Heather was upset. It had been seventeen years since she started working at the firm, and she deserved better than this. She was fed up with how Ruth and the others were treating her and how they always sucked up to Fred, who was terrible at his job, but because Fred had this banal way of talking to people, they would just give in to doing things his way instead of wasting another minute listening to him talk. Heather was ok at the beginning covering up for Fred, but after the Burton incident, she knew that Fred would throw her under the bus if he had to, so ever since then, she made it a point, with an exclamation point! to provide due diligence to all her clients. Fred eventually caught on to what Heather was up to and, in order to save face, he started spreading rumors about her. They were little ones at first, like how she was having a bad hair day or how she didn’t know what ganache was. Giggles and odd looks from the secretaries didn’t bother Heather at first, but when she found out that she was being left out of important meetings and that clients were being diverted to Fred, her temples burned and her heart sank.
I am way smarter than this, she thought, on her way to meet Mia in TriBeCa, I know way more than the other associates. Sure it was okay at first to not get the recognition she deserved. Heather’s Midwestern sensibilities kept her modest and stopped her from gloating. But it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and she was stupid enough to think that she can just sit around and expect the praises for all her good work for the firm come rolling in. Instead, she laid there like a lost sheep just waiting to get eaten alive by the all too eager wolves in her office.
And that’s exactly what happened. It had been happening slowly, steadily, right in front of her very eyes. The CEO wouldn’t reply back to her emails directly, she didn’t even get invited to Betsy’s retirement party. Not that I care, she thought, but it would have been nice.
When she saw Mia at their favorite cafe, Heather felt the pain in her heart leave. The furrow between her brows disappeared and her face was back to its old cheerful self.
“How’ve you been, girl?” asked Heather as she greeted Mia with a kiss on the cheek.
“Oh, can’t complain, you know same old stuff goin’ on. How’s everything with you?”
“I just can’t stand it anymore!” Heather blurted out. She just exploded right in front of Mia. She couldn’t share anything at all how she felt at work because there was no one to confide in. Heather felt better now that it was all out, but her atrocious work situation remained the same.
“Girl, you’re going to have to find another job.”
“I can’t. There is no way any of those monsters would give me a good reference. They’ve even turned my clients against me.”
“Can’t you just change careers?”
“Doing what?!?” Heather asked in complete exasperation.
“I’m sure you can find something, because, honestly, Heather, you have been miserable for a long time.” Heather was grateful for Mia’s honesty.
That night, on her way home, Heather got to thinking. Her friend Tom had been telling her about this great new job he got up in Harlem and was always reminding her that they were still hiring. She called the number he emailed her and a pleasant sounding guy in his early twenties picked up. “Hemmer and Associates, how may I help you?”
“Yes, I was referred by Tom Prescott. Are you still hiring?”
“Oh, yes. Hold on, please.” There was a long pause.
“Miss? Can you come in for an interview tomorrow at noon?” That was her lunch hour. She’ll find a way to sneak out early to make it up there in time for the interview.
“Sure. I’ll be there. Thank you.” Heather hasn’t been this excited about something for a long time.
The next day, Heather didn’t put any makeup on except for some blush over her nose. She wanted to look sick for Fred. When she got to the office, Fred told her to take the day off. She stopped by a Sephora and put her face on on her way to the interview.
The office was on the seventeenth floor of an old prewar skyscraper. When Heather got off the elevator she couldn’t block out the musty smell of the old carpets in the lobby. She went through the double glass doors to find the young guy she spoke to on the phone the day before sitting behind a high but tiny desk. “Hi, I have an interview at noon.” Heather wasn’t as nervous as she was before she saw the office.
“Oh, yes,” the young guy looked down at the appointment book, “Heather?” he asked as if he might have gotten the wrong name.
“Yes, that’s me,” Heather muttered as she looked around the tiny reception room.
“Right this way,” the young guy said as he led her down a narrow hallway to a small windowless room with two metal folding chairs facing each other. Heather sat down in the one closest to the door. Then, the door opened.