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This morning, Geraldine Jones started her morning the same way she always started her mornings :  rubbing her eyes clear as she went to wake her two lovely kids.  To be fair, her husband did his fair amount of work, washing and dressing the children as she prepared their lunches, it really was an equal opportunity chore.   Today, she made a ham and cheese sandwich for each, with carrots as sides and tasty 100% juice boxes for drinks.  When the little ones finally climbed aboard the bus, she and her husband then shifted gears to help each other to get out the door.  One of the things she loved about her husband was how naturally expressive he was.  He would run around, his face contorting as he swirled about, and she’d think of how these moments were some of the most pleasant in her day.  She was the last to leave and the first to make sure that everything in the house had been reset correctly in its place before she got into her car and headed into the city and to work.
Traffic into the city was slow at this time of the morning, but she didn’t mind, she tapped her fingers idly as she pulled through green lights and rounded corners at appropriate speeds.  The silence was enjoyable and she took the familiar paths, the only non-traffic related sounds in her car were the whoosh of her hands on the steering wheel and the sound of her foot pressing on the brake or gas pedal.  Her motions were meditative but not jerky:  it was as if she were wide awake and fully focused on her task.
The Company had a parking lot near it, a few blocks away, as grey as the regular offices and bearing the similar corporate logo.  She drove in to the garage and fluidly pulled into her parking spot.  She walked the few blocks, feeling grateful as she saw the familiar building’s exterior, her second home.  She got into the same elevator every day, waited for it, in fact.     Her rigorous adherence to her schedule had paid off the morning she had met the previous CEO in the very same elevator she took every day.  
“Who are you?”  He had asked.  She had known it was Mister Kerr, and although he was an aging figurehead that existed to pander to investors, he still radiated the kind of charisma you’d find oozing off of career politicians. He was aging, but not unpleasantly so.  By contrast, this new CEO, his son, had a smug, smooth face, untouched by either worry or fatigue.  When Mister Kerr had asked, she had answered in a thorough fashion for approximately sixty seconds.  “And who are your superiors?”  She had surprised him by listing the entire tree that led from her to him.  “Come with me.”  Those three words fell from his lips quickly, and she easily got behind him and followed him before she could say no.
As Geraldine reached the top floor this morning, she stepped out of the lift taking similar steps as the same exact steps she had taken that day.  He had offered her the job that day, an escape from her humdrum existence in accounting, a chance to make a real difference in the Company, she could choose to do something different every day, he had said.  She never really did.  Every hard project that came up, a full reorganization of a department or layoffs of senior staff, she jumped at the chance, while still being his Assistant.  Then, after three years, he made her his Executive Assistant, with executive pay.
Geraldine’s office was a study in minimalism:  a single desk that held a computer with a single chair behind it. She arrived every morning at the same time, in the same mood, ready for the day. Usually her desk was cleaner than this, she thought to herself, neater than this.  The only thing on her agenda today was a meeting with investors whom she knew quite well and Duncan.    Setting her things to the side of her desk, she began to file away, shred and recycle the papers on her desk.
When older Mister Kerr had left, he was certain that she would be a touchstone for his boy, his wunderkind who was destined to change everything.  After all, every day she had been in her new office, she had been dedicated to his vision of what the Company should become.  She had been vital.  Now, she was floors away from the new CEO, and far removed from many of the inner workings.  
Glancing at her watch, she could barely believe what time it was.  She set aside a stack of papers for later and stood up.  Gathering her things for the meeting, she walked to the elevator, knowing that she would be late.  She did not pick up speed, but merely walked at the same pace.  In her experience,rushing made things worse regardless of what the situation was.  Direct, unhurried motion always attracted the least attention and commanded the most respect.
Catching the elevator down to the CEO’s floor, she mentally prepared herself to deal with a room of men.  She checked down her shirt to make sure her decolletage was not too obvious, her skirt height was not too high and pulled her dowdy pair of glasses on.  She found that the glasses were an excellent mask allowing her to maintain a good professional distance.  For a finishing touch, she pulled out a large “engagement” ring.  She had lost the original a long time ago to her husband’s chagrin, but this fake one was an excellent deterrent which she used at least once a week.
Outside of the room, she was greeted by all of the investors.  “Gentlemen, I’m sorry to be so late.  Please, come in.”  She ushered them into the conference room.  Duncan was sat at the head of the conference table and seemed to be slightly upset.  
“This is much smaller than the usual.”  A bespectacled business man squinted as he gazed around the room.
She saw a tic appear in Duncan’s face, and she interjected,  “I’m sure the new CEO thought we should be slightly more intimate.  I know we all got acquainted at a recent meeting, but why don’t we go around again, for thoroughness’ sake.”  Geraldine remembered how Mister Kerr used to run these kinds of meetings, and for all intents and purposes, she decided to keep it going that way.  
Oddly enough, Duncan stayed silent through most of it, speaking only when spoken to directly.  The meeting hours flew by until they broke for lunch.  Catering was brought into the room, and everyone tried to relax and eat, but it was a little bit of a trick, especially with the decreased elbow room.  She led them through the following two hours, then ushered the investors out the door, promising to email them all for the next meeting.
“Thank you.”  Duncan said as he motioned for her to come back inside the conference room.  “That was amazing.  You’d hardly think I was necessary.”  He grinned.  “We should change your title to something more impressive, to highlight everything you do. .”  
“I think Executive Assistant covers it.”  Geraldine nodded, then went about gathering her things.
“I suppose.”  Duncan closed the door and came to sit near her.  “I was thinking.  You’re very high up, building-wise.  Have you thought of moving to this floor?  We could fit you in a nice cubicle.”
“As lovely as that sounds, I’m rather used to my old office.  I find I work better up there.”  She placed her things on the table and took a seat near Duncan.
“It must be quite silent with few people around.”  He added.  “I know many people retired from those offices when my father retired.”  Gazing into her eyes, he awaited her reply.
“I find silence helpful.  It makes me more efficient.”  She cleared her throat.  “Speaking of:  if you don’t mind, I have several things to attend to in my office for the rest of the day.”
“Of course.”  Duncan blinked, then rose from his seat.  He opened the door and waited for her.  As she passed, she noticed how cowed he seemed, and scared, too.
“Duncan.  Is everything all right?”
“Yes, well, have a nice day.”
She watched as he wandered back to his office, then she turned to head back to the elevator.  Grateful to be free of any other meetings, she stuffed her “engagement” ring back into her briefcase and yanked the dowdy glasses off her face, placing them back into their carrying case.  Mister Kerr used to be amazed at how she would camouflage herself sometimes, as frowzy as possible for regular meetings, as attractive as possible for important talks with other CEOs and department heads.  He used to call her “his operative.”
She was his operative, in many ways.  Well-rewarded for her work, she had never known a true need since she had taken that fateful ride with Mister Kerr.  Truthfully, she had already been married and quite happy, but then every day magically became a challenge.  Certainly, she had never spent as much time daydreaming as she had recently.  When the elevator reached her floor again, she had to force herself to walk through.
She ambled back into her office, determined to finally get rid of all the paper clutter on her desk.  Halfway through the piles, she noticed the time again.  Although she could go to the freezer storage floor tonight where the samples she should destroy waited, she decided against it.  She would have to sign in to the registry and then ensure that she only retrieved the five or six, perhaps more samples which existed.  There wouldn’t be enough time for her to get her car and then pick up her children on time.  No sense rushing into doing something as important as Duncan had made it seem, even if he may think she had already done it.


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November 2010

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