Parker grunted and punched some more numbers on her phone. Ever since the Who Wants to Be a Soap Star? execs had revoked her director’s status, getting through to a human being at Star Power Studios took five times longer.
A perky recording recited menu options, and Parker crossed her eyes. “For the love of peanut butter, don’t give me voice command options on your stupid Call Delay System. The slightest background noise, and—”
“I’m sorry,” soothed the recording. “I didn’t catch that. Please rephrase your request, or say ‘Repeat Menu’ to hear your options again.”
Parker stifled a growl and gripped the phone closer to her mouth. “I neeeeeed to talk to a human being, preferably not an idiot, who can—”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that. Please—”
“Gaaaaah!” Parker disconnected and flopped in a faceplant onto her bed. There were few things she hated more than talking to machines on the phone, and she’d already done two of them today: shopped at a mall in downtown L.A., and endured inane small talk with a nail technician at the salon during a mani-pedi so her digits would sparkle on the tropical sands of Puerto Rico. She understood such trials were the expectation of those going on luxury spa vacations, but who had time for those things?
After a few suffocating seconds, Parker lifted her chin to rest awkwardly on the pillow. She knew most people would find her unreasonable for complaining about an all-expenses-paid tropical vacation, but she didn’t want to sip fruity drinks with paper parasols and fend off passes from handsome-but-boring beach loungers. She wanted to work. In the television business, taking a week off could give some flashy little upstart with a well-connected uncle a chance to steal the next major opportunity from the people with real talent. The people like Parker.
She groaned and rolled over. “One more time,” she told herself. “Make nice with the studio phone system. Try not to kill anyone.”
She dialed. She listened. She opened her mouth to speak her selection. The groundskeeper for her condominium revved his lawn mower, and the neighbor’s dog barked his objections.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that. Please rephrase—”
“Gaaaaaah!” Parker decided the day was already a bust, so she might as well do that other thing she hated: drive in Los Angeles traffic to the studio. She’d probably get there before anyone answered the phone, anyway.
“Sandy!” Parker marched into the business office for Star Power Studios and plastered what she hoped passed for a pleasant smile on her face. She braced herself for the frustration that always came when dealing with 93% of the people at work.
“Hiya, Parker! You on the island yet?”
Parker looked down at her scuffed tennis shoes and jeans. “Actually, I’m right here.”
“Ha ha, so you are. You’re even still dressed for work.”
Was she still wearing her standard black t-shirt and ponytail? Parker wasn’t one for fluffing herself when there were more effective things to do with her time. Let the soap stars and reality show contestants worry about fashion. She had to make the show look good despite their efforts.
“So, Sandy, I couldn’t get through on the phone system and figured I’d stop by and talk in person.”
“Why didn’t you just email?”
“Because you never check your email after noon.”
“How did you know I …?”
“I know everything, remember? Except my flight information.”
Sandy’s tattooed eyebrows scrunched. “Flight information? Why would you need that?”
“Uh … remember the bit about the island vacation?”
“Well, sure, but you take the ferry. You have to reserve in advance, but—”
“Sandy.” Parker checked her temper by pressing her new, glossy fingernails to her forehead. “Sandy, since when do they have ferries out in the Caribbean?”
The explosion of laughter from Sandy startled Parker. “Oh, Parker! I didn’t know you had a sense of humor!”
“What? Puerto Rico’s still there, right? The hurricane didn’t wipe it out completely?”
Parker over-enunciated to keep herself from yelling. “San Juan, Puerto Rico.”
Sandy hiccuped. “San Juan Islands, not San Juan, Puerto Rico! Why would we send you there?”
Parker rubbed her eyelids trying to fathom how she could have missed such an important detail. “I don’t know, Sandy. Because it’s a popular vacation destination this time of year for TV directors who have been banished for not showing enough boobs?”
Sandy released a loud sigh and adopted a maternal tone. “Parker, you directed Team Northwest. The execs are sending you to a famous vacation spot in the Pacific Northwest, namely the San Juan Islands in Washington. You go up north of Seattle and take a ferry out. I’m the one that did all the research and reservations. It’s going to be beautiful.”
“Wait, what?” Parker released a whimper and dropped her forehead to the high counter between them. “I don’t even want to go to a resort, and now you’re telling me I’m going north for the winter?”
“Just like Santa’s elf,” said Sandy with a giggle. “Here, I think I printed something out when I was searching … yes, here it is.” She handed Parker a screenshot of a website.
Feeling her jaw flop open, Parker stared at pictures of tall evergreens, not palm trees. “Silly me. So, I should…”
“Pay incidentals and send me pics of the receipts with your cell phone. We’ll reimburse you within three business days. The studio already paid for your cabin—it’s actually on Orcas Island, not San Juan—and there are some vouchers waiting for you there for local attractions. There’s a bunch of islands all close together. You’re going to have a blast. I wish I could go.”
“Trade you. I’ll run the office while you—”
“No way, Parker. My staff can’t handle your level of intensity. You go relax. I’ll hold the fort while you’re gone.”
“Right. Thanks.” Parker deflated as she studied the map at the bottom of the sheet. “So I’m supposed to drive clear up to … for the love of lube jobs, Sandy, this place is practically in Canada! Why are they doing this to me?”
“You gonna want a rental car? I can order one delivered.” Sandy could be so oblivious to the pain of others. It was a coveted trait for anyone working in the business.
“They can’t even fly me up to Seattle?”
Sandy shrugged. “My bad. I forgot you’d be getting there from here.”
Parker blinked slowly. How had this studio stayed open for seven years with this kind of incompetence behind the scenes?
“Yeah. That’d be great. Thanks, Sandy.” Feeling heavy with defeat, Parker turned to go. “I guess I should have left yesterday.”
“I’ll make sure they deliver a car to your place by tonight. Anything else?”
“Not unless I can talk you into taking my place on vacation?”
“Oh, Parker, you’re so weird. Just go have fun and relax for a little while. There will still be soap operas and reality shows when you get back.”
“I know. Just no directing positions open,” she mumbled.
Sandy bounced back into cheerful mode. “Hey, I really am sorry no one from your team survived past the first few rounds. I thought your guys were the classiest.”
Gratified, Parker smiled. “Thank you, Sandy. Thank you so much. I wish the execs had seen it that way.”
Waving, Sandy returned to her computer screen. “You go enjoy a great getaway. You deserve it!”
“No, no. I’ve never done anything to deserve this.” She banged open the door and stormed out to the car.