The Naked Ladies Writing Group part 9

NOTE: Hi, and thanks for coming back to my blog in 2021, welcome if this is your first look.

As Fia sat in traffic, she found herself pondering the story she might write, in a tropical setting. Who would be her main character? A woman, a really beautiful woman with smarts and a sassy attitude. Someone who pretty much got whatever she wanted through her wits and her assets.

Who was she though, this character? What did she do for a living? Fia decided it was time to plot out the story. She decided she’d put time aside each day while she ate lunch and dinner to write. She’d create the bones of the story and then fill it all in. It would be fun.

How hard could it be to write a book? Millions of people have written books.

As for the writing group, she had to find a way to pull Ruby into line.

Fia’s phone rang through the car speakers and she answered it, partly to distract herself from thinking about how to tell Ruby she needed to be nicer, especially to Mia.

“Fia, love, it’s Sammy your favourite brother,” Fia immediately regretted answering the call.

“Hi Sammy,” she said. “What’s new?”

“All kinds of things, sis,” he said.

“How are the gyms going?” She said and noted the pause.

“That’s the thing I’m ringing about really,” he said. “Calling my brilliant sister for some business advice to be honest.”

“Advice?” She said. Advice had to mean trouble, and if he was calling her at all, the trouble was probably already way out of control.

“Advice, help, assistance, you know so much about business, girl,” he said.

“Is that the surf in the background?” She said. “Are you at the beach?”

“This is the thing, see,” He said. “I’m in Queensland researching a new business venture. I’m here for a month at least, and I need someone at the gym office, someone who can sort things out for me.”

“And you’re calling me why?” Fia said. Someone blew their horn from behind her and she put her foot down and drove through the green light.

“You’re the smartest one in the family, we all know that,” he said. “Dad said I should call you. I wouldn’t bother you, sweet girl except it’s mum and dads house on the line, see?”

“You borrowed against mum and dads place?” Fia said. She was looking for a side street to take, so she could pull over and have the argument she could feel coming.

“They wanted to support me, and Barton Gyms were such a great idea you know.” He said. “Anyway, you’ll need to call the accountant, talk to the managers at the gyms, sort things out for us.” He said.

“This, this is not my problem, Sam.” Fia said, taking a left and nosing into a no standing spot. “This is you, and your businesses, and mum and dad. Not me.”

“Bit rough, not caring about family, Fifi,” he said. “Hang on a tic love,” she could have sworn she heard him open a beer bottle.

“That’s crap and you know it, Sam,” She said. “who else have you called?”

“Oh all of them,” he said. “But none of them know about business like you do. In fact they all recommended I talk to you. Come on, Fifi, just take a look.”

“I can’t believe you’re putting this on me,” she said. “I have enough to do, running my own company.”

“Yeah, and I bet you’ve got it running as smooth as silk,” he said. “I bet it runs itself,”

“It does not run itself.” Fia said, punching the steering wheel with her fists. “I work every day of the week,”

“Geez love, that’s a bit much,” he said. “Maybe it’ll be good for you to have a distraction, a kind of side project. We all know you work best when you’re juggling a whole lot of stuff. Multitasking they call it. I’m so bad at that.”

“I’m on my way to…” she said.

“Fifi, I gotta go,” he said. “I’m needed, shall we say.”

“What the,” she said.

“Catch up with you once you’ve got a plan, okay? Bye, bye butterfly.” He said and the call ended.

Fia was breathing fast, her heart was pounding, she wanted to throw up. She started to call her father, then cancelled the call. She screamed. She jumped when she saw a man in a grey uniform standing at her window, looking into her car at her.

What? She mouthed at him, and he gestured opening the window. She pressed the window button, and lowered it just a few centimetres.

“Are you okay, miss?” The man said. “You seem upset,”

“I’m fine,” she said.

“It’s just that you can’t park here, at least not while I back my truck into the driveway there. I need the extra turning space, see?”

“Alright,” Fia said. “I’ll leave now, got to be somewhere anyway.”

She’d warned her parents not to get involved in any of Sammy’s business ventures. They’d laughed and told her they wouldn’t be so stupid. Wrong apparently. As she turned the car around in the side street, she called Ash. There was no way she’d be able to front up at the gym office until she’d had a chance to vent.

Ashleigh was sympathetic, and Fia was grateful she was able to talk it out, but Ash couldn’t help in any practical way. Fia called her accountant next, talked to her about the possibility of getting some assistance. The accountant told her to look at the books and get back to her, once Fia knew what she was dealing with. If it was too complex a problem, the accountant would step in right away.

Fia made a few calls, reorganised her afternoon. There was no way she could work until she knew the whole picture. Sam was right about one thing; Fia’s own company was running well.

Fia drove into a completely empty car park at Barton Gyms. Not a great sign right there. She walked in the front door to find six staff members sitting in the welcome area, laughing over a shared joke. None of them were wearing the uniform, two of them were in jeans.

“Hi,” she said. There were a couple of sheepish looks and one person wouldn’t even make eye contact.

“What’s happening here?” She said. I sound like an angry librarian, she thought.

“Hi Sophie,” one guy said, standing. “You are Sophie, yes? I’m Travis Linton the manager here. How are you?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “Is this usual for a week day? No customers?”

“Yep,” he said. “Ever since they opened that big chain gym on the main road, it’s been like rats jumping off a sinking ship here.”

“Haha, you’re so right,” one guy in jeans said.

“Hey, I’m Dee, have you seen Sammy?” One woman said. “We’re wondering if we’re getting paid this week.”

Fia bit back a snappy response. “Which of you are casual employees?”

“All of us, haha,” the manager said. “Ever heard of a manager on casual rates? Well that’s me, and the other two managers, Ray and Ian.”

“Go home,” Fia said. “All of you except Travis.”

“What?” Dee said. “What if people start coming in? Who’s going to meet and greet and who’s going to sign up any newbies?”

“Please go home,” Fia said. “Management is doing it all today, in fact management will be doing it all until further notice.”

“Are you kidding?” Jeans and sneakers said.

“Not kidding,” Fia said.

The group stood and went to the lockers to take out their belongings. The manager waved them off, shrugging.

“Sammy said his sister was a bitch,” jeans and black tshirt said not too quietly.

“Don’t you come back at all, mate,” Fia said.

“Screw you,” he said, flipping the bird at her.

“Nice,” the manager said.

“Go put the closed sign up,” Fia said once everyone else had left. “We need to talk. Point me to the office.”

Travis raised his eyebrows, but he closed the gym and pointed to a set of stairs on the back wall.

As Fia made her way to the back, she noticed dust and even dirt on machines, hand weights that had not been put away and a general untidiness.

The stairs led to a spacious, open plan office area with half a dozen desks and chairs. There were cordless phones and laptops on each desk. In one corner of the room there was a kitchenette and in the other, a door with a sign saying bathrooms. Between the two, there were whiteboards on the wall with names and dates and numbers on them. They were partly worn off, as though a lot of people had walked by and brushed up against the whiteboard.

“They were for Sam’s incentive plan,” Travis said. “to try and get us to do cold calling to get some more clients in.”

Fia nodded and made her way to the larger desk that looked out through the window to the gym floor below.

“Sam’s desk?” She said.

“Yes,” Travis said. “When he comes in, which isn’t often now things are quiet.”

“Doesn’t look quiet,” she said. “It looks dead.”

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