Here is the next installment of my book.
PS-- the dog and I had a much better night last night. He slept really good and only woke up once to go potty. Thanks for all of your encouragement and support (ie-- does Petland have a refund policy?))
The office was closed for two weeks in December. I wasn’t particularly keen on going back to work after two weeks of relaxing, but there I was on Tuesday morning, in the office of perpetual curry, reading my emails and sipping my Vendi Latte. Our relationship with Starbucks was symbiotic: it seemed apparent that Gem Stones would crash and burn without a constant infusion of caffeine and sugar, but it was also true that Starbucks would not be staying afloat, much less thriving, without us and our little vice.
Shortly before noon I walked down the hall to her office, where I had intended on reviewing with her some of the financial documents she had requested from the last quarter. Only to be informed by her secretary, a plump lady named Delores that Cynthia was out of the office.
“Out of the office?” I asked, incredulous. Had there been some sort of a natural disaster? She was never out of the office. Not on weekends, not on holidays.
“Out of the office.” Delores repeated, typing up a document.
“When will she be in?” I asked, expecting to be informed that she was out on a lunch date or some such thing, and would be in shortly. But that was not the case.
“I don’t know when she’s planning on returning,” Delores replied curtly.
“But these documents,” I protested, shoving them under her nose.
“They’ll just have to wait,” she said, shoving them back to me.
“O-K,” I said, turning around, more than a little annoyed. Never mind that I worked my ass off over the last few days, which were supposed to be my holidays, to prepare them. She said she wanted them ‘hand delivered’ first thing in the morning. And then, conveniently, she isn’t here. Just freaking lovely.
A week later she returned to the office, pale and even more gaunt looking than before, which I had hereto now thought utterly impossible. I was summoned to her office to deliver the reports, and after waiting only half an hour in her ‘antechamber’ (half an hour! Today was my lucky day) Delores finally led me to the inner chamber.
She was sitting behind the desk, dragging on a cigarette. Though it was supposed to be forbidden in this building, she was the CEO so what was I going to say? Her eyes were sunken, with dark circles under them. Her size two power suit seemed too big on her frame. She looked, behind that grand mahogany desk, like a child playing dress up. Minus the cigarette, of course.
I handed over the documents wordlessly. Obviously, she was in a dark mood. Now was not the time for chit chat.
She gave them a cursory glance and then, passing them back to me, instructed me to fax them to the accountant.
That was it? That was had me in a frenzy the last few days of my vacation? God damn her.
“Have you any experience in management?” she asked, right before I was going to leave.
“Management, uh, well, no. Not really,” I answered, totally caught off guard. What kind of a question is that supposed to be? Why in the name of God would I be working here making a very modest income if I had management experience? Was she going to promote me? Was that what this meeting was really about? And there I was, wearing a red turtle neck sweater with a pair of Old Navy khakis and scuffed shoes. The best look I could pull off given my scarce budget, and the fact that I had no idea that I would be having this watershed conversation with her today. No idea, in fact, that I would even encounter her at all today. Her return to work was unexpected to say the least. There were rumors that the company was going under. Rumors that she had been embezzling money into an offshore account and was now living in the Cayman somewhere, sipping on some non alcoholic drink while our paychecks bounced left right and center. And then, all of a sudden there she was. With the usual clipped remarks and hassled expression. It was as though she hadn’t been gone at all.
“I’m thinking about taking a break,” she began.
“A break?” I asked, guffawed. Was this the same woman?
“Do I stutter?” she asked, blowing a cloud of blue smoke into my face. Okay, no, this was the same woman. Clearly.
“No, sorry. I, I guess I’m just surprised to hear you say that,” I answered.
“I suppose you are. But to be honest, Kristina, things are not going well at home for me,” she began tentatively.
Oh no. Oh no. I so do not want to be having this conversation. I mean, what could I possibly be expected to say to a woman who had previously told me not to discuss personal matters with her.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” was all I could say. I certainly didn’t want to pry. Perhaps this whole pregnancy thing was unplanned. I knew she didn’t have a maternal bone in her Burns-esque body!
“As is everyone. The truth is Kristina, that Horrace and I… well for some years now we have been trying to have a child. But it seems that that is not to be,” she said, lighting another cigarette while simultaneously butting the other one.
“Oh, Geez. That’s very… sad news,” I said. Why is she telling me this? Did she think that we had struck some kind of a bond at that dreadful party? This was so uncomfortable. I pulled at the neck of my turtleneck, which suddenly seemed very itchy, though it was made of cotton, not wool.
“Yes, sad indeed. Anyways, Horrace and I are looking into some alternative methods of procuring a child, and we now have our heart set on surrogacy. It seems the fastest route to go. And the child can still be our biologically. And we certainly have the financial wherewithal to pay for any legal expenses,” she said.
Procuring a child? She was taking about it like it was akin to acquiring some exotic new vaccine.
“Certainly,” I agreed.
“Precisely. Research this for me. Discreetly. Put me in touch with any and all available candidates. Have a report ready for me by mid afternoon tomorrow. If we can work together on this, shall we say, project, there could be some incentive for you in the future.”
And that was how it began.