KATE

KATE

“I don’t like the angle of this footage.” Kate Carmichael chewed on the cap of her ballpoint pen and spoke around it when she added, “You were right, Toby. We should have filmed in the morning and not the late afternoon. Those shadows are seriously so harsh. Looks like I have two raccoon eyes.”
“I knew you weren’t going to like it, which is why I had a separate camera set up off to the side the entire time.” Toby Peyton moved the mouse across the pad and clicked out of the current window to maximize a different file. Another video clip from their latest assignment filled the entirety of the computer screen. “Do I know you, or do I know you?”
“After working together for seven years, I would say you know me better than anyone.” Kate stood from the office chair and gave Toby’s shoulders a quick, friendly squeeze. “Sometimes I think you might even know me better than I know myself. Now, where did I…?”
“Bookcase.” Reading her mind, Toby flicked his index finger to point toward the shelving unit against the opposite wall. “Third shelf.”
Kate’s gaze zoomed about the room and locked in on her momentarily misplaced car keys, right where she’d left them at the start of her shift. “See? Seriously, what would I do without you?”
“I hate to say it, but you’re about to find out. Courtney hasn’t told you yet?”
“Hasn’t told me what?” Brow drawn, Kate narrowed her gaze on her favorite cameraman the very moment Courtney Druthers, their Channel 14 News producer, waltzed into the room, stiletto heels clicking sharply across the tiled floor. The woman’s ears must’ve been burning because her timing was nothing short of impeccable.
“Thought you were heading up the hill soon.” Courtney came to a stop right next to Kate. She pressed her backside to the large work desk, crossing her legs at the ankles as she cocked her head to eye her
employee. Courtney had two hairstyles in her arsenal—a sleek ponytail pulled so taut it made her eyebrows lift several inches higher on her forehead, or a flat-ironed bob that didn’t shift even when her
head did. Today, her blunt cut hung down to her outdated shoulder pads. “I expected you to be on the road by now.”
“I was just about to head out when Toby dropped a rather disappointing bombshell. He’s not going to
be working with me on this assignment?”
“Correct.” Courtney’s glossy lips pressed into a flat, decisive line. “I moved him over to the election fraud piece.”
“Why? I thought Diego was on that.”
“Diego’s out of commission for the unforeseeable future. Snowboarding incident. Broke both legs and four ribs. Six teeth, too.”
Kate winced. “Ouch.”
“Yes. Ouch,” Courtney deadpanned. The woman had always been no-nonsense in an off-putting and unapproachable way. That made for working relationships filled with noticeably more friction than
harmony.
“Then who are you going to assign to my piece?” It wasn’t that Kate didn’t like working with the other cameramen at the station. Channel 14 had the best in the Sacramento valley, no question about it. She
just loved the camaraderie she’d easily developed with Toby. In this industry, she found that was often hard to come by, even harder to keep around.
“That’s the thing, Kate. I’m not assigning anyone.”
“You’re not assigning anyone.” Kate chuckled an incredulous laugh that lifted the blonde wisps of hair framing her face. She curled her hand around her ear to tuck away the errant strands. “Right.”
“I’m serious.” Courtney’s features hardened along with her tone. “We’ve started the hiring process, but it’ll be at least two weeks until I have someone I can throw at your assignment.”
Kate did the quick math. “Two weeks puts us out too far. This is a holiday special. It won’t give us enough time to get everything buttoned up and ready to air before Christmas.”
“Exactly. Which is why I’m putting the ball completely in your court.”
“What does that mean?” Kate was unquestionably confident in her reporting skills; she always had been. She’d graduated summa cum laude from college, double majoring in journalism and
communications, and the many awards she earned as the area’s top reporter only bolstered her selfassurance. She was excellent at reporting the news, but that did little good if she didn’t have someone
there to film her while she reported it.
“I’m relying on you to see this project through from start to finish.” Courtney clicked her holidaycolored nails on the ledge of the table, a tap-tap-tapping sound that made Kate’s jaw tick. “On the Job with
Kate Carmichael is about to become a one-woman show. You’ve been a sushi chef, an embalmer, a sommelier. Surely you can do this, too.”
Kate’s head spun faster than a pirouetting Sugar Plum Fairy. “You do realize I didn’t really become those things. Just reported on what it’s like to be them. Plus, I still don’t even understand what you’re
saying. Without a cameraman, how am I going to capture life as a Christmas tree farmer? Do you just expect me to film everything with…what? My phone?”
“That’s exactly what I expect you to do.” Courtney pushed off the table and sauntered back toward the door before pausing in the frame. “Cora in IT will help you manage the social media aspect of things. All we need is for you to provide her with the daily content.”
“Daily content?”
“That’s correct. We’re thinking of trying something new with your segment. We’ll be taking it completely online. Rather than creating a packaged piece to deliver at the end of your assignment, we
want to follow you day-to-day. It’s no secret people are going online for their news more often than not lately. We think your piece is a perfect fit to test this out.”
“I’m not some social media influencer, Courtney. I’m a seasoned, award-winning reporter.”
“Then this should be a piece of cake for you.” Flipping her wrist over, Courtney tapped on the face of her watch. “And you really should be on the road by now. They are expecting you by three.”
KATE HAD CLENCHED HER TEETH THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE DRIVE AND FELT THE REPERCUSSIONS OF THAT AS A throbbing ache in her molars. Even when she rubbed her jaw, the pain didn’t subside. Killing the engine of her sedan, she reclined in the driver’s seat a moment, meditating on her situation and breathing deep like
she’d learned to in her yoga classes.
A wooden sign bearing the name Yuletide Tree Farm hung over the entrance immediately to her left. It swayed on its hinges from a gusty wind that rocked it back and forth like an abandoned swing. It would’ve
been eerie if not for the festive, holiday lettering and the clumps of snow that capped the corners in just the right places.
Kate rolled her window down a crack and inhaled the fresh mountain air that seeped into the cab of her vehicle. She had always loved the Sierras. As a little girl, she would often vacation in the Lake Tahoe
area with her family, spending her summers on the crystal blue waters and her winters on the powdery slopes. But travel outside of work was a luxury she hadn’t been afforded in recent years. Maybe that was the reason she had subconsciously picked this particular tree farm, located just minutes from Tahoe near the neighboring town of Truckee. She knew her jam-packed calendar wouldn’t allow for a winter getaway,
so she would have to fit one into her work schedule instead. It was a win-win. Or it had been, until Courtney pulled the rug out from under her.
Groaning, Kate fished her phone from her handbag and flipped the screen around. She winced when her face came into view. This was not what she had signed up for, but there was a clear challenge in
Courtney’s tone that Kate couldn’t shake. While her boss’s words indicated her confidence in Kate’s abilities, her inflection conveyed anything but that. The opposite, in fact. For that very reason, Kate was
determined to knock this assignment right out of the park. She wouldn’t let an unanticipated change in direction derail everything she’d worked for, even if Kate had recently questioned whether or not the
station would be her permanent landing place, profession-wise. Admittedly, she’d grown a bit restless in recent years.
Pressing the record button, she straightened in her seat and started right in.
“Good afternoon, Sacramento!” she began as she smiled broadly into the phone’s small camera. “Kate Carmichael here and once again, I’m on the job to bring you an inside look at some of the most interesting, note-worthy and uncommon professions around. As you’ll see, this month we’ve added a bit of holiday flair. While many of us are still trying to work off that recent Thanksgiving meal, for others, the Christmas season is already in full swing. And there’s no other place where that is more evident than here at Yuletide Tree Farm, located in the snowy hills of Northern California. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be bringing content a little differently than we have in the past. Each day, you’ll be able to follow my journey online as I learn just what it takes to be a Christmas tree farmer. I’ll be chronicling my experience with my camera and will post daily for you to view, share, and leave a comment on. I’m excited about this new and interactive opportunity to share my experiences as they play out, while also giving you a firsthand look at the tree farming industry. So put on your Santa caps, Sacramento, because it’s sure beginning to look a
lot like Christmas!” Kate hit the button again and tossed the phone to her lap.
“Well, that was ridiculous,” she muttered under an exasperated breath.
This was going to be a much larger challenge than she had ever anticipated.

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