“I am sorry, Mr. Lovell. The figures are in. Your supervisor has been very diligent in keeping records. Your results have been consistently falling behind for the last year. Not a day, not a month but an entire year!” She held both hands out expansively. “What did you expect us to do, nothing? You have been talked to about this.” 

She crossed her slim legs and rocked a bit in her leather swivel chair. 

The big man hung his head with a guilty look. 

“It’s true my hands aren’t what they used to be. Not as fast and so forth. A bit of arthritis you see.” He looked up at her for a little sympathy. “And then, the foreman is having me train all the new guys and it slows me down more and affects my productivity.”

“That would be, of course, only what we would expect from the Senior employee on the line. That you would be willing to train newer employees,” she replied, her black eyes glittering at him. 

“Well, of course, of course. I try to do what I can. But then the company put in that new digital computer analyzer and when I needed help with that, no one would help me. Why, one young guy just laughed at me and said an old man like me couldn’t be expected to understand it! Plain disrespectful.”

Vi tilted her head to one side and kept shaking it. 

“We have tried, Mr. Lovell, we have tried.”

Lovell looked close to tears. 

“If you let me go now, I get reduced pension and none of the medical benefit package that was promised. My wife has cancer, Ms. Lee and every little bit counts.”

“Aren’t you entitled to Social Security and Medicare pretty soon Mr. Lovell?

“Well, yes, we are. But that doesn’t cover much and her treatments are expensive!”

“Look, Mr. Lovell,” Vi was glancing at the clock, she had a lunch date, “I will personally look into it and do everything possible. You know better than I do what a bear that CEO is.” She laughed and he laughed.

“Don’t I ever.”

She stood up. “We’ll be in touch, Mr. Lovell.” She started walking to her door and he followed.  

Like an old circus bear, she mused to herself. 

“Thank you, Ms. Lee. Thank you very much. My wife and I, we appreciate all your help.”

She smiled warmly and gave him a little pat on the shoulder. He finally left. 

“Jesus,” she mumbled to herself, “bloody hearts and flowers. Thought he would never shut up!” 

She grabbed her bag and bolted to the door. Her boyfriend of two years, Stanley, had called out of the blue and wanted to do lunch. His treat. Wow. Maybe he was going to pop the big question.

“Robin, lunch,” she flung the remark over her shoulder as she scooted to the elevator. “Might be a little late coming back.” 

Robin opened her mouth to say that she had forgotten her lunch that day and needed to go out and get a sandwich. She shut it instead. The deli on the corner would deliver. Just a slight fee for the service. What the hell, it’s just money, right? She thought bitterly as she picked up the phone to place her order.

Just as she was replacing the receiver, Jeremy Bright, the other HR manager, came walking through with a sheaf of papers in his hand. 

“Where’s Vi?” he asked without ceremony.

“Lunch,” Robin replied. 

“Shit, we need those figures on that Talent report, ASAP.” He stared out into space a moment. “You don’t know where they are do you?” Jeremy leaned his lanky 6’ 2” frame over the little partition in front of Robin’s desk. He gazed down at her a long moment. She blushed. 

Jeremy was an extremely attractive, married- well almost-married-man. Dark hair and blue eyes, he had been sticky fly paper for many women in the company. She didn’t want to become another. 

“I . . . I will look on her desk, Sir. I am almost certain she was working on the numbers this morning. Let me get back to you on that.” Head down, she was speaking to her desk. 

Jeremy rolled his papers into a tube. 

“Yeah, right. Do that, Robin. Fast as possible, ‘kay?”

 He tapped the paper tube against the partition and turned to go back to his office. Jeremy was striding back to his office and remembered the brief affair he had once with Vivian when she was new. 

I used to think she was cute, with her sassy black eyes and black hair. No makeup to speak of, very different from my usual blonde co-eds. She was cute then. Now, he let out an involuntary shiver. She’s hard, cold and I don’t trust her as far as I can throw her. Good thing she still holds a candle for me, hoping we’ll get back together. Geeze, I hope Caroline never finds out. 

Little did Jeremy know that Caroline, his fiancée, had known about the affair for a very long time. Ever since a company party at Christmas one year when Vi had made it her business to tell her all about it.

                                                            #

Vivian screeched into the parking lot at the Jardinière restaurant and slammed on the brakes, making the valet jump. She got out and threw the keys at him. 

“Back in an hour,” she barked. 

She whizzed into the ladies’ room first. She had a pee. In the mirror, she checked to see that her very red lipstick was in place. Both hands smoothed down the double-knit dress. Little cap sleeves showed off the definition she had been getting at the gym with the new trainer. The shiny black bob was cut to perfection with no hair out of place. She wanted this day to be perfect. 

Although Stanley was younger than she was, twenty-eight to her thirty-six, they had been dating steadily for two years. She had definitely felt that something was coming. She was ready to say yes. A hulky, good looking Australian, Stanley was over here making his debut into commercials and hopefully, TV and movies one day. Vi had successfully connected him with a few of the right people and with those green eyes and blonde hair, he was off. 

Stanley was waiting for her at their table and stood when she showed up and graciously pulled out the chair for her. 

Ever the gentleman, Vi thought to herself. Not like these American slugs I have had to deal with. 

“I ordered you a Chablis, your favorite,” Stanley smiled at her. A dark blond curl fell forward as he leaned toward her.

Oh, I love him so much. We will have beautiful children, she thought.

“Aren’t you having a beer? Your favorite?” 

“Naw, got a shoot right after this and got to be on me toes you know. Directors!” He grinned and perfect teeth showed in a tan, handsome face.

They both laughed a little. Vi sensed a bit of tension in the air as she was looking at the menu. 

The waitress came over and Vi ordered her usual Chinese Chicken salad with cashews. 

“Stanley, you’re not eating. What’s the matter, my love?”

Stanley smiled briefly and looked down at the table and started twirling a fork. Long lashed. Rushed his cheeks.

God, I just hate it when he does that. A most annoying habit.

Vi laid a hand over his hand, to reassure him, of course, but mostly to make him stop the twirling thing. 

“What is it, Stan? You can tell me.” She smiled her warmest smile. 

“Vi . . . Vi . . .”

“Yes?”

“I can’t go out with you anymore.” Finally, the words were out, and he looked up at her, pleading in his bright blue eyes. 

She pulled her hand back from his like she had been burned. What? She couldn’t be hearing this. Her head started to swim. 

“. . . told you at the beginning this wasn’t serious for me. I thought we agreed to that. And, now . . . feel like you are wanting more and more from me. . .  not ready for marriage. . . focused on my career. . .”

All Vi could hear was blah, blah, blah. She couldn’t focus. The waitress brought her salad and it sat on the table, untouched. He was still talking, she couldn’t listen to another word. 

“Immigration,” she spat out. 

“What?”

“Immigration. I can tell those people in immigration that your documents are faked. There is no uncle in upstate New York. It’s all faked, he’s just some Aussie buddy helping you out. You’ll lose your work visa.” Her eyes glinted maliciously. 

Stanley looked at her blankly. His enormous muscles strained through the thin cotton shirt. 

‘Vi, look, I know you’re upset. But, really, you wouldn’t do that.” He pleaded like a little kid.

“Upset, upset!” she laughed. “I have wasted two years of my life on you. Set you up in the business, got you contacts, and this, this is how you repay me!” She stabbed the tablecloth with her fork. 

The waitress came back and stood hovering to the side. 

“Not now!” Vi screamed at her. People from other tables turned to look. 

“Vi,” Stanley put his big hands out. “I’m sorry. But, you’re making a scene.”

“Scene. Scene!” she screeched at him. “You’ll be making a scene when you see what I do to you!” She practically knocked the chair over backwards in her hurry to stand up. 

“You better rethink this thing, Stan. Like a marriage, a ring, pre-nups and two point five kids. Or, think about your next conversation with ICE.”

He stared her blankly. 

 She grabbed her purse. “You bastard. You absolute bastard!”

Stanley put his head down and Vi stormed out of the restaurant. Flinging open the front door, she stomped over to the valet desk.

“Red Miata.”

“Sorry, Ma’am?”

“Miata! Red. Can you speak English?”

The two young guys fumbled for the keys and finally grabbed a set. The younger guy set off at a trot to go get the car. Vi waited, fuming, arms folded across her chest. 

The young man pulled up with the car and she jumped in just as Stanley was coming out the door. 

Continued to Part III

Read more of Courtney’s writing in:
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