Public Relations

By: Katie Heaney



To One Direction, whose music gave us so much, including the idea for this novel.





1.


JOANNA IS GOING TO KILL ME.

I was already fifteen minutes late getting off the R train, and despite a masterful sprint through union   Square—dodging old men playing chess, and shoppers comparing artisan cheeses at the farmers market, all while wearing a black shift dress and heeled sandals that smacked loudly against the street with each step—I still didn’t walk through the door of Weaver-Girard Public Relations until 9:13. Joanna (the Girard of Weaver-Girard, and the head of the firm’s music division) likes me to be in the office, her coffee in hand (black, no milk and obviously no sugar) by 8:55. As I came to a screeching stop outside her massive, glass-windowed office, a spray of hot coffee leapt from the cup onto the back of my hand. “Shit,” I hissed, wiping my hand on my dress. When I looked up, ready to receive the scolding of a lifetime, I finally realized that Joanna’s office was dark, and she was nowhere to be seen.

“Where have you been?”

Harper, my best friend, cubicle mate, and ally in perpetual fear of Joanna, was at my side, taking the now-soggy cup from my hand and throwing it into the garbage bin next to reception.

“Hey,” I said. “I could have had that.”

“Oh my God, you’re right,” she said. “I don’t know what I was thinking, I just panicked.”

“What’s going on?” I asked. “Where’s Joanna?”

“She flew to Dubai,” she whispered. “Left an hour ago. Trevor sent for her.”

“Oh my God,” I said. Trevor James was Weaver-Girard’s biggest client, on both sides. He was twenty-seven years old, had three platinum rap albums and an always-intricate blond undercut, and was a complete and total drama queen. He was the only client big enough to have Joanna herself on call, and the only one for whom she’d do just about anything. Even, apparently, flying to Dubai last-minute on the morning of the firm’s first meeting with its second-biggest client, who’d broken up with his previous publicity team after a major dip in sales. “What about Archie Fox?” I asked.

“Have you not been checking your email?” hissed Harper. “What’s wrong with you?”

“I was underground!”

Instead of giving me an explanation, Harper rolled her eyes and walked off in the direction of our desks. Because Harper was about seven feet tall, I practically had to jog to keep up.

“She’s sending you in,” said Harper, once we were safe within the (relative) privacy of our cube.

“What do you mean, ‘sending me in’?” Surely she wouldn’t ask me to take coffee orders in the Archie Fox meeting. That’s supposed to be the administrative assistant’s job, I thought, tightening my jaw in annoyance. It was bad enough I had to bring hers every day. I might have been, at twenty-six, one of the younger people on staff, but I certainly wasn’t green. I’d been promoted to media relations associate more quickly than anyone in company history, or so I’d been told.

“To the meeting,” said Harper, the duh implied. “In her place.”

“What?” I was sure I’d heard her wrong. “Like. On her behalf?”

“Yeah,” said Harper. “Read your email for once.”

She folded her hands on top of her desk and raised her eyebrows at me, clearly planning to watch me while I logged into my account. Even though I’d been warned, my heart still started racing when I opened my inbox and saw four separate emails from Joanna at the top. Each of the subject lines began with URGENT.

I opened the most recent first, and read aloud:

Seriously, Rose, I almost hope you actually are dead, because at least then I’d know I hadn’t been completely insane when I promoted you last month, and it’s not that you’re suddenly and inexplicably UNREACHABLE, but that you’ve been run over by a bus.



I looked back at Harper, who was doing a very bad job pretending not to laugh.

I continued to read:

If you ARE still alive, and want any hope of redeeming yourself for falling so maddeningly silent these past sixty minutes, you will go to my 10:00 a.m. As you have, no doubt, already heard, we’re working on putting together a rebrand package for Archie Fox. Weaver, Daniels, and Fitz will all be there, so your job is more or less to be the music person in the room. Do not mistake me—this does not mean that you should speak. Don’t look at anyone more than necessary, and especially not Archie. Take detailed notes, and email them to me immediately afterward. You are ONLY there to keep them accountable. Do you understand? Please, for the love of God, email me before 10:00 to tell me you understand.