Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

The Voice

HAPPY SQUIRE’S ISLE DAY 2014!

Summary: KELF’s new intern has a few words for Nadine.

Blake barely listened as she was shown around the radio station. She listened to the pertinent information, the things she would need to know in order to fulfill her duties, but she found her attention being constantly drawn away from the receptionist’s cheerful monologue. Her tour guide was named Sue, and she was almost painfully effervescent and constantly smiling. On anyone else it would have been grating, but Sue just seemed like the kind of person who couldn’t not be smiling. Photos of past disc jockeys adorned the wall, smiling faces showing the fashion of their respective eras going all the way back to the station’s beginnings back in the heyday of the seventies.

“Blake?” the receptionist said from the foot of the stairs. When Blake looked, Sue gave her another wide smile before gesturing with her head. “Upstairs is next. That’s where all the cool stuff is.”

They went up to the second floor. A dozen desks were set up in a corral of cubicles, each miniature office identified by nametags next to the entrance. As Sue escorted her past the desks Blake scanned each tag for a specific name. On the other side of the room a large picture window looked into the broadcast booth. Blake slowed down and held her breath when she saw the woman who was currently on the air. The disc jockey was wearing a black vest over a long-sleeved white shirt, her hair tamped down by her bulky headphones.

Sue noticed her distraction and came back to retrieve her. “You obviously know the Pixie.”

“Hm? Oh. Yeah. I’ve listened to her since I was a little girl. Well, not a little girl… I’m not saying she’s old. She’s not…”

Sue giggled and patted Blake’s arm. “Oh, I know what you meant, sweetheart. I’ve been here a lot longer than she has, and sometimes it’s hard for me to remember this place without her. She just… she has a presence, doesn’t she?”

Blake nodded, barely listening. Music was coming through speakers mounted at the corners of the ceiling, just loud enough to be heard without being intrusive. She followed Sue into the break room, well aware that when the music ended she would hear Nadine Butler’s voice almost live and in-person. She had lived on Squire’s Isle her entire life, except for a brief sojourn to broadcasting school, but somehow she had never managed to bump into the woman who was arguably the island’s biggest celebrity.

Sue took her across the room as an office door opened to reveal an elegant blonde woman. She wore a green sweater over a lacy pink top, and she paused when she saw Sue approaching.

“Miranda! Blake, I want you to meet the station manager, Miranda Powell. This is Blake Hobbs. She’s going to be our new intern this summer.”

“Oh! Hello, Blake.” She shuffled her papers and extended her hand. “It’s nice to meet you. We’ll try not to run you too ragged.”

Blake said, “I’m here to do whatever needs to be done. I just want to learn the ropes.”

“I like that attitude.” Miranda’s eyes cut toward the ceiling and, a second later, Blake realized the music had switched to a commercial. Miranda motioned for Blake to walk with her. “While we have a minute, you might as well meet the most annoying employee we have.” She knocked on the broadcast booth’s door. Blake stood frozen between Sue and Miranda, trying to breathe in the eternity between the knock and the opening of the door.

When it did open, Nadine Butler (Nadine Powell when she wasn’t on the air) stuck her head out. Her hair was long enough to be feathered across the lenses of her glasses and around her ears, the back of it resting on her collar. Her glasses were large but not comically so, perfectly shaped to her smallish features. With the hair, the glasses, and the tips of her ears poking out through her hair, Blake couldn’t help but think the woman did look rather elfin.

Miranda started with the papers she’d brought out of her office. “I need you to look over these and sign them for me. Secondly… hi.”

“Hi,” Nadine said with a grin. She leaned out of the booth and pecked Miranda’s lips.

“Thirdly,” Miranda said, “this is Blake. Um…”

“Blake Hobbs,” she managed to say.

“Right,” Miranda said. “She’ll be our new intern this summer. Be nice to her.”

Nadine rolled her eyes. “I’m always nice to the interns.” She looked at Blake and smiled sweetly as she extended her hand. “Hi. I’m Nadine.”

Blake said, “Yeah. I-I know.” She blinked and then grabbed Nadine’s hand.

“Ouch!”

“Oh, my God. I’m sorry.” Blake released Nadine’s hand. “I’m sorry.”

Nadine chuckled. “It was just a little aggressive. I didn’t think I was sticking my hand in a vice.”

Blake realized she was on the verge of nervous tears. “I’m just so excited to meet you. Can… we talk? I mean, obviously not now, but… when you have a minute? One of the main reasons I wanted this internship is because it meant I would get to help you out, and talk to you…”

Nadine looked concerned, but she was nodding. “Sure. Um, Miranda? Would you mind covering for me? Just start the next section when the commercials are over.”

Miranda nodded. “Yeah, sure.” She put a hand on Blake’s shoulder. “Are you okay, honey? You’re beet red.”

“I’m just… embarrassed, I guess? I just need to talk.”

Nadine came out of the booth and put an arm around the girl. “We can talk. Come on. My desk is right over here.”

“You can use my office for privacy,” Miranda said.

“Thanks.”

Nadine led Blake to the manager’s office and shut the door behind them. “Do you need anything? Some water or…”

“Water would be great.”

Nadine stepped around the desk and crouched to open a mini-fridge. As she did, Blake looked around the office. Her attention lingered on a wedding photo of Nadine and Miranda sitting on the desk. They were standing in front of some greenery, the fingers of their left hands intertwined and held up to show off their rings. Miranda had her head turned to kiss Nadine’s forehead, and Nadine had her right arm around Miranda’s waist. Even in the picture it was easy to see just how giddy they both were. Blake looked up and saw Nadine was watching her, and she sheepishly looked away from the picture.

“It’s okay,” Nadine said. “That’s why it’s there.”

“You both look so happy.”

“We were happy. We still are. Here, sit down. What was that all about?”

Blake and Nadine both sat in the chairs in front of Miranda’s desk. Blake folded her hands between her knees. “My sister was gay. I was twelve when she killed herself. I didn’t understand. For a long time I didn’t know why she would have done something so drastic. I was mad at her. I was so mad.” She paused and steadied her breath. “Then one day I was doing homework and listening to the radio, and you came on. You’ve always been my favorite DJ. You’re always so fun and so friendly with your callers. I didn’t even care about the music as long as your voice was there. It was like having a friend watching over me, you know?”

Nadine smiled. “That’s what I strive for.”

“Good job. Well… anyway…” She sniffled again. “That day you came on, and you said you were getting fired for being gay. You talked about everything you’d been through since coming out… and losing your job because of it? I didn’t even know you, and it was impossible to believe you would just shut yourself off like that. I started listening to the stories people were telling when they called in, and your stories about what it was like in the closet, and I finally… I got an idea of what Sarah had been going through so long. It made me wish I had been able to do something to help her. I mean, I lost her. But I understood a little, you know?”

Nadine nodded and pushed up her glasses to dab at her eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. Come here.” Nadine held her arms out and Blake leaned forward to give her a hug. “Thank you for sharing this with me.”

“Thank you for that broadcast. It was like opening my sister’s diary and reading all this stuff she was never able to say to me. It made me feel like I had her back for a little bit, you know?”

Nadine nodded. “I understand. I’m so glad I could help.”

“I went to her grave a few days after that broadcast. I apologized to her.” This time it was Blake’s turn to wipe her eyes. “Sorry…”

“Sh,” Nadine said. “It’s perfectly normal. It’s necessary, in fact. Let it out.”

Blake sniffled. “I never knew what you looked like before that. You were just this… voice. But for that afternoon, it was like you were Sarah. You brought her back to me.”

“Oh.” Nadine hugged her again. “It’s been so long sometimes I forget how things used to be on the island. We’ve come a long way.”

“Definitely. It makes me sad, though. Sarah would have felt comfortable and welcomed in this version of the island. If she’d known, or if there was some way we could have told her…”

Nadine nodded. “That’s the problem. Change happens so slowly, and then all at once. I mean, my God, I never thought I’d lose track of the states that allow gay marriage, but now it seems like there’s a new one every week. Sometimes I think of the people we lost and my heart just crashes.” She sighed. “I’m so sorry you lost your sister. But I’m glad I had a hand in giving her back to you.”

Blake said, “That’s why I wanted to get into radio. People kept telling me it’s a dying medium, but there needs to be something out there. Even if it’s over the internet or whatever, there needs to be a voice out there for people to cling to.”

“I agree.” Nadine took Blake’s hand. “I think you’re going to do really well here.”

“You think?”

“I know. You have a good voice.”

Blake laughed. “Well, that’s good to know.”

“But for now, you’re the coffee gremlin.”

“I think I can handle that.”

Nadine stood up, and Blake gave her a hug. “Do I have permission to share your story with Miranda?”

“Oh. Of course.” Blake stepped back and they checked each other’s makeup. Blake chuckled and straightened the collar of her shirt. “Thanks for listening.”

“Thank you for listening.” She put an arm around Blake’s shoulders and led her out of the office. “When I get finished with my show, I’ll give you the real tour of the office. Sue tends to focus on the mundane stuff. I know where all the candy is stashed.”

Blake laughed. “Cool. Thanks, Mrs. Powell.”

“Nadine. Or Dean. Either one is fine.”

“Okay.”

Nadine went back to her booth and relieved Miranda of her duties. Miranda and Sue both went over to Blake, and Miranda raised her eyebrows questioningly.

“Everything okay?”

Blake nodded. “Yeah, everything’s fine.” She took out her phone and opened it to the notepad. “If we’re done with the tour, I think I should get started on the important stuff. What is everyone’s coffee order?”

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