Celeste hugged her folder closer to herself as the receptionist standing behind the rose marble counter gave her a plastic smile.

“I’m sorry,” Receptionist Barbie said to her in a sing-song voice. “But Mr. Turley is very busy. You’ll need to make an appointment.”

Celeste matched the perfunctory smile. “I’d love to make an appointment. Who do I need to speak with?”

Barbie passed her a business card: a simple white cardstock rectangle with the logo of the New Orange Register in the center; green letters bracketing an orange.

The smaller letters on the lower edge of the card were embossed in the same shade of green with: Joe Turley, Managing Editor, New Orange Register

Before Barbie could say another word, the phone rang. She held up a manicured finger to indicate that Celeste would have to wait to continue the conversation. Then she picked up the phone. “New Orange Register, how can I help you? . . . Yes, we do have a classified section. . . Yes, you can place an ad.”

While the receptionist was distracted, Celeste backed away. The rest of the lobby was covered in the same rose marble as the reception desk that ran the length of the room. A bank of elevators stood at one end, and the entrance at the other.

In order to speak with Joe Turley, she’d need to find her way to the newsroom, either by use of the elevators or the stairs behind the Barbie Dream Desk.

Once she was out of the woman’s direct line of sight, she thought hard about not being noticed.

Celeste had always been able to make little things happen just by wanting them really hard. It was like the power wanted to obey her. The difficult thing was having the power and not using it.

Even now, she knew that just making herself unnoticeable would lead to trouble down the road. Magic always came with a karmic price. Maybe she would twist an ankle on the stairs or be splashed by a taxi in the street. Or maybe she would just get hit by a car and that would be the predictable end of yet another wand waver.

But the key to her dream was somewhere up in the newsroom. How could she not take that chance?

She slipped past Barbie and up the stairs, being careful with every step so that she didn’t slip and fall.

The newsroom had an open floor plan. Desks were pushed together in little islands around the room. A big television mounted on one wall had the 24 hour news playing, muted with captions scrolling. One reporter sat hunched over her computer while another leaned back with his feet on the corner of their station, a phone wedged between their ear and shoulder.

Celeste leaned against a wall on the landing, cataloging the room like an anthropologist. The sports department must be in the corner by the file cabinet with the fat old tv straight from 1998 on top of it. The photography department looked like it was in the other corner. One computer there had a makeshift shade of posterboard taped onto the top of the screen and a digital camera sitting on the desk next to it. A couple of framed photographs were up on the wall behind that station.

An actual glass-sided cubicle sat off to one side, like a fish tank. Gold leaf lettering on the door should have read: Joe Turley, Managing Editor. But someone had taken sticky notes and a marker so that the signage read was: Managing To Edit.

Celeste smiled wryly at that.

A pair of feet, wearing men’s dress shoes, rose into her sight from behind the desk.

Celeste blinked, then squinted. A pair of khaki slacks were drooping down around the ankles, revealing skinny black dress socks.

She moved in closer for a better look. Through the wall of the aquarium she could see a man lying on his back on the floor. Joe Turley, she assumed.

Clearly a very busy man.

She stopped wishing to be invisible and opened the door to the office.

“Are you okay?”

The man rolled to his feet, a sheepish expression on his face. “It’s supposed to help with blood pressure.”  He frowned at her, as if trying to place her. “Who are you?”

“Celeste Ingram,” she smiled confidently at him. “I was told to make an appointment.”

“So why didn’t you?” Joe Turley snapped back.

“We can do that now? Unless you want to wait for me to call you in five minutes?” Celeste bounced on her toes.

He opened a book on his desk and clicked a pen. “About?”

“I’m a freelancer, new to the area. Looking to get my foot in the door. Celeste Ingram,” she repeated out of nerves.

“Celeste Ingram, so you said twice.” He muttered as he wrote in his appointment book. Then he put down his pen and gave her an appraising look. “You’re bold, I’ll give you that. What’s your J-school?”

Celeste felt her heart sink. This would be where the bad luck kicked in. Just like with Lucky earlier, Joe thought she was a kid.

“I’m from Arkansas?” She stammered. That wasn’t a lie.

“Is that a question?” Joe asked.

“Nope.” Celeste said, injecting false confidence into the statement. She concluded with an ear-to-ear smile, like a visual exclamation mark.

The managing editor pointed at her chest. “Is that your résumé?”

For half a moment, she was confused.  Was he pointing at her boobs?  She was kind of flat-chested so she wouldn’t exactly call them a résumé.  But she might call human resources over harassment. Then she remembered that she’d been hugging a folder of her clips to her chest all this time.

“It’s my string book.” She held it out to him with the care of a first time mother handing off an infant. “Everything I’ve written over the years.”

“Stringbook?” He scoffed as he took the proffered portfolio. “That’s a word I haven’t heard since my college days. A word of advice: call it a portfolio. You’re not in flyover country anymore. You need to present yourself as a professional.” He gave her clothing a pointed once over.

Celeste grasped her elbows with her hands and tapped her left heel with the toe of her right work boot. The minutes seemed to drag like hours as the only sound was that of Joe paging through her portfolio. At last, he folded it up and placed it on his desk.

He stared at the clock over her head while rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “This is your only copy of your work, isn’t it?”

“No!” Yes.

He sighed. “You’ve got talent, but you’ve also got a lot to learn.” He pointed to her clips, and made a shoeing motion. “Take some college writing classes, Celeste Ingram. Work on a student publication and get an internship or two under your belt. Then come see me. You don’t have enough experience right now. And there are people who get paid to teach this kind of thing.”

Celeste’s eyes felt hot and itchy. She snatched up the clip file and whirled around to the door. Her throat was closing up now.  She needed to get out of here before the tears fell.

“Hey!” Joe called out.

She stopped in the doorway, head down so the few reporters out in the newsroom also wouldn’t see her ugly cry.

“Next time, clean up your portfolio,” Joe said in a kind tone. “You’ve brought me fifty loose photocopies of your stories. I’d rather have a résumé and a website where I can see three or four examples of your best work online. And try wearing a pants suit. You look like you wandered in from a construction site.”

With a half turn, she swiped the tears from her eyes. “What makes you think I’ll be back?”

She winced at the way her voice sounded like she’d been gargling rocks.

The corner of his mouth turned up in a lopsided smile. “I don’t talk to randos off the street, and the front desk knows it. You were brazen enough to sneak up here. That kind of initiative can take you far in this business. I respect it, even if I can’t hire you. Come back when you’re ready.”

Celeste shook her head. She turned again, intent on running for the stairs, only to see that she’d become the focus of the few reporters in the newsroom. If she ran now, she’d just look like a silly kid. Instead she lifted her chin and walked toward the stairs as if she’d gotten exactly what she wanted out of this interview.

When she reached the lobby, she did run past Receptionist Barbie to reach the street out front.

“Hey! What are you doing back there? You’re not supposed to be there!” The receptionist yelled after her, but she was already at the door. She flapped her right hand over her left shoulder while slamming into the crossbar and pushing the glass door open.  

Well that didn’t go the way I thought it would!

With hindsight, she could see that Joe was right about working on her presentation.  She looked like a hick right off the farm. No wonder he thought she needed some polish.

She would be back. Somehow, she’d get a job there. He had said that she had potential, after all.

What she didn’t have was money for college, so she’d have to find another way to get her foot in the door. But first, she needed to get back to Lucky’s and work on keeping the job she did have.

Suddenly lighting forked across the sky. Thunder rolled like a drum sound off the canyon-like walls of the skyscrapers.

“Oh come on!” Celeste squinted up at the sky. It wasn’t supposed to rain today.

As if the mere thought had pushed her luck too far, the sky opened up and water came down in sheets.

She covered her head with her denim jacket and ran for the bus stop, where even now the bus was pulling away, leaving her to huddle under the bus stop awning with a river of runoff already sluicing down her back.

I just had to push my luck.