"Had a great day," she replied with remnants of the exuberance she had felt when leaving the agency. "Compton Foods is coming in with a full schedule for a new diet entree. One million dollars." There was no need to mention the obvious--her commission.
Vince let out a chuckle. "As long as Women's Life keeps its number one position in the field, advertisers will automatically come on board."
Rachel's old resentment rose up. "Vince, I didn't just sign up an order. You know that. If I may say so myself, it took wits and persistence to get on their ad schedule--" She caught her sharp tone and stopped.
He examined her face for a moment. "You okay?"
"I'll be all right."
"I'm your buddy. You can talk to me. Still having problems with your ex?"
She nodded, but said nothing. Vince would find the litigation, the reasons for it, tacky.
When he did not move from his position at the door, Rachel uncoiled herself from her seat and made a show of picking up a stack of stapled papers from her windowsill. "Next week I'll give you a run-through of the presentation for the Baroness account."
"Rake them in. We'll be ready with prominent positioning," he said, referring to the magazine page layout, a well-studied map of prized real estate. Advertisers vied for the most advantageous exposure for their ads. Like a prime storefront rental, Women's Life's sales force secured the best spots with multi-year contracts. "Location. Location. Location," he chanted.
"It takes more than location to bring them aboard." Rachel smiled.
"You bet it does. That's what you have an expense account for." Vince continued. "You haven't done much entertaining this year. Why don't you set up something fun for the Baroness management team? Just let me know when, and I'll join you. Bring that snazzy boyfriend of yours along. Gerald?"
He left, and she plopped down into her chair. Vince never missed a major car race, new fragrance launching, yachting party, international tennis tournament, or opening night either on Broadway or in Hollywood. Women's Life entertained clients at all of them, but Rachel could rarely cram those events into her schedule. The few hours in the evening spent with Ellie did not make up for the missed trip to the pumpkin farm, the school play, and the Mother's Day party.
Jacqueline came in. "Your flight to Chicago week after next is all set," she said in her French-accented voice. Her eyes, dark as raisins, glanced around the room at the charts tacked to the wall and the large boards leaning against the bookcase. "I can't wait for this sales presentation to be done with. Don't you feel you go on popping them out for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs?"
Rachel laughed. Jacqueline's streaks of merriment shot out and zapped Rachel whenever she was in her presence. "We all sing for our supper," Rachel said.
"Except that my singing doesn't pay for supper." Jacqueline had come to New York to nurture her musical career. Years later, her CDs sold only when she herself took position at Grand Central Station, singing for rush hour commuters.
"It will," Rachel said. "Anyway, I love working on presentations."
Jacqueline tilted her head toward the banter of voices carried from the corridor--Rachel's male colleagues enjoying their social time at the end of the day. She tossed her mane of black curls that looked huge on her petite frame. "Guess what? Vince is talking sports."
Rachel shrugged. "What a surprise."
"You'd think that after thirty years past his glory, a former Yankee player would get a life."
"He's waiting to retire from Sheridan Magazines. The top brass think it's hot to have his name on the executive list; they can well afford it."
"If work is when you'd rather be doing something else, then those guys must have a tough life." Jacqueline motioned with her head toward the corridor.
Copyright Talia Carner 2002. All rights reserved. For permission to reproduce this excerpt please contact the author at www.taliacarner.com
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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