonathan’s sales pitch?
Seth is nodding his head in agreement with everything Jonathan says, giving the impression that this has been rehearsed. Jonathan continues, “I need you to help me get the stuff done here, so I can focus on what I’m doing over there.”
Everyone is looking at me now. I’m weighing several questions in my head, such as “Where is over there?,” “What exactly will I be doing?,” and “What are the hours?” Before I can decide which one to ask Seth has pushed his chair away from the table and looks ready to leave. I calculate quickly and say the most enthusiastically neutral thing I can think of. “Sounds great!”
“So,” Laura asks, “You’re accepting?”
Am I accepting? I don’t even really understand the job yet. What does helping with the accounting stuff entail? Seth’s standing now, obviously ready to go. Any job in the music industry is better than nothing, so I dive in. “Absolutely.”
It’s the right answer, everyone is nodding and smiling. I feel like it’s okay to ask some of the more necessary questions now. “What are the hours? When do I start?
“Let’s start out with ten to fifteen a week or so,” Seth says. “You can work it out, but we’ve got to stay within the budget.” He gives Jonathan a meaningful look, then walks out the door.
“You can set your own hours,” Laura says. “But they need to be regular. I need to know when you’re going to be here.” I watch her eyes follow Seth out the door. She looks worried, and I wonder what is going on.
“Yeah, me too,” Josh says. He laughs out loud, unable to hold it in anymore. I had almost forgotten he was there. I look at him, and his eyes tell me that he doesn’t understand why he was included with the interview any more than I do “That was fun,” he says, standing up and shaking my hand. “Welcome aboard.”
“Seriously,” Jonathan says, “We’re glad you accepted!”
He pats me on the back and walks out with Josh. I see them go into Jonathan’s office and close the door. Seth’s door is also closed when Laura and I come out of conference room. I see her face cloud over again when she at his door.
“Should I ask Jonathan about my hours?” I ask standing awkwardly outside of the conference room. I’m not sure if I should move towards Laura’s office on the left or Jonathan’s office on the right, and it’s obvious that Laura is dealing with something else in her head.
“No, that’s fine,” she sighs and walks to her office. “I need to do your paperwork anyway. Can you start tomorrow?” She sits down and begins shuffling through a drawer, periodically pulling papers out of the file folders and stacking them on her desk.
“No, I have school and work tomorrow.”
“Oh. Okay. I didn’t realize you were still working.” We didn’t discuss the fact that I was still working at the hotel. Laura looks a bit annoyed at the thought that I might be considering anything more important than Clouded.
“Only for now,” I say quickly. “I am still at the hotel. But if this ever becomes full time, I can quit. It’s just at night anyway. I have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but my mornings are wide open Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I can be here whenever you need those days.”
“9:00 on Friday?”
“Sure. How’s 9-2, Monday, Wednesday and Friday?”
“Perfect,” Laura says, handing over the stack of papers she had accumulated on her desk. “Fill these out. I’ll see you on Friday.”