Runway to Hell

October 16, 2008
By Erin Kondrat, Hoffman Estates, IL

Julie’s first day at work was, suffice to say, horrible. When the clock’s hands finally inched to five-o-clock, she grabbed her bag and bolted out of the office, going as fast as any twenty-seven year old woman can in three inch Jimmy Choos.
It all started when she met Paula Ford, a top name in fashion, at a charity runway show a few weeks back. Julie, having absolutely no interest in fashion, had attended only because her friend had front row seats and had practically begged her to come along. After the show, Paula came out to meet the crowd, and was immediately struck by Julie’s red hair. Actually, her exact words were “My God, who lit fire to your head?” followed by, “What on earth are you wearing? Are those Doc Martens?” Needless to say, they became fast friends. Julie’s sarcasm coincided perfectly with Paula’s brutal honesty, and together they made a team not to be reckoned with.
When Julie confided to Paula a few days later at lunch that she’d recently lost her job as an insurance analyst, Paula immediately offered her a spot in one of her offices.
“But I know nothing about fashion, Paula,” Julie answered. “You’ve seen my closet; I think my own grandmother would turn up her nose at me.”
“Sweetheart, I think my grandma would turn her nose up at your clothes, and I’m twenty years older than you. But it doesn’t matter, you could do the boring stuff that nobody else wants to do—measurements, mail call, the works,” Paula said, opening up her suede Prada bag and pulling out a pair of oversized sunglasses.
“Well, gee, as tempting as that offer sounds, I don’t think I’m exactly qualified for the job. And besides, all the people who work for you are blonde bimbos with legs up to their armpits; I wouldn’t exactly fit in.”
“You do not give yourself enough credit, Julie,” Paula sighed, exasperated. “You’re what, a size 2? And anybody would kill for your ass. Just leave the details to me, darling, and be at the office at seven a.m. sharp on Monday morning…and for God’s sake, please try to wear something decent.” With that, Paula threw a $50 bill on the table for the both of them and strode down the New York sidewalk, her heels clacking away.
Just like that, Julie was working for one of the most prestigious names in fashion.
As Paula instructed, Julie spent the majority of her Sunday evening trying to find anything that could prove her worthiness at the office. She finally came up with a cashmere sweater that she’d gotten for Christmas a few years back with a small hole in the armpit, black slacks that were on the clearance rack at Wal-Mart, and her trusty Doc Martens. No matter what Paula said about them, she would never let them go.
Unfortunately, when she showed up at work the next morning, a brand new pair of Jimmy Choos were waiting on her desk with a note written in Paula’s loopy scrawl:
I had to take matters into my own hands. Throw those ugly pieces of cheap leather into the trash and then meet with Cindy, your coordinator. Ciao!
Groaning, Julie eyed the towering heels of her new shoes and began to slip them on, practically breaking her ankles in the process; other than that, they weren’t so bad. Walking the short distance down the cubicles was an entirely different story. Julie managed to knock a picture frame off the wall, send an entire stack of papers flying, and bump into many of her new co-workers all in a span of about ten feet.
The day didn’t get much better from there. It turned out that Cindy was just like the girls that Julie had hated in high school; a gum-smacking, nail-filing, fake blonde. Except she also had a knack for changing her mind at the very last minute, which was exactly how Julie ended up working at a fashion show the next night.
Initially, Cindy had given her the night off, but then called Julie into her office after her lunch break and told her that one of the crew was sick and Julie was taking her place. The rest of the day was spent going through a grueling training session on what she’d be doing the next night.
When Julie finally arrived home, she threw a Lean Cuisine into the microwave and sank down onto her couch, massaging her sore feet. She’d been living alone for the past three years, ever since her boyfriend moved out; but she was okay with that, because she enjoyed the solitude, listening to the sounds of New York from below. After she ate, Julie was too tired to do anything else so she decided to go to bed early, already dreading tomorrow night.
When she arrived at Bed, the new club where the fashion show was taking place, Julie was overwhelmed with the chaotic scene. Models were racing back and forth between dressers, makeup artists, and hair stylists, while coordinators were barking into their headsets about lights, music, and whatever else it was that had to be absolutely perfect. A man Julie didn’t recognize grabbed her by the arm and started shouting at her.
“You’re late! You were supposed to be here an hour ago, Shayna, we were about to call a replacement model-“
“Uh, you’ve got it all wrong mister. I’m not a model, I’m one of the crew,” Julie interrupted as the man continued to scrutinize her, still gripping her arm.
“Well, it doesn’t matter. Shayna isn’t here and you’re the next best thing, so get ready to walk, girlfriend.”

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