Chapter 1 -Witchy Woman
“I am the master of my fate...” — W.E. Henley
“Benjamin Nettles!” shouts his boss Dominique Pike, better known as Dom the Dragon, over the phone receiver he lifts to his ear.
It is the childish name some cheeky intern might spread in rumor (who will remain nameless). In fact, that same intern may have happened to write that derogatory name of said boss lady over his desk-phone extension list for his private amusement. Whenever Dom's phone line lights up red like demon eyes, so does that funny nickname.
“Report to my office!” she orders without waiting for Ben's acknowledgment.
He winces, yanking the offending receiver away from the ringing in his head. Ben only manages a pained hiss in lament to his poor eardrum, throbbing numbly. His stomach bottoms out in cold nausea. By his boss’s callous tone alone, the intern knows the shit has hit the fan, and it covers no one but him.
He is sure she breathes fire this morning as he jumps out of his office chair. Ben does not have the chance to respond with “okay.” Dom already hangs up. Another sign presents itself that this situation bodes unwell for him.
His cubicle-mate of the last six months, a black man a few years older than him named Van, slowly peeps at him above the beige partition. The guy's big brown eyes and broad forehead remind him a lot of the geeky Steve Urkel on the syndicated comedy show “Family Matters.” Ben recalls the good ole days when he watches his favorite syndiTV program as a kid after coming home from school and eating a snack.
Van does not wear oversized glasses or pants above his waist attached to suspenders. Neither does he have an annoying voice punctuated with a snort when tickled. Right now though, Van snorts at Ben’s misfortune while dancing from foot to foot in heartless excitement.
Nerdy little shit!
Dom’s impersonal voice carries from Ben’s phone, no doubt. Van’s elated face tells Ben the asshole loves the fact that someone other than himself is in trouble. Dom has a medal around the company for being a notorious ball-buster like her national pastime. Ben has been warned repeatedly.
“Goddammit!” Ben groans with his aching head in his hand.
He swears that some days the aggravation is not worth getting out of bed. The intern drops the office phone back in its cradle with the other hand since the telephone beeps, indicating its disconnection. This week he’s been called into her office twice! Wednesday comes, not even noon, and she summons him to see her.
“One more screw up, just one; she’ll fire your ass, guaranteed. You know this, right, Ben?” Pete, the head of HR and his mentor, warned him over lunch yesterday.
Ben and Pete often eat together across the street at Primo's Bar and Grill and chat about that very subject. The intern wonders how anyone from the frat survives the constant stress of working for a cruel serpent like Dom. The entire company knows the moment she goes on one of her bitch fits. He swears that they gather around his desk to see the show.
“Yeah, I know,” Ben says, shrugging off his worries under his standard nonchalance. It’s never failed him in the past to appear not to care when he really does. Usually, it helps him avoid conflict in being so passive-aggressive, but Dom is a whole other beast.
“She’s had it in for me from the beginning. Wish I knew why.”
Pete leans forward, blond hair slicked back like a wiseguy from a mafia flick, and he looks every bit that in his shark-colored slim-fit suit. He says out of the side of his mouth, “Honestly, kid, you give these bitches minor power, and it goes straight to their damn heads. I mean, Dom must be sexually frustrated because what guy wants to fuck a cold cunt? Am I right? Huh?” He laughs big, flashing his million-dollar smile, punches Ben's arm, and slings down a gin and tonic.
“Uh, yeah. Right,” Ben half-heartedly agrees.
Despite the inconsiderate way his boss treats him, there is something about her that further unsettles him. The intern’s not been able to figure it out and has not voiced these thoughts to anyone, not even Pete, a frat brother, and friend. How could Ben? His frat buddies might have thought he lost his mind if he tried to explain. Every day Ben wakes up in this nightmare and walks right through the office doors, unsure what he’ll face. Scared is most of it yet not all. He wonders if he has gone mad.
The other part of it he keeps close. It all revolves around Dom. The evil serpent ranks high as the most disconcerting yet arresting older woman Ben has ever dealt with on a regular basis. A tight ass, long legs, C-cup breasts, delicate bone structure that appears symmetrical; yeah, Dom trumps every one of the “it” girls Ben’s dated. Her eyes alone are so vivid one can get lost. One may even forget for a second who she is.
Then she speaks…
The fantasy is blown to hell when nurturing or sweet things fail to flow from those plump lips. Dom is a pitiless dragon and stiffer than Serbian drawers in winter. Make no mistake, that woman is a fembot and feels nothing. She’s all business and scares Ben shitless!
Pete shakes his blond head with a sympathetic smile. He slugs Ben’s shoulder lightly, preceding the bite of his hoagie. “You’ve hung in there though, kid.”
Ben blinks his hazel eyes at Pete’s amused green. He chuckles without much humor. “My mom always says I’m hardheaded. Dad says I’m just too dumb to quit.”
Pete chuckled with him. “I’ve got to give it to you. You’ve lasted longer than any intern to date with that she-devil. A fucking record, man! You do the frat proud. Hell, I’m proud as hell of you, having recommended you for the internship. In the office pool, I won $500 saying that you’re no pussy.”
Ben puffs out his chest with pride. Pete, who is about five years his elder, is a legend in the fraternity. Being the former president of Pi Kappa Alpha at American University, he involves himself with only top performers or well-connected amongst his brothers. Once learning about the partying charmer, Ben, who breezed through hazing like a champ, Pete comprehended the caliber of the man that can handle any challenge thrown at him. Occasionally, he can be found at some of their classier charity parties and final hazing rituals reserved for the elite bros who can handle it. Ben is so grateful to saturate himself in whatever wisdom Pete offers while also not wanting to let him down.
Report to my office!
Ben rubs his head that still echoes with her voice. He gulps in his dry throat while seated behind his desk piled with stacks of paperwork he had yet to review. Sweat creeps along his forehead, armpits, and balls. His hands grow clammy with his queasy stomach bubbling. Ben tries his best to slow his hurried breathing at Dom’s words stuck on a repeat track in his head. He clicks on his mouse and notices an IM from his boss on his computer which says:
God, that insufferable woman is constantly PMSing. Ben totally gets why no one lasts long in the internship. Daily he reminds himself of the endgame in taking Dom’s shit with a grin. Each day it gets harder to justify why he endures this abuse.
I think I can. I know I can. A favorable recommendation means the choice of any job I want, anywhere in the world. Just think of that.
Ben opens the center drawer of his desk on auto-pilot. His eyes are still closed as he retrieves and pops a Tums tablet into his mouth. Automatically, he chews fast with his nerves on edge. His ulcer flares again like an active volcano. He develops them the moment he works for Dom.
“What happened?” Van asks with a despicable grin in an eagerness that makes Ben hate him, the prick. “Tell me.”
“Fuck off, Van,” Ben bites off and rolls his eyes. The guy won’t mind his own business and takes ridiculous amounts of joy in the misadventures of others. No way he will feed into that.
“Strike three, and you’re outta here.” Van laughs with maniacal glee while making like he swings a bat.
Ben tosses his stapler at him, which Van ducks in surprise. The black man’s contemptible snorts of laughter continue while the projectile hits and slides across the floor.
“Get a life, man! Damn!”
This internship pays exceptionally well, and a reference from the indomitable Dominique Pike is like gold in the business world. A regular fucking rite of passage! Besides Pete, some frat brothers that Ben’s tracked down about their experiences at Noble International Group, one of the richest and most powerful conglomerates in the world, tell him that he should hold on for as long as he can. It's all worth the hassle in the end.
“I hope my next cubicle-mate is a cute girl,” Van mumbles loud enough for Ben to hear.
With a grimace, Ben wishes that he can see the end of his internship without being fired. Trepidation fills him. He contemplates the idea of failure for the first time in his life. A constant underachiever of his potential, the intern skates by all of high school and most of college. It was enough.
At Noble, Ben never banks on his charm or quick take on his environment failing to benefit him. His thick unruly brown hair, tanned skin, decent body (he worked out but not religiously), hazel eyes were a plus everywhere else in his life. These things impress none of the women of power at this conglomerate.
Something strange happens. Ben actually works his ass off. It sucks! No matter what he tries, he cannot impress anyone at the company. He makes no headway toward proving that he can handle whatever the managers at Noble International throw at him, and they have thrown everything but the damn kitchen sink from day one!
Ben gripes under his breath, “Unappreciative sons of bitches!”
Unfortunately, all Ben’s ever gotten in return for his efforts is shit. No one appreciates all his hard work, even when he does an outstanding job. No pats on the back come his way for going above and beyond what is expected. No expressions of thank you. Ben receives instead a lengthy commentary on how poorly he does everything. The managers throw his flaws in his face, mock and snigger at him, and often make him redo all his work to their perfect satisfaction.
The leadership section of Ben's department is composed of nothing but unforgiving witches. Ben swears by it every night prior to bedtime. He sees them in his nightmares that torment him frequently of boiling in a cauldron of hate. The head of the brigade is his sexy older boss Dom with her pitchfork to shove him back in the heat every time he leaps out like a frog to escape.
Van snaps his fingers twice in his face over the partition, thus bringing Ben out of his thoughts with a jolt. “Better get a move on, white boy. If you make her come outta her lair, you’re a goner for sure.”
“Fuck you!” Ben growls.
Knowing that he’s right, though, the intern stands with brittle legs on the verge of collapse. His enormous feet have gone cold with his matching hands. The last place on earth Ben wants to go is Dom’s lair. She’s going to eat him alive!
Van raises his hands in mock surrender, but that loathsome smile goes nowhere. It grows, damn him! No further words do they share. There is no need since both know Ben goes to his doom.
The intern tosses another Tums in his mouth. He keeps chewing, hoping for relief soon, yet finds none in his grimace. Slowly, he makes his way down purgatory road. The long walk awaits to the far end of the building where Dom’s lair resides, as does Ben's fate.