I exited the elevator with coffee in hand and greeted by the reception desk with a golden platted engraving with the company’s name, Hawksley Holding Inc. There was a light chatter behind the glass divider. I knew I wasn’t the only one in the secretarial division who was bright and early today.
I’ve been a receptionist for one of the leading business tycoons in Chicago for two years. But it isn’t luck that got me back home to Illinois.
The heir and the current CEO of the Chicago branch, Julian Hawksley, was hiring someone to handle the menial task while he was visiting Chicago two years ago. At that time, I was working in the London Branch in the same company. When I heard it within the secretarial circle, I didn’t hesitate to get my resume on his desk. That’s only because I knew someone he trusted.
Even if I worked in the same office as Julian Hawksley, it was his secretary, Mr. Rufus Fletcher, with who I was more acquainted. His work as an executive secretary for the Hawksley was known to be top-notch. I’ve learned a thing or two from the man himself while working under the secretarial division. He gladly took me under his wing during my training. Even after it ended, he’d willingly lend me a hand from time to time, which grew into a stable bond as a senior and junior colleague. It was him who was responsible for getting me back to Chicago.
At that time, I didn’t know the position was a promotion and permanent. After the announcement came that Julian Hawksley was appointed as the new CEO of the Chicago branch office of Hawksley Holding, Rufus hadn’t thought twice and appointed me as the head receptionist. Being Julian’s executive secretary, he had the authority to hire me. The news put me in a dream-like state. I’m finally back home with a decent job, which my parents are proud of. It was a far cry from my previous work position as an assistant.
But a year later, when the office was well staffed and operational, my favorite mentor returned to his post in England and left Julian to fend for himself.
But not completely.
When he approached and told me he was looking for a new secretary, it was the first time he asked for my help. I didn’t want to let him down. So, I recommended him a person I knew who was confident and can handle the task, which was Julian Hawksley himself. And the job was obviously second. It wasn’t in sense nepotism since Zoey Curtis was my sister’s best friend.
A year later, I’m proud to secretly say I was partly the match-maker of my boss and his girlfriend.
And on cue, bright and early as always, the lovers exited the elevator. Their glowing smile greeted me as they approached the reception desk.
“Morning, Amy,” Zoey said, while Julian nodded in greeting.
I noticed their interlaced fingers. It was rare to see them openly intimate in the office. Something had happened I haven’t heard yet.
“Good morning, Zoey. Mr. Hawksley,” I greeted calmly. “How was your weekend? Did you manage to get some rest?” I lightly interrogated, trying to gauge what I missed.
“We did,” Zoey beamed and coyly peered at Julian, giving him a flirty wink.
“Are you sure you did get some rest, gorgeous?” Julian softly whispered by her ear while affectionately placed a hand on her back.
I had to briefly look away as Zoey whispered something to him as well. My interest perked, trying to stitch together the clues. Both of them were openly flirting with each other. I cleared my throat, trying to snap the two out of their bubble. Like that, I got back Zoey’s attention. This time, her smile was brighter than usual. I watched her with curiosity.
“Why are you smiling like that?” I asked.
She giggled. “Guess what?”
“What?” I pressed.
Rather than phasing it into word, she raised her left hand.
On her finger was a diamond ring that might end world hunger. I gasped and then jumped up from my seat. I took her hand and studied the ring some more.
“Oh my gosh! Congratulations! When did this happen? Since I haven’t heard anything from April… wait, did you tell her already?” I asked, knowing how my little sister, her best friend, might have a fit if she wasn’t informed right away.
“No worries. I called her after Julian and I talked to our parents. I asked her to keep it a secret so that I could personally tell you.” She beamed.
“I’m surprised you managed to shut her up.” I chuckled and shook my head. My little sister wasn’t the kind of person to hide things from me. Maybe she drew a line for this.
“Actually, I bribed her with something,” she bashfully informed.
I groaned and sighed. “Please don’t tell me you made her your maid of honor. Wouldn’t your older sister Kathy be mad?”
Zoey sighed as well. “I did. And Kathy is fine as long as she’s still part of the entourage. But we still haven’t set a date. You know April, she’s always a step ahead.”
I chuckled. She was right. “Well, Congratulations to you both again. My best wishes.” I said and peered at Julian, who was entirely quiet throughout the conversation. A rare sight.
Then I notice his loving stare at Zoey. The man was totally in love.
I wanted to ask for more detail about the proposal, but I didn’t want to pry on their privacy since Julian was still my boss. Hence, I redirected Zoey’s attention to their conference meeting in half an hour. And, like that, she reverted her manner professionally. She hastily made her exit, dragging Julian along with her.
However, those two aren’t the only other people in my workplace who made my morning rowdy.
A couple of minutes later, the head of marketing, Kyla Hawksley, Julian’s sister-in-law, entered the premises. Her confident stride and warm smile were a sight to behold as always. Before Zoey was here, Kyla was one of the few women in the office who could keep Julian and a handful of their peers at bay. She was a formidable woman when she’s on a roll.
“Morning, Amy! Did you hear?” She asked without context. Knowing her, and probably knowing me, she assumed I heard the news. And she was right.
“Morning, Kyla. I’ve heard. And I saw the…” I trailed off and held up my left hand as emphasis.
“No! I haven’t even seen it myself. Zoey wouldn’t send me a picture, saying it looks much better in person.”
“It is. And fairly a big rock.” I shook my head in awe.
Kyla studied my expression. “I’ve got to see that ring myself,” she stated like it was her mission for the day.
“Let me know if Zoey told you details about the proposal,” I said.
“Oh! She hadn’t told you. It’s was very Julian,” she chuckled.
“Really? How did it go?” I asked with interest.
“I’ll let Rhea give you the detail. I’m not sure I’ll get it correct again. I’ve told too many people since I got the news,” she dejectedly informed, “and, has Rhea arrived yet?”
Her secretary, Rhea, was well informed with office gossip as I am. Amongst the secretarial staff, she’s the one I’m closest to as well.
“Yes. She’s there already.” I replied.
“Great. Then I’ll excuse myself and get a good look at that ring. See you later, Amy,” she hastily waved and strode in the direction of Zoey’s desk.
“Have a good day, Kyla,” I called out a second too late as she made a quick exit.
I chuckled, thinking how much gossip about Zoey and Julian’s engagement I’ll be hearing today. Over a year ago, when they finally publicized their relationship, the building was swarming with paparazzi. Because of that, Julian had to hire new help. Well, more like security help.
I welcomed Albert and Greg with open arms. However, as the year passed and things died down, Julian kept their service as a precaution. Since their arrival, I had welcomed them with open arms even though they cramped my workspace. They had become more than just colleagues to me. I found myself, two brotherly-type friends. As per my sister’s words before, I need more friends. Sure she hadn’t meant friends who were older men in their late thirties and fifties, but they were friends nonetheless.
Per their usual morning routine meeting with the building security, Albert and Greg rejoined me in the reception area a couple of minutes after Julian and Zoey arrived. Though now they own a mini work station (more like a booth) by the elevator with two security monitors, they’ve always lounge themselves on the two empty chairs beside me. Thus, it explicated why they’re irritating sometimes.
“I hope you didn’t stay at home again, Amy. Get out and find yourself a man already,” Greg, the thirty-eight-year-old, father of two, asked with his usual greeting. He wore a neat standard black suit and tie, which was like a uniform.
However, it was Albert who wore the suit ensemble better. With his rugged look, slick graying hair, and clean shaved jawline, the fifty-three-year-old didn’t look like his age. You wouldn’t even guess he has a grandchild, and still completely smitten with his wife.
“How’s your weekend, Amy?” Albert greeted after Greg. This was also his usual greeting. Sometimes, it wasn’t pleasant to my ears for it had insinuations prior to our last meeting. If I said something about a date, and it didn’t go well, that greeting would sour my morning.
“My weekend was great, Albert,” I replied and turned to Greg with a frown. “And to your dismay, Greg, I was at my parent’s place over the weekend. But I can’t do anything about finding a man. God knows everyone I know set me up on enough blind dates already.” I dramatically said.
Albert smiled and sat down on my right while Greg took the empty seat on my left. “So, have you heard the news about the boss? I’m sure Zoey couldn’t help herself,” Greg said, ignoring my tasteful remark.
That quickly shifted the conversation. “Yes! I saw it. That ring was… wow,” I said in wonder. “How much do you think it cost?” I muttered in thought.
“More than a kidney, I supposed,” Greg whispered with a grin.
“I was with Mr. Hawksley when I went shopping for that ring,” Albert started. “Jeffrey was with us as well. It happened over the weekend. Zoey visited her parents while he pretended to meet with his younger brother for a business meeting. And for sure, I knew Zoey saw through that lie. She’s getting intuitive on his cues. Yet she didn’t press on it since she wanted to get away that weekend to talk with her mother about their trip… I forgot which one it was…” He trailed off in thought.
“Oh! Wow, that should have been a sight to see Julian looking for rings,” I remarked.
Albert smiled. “It was. He even asked me for advice.”
“Wait! Wait! Why wasn’t I there?” Greg interjected, finally catching on.
Albert leaned back to get a better look at him. “You took the day off that weekend.”
“Which weekend was it?”
Albert’s eyebrow creased in thought. “It was the weekend of Mary’s birthday.” He referred to Greg’s older daughter.
Greg snapped his fingers in realization. “Oh, that weekend! But that was months ago… Had he kept the secret that long?”
“How long did he have that ring with him?” I asked.
“About…” Albert paused while deep in thought. “three months or so,” he announced.
“Wow, that long. I wonder what changed his mind,” Greg said.
“It’s Julian. We’ll hardly guess what’s on his mind most of the time,” I jested.
“True,” Greg smirked in agreement.
The conversation continued for another minute until I had to cut it short to focus on my workload. My companions happily helped me on a few tasks, which was mostly leg work to the copy machine until my noon break. It was then another familiar face arrived at the office.
Half a year ago, when the office was near full capacity, I asked HR whether it was possible to hire another receptionist. The job of circulating the necessary information, paperwork, packages, and mails week after week with eight to five work hours isn’t easy. Sometimes, I had to work early and late to categorize a few incoming packages and paperwork for each department. And I don’t even want to point out that I also work during weekends.
I had enough.
And I’m happy, Liza, head of HR, sympathized with me. After the big boss approved, I got a new co-worker, Sean Burke, a few weeks later.
When they hired Sean, it wasn’t all rainbows yet. I had to train him for at least three months before letting him take half of my work hours. But Sean was a fast learner with a flamboyant personality. It didn’t take a while before people started warming up to him. Even I warmed up to him in on the first day we’ve met. And slowly friendship wasn’t far. Though that’s the extent of our relationship, to Albert and Greg’s dismay. Sean played for the other team.
Sean’s work shift was on the weekends, and in the afternoon on Mondays and Fridays. He didn’t object to the weekend shifts. Hardly anyone is present at the office rather than overtime workers, and sometimes the head of the department. Also, Julian and Zoey are present as well for meetings, which are the only people he had to keep in mind. Other than that, he had fewer responsibilities with great benefits.
Watching the said partner-in-crime exited the elevator, I stood up from my seat and opened my arms wide, waiting for his embrace. Sean didn’t think twice and enveloped in me a bear hug.
“How’s your weekend, Amy? From that greeting, should I expect something bad happened?” Sean inquired while nodding at Albert and Greg in greeting.
“Nothing bad happened. Actually, there’s news,” I beamed. “And you might not guess what it is…” I trailed off to add suspense.
He studied me in suspicion. And then peered at Albert and then Greg, waiting for the two to spill. When they hadn’t given him as much as a secretive smile, Sean turned back his attention to me and sighed.
“What is it? You know I don’t like being put in the dark with office gossip… it is office gossip, right?” He asked with uncertainty.
“Yes. It’ll be gossip soon since this happened over the weekend. And if you did know, you would have told me about this yourself,” I replied vaguely.
“Is this about Zoey and the boss?” He easily got who I meant.
I giddily smiled. When I hadn’t explained further, Sean groaned. “Tell me already, Amy.”
“They just got engaged!”
Sean looked at me in awe and looked at Albert and Greg for confirmation. Finally, Albert spoke. “It’s true, Sean. We saw the ring.”
“And it’s gorgeous,” I added.
“Oh god! Wow! That’s amazing news,” he smiled and peered around the glass paneling. He studied the open work area, searching the end of the hallway towards Zoey’s desk.
“Should I go there and congratulate her personally?” he nonchalantly asked to no one in particular.
I checked my wristwatch. “It’s almost lunch. You should wait until then. I’m sure those two aren’t going anywhere. This news might blow up and the lobby downstairs could start swarming with paparazzi again.”
Greg groaned in the foreseeable future but otherwise didn’t comment. Albert chuckled at his expression. He didn’t seem to be afraid about handling the paparazzi. It makes me confident those two will be fine with the media.
“Well, I’ll go now before Zoey decided to not stick around for lunch. Man, I thought Mr. Hawksley would propose to her sooner. Have you heard how it happened?” Sean asked, knowing I might have this information by now.
“Sadly, no. But I’ll try asking during lunch break.”
“Would you want me to fetch her now? It’s noon. And I also want to see that ring myself.” Sean offered cheekily.
“Please do. But you can take your time. I have to finish a few things first.” I replied.
Sean peered briefly at the computer monitor, the pile of folders besides the keyboard, and then shook his head. “Got it. I’ll be back with her in ten minutes. Be sure you’re ready then.”
I gestured him to get along before returning to my work. I can’t wait to hear the story.