June 6th, 1996
I was nearing my office today when Nikki approached from the opposite direction, looking perturbed.
She stopped me. “Good day, Mr. Crane! Always a pleasure to see you sir.”
“Hi, Nikki! How are you?” I suddenly realized that calling her Nikki was too friendly and familiar. “Uh, Miss Kurtzman, is it?”
“I got a wall at home full of degrees and diplomas and I can’t find the goddamned canteen. I’m lost! This building is kinda confusing. They should shoot the designer.”
“I designed it!”
“Oops!” she said slapping a hand over her mouth. “There I go again, putting my foot in it.”
“You said it!”
“It’s okay. Don’t worry you’ll get used to the layout soon enough.”
“No, I mean, ‘I’m sorry’ as in ‘Can you clear something up for me?’” She frowned and stared at me. “Are you sure you don’t know me from somewhere? Have we met somewhere before that I don’t recall? Have I ever done something, besides criticizing your architectural skills, to earn your disapproval?”
I was amazed at her powers of perception. “Why are you asking?”
“Well, Steve…Mr. Ferran said that you were very much against having me work at Global?”
“Steve’s got a big mouth!”
“Then it’s true? Why?”
“Because I know what you’re capable of doing.”
“You think I’m incapable?”
“Not at all! I said, ‘Because I know what you are capable of doing?’”
“What? What’s that supposed to mean? You hardly know me? I’ve barely been here a week.” Then suddenly she seemed to realize something. “Oh my God! Don’t tell me you were at Club 501 on the night I did my…little thing?”
That was a most enlightening declaration. I needed to know more. I lied through my teeth. “That’s right!”
“Look, that was a long, long time ago and I’d had too much to drink! I was celebrating getting my MSc for goodness sakes. Don’t tell me you’ve never let your hair down a little? Oh, God, this is so embarrassing.”
She was lying too. Her face hadn’t flushed in the least. In fact, I could see by the gleam in her eye that she was proud of her…little thing.
I needed to pry some more out of her. “Is that what you call it what you did? ‘Letting your hair down a little?’”
“Okay, I let a little more down than just my hair.”
I twisted the screw even more. “A little more?”
“Alright, so it was everything! But none of the guys seemed to mind. In fact everybody was cheering me on.”
“Everybody? The girls too?”
“Well, it certainly seemed that way to me at the time. That is, everybody but you, by the looks of things?”
“Great way for an…intellectual to reason and…behave?”
“If you were so disgusted why’d you watch?”
“Let’s say it was more in disbelief than admiration.”
“So, are you gonna hold that over me for the rest of my life.”
“No, just for the rest of your days at Global.”
“That’s called, victimization!”
“And that was called, indecent exposure.”
“There’s nothing indecent about my body. I’m proud of every inch.”
I smiled. “And that gives you the right to show it off – like that?”
“After that show, I’m amazed you even remembered my face?”
I hated myself for laughing out loud. “Well, just goes to show where my mind really was at the time!”
She smiled back. “So, the unbendable stone man flinches. We’re human after all? I tell you what, why don’t you show me where the canteen is and I’ll buy you a coffee? Give me a chance to apologize properly for my…sordid past?”
“You wanna buy the big boss a coffee?”
“Sure, why not. There’s a first for everything. Come mix with the riff raff for awhile. Get to know your workforce from the inside. Who knows, maybe you might even pick up something about the strike we’re all planning for next week? It’s about unfair victimization of sexy female employees because of past misdemeanors.”
“No thank you!”
“The coffee tastes like shit. That’s why I got my own…”
“How about a drink then?”
“I don’t allow alcohol on the premises.”
“I was thinking after work?”
“I’ve already seen what alcohol does to you. What if you suddenly got the…urge again? Then I’d end up being the embarrassed one when the scandal got to the papers.”
“I’ll be good! I promise!”
“I’m afraid Candice wouldn’t approve.” Candice was my imaginary lover. The one I always used when it became necessary to discourage persistent woman who could never take no for an answer.
“You’re getting married?”
“You sound surprised?”
“The papers and magazines haven’t said anything…”
“You’ve been…monitoring my personal life?”
“Yep! Everything! Even the scandals!”
“Oh, I, uh…respect your candor.”
“No, relax, it’s not what you think. I decided to do my homework before the interview. I thought it might be…required reading.”
“Well, if not persistent, you certainly are thorough.”
“That’s me; real dedicated. I work hard and I play even harder!”
“Yes, we’ve already established that. You’re a…hard dedicated woman.”
“I may be hard on the outside, but that’s what living in a man’s world will do to you. Inside, I’m still an old-fashioned, sweet, liquid-centered gal with a woman’s needs and desires.”
I suddenly felt uncomfortably aroused by her unusual metaphor. I quickly asked, “So, what exactly is it you do here at Global?”
“I thought you knew?”
“Just because I’m the big boss doesn’t mean I know everything that happens in…or around Global. I smiled again.
“I guess you really aren’t gonna let Club 501 go – are you?”
“I assist Steve in his lab. Mostly, I’m in charge of the primates.”
“I never knew you had experience with that sort of thing?”
“See, you don’t know me that well! I got plenty experience in that field; more than enough to be capable!”
“How come Mel didn’t apply for the job? I was really hoping that she…”
“Mel? You know Melanie Edwards? She never told me that you two know each other?”
“We don’t. I just know…of her. I might not know everything in and around Global, but I try my best. I was expecting to see her file on Steve’s desk as well.”
Nikki quickly muttered, “She changed her mind.”
“Did you help her change it?”
“What’s that supposed to mean? There you go again?”
“Forget it! So, do you like working with a lot of monkeys?”
She smiled mischievously. “Steve’s okay, I guess. A banana or three and he’s quite happy.” I laughed loudly again, and she said, “You really should try to smile more often. It suits you better than that silly weighty demeanor of pride and power and earnestness.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “What were you doing at the 501 anyway? It’s not the sort of…establishment that most people of your…”
I avoided the question with, “I must tell Steve that one.”
“Don’t you dare!”
“He’s my best friend. We don’t keep secrets.”
“I would never have guessed?”
“Oh, yeah! He doesn’t know it yet, but I’m strongly considering giving him a large percentage of the company’s shares.”
Her narrowed eyes widened large and bright. “Yeah? When? What sort of percentage are we looking at?”
“It’s a figure of speech. So?”
“That’s confidential information. Not for the common riff raff!”
“Fine! Anyhow, if you feel you have to tell him about my little joke, please do it in the vein it was meant.”
“Just a friendly gag. No harm meant.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Didn’t seem like nothing to me. God, I hate the way you seem to know more about me than I actually seem to realize. Is there something else about me that you know?”
“Is there something else that I should know?”
“Well, I offered you the opportunity to get to know me better, but Candice wouldn’t approve. Candice who, if I may ask?”
“You may not. We’re keeping it as hush hush as possible.”
“Fine! Well, I wish you and your fiancé all the best then. Are you quite sure I can’t interest you in just a coffee then?”
“Dead sure.” I pointed to the stairwell. “Go down to the next floor. Turn left and keep going. You can’t miss it. If you find yourself in the parking lot – you did!”
She walked off with an unnatural swagger of her hips.
I waited till she had disappeared down the stairs before talking to my imaginary lover. “Woof! What an incredible woman! One can’t help but admire her…persistence. Candice, honey, I think you’ve just saved me, yet again, from the clutches of one of those terrible harpies.” I pondered a moment before asking, “Oh, remind me to make a mental note? The next time I jump back into the past, I want to be sure I know exactly which night it is that I need to pay a visit to Club 501?” After another short pause I said, “What? Of course not! Don’t be silly! I’m just mildly curious is all.” I walked towards my office. “You know you’re the only girl for me. Well, okay, you and Sophia Loren.” I whistled merrily. “What? Yes, of course you’ll also be going back. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? Where I go – you go! You’re a figment of my goddamned imagination!”
At first I had been surprised at Nikki’s persistent advances. In my first life she had had eyes for Steve only. Hence the reason for my envy when the Amazon Queen had chosen to shower him, and only him, with all her undivided attention and affections.
On considering the matter, the answer to my puzzlement is blaringly obvious – I’m now the guy with all the money.
Global belongs to me alone!
I guess in my first life, Steve, being ten years younger than me, had seemed like the better of two possible choices.
And, as I have already mentioned, I am eternally grateful that I had not been her first choice.
Today, she had seemed to have an indifferent, even contemptuous attitude towards Steve. That was until…
God, I hope telling her about the company shares hasn’t sent her hunting after the same man again. That would truly be disastrous.
What was I thinking when I told her that? I had only meant to emphasize mine and Steve’s friendship, instead I may well have doomed my friend to once again suffer the pain of a scheming, two-timing (In every sense of the word) wife.
I have literally seen history repeating itself many times in this new second life, but that is the one thing that I had hoped we…I could prevent.
It was the only thing that Steve had asked of me. The only price he had demanded for saving my life; for helping me return to the past.
And now, ironically, when I could at last have had her for myself, my spurning of her advances may just have driven her (back) into the arms of the one man that I had hoped she would never have even met.
Perhaps fate has a way of making things happen the way they were meant to be? Yep, just when you think you’re over the junkyard fence, fate sneaks up and bites you in the arse.
It’s obvious that the man is already infatuated by both her brains and beauty!
My attempt to prevent Nikki being employed at Global has already soured our friendship. How do I get rid of her without incurring anymore of Steve’s displeasure?
I gotta do something – but what?