Stories from the Hart: Catching Curve Balls

Catching Curve Balls by Shannon Hart

I just received the new outline for tonight’s segment that said there were two new celebrity break-ups. It broke my heart. Two of my favorite actors were going to end up in ugly, messy, excruciating divorces and our five o’clock "What’s New Now" news program would be the first media outlet to break the news.
I shook my head. Should I have been happy that we got the news first? Or should I have sulked because another relationship was about to end? I was confused. Nevertheless, life had to move on and since I met those actors probably only twice in my life, my job was more of a priority. I sighed. Another break-up. It was sad.
"Hey Julie, Rob wants to see you in his office," Nancy said as she handed me a copy of the final script for tomorrow morning’s segment.
"What for?"
Nancy shrugged. "No idea. Maybe he wants to ask you out?" she replied cheekily. For some odd reason, she was always trying to get me to go out with Rob, one of my bosses. I had no idea why she thought it was such a good idea and it was hardly even appropriate. The roll of eyes routine I did at her whenever she mentioned the subject should have hinted to her that I wasn’t interested. I mean, seriously, why would I want that?
After all the relationships I had seen, and all the break-ups I had witnessed in my job and in my life, the last thing I wanted to happen was to fall in love at the office. I was one of those people who vowed never to mix business with pleasure, as cliché as that may sound. My morals, which I believe kept me sane in this business, have guarded me from making the same mistake some of my best friends have made.
I have vowed to be the one to dodge the bullet, to keep myself from the utter humiliation of an office breakup, and a career ending prematurely because of the awkwardness of having to continue to see each other every single day post breakup.
From my beautiful corner office at ENN, short for Entertainment News Network, I walked over hesitantly to Rob Chambers’ office. With my brown leather notebook in hand, I was ready to face whatever he had in store for me. Or so I thought.
I smiled as I passed by Joanna, the new receptionist who had just started that day. Her hands were nervously pressing the phones, struggling to keep track of everyone’s extensions and messages. I felt a pang of sympathy for her.
Five years ago, I was nowhere near this side of the world. Heck, I didn’t even think I’d stand a chance to be where I am now as the Communications Director at ENN.
I was fresh out of college, with an idealistic mind, thinking I’d go conquer the world and that my dreams would come true. Don’t we all think that the minute we have that big old diploma in our hands?
Yes, I was totally one of those people. I had the diploma in my hand, and a list of jobs to apply for. I thought I was destined for greatness, you know. I majored in International Relations and thought I’d be a president someday and change the world. Ha. A lot has definitely changed since then.
After sending piles and piles of applications, the only job I finally managed to get was as an assistant at Bradford & Associates, the PR Company that my roommate Riley worked for. Oh, and by the way, before you think I got the job because of my wonderful computer and telephone answering skills, I got the job because Riley’s mom was the Human Resources Manager and she felt sorry for me. Or as she put it "I’m afraid her skinny unemployed ass won’t be able to pay her half of the rent!" But hey, her pity, or whatever it was, got me going and I couldn’t thank her enough.
From the assistant position, I worked my way up as a PR executive because Dana Morrow, the president of the firm, believed in me. She got her big break because someone believed in her, so she promised herself to one day return the favor to someone deserving. That someone just happened to be me. Before I knew it, I was hijacked by ENN and here I am, with my big corner office with possibly the best view in the city. That is, if you look outside. If you look the other way, facing inside, all you see is the corner office across from mine, the office of the one and only Rob Chambers. That’s what happens when your office is designed with all glass interiors. Why couldn’t someone have put a wall in here somewhere? Jeez, a girl needed privacy sometimes, you know?
For some people, Rob Chambers was a household name. Strike that, who was I kidding? It wasn’t "for some people," it was "for the whole world." He was not only the executive producer of the hottest morning show in the country, Sunrise with Rob Chambers, he was also the host, who hosts the 6am to 10am morning show that is syndicated in at least 30 countries worldwide. Did I mention that he is the major shareholder of ENN with 65% under his name, and owns at least 5 radio stations in this town? Oh, and let’s not forget that he also owns "Ssshhh!" the fastest growing and hottest selling celebrity gossip magazine in the US market today.
Everyone loved Rob Chambers. In fact, as far as I could remember, the only bad publicity he had gotten over the last five years was one lame headline quoting him allegedly saying, "I’m so lonely!"
"Julie, thanks for stopping by," he said politely, and pulled out a chair for me.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" I asked nonchalantly, not wanting to sound like I hated him, or like I liked him either.
"Do you know about the issue Cara Carpenter is making about the dress that Andrea Rhodes wore on yesterday’s five o’clock segment?" he asked, looking straight at me.
"Yes, and I am dealing with it. Apparently, the closing credits mentioned it was a Samantha Shane dress instead of Cara Carpenter. I spoke to legal, and they are dealing with it, and I have the statements from our side drafted up and ready for release tomorrow." I had my arms crossed, which was probably body language for defensiveness or something.
"Great... Great… Now, what about the preparations for the gala tonight?"
"Everything is going as planned. We’ll need you to make your grand entrance with your date at 8:30 sharp. We have your tux from Giorgio ready, and her dress from Chanel. The limo will be at your house by 7, and the speech is already in your tux pocket."
"Date? You got me a date?" The expression on his face showed a true sense of surprise and I was completely confused.
"Rob, last week we talked about this already. I told you it would be good if you could bring a date, so we arranged for you to go with Tania Walters. We fitted her in the most beautiful Chanel gown yesterday. She stopped eating for a week to fit into that dress!"
"What makes you think I’d look good with Tania Walters on my arm?" he asked, squinting.
"Anyone would look good with Tania Walters! She’s so beautiful she could walk with Shrek and he’d look like a million bucks!" I exclaimed, a bit too loudly. "So what does this mean? You don’t want to bring her? Do we have to alter the dress for someone else you want to bring?" It was a totally fair question, since we did have to do it before. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Two months ago, the "victim" was Joanna Pierce, a lovely British model. We got her all dressed up, and Rob’s limo never picked her up. The limo picked up Aileen Parker instead, and brought Aileen to Joanna’s place to practically tear the dress off of Joanna.
"Well, to be honest I had someone else in mind," he said quizzically.
"Who? Brooke Benson? Riley Scott?"
"Hmm… not exactly," he said, as he moved from his seat to the seat next to me.
I quickly opened my notebook. I was trying to find the list of names I wrote down last week while I was picking my brain trying to find Rob the best possible date for tonight’s gala.
I shook my head.
"The only name I have left here are Ann Robertson, Stacie Riviera and Madeline Chan. Any of those ladies you’d prefer?"
"Julie, close your notebook."
I looked up.
"Just stop that for a minute. I know you have my best interest at heart and I appreciate you trying to line up all these beautiful models to be my date for the gala but tonight’s gala is extremely important to me."
"I know that, Rob. That’s why I’m doing this. We want the public to see you with a beautiful girl not just because she’d look pretty as arm candy. We want people to see you looking like you’re in love, or full of love, or something like that. This gala is honoring you for the work you have done with society. They don’t want to see you as a sad, lonely guy." As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew I shouldn’t have said them. He hated that headline he got a few years ago, mostly because it was true. No, he never said those words. But even though he never said them, it didn’t mean they weren’t actually true.
"I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that," I said, regretting the fact that I had forgotten to filter my words. I had a way of doing that sometimes, even my mom hated it.
"It’s OK, Julie. In a sense, you’re right. And I agree with you actually."
"That’s great! So we can agree on Tania?" I responded excitedly.
He shook his head. "No, I meant I agree with you that I need to be in love. Or full of love. Or something like that."
My eyes narrowed and I tried to read his expression, but I was completely lost. I had no idea where he was going with this.
"Julie, I have actually been meaning to ask you to be my date for the gala. I have wanted to say something for a week now, but I just never found the courage nor the opportunity."
"I don’t understand… why me?" I asked, completely dumbfounded.
"Why not you? You’re beautiful, smart, and talented. You’re kind and caring and I’ve been falling for you since you walked through my office the first time. Tonight is so special to me and I can’t imagine sharing it with anyone but you."
To say I was shocked would not be entirely accurate. I was more than shocked, but didn’t have the right words to describe it.
For one, I couldn’t get over the fact that he wanted me – silly old me – to be his date to such an important event in his life. And secondly, did he say he never found the courage? Was that even possible? Rob Chambers, someone so high and mighty, didn’t have courage? Thirdly, he had been falling for me? As in falling in love or something? Was this his idea of a cruel joke?
I could hear my heart beating so loudly it was like it was on a loud speaker for the whole office to hear. I swallowed hard, not knowing how to answer or what to do next.
"Julie? Are you going to say anything?" he raised his eyebrows and asked.
Under different circumstances, it would have been hilarious to see him like that, suddenly at a loss of confidence. Under these circumstances, I actually found it to be rather charming, not to mention good for my ego. I mean, seriously, the thought of me making him doubt himself was beyond a five-star rating.
"So, what do you say, Julie? Will you be my date?" he asked again, with a hopeful look in his eyes.
As if I had no control over myself, I nodded and agreed to being picked up at my apartment at 7:30. I left his office smiling and found myself with the classic, overrated butterflies in my stomach. It was like I didn’t even remember that I had made those sacred vows of avoiding office relationships, even though technically this was only one date.
But I guess that was life. It threw curve balls at you when you least expected it. You thought you were safe, you thought you knew it all. Then, the ball was suddenly heading your way, and you could see it clearly. Did you catch it? Or did you run, because you had never been good at sports anyway, so why bother?