Thanks to his dedication to studying without any distractions, Everett had sailed through college with ease, graduating with honors. His parents, grandparents and siblings could not have been more proud.
What followed was scary, even to him. He had his mind made up about designing his own office building, what better portfolio opener could there be? He would meet with builders, just like he had learned during his many internships, applying all the knowledge from school. His parents funded this, but he made it very clear to them it was a loan, not a gift, even though they would have been more than happy to do this for him outright.
And today was the day.
The first official day of business.
Most staff had been hired and would join him, there would be an address in the the dedicated town hall room, which was next to the meeting room for clients, which overlooked the San Myshuno skyline. He had purposely build just outside San Myshuno city limits, which translated into readily available parking and easier traffic than directly downtown.
All this, plus the layout of the building with certain rooms strategically overlooking the big city, had been masterfully planned. He had been a pain in the builder’s neck, micromanaging every inch of the new build, watched the installations of utilities like a hawk.
And now it would finally be the day.
He felt nervous, butterflies stampeding in his stomach.
He was just 22 years old now, very young for the profession and wondering if this would work against him.
Luckily he had plastered the website for his business with glowing endorsements of well-reputed and long established architectural bureaus where he had his countless internships.
He’d have to wing the rest.
Steering his car into the parking spot, he turned it off, inhaling deeply while closing his eyes.
He had to project strength and confidence now, even if his knees were shaking.
By the time he entered and greeted the receptionist with a smile, he was all business.
Walking through the empty front office to his, still unmanned, as he had not been able to find an assistant he felt comfortable with and who seemed unfazed when he told them his demanding requirements.
There would be long hours involved and weekend work, with great frequency.
For now, his grandmother would help out.
She would also try to help him find someone suitable, but told him not to rush this.
A good assistant was an invaluable asset to any busy manager.
He had heard that before, so one of the few positions still unfilled was this one.
His internal phone line rang.
When he answered, the receptionist was on the other end, telling him someone was here to see him.
“Got no one on my calendar … what’s this about?” he asked, slightly confused.
“An open position.”
“Send them to HR. Let them deal with this. It’s their job.”
“Sir, they specifically requested to talk to you.” the receptionist insisted.
“They did? Who is it?”
“They signed in as a Katie Wilson.”
“Katie …?” No, it couldn’t be, could it? His interest was already piqued and it wasn’t like he had a full schedule today.
“Send her up, please.”
He waited for her at his desk, uncertain what to expect.
“It really is YOU.” he said after she walked in and they were shaking hands.
“And it really is YOU, too. Hi.” she smiled.
They settled on the couch in his office, where he quickly came to the point.
Somehow, this had him feeling weird. He decided to go with official business behavior and began to ask her relevant questions. She did not seem disturbed by odd or long work hours, the prospects of light travel and heavy workloads.
“Do you have any experience in an assistant role?” he now asked, jotting down notes from her previous answers.
“I do. If you look at the resume I gave you would will see that I worked at Prospects Reality in Sunset Valley for 3 years for the CFO.”
“That’s great. Do you have and other references or may we contact him directly?”
“I prefer you did not. We did not part on good terms.”
“Oh. Care to elaborate?”
“If you must know, he harassed me, I went to HR. He got a letter, I got fired.”
“Oh, wow. Sorry to hear that. I assure you we have a very strict zero tolerance policy on such things here.” he looked down at the documents on his desk, more to hide his insecurity about the situation than to read anything relevant.
“It wasn’t the first time. And I am sure you are not like that, which is why I came here, hoping I would stand a chance. Despite of everything.” she smiled a little.
The door opened and I came in
“So sorry honey, Enzo’s recital ran late and .. oh, apologies. I didn’t realize you weren’t alone.”
“Grandma, you remember Katie.” Rett offered.
“Oh yes, actually I do. Nice to see you again.”
“She is here about the assistant job.”
He pulled me aside, gave me a brief rundown on what happened.
I looked over at Katie and suggested a trial week alongside her. This was agreed on by all.
After Katie left, Everett stood by the window in the hallway watching her car drive away. Somehow this left him feeling … odd. At least she had refrained from insulting him this time.
The week passed, and I had to give Katie rave reviews. So he hired her on full time, much to Blaine’s satisfaction who disliked being home alone and wanted his wife back. Everett always wondered about us. Constantly together, but never a true fight. Much like his parents. So where was his perfect match?
It took only a few months until Rett and Katie had become a team running like a well oiled machine.
When they finally secured their first large contract, he asked her out to a celebratory dinner.
After rehashing business for a while, he noticed her looking at her watch repeatedly, then excusing herself to make a phone call.
After wondering about it, the likely answer shot into Everett’s brain like lightning.
She probably had a child to check in on.
His heart sank.
While he would not even admit this to himself, there had been this tiny glimmer of hope that she could be his special someone.
Idiot! he reprimanded himself in his mind. Rule number one: absolutely no flings with employees – EVER!
She returned to the table, smiling and apologizing.
They parted ways soon after. She would go home to her potential kid and probably husband or boyfriend, while he was only received by his empty home.
He sighed, poured a glass of vodka, then let himself fall into a chair by the window, even though his mind was preoccupied with many other things to appreciate the scenery.
The more he got to know Katie, the more did he see that beneath that once so snarky shell in college was a caring, intelligent and vulnerable individual.
Her behavior was highly professional.
She was all business, all the time, and always on top of everything that needed to be done, not once dropping the ball.
She genuinely seemed to want to help him succeed without him running himself into the ground, so she would make sure to remind him to eat, rest and delegate.
They soon had an inside joke about her being his ‘work-wife’. And not once did she complain about staying late, coming in on the weekend or day trips with him to construction sites to meet with the builders and engineers. And not once did she call in sick.
Oddly, she never spoke about her private life – despite Rett’s hopes she would confide in him about the child he thought she had. He poked at the topic a few times but she would always just change the subject immediately.
When her birthday came, he insisted on taking her out to dinner after work.
The dinner atmosphere was upbeat, they laughed a lot, about the past, present and future, but never anything personal about her. She masterfully deflected everything without being rude or too obvious.
She ended up having a little too much to drink, making her slightly tipsy, and hence unusually talkative and giggly.
Naturally he did not want her to drive impaired, so he offered to take her home after dinner, as they were walking through the parking lot.
She stopped walking, doubling over for laughter. When she was finally able to speak with some coherence, she flourished towards a rusty old car and said
“Already am home. I’d ask you inside to offer the stereotypical coffee, but as you can imagine, that is not going to happen. Voila, home, sweet home.” she got it out just before another bout of laughter.
“You live in your car? Why? I pay above average salaries …” Everett was everything but amused.
“Yeah, you do. But I have debts. Inherited ones. Lots of them. Enough to wallpaper your entire office with. I cannot afford a room, and even if, I won’t pass the background checks. Sooo … this.” she laughed more. Hard to tell whether it was the alcohol or a natural defense mechanism to hide her embarrassment.
“Where does your child live then?” Rett was still astonished.
“My … what?!” she started laughing again, looking at him like he lost his mind.
“Nothing. I just thought you … that one time at dinner kept looking at the time and then made a call, naturally I assumed …” Everett stopped talking when she laughed louder again.
“Did they not tell you what assuming does? No kids here. I don’t even have a boyfriend or husband to go with that, so … come one now, I may have a messed up family, but I am not that kind of hussy.”
“Not all unwed mothers are automatically hussies.”
“Well, I am neither one nor the other. And if you must know, that night I called my grandmother to make sure she would take her meds on time. She has passed since, which is probably for the better. Were she to see me like this, it would kill her for sure. Well, on that very somber note, if you would excuse me now, I am going to go and park my darling ‘home’ somewhere safe before all the good spots are taken. Thanks for dinner. Was by far the best birthday I had in years. Good night, boss.” she shook her head still laughing as she unlocked the driver side.
“Wait. I cannot let you do that. Let me get you a hotel room …”
“Oh no. No charity. I’ll get there eventually. I’ve got faith in myself. Just a little detour. You already helped me more than you know by giving me a job, which I am more than grateful for. But no charity. Self-respect is pretty much all I have left at this point, so let’s not take that away too. Night Rett. Thanks again. For everything.”
“OK, I have a guest room. You can park your ‘home’ at my place. It’s pretty safe there.” he tried again.
“That is very sweet, really, but if anybody saw me coming out of your home in the morning or my car at your place, can you imagine the talk? No, but thanks. Really, I mean it. I’ll be fine. I am a tough ol’ gal.” she winked at him and opened the door.
“What about my grandparents then?”
“What about them?”
“You could stay with them.”
“Rett … look….” she started.
“Please… I’d feel so much better.” he nearly begged.
“I have been doing this for almost three months now. Tried as I might, I could not avoid hitting rock bottom and now that I am here, the only way left is up. So, let’s not make this any more awkward while I have a spark of pride left, okay? I’ll be fine. And it never worried you before.” she smiled at him.
“I did not know about this before.”
“If I had my way, you still would not. Any chance you could keep this to yourself?”
“Sure. Whom would I tell anyway?”
“Ok, good night, Rett. I’ll see you tomorrow. And thank you again for dinner.” she left him standing there, got into her rusty old car, the engine coughed, stuttered and misfired a few times, before the ride rattled off, her waving and smiling at him.
He did not like this at all, but what was he to do? Kidnap her? Still, a tiny little part of him perked up knowing she wasn’t a mother, wife or girlfriend to someone. For her own sake, of course.
No ulterior motives.
Relationships at work were strictly prohibited for him as the boss.
No exceptions. None whatsoever.
And she did not like him like that anyway.
Several months later.
Everett was seated at a restaurant, a romantic setting, smiling at his female counterpart.
“You look beautiful tonight. But then again, you always do.” he said softly
She smiled, blushing.
“Well, you always look great too, Rett.” she grinned and winked at him.
The waiter interrupted to take their order, smiling knowingly after catching them exchanging that certain type of glances.
The girl’s name was Maddie. They had met several months ago when he accidentally ran right into her during one of his morning jogs. She had a great sense of humor, was very sweet, so he invited her for a coffee to make up for the accident. After that they ended up seeing each other more often. The rest just evolved naturally. Officially they were a couple.
He introduced her to his parents and by now had met hers. Everything was going smooth as silk.
Business was going better than expected. Katie was a great assistant and they worked well together.
Then one Sunday afternoon. Everett had just returned from staying over at Maddie’s place after a night out on Saturday. On his way from the car to his front door he heard someone calling his name. He turned around and could not hide his surprise.
“Katie?” he looked her over, she looked blue for chilliness and was carrying a duffel bag. Easy guess was that she wasn’t on her way to a workout.
“Yeah, umm … kinda of embarrassing so I’ll make it brief. My – erm – ‘home‘ got towed and impounded. I kinda do not have the money right now to get it out until next payday. Can’t go to work grimy like this tomorrow and I don’t know what else to do, so I was hoping your offer for staying over still stood. Just a night or two until I can find some other solution. I was kinda caught off guard. And am pretty much desolate now. So here I am, crawling to ya, hoping you really meant it when you offered.” Katie explained, obviously embarrassed.
“Yeah, sure. Come on in. You look frozen solid. How long have you been out here?” he asked concerned.
“Oh – you do not want to know. Let’s just say the time frame would easily qualify me as grade A stalker.” she giggled, he laughed as she followed him up the stairs to the front door, which he unlocked, letting her enter first.
“Oh wow! This is a nice house. Color me impressed.”
“Thanks. I designed it myself.” she said proudly.
“Man, I knew you were talented, but this really takes the cake. Really nice, Rett.” she said with admiration in her words.
He tried to offer her money and other help but she wouldn’t even let him finish, telling him one night, two tops and no other charity.
Then she went straight into the shower.
“Hey Rett, can I borrow a shirt of yours or something, I stuck all my stuff in the washing machine real quick, hope that was okay … oh …. ummm…” Katie stopped as if she had run into a wall.
The scene was comical in a way, but terrible in another. While Katie was in the shower, Maddie had arrived with Everett’s cell phone which he had left at her place. She had barely walked in when Katie came up the stairs – in nothing more than a towel.
Maddie’s facial expression changed from a loving smile to sheer horror, Everett finally recovered from speechless and tried to explain. In the most unfortunate way
“Maddie, that’s just my secretary ….” hearing the words out loud quickly made him realize that it did not sound much better than the scene at hand.
“What in the world?! Oh my god! I am outta here!” Maddie nearly ran out, slamming the door, Rett tried to go after but could only watch her car rush off, screeching tires and all.
When he went back inside, Katie stood there, her facial expression showing guilt.
“Rett – I am so sorry. I did not know … And I do realize how idiotic I just behaved. I would leave right now, but all my clothes are in your washing machine at the moment … don’t need to get myself ‘impounded’ as well for indecent exposure. I really, REALLY am sorry….”
“No, it’s fine. She’ll understand. We trust each other. It was just the initial shock. I mean surprise. It’s okay. You stay just as planned and I will call her later and explain everything. All will be fine.” he almost convinced himself of it. Yikes.
Katie wondered at the same time if he was telling her this, or trying to encourage himself.
“Come on, let’s get you something to sleep in. And I’ll show you the guest room and get you set up.” Everett offered, forcefully upbeat.
Katie just smiled politely as she followed him downstairs.
She received a dark shirt of his, once changed she went looking for him to thank him again, apologize once more and tell him goodnight.
After that she made herself sparse the remainder of that Sunday, mostly hiding in the guest room.
Hopefully he was able to iron this mess out.
The last thing she wanted to do was hurt him in any way.
Alas, nothing she could do about any of it right now.
Since she had no car, she rode into work with Rett, even though she had him drop her off a block from the office, so nobody would see them arrive together.
He obliged to please her, but was shaking his head the entire way to his desk.
Later than day, while it took some effort and lots of explaining, Maddie did understand and forgave him. He felt a weight lift when her face changed to the usual loving smile.
They had met in San Myshuno for a romantic night out and within minutes, her doubts dissipated into thin air.
“I love YOU baby. She is a good friend in need, and my assistant. That is all. Nothing more. I would NEVER risk us or the friendship by doing something silly that could never withstand.”
“Say it again. The part about loving me…” she giggled.
“How about I’ll show ya?”
They had a romantic dinner date and he ended up staying over at her place for the night.
She assured him that she did trust him. Unconditionally. Just like she loved him unconditionally and always would.
Everett’s sister Natty was another story. In college now, luckily still unwed and without children of her own, against her initial predictions as a 17 year old in love. But she was still together with Rhys, going strong.
She came over Monday night to borrow a tablet from Rett, and kept shooting doubtful glances at Katie who operated quietly in the background, careful not to interrupt.
“That’s Katie, my assistant.”
“I know who that is. Question is, what is she doing here? In casual wear like she lives here. And what if Maddie sees her here.”
“She kinda sorta does live here. Temporarily. Long story. Maddie knows about this and is fine with it, lil sissy. ” Everett chuckled.
“Poor Maddie. I am sure one day she will curse herself for it.” Natty predicted gloomily.
“What do you mean?” Everett was getting mildly annoyed.
“I am not blind. There is something going on here. I know you too well, Rett, you are not foolin’ me. And I will tell you, if I went over to Rhys’ place and he had his secretary hanging out like she owned the place, there’d be hell to pay. You just don’t do that.”
“Natty, relax. First of all Rhys is a freshman and does not have a secretary, or if he does, I am jealous and know I did something wrong back then. Secondly, nothing is going on, and she just needed some help. That is all. Don’t you worry your naggy lil head. And quit watching all that reality TV. All that drama is scripted. In real life, love equals trust.”
“You keep telling yourself that. But don’t come crawling to me, when all this blows up. Cos I will say that I told you so. And I will laugh at you, while you are squirming feeling bad about it all.”
“No you wouldn’t, because you love me too much!” he grabbed her and started tickling her, making her giggle.
When she left he wondered about her words.
Did everybody just have to assume stuff?
That one night when he had taken Katie to dinner for her birthday, the waiter just assumed they were on a date. Relentlessly.
Even after they both told him twice they were not.
What was with people and their assumptions?