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Love on the Air

By´╝ÜSierra Donovan

He wasn't the man she'd expected.

Dark hair. Searching brown eyes. A well-tailored black suit.

The coat of that suit was parted to accommodate a large, middle-aged midriff. The dark hair left off well above his forehead, exposing several inches of balding scalp. And his smile somehow reminded her of a frog that, when kissed, might turn into a toad.

Of course, Christie Becker wasn't sure what she'd expected from the general manager at KYOR, the radio station where she was interviewing for a job. She'd been too excited when she got the call yesterday. This afternoon, she'd pulled into the building's parking structure literally breathless. She'd forced herself to wait in her car for a few minutes while she tried to slow the pounding of her heart.

She had plenty of time. After all, she was twenty minutes early.

Now, those quizzical brown eyes scoured over her resume, as if some trace of radio experience might appear there. She had none, except for the fact that she'd finished broadcasting school three months ago. Her pulse raced and she caught herself smoothing down the hem of her dress. Again.

"Well, Miss Becker," Mr. Arboghast said, "I did have the impression you had a little more experience when Alex gave me your tape." Alex Peretti had been her teacher at broadcasting school. He was her staunch supporter, and best of all, a good friend of Ed Arboghast, the station's general manager.

"No, sir," Christie said, sitting up straight and putting out her best smile and radio voice. "Just the radio station at broadcasting school." Her smile widened. "But if you drive in a two-block circle around the building, you can pick up the signal pretty well."

It had the right effect. It made him smile. "Yes, well, maybe I'll try that some time." The smile raised the round cheeks in his full face, making his eyes almost disappear. "The point is, I listened to the tape Alex gave me. I like it." He folded his hands in the center of his nearly-empty desk blotter. Christie couldn't help thinking this man would have been out of step even when Dick Clark was rating records on American Bandstand back in the fifties. Still, he seemed to like her, and that was a good sign.

Mr. Arboghast looked at her for a moment, cocking his head to one side. Then he said, "I'm going to have you talk to our program director."

Christie felt as if she'd just been dropped into one of those dunking booths at the county fair. Her nerves, which had been lulled into a low idle, revved up again. Talk to the program director. That had to be good. But then why had she started off talking to the general manager, the station's official head honcho?

The "honcho" was picking up the phone, and Christie could almost hear the sound of gears being set in motion. Oh, please, let it be true. She'd been a liberal arts major for her first two years of college. Finally, the question people kept asking her had begun to penetrate: What are you going to do with a liberal arts degree? She'd always loved music, but she didn't show any special talent for performing or writing it, and the idea of teaching didn't appeal to her. A spate of business courses followed as Christie rushed to prepare herself for a career in the mythic "real world." All for what? Three mind-numbing years in a loan office.

In college, the world had been full of possibilities. She'd put her shy, mousy teenage years behind her. But as the possibilities vanished, Christie felt as if she would disappear too. She was dissolving into the background of a staid, third-floor office as her twenties ticked away.

Her dream of working in radio had kindled almost out of nowhere, but once it took hold, it caught fire. All her life, people had told her what a pretty voice she had. At last she'd decided to put that voice to some use. Something enjoyable. Something better than pushing papers eight hours a day. So she'd gone to broadcasting school in Hollywood-and, finally, found something she excelled at.

"Rick?" Mr. Arboghast was saying into the phone. "I have someone here for you to see. An applicant for the overnight shift."

A pause. Mr. Arboghast looked at his wristwatch. "That's not for another fifteen minutes. Could you squeeze her in?"

Christie's heart sank. This man hadn't even known she was coming?

"Okay, right now. See you." He hung up and rose, scooping up the neat little folder with her resume inside. The ink blotter on his desktop was now bare.

"Let's go." He smiled at her, and she prayed she wasn't being led to the slaughter.

Following Mr. Arboghast down the corridor, Christie surreptitiously checked her appearance. She couldn't see her slip, but just to be sure, she tugged up under the waistline of the rose-patterned dress she was wearing. With its matching solid rose blazer, she'd hoped to look feminine and businesslike at the same time. When she tried it on, it had seemed like the right complement to her fair complexion and dark red hair.