I exited the elevator with coffee in hand. Per usual, I was greeted with my desk and a golden platted engraving with the company’s name – Hawksley Holding Inc. From the 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 walked the few paces and settled myself behind the entrance reception desk, which was my working area. I’ve been a receptionist for one of the leading business tycoons in Chicago for two years. But it wasn’t luck that got me back home in Illinois, which had been my home before I took a job with the same company at their England branch.
The heir of the Hawksley Holding Inc., Julian Hawksley, was looking for help to handle some menial task while he was visiting Chicago. 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, who I was more acquainted. His work as an executive secretary for the Hawksley's is known to be top-notch. I’ve learned a thing or two from the man himself while I worked as an assistant secretary for one of the executive staff. He gladly took me under his wing during my training. Even after it ended, he’d willingly lend me a hand. 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 was released that Julian Hawksley is the new CEO of the Chicago branch office of Hawksley Holding, Rufus hadn’t thought twice and appointed me as a head receptionist.
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 Rufus approached and asked me he was looking for an assistant, it was the first time he personally asked for my help. I didn’t want to let him down. So I recommended him someone I personally knew, who I was confident would be great for the job. And it wasn’t in sense nepotism since Zoey Curtis is 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 like on cue, bright an early as always, the lovers exited the elevator at seven in the morning. Their glowing smile greeted me as they approached the reception desk.
“Morning, Amy,” Zoey said, while Julian nodded in greeting.
I noted their interlaced fingers.
“Good morning, Zoey. Mr. Hawksley,” I greeted towards the two. “How was your weekend? Did you manage to get some rest?” I inquired to Zoey.
“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.
Whatever she said, it got Julian to start chuckling and shaking his head. “Damn, woman. How am I supposed to manage the rest of the day after saying that to me?”
“That’s your problem. I can manage things fine,” Zoey haughtily informed.
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 when her enthusiasm was uncharacteristic.
She giggled. “Guess what?”
“What?” I humored her. But was genuinely interested.
Rather than phasing it into word, she raised up her left hand.
On her ring 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 shifted quickly, knowing how my little sister – her best friend – would blow up if I knew something this important before her.
“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 ask her. 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, which was rare.
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 overstep their privacy since Julian was still my boss. So I redirected Zoey’s attention about their conference meeting in half an hour. And like that, she was back in business mode. 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, head of marketing, Kyla Hawksley – Julian’s sister-in-law, entered the premises. Her confident stride and warm smile was 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 got 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.” She ranted.
“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 details. I’m not sure I’ll get it right 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.
“Yes. She’s there already.”
“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 I’ll be hearing today about Zoey and Julian’s engagement. 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, their service didn’t seem as necessary as before. Yet I still wanted them there – even though I got irritated for sharing my work desk. And as the year passed, they have become more than just colleagues to me. I found myself two brotherly-type friends. As per my sister’s words before, I needed more friends. Sure she hadn’t meant friend who wasn't 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 minute after Julian and Zoey arrived. Now they own a mini workstation – more like a booth – by the elevator with two security monitor. However, they’ve always lounge themselves on the two empty chairs beside me. Thus, explained why they’re irritating sometimes.
“Amy, how was the weekend?” 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-shaven 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.
“I hope you didn’t stay at home again, Amy. Get out and find yourself a man already,” Albert greeted after Greg. This was also his usual greeting, which sometimes wasn’t pleasant to my ears.
“My weekend was great, Greg,” I replied and turned to Albert with a frown. “And to your dismay, Albert, 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 already set me up on enough blind dates already.” I dramatically said.
Albert rolled his eyes 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.
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.
“Actually, I was with Mr. Hawksley when he went shopping for that ring,” Albert started. “It wasn’t as expensive as you think. But he did put a great deal of thought on picking that ring. Jeffrey was with us as well. It was over the weekend when 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 of his. She’s become more 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?” He curiously asked.
Albert eyebrow creased in thought. “It was the weekend of Mary’s birthday.” He referred Greg’s older daughter.
Greg snapped his fingers in realization. “Oh, that weekend!”
“And how did Julian looked when he was searching for a ring?” I asked, getting back to our topic.
“Frustrated, troubled, but thrilled. When he bought it, I’ve been expecting him to propose right away. However, as the months passed, and he didn’t, I kept my mouth shut. Then this weekend happened.” Albert replied.
“What? How long did he have that ring with him?” I asked with curiosity.
“About…” he paused in thought, “three months or so."
I smiled at the image. I’m happy Zoey had found someone she’ll spend the rest of her life with who loved her with all of his heart. It was such a sight to see. Yet with so much love in the air, I didn’t feel any jealousy or need to find a man for myself. I’m not sure when it happened, but that need and want for love wasn’t a priority in my life anymore.
To me, it was my family, friends, and work. And I’m contented with how things are at the moment.
Before noon break, another familiar face arrived in the office.
Half a year ago, when the office was at near full capacity, I asked HR whether it was possible to add more staff in the reception desk. The job of circulating the necessary information, paperwork, packages, and emails week after week with an eight to five work hours wasn’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 I also work during weekends.
I had enough.
And I’m happy, Liza, head of HR, sympathized with me. After the big boss greenlights it, 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 workload. 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 the minute 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 shifts are weekends and a half day, in the afternoon, on Mondays and Fridays. These were the days that workload would be at its peak - and where we’re both present. He didn’t object on the weekend shifts. Hardly anyone is present at the office rather than overtime workers, and sometimes executive staff members. 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 than I am.
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 in his usual bear hug, and even dramatically lifting me up for a moment before letting me go.
“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 before peering 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 then, Amy? You know I don’t like being put in the dark with office gossip… it is office gossip, right?” He asked with uncertainty.
Sean didn’t hold any feminine traits at all – which people stereotypically think about gay men. He was like any other guy in the vicinity.
“Yes. It’ll be gossip soon since this happened over the weekend. And if you did know, you'd told me about this yourself,” I informed.
“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!” I burst and swiftly covered my mouth for being too loud. “Sorry.” I chuckled.
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 behind us before he found Zoey’s desk.
“Should I go there and congratulate her myself?” he nonchalantly asked to no one in particular.
I peered down at my watch. “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 grumbled behind me. “Great. Headache for us.”
“That’s your job, Greg,” I scoffed.
“I know. But that doesn’t mean I have to love every bit of it. And here I’ve gotten used to this type of work,” he replied and leaned back on his chair for emphasis.
Albert rolled his eyes, knowing Greg was being playful. He didn’t mean it. I saw how these two work when they’re protecting Julian and Zoey. They’re like a hawk watching its prey.
“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 and pile so folder beside the keyboard, then shook his head. “Got it. I’ll be back with her in ten minutes. Be sure you’re ready then.”
I grinned and gestured him to get along before returning back to my work. I could picture it now. The proposal. Is it possible to feel second-hand happiness from a close friend? Well, true or not, I'm truly happy for them.