Cold Feet/C1 Chapter 1
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C1 Chapter 1

VIOLA

The Los Angeles Wedding Exhibition. The largest and most important annual wedding exhibition in Los Angeles. Anyone who is anyone in the industry is there and anyone who wants to be someone in the industry should be there.

It’s the first year I’ve been able to rent a booth. My initial doubts about whether I can justify the cost and whether I’ll recover the investment from a brand awareness and income perspective remain to be seen. So far, it would appear that renting a booth was the right thing to do.

I have had plenty of customers register with me for follow-up appointments and even a few confirmed bookings on the spot. All told, I’m on top of the world.

Then I see her. My role model in the industry. Christine Jackson. She is the number one in the industry. I have admired her from afar for so long. While we are competitors, I hold her in the highest regard. There’s room enough for both of us and then some in the industry. I’ve never met her though but today, at last, I see her in the flesh.

She is as beautiful as the photos I have seen of her. Her long, straight blonde hair is perfect and seems to be magically held in place. Her voice is welcoming and soothing and her emerald green eyes sparkle. She wears a smart suit that accentuates her figure in all the right places. It has the effect of creating a professional image as opposed to a sexy one, depending on who she’s talking to. I’m sure men want to talk to her for the reason that she is so sexy while their wives talk to her because she looks so professional and confident. It’s a no-brainer for a husband and wife to agree on using her for their children’s wedding or for a couple to agree to use her for their wedding even if they have different reasons for being convinced to use her.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to stereotype, and not everyone will fall for the trick but there is a reason why dressing sexy is one of the oldest tricks in the book to getting attention. It works.

Mentally, I take a page out of her book as I study myself surreptitiously in the mirror of the booth opposite mine. I might not be dressed as sexy as Christine but I’m not doing badly at all businesswise. So maybe I don’t need to dress like her and I just need to keep doing what I’m doing.

I’m surprised by a voice behind me.

“Are you Viola?”

I turn around hastily blushing at having been caught studying myself in the mirror. It’s Christine and I blush even more just because it’s her. I recover quickly and nod.

“Yes. I am. You are Christine Jackson.” I offer my hand but she ignores it.

“Everyone knows me,” she smiles.

“You have no idea. I’ve been a fan of yours ever since I started in the industry. You’re my role model.”

“Really?” Christine’s eyes flash as she takes in my remark. “I’m happy to hear that. I had no idea that someone like you was just a follower.”

I’m fawning over Christine like a school girl when her first crush notices her for the first time. Before I can say anything more my assistant, Jessica catches my attention. I look at her and she holds up her mobile phone and indicates that someone wants to talk to me.

“Um… excuse me for a moment,” I say. I cross to Jessica who takes me by the arm and turns away from Christine.

“Who’s on the phone?”

“No-one,” she whispers. “but take my advice. Pretend there’s someone on the phone and walk away right now. Come back when she’s gone.”

I look at her quizzically but her expression tells me she’s in charge and furious. I take the phone and press it to my ear. I start a fake conversation with no-one and walk away.

Jessica steps up to Christine.

“I’m so sorry. Viola had to take that call. Another booking.”

Christine nods and smiles. She extends her hand, “No problem. And you are?”

Jessica ignores Christine’s hand just as Christine ignored mine. “Jessica. Can I help you?”

“You are,” Christine smiles as she picks up one of our brochures. “I just came to see your booth to make sure I’m not making any amateur mistakes.”

“Well then I guess you can see that you have a lot of fixing to do,” Jessica retorts coldly.

Christine’s eyes harden and she casts one last glance around my booth. Despite Jessica’s loyalty to me, Christine presses on, “If ever you want to work with a true professional, call me. I’ll pay more. Besides, I don’t think your boss is going to be in business much longer.”

“Why is that?” Jessica asks.

“Just a hunch,” Christine says. “My offer stands as long as this joke is in business. When it’s not in business anymore, my offer will be gone. Get out while you’re ahead.”

“I am ahead,” Jessica responds. “We are ahead of you. Now, why don’t you go and be men’s fantasy at your booth before I have to call the cleaners.”

Christine’s face flushes with anger. She opens her mouth then closes it again before walking briskly away.

I watch Jessica and Christine from afar but can’t hear what is said. After Christine leaves, I return to the booth.

“What was that about?” I ask Jessica.

“Jesus, girl! You were fawning all over that tart!” She mimics me, “You’re my role model. She’s probably telling the guests at her booth that she’s your role model. She even offered me a job and said that you won’t be in business much longer.”

“What?” I ask astounded.

“Yeah, so much for your role model,” Jessica says.

“Let me go over there and give her a piece of my mind…”

Jessica stops me. “Leave it, Vi. There’s no need to make this any worse. She’s just jealous because we’re better than her and she knows it. Take the high road and let it go. There’s more than enough room for both of us in this game.”

I sigh. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Thanks, Jessica.” I enter the booth and sit down. Inside I am still fuming. I had nothing but respect for Christine but with what Jessica just told me, I have lost all respect for her. I’m hurt too and finally take a walk to calm myself down.

The rest of the exhibition passes without further contact between Christine and myself. The clients we have gained from being present have made the exhibition well worth it and help me to forget about the disappointment of what happened with Christine.

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