A Blank Canvas

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High flying businessman and playboy, Nick Black, only likes to be seen in the company of the most glamorous women. So what is it about plain Gina Ravenscroft that has drawn him in......

Nervously, Gina Ravenscroft walks through the glass-doors of ‘Eye-2-Eye’, a high-spec advertising agency based in Soho. It’s her umpteenth such temporary engagement, undertaken via the Tudor Elite Employment Agency. She is more than happy with the arrangement, flitting between one identikit office to another as a receptionist, happily complimenting her second career as a novelist, specialising in romantic fiction. This company seems a little more highbrow than others, she thinks, as she looks around the expansive new looking reception area.
          This job had been the result of a last minute change, where a different person had been lined up through Tudor Elite, but had gone down with a sickness bug. ‘Eye-2-Eye’ had always insisted on only the most glamourous staff be sent down to fill the gap left by their usual employee being on maternity leave. As this was a late substitution, plain looking Gina, with her short, fuzzy, mousy hair, and barely there make-up, was not quite what the company Managing Director actually had in mind.
          Nick Black looks up from behind the high fronted reception desk.
          “Can I help you?” he asks, assuming she’s there as a client, or a client’s representative.
          “Tudor Elite have sent me,” she smiles, “I’m your new receptionist. Gina Ravenscroft.” She holds out her hand for Nick to shake, which he does.
          He tries not to groan at the sight of this non-descript young girl standing in front of him, wondering why the extra money he was secretly bunging the agency to ensure only good-looking temps had not been enough on this occasion. His initial instinct is to say there has been a mistake. But it’s just before 9am, and he has a busy day of meetings. She’ll have to do, he muses, pressing a button under the desk to unlock the side door.
          “Won’t you come through, Gina,” invites Nick, while wondering what his PA Angharad Morris is going to make of the new arrival.
          Despite being fairly unremarkable in looks, Gina is fearlessly confident. The only way to be, she realised, when she knew that she would overlooked by everyone quite quickly if she wasn’t, given her ordinary looking features. She holds eye contact with the handsome, sandy haired, sharp suited man in front of her. Definitely a lot easier to look at, compared to some of the portly, strange looking middle-aged gentlemen she’d been confronted with in the past. It won’t be too difficult to raise a smile today, she thinks.
          “Well, my assistant Angharad will be here any moment soon to show you the ropes, hopefully it won’t prove too difficult,” says Nick.
          “I’m sure it won’t be,” replies Gina, looking around at the expensive looking computer, and other assorted hardware behind the counter.
          The front door opens again to reveal Angharad. Tall, with her long blonde plait coiled like a large snake on top of her head, making her look even taller. Gina wonders if the woman realises how ridiculous she looks with her hair scraped back, and piled high. Exaggerated long eyelashes, tattooed eyebrows and a neon pink pout complete the look. Gina thinks she looks hideous, nearly laughing out loud at the sight of her.
          “Morning, Angharad,” chirps Nick, pressing the buzzer again.
          “Who’s this then,” says a slightly bemused Angharad, having expected the latest temp to be a carbon copy of the others, blonde or brunette and large of chest. Instead, this slightly built girl, no discernible bust to be seen, almost blending into the cream backdrop of the reception area.
          “This is our new temp, Gina,” says Nick.
          “I see,” says Angharad, a little coldly, no more impressed than Nick was at first glance.
          Gina takes no notice of the slightly unkind welcome from this cartoon-looking woman. She never makes assumptions on first meetings, prefers to get to know people before passing judgement.
          “I’ll leave the two of you to it,” says Nick, wanting to make a quick getaway upstairs where the rest of the small number of staff, four designers and two sales, along with his fellow directors Gerald Macey, and Al Walker-Timmins, are busy working.

          Nick, Gerald and Al had formed ‘Eye-2-Eye’ upon graduating from the same university some fifteen years before. Nick had the business degree, Gerald had graduated in finance, and Al in design. Between the three of them, they had decided that London’s many advertising hoardings and signs cold be done much better, and possibly much cheaper, by them. Quickly, they recruited a small team to assist them in their fledgling business, setting up in the cheapest office complex they could find. Within six months, and after a lot of hard work sourcing leads and gaining a large portfolio of clients, they had enough capital and investment to move to their present base in the heart of Soho. Their market share still isn’t massive, however it has been enough to make the three friends very wealthy, partly due to Gerald’s sharp eye for making money, having shrewdly played the stock markets for a number of years. All own their own homes, have flash cars and expensive lifestyles. Only Nick has yet to settle down, with both Al and Gerald happily married, with young families. Nick very much revels in his playboy lifestyle, courting and sleeping with numerous women at will, loving nothing more than living a high-octane lifestyle, not frightened to throw whatever money is needed to maintain this.

          Angharad is showing Gina what’s what in regards to running a moderately quiet reception area, and what is expected of her in return. Taking messages from clients, directing calls through to the directors or the sales team, dealing with occasional visitors and delivery drivers. Nothing Gina hasn’t had to do at many other businesses this past two years. Upon leaving school, her only dreams were to be a published author, and to get enough money behind her to move out of her parent’s house. The first part of her dream was accomplished six months ago, when a small publishing house agreed to take on her first full length romance novel. The small royalty she gets from this is being put on one side in readiness for a deposit on her own home; she’s some way to go before reaching the amount she’ll need, but along with the wages from the agency Gina knows that her dream will become a reality someday. Nineteen, very happily single and independent, her parents barely notice their younger daughter around the house, too wound up in their own lives and that of Gina’s older brother and his wife. They don’t even know Gina has written a book; she never got around to telling them, and she assumes they wouldn’t care in any case.

          One thing Gina has quickly noticed about Angharad, is her very dependent nicotine habit. Three times every hour she’s out on the front, chain smoking two Marlboro’s at a time. ‘What a dreadful impression to give the clients’ thinks Gina, as she sees Nick’s PA lighting up another cigarette in full view, a mere ten seconds after stubbing out the previous one. Just as she does, a short, dumpy, balding man in a pinstripe suit steps out of a chauffeured car and starts to talk to her. From the active looking conversation, it looks like he’s very well known to her. He puts his hand up to her, before stepping through the doors.
          “Good morning lass, you must be new,” says the man, in a very broad Yorkshire accent, “Bit different from the usual, must admit.” The man is eyeing up Gina in a rather uncomfortable manner.
          “I’m Gina, the new temp” she says by way of introduction.
          “Very good, my name is Tiny Rogerson, and I’m here to see Nick or Gerald, if they are about,” he says, as Gina can see him talking to her chest.
          “Yes, I’ll call up for you,” says Gina, quickly reaching for the receiver of the internal telephone system. Angharad re-enters the reception. Gina hits the buzzer to let her back behind the desk, as she gets through to Nick, explaining a Mr Rogerson is here to see him.
          “I’m on my way, thank you Gina,” says Nick.
          By the time he appears, he sees Tiny and Gina laughing heartily at something he’s just said. It wasn’t very funny, but Gina feels it would be impolite not to laugh along. What’s amusing her more is that he's looking at her like Angharad doesn’t exist, which she knows is probably annoying her, and making her want yet another smoke.
          “Afternoon, Tiny, good to see you,” smiles Nick.
          “Just calling by on the off chance, Nick, has Gerald got the figures for our next campaign yet?” asks Tiny, who owns a chain of small off licences and has been using ‘Eye-2-Eye’ for his advertisements for years.
          “Right here,” says Nick, as he opens a drawer behind the reception desk, then handing his client a folder.
          “Good, good, I hope the price meets my expectations,” replies Tiny, having a quick look inside. A typical Yorkshireman, he doesn’t like throwing his money away, only spending what is absolutely necessary.
          “Our price won’t be bettered, you know that,” confirms Nick.
          “Well, I do know that, and that is why you have my business. Oh, and one other thing, Nick, this new temp of yours is a little belter,” smiles Tiny.
          Gina blushes, feeling a little awkward at his forward behaviour, while knowing that Angharad’s eyes are burning jealous holes in her back.
          “It’s her first day,” says Nick, not too unhappy that one of his best customers has taken to her, thinking they might get away with raising their prices with him as a result. He can’t recall Tiny being quite so enamoured with the usual dolly-bird types he asks Tudor Elite to supply.
          “Well, it all looks in order, good job, tell Gerald I’ll call him tomorrow, see if he fancies knocking a few quid off for cash,” says Tiny, winking at Gina.
          “Good to see you, Tiny, speak soon,” says Nick, shaking his hand, getting ready to head back upstairs. Just as he turns away a massive shock of a thought hits him, one that nearly has him floored. He glances at Gina, over his shoulder, as she continues to chatter to Tiny, while Angharad goes out for yet another cigarette.
          Every girl he’s ever dated had been a finished product. Blonde, buxom chested, all with their own clear identity, making bold statements with their dress and appearance. And here is young Gina, a blank canvas. Nick wonders if it’s about time for some fun. How to change this quiet, understated teenager into a feisty minx, of his own design. ‘Wow,’ he thinks, ‘That is one challenge I could be well and truly up for.’

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