The New Title

Sandra took a last look at herself in the mirror. Satisfied with what she saw, she smoothed her light brown hair, patted it once, and left her room. The Copthorne wasn’t the most expensive or luxurious hotel Auckland had to offer, but it was clean, centrally located, and reasonably safe. And anyway, her company wouldn’t pay top dollar for lodging. It didn’t matter; Sandra wasn’t picky.

It was a short walk to the Sierra Café – less than ten minutes, so the GPS map had said. But there were one or two confusing turns in the road, so Sandra ended up getting to the café five minutes later than she’d said. By the time she arrived, Todd was already waiting, sitting at one of the outside tables.
“Sorry I’m late,” she almost gasped as she caught her breath.
“No worries,” he said. “I’m glad you made it.”
They walked inside and ordered coffees and bagels with cream cheese. It was a beautiful morning, so they decided to eat at one of the outdoor tables.

“How was the trip?” Todd asked.
“Long and tiring, but no problems, thanks. And I got a decent sleep last night.”
“At least it’s a direct flight from Los Angeles.” Todd was right about that. Fourteen hours was a long flight, but it was better than the hassle of layovers.
The food arrived, and Sandra and Todd took sips of their drinks and bites of their bagels.

Sandra brought the subject up first. “Do you want to talk about the project now?”
“Yeah, sure, why not?” Todd stretched his arms a little and they got to work. Their publishing company had offices in a few countries and, thanks to Zoom and other technology, most of the company’s projects were completed remotely. But Sandra had always wanted to visit New Zealand, so she’d saved up some money and persuaded her boss that a face-to-face meeting with Todd would help get their new anthology done sooner.

For an hour, Todd and Sandra planned their work. Each had a list of stories that had been submitted, so it took some time to whittle it all down. But in the end, they got a final tally of ten stories they’d include, and a title. By then they’d finished their coffee and food, and both had other meetings scheduled. “I’ll show you around a bit later,” Todd promised as they got up to leave. Sandra agreed and they parted company. Sandra turned right to walk back to the hotel, and Todd pulled the bus schedule up on his telephone to check when the next bus would go by.

The walk up Anzac Avenue back to the Copthorne was mostly uphill, so Sandra was ready to sit for a while when she got to her room. She turned on her computer and got ready for the Zoom meeting with her boss. When Ed logged on, they greeted each other, and then Ed got right to the point.
“I thought about waiting until you got back, but I didn’t want you to hear it through gossip.”
Sandra’s stomach lurched and she swallowed hard. “Hear what?” she almost croaked.
“Ben Rogers just announced his retirement. That leaves his position open. And you’re top of the list to get it.”
“Me?” Ben was head of international acquisitions. That job would mean more travel, but it was a big step up.
“Yes, you. You’ve got what it takes. I even put your name in the hat. They’re making the decision next week, so –”

“– be prepared for a call or email about it,” Todd’s boss Carly told him. “You’re up for the position and I know you could do it.” Todd thanked her for the vote of confidence and clicked the ‘End Call’ button on his telephone. Head of international acquisitions – that would be something. Carly had told him he was a sure bet, but he couldn’t be certain.

Neither could Sandra. She didn’t want to cancel on Todd; he was taking time out of his day to show her around. But at the same time, it would be awkward, with both up for the position. In the end, she decided to go ahead with it. They’d both just have to be professional.

Todd met her at her hotel later that day, and they walked down to the marina. After a little small talk, Sandra decided to bring the subject up. “I had a Zoom meeting with Ed – my boss. He told me Ben Rogers is retiring.”
“Yeah, I heard that, too.” Todd didn’t look any more comfortable than Sandra felt. She looked directly at him. “It’s going to be one of us, I think.”
“Probably.” He looked right back at her. “But let’s let the bigwigs decide it. Let’s not ruin your visit.”

Sandra agreed and they wandered around the marina. They even went to the top of Sky Tower (Don’t look down, Sandra thought during the ride up.). A food stop, a pedicab ride, and it was ten-thirty before either of them knew it. “Guess I’d better get you back,” Todd suggested.
“That’s probably a good idea. It is getting late.”
The two walked back towards the Copthorne, neither saying much. One of them was going to get very good news, and the other wasn’t, and neither knew what to say about it.

They said their goodbyes at the edge of the park across from the hotel, and Sandra started to cross Anzac Avenue. Just then, a bus came hurtling along, hitting her at full speed. Within minutes the police and an ambulance arrived.
“She didn’t even look at me!” the bus driver insisted. “She was looking the other way!”
“The other way?” the cop asked.
“I think I know why,” said another cop. “ID says she’s American. They drive the other side of the road.”
A pale-faced Todd stood to one side, where he’d been told to wait. He’d have to brave it out, but he’d be the one with the new job.

8 thoughts on “The New Title

  1. I was just thinking, ‘I hope he desn’t push her under a bus, or even vice-versa’ when ‘bang’. Nicely told, Margot. I do enjoy your short fiction!


  2. This was dark and the ending was so unexpected. It read very differently until the end, and I loved that. The ending made me say what the hell! rather loudly, but it was so well done. I enjoyed this piece Margot.


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