Melody did her sideways skip down the corridor and into Laura’s office at 4.45. She announced that now she’d been promoted to Departmental Manager she was going to introduce a few changes. With that in mind she’d decided to give everyone a fun new title. Beaming at Laura she said, “Your title is now Princess of Records. Administrator sounds so uncool, don’t you think?”
“And,” Melody continued, “To emphasise the fun message, from now on you’ll wear a tiara to work. Our previous admin person wore it one day for a laugh and she’s kindly left it for you.” She held out a sparkly plastic tiara. “Isn’t it awesome?” she giggled. “Would you like to try it on?”
Laura shook her head.
But Melody was oblivious. Her eyeballs were revolving, her arms were moving as though she were conducting an orchestra. “Also, I’d like you ‒ with your super new title ‒ to come to work in brighter clothes. Those grey skirts and white shirts you wear look so drab. Wear purple and pink from now on, preferably with sparkles.”
Ignoring Laura’s strangled cry Melody went on, “In addition, one of your new duties will be to do a tiny spot of catering for our managers’ meetings. There’s one tonight so you can jump straight in.”
“It’s 4.50,” Laura pointed out.
Melody’s hands froze in mid-air. “Well, of course, if you’d rather not do it I can cancel my yoga class and stay here and do your job for you. Is that what you want?”
Before Laura could open her mouth Melody grabbed her hand and ran with her down the corridor to the kitchen. She pointed to the fridge. “Just have a teeny weeny peep in there and I’m sure you’ll find something you can rustle up. Keep it simple and you’ll be finished by five.” Then she shot out the door and skipped down the corridor like a demented crab.
Laura looked in the fridge. There was one only packet of crackers and a couple of avocados. She pulled them out, mashed the avocados, spread them on the crackers, arranged them on a plate and shoved them back in the fridge. It was now 5.30. She returned to the office, snatched up her keys and ran down the stairs.
Halfway down she realised she hadn’t put Gladwrap around the plate. She dashed back up to the kitchen, found the Gladwrap and opened the fridge. The plate was gone. As she stared at the empty shelves the kitchen door opened. Melody stood in the doorframe in yoga pants and t-shirt.
“How are you getting on?” she trilled. “I’m just off to my class, but I’ll be back in time for the meeting.”
“They’re not here,” Laura said. “I did them and put them in the fridge, but they’re not here.”
Melody’s body folded like a puppet whose strings had been dropped.
“Oh, look, Laura, if you didn’t want to help you should have told me in the first place. If that’s how you feel, just go home and I’ll give up my yoga class. It’s the only relaxation I have all week, but don’t concern yourself about that. I’ll stay here and do the catering myself.”
“I did do it, but now they’re not here.”
“Oh Laura! Don’t make excuses. Just go home. And in future, I would appreciate a bit more honesty.”
On her way down the corridor Laura saw a light on in one of the offices. One of the managers was sitting at a table with a group of people around him. They were tucking into the crackers and avocados in the middle of the table. Laura thought of running back to tell Melody and dragging her down here to show her. However, she’d end up having to stay and make something else and as there was nothing in the fridge Melody would expect her go to the supermarket. So no. Melody could damn well miss her yoga class and do her own shopping.
Next morning she went straight to Melody’s office and told her where the missing food had gone. Melody blinked at her and flapped her hand. “Oh yes, I know. Trevor told me he’d taken them. Don’t worry about it. I stayed behind myself and made the snacks for our meeting, so there’s no need for you to make such a fuss. Next time, just make sure you’re better organised. And by the way, I notice you’re not wearing your tiara. You need to reflect on your attitude.”
Laura closed the door behind her, walked over to HR and handed in her resignation.
Four months later, still unemployed, she found out that Melody had sabotaged every job application she’d made.
After another month a colleague rang to let her know that Melody had now left the department.
“Was she fired?”
“Nope. She’s gone up the ladder to a position as some sort of advisor to the government. Thought you’d like to know.”
Laura put the phone down. She wondered if Melody skipped sideways down the corridors of parliament. She wondered if she advised the Prime Minister to wear a tiara and sparkles on her way to meetings.
She filled out another job application.
Sandra Arnold lives in New Zealand. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Central Queensland University, Australia and is the author of five books. Her most recent are a novel, The Ash, the Well and the Bluebell (Mākaro Press, NZ, 2019) and a flash fiction collection, Soul Etchings (Retreat West Books, UK, 2019). Her short fiction has been widely published in New Zealand and internationally. Check out her web site at www.sandraarnold.co.nz. Sandra recommends the Cancer Society of New Zealand.