Tessa rolled her shoulders to release the pre-broadcast tension. The hot metal and dust aroma made her heart race.
“Big interview.” Allie dropped her makeup brushes into her case.
Helpful. Thanks, Allie. “Yep.”
Studio lights darkened then flickered back to life. In Tessa’s earpiece, Dal yelled for someone to sort the damned electrics, they were three minutes to air, Christ’s sake, were they trying to ruin his bloody career?
The bustling crew became frenzied, like ants obeying their queen’s command. At her desk, Tessa bit the inside of her cheeks. A nervous giggle would only infuriate Dal. She needed her producer onside.
Her email plea to Dal had earned her a shot at the New Year interview. Her mind ran through the questions she’d proposed.
How can you heal society’s divisions when your own rhetoric has deepened them?
Time is running out to prevent a climate catastrophe. Have you any intention of leaving a viable planet to future generations?
And the kill shot:
Prime Minister, what's your response to those who say they can’t trust an opportunist like yourself, who has a 'flexible' relationship with the truth?
Her ideas had been vetoed, but she’d got the gig. A chance to prove herself. Judging by the number of twitchy pats on her arm today, the crew didn’t think she was up to the challenge.
Two minutes out, a kerfuffle at the entrance announced his arrival; Martin Powell, PM. Stout and middle-aged, he exuded a suffocating air of pomposity.
He dodged a stylist and raked fingers through his own nest of hair. Striding towards Tessa, he stretched out his hand. “Happy New Year, Ms Bell. What a pleasure.”
“Pleasure’s mine, Mr Powell.” Tessa gripped and shook firmly, leaning out as aftershave burned her nostrils.
Above the door, the countdown clock hurtled past one minute while an assistant fumbled with the PM’s lapel mic. As the minion scuttled away, Powell fixed cool, blue eyes on Tessa. The studio hustle faded.
He sniffed in a breath. “Do you believe in serendipity?”
“Huh?” Tessa recovered her bluster. “I’d say it depends on the circumstances.”
“The circumstances, indeed. That I should be here, today of all days.” He blinked at his hands, cocked his head and peered at her. “You don’t have much regard for me.”
“My doctor visited this morning. Test results. She reckons I have six months maximum. Quite a shock.”
Tessa’s breath stalled as Dal delivered the thirty-second call into her thrumming ear. Six months? Was this a trick to psych her out?
Powell touched a forefinger to his plump lips. ”You have questions, I imagine. Questions you weren’t supposed to ask.”
“Er... yes. I do.” Tessa dug fingernails into her palms. Was this an anxiety dream? The aftershave was certainly real.
“Time to come clean. New Year, new start, eh?”
“Are you serious?”
He grinned into the sleeping camera. “Ask your questions, Ms Bell. I’ll answer them.”
Dal’s voice chimed in her earpiece. “On air in five... four... three... two... one...”