Discover more from Heaven & El
The Itchy Soul: Chapter 2
WALKING INTO THE OFFICE a few days later after enjoying a lovely few days off celebrating, the stuffy smell did nothing to silence my fears that I was totally wasting my life. If it were possible to bottle the stench of decay and desperation, I was sure that the aroma I walked into would be exactly what it smelled like. June walked in behind me carrying coffees and pastries but her cheery greeting only grated my nerves all the more.
“Did you remember to get skimmed milk this time?” I knew I was being horrible but I didn’t care.
June appeared not to have noticed my tone. “Of course. Got you a custard slice too. Happy birthday!”
“Thanks. What’s put you in such a good mood?”
“What’s not to be happy about? The sun is shining. Coffee is good and hot. It’s going to be a great day!”
“Humph!” I stalked off in the direction of my computer, determining to do my very best to avoid any more human contact until I’d had at least another three coffees.
Trawling through the emails that had cluttered my inbox while I’d been away did nothing to lift my mood. There was an invitation to review the latest Christian romance novella from a terribly endearing looking woman whose name I was sure I should recognise but didn’t, three reminders about an upcoming dinner that my editor was desperate for me to attend, if only because it meant she didn’t have to, and a horribly wordy reply to an email I’d sent weeks ago, for which I’d long since found an answer elsewhere. Le sigh!
I’d all but given up hope of anything to lift me out of an otherwise dull morning when I read an email I’d been copied in on, outlining the planned itinerary for a retreat in Loches. “The Scientific Spirituality of Happiness.” Hmmm, interesting. Thanks to the wonders of Google I quickly discovered that Loches was in the Loire Valley in France and nope, it hadn’t started yet. Registration was open now with the very next class due to start in two weeks. Maybe this was what I needed to finally get a handle on my life and make the next half so much more meaningful than the first? This could be it!
In my head I was already packed and on a plane so when Colin popped his head over the top of my screen to announce a staff meeting in five he made me jump and I spilled the dregs of my coffee all over my desk.
“What did you do that for?” I snapped at him. “Quick! Get me a napkin or something.”
“Please.” He grumbled under his breath as he handed me a paper towel.
I mopped up most of the mess and started in the direction of the conference room. I looked back to see Colin still standing there frowning at me. “Are you coming or what?”
He followed me up the corridor and into a room even more depressing looking than the office I’d just come from. Sitting around the large oval table, trying to look enthusiastic but barely able to disguise their boredom, was the entire staff of Christian Now! Everyone except Jane, our editor, who Colin had told me was going to be late because she had an important teleconference to attend. As such it was left to her ever-faithful assistant editor Sandra to take us through the schedule for the week. We were still a few weeks off going to print with the latest issue so there was little sense of urgency. Many of our stories were still mere angles to be explored and I knew it would be at least another week of chasing up leads before the real writing could start.
Reviews and recipes were the notable exception of course so Sandra spent much of the meeting grilling me on exactly where I was at, current word counts and reminding me about the strict limit she’d placed on art work for this issue. It was something of an experiment and only time would tell if the gamble would pay off, but the less space given to photos, the more there would be for our advertisers. Privately I thought it was a crazy move, we were in danger of losing our readership if we persisted with squeezing out the content they loved so much, but what did I know? I wasn’t paid to have an opinion.
“Heard and understood Sandy.”
She frowned, apparently not feeling reassured.
“Don’t worry, I won’t let you down,” I said.
Sandra smiled and looked about to dismiss us all when the door opened and Jane walked in. She gave Sandra a terse nod. Something was up.
“G’morning everyone.” Jane sounded overly bright. “Apologies for the delay. Unexpected meeting that couldn’t be postponed.”
She glanced around the room. Everyone was watching her, waiting for more of an explanation, and when none appeared to be forthcoming I decided to take matters into my own hands.
“Everything okay Jane? You seem a little unsettled.”
“That’s very perceptive of you April.” She looked at me and hesitated. “Oh, I almost forgot, Happy birthday! I hope you had a wonderful day?”
“It was lovely.” I hesitated. “But that’s not why we’re here. What’s going on?”
She took a deep breath before speaking. “We’re approaching something of a difficult time for the magazine. As you’ll be aware, we’ve already taken measures to ensure the best placement possible for our advertising partners.”
I decided I had to say something. “What about our readers?”
“What about them? Without the advertising revenue from our partners we can’t continue. They’d have nothing to read!”
“But without the readers, partners will have no one to market to. It has to be a balance, doesn’t it?”
“Of course, and it’s something we’re constantly tinkering with. This latest development is just another evolution in that process. But let me be clear …” She looked around the room again. “If things don’t improve we will have to reduce overheads, and that will inevitably mean staffing cuts. Any questions?”
Looking like small children caught with their hands in the sweetie jar, no one spoke. This wasn’t the update anyone had been expecting and for a moment I almost felt guilty for having forced her hand.
“No one? Good. If you would excuse me then …” And she turned and left just as quickly as she’d arrived.