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Project Rock Island

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Tess O’Brien was having a particularly difficult morning. Knowing what is awaiting her, she came to the office early, not later than seven thirty in fact, prepared her own coffee and tried to shake her grumpiness by sipping it slowly while going through her emails. That’s how she eased her Monday into four meetings before eleven o'clock.

Eleven twenty one and she still haven't made the decision who will be in charge of the Rock Island Project. Of course, Elaine is her most experienced event organizer and Tess knows she can rely on her to handle the matter professionally and within designated budget and deadline. However, Elaine can be very difficult at times, treating her co-workers like subordinates, eager to get the job done. Usually it is not a problem, her fierce personality dominating the others in a manner that they turn into workaholics who don’t even remember to complain. This particular time she would have to work closely with a brilliant, but very stubborn designer, and Tess could see a catastrophe rolling down the hill, if those two should work in the same office day after day, month after month. No, Elaine was not the person for this job, Tess shook her head with fear, foreseeing the storm which will come down to her head once Elaine finds out she was skipped over. After all, Elaine was a senior partner, and Rock Island Project was worth a lot of money and a real career boost. Yes, she will go to the Board to complain, and I will have to be brave enough to face them, Tess said aloud. They were a small branch of a huge company, and if the project of this magnitude underdelivers or disagreements were shown in public or in front of the client, she knew that the mother company would sell the rights to the project in a heartbeat, and shut the marketing branch down, rather than risking tarnishing company’s good name, which took decades to build.

She sighed approaching the window. She opened the Mars bar she was playing with in the last couple of minutes, hoping that few bites will help her regain her mental strength. No, not Richard, she thought her further options through. He was several times on a border to be reported for sexual harassment and no way she was gunna let him anywhere near that beautiful redhead.

Her assistant came in: 'Ma’am', he said apprehensively, 'I don’t mean to intrude, but it’s one minute past. Did you make a decision?'

'No, not yet. Did you call Mary?'

'Yes, ma’am, to put it mildly… it didn’t go well.'

Tess sighed in frustration. She felt angry with herself for being so desperate to try to convince Mary to come back early from her maternity leave. She called her herself yesterday, blabbing about this great opportunity, whereas she felt inside that she hit the rock bottom. Mary just wanted more time with her baby, but she was so desperate that she asked Todd to ring her one more time this morning.

'Argh' she cried with frustration, pushing the window open. 'Bloody Elaine, Todd! Bloody Elaine! This should be her pitch, her responsibility. But no, she cannot control her bloody temper and who am I stuck now with?! Swing-my-dick-Richard', she yelled as her assistant hurried to close the door behind him, 'or six hundred years old Jane Brickmann, who can’t login into Facebook on her own, let alone promote her project on social networks?! She is doing country fairs for God sake, and counting minutes to her retirement.'

Tess pulled her chair back, throwing herself into it, and taking her heavy head into her nervous hands. Couple of minutes passed in silence. Then she braved herself into raising her head: 'Please call Elaine and let her know that I have a project for her. And God help us all', she whispered.

'Ma’am, if you allow, you have Allie.'

'Don’t be silly', Tess had to smile, looking up at that inexperienced youngster’s face. 'Allie is a baby.'

'You may see her as a baby, Mrs O’Brien, but she is four years older than me and I am already a graduate. Three years since I’m allowed to drink, and all', he joked, seeing his boss’s look brighten up a bit. Being a mother of a nineteen year old son, she had a soft spot for his boyish attitude, and Todd used it abundantly to his everyday convenience. 'Really', he pushed while he was ahead, 'she has some great ideas, you should only hear her out, she could excel at Rock Island Project.'

'She told you so last Friday at happy hour?' Tess laughed from her heart. 'You know she is engaged, right?'

'This is not how I like her', Todd replied firmly, not wanting to be taken as not serious about business. 'I admire what she has achieved so far, what she has learnt, her approach to business.' Then he almost whispered, blushing because revealing his deep personal ambitions: 'Ma’am, she is my role model. She is where I see myself in four years, if I’m lucky.'

Tess examined his young, genuine face. She stood up, walking once again to the big window on her right. She looked couple of minutes at grey clouds upon grey looking city. The window glass was still full of raindrops, left from this morning. So what did she know about young Miss Novak? Graduated with honours from Melbourne University, got her master degree in Marketing at Melbourne Business School on a local graduate merit scholarship. Those facts, together with her eloquence and friendly attitude, which are very useful traits in their line of business, convinced her enough into employing her as junior public relations manager, but was it enough to trust her with this kind of solo project? Sure, Allie was resourceful and creative, and after she’d done well assisting on few of Elaine’s and Richard’s projects, Tess entrusted her with several small projects of her own. She didn’t let her down on those, in fact she was more than satisfied. But to entrust a twenty-five-old with fourteen months' work experience with such a big project, even thinking about it, surely would mean that she lost her mind.

She dialled a number: 'Oh hi Tess', she heard down the line. 'Hi Elaine, listen…', she started warily but was soon interrupted by Elaine speaking to someone in her office. 'Look, Tess is on the line and I do not have time to waste on fruitless discussions, ok? It is my way or highway, simple as that. Yes, Tess', she continued into the microphone, 'what can I do for you?'

'Actually, Elaine, I have to apologise for interrupting. I meant to call Richard and must have dialled your number in error.'

'Never mind, Tess', she heard from the speaker and as she was about to press the end button also: 'Do we understand each other now…', Tess raised her eyebrows in disapproval, then looked over to that fine young man who was her assistant and pride and joy of his parents. After all, she thought to herself, young should inherit this Earth.

'Todd', she said to his hopeful face, 'would you be so kind to inform Miss Novak that I would like to have a meeting with her in my office, right after lunch?'

'Yes, ma’am!' he almost jumped happily through the door, but his boss’s voice stopped him for a second in his tracks: 'And tell Miss Novak that she owes you a drink.'