To risk all

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Chapter 8

Friday arrived without receiving a single phone call from Bridget Marin. The young woman knew she didn’t have the job. She felt some disappointment nonetheless. She would survive. She endured Michele’s mood swings for a long time. Her situation wasn’t so hopeless after all.

She took a message when her boss walked by her office in a rush without greeting. She sighed, raising her eyebrows. Oh… it doesn’t look good… Michele was leaving a meeting which, according to her reaction, has been too long. Clara was now on her guard. Her boss seemed very upset and the young woman didn’t really want to be her stress releasing toy. The smallest detail can make her boss exploded. Clara went to pick up the files already done on the corner of her desk. Suddenly Michele’s door opened and she stuck her head into the opening.

“In my office.”

Then she closed the door without more detail. Clara felt again a knot forming in her stomach. Being in the office was never a good sign when Michele was in that state of nervousness. She could even spoil her weekend before it even begins! It was a true gift she possessed! Clara quickly grabbed her notebook and a pen. Before entering the room, she took a deep breath. Let’s just face the music… With an impatient gesture, her boss beckoned her to enter and close the door behind her.

“You’ll need to prepare a job offer and promptly displayed it.”

Giving instructions, Michele continued to look at her computer screen. Clara suspected she was reading her emails. She raised her notebook, waiting for the rest. In her boss’s state of nervousness, it was better for her to just wait and see. She had already written job offers before, but she had to know what description it was.

“I want you to be very precise in this announcement.”

The young woman only shook her head, even if her boss wasn’t looking at her. She had clearly understood the message: it was a significant job for Michele. She didn’t want to hire anybody.

“I need someone very competent so I want a lot of details with this announcement.”

“Yes, of course.”

“So you’ll find me a new assistant.”

A slap in the face wouldn’t have had the same effect on Clara that those words came out of her boss’s mouth. After all these years, it was how she learned she was fired? The shock was followed by surprise. What had she done so bad to deserve such treatment? She quickly rummaged in her memory, seeking a mistake. She didn’t find one. Michele finally laid her eyes on her as if she expected to see her burst into tears. But Clara refused to give her that. She pulled herself together, confronting her. But in her mind, she was already developing an emergency plan by going into survival mode. No way won’t she do anything. She had some money aside. She could use the time to find a new job.

“I need a trusted, reliable and discreet assistant.”

Clara used her notebook to hide what she really felt. She wrote on it: assistant job with the words DISRETE and RELIABLE and underlined it twice. Were there other qualifications required? Patience, big heart and can withstand the pressure caused by your horrible mood and all your unfounded accusations! She wanted to scream all she had on her mind, but it would be pointless. It would surely be relieved to do so. She seemed to have been nothing all this time. According to her, she wasn’t so incompetent. She deserved better than that, but she didn’t know how to make her understand it. She didn’t believe to be superior to anyone. She wasn’t bragging. She wasn’t so void. In the past, she had already been fired. She had survived. But right now it wasn’t a private conversation with reasons explaining the decision. Her boss had told her that she literally lost her job by formally asking her to post her own job!

Suddenly she felt her lip begin to tremble. She bit it to control herself a bit. She wouldn’t crack. While the tears came to her eyes, she couldn’t show her boss how she was affected by all this. Michele asked her to sit down because she was suddenly very pale. Eyes still on her notepad, the young woman sat in an armchair in front of her boss’s office.

“You have nothing to say?” Michele asked.

Clara was forced to raise her eyes to look at her. She asked in an unsteady voice:

“Do you have any other requirements?”

“I received a phone call this morning. I can’t say I was very happy to have received it, but sooner or later it had to happen. Finally, I think. This is not the first time I receive such calls for references!”

She still had no emotion in her voice. Clara couldn’t know if she was angry or disappointed. Michele had great control over herself, expect when she was furious. Right now, impossible to say. She continued her speech by explaining that she had received lots of calls for references regarding current staff members who were looking elsewhere in greatest secrecy. For her, they were just strangers.

“But getting a call from Pyramid Vision is not very common.”

Oh… that explains everything now. She thought she could screen calls for Michele throughout the day, recognize voices. But she had been less careful the day having followed the interview. She didn’t pay attention to messages or anything. She had simply forgotten to remain vigilant. And for that, she had just lost her job. The price was very high to pay.

“Phone calls from employment agencies are common, even if I didn’t expect it.”

Michele got up and walked around her desk to sit on the corner, facing Clara. She told her that the call came from a longtime friend. I get an interview by a friend of my boss. What a lucky girl I am! But wait! She has friends? Without further waiting, her boss told her:

“Bridget couldn’t ask me directly questions because I know her. The file becomes a bit special then.”

Clara felt like a deer in front of a truck. She didn’t know how to react.

“I knew that someday it might happen. I just didn’t want to admit it, I guess. You didn’t want to stay my assistant the rest of your life, do you?”

“N-No…”

“It’s not an easy decision, believe me!”

“You… When do you want your new assistant to start…?”

“I asked Bridget if you could give me a little over two weeks before you begin your new job. Your new bosses agree. Just enough time to hire a new person and train him or her before leaving. Okay?”

Her ears were buzzing. She had just mentioned a new job and new bosses in the same sentence. It didn’t make any sense! Then, slight smile formed on the corner of Michele’s lips before congratulated her. Seeing that the young woman didn’t react, Michele congratulated her again, explaining that she would become her new boss.

“I… I have the job?”

“Yes!”

“But… No one called me to let me know…”

“I spoke with Bridget and I asked her if I could announce it first. She’ll contact you for details next week.”

“I… I really got it?”

“My mood swings are not very easy to follow, I admit. But I never said you were incompetent.”

Positive emotions and regrets were not parts from Michele. She showed more diplomacy than anything else right now. There is a first time for everything, I guess.

“So your last official task will be to find me a new assistant as competent as you.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“And I’ve got no doubt! Start planning the job description so it’ll be ready first thing Monday morning. I would like the position to be posted soon, please.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Still in shock, Clara returned to her desk. She felt a bit like a robot, not knowing how she should react now. Should she jump with joy or cry? She was a very nervous person and the unknown was very scary. But she never imagined it could really happen! She had a new job… She would be her own boss… New responsibilities, meetings, and surely the proper training for it to be even more effective. Someone gave her a chance to prove herself despite the lack of diploma. It deserved to be celebrated!

She took her cell phone and sent a text message to her friends, asking them to meet her at the small pub at the end of the day. They had something to celebrate. Sitting at her desk, she quickly composed a suitable job offers. Everything met Michele’s requirements. She was able to stay focused on her work without any problems. It made her very proud.

When the day was over, she went to the little café for a sandwich and drinks a coffee. She was waiting for news from her friends. Had they received her message or not? Nothing indicated it to her. She pulled a book out of her bag and relaxed a gaping smile on her lips. It was almost 6:00 p.m. when the first message arrived. It came from Edward. He accepted the little meeting, but he wanted a little more details on the true nature of it. She replied only that she was waiting to see him. She refused to say anything to him before Mary’s arrival. The young woman sent her a reply later. She would be there too.

Satisfied, she gathered her things and went to the pub. As she expected, she was the first to arrive. She ordered something to drink and sat down at the same table as usual. Edward entered a few minutes later, ordered a large glass of beer and went to join her.

“So what’s up?”

The young woman smiled and shook her head.

“Calm down! Mary’s not here yet.”

“She’ll be here soon so you can start. Tell me everything! Why so secretive?”

The young woman’s smile grows while shocking her head. Edward sighed deeply, folding his arms across his chest. Clara laughed. He looked like a grumpy kid! Her face brightened with the sensational arrival of Mary who took her feet in a chair and collapsed on the floor. She sat up quickly, dusting off her clothes. Her pride hurt, she went to her friends, a little embarrassed smile on her lips.

“Good!” she said eagerly. “What I missed?”

“Nothing at all!” Edward muttered, taking a long swig of his beer. “She hasn’t spilled the beans. She was waiting for your arrival.”

“Now I’m here!”

“So what’s up?”

The young woman swallowed more than half of her drink before telling them about the interview she had during the week, followed by her meeting with Michele. Her friends shouted for joy when she announced she had a new job. It’s been a long time and she was so proud. The changes she wanted finally began to take shape. They drank joyously to celebrate the news.

“It’s really cool!” Mary launched. “Finally, you make a move!”

“When do you start?”

“I post my job on Monday and I’ll have to make a brief training. Say two or three weeks.”

“It’s worth it to go out tonight!” Edward said.

Clara shrugged and smiled. They finished their drinks and ordered others immediately after. It was just the beginning! Edward had no story to tell them because he had spent the day at home, resting. However, he got laid like never before! He wasn’t boastful about his sexual experiences. It was a different story when it came to lugging his conquests before an audience. Then he described the last woman he had taken to his bed. He said it was a real bomb! Mary decided to compete by telling him her last shot.

“This guy did it like a real God!”

“That doesn’t count!” Edward replied, slapping the table. “You say that every time you meet a new guy.”

“Of course it counts! Clara! Tell him, please!”

Clara raised her hands, replying that she preferred to remain neutral for the psychological health of everyone. Mary pouted, raising her eyebrows. She sighed before continuing the discussion with Edward. It was Clara’s turn to sigh deeply. She had no sexual story to tell them. These intimate moment with a man went up to a point in her life which she retained no memory.

Her friends became suddenly silent, as if their discussion was no longer represent any interest. Clara frowned and turned to see why they suddenly seemed very uncomfortable. David was heading directly toward them, smiling. He buried his hands in his pockets when he stopped beside her.

“Good evening!” he said, cheerfully. “You’re celebrating what?”

They hesitated to give him the real reason. Clara looked away, hoping that her friends would understand she didn’t want him around. Edward moistened his lips before answering:

“We relax with the weekend’s arrival.”

Thank you very much, Eddie! Mary forced a smile and said they were in a very important discussion. Very good! But will he understand that he bothers them? He leaned against the back of Clara’s chair.

“Really? And you were talking about what?”

And no… He doesn’t understand the message… He grabbed another chair to join their conversation, but the discomfort intensified a little more. Clara didn’t tell him what was happening in her life. It didn’t concern him for a while. Then something flashed through her mind: the last time she had spoken to him, he told her he was in town for a convention. Since then, he should be home. So what was he still doing here? She turned to him.

“Why are you still here?”

He forced himself to smile.

“Family emergency,” David replied, shaking his head. “My father has done something stupid and I’m here to support him.”

She raised her eyebrows in surprise because of what she just had heard. Her friends seemed to think, but not her. As his ex-girlfriend, there were details to which she had access. She rose to go and order a third drink at the bar. But she did realize that David was really following her that far. He doesn’t understand a thing!

“Why do I feel that my presence is not appreciated?”

She turned to him.

“Because it’s the case. And you’re a liar.”

He looked away while apologizing. He had forgotten that she knew him quite well, unlike her friends. He asked her if she would tell them everything or keep it all to herself. She grimaced, shaking her head. She didn’t care a lot. It could tell all the lies he wanted. It didn’t interest anyone, anyway.

“That’s nice.”

“I don’t think that my friends are interested to know that your father died two months before your graduation.”

“I had forgotten you knew.”

She knocked lightly on the bar to attract the bartender’s attention that seemed determined to ignore her. David’s presence accentuated her nervousness. She wanted another drink very quickly. She knocked again.

“You really haven’t changed,” he whispered in her ear.

She bit her lower lip, hoping to be elsewhere. She wanted him to go as far as possible. She hadn’t heard from him for several years and suddenly, she fell on him twice in a short time. She wondered if those encounters were mere coincidences or plain bad luck.

“And you’re still so pretty.”

“Enough with that, will you.”

“What? I’m just telling the truth.”

She ended up ordering her glass and hastened back to sit with her friends. Mary made a sign that David was following her. Damn… Can he just leave me alone? She dropped heavily into her chair with a sigh. At least she had another drink. Edward and Mary had resumed the discussion on their respective sex lives and David wanted to join the conversation. His opinion wasn’t interested, but he still didn’t understand the message. Mary raised her eyebrows, turning to him.

“You’re married, right?” she asked.

“Yes. Why?”

“What’s the frequency of your… sexual relations…?”

Clara held back a giggle. She knew Mary well enough to know she loved to make people uncomfortable when they were unwanted and hopes they’ll leave. Normally, her thing was working fine. But David hesitated to answer her. Edward decided to make fun of him as well.

“But he’s married! Nothing is happening under the cover anymore!”

Mary laughed, followed by Clara. David didn’t seem to appreciate the joke. He saw an opportunity to answer.

“No! We have a very active sex life!”

“Of course”, Edward laughed. “It’s important not to lose face in front of friends. This will be our little secret, buddy.”

Everyone was laughing, but David didn’t found it funny. He contented himself by taking a long sip of beer without answering. Edward said in a mocking tone that his wife had probably caught him masturbating in front of a porn movie. It was enough for David. He wished them a nice evening and a very good weekend before he left. They were finally able to relax a little. Clara sighed with relief. Unobtrusive way, they clinked glasses again. Mary paid a tour to celebrate the new job of her friend.

Edward asked Clara how her research for the perfect man was going. She emptied her glass and lay on the table before her. She shook her head. She had to admit that it wasn’t going very well.

“How can you be so sure?” Mary asked.

“Because my research’s stuck in second gear.”

“Oh…” Edward groaned. “But don’t worry for that. There’s a man just for you.”

Clara thanked him for his words of encouragement. She wondered if he really believed what he had just said. She simply shrugged her shoulders and passed on. They emptied a few drinks before Mary decided to go home, dead tired. Edward did the same afterwards. Clara went to the bar to pay the bill. She also asked the bartender if he could call a taxi. It was too late for the subway. Turning around, David was behind her. The young woman felt her heart pounding in her chest. What is he still doing here? She forced herself to smile.

“You’re leaving?” he asked.

She nodded, feeling a little alcohol soften the muscles of her legs. She had to keep her mind straight. Seeing him so close to her, Clara realized he was no longer as attractive as before. She felt he was aging badly.

“Yes. Have a good night, David.”

“Wait a moment, please.”

She only shook her head and walked to the exit. David called her again while going after her. She let out an exasperated sigh, turning to him.

“What do you want?” she said impatiently.

“It’s been a long time we have seen each other. You don’t want to talk for a moment?”

“Have you seen the time?”

He hesitated, as if it was a trick question. She told him to go back where he came from and leave her alone. He put his hand on her shoulder so that he turned her back to him and tried to kiss her. By reflex, she struck him on the nose. He gave a little cry of pain and recoiled staggered. He glared at her.

“What’s your problem?”

Blood flowed from his nose now.

“You just tried to kiss me and you ask me if I’ve got a problem?”

“It’s not the first time I do this!”

“You’re married, you fool! You don’t believe that you’re going to get laid with me tonight!”

“Why not? You have no one else in your life, not that I’m aware of.”

You’re going too far. She narrowed her eyes, feeling the anger rising in her like a heat wave.

“Do you think I was waiting for your return? You’re dreaming, man! Return to your wife, David. You left my life the day you chose your career and your friends.”

“You will not talk about that again…”

“I’m not in love with you anymore. And now I want you to leave alone. But what did you think? You’re married!”

“It doesn’t mean that I can’t see other women.”

She had recoiled. According to what he had just told her he cheated on his wife on a fairly regular basis. What a moron! Can someone explain to me what I could find in him? She still wanted to hit him, but she took a deep breath to calm herself. It wasn’t worth the trouble.

“This is what it means, moron.”

“Just for one night. Nothing else.”

“Poor idiot.”

Her taxi stopped next to the sidewalk. She got quickly in and indicated where she wanted to go. She climbed the stairs to take refuge in her apartment. Once the door locked, she was able to cry. Yes, she was single. But that didn’t mean she slept with the first man to look her way. She slid along the door, still in tears. Why was there always something to bring her down when she was happy?

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