Work and the new girl

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Chapter four: work and the new girl

"She's here, she's here! Charlie's here!" Jolene shoved me inside our 23rd floor office door as if she was presenting a captive. Most of the magazine staff didn't bother to look up but I could see Jolene's voice projected far enough to get my boss to come storming out of his office. Phillip stood in his doorway, pointed his finger at us both and gave us a "come now" finger wave. Jolene pushed behind me towards his door and just when we reached the opening she gave me one last shove towards him and proclaimed "did it, remember this before you fire me boss!" I heard her scuttle away behind me but not before she gave Phillip thumbs up. Phillip cuffed my arm much like Jolene did when she dragged me in and sat me down in the office, quietly closing the office door behind us. He sat down behind his large brown desk and ran his hand through his salt and pepper hair slowly as if he was struggling for words. It was rare for my older handsome boss to struggle for words; words were your air when you ran a magazine. It was a reminder of just how bad I must have looked that instead of a barrage of angry words he appeared to be searching for the best way to speak to me.

"Look Charlie, I know the past 2 weeks have been... difficult. I want you to know we, well I, kind of think of you like family, a daughter, you know, I mean. Yeah, but the magazine, well..." He placed his elbows up on the desk and ran both his hands through his hair continuously as he spoke. I felt ashamed at my boss's struggle to tip toe around MY issue.

"Look Phillip, I'm sorry, I was unprofessional. My personal life should never have affected the magazine like that. "

"No, I understand. I spoke to Rose after Jolene told me and she was worried and told me to be nice, you know the wife and I are there for you, and well, you just didn't call...." Phillip glanced over at the picture of his wife Rose that he kept on his desk.

"You're right Phillip; you are completely in your right to fire me."

"Fire?" Phillip's elbows dropped and he looked at me funny, as if the increase in his volume may cause me to explode. "Why would I fire you, you're one of my best writers. Have you not been listening? We think of you as family Charlie, and we were all upset that he did that, you know out of the blue and after you just got engaged." Phillip suddenly looked at a bird outside his windows as I felt the hot tears well up in my eyes. I dabbed at my eyes with my shirt to wipe the moisture. He waited a few minutes before peering at me out the corner of his eye and continuing. "No Charlie, Rose would kill me if I fired you, so would Jolene. But I do have a magazine to run, and we didn't have a feature writer, and well I didn't want to make you come in sooner then you needed to, and well... I brought someone in." Phillip face suddenly flushed scarlet. He placed his hands palm down on the desk and seemed to be staring past me.

"Um, okay, that seems fair." It was awkward for me to sit across from my usually confident and boisterous boss and have him be so, well awkward. I guessed the understanding he was using was new for him and he was struggling. I smiled at him reassuringly despite the fact that I didn't quite understand. "So do I work for her?"

"No," Phillip sighed, "You and Alicia will be working together, at least until you get back on your feet completely, and then I'll decide who will fill the features editor seat." Phillip looked away again and this time I knew it was bugging him. Right before this had happened Edward, who had been features editor for as long as I could remember, announced his retirement. It was my golden opportunity and I had made a point to inform Phillip every day that the job was going to be mine. I had completely forgotten about it the last two weeks, but now with the mention of competition I suddenly snapped back.

"But Phillip," I bit my lip, I had no right and I knew it, not after the gracious salvation of my current job. I inhaled deeply and stared up at my boss who searching my face with his deep brown almond shaped eyes. "Okay, I understand."

Phillip's face changed to pity for just a moment and now since I knew the story he changed back to his business persona. "Right then, let's go meet Alicia."

Phillip walked me out of his office and over to the last cubicle where I usually sat. I saw the cubicle had been enlarged and there appeared to be a brunette head with golden highlights just behind one of the walls. Jolene's emerald green eyes spotted me from across the floor and I could see her slinking towards us, avoiding Phillip's line of sight. At the time we reached the cubicle a tall golden skinned, perfectly proportioned pencil skirt and white top popped up and turned towards us. With a perfectly manicured hand she pushed waves of gold from her face and a set of white teeth flashed at me. "Hi, I am so excited to meet you! I'm Alicia!" she sang at me.

I was suddenly very aware of my white t-shirt and jeans ensemble. I grabbed my auburn hair and twisted it behind my head before I extended my hand. I tried not to fully touch her soft hands so she wouldn't notice how dry mine were. "Hi, I'm Charlotte, Charlie for short."

I could see Jolene standing off to the side waiving manically trying to get my attention. I glanced quickly and saw her mouth "who is that?"

"Since we are assigned together I rearranged the desks. I hope you don't mind." The teeth beamed at me and her gold bangles jingled as she showed me my once private cubicle had now been made into a duplex. Phillip squeezed my arm and I looked away from my now organized area to see him silently pleading with me.

"Right then, I'll leave you to get acquainted, lots to do." Phillip squeezed my arm again and strained a smile at me. "Glad you're back Charlie." He released my arm just as Jolene squirmed her way between us.

"Hey Charlie, You okay?"Jolene placed her hand on my shoulder as I stared back at my desk. I had worked for years to earn a private corner cubicle. All my knick knacks and rubbish that once personalized my area now seemed to missing and all that remained were yellow sticky notes and pencil holders.

"Hi, I'm Alicia!" Alicia sang to Jolene.

"Yeah, right, Jolene." Jolene answered without looking up, "Seriously Charlie, you okay luv?"

"Jolene? Like the song?" Alicia seemed stunned, most people react that way to Jolene's name and English accent.

"Yeah, my mum was a Huge Dolly Parton fan. Jolene answered irritably. "Phillip, something's gone wrong with Charlie."

I suddenly felt hot all over. I looked up at Phillip and Jolene who stared at me in sheer horror. I turned back to Alicia whose shiny teeth suddenly were too much for me. I leaned over and vomited, right on her perfect leather heels. The last thing I heard before I passed out was Jolene's sudden burst of laughter.

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