Flash Fiction Saturday

Tomorrow, The Making of Henri Higgins is on sale!

Here is the development of Elizabeta and Henri’s relationship as their intimacy grows. Want to know what happens next? Buy the book 🙂

***

Today’s episodes would be filmed at Henri’s apartment and Elizabeta admitted to a growing anticipation as she pulled up near the apartment complex on the lake at Kingston. What kind of home did a millionaire Canberra media mogul own?

It turned out the answer was a miniature art gallery. The moment you walked in, you were struck by the art on the walls, the sculpture on every available surface. The furniture itself was minimal – a couple of dark brown lounges, a coffee table, a cabinet in the entry way. The floors were carpeted but in beige, and the walls and ceiling were white. Everything else was kept bland, so the colours of the artwork, the lines of the sculpture were what drew your attention.

“This is amazing.” Elizabeta stood in the middle of the room and looked around. Her eye passed from a pastoral painting of colonial Australia to a cubist piece. “You have very eclectic taste.”

“I like pieces that call to me,” Henri said. “What style they are in isn’t as important as what they are saying.”

Elizabeta took another slow turn, looking at every piece on display. What struck her was a sense of isolation. Not one of the pieces had more than a single person in them, and some were twisted wreckage with no link to humanity at all.

She got the impression that at some point in his life, Henri Higgins had felt isolated and alone. Perhaps that was why he’d turned out to be such a horrible person.

“Interesting,” she murmured.

“Come see the kitchen.” It was on the other side of a see-through gas fireplace and was sleek and modern, with white cupboards and grey counter tops. The only colour was the bright red splash back. There were some stools at the centre island, but otherwise nowhere for people to sit and eat. Did he ever have people over?

“Beautiful,” Elizabeta said. “Fabulous appliances. I’m going to have fun making a mess in here.”

Henri frowned. “Not too much of a mess, I hope. The cleaner doesn’t come until tomorrow morning.”

“Isn’t it a good thing you have a cleaner here then?” Elizabeta put the bags of shopping she’d been carrying on the counter. “Right, let’s get cooking.”

…skipping to later in the next scene…

Ree poured them both a glass and when Elizabeta had hers, lifted his in a toast. “To us, creating something wonderful.”

She clinked her glass against his, but didn’t drink. Instead, she stared at the liquid.

“We are creating something wonderful, aren’t we?” she said. “Something that’s a little thing, but it really could make people’s lives better. It’s become about much more than winning your challenge.”

“I’m glad you are enjoying yourself,” Ree said. “It’s important that this is fun, as well as good. I think work is at its best when it’s fun.”

“Well, that is the dream, but unfortunately there’s the drudge that you have to get through as well.”

“There would have been a lot of drudge for you, working two jobs. Why did you do that? Were you not being paid enough in your office manager job?”

“The extra money was useful,” Elizabeta said. “But it was about more than that.”

“What?” Ree sipped the sangria. It was delightful, fresh and fruity.

“Sometimes, you just need to do different things in your life.”

“Like cleaning my office?”

Elizabeta smiled. “I learnt a lot cleaning your office. I saw a lot about current trends in fashion and topics. What’s hot and what’s not. I got an idea of the types of issues that people are truly passionate about, and things that are flash in the pan and will interest for a few seconds but no more. I got a sense of you as well. Being here has just added to that.”

This was intriguing. “Really? And what do you now think of me?”

“Well, I knew you were a perfectionist, as much about your own work as others. I knew that you welcomed creativity, and encouraged people to think beyond. However, now that I’ve been here, I’m not so sure you know how to think beyond.”

Ree frowned. He’d wanted to hear only positive things about himself. “What makes you think that?”

“You’ve got this beautiful balcony here but no furniture, so it would seem you don’t use it. You’ve only got seating for a couple of people in the kitchen, so you don’t entertain. Your lounge room is stunning, but it’s not conducive to hanging out with your friends. And finally, the artwork itself, which is all suggestive of isolation. If it weren’t for the fact you said it was a friend of yours that suggested this challenge, I’d wonder if you had any friends at all.”

She had ripped his life apart with ruthless efficiency. Ree could see how she’d earned that award for her business acumen. “I will own to the fact I don’t use this balcony as much as I should. Today has shown me the error of my ways. But I don’t entertain here for the simple reason it’s too difficult. I have a close group of three friends – we’ve been together since high school. Two of them are married, with young children. It’s easier to have our nights either at a restaurant or pub when it’s just the four of us, or at one of their houses when partners and kids are involved. But we see each other at least once a week, if that eases your mind. Finally, you’re right about the art evoking isolation and aloneness, but it’s symptomatic of my youth, not of my present.”

“I apologise for my words, and for overstepping my boundaries. I shouldn’t have said what I did.” Elizabeta put her glass down. “I should go.”

“No.” Ree put his hand out. “Please, don’t. You know me so well, but I don’t know anything of you, and that doesn’t seem fair.”

“Maybe that’s by design,” Elizabeta said, but she relaxed and picked up the sangria again.

Ree smiled. “Well, let’s see if I can’t crack that shell of yours a little. Maybe not as well as you tried to crack mine, but still.”

Elizabeta winced. “Can you forget I said all those things?”

“I don’t want to forget it all. You said some nice things about me. I do want my employees to feel part of the process, to feel they are contributing in a real way, regardless of their position in the company. I want them to be creative, to come up with ideas, to let me know what they are.”

“I can’t say as a cleaner I ever felt I could come to you with an idea.”

“Well, here’s your chance. Have you seen things around the office you’d change?  You get to view it in a way that I don’t, so you probably have some valuable insights.”

Elizabeta’s brow furrowed as she sipped on her sangria. She was taking his suggestion seriously. He realised she did that with a lot of things – every idea presented to her was considered carefully for its potential before either actioned or discarded.

So he couldn’t just casually suggest they sleep together. He was going to have to ensure he had her absolutely convinced they should before he seduced her.

“I suppose the main thing would be that for a company that espouses creativity, the office space itself is terribly bland,” Elizabeta said. “In the MBA, we studied some different corporate structures and office setups to see what the impact on productivity and creativity was. What we found was that compartmentalising people seemed to make them initially more productive, but that soon wore off as they left their spaces to interact with people. Open work plans weren’t always as productive, but they were more creative and the workers were generally happier. The really creative companies, who thought outside the box, people like Google for example, ended up with some incredibly innovative ideas and while there was a drop in productivity while people adapted to the new atmosphere, it picked up again although some people just couldn’t adjust and had to leave the company.”

“We do have the problem that companies like Google don’t in that we have deadlines,” Ree said. “There are moments were people have to just put their head down, shut up and get stuff done. And often that is best when you can shut the world off.”

“Perhaps a mix of open plan, with some offices,” Elizabeta said. “People work out in the common area, bouncing ideas of each other, communicating, helping each other, but when they need time to just sit and work, they lock themselves into an office. Also, I think you executives need to get onto the floor and mix with the workers more. It’s too easy for you all to be trapped up on your floor. I’m pretty sure you haven’t been trapped yet, but some of your other execs may be, and you do need to lead by example.”

Her ideas were fascinating. She was fascinating. “If you were CEO of Higgins Publishing, what one thing would you put into place right now?”

Again, that serious contemplation. “There’s two things I’d do. Firstly, I’d make the day after deadline a half day. Everyone needs to be at the office by nine, as per usual, to check on the impact and make sure it’s all gone smoothly. At one, they all go home and get to rest, relax, recuperate. I know from the creative people in my life that time to just sit and let things percolate is important. Second, I’d declare that every second Wednesday afternoon, from two onwards, is free time. They can use company resources to work on whatever they want to work on, but it can’t be on a work project. It might take a while, but eventually you’d like to see some of your finance guys in the studio, working on photography, or some of your journalists up in the design studio experimenting with page layout. You’ll end up with new, creative ideas that no one would have considered otherwise.”

The day after deadline wouldn’t work for a half day – sometimes it was almost as busy as the day before, dealing with enquiries and issues. However, deadline was Tuesday, to hit the streets on Wednesday, and surely it would be worth waiting and making that Friday a half-day, and that way it extended into the weekend.

The hours to experiment on every second Wednesday was a brilliant idea.

“If you could run your own company, what would it be?”

Elizabeta stiffened for a moment. “I’m still looking for my passion,” she said, then downed the sangria. There was something there, something she was hiding from him. What was it?

***

makingofhenrihiggins_smlHe thought it was all a game…until he grew accustomed to her face.

Henri Higgins is bored by everything – his life, his work, even the models he regularly sees socially (and privately). So when a close friend suggests a high-stakes, friendly competition, a ‘fame’ game, Ree leaps at the opportunity for a little shake-up in his daily routine. The rules are simple: the competitors are to take the first person that they meet at a certain time and make them as famous as possible within two weeks.

But Ree doesn’t expect Elizabeta.

Elizabeta Flores del Fuego has a plan. An office manager by day, she moonlights at a number of creative Canberra businesses by night to learn all she can about the fashion industry and put her in the best place possible to help launch her beloved daughter, Angelina’s design career. Cleaning the office of Higgins Publishing is just one of those jobs, but when Henri Higgins offers her a week’s worth of work and a paycheque large enough to get Angelina Designs on its feet, it’s an offer she can’t refuse.

But Elizabeta doesn’t expect Ree, and neither expect the lessons in love they’re both about to learn.

Pre-order The Making of Henri Higgins now! (Electronic only)

Apple / Amazon / Google Play / Kobo / Amazon Aus

 

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