Monday, May 30, 2011

An Office Kiss

         "Good morning, Mr. Parks," my secretary, Katie Wells said, stepping into my office. Same smile as always, same lilting voice. But her eyes darted away from mine. "You've got a busy morning scheduled, sir."
I stood up behind my desk. Cleared my throat. "Katie...um, I mean, Miss Wells, about last night—I'm sorry."
"Me, too. We weren't very smart."
My smile felt weak. "I somehow forgot about...business.
What I did was totally stupid."
"It was only a kiss, Mr. Parks."
"More than one," I reminded her.
"My fault, definitely," she said. Then she finally glanced at me, a look of desperation in her deep brown eyes.  "Could we just...just forget it?"
"I think so. I mean, we have to. You know the rule here at Harding and Harding—no romantic fraternizing between employees."
"I know," she said softly. "Now about your schedule this morning, Mr. Parks..."
The sun streaming through the big window behind my desk gleamed off Katie's chestnut hair. No company vice-president could ask for a better secretary than Katie Wells. Her attention to detail and her willingness to assume responsibility—unbelievable. Add to that her buoyant personality—a guy would be a fool to ruin a professional relationship with an outstanding employee like Katie Wells. Unless...unless...
I nodded. "All right, Miss Wells," I said, and reassumed a boss's demeanor. "Let's tend to business."
After a hectic, conference-filled morning, I ducked into Tom Hart's office and slumped into the chair in front of his desk.  "You're looking glum, pal," he said. "What's up?"
A college buddy of mine, Tom was in charge of human resources. He's the one who sent Katie to my office for an interview over a year ago. I tried to explain what happened last night. "We were working late in my office, we finished, we ordered pizza in, we were relaxing—"
"Oh, no—don't tell me!"
"I found myself looking at her as if I'd never seen her before. I was no longer her boss. All at once I kissed her, and she kissed me back...and then she darted out of the office. Like the roof was caving in."
Tom nodded thoughtfully.  "Only one thing to do."
"What?"
"Recommend her for a promotion—a better job, a different department, more responsibility, more money—I'll help. In fact, I already have something in mind. We'll even send her off to a different building. She'll thank you, and the temptation for both of you will be gone. Though you'll have to break in a new secretary." Tom offered a consoling smile. "I'll recommend someone matronly-looking this time, pal."
At five that afternoon, Katie sat in the chair in front of my desk, looked at her notepad and said, "Tomorrow morning, Mr. Parks, ten o'clock—fiscal meeting. I'll have your material ready."
"Good. Good." I swiveled back and forth in my chair. "Miss Wells," I said, "I have news for you." She looked alarmed—maybe she thought she was being fired. But she said nothing. "I'm recommending you for a promotion."
Her jaw dropped, nearly landing on her notepad. "A promotion?"
"Yes." I cleared my throat. "I've been thinking of your career development. Mr. Cummings, VP in Public Relations, has been looking for an assistant—not just a secretary—but an assistant. This will be a great advancement for you."
Katie stared at me. "Are you trying to get rid of me, Mr. Parks?"
"Look, Katie. Things are different now, and I know how important your career is to you. I'm not going to ruin everything for you because of...you know...my mistake. A foolish office kiss."
Her jaw lifted. "Apparently you don't know me very well, Mr. Parks."
"I know that you’re the best secretary a VP's ever had. You're bold. Independent. You anticipate problems and handle them wisely. You're decisive."
"I resign," she said flatly.
I nearly fell out of my chair. "You can't—I won't let you!"
"I love my job with you, Mr. Parks, but I've known for sometime time now I don't want to be a corporate ladder-climber. Too much of a rat race. I rather go back to teaching first grade. Which I loved. Even if it was less money."
I stood up. What was she telling me? I was afraid to ask. Afraid to hope. Because if I were reading her wrong, I was about to make a total fool of myself. Again. I gulped. "You're saying—?"
"I'm saying I'd like to eat out tonight, Andy. Instead of in the office. Something besides pizza."
As she stood up and smiled, her full lips had never looked so inviting.  I stumbled around my desk, wrapped her in my arms, and kissed her again. This time with impunity. "Your resignation," I told her, "is accepted. Gladly."
The End
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blind Date


           My eyes scanned each male who entered the Java Java Coffee House alone and took a seat by himself. Two men had done so in the last ten minutes. Each time my heart thumped, and I wondered, Is this my blind date?
I had arrived early—my date was for five o'clock this afternoon—and had taken a seat by myself in a corner at a table for two, where I had a great view of the front door and of the rest of the Java Java patrons.
I felt as if I wanted to chew my fingernails off. Would I be stood up? Or worse, would my date waltz in, take one look at me, and scurry out?
My hand shaking a bit, I carefully sipped my coffee. I tried to appear casual—just a forty-year-old widow on her first blind date, a woman who hadn't dated anyone in twenty years, a woman who wasn't nervous or frightened. Almost ready to bail.
The first man who came in alone and slumped into a chair two tables away from me couldn't be my date. True, he looked my age, but he was overweight and bald, glasses perched on the end of his nose. My best friend Elaine had set this date up. Henry Stone, my date, was her husband's friend. The two men worked for the same engineering firm. Like me, Henry had lost his spouse to cancer several years ago. Elaine said he was tall, good-looking, and clean-cut, though very hesitant about dating. "But not to worry," she assured me. "Dating again will be a great adventure. Better than planned. You'll be the perfect couple."
I'd brought a hardcover book with me so I could appear to be a lady who'd stopped for coffee to relax while she read. I held up my book. Last Kiss. A mystery. I flipped to the first page, but I couldn't concentrate.
I felt someone staring at me. Has to be nerves.
Over the top of the book, I glanced at the other man who had come in alone, bought coffee, and had taken a seat up front by the big glass window. Sandy-haired and dressed casually in a blue polo shirt and new jeans, he certainly looked tall and clean-cut. Handsome, too.
I realized I was staring at Mr. Handsome. He was staring back. He looked strangely familiar. How can that be?
I gulped. I blushed.
He smiled now, and I smiled back. My heart started pounding. He got up and ambled toward me, his coffee in hand. Oh my gosh! He is my date!
I closed my book and laid it next to my coffee.
"How do you like the novel?" he asked.
I gazed up into the warmest, killer blue eyes I'd ever seen. I felt my pulse in my throat. "I...I was just starting it."
He looked sheepish. "Um...I hope you don't think I'm off base here—"
"Not at all." My words sounded like a croak.
"Would you like a cinnamon roll with your coffee?"
"Yes...yes...of course," I said, hoping I hadn't sounded too eager. When he turned toward the counter, my cell phone chirped. Elaine's text message said: So sorry. Henry phoned. Said he couldn't make it. Jerk!
I nearly fell off my chair. Who I had just—?
The handsome, sandy-haired man appeared with a monster cinnamon roll on a plate along with two pads of butter, plastic knives and forks, and napkins.  "I wrote the book you're reading," he said, sitting across from me and flipping Last Kiss over. "I'm a local author. See. There's my picture on the back cover. I was wondering what you thought. About the book," he added, and smiled.
His picture and a blurb filled the book's back cover. Robert Cruz was a retired police officer, forty-three, who had used his vast experience in law enforcement to pen his first novel.
"I just made arrangements," he said, for a book signing with Readmore Book Store. I decided to stop for coffee. I spotted you, my book in your hand..." He cleared his throat. "Are you all right?"
I couldn't catch my breath. I must have appeared pale. "This is so weird."
Why fib? I told him my name—Susan Crosby—and explained about my blind date, how I thought he—Robert Cruz—was my date...and well, yes, and how I'd been stood up. We laughed. We split the roll. Buttered it. Delicious. We chatted. I discovered he was divorced long ago; I told him about my husband's death. Finally I said, "I've never met a famous author before."
"You still haven't," he said, and smiled. "And I've never been anyone's blind date..." He looked sheepish again. "That is...um, if you wouldn't mind, Susan."
I ate my last morsel of the cinnamon roll and drank my last drop of coffee, sweetness and warmth flowing through me. "Not at all. This adventure," I said, "is turning out better than planned."

The End
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