“He’s dead!?” I yell.
“Shhh,” she says harshly and we both look over to see Wallis from accounting peering over his partition at us. “He’s not dead. If he was dead, do you think I’d so casually drop it like that?”
“I don’t know, you’re a casual kind of person, you once told me about the time you got your butthole bleached when we were discussing where to eat for lunch, and I’d only known you for a week. So, if he’s not dead, what do you mean gone?”
Kate shushes me again, Wallis’s head is poking up again, like an aggravated groundhog. He makes a show of putting on his headphones to drown us out.
“Stop shushing me, Wallis chose his cubicle life. Is it supposed to be a secret?”
“No, everyone knows now,” she says with a sigh.
“Except for me.” Totally irked about that. “Why did he quit? Is he okay?”
Mike is…was…my superior, my boss, even though I thought of him more as an equal. He held the title of the Senior VP of Sales, Marketing and Revenue, the position I’ve been building myself up to take over.
“He’s fine,” she says, and lowers her voice again. “He fell in love.”
She nods just as the elevator dings. “He fell hard.”
“With who? Who quits their job because they fell in love?”
Now she’s biting back a smile. “You won’t believe it if I tell you.”
“Do I know her?”
“I doubt it, but you could surprise me.”
I don’t even know what that means.
“And this all happened while I was gone?”
She nods and then quickly clicks away her Facebook browser as the CEO, George Proctor, and Desiree Wakatsuki, the Senior Vice President of Human Resources, walk over to us from the elevators.
“Nova Lane,” George says heartily. “I was starting to think you might not ever come back. How was Vegas, did you get lucky? Did you bet sixteen red like I told you? Hope you didn’t have too many of those drinks in the big cups, those things are deadly.”
If you haven’t already guessed, the CEO is a giant dork. If you looked up “giant dork” in the dictionary, you’d see his face, right next to Bill Gates and Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I used to think George had some hidden ruthless side of him, because how else do you get to the top of a company without stepping on a few heads, but he’s honestly just a nice guy.
“Sixteen red, I remembered,” I tell him, because you always suck up to the big boss. “And you won twenty dollars.”
He makes a horrible awkward fist pump. “Awesome. Have that Andrew Jackson turn into some ramen from Lucky Belly and we’ll call it even.”
I feign a smile. I barely gambled in Vegas, so the whole betting on red sixteen was a lie and now I have to buy him lunch.
“I hope you enjoyed the time off,” Desiree says in a measured voice. She’s a half-Japanese woman in her sixties, always so cool and calm, perfectly choosing her words and intonation. No wonder she’s a master of Tae Kwon Do. “Do you want to pop by my office at eleven? There’s something I need to discuss with you.”
“Of course,” I tell her as they walk off.
“She wants to fill you in about Mike but they aren’t going to tell you the real dirt,” Kate says, when they’re out of earshot.
I’m tempted to ask about the real dirt, because so far his reason for quitting is crazy. Mike Epson was the most even-keeled man you could imagine. He wore the same thing every single day, the ugliest, craziest Hawaiian shirt you could imagine, and in a city full of Hawaiian shirts as corporate wear, his made your eyes bleed. It was his way of being exciting, since his life consisted of watching the NHL, avoiding the sun, and bowling on Friday nights.
Suffice it to say, the fact that the shy middle-aged perpetual bachelor found love and quit his very prestigious and well-paid job over it, is completely out of character.
And while I loved Mike as a boss and always wanted the best for him, the fact that he’s gone means his job is now vacant.
His job that I’ve spent the last two years actively working toward.
Yeah, maybe I work a lot because that’s all I know how to do, but I’m very goal-oriented and competitive and if I’m not moving up, I’m not going anywhere.
This has been in my line of sight for a long time.
That job should be mine.
“Has she said anything about filling the position?” I ask Kate bluntly.
She shrugs. “Not to me. Maybe that’s what she wants to talk to you about.”
I’m this close to doing an embarrassing happy dance in front of her, which I know resembles Snoopy dancing on top of Schroeder’s piano, but I manage to rein it in. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, even though what I really want to do is get on that pony and ride it all the way to Promotionville.
“Do you want to do lunch today?” she asks. “We could go to Lucky Belly and get George’s ramen and you can fill me in on your sexy vacay.”
I roll my eyes. “Lunch sounds good. We might not get a lot of eating done because I have a lot to tell you. And no…it’s not what you think.”
Although knowing Kate, she probably factored hookers somewhere in the equation.
The next two hours fly by as I await the meeting with Desiree. There’s a lot of work to catch up on and, even though my assistant Mahina has done a really good job managing it (a little too good), most of the stuff only I can do. I’m hit with a lot of post-vacation guilt and my mind starts to run away on me.
If I hadn’t gone away, I wouldn’t be so behind on everything.
If I hadn’t gone away, maybe I’d already have Mike’s job.
My mother always told me that there was no use worrying over something that’s already happened since it can’t change a thing. But the thing is, I always thought worrying could change something. I thought it worked like a prayer. I thought it bought you insurance so that when the worst happened, you wouldn’t be caught blindsided.
But both of us knew that worrying about my sister wouldn’t change anything and we did it anyway.
At ten past eleven, Desiree calls me and tells me to come into her office. With the call coming ten minutes later than expected, I’ve already given my pineapple-shaped stress-ball a real workout and I’m practically flying out the door. I give a quick wave to Teef, our IT guy in the office next door, and hurry around the other side.
The door to Desiree’s office is open slightly so I poke my head in. “I’m here,” I tell her.
“Come on in,” she says. “Shut the door, please.”
Desiree’s office has sweeping views of the harbor and you can even see a bit of Diamond Head peeking out from between high-rises. Today the water looks extra nice, sparkling in lines of deep blue and turquoise. The office next door to hers is…was Mike’s and I would kill for this view. My office faces another building with only a glimpse of the green mountains behind. There’s one guy across from me who spends his lunch hour doing yoga in his underwear on top of his desk.
I shut the door and take a seat across from her.
She has a folder in her hands but she pushes it to the side. It has a name on it that I can’t quite read and I don’t want to be obvious that I’m trying to.
“So, I take it you had a nice time,” Desiree says, folding her hands in front of her.
This is where it gets tricky. Do I just pretend everything is fine or do I tell her the truth? Before I got to the office, I was all prepared to vent to everyone since my co-workers are my only family here. But now that this whole Mike quitting thing has reared its head, I’m not sure if the distraction is a good idea.
“It was very dry and busy and hot,” I tell her with a quick smile. “So, what did you want to speak to me about? Did something happen while I was gone?”
She frowns for a moment. I’m usually not so blunt.
“As it happens,” she slowly goes on with a sad look in her eyes, “something did happen while you were gone. We didn’t want to bother you about it until you got back but Mike quit unexpectedly.”
I try to act shocked. “Oh my god,” I say in a hushed voice, my hand at my chest.
Her lips quirk up. “So, I take it Kate already told you,” she says dryly.
“Am I that bad of an actor?”
She laughs. “Yes. You are. So what did Kate say?”
“She didn’t say much except that Mike fell in love.”
“That’s pretty much it,” she says with a sigh. “I don’t understand it myself, but he met this woman who was here on vacation, I guess she’d gone to his bowling alley, and the next thing I know I get his resignation letter saying he was going to go live in Thailand with her.”
“Thailand?! Are you sure she’s a woman?”
She shrugs. “Oh, she’s a woman all right. I guess Kate didn’t tell you the part where this woman happens to be a quasi-famous…adult film actress.”
“He ran away with a porn star?”
This is getting weirder.
She winces at the thought. “Yes.” Then she shakes her head, as if trying to shed a mental image. “So that’s the story as far as we know. He’s already gone. No two-week notice either. So we’re scrambling to try and fill his position.”
Oh my god.
Here it comes.
I try to keep from squirming in my seat, pressing my lips together so I’m not prematurely smiling.
She goes on. “As you know, you’ve been working for Mike pretty much since you got here. You’ve learned a lot from him. And you know we’ve been talking to him to see who he’d recommend for his spot.”
Here it comes, here it comes…
“But as adamant as Mike was, we just couldn’t be sure. There’s so much pressure right now to fill this role and we want to do it right.”