What can I say other than life’s been beyond busy. Mind, Body & Bowen therapy clients. Study. RWNZ monthly chapter meetings and end of year wind-ups. Very little writing. Lots of reading. And ‘of course’ social discourse with special friends and family….
And today I had a café meeting with another writer which made me realise how much I’ve neglected flexing my ‘blog muscles’! It’s been far too long.
So have dug into the archives for a short story. Romance of course!
Hope you enjoy it.
Wishing you all a very productive and enjoyable 2019!
Kindest regards & blessings – Gaylene.
SECRETARY’S REVENGE (2004 Winner of the RWNZ ‘New Beginnings’ Short Story Competition)
©Gaylene M. Atkins
“Just what the hell have you got to say for yourself?” As partner and equal shareholder in Morris & Winstone Advertisements Inc. William Winstone felt he had a right to know.
Loosening the tie that threatened to choke him, he jerked it sideways, whipped if off and threw it on the desk. Slumping further into the brown leather chair he ruffled his usually immaculate ‘businessman’s executive hairstyle’ with both hands before coolly eyeing the woman again. “Well?”
Concealing his emotions from her wasn’t always easy, especially when she’d made him want to laugh right out loud at this latest idea.
“Not a lot really.” In reality Meg Tyler, secretary to Mr William James Winstone, had plenty to say. But after what he’d termed ‘that fiasco of a board meeting’ maybe she should keep her thoughts to herself? Was that even possible? Not likely. ‘Billy’, as she secretly called him, was giving her one of his glacial stares; a stare that was supposed to subdue her and have her blabbering excuses in two seconds flat. It didn’t. All she wanted to do was laugh at him… then kiss him senseless. But she’d wait for just the right moment to do that.
He tried again, “Can you please explain to me why an intelligent, witty – not to mention usually attractive thirty-something woman, would wear a dinosaur suit to the first executive board meeting of the New Year?”
“I thought the starched shirts needed a laugh.”
“Well you made me look like…”
“Like what? A dinosaur with out-dated ideas?” Meg had had enough of the working for a man who didn’t laugh at work. This was it – the end of a wonderful working relationship. Well, that’s if you called her ideas and his taking the credit for them, a wonderful working relationship. She unzipped the dinosaur suit and wriggled out of it as best she could. “What didn’t you like exactly? My presentation was flawless – innovative and catchy even. Didn’t you want to laugh at least once?”
“I have my position to think about. What do you think you’re doing? Stop that. Someone might see you.”
“I’ll give you a position. And I don’t care two figs if someone does see me. I’m quitting. I’ve had enough of this humourless working existence.”
“You can’t quit. I need you.” Raking tanned hands through dark hair again, he wondered how long it would be before someone walked past the glassed-in office, glanced sideways and got an eyeful of the floorshow.
God, but she was gorgeous – especially when she was on fire with indignation. Her cheeks were flushed pink and her eyes flashed hazel sparks at him. The stunning bronze-red bob hairstyle was in wild disarray, while determined hands jammed down firmly on nicely rounded hips. The short silk and lace slip she wore underneath the ugly dinosaur suit barely held her full breasts in place. And the garter and stockings were raising his body temperature. He shifted uncomfortably.
“Quit? I can and just did. You don’t need me.”
“No one makes my coffee the way you do. Who’ll bring me a fresh shirt and brush the fluff off my jacket if I need it?”
“Hire someone else Mr Winstone. I’m out of here.”
“Don’t go like this Meg. Please. I know the board loved the presentation. Said it was the best ad idea to date.”
Meg grabbed her coat from the coat stand and gathered the discarded dinosaur suit and her briefcase. “Precisely. Your bloody idea? My big toe it was!”
“Okay. So I haven’t been fair in certain areas.” Her coat was flapping open, distracting him; a wide expanse of semi-naked thigh and long leg visible. He tried not to ogle as he stood and walked around the desk. Should he do more physically to keep her here? He didn’t know if restraining her at this very moment was a good idea or not? He sat on the edge of the desk instead.
“That’s an understatement and you know it. I’m definitely off. For good this time.”
Her coat flapped again as she turned. “Meg, please, no…” He’d often wondered how long it would take to get her onto the leather couch and do what he’d always wanted to do – after work naturally, and not within anyone else’s hearing. A long weekend was a good idea. And seeing her practically naked in front of him had the vision flashing forward again and again until it stayed stuck, like a neon sign which had been wired into the ‘on’ position permanently. A naked Meg and him on the brown leather couch. Ye Gods he wanted it. He wanted her. And right now!
“Aren’t you gonna do that coat up before you go?”
“Why? I’m perfectly decent.”
“Decent for what exactly I wonder.”
“Oh don’t go getting all fresh and cute on me now. Just because I’ve finally had enough of your bullshit and have quit you want to scruff me on the leather couch as a parting gesture. And don’t you deny it. I know how your mind works Billy Winstone. In the gutter. Well, not today. I’ll email you my resignation by the end of business today. You can send my severance and holiday pay directly to the bank.” She put her nose in the air and waited for his response.
He had to calm himself and think rationally, “You have to work out your notice. You can’t just quit and walk away.” A last ditch desperate effort on his part to retain the services of the best secretary he’d ever had or would likely ever have again. Next to grovelling at her feet he didn’t know what else to do – not yet anyway.
“Can’t I? You just watch me walk.”
With that she flapped out of the office, leaving the office door wide open. A few co-workers turned to stare, first at her, then at him; they all offered broad grins. Tom Hart yelled across the hallway, “She quit again, huh?”
William had the sinking feeling he’d blown it with her, for good this time. But maybe this time he deserved it.
His partner popped his head around the door not two minutes after Meg had gone. “Where’s that lovely secretary of yours? I wanted to congratulate her on the dinosaur presentation. I haven’t laughed so much in ages. It’s a fantastic way to start off the New Year. Absolutely fantastic – congratulations to you both.”
“Hmmm, again? I know you don’t want to hear this, but I think it’s time you gave credit where it’s due.”
After two days Meg still hadn’t returned to work or to clear out her desk. The office was getting more and more chaotic without her. If it was an apology she wanted then he’d better give her one. Picking up the phone he dialled her home number.
She answered on the third ring, “Meg Tyler speaking.”
“When are you going to stop this mucking about and come back to work?”
“If that was your idea of an apology it needs major reworking Mr Winstone.”
And she slammed the phone down in his ear.
He pushed redial and spoke as soon as it was picked up, “Look, damn you woman. I’m trying to apologise here. Don’t you dare hang up on me, not again. We have to sort this… Megan?”
“Is that you William?”
“It’s Margaret Tyler, dear.”
Her mother was there?
“Ah… sorry. I didn’t realise. Is Meg available please, I’d like to speak with her?”
“She says not until you apologise properly, dear.”
“What does she want? My blood.” He held the phone away from his ear as the woman asked Meg what exactly she wanted from this man.
“She says yes ‘blood, and some sweat and tears would be good too, dear.”
“This has gone beyond a joke. Put her on the phone, now… please?”
Meg’s tone was angry, “Don’t you try making your ‘not-so-polite’ demands on Mum; they may have worked on me in the past but not anymore.”
“Please come back to work. I can’t manage without you Meg. I need you here.”
“Well I don’t need to be there. I’m managing just fine by not coming in. In fact, I’m quite enjoying it. I think it’s time I cleared out my desk. This afternoon is good for me. You can advertise my position forthwith. Is that clear enough for you Mr Big-shot William J Winstone?”
Shit! This was the worst she’d ever been. He’d really blown it this time. “Are you sure Meg? The place is getting into a real muddle and everyone is breathing down my neck for the next instalment of the ad campaign; you know… the Dinosaur one?”
“Now the truth’s coming out. You only want me to come in and finish off what I, not you, started.”
“No! I mean yes. But I want you back for all the other stuff too.”
“Oh you mean coffee and laundry detail?”
“Well yes and the other stuff.” William looked up to see several of his employees standing outside his office door. He made a rude sign with his forefinger and tried to concentrate on what she’d just said. Tom had his betting book out, again. They were all laying odds on how long it would be before she came back to work. Money was exchanged and hands were shaken.
He thought back and seized on the words he wanted to hear, “This afternoon? You’re coming back this afternoon?”
“Only to clear my stuff out.”
“When I get there.”
He hung up the phone and glanced at his watch. Almost lunchtime. He’d better get a plan sorted as soon as possible.
“Get back to work you lot. She’s coming back this afternoon so save yourselves some money and stop with the betting.”
“We’ll see,” Tom answered. “If she makes you coffee we’ll divvie up. Not a second before.”
She didn’t make any coffee. Her desk was cleared out in record time and she was gone by the time he got back from lunch.
Tom leaned out of his door, “She came – she went. And no coffee got made boss. I think it’s permanent this time. It’s sure looking that way. Hey, nice flowers.”
William eyed the massive bunch of flowers he was still clutching. “Yeah, guaranteed to get me back on her good side. Or so the florist told me.”
“Yeah well, most women love flowers. But Meg is not most women.”
“You think I don’t know that Hart!” He glared at his friend, “Don’t you have work to do?”
William saw nothing else for it – he’d have to confront her in her own space. “I’m going to be out for the rest of the day. My message service will pick up any calls.’
His appointments diary was fairly light except for one important prospective new client. He’d have to be switched along with everyone else.
The calls went smoothly; they all understood his predicament – with the prospective new client being the most sympathetic.
In fact, William was more than a little surprised at how easily he’d achieved all the secretarial type stuff. Maybe he didn’t need one after all?
Pulling up outside the red brick and tile house in the suburbs had him sweating. The place was perfectly kept; he knew she saw to all that as well as working full-time; tidy lawns and shrubbery a testament to her diligence and energy. Her car was parked in the driveway with another right beside it. Her mother’s most likely.
Unclipping the seat belt he reached across and grabbed the bunch of flowers.
Standing at the door and pressing the buzzer made him sweat even more. Eventually , it opened.
“Ah, I wondered how long it would take for you to turn up here.”
Meg was dressed in a bright orange leotard, pastel orange leggings and pastel and dark orange striped leg-warmers; bare feet and painted orange toenails. His tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth for a split second, “That’s some outfit to be opening the door in. I thought you said you’d come in this afternoon? Not at lunchtime.” He shoved past her and turned in the hallway to present her with the flowers.
“This outfit is for doing yoga in and it beats wearing office gear any day. Oh how sweet, flowers… For me? Shall I cut off the heads of the roses and bin them now or later?”
“You wouldn’t dare. You love roses.”
“I do, don’t I?” She reached for the flowers. “Yellow, white and orange! You were covering all the bases then?”
“The florist told me what they all meant. So you won’t chop off their heads?”
“Not this time.” As she took the bunch of colour and fragrance she sniffed appreciatively at its centre as if she had every right to and had in fact been expecting them. But it was the first time he’d ever given her store bought flowers. He must be a worried man. The colourful bunch of roses said so much more than ‘sorry’.
“I really want you to reconsider your employment options Meg.” Her brows rose. She expected more from him obviously. “I’m begging now; for everyone. Please don’t leave. I can barely cope with changing a few appointments let alone anything else. And I’ve been a bastard to everyone there – I can’t seem to stop myself.” Which was true. “You keep everyone so happy there.” He wanted her to know she was wanted; needed; desperately.
“What? You mean you changed your own appointments to come and see me?” She knew for certain that he had one huge potential client scheduled for right about now – she’d made the appointment over a month ago. It was an account he’d been wanting for a long time and worth a lot of money if they secured it.
“Had to. I couldn’t see any other way around it.”
“But that could be disastrous for the company.” ‘Oh dear, she was beginning to weaken. She’d have to be firm with him this time’. “I think you’d better come through. I’ll make tea? Or perhaps something stronger? You might need it.”
“Why? I know if I grovel sufficiently, you’ll come back.”
“Not this time Billy. I can’t. I’ve got a new job.”
“Already? You can’t have!” He followed her into the open plan kitchen and dining area. “How could you?”
“Easy. I want something more challenging.” She grabbed a vase and dealt with the roses. “And apart from us having had one disagreement too many and no laughs in the office, recently, I think it’s way past time for me to leave.”
“But I’ll be stuffed without you there.”
“No you won’t and you know it.” She walked toward him and put her arm around his shoulders. “Come on, sit down. I’ll fix you a drink. Brandy, I think.”
She handed him a crystal tumbler, “No ice, just how you like it. Now get that down you.”
“It’s only three in the afternoon. I don’t drink at this time of the day.” He took the offered seat.
“Well, you’re not usually out of the office at this time of the day either. But here you are.”
At that moment her mother came in from the garden.
“Ah, there you are William. I wondered if we’d see you this afternoon. Have you told him yet?”
“He knows I’ve got a new job. I just haven’t told him what or where it is.”
William took a large gulp of his drink. This was it; defeat and acceptance. She really was leaving him. His heart had steadied back into a normal rhythm. He’d be okay – he had to be. He could get a new secretary – he could. He just needed to convince himself a little more first.
“I wasn’t 100% sure myself whether I did have the job or not. But I found out just before I cleared out my desk earlier today.”
The older woman eyed them both, her blue eyes twinkling, “Oh well… I’ll leave you two to it then. Call me when you’ve told him what you’ll be doing dear.”
He downed the rest of his drink. “Well I guess this is really it then?”
“Don’t you want to know what I’ll be doing?”
“I bet you’ve been poached away by Don Barton? He’s always wanted you. Said you were the best damn asset the company had. And he was right.”
“No. Not exactly.”
“Look Meg, I’ll be straight with you, I guess I can do without you as my secretary. But I sure as hell can’t do without you as my wife, so if this is what you really want then I’ll have to accept it, won’t I?”
“That’s good darling. By the way I’ve moved your things back into our room.”
His eyebrows rose as she continued.
“I’ve been lonely. And I had to put Mum somewhere didn’t I?”
“You have? Of course you did.” He looked at her again; her eyes were shining and she had that Mona Lisa secret smile going on. “So what’s this new job then? Tell me all about it. I can deal with it, I’m calm now.”
Sitting on his lap as if it were the most natural thing in the world, which it was, she grabbed his right hand and said, “Guess,” as she placed his hand over her abdomen.
The new job now made perfect sense to him; after five years of their ‘never a dull moment marriage’, they’d decided to try for a baby. They’d been trying very hard for about a year. “Ah, at last, new beginnings – for everyone.”
She nodded; her secret smile still firmly in place.
He leaned away, their steady gazes holding fast, “When? I bet it was the Easter long weekend? On the brown leather couch after everyone had gone?”
“Hmmm….. it could’ve been there. Or on the desk afterwards, or in the lift on our way home. Remember?”
“As if I could ever forget that day. Is your mother really staying?”
“Good. When’s she leaving?”
“I’d say – any second now.”
The front door banged shut and they were both at the dining room window in record time, Meg opened it, “Bye Mum. I’ll call you.” The older woman waved and blew them both a kiss as she got in her car and reversed out of the driveway. She tooted her horn all the way down the street.
“Right wife, I think you’re way overdressed for what I have in mind.”
“Billy! It’s the middle of the afternoon!”
“So, we won’t do it here? Where then? Upstairs? What about on the stairs?”
Kissing him senseless was her pleasurable revenge!