The Same Place, Chapter 1: The Loneliest Birthday

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Published on 15.02.10 09:24 Age: 10 yrs
Category: The Same Place

Letters : 15840 Words : 2879

By: Cedar

Kylie's 38th birthday was the loneliest one she had ever had...

Kylie was required to work on her birthday. It was not something she was particularly happy about, but it came with the territory. Working in broadcasting, Kylie had to make certain sacrifices, and working on her birthday was one of them. The evening news had to be told, and she was the one to tell it. Her loyal Channel 5 viewers expected nothing less.

Still, it didn't have to be all bad. Even around the office, birthdays were something worth celebrating. They typically meant cake and presents in the staff room. They also meant lunch breaks that typically lasted an hour and a half or longer, well beyond the length of a typical break. These events often made everyone relax, and created a sense that they were not just employees, but really almost like a family. At the very least, she had some amusing distractions to look forward to...

...or so she thought. Yet all morning, no one said so much as a "Happy Birthday!" to her. No one even acknowledged that it was her birthday. The morning passed with no cards at her desk, or special deliveries of flowers. Kylie was a bit surprised, but figured they must have had some sort of party planned during lunch.

No matter, she had an on-site report to give that morning. She grabbed her field cameraman Carl and sound-recordist Macca, and went to report.

Macca had been with the station for the longest, and knew the large coastal town of Koala Bay like the back of his hand, so naturally he ended up driving the news van most of the time. He had recently decided to grow his light brown hair a bit longer, and grow a beard as well, which gave him the appearance of a seasoned news veteran.

The story of the day was one of those lighter "human interest pieces." It was the story of a lost cat that had managed to travel more than 500km to get home to its family. Kylie hated to do stories like this. They seemed to undermine her personal desires to be taken seriously as a professional reporter. At times the network seemed like a bit of an "old boys club." Kylie had never seen any of her male colleagues cover "cute" stories such as this one. She wanted to be taken seriously, and stories of lost cats rarely ever shook the world (OK, NEVER shook the world).

It had also been the network's idea to send her to cover the Koala Bay Bares Naturist Resort's Open Day story last year. Not that Kylie really minded. In hindsight, that experience had been pretty positive for her. It had been her formal introduction to the world of nude recreation, for which Kylie was very grateful. She had also been given total editorial control of the story, which had been nice. The report had gone on to win several minor news accolades. At the time Kylie had hoped it would mark a turning point in her career.

Yet here she was doing another "cat" story. Still, Kylie was a professional. She did her report without any signs of frustration. "Okay, that's a wrap," she said to Carl and Macca who began to pack the equipment into the back of the van.

"Great report, Kylie," said Carl.

"Yeah, top notch," said Macca.

Kylie sighed. They were just being polite, but it wasn't going over very well with her at the moment. "Yeah, I guess," she said sighing. "Don't you guys ever get tired of doing stories like this? Don't you want to cover some of the bigger stories?"

That didn't help Kylie at all. She had been with the network for more than a decade, but was still doing the same stories as when she had started. If she hadn't moved on to bigger and better things by now, then when? "What about you Macca?"

Macca just shrugged. "It's a living."

That didn't help either. "Okay, let's just pack it up and go." With all the equipment loaded, the three drove back to the station just in time for lunch.

Yet the lunch hour had arrived, but with no surprise party. Kylie ate her lunch, which consisted mostly of a Caesar Salad and an apple. She hadn't packed much of a lunch, as she had planned on some sort of food being made available. Truth be told, the lunch was not nearly sufficient, and she found herself wishing for a nice piece of birthday cake, preferably chocolate, and hopefully served with ice cream. Perhaps it was too much to hope for?

Kylie sat mostly by herself that lunch. A few people came and sat next to her, and made polite conversation. They were mostly temporary staff, interns, or office personnel. And while they were not the normal crew of anchors and cameramen she normally ate with, their company was still quite pleasant. Still, most of them seemed in a hurry to eat their lunch and get back to work.

Kylie glanced at her watch. There was only 5 minutes left of the lunch break. If anyone was going to spring a surprise they would have done it by now. 'They didn't forget, my birthday, did they?' Kylie wondered to herself. Now THAT was a depressing thought. Still, that didn't seem likely. So why hadn't anyone said anything?

'They must be trying to do something REALLY special,' thought Kylie. 'Sure, that must be it. Remember what they did a few years back for Bill, the main news anchor, on his 50th birthday? They brought out a cake during the news, and had the whole staff sing "Happy Birthday" on the air. It had all been in good fun. Bill had blushed sheepishly all through it, and Kylie and the other broadcasters all smashed cake on his face in a moment of harmless fun. They must be planning something like that for me!' she thought to herself. Yeah, that was it. That HAD to be it.

Glancing at her watch again, she noticed that the lunch break was now officially over. She quickly bussed her dishes and went back to her desk. Usually by now, there would have been a rough draft of the evening's script on her desk to review. There wasn't. No matter, the evening's broadcast would probably have its share of "unscripted moments." With more time on her hands than she had anticipated, Kylie decided to head down to makeup a bit earlier than usual.

"Good afternoon, Jean" Kylie announced as she stepped into the makeup room and addressed her personal stylist.

"G...Good afternoon Miss Burns," stuttered Jean. "You're here a bit early." Jean was a young shy woman. She was also a habitual gum chewer, which made Kylie a bit nervous every time she climbed into the stylist's chair. She worried one of these days a piece of Jean's gum would find its way into her hair. These fears were a bit unfounded, as this had never happened to her, or anyone else for that matter.

"The draft wasn't ready yet. I figured I'd get into makeup a bit early," said Kylie. "I hope that's alright," she added.

"Sure, have a seat," said Jean as she cleared off the styling chair for Kylie.

No sooner had she sat down than her sound guy, Macca, came in looking for her. "Kylie! There you are! I've been looking all over for you. You need to get down to the conference room immediately."

Kylie was a bit taken aback by this. "Sure Macca, what's up?" she asked. She knew it had to be birthday stuff.

"Hey, I'm just the messenger," said Macca. "So, you know, don't shoot me. You should hurry though. It sounded pretty urgent." Urgent? Kylie found it humorous that they needed to create an "urgent" situation to get her to her surprise party. She would do her best to try and "act surprised."

She headed down to the conference room. The door was shut. She drew in a deep breath and braced herself for the shouts of "Surprise!" she expected on the other side of the door. She gently grasped the handle and opened the door. The shouts never came.

Kylie could feel her heart sink.

She meekly slipped into the chair. She wanted to say something, but was far too afraid.

"Kylie, as you know, the ratings and viewers of Channel 5 news have been on the decline for a couple of years," said Steve. "Channel 8 now commands a wide lead over us. In an effort to attract viewers back to the station, we've had to make some, changes..."

"We appreciate your years of hard work, we really do..." said Steve trailing off.

"I don't understand," said Kylie. "Are you firing me? Am I being fired?" She tried to remain composed, but felt herself fighting back tears.

"No, no one is getting fired," said Steve calmly. "It's just that you won't be doing the evening news any more."

"Am I being moved to morning news?" Kylie asked hopefully. Steve lowered his head sadly and shook his head no. "So when am I going off the air?" she asked. "A month? Next week?"

"I'm afraid it's a bit sooner than that," replied Steve.

"Not tonight!" Kylie said her voice almost a protest. Could this really be happening? Losing her job as a news anchor on her birthday?

"No, not tonight..." said Steve, again his voice trailing off.

Once again, one of the managers stepped in to finish his sentence. "...Your last broadcast was yesterday. Someone else will be stepping in to replace you on this evening's broadcast."

Suddenly all thought of her birthday were pushed to the side. Yesterday. Her last broadcast was yesterday. Not only was she being fired from her job as a reporter, she wouldn't even have the satisfaction of telling her loyal viewers goodbye. "Who?" asked Kylie.

"Lynette," said Steve. He immediately looked nervous in front of his superiors. As though he had said too much by revealing this information.

Lynette? She was just an intern! She was only 23 and had just completed her journalism degree. This was only her second job, and already she had been promoted to a news anchor position? Kylie didn't hold any bad feelings against Lynette. She was quite attractive, and would likely pull favor with younger viewers. Still, it didn't make Kylie feel any better about her age to know she was being replaced by somebody so young.

The station owner spoke up. "She would be the youngest anchor in station history. For us it is the right move at this time." And that was it.

" what am I supposed to do?" asked Kylie.

"Well, we're looking to offer you an assistant producer job," said Steve. "It would come with a nice benefits package."

The offering was a pittance. An assistant producer was basically a worthless job title. In her years with the network, Kylie had yet to see any assistant producers get promoted or go on to produce great work. It was little more than a glorified secretary position. It was a do-nothing job, and it was only slightly more merciful than being fired. Only slightly...

"I...I'll have to think about it," said Kylie. That was the truth. She didn't know if she wanted the job at all, and accepting it outright would hurt her position to negotiate on salary and benefits.

"Sure, Kylie," said Steve. "Take your time." Steve walked around the table to so that he was standing on her side. "Is there anything else you need?"

"Can I...can I take the rest of today as a personal day?" she asked. If she wasn't going to do the news tonight, there wasn't any reason to stay for the rest of the afternoon.

"Sure Kylie," said Steve. "Anything you want." He went to put a reassuring hand on her shoulder, but she brushed past him on her way out the door.

She was proud that she had managed not to cry in the office. Yet once she stepped into the hall, the tears began to flow freely. She went back to her desk, hoping not to be seen. She gathered up her purse and keys, and went to the elevator. She took the elevator to the parking garage.

Just as she was getting in her car, Carl shouted to her. "Hey Kylie, where are you going?"

"She didn't want him to see her like this. She fumbled with the lock and tried to get in her car before Carl came over. She was not quite fast enough.

"I said where are you...are you crying?" He asked. "Hey Kylie, what's wrong. You can tell me. We're friends."

It was that moment that Kylie decided to unload her fury on poor unsuspecting Carl. "Friends? You think we're friends? Why on earth would you and I EVER be friends? We never go anything outside of work." That wasn't entirely true. There had been a few times where the crew had gone out to drinks, but they had also been part of a larger entourage. "I don't call you. You don't call me. We are NOT friends. We are work and nothing else. Get that straight. We are NOT friends, and WE HAVE NEVER BEEN FRIENDS." She shouted the last few words so they echoed across the parking lot. She could see the look of hurt on Carl's face. She hadn't meant to say all of that, not by half. It had been incredibly mean. She hated to be so emotional. Still she had to keep moving. She slammed the door and quickly drove away.

She spent the drive home blinking back tears. When she got home, she looked for any good news. There were no birthday cards. No one had called and wished her a happy birthday. There was one message on her answering machine. It was an apology from Carl. She deleted it immediately, not wanting to be reminded of how she had lost her temper that afternoon.

Kylie settled in for a quiet evening at home with a bottle of wine. She was alone. No one had wanted to celebrate her birthday. And why would they? She was just a jobless nobody. She knew that wasn't true, but she couldn't help sliding into a deep blue funk.

She drank more wine than she had meant to, and began to feel a little tipsy. For dinner, she fixed a piece of fish. She then had a much needed soak in the bathtub. When she finished, she did not get dressed. If she had been in better spirits she may have found the humor in spending her birthday in her birthday suit. Tonight, however, it was merely a matter of convenience. She was too upset to care if she wore clothes or not.

She went to the couch, and turned on the TV. While flipping through channels she caught a few minutes of the Channel 5 news. In just a few short seconds she saw the young Lynette being warmly welcomed by her new colleagues, Kylie's old colleagues. Kylie watched in the hopes that Lynette would screw up in any way--just a little something that would make her bosses reconsider. It was an incredibly vindictive thought, and Kylie was at least a little relieved that Lynette did a good job. Still, it was a bit too good. For her first day on the job, Lynette carried herself like a seasoned veteran. Kylie wouldn't hold her breath on a call from her bosses.

Happy Birthday to me

Happy Birthday to me

Happy Birthday to me-ee

Happy Birthday to me!



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