Time to share the first chapter of the romantic comedy: Love Me Like You Mean It.
“We are pleased to hear from our newest designer, Emma King, who will present to us a fresh concept shoe.”
The boardroom smells like feet, but I try to ignore it. I slide my chair back and strut to the head of the table with no mishaps. So far, so good.
This is it. The opportunity I’ve been working for my entire career. Finally, after years and years of nagging and networking, grabbing lattes and coffees for every powerhouse name in the office – and sucking up to my boss – I’m here. I’m about to show my design to the board of directors at L. P Marlowe; the number one shoe designer in Manhattan.
I try not to focus on any one person, and the sea of faces blur in front of me. Someone coughs in the back, and my hands grow clammy as I fumble with the clicker.
Relax, Emma. You’ve got this.
I arrived at the office early so I could check and triple check that everything was in order.
Snazzy high-tech slideshow––courtesy of techy neighbor AKA friend for life. Check.
The blinds are lowered halfway. Just enough to allow some natural light in and keep the room from resembling a dungeon, but also enough to keep sunlight from distorting my flawless presentation.
Cup of decaf coffee sitting far enough away from any electrical devices but still within reach. Check.
Nothing can go wrong.
I smooth out my Jigsaw skirt, praying the price tag doesn’t fall out during the presentation, and flick my hair back with a deep breath. It’s show time.
“Thank you for the introduction, Stewart. Thank you all for giving me your time today. I am excited to present to you a design you will have never seen before.” I press the clicker and beam at the board of directors sitting round the conference table. “These are what I call, Schnooze shoes.”
I pause, a confident smile still on show, scanning all the faces for any sign of life. My ears wait for a unified gasp of shock and awe, but I’m met with vacant stares. Just crickets.
Okay, Emma. You’ve prepared for this. Time for the speech.
“In a recent poll, our market researchers discovered that a whopping ninety-seven percent of New Yorkers can’t wait to kick off their shoes after a long day at work. I mean, hands up if you look forward to that?”
A few shaky hands rise in the air and my spirits lift.
“Right. We also found that at least seventy-two percent of New Yorkers have hard floors in their home. And everybody hates cold feet.” I wink at poor Jonesy. He invited the whole office to his wedding last year but his fiancée never showed. “Maybe if Megan had a pair of Schnooze, she wouldn’t have left you at the altar. Am I right?” I laugh at my own wit with a snort, but the stares turn cold. Panic stations. I’m losing them. I need to think of something, quick. Who knows when I’ll get another opportunity like this again?
“Schnooze shoes are the perfect shoe for professionals. They’re fluffy on the inside but look like a normal shoe on the outside. Now, busy New Yorkers can take the comfort of their own home with them to work. So, they can schmooze at the Christmas party, and let their feet snooze at the same time.”
A few people mumble, and the energy in the room shifts. I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or not but I take it as an opportunity to carry on.
“We had a focus group trial these shoes for two weeks and report back. As you can see on the graph here – wait sorry, not that slide – how do I go back again?”
I manically press the clicker, flipping through my slideshow, and ignore the sea of eyes recording my distress.
“This one,” I say triumphantly, as the graph shows up on the screen. I wipe the sweat from my upper lip with my sleeve and do my best to carry on with my dignity intact. “As you can see here, most of our focus group reported that they enjoyed wearing the Schnooze shoes and a whopping sixty-six percent of participants would recommend them to a friend.”
A hand rises in the air, and I jump at the opportunity to answer a question.
“That number at the bottom… fourteen. Is that the sample size?” The question hangs and tightens round my neck like a noose. Drops of sweat cling to my temples and I fan myself with my cue cards. Did someone turn up the heat?
“Yes. Well, it was tricky to find enough people with the time restraints…” I trail off and wipe my upper lip again with my sleeve. To my horror, a smudge of orange makeup stains it and now I have visions of myself talking to these heavy hitters with a milk moustache.
“Emma. Don’t you mean Snooze Shoes? You know they’ve been on the market for years.” The directors talk to each other now, ignoring my presence, and my ears ring. This ship is heading for destruction, the cold look from my boss is my iceberg. But I’m not giving up.
“No, no, no. You see, these are different because Snooze shoes are just slippers. These are slippers disguised as work shoes.” I have to raise my voice over the chatter now. Chairs scrape across the floor and people leave the room, shaking their heads and muttering to each other as they go.
“No, don’t go. These shoes are the future. Soon, everyone in Manhattan will be wearing them, you’ll see. They’re going to be huge!” I can no longer hide the desperation in my voice as the last of the directors file out of the room. Then I fall quiet and stare in disbelief as the room empties and the only people left are me and my boss.
“In my office. Now,” he says, his face turning gray. My stomach tightens and I think a bit of vomit just rose to my mouth. Five minutes. All those years, all those hours, all that hard work, for five measly minutes. And just like that, it’s all over. My entire career is down the drain. I follow my boss with a heavy sigh and hatch a plan for the rest of the day. There’s only one thing to do when your hopes and dreams get squished like a bug. Only one activity that might offer a glimmer of hope that your future won’t suck as much as the present. Yes. It’s time to try on wedding dresses.
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