Short story published in Her Business Magazine – Aug / Sept 2011

Stick at it

By Rochelle Elliot ©

Grace was in trouble. Her heart hammered in her chest as the lift whisked her up to the fourteenth floor of Galaxy Towers. Her reflection in the mirrored walls confirmed her predicament. The white linen shirt she had spent an hour ironing was now speckled and smudged with giant brown paw prints. A lonely heel from her left boot lay limp in her right hand. Perhaps she should turn back. But wasn’t all her pilot training for just this moment? This was the biggest air freight company in New Zealand. But really, who would employ her looking like this?

The doors pinged open. A large reception desk loomed before her and she paused, unsure of what her next move should be.

Hi there!” a cheerful voice called from behind the desk. Grace had no choice but to step out of the lift. It’s doors closed smoothly, sealing her fate. She hobbled, up-down, up-down, over to the reception desk.

Blimey,” the woman whipped off her headset, “what on earth happened to you.”

Well, it started with an over enthusiastic German Shepard,” Grace explained, “and ended with a loose grate on Willis Street that had no respect for fine footwear.” She held up the sad looking heel.

What a calamity,” the young woman said, shaking her head, “there’s no way you can see Mr Cole looking like that. Grace nodded in agreement.

Perhaps I can reschedule?” she asked hopefully.

He’s off to Singapore tomorrow, so I don’t like your chances.”

Grace sighed. Perhaps it wasn’t supposed to be. She turned back towards the lift.

Hey, where do you think you’re going?” the woman called, beckoning her back. “I’ve a few tricks up my sleeve that I save for the most deserving cases, and you’re definitely one of those!”

The woman introduced herself as Penny, and quickly ushered Grace down a short corridor into a small tearoom. A layer of fog was hiding what what would otherwise be a glorious view of Wellington Harbour. Grace immediately felt at home, up in the clouds.

Come on,” Penny cajoled her, opening a closet door. “I keep these here for emergencies.” Three suit jackets hung in plastic dry-cleaner bags. “I think we’ll go with the red one. It’s a power colour you know, just what you need after the morning you’ve had.” It was a little tight but nothing Grace couldn’t overcome by sucking her stomach in a little. The broken heel posed a bigger problem. Penny’s feet were a good two sizes smaller than her own, so no chance of a swap.

Got it!” Penny grinned, and shot out of the tearoom, returning a moment later with a large tube of super glue. “Nothing a bit of this stuff can’t fix!”

They quickly globbed the glue onto Grace’s heel and pressed it back onto the shoe.

It says to hold it on for three to five minutes, won’t Mr Cole be expecting me?” Grace asked anxiously. Archie Cole may have been nearing retirement age, but his reputation as a punctual and very particular boss preceded him. Rumor had it he’d walked out on the Prime Minister once when he’d been kept waiting.

You stay there and hold it together, I’ll keep Mr Cole occupied.”

Grace did as she was told. She took a few deep breaths and ran through her strengths one more time. She had extensive experience, she liked to take the initiative, she was good under pressure. She almost laughed out-loud at that one.

After three minutes she stuffed her foot back in her boot and prayed it would hold. She returned to the reception area just as Mr Cole appeared from his office.

Really Penny,” he rolled his eyes, “Paul Best? You know that man can talk till the cows come home.”

Sorry about that,” Penny said brightly, “Grace Foster, this is Archie Cole.” Penny winked at Grace as she shook Archie’s hand.

Ah Grace, your CV looks excellent, come through to my office.” Penny gave Grace a quick thumbs up.

The next few minutes went well and Grace began to relax. They discussed her experience and Archie seemed impressed. Both jumped when Penny come bursting through the door, her face twisted in concern. She whispered to her boss and Grace attempted not to eavesdrop.

I’m afraid we’ll have to call this interview short,” Archie Cole apologised to Grace. “But I would like to meet with you again when I return from Singapore.”

Grace assured him it was fine, and followed Penny out to reception.

It’s a bit of a mess,” Penny confided in Grace. “The Op’s Manager up in Auckland has been stuffing up for weeks. Customers get a bit grumpy when their mushrooms don’t arrive and their fish defrosts on the tarmac. Archie met with him on Friday to try and fix things, but he didn’t turn up today. Packed it in without giving notice. Archie wants to get up there right away, but Wellington was fogged in this morning and all the flights are over flowing. I can’t get him a seat for love nor money. It’s not going to be pretty when he finds out.

Hold on,” Grace said, “I might be able to help. I could fly him up.”

You’ve got a plane?”

Sort of, I’m an instructor actually, at Wellington Aero Club. If there’s a spare plane, I can be ready in an hour.” Grace dug around her handbag for her cellphone.

If you can pull this off you’ll make employer of the week before you’ve even been employed,” Penny laughed.

Forty five minutes later, Grace had filed her flight plan and was just finishing her pre-flight visual checks of the small four seat Cessna. A silver sedan pulled up at the security gate. She jogged over and waited with Penny while Archie took a last phone call.

You’ve saved him,” Penny laughed, “he can’t believe his luck.”

I’m just happy to be able to help,” Grace replied.

Penny leaned in close.

Not many people get an hour of Archie Cole’s undivided attention,” she whispered, “make the most if it.”

Up and away,” Archie smiled as they speed down the runway. They lifted off the ground and slide into the sky. Grace guided the aircraft to the correct height and checked that Archie was comfortable. “Grace Foster, you could have offered me a flying carpet and I would have taken you up on the offer,” Archie laughed. “You’ve solved my biggest problem in the space of an hour, now all I’ve got to worry about is this blasted shoe!” Archie lifted his foot letting the rubber sole flap and slap against his foot.

Grace reached into her bag on the seat behind her and pulled out the tube of super glue.

There’s nothing a bit of this stuff can’t fix!”

**********

Rochelle Elliot used to work at Wellington Airport, chasing unaccompanied minors and standing on shaky air-bridges in freezing cold southerlies.

She hung up her high visibility vest to stay home with her two children Isabelle (six years old) and Ashton (three years old). Rochelle is currently working towards a Diploma in Creative Writing through Whitireia New Zealand.

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