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The elevator doors slide open revealing a long row of shiny pinewood doors. Beside each was a small gilded sign with the name of its resident carefully engraved on it in black. Margit stepped out relishing the feel of the flawless cool marble black and white under her high-heels. Down on the third floor where she worked the carpet was nubby and brown, so worn in some places that you could see the dusty grey wood floor. She walked down the hallway to the door at the end of the hall. The entire wall beside it was made of glass, and gave a breathtaking view of the city. Margit couldn’t help but admire it for a moment before she knocked. “Come in,” came a cheerful voice from inside. Margit opened the door, revealing a bright office full of cherry wood furniture and books. Mr. R.T. Jerrold smiled up at her from behind a shining paper strewn desk. “Hullo Margit, how’re you?” Margit couldn’t help but smile as she handed R.T. a sheet of paper. “Fine. Look, I am sorry that this form is late, but I just didn’t have time last night. John Calante needed fifty pages typed, and by when I finished those, I had run out of ink, so I went to the store to get some, but when I got back Thomas Clement needed-“ R.T. held up his hand. “It’s quite all right Margit. A day shouldn’t change anything, and who knows maybe we will get a better deal today.” Margit sighed in relief. “Thanks, I’ll do your paper’s first next time to make up for this.” She pushed the door open, and made her way back to the elevator.
The elevator stopped on the second floor, where Margit and the other secretary’s offices were. The floors here were covered in dull brown carpet covered in small stains. Margit walked over to a shining red vending machine, and bought a can of iced coffee. Then she walked down the corridor to The Secretaries Office. The hallway was the best kept area on the floor. The floor was deep brown marble, filled with pure white stripes. The walls were painted gold, hung with pictures of American Presidents in dark wood frames. At the end of the hallway was a set of spotless frosted glass doors, behind which you could just make out a neat row of cubicles framed in gold light. Margit opened the door, making sure not to touch the glass, and stepped in.
The room was a long mint-green rectangle. Its only furnishings were the long row of cubicles in the center of the room, a scuffed plastic water machine pushed into a corner, a table with printer, scanner, and public phone on it across from it, and a set of steel elevator doors on the wall. Taking that elevator was faster, but it had broken two months before, and even though it had been fixed for a week, Margit was used to the other elevator. And she enjoyed walking down the lovely hallway. Margit walked to her cubicle in the corner of the row and sat down. Unlike most of her co-workers, Margit did not decorate her workspace. On Margit’s desk was her computer, a neat filing cabinet, and her company phone. The only adornment on her wall was a hook to hang her keys on and a shelf containing eight black five-subject notebooks, a jar of red and black pens, and two framed pictures, one of her wedding, and one of her children playing. Margit placed her empty can in the blue trash can beneath her desk and turned on her computer. She went to her emails. She had six new emails. Without opening them she could tell that they were all from her co-workers, and all were giving her more work. Margit sighed and opened the first one.
The morning passed too quickly, by the time Margit filled out the work allotted to her by the first six emails, she had received two more. It was one thirty-five when she could finally stop for lunch break. She pulled her purse out off her shelf, put her wallet in her pocket, and yanked her keys off their hook. As she got up the elevator opened, and a tall man stepped out. Margit scurried back into her chair and shoved down the power button. Everyone in the office bent over their work more studiously, and cast sad glances over the few empty desks. Their oblivious owners were at lunch. The man in the elevator was easily recognized Matthias James Truedell, head of their company, by the shock of gel filled black hair stuck on his pate. Even though he only came to their office once a year, all the secrataries knew him to be notoriously strict. Their inspection had been only two months so his only reason for being here would be if one of them was in job threatening trouble. Everyone in the office hoped it was not them, or that if it was they would look like they were working so hard, Mr. Truedell would decide that they worked so much they were invaluable to the company. Mr. Truedell turned to face them, forcing a tight smile onto his thin lips. “Good Afternoon. My apologies for this unseemly intrusion into your work. I only need to talk a bit with one of your co-workers, so please do not allow my presence to disturb you.”
A few summoned the courage to nod, while others, like Margit, just bent their faces closer to their computers. Mr. Truedell nodded as though satisfied, and began to stride down the aisle, scanning the cardboard name tags tack to each cubicle as he looked for the culprit of the unknown yet surely horrid crime. As Mr. Trudell got closer, Margit could see that his face was white, so pale he it seemed that all of him except for that shock of hair was made of white marble of his office’s floor. As he strode across the room color began to slowly trickle back in. It started in his cheeks, then began to leak into his limbs, forehead, and chin. When the redness touched his hands the began to writhe, convulsively crumpling a neatly typed page that limply rested in his palm. She leaned over her computer, feverishly hoping that he would stop before he reached her or after he was past her. Margit began to type her most recent assignment. “And so, the greatest amount we”- Mr. Truedell was five cubicles away, despite what he asked no one in the office could tear their eyes from him, - “can offer you”- three cubicles and then he would be at hers- “is $2,000,000.”- one cubicle left- “Best Regards.” Please pass me, please pass me, Margit silently begged. “Mr. Fitzgerald Alisdair Cha-.“ The footsteps stopped. The crumpled sheet of paper wafted onto her desk, and above her Mr. Truedell’s voice quietly rasped:
” What, Ms. Chilt, is your explanation for this?”
Margit gasped, and with shaking hands she picked up the page, and smoothed it out. It was the bank form she had given R.T. Jerrold just that morning.
“Kindly regard the date,”
Mr. Truedell hissed. On the top of the page below R.T.’s name was the day’s date.
“I- “Margit faltered. “I-I’m so sorry. I can explain. John Calante needed fifty pages typed, and.”
Mr. Truedell rasped.
“Stop at once. I don’t need or want your excuses. I pay you to get your work done on time. And when you fail at that, you don’t deserve your salary. Which as you now doubt can guess you have lost for the month. And furthermore, do you know what happened because of your lazy carelessness? We lost Mr. Jerrold’s client because they decided that our company is too large for their detailed needs, because we could not even get their bank forms in on time. If they had stayed, do you know how much money we would have gotten? $50,000,000. Fifty million dollars, do you understand me? And it’s your fault we lost them. Yours and yours alone. Do you have any excuses now?”
Margit sat stunned for a moment, and all around her Margit’s colleagues seemed in the same state. After a long moment Margit spoke very quietly.
“I am so sorry, I had no idea such a small mistake would lead to so much. My only defense is that I alone do all the work for this department, while other departments have up to three people working in them. I think the fact that I have never had anything late before belies the idea that I am lazy.”
Mr. Truedell laughed condescendingly.
” How does that fact prove anything, for all I know you have been receiving outside help until yester-day.”
Margit felt color rising to her cheeks.
“If you truly believe that, I give you full authorization to check my computer, mail, and notebooks for anything that would suggest that. I assure you shall find nothing of the kind.”
“I don’t have time for that,” said Mr. Truedell. “Unlike you I have better things to do than needlessly waste time. Here is what I have to say to you. I shall place a security camera on your desk and constantly monitor you for the next year, also I will require one copy of all your files. Is this clear? This new system will begin tomorrow morning.”
“No,” Margit whispered. “I will not submit to this, I resign.”
“Alright, that makes my job easier,” Mr. Truedell shrugged. “Please pack up your things, I shall escort you out.”
Margit jerked her purse open, and shove the pictures, notebooks, and pens into her bag. She unplugged her computer, and put it, along with it’s mouse, cords, and mouse pad, under her arm. Then followed by Mr. Truedell she got into the elevator and left.
A week passed, and still Mr. Truedell could find no one to replace Margit. Work piled up, and now almost every form was late, even if all the other secretaries helped. Margit helped with her husband’s restaurant, and looked for a new job, but she missed the routine of her old job. Another week passed. Mr. Truedell was desperate, they had lost two more clients due to late forms, but so much work had piled up, no one person was willing to do it all, and he did not have time to interview assistant secretaries as well.
Two more weeks passed, another client (plus an over worked secretary) was lost.
After a farewell meeting with an angry client, Mr. Truedell sat in his chair. A small tower of forms was on his desk, but for the first time in years he couldn’t rouse himself to do it. He had to make a decision. Either he could make Margit’s former department quite a bit smaller, or he could re-hire Margit, who he knew worked harder than all the other secretaries combined. The department was one of the most lucrative in the company, but Margit had left. Flounced out. And he would never again be respected if he admitted he had been unfair, and begged her to come back. Still he had to save the department. Very slowly he entered Margit’s phone number onto his phone.
“Hello, whom do I have the pleasure of speaking to?” came Margit’s voice.
“Greetings Ms. Chilt, This is Matthias James Truedell. If you agree to my conditions, I will give you back your job, and if you get all the piled up work, plus the new work coming in done by the end of this month, I would consider finding you assistance.”
Margit pressed send. The last of the work was done. It had been hard finishing all of it, sixty-two assignments in two weeks, but she had done it. Now she had her job back, plus Mr. Truedell would now get her an assistant. She opened her phone and pressed zero, the number of Mr. Truedell’s office. “Matthias Truedell,” He said as he always did by way of greeting.
“Good Afternoon Mr. Truedell, I am calling to tell you that my work has been completed before the end of the allotted time. Do you still intend to hold your half of the bargain?”
“Yes I do,” said Mr. Truedell quietly.” Would one assistant be enough for now?”
“Enough and more,”
“Good, then your new assistant will start on Monday,” Mr. Truedell hung up.