Anna hung up the phone and punched the air “Yes, Yes, Yes!!” She pushed back her grey chair and danced on the spot, wiggling her hips, and waving her slender arms over her head.
“Get in there, you beauty,” she said to no one as she sat back at her chair and slowly rolled it towards her desk and her computer screen. Her hands just hovered over her keyboard as she let out a long slow breath. Her shoulders finally lowering for the first time in months. She immediately clicked open her email and began to formalise her good news. She did not want to give the Kielys any opportunity to change their mind.
Anna had worked long hours over the past few months, researching the famous Dublin family. She always liked to know as much as she could about whoever she was working for but this time, it was different. This time she had to research the real person not just what they presented in the media or the gossip columns. It had been exhausting.
She had tailored her pitch to suit the Kielys tastes and stated values. She knew the father was a proud and phenomenally successful businessman. He would want to show off at his only daughter’s wedding. His abrupt and haughty nature had been front in centre at Anna’s first meeting with them. Anna knew she had to play to his ego but also ensure his precious daughter felt like she was calling the shots. It had been a tough two months of researching, prepping, and rehearsing but today it had all been worth it. She had secured the Kiely wedding and she needed it.
Patrick, the owner of Prestigious Events where she worked, had been difficult lately. His micromanagement of her events at the last minute and his bitchy comments about her styling and personal life had really started to take a toll.
When she had first started at Prestigious Events, she had loved Patrick’s flair, passion and drama. She would respond to his bitchy comments about her short hair with a witty retort about his receding hairline and they would toast each other’s humour with a glass of bubbly. After 15 years, the drama was becoming exhausting and her patience was wearing as thin as Patrick’s hair.
Anna dreamed of one day running her own event company. Each time she would think about taking the plunge and leaving, Patrick’s taunts would fill her head. There had to be some element of truth to what he said. He was the one who had built his business up from nothing, to one of the premier event companies in Ireland. He obviously knew what he was talking about.
“Was that a new workout you were doing, Darling?” Patrick appeared at the office door. Today he was dressed in a bright lime green blazer, a navy shirt and navy chinos. His shoes were a soft leather slip on, also in lime green. His white teeth flashed at her. They appeared even whiter against his leathery mahogany face. He held a small white ball of fluff in one hand and a large Starbucks coffee in the other.
“Eh… no, not quite. We got the Kiely wedding.”
Patrick’s face appeared shocked for a moment. “Excellent Darling! That calls for bubbles. Me and this little madam shall go fetch.” Patrick’s words did not match his tone as he congratulated Anna and placed his Starbucks coffee down on her desk. He turned to leave but not before calling over his shoulder, “Feel free to do a little workout though. You know at Prestigious Events we need to look Prestigious!” With his last remark left hanging in the air, Patrick was gone sashaying down the corridor like a gone-off tangle twister.
Patrick walked away from Anna’s office as quick as his pencil legs could carry him. He stroked his cavoodle madam and waited for the lift. Shit he cursed to himself. Anna was good, really good. She had secured the Kiely wedding with no help from him. When word got out, everyone in the country would be after her. The invitations from the wedding magazines for lunch and cocktail parties would soon start landing on her desk. The gossip columns would be clambering to butter her up. She would be showered with gifts and treats, while they all tried to secure the exclusive on what the bride would be wearing. They would be waiting with bated breath for her to declare if a two-piece really was the new bridesmaid’s stable.
He remembered when he used to get all the attention. It used to be his opinion was the only opinion that mattered, when it came to events in Ireland. He had made candy carts at the drink’s reception the new garter for god’s sake! As Patrick sank into his classic Jaguar he caught his reflection in the rear-view mirror. He smiled and patted his toupee. Anna wouldn’t be Anna if it wasn’t for him. He had taught her everything, raised her profile to these new lofty heights. She would be nothing without him. He would remind her and the Kielys of this.
As Patrick pulled into the disabled car parking spot outside the Dublin Wine Room, his phone pinged. The Kiely wedding had been announced and his phone was aflood with social media alerts. As he clicked into the Instagram notification, his heart skipped a beat. He zoomed in closely on the picture examining the happy couple with their Colgate smiles. Patrick laughed until tears rolled down his cheeks. He would not have to try too hard to remind the groom of who he was.
The next few weeks were a flurry of activity for everyone at the event company. Anna had commandeered the boardroom and had filled it with mood boards, ribbons, paper samples and lace. Each day they filtered through the latest ideas from the anxious bride. Kate Kiely was a woman who was used to getting everything she wanted. She had wanted for nothing her whole life. She simply could not understand why One Direction wouldn’t get back together to play at her wedding!
Each day Anna listened to Kate’s requests and farmed them out to her team to research prices, availability, and colour schemes. She listened and soothed as Kate would spiral out of control each time her future husband would disagree or make a suggestion. Anna had been surprised at Jeremy Burton, the groom, taking such an interest in the wedding planning. She was used to seeing the grooms once at the initial meeting and then not again until the menu tasting. Jeremy was different. An active participant at their weekly meetings, he was keen to understand the difference between tuille and chiffon.
Anna loved seeing her ideas come to life in the mood boards and how they sparked excitement in her clients. She buzzed from juggling the magazines and weekend supplements. She enjoyed negotiating with the suppliers and vendors. She felt powerful and in control. She also secretly loved how they all wanted to please her.
The only cloud that hung over her was Patrick. He had insisted on attending the weekly meetings with the Kielys. His presence was there purely to antagonize and remind Anna who was in charge. He would fawn over Kate and insist that Anna must do everything in her power to please her. He encouraged Jeremy, bolstering him up to ensure his manly tastes were met. Anna desperately tried to manage everyone’s expectations but as the weeks went on, the requests became more extravagant and just plain ridiculous. This week’s request for a guard of honour of flamingos nearly made her want to pack the whole thing in!
“Chin up, soldier”. Doris appeared at Anna’s office door with two cups of coffee. Dressed in her usual dungarees and scruffy converse she hoped up onto the side of Anna’s desk. Her black curly hair was tied back with a red bandana which matched her bright lipstick. “Hit me, what has Pouty Pat done now?”
Anna smiled and accepted the proffered coffee and sat back in her chair. Doris had this amazing aura of calm. Always there to talk sense, lend an ear and support Anna when she needed it. Anna watched as Doris slugged back her coffee. She was so relaxed in her own skin. She got the same jibes from Patrick. “Did we hire an event coordinator or a painter?” was his usual but they didn’t seem to stick to her soul like they did Anna’s. Instead, they would slide effortlessly off her, as she simply ignored Patrick. If Anna ever managed to start her own business, Doris would be her first hire.
“This coffee is good, thank you. Just what I needed to get through today. I think it is going to be a looong night.” Anna rubbed her neck and winced as the tight muscle sent a short sharp pain down her neck and into her shoulder blade.
“Look, everything is sorted. There is literally no more you can do! I have tripled checked the seating plan for the rehearsal dinner tonight with the King and Queen and Pedro has just delivered and positioned the ice sculpture to the venue. All you need to do is drink that coffee, put your best lippy on and enjoy the madness!” Doris gestured as if she was unveiling a great mystery.
Anna laughed. “I love your confidence Doris. However, I always like to err on the side of caution. With this lot either the Champagne won’t have enough bubbles, or the ice sculpture will be too icy!” Both women laughed.
“I wonder what she will wear tonight,” Doris mused. “If the wedding dress is anything to go by, we are in for a treat.”
“Chop chop Ladies! Starting positions in 15 minutes,” Patrick interrupted their chat as he scurried past the office door. The two women stared after him and then turned to look at each other. Immediately they burst out laughing again.
“He looks like a fecking zebra!” Doris was in convulsions of laughter. Anna wiped her eyes as she tried to regain her composure “I don’t know where he gets these outfits from”.
Patrick’s black and white striped suit had caused quite the stir as he pranced through the office. The stripes diagonally across his back would encourage pedestrians to cross him if he lay down.
Anna secured her headset and took a deep breath. “Ok People we are go. I repeat, we are go.” She spoke clearly into the microphone as she opened the restaurant doors for the waiting wedding guests. The jazz band in the corner began playing softly and the waiters assumed their positions, scattered around the room and balancing trays of champagne.
Anna and her team had transformed the small Italian restaurant on Howth’s main street, into a sophisticated New York Brasserie. The venue oozed class, ambience and a cool chicness that had even surprised Anna.
Doris crackled down the headset. “The King and Queen are on approach. I repeat the King and Queen incoming.”
“Doris, please. Let’s keep it professional tonight,” Anna responded as she positioned herself discreetly into the corner of the room. A good event planner was never seen but always available. Anna had mastered fading into the background. Patrick on the other hand had not. Like a prize peacock, he immediately ran to Kate and Jeremy as they entered the venue.
“Oh my god, oh my god Patrick! It’s amazing! I love it! Kate Kiely was beaming as she surveyed the room. “Look baby, look they have a Manhattan bar just like you asked for!” Kate pointed to the back corner of the room where a busy barman was vigorously shaking a cocktail shaker in front of a row of martini glasses. “I just have to thank Daddy.”
“It’s fab, Patrick. Just as you promised.” Jeremy twinkled at Patrick. Patrick feigned modesty and swatted away their praise as he led them into the room. “It was nothing, my darlings. Now go-ahead you lovebirds, enjoy your night and if you need anything at all just holler”. Patrick patted both of them on the backside and fixed his face with a smile that must have hurt his botox.
Doris was like a raging bull as she appeared behind Anna a few moments later. “Did you see him? The cheek of him! How can he take any credit for tonight’s event, never mind tomorrow’s? He has literally done nothing, like not a tap! The absolute snake!”
Anna had also witnessed Patrick’s performance. She felt her stomach cave in and a wave of sorrow stick in her throat. She had managed to compose herself just as Doris arrived. She had always known somewhere in the dark recess of her mind that Patrick would take the credit. It was his company after all. She was just an employee and it was her job to plan events, that’s what she got paid for, she should not have needed any credit for it. Actions like this, the coldness, the calculated steps Patrick had taken to position himself within the wedding, they were the reason he was the business owner, and she would never be.
“Ok Doris. Patrick is a shit. I think we have established that. Now can we please prepare for the speeches?” Anna responded curtly and did not look at Doris. She knew if she saw those supportive eyes she would crack.
“No probs, Anna. Whatever you need…. Even if it is castrating Patrick,” Doris muttered as she gentled placed her hand on Anna’s shoulder and walked back into the room.
A few moments later Anna’s headset crackled. “Bollocks! Attention everyone. We have a missing King, eh, shit I mean groom. The groom is not on his mark for the speeches.”
Anna scanned the room quickly and calculated all the possible options.
“Thank you, Doris. Now please go get a waiter to check the men’s bathrooms. I’ll do a loop around the outside and Patrick can you please check the smoking garden. Patrick do you copy? Patrick can you acknowledge?”
Anna swiftly and discreetly exited the restaurant and began looking up and down the street outside. She silently fumed to herself. Bloody typical. Patrick was willing to take all the credit but not willing to help when she needed him. Anna rounded the back of the restaurant and peered into the dimly lit laneway. Large red rubbish bins took up most of the space. A few empty crates were stacked against the wall next to the kitchen door. It had been left ajar to let the cool night air sweep into the hot kitchen. Just as Anna turned to leave the laneway, she heard a rustle.
“Jeremy? Jeremy are you here? Are you ok?” she called as she walked towards the rubbish bins. Anna heard more rustling and a gentle banging against the side of the last bin.
“Oh God I hope this isn’t a rat!” She prayed to herself as she rounded the bin.
There behind the large red rubbish bin was Jeremy. His eyes were closed, and his head was pressed back against the wall. His trousers gathered at his ankles, his sleek hair was tousled, and his hand gripped the side of the bin. In front of him kneeled a zebra print jacket.
“What the fuck?!” Anna roared. She stood aghast rooted to the spot and unable to look away. Jeremy’s eyes shot open and panic whitened his face. He grabbed furiously at his trousers and tried desperately to wriggle away from the zebra beneath him.
“It’s …It’s eh, it’s not what it looks like. I was just looking for something!” He hastily tucked his shirt back into his trousers and began to comb his hair with his hands.
“Anna please. This is just…. Please Anna, please don’t tell Kate!” Anna stared at his pleading face; she enjoyed the anguish across it.
“Just go” she barked “Now, you rat!”
Jeremy stumbled down the laneway and back around to the front of the restaurant.
Anna studied Patrick as he slowly rose to his feet and faced her. He puffed out his chest “Darling, you know what this business is like. We have to keep our clients happy.”
Anna was agog. Even now Patrick thought he could micromanage his way out of this.
“No problem Patrick. I will be sure to add this “extra” in our invoice to Mr Kiely. How exactly would you like it itemised?”
Patrick was startled at Anna’s resolve, “Come on, Darling. There’s no need to be like that. Let me get you a glass of bubbles, you have been working so hard. Let’s have some bubbles and we can chat this through, ok sweetie?”
Patrick attempted to move away and walk down the laneway, but Anna blocked his path. “No” she stared at him speaking with a new unfamiliar tone, “No more, Patrick. No more winning clients for you, no more doing all the work. No more you and your lazy selfish ways. I’m done. I am actually done! You are going to pay me all the commission from this wedding along with a very, very, BIG bonus to compensate me for all my hard work to date and I want it in my account by Monday.”
“Darling, come on now be reasonable…” Patrick protested.
“In my account by Monday or I tell not only Mr Kiely, about what I witnessed but also O.K, Hello, maybe the Irish Times could feature it in their weekend supplement?”
Patrick was flustered, his shiny mask finally slipping as he desperately pleaded with Anna. “Please Anna, I do want to talk ….” But it was too late Anna was already walking away from him and Prestigious Events.