Tootsie had met Jim Petrocelli when she first began working at WCLS. Stan had sent her, his brand new marketing director as his representative, to the annual Tri-State Media Award Dinner. She’d been seated at Petrocelli’s table. To make conversation, she’d introduced herself.
He’d looked her up and down and said, “You work for Stan Hillman, do you? A word of advice? Don’t bother thinking this is a good time to hit me up for a better job. I don’t hire women managers.”
After that, for the rest of the evening, she was stunned into submission and silence. Because after all, what was there to say or do? She didn’t have the juice and definitely not the guts to challenge a bully. Because there would be consequences. Just like now. Today. Same bully. Different time and location. Still there’d be consequences.
Sold to the Petrocellis. She swallowed hard. The Petrocellis owned a crap load of radio stations, of every size. They kept on buying and “reorganizing” them in the name of profit. Just like at every other station they bought, WCLS staff would be ‘scaled back’, meaning pretty much all 35 of the men and women who had poured their hearts into their work at the radio station would be fired.
Tootsie stared down at the papers Robert had thrown at her. They were still clutched in her hand. In the other, her to-do list. She exhaled a humorless laugh. “Well, Toots. There’s no need to check inventory.”
She stepped out of the promotions closet into the hallway. The red light, mounted above the door to the on-air studio, which was across the hall from the promotions closet, flicked on, a warning for quiet in the hallways. Voices had been known to carry even with the door closed. Tootsie eyed the light, knowing Lauren Peralta, morning drive personality, had potted up her mic and was reminding listeners what they’d just heard. Next she’d pimp the four commercials, scheduled for this stop-set, and cue up whatever concerto, symphony, or overture came next.
The red light above the studio door popped off. “So.” Tootsie whispered. She wound her arms around her waist and squeezed. “So,” she repeated. “What’s to be done?” Nothing. Because no one could stop the disaster coming their way. Not anyone. And certainly not her.
She pushed away from the wall on which she’d been leaning and paced down the hallway to the ladies room. Good. It was empty. She threw Robert’s pages down onto the counter next to one of the sinks along with her worthless to-do list.
What a strange thing Robert had said about never having to worry about unexpected things and that being a reason for selling to the Petrocellis. That made no sense. But when had Robert ever made sense?
There probably was more to the story, but nothing she could think of, probably because the shock of it all was still settling in.
She braced her hands on the counter next to the sink and stopped thinking about Robert. Dropping her head down, a feeling of helplessness swamped her.
Be a girl who does the right thing.
She picked up her head to stare at herself. It was no surprise that her subconscious heaved up those words at her. They were her grandmother’s words, handed down to her long ago in a letter. Tootsie had gotten good at ignoring them because she knew doing what was right caused nothing but pain. And pain meant loss. She’d spent thirty years running away from pain, so she did what she always did when those words resurfaced. She ignored them.
The door opened. “Tootsie, what’s taking so long?” Fern took a step in.
“Robert’s sent out an email. He’s called a meeting in the big conference room. The email said it’s about the future of WCLS. I’m nervous. You need to come. Right now.”
“I’ll be there in a minute.”
“Hurry. I’ll save you a seat.” The door closed with a snick.
Oh, yeah. She definitely wanted to hurry just so she could watch the Petrocelli train come barreling into the station. The people she’d worked with for fifteen years were about to be crushed by a pair of heartless rich men, whose goal in life was to become richer. All she was going to be able to do was watch.
She squinted some more. All she saw in the mirror was herself, she of the pointy-chinned, too-thin face, small nose and small mouth, large, dark brown eyes that were a match for her short, brown, newly-colored curls, peri-menopausal thinning eyelashes, and those damn upper lip and chin hairs she now had to pluck every other day to forestall looking like she needed a shave.
She turned and let herself out of the ladies room. After one last look, she whispered, “Happy birthday, Tootsie Goldberg.”