We turned the corner onto a residential street. “It started two months ago,” she began, “June sixth. That’s the day she walked in for her first interview. I knew the second she came through those glass doors, she’d be trouble. We were hiring an assistant for Kurt, he owns our firm. I’d been complaining for quite a while that he needed to off-load some of the menial crap, and concentrate more on working with me in marketing. So anyway, she comes in. Spiffy new interview suit, cute little briefcase—the whole deal. I could tell Kurt liked her—she’s one of those cute girls, you know, sweet. Ready to do anyone’s bidding.” Isabelle shuddered. “Oh god, I didn’t mean any offense. You probably get called that sort of thing a lot. You’re so tiny.” She said the word as if it were a disease.
“No,” I bristled, “I get called delicate and fragile.” I relaxed some after that. Miss Perfect wasn’t so perfect after all. Her manners were horrible. But I was intrigued… “Go on.”
“Sure?” She looked genuinely concerned.
I nodded. “Yeah.” Some of what I’d learned yesterday during the seminar was coming back. I am in control of my reactions. I took a deep breath. I felt a grin take shape.
“Okay,” she gave me a side-wise glance. “So anyway, despite my advise, Kurt hires her. That first morning she puts up a picture of her boyfriend, her dog and her family—you know, mom, dad, sibs.” She rolled her eyes. “Time goes by. She becomes sort of an assistant to me as well. Hard as I try, I cannot stand her. I get irritated no matter what she does. Kurt likes her, though. She can do no wrong in his eyes.
“One particular Friday afternoon, he called me into his office. ‘I can tell you don’t like her,’ he says, ‘the whole office can. I need you to help me understand why.’ Kurt has this way about him. He really listens. And I believe he tried to understand. But after a couple of minutes, even I could hear how ridiculous my excuses sounded. ‘What’s really going on, Isabelle?’ he asks, and takes my hand.” She touched the back of her hand. Her look was far away.
“Over here,” I steered her towards a little city park. We sat on a bench. Pigeons cooed and pecked for food at our feet. I couldn’t believe I was being told all this. I thought people only gushed their life stories to strangers in bars. We definitely weren’t drunk, but the way my stomach was burning made me wish I was. Isabelle’s monologue was taking on a sickeningly familiar story line.
“That was the exact second I knew I loved him,” she said. “It’s not proper form to fall in love with your boss, but I had. We spent a lot of time working together. You know, late hours, weekends, all that. It wasn’t a planned thing. Of course I didn’t tell him how I felt. I hadn’t realized myself until that moment. I promised to “do better.” I would’ve said anything to get out of that room. I couldn’t stand having his eyes on me. I felt exposed.
“Anyway, that next Monday, I’m in the ladies room at work. The new girl comes in with another one, I can never remember her name either, from accounting. They were oblivious to the fact that anyone was in there as they primped and hair sprayed and gossiped. You know how women can be when they think no one’s listening. It wasn’t long before they were throwing some of their insulting comments my way. But even beyond that, it was obvious that the new girl had a crush on Kurt. I wanted to puke, the way she was going on, ‘He’s so nice, la de da, et cetera, ad infinitum …’ I wanted to rip her throat open then and there. I bided my time though. Never let on I’d heard a single mushy word. It was excruciating sometimes, especially when she did her little cutsie act around Kurt.” She paused, looking at me. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh nothing,” I lied. I wonder sometimes about the information we’re given in life. I mean, what possible purpose did it serve for me to be handed all this on a silver platter? By this time I was pretty sure my suspicions were correct. But I wanted to be positive. “Go on,” I prompted.
“Sure? Okay. So over the next few days I became more and more angry. One morning I dreamt of a way to fix the situation with the minimum amount of damage. It was like it was fed to me. I won’t go into details, but it was very clever. And it worked. The cutsie was fired.” She paused to light another cigarette.