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College

One Friday morning after I’d been with The Company for about 5 years, I stepped out of my office and happened to catch my boss in the hallway on her way to get coffee. I’d been meaning to sit down and talk with her but hadn’t had the time, or the courage if we’re being honest.

I’d been in my current position almost 2 years and had spent the last year absolutely hating it. I’d given it a good run, but it was just not for me. Sure, there were some things about my job I loved, things I was good at, great at in fact, but those things were not my main job, and I did not enjoy my main job, nor did I feel that I was good at it.

On top of all that, I was the one my boss trusted the most, so I was constantly being asked to take on more responsibility. I say asked as if I had a choice but you and I both know, I didn’t. Funny enough, that was the work I enjoyed doing more than my own regular duties. But I wasn’t being paid any extra for the extra responsibility or the extra stress, and I was tired. I hadn’t even had much of a sex drive lately, and that was just not like me.

I’d been looking for internal job postings but none had gone up for weeks. I was almost at the end of my rope, so I finally gathered the courage to talk to my boss.

“Hey Cate, do you have some time to talk?” I asked as soon as I saw her, before I could stop myself.

Not only was Cate intimidatingly gorgeous at 5′ 11″ with tan skin, wavy blonde hair and green eyes, she was brilliant. She had multiple degrees in finance and business administration and was one of the most sophisticated and classy women I’d ever met. Having a one-on-one conversation with her about this scared the shit out of me, so when I saw her I didn’t give myself the chance to think twice about it.

“Sure Lila,” she replied, touching my arm. “Is everything ok?”

“Oh sure, just let me know when you can talk, ok?”

“Ok, just give me a minute.”

“No problem.”

She stepped into Richard’s office right across the hall from mine and closed the door. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. I took a couple of deep breaths to calm myself down and went back into my office, completely forgetting whatever task it was that I’d gotten up to complete.

I sat at my desk and tried to work, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I kept rehearsing versions of the conversation I was about to have in my head, going over the different ways it could go.

It felt like an eternity had passed by the time Cate finally came out of Richard’s office, laughing as she emerged and thanking him.

At least she seems to be in a good mood.

I looked at the clock and realized it had actually only been about 5 minutes. My anxiety made time seem to slow down, which was agonizing.

“Sorry about that,” Cate said as she came into my office and sat down in one of the guest chairs in front of my desk. “What’s up? How are you?”

“Uh…” I hesitated, glancing at the open door.

Taking my cue, she leaned back and lifted the door stop, allowing the heavy door to close. “What’s going on?”

I exhaled slowly. “Ok. The thing is, I have taken on a lot of responsibility over the last 2 years. And a lot of stress. And, well…” I hesitated again, taking another deep breath.

“Am I really that scary?” Cate asked seriously. “Well, I guess I need to do some self reflection.”

I broke out in nervous laughter. “No! Not at all! Sorry…” I giggled again. “No. It’s just that, I don’t think this job is for me anymore. But I love The Company and don’t want to look elsewhere. I just haven’t seen any openings for any other departments recently.”

Cate sat back in her chair and raised her hand to her face, touching her thumb and forefinger to her chin. “Ok. I hear you. You are one of the most dedicated and hardworking employees we have. And your job is known for being quite stressful. You put in quite a bit of overtime every week making sure the ball doesn’t get dropped and trust me, I see that.” She paused, narrowing her eyes while she thought. “We definitely would not want to lose you.”

Suddenly my eyes welled up and I burst into tears, completely unexpectedly both to me and to Cate. I was mortified. I could not believe I had just become the woman who cries in front of her boss.

“Sweetie! What’s wrong?” Cate jumped out of her chair and came around to my side of the desk, putting her arms around me. “You can tell me.”

“I’m miserable,” I confessed. “This job is too much for me, for too little pay. I’m anxious all the time. Sometimes I feel a heaviness in my chest, and I’ve been having panic attacks…”

All of a sudden the floodgates opened and I started to totally unload. I told Cate everything, every last detail. I reminded her that when our files had been audited earlier that year I spent hours doing research to prepare, ended up finding an extreme amount of errors, and then spent more hours fixing the errors. I’d worked until 3 in the morning a couple of nights to make sure the casino oyna files were ready before the audit was due to begin and was in the office again the next day no later than 9am. I gave her other examples of how overworked I felt as well.

I also told her the parts about my job that I love, and how I wish I could do more work like that, exclusively. I told her that I would love to find a job doing some kind of research and data tracking, possibly even quality assurance; I thought it was what I was best at. I told her that part of the reason I was so good at those parts of my job was because I was a perfectionist; in fact I was spending so much time at work, staying late and going in early to make sure things are done right and that everything was running smoothly, that I had barely had time to keep my house clean and that my one Friday night glass of wine had turned into a glass of wine or two every night.

I stopped talking abruptly, afraid I had confessed too much. Cate rubbed my back but remained silent for a moment while my crying eased from sobs to hiccups and sniffles.

“I’m so sorry, Lila,” Cate said after a long moment. “I had no idea you were having this hard of a time. You always seem to be so positive and upbeat. We’ve got to do something about this.”

“Yeah,” I agreed softly as I sniffled. I grabbed a tissue and wiped my nose.

Cate thought for another minute. “I have an idea, but it’s not just up to me, ok?” she finally said softly, turning to look at me. “Let me see what I can do and I’ll get back to you.”

I nodded, unable to look her in the eye. I grabbed another tissue and dabbed at my eyes, clearing my throat and sitting up straight with my fingers poised over the keyboard as if I was about to go straight back to work.

“Hang in there, sweetie. It’s all going to be ok, I promise,” she said as she rubbed my back again. “I’m going to do everything I can to make this better for you.”

I couldn’t speak over the lump in my throat so after a moment of silence, Cate patted my shoulder and walked out of the room, sensitively closing the door behind her.

As soon as the door clicked shut I lost my composure, slumping over my desk and breathing shallowly for a moment, tears silently streaming down my face. Finally I took a deep breath and sat back up, pulling myself together. I resumed my fake typing pose from before, but this time I really started typing.

I found myself opening up a new tab on Chrome and navigating to a job search website. Even though I told Cate I didn’t want to leave The Company, I didn’t feel like I had much choice at this point. I was falling apart, and there wasn’t anything else open at The Company. I started clicking through the job postings, seeing if any matched my qualifications.

Every time someone walked past my office I quickly clicked away from the site. My stomach was in knots, churning with anxiety. I didn’t want to be caught looking for another job, but I was afraid I’d put my current position in jeopardy by telling Cate how unhappy I was. I figured I’d better be proactive and see what was out there. Not like I could concentrate on my work anyway.

After I browsed through job openings for a while, completely zoned out, I started Googling whether a person could get fired for telling her boss she was unhappy or that she was looking for another job. This led to me clicking link after link about employment law, finding different websites about the laws in different states, and before I knew it I’d been so distracted reading about my rights as an employee that several hours had passed and I hadn’t accomplished a single thing.

***

The weekend was relaxing and fortunately I was able to keep my mind occupied so I wouldn’t think about work. I did some projects around the house that I’d been meaning to get done and finally finished the book that had been lingering on my nightstand. I got a couple good nights’ sleep and I’d even had sex. Really hot sex, complete with multiple orgasms.

In short, it was a good weekend.

By Monday I was feeling much better, and my nerves had seemed to work themselves out. I said good morning and smiled at my coworkers as I walked down the hall to get my morning coffee. I even chatted with a few of them as I filled my cup and poured my cream, which had become increasingly unlike me the past couple of years.

I sat down at my desk and resolved to catch up on all of the work that I hadn’t finished on Friday. Pulling up several spreadsheets and word documents, I started opening up emails one by one and either addressing them or filing them away as FYI.

The task was not as straightforward as it sounds, as I was interrupted by phone calls every 5 to 10 minutes, and by the time I had cleared out 40 emails my stomach was growling. I looked at the clock and realized that it was noon. Cate still hadn’t come by so I decided to go to lunch. I called Summer to see if she wanted to go across the street with me to grab a salad at our favorite local cafe. canlı casino We arranged to meet in 5 minutes.

Summer was a friend of mine from college and also happened to work at The Company. She was hired as the receptionist and, like all good receptionists who had come before her, was quickly promoted. She now had some very important executive job that she didn’t ever talk about in detail, but her office was pretty swank and she didn’t mind showing it off.

I took the elevator to the tenth floor where her office was, gazing out the glass wall at the gorgeous view of the mountains on the way up. I only took a few steps towards her office before she came charging down the hall.

“I’m starving! Let’s go!” she announced as she breezed past me towards the elevators.

If her office hadn’t been on the tenth floor, there was no way she’d even consider taking the elevator. Summer was a slip of a thing, one of those naturally fit, energetic, athletic type of girls with petite bones. Her wrists were like a child’s and her fingers were so small she had to have her rings custom made.

She was beautiful, like a porcelain doll. She was shorter than me at barely 5′ and probably didn’t weigh more than 100 lbs soaking wet, but her loud personality made up for her small stature. Her signature deep auburn hair was always cut in some trendy hairstyle that she was constantly updating and complemented her fair complexion beautifully. Her makeup was minimal and served only to highlight her natural beauty, with mascara to define her brown doe eyes and a little bit of powder on her little upturned Judy Garland nose. She wore nothing but chapstick on her naturally pink lips, keeping them soft and supple.

I totally had a crush on her. As far as I knew, though, she was completely straight, save for one night we shared in college that we only talked about when we got drunk and nostalgic together.

I followed her into the elevator. She had a look of determination on her face. She was not to be stopped when she was hungry. We rode the elevator in silence and then hurried out the front door and onto the sidewalk.

“How’s your day going?” I asked as we walked in the direction of the cafe.

“Great! Finished up a project today.”

“Nice, congratulations.”

“Thanks,” she replied with a grin plastered across her face. “Now to replenish my resources. I worked up quite an appetite working on this project. How’s your day?”

“Pretty good, actually. Nothing too crazy has happened. Playing catch up today. Friday was, well, kind of a disaster.”

We walked up to the cafe and saw that our favorite table was open so I quickly claimed it while Summer caught the waitress’s attention. When she finally sat down she had a look of concern on her face.

“So what happened on Friday?”

“Well…” I hesitated, nervously playing with a packet of sugar. “I kind of went off on Cate.”

Her perfectly groomed eyebrow rose. “What do you mean you went off on her?”

“I mean, I told her everything. All of my unhappiness. I unloaded on her. I cried.”

“Oh, man.”

“Yeah.” I stared down at the packet of sugar in my hands in silence.

We remained silent as the waitress brought us waters and straws and took our orders. Once I stuck my straw in my water and took a sip, I picked up the straw wrapper and started tying it in knots as I spoke.

“I basically told her I have too much responsibility and don’t get paid enough. I told her I can’t do my job anymore. I told her about my panic attacks. I think I told her too much. I don’t know if I’ll even still have a job soon.”

“I don’t think they can fire you for that,” Summer replied reassuringly.

“I hope not. Cate did say she didn’t want to lose me.”

“What else did she say?”

“Well,” I hesitated but I wasn’t sure why. I felt like maybe I shouldn’t be talking about this, but I trusted Summer so I continued. “She said she had an idea but that it wasn’t completely up to her and she’d get back to me. I haven’t heard from her yet though.”

“Really,” Summer replied thoughtfully with what seemed like a knowing look on her face. “That sounds really interesting. You’ll have to let me know what she says.”

“I will, don’t worry.”

The rest of lunch we talked about Summer’s latest issue with her boyfriend and I did my best to not think about what Cate was going to have to say when she finally got back to me.

***

Right before 5 Cate called my desk extension and asked me to come into her office. Really? Now? I just want to go home. I hope she has something good. I got up and walked down the hall to her corner office. When I walked in she asked me to close the door behind me.

“Sorry to catch you right at 5 before going home for the day,” she started off as I sat down in one of the chairs across from her large wooden desk.

“Oh, that’s OK!” I said way too enthusiastically. I was exhausted and wanted to get this over with so I could leave.

“I’m sure you’ve kaçak casino had a long day, so let’s get straight to business. I have an offer for you,” Cate was unable to suppress her smile. “It’s a promotion that comes with a significant increase in salary, a bigger, corner office with a view, and you will find the work much more enjoyable. Trust me.”

Tears of happiness sprang to my eyes and before I could stop myself I was crying in front of my boss for the second time in less than a week. My mind was spinning with all of the problems that were about to be solved.

“Oh my god,” I said quietly to myself, looking down at my hands in my lap. I looked up and straight into Cate’s green eyes. “Are you serious?”

“Very,” Cate assured with a warm smile. “Your new title will be Executive Assistant. You will be moving over to the Executive department and will no longer report to Finance. You will not have to deal with any more clients or worry about fixing anymore mistakes, and I will still be your direct manager. If you accept the offer, we’d like you to start tomorrow.”

“Oh, wow, I can do that. But what about all of my pending work? I don’t think I could just leave it.”

“You leave that to me, I’ll take care of it.”

“Ok, great!” I couldn’t believe I was going to be finished with this job so much sooner than I had imagined. “You mentioned an increase in salary, can we talk about that more?” I asked cautiously.

“No problem. Here is your new figure, should you be interested in accepting the job.”

Cate tore a piece of paper from the pad on her desk, wrote a number on it, and slid it across the desk to me. It was such a large number I had to read it several times to be sure I was seeing it correctly. Holy shit. It was nearly 3 times my current salary.

“Wow,” I said quietly, my excitement growing; the relief to have my financial worries solved was overwhelming, but a new anxiety started to work its way into my stomach as something else occurred to me. “This is… it looks… absolutely amazing, but I’m confused. I haven’t seen any openings lately, especially not for any type of Executive Assistant position.”

There was a coy expression on Cate’s face. It was like she was hiding a secret and I waited for the other shoe to drop.

“Well, this isn’t a position we advertise. We are very selective of who we offer these positions to, as I’m sure you can tell by the salary that comes with it.”

“In that case, I can’t help but ask…” I hesitated to ask the question, then took a deep breath to steady my nerves. “Why me? I mean, I know I asked you for help, but this is so much more than I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it so much, I was just not expecting this huge of a change.”

“Well, for one, I think you deserve a break. Your speech last week was quite convincing and I hated to see you hurting that way. Secondly, you are perfect for this position. Your qualifications are exactly what we are looking for, and we’ve recently had a vacancy.”

“Thank you, Cate. I’m honored,” I thought a moment more, my mind working in overdrive. “Which qualifications are those, exactly? Can you give me an idea of what I’ll be doing?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Cate replied, her tone changing but the smile still playing at her lips.

“You need to know, there is a catch. You must be in full agreement before we can move forward.”

Suddenly my euphoric fantasies of cleaning out my office and leaving this job in the dust came crashing down around me. Of course there’s a catch. I knew this sounded too good to be true. I took a deep breath.

“What’s the catch?” The butterflies in my stomach were back in full force.

“Lila, I like you, so I’m going to be straightforward with you. This stays strictly between us.” Cate leaned forward in her chair, her face serious.

“I understand completely,” I agreed, nodding.

“Great. Just to have that documented, I need you to sign this.”

She slid another piece of paper across the table towards me. I looked at the page and saw Non-Disclosure Agreement written across the top. The document was already prepared with today’s date, The Company’s name, and my name.

What the hell is this about? Is she going to ask me to break the law? My face remained confident but my insides were in turmoil. My hands trembled as I turned the top page over, betraying my nerves.

“It’s nothing you can get in trouble for, Lila,” Cate said as if reading my mind. “NDAs simply protect The Company’s proprietary information.”

I exhaled the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding and nodded. I signed the line that read Recipient: Lila Aragon. Cate reached for the page and signed her line; Owner: Cate Armstrong, on behalf of The Company. As she set the pen down she began to speak again.

“First, this position comes with a much more strict dress code. You will be required to wear skirt suits with short skirts or a separate skirt, again short, with a nice blouse and a blazer. You will also be required to wear top tier lingerie every day, including a bra or bustier and garter belts with thigh high stockings. Panties are optional but must match the rest of your underwear.”

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