Read an Excerpt
By Rosemarie A. D'Amico
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Rosemarie A. D'Amico
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe warmth of the sunlight on my closed eyelids told me it was morning but my body wasn't responding. Today I was starting a new job at the pristine and stuck-up law firm of McCallum & Watts, and next to sticking needles in my eyes, my next favourite thing was starting a new job. At a stuck-up law firm.
Don't get me wrong, I was glad to have the job. I had been unemployed for six weeks and was starting to get desperate. In the past, I'd never gone more than a few days between jobs but this was 2002, not the early nineties, when you could quit a job in disgust, throw everyone the finger and start a new job the next morning at nine.
My last boss, Harold Didrickson, was being investigated by the Ontario Securities Commission for his participation in the manipulation of public stock prices. The company that had employed us, TechniGroup Consulting Inc. or TGC, was in the throes of being reorganized by a huge conglomerate that had purchased it for pennies a share.
My index finger gently rubbed the top of my ear where I had been shot by one of the executives of TGC in what turned out to be one of the nastiest scandals to rock the high-tech world. I'd lost the tip of my ear and my job but six weeks later, I was relatively unscathed. Glad to be starting a new job and relieved to know I'd soon have a regular paycheck, but the job itself was a few steps back in my career. Not that I was complaining, because as I had repeatedly told myself since I'd accepted the position, one couldn't be picky.
I forced my eyes open and glanced at the clock beside my bed and groaned. It was only 6:30 and I didn't have to be at my new desk until 9:00. By my standards, half the day was over by 9:00 a.m. At TGC I was in the office most days by 7:30 a.m. and if I left by 6:00 p.m., I considered it a good day. More often than not I worked weekends and in the last couple of years there, I was traveling a lot. Not a heavy workload by executive standards, but then again, I wasn't paid like an executive. I was a paralegal, with a specialization in corporate and securities law. However, compared to what paralegals made at law firms, I was well paid. Was being the operative word. I was taking a pay cut at McCallum & Watts but I also wasn't hired to do paralegal work. My new title was Legal Secretary.
Typing, dictaphone (yes, lawyers still dictated into those funny little machines), filing, billings, and making appointments was my new job description. And making nice-nice with the clients, especially those who paid their bills. Definitely a step backwards for me, but a job.
I turned on my back and stretched, pointing my toes and trying to reach the end of the bed. It was a game I used to play as a child, stretching every morning when I woke up to see if I'd grown overnight. Along with the standard children's prayer we said every night, "Now I lay me down to sleep ...", I'd add under my breath, "And please God, make me grow". It hadn't worked, but I still checked every morning. I was thirty-four years old and just under five feet tall. Four foot eleven, to be precise, but I considered it my prerogative to add an inch when anyone asked. I dreaded growing older because I'd heard that some elderly people shrink in height.
I gave up the game of trying to reach the footboard of the bed and kicked off the duvet. The warm morning air drifted through the open window and I could smell summer. It was the middle of June and the thought of summer gave me an excited feeling in my stomach. Baseball, sprinklers, firecrackers, hide and seek after dark, staying up late, and barbecues. I was thinking like a school kid, but whenever I smelled summer in the air, I was ten years old again. Summer meant the end of school and endless play. I quickly brought myself back to reality though and stumbled out of bed to the shower.
Two weeks later I was still telling myself that I couldn't be picky about the job. It's a job, it's a job, I chanted to the beat of the photocopier. The repetitive sound of the automatic feeder on the monstrous photocopier was becoming hypnotic. Che-chunk, che-chunk, che-chunk. I'd been listening to the sound now for the last three hours as I photocopied a mountain of paper for one of the lawyers in the corporate tax section. As low man on the totem pole, I had been getting all of the dog jobs. The secretaries in our group gleefully dumped the dog jobs on me and I found myself having to practice verbal restraint on a daily basis.
I pressed my back against the counter and did a couple of deep knee-bends to get the kinks out of my lower back. Along with this job being boring and mundane, it made my body ache. The photocopy job was one that I alone was tasked with doing because the lawyer in charge told me it was too confidential to send to the main photocopy room where there were oodles of lowly paid young men who would be happy to help out. As if anyone in their right mind would find anything interesting in these mounds of paper.
The room was suddenly silent which told me that the photocopier was finally done. I pushed myself away from the counter and bent over the sorter bin on the end of the copier to retrieve the copies.
"Hey," a voice greeted me.
"Hey yourself," I said over my shoulder. "I'm almost done here, you can have the machine."
When I stood up with my arms full of papers, a very young, pimply-faced person was standing at the door to the room. This was a person I didn't recognize but that wasn't surprising because I was still seeing new faces every day at McCallum & Watts. There were reportedly 350 people on staff, 145 of whom were lawyers. My sharp deductive reasoning told me that this one was definitely not a lawyer. He looked totally out of place in his dress pants, starched white shirt and thin leather tie. The fact that he wasn't wearing a suit jacket and was pushing a mail cart, told me he was one of us. Support staff.
"I don't need the machine. Are you Kate Monahan?" he asked me. I nodded.
"Ashley in Corporate asked me to tell you to get your butt back to your desk." With that he pushed off down the hall.
Ashley can go fuck herself, I thought to myself as I bundled-up three hundred pounds of paper in my arms and started the long trudge back to my workstation. Ashley had appointed herself my supervisor and if I didn't throttle her before this week was out, it would be a miracle. She had arrived at McCallum & Watts right out of legal secretarial school at the ripe age of nineteen and had been here now for three years. In our little corporate tax group she was the most senior secretary in terms of years on the premises so when I joined the group, she took it upon herself to show me the ropes. That was the first day. On the second day, and each subsequent day, she had been climbing higher on her little hill, singing, I was sure, I'm the king of the castle.
There were five of us legal secretaries in the bullpen, as it was affectionately called by the all-male team of lawyers who we supported. There were eight of them. One partner, supervising seven junior associates. All of whom specialized in tax law. A quick shiver went up my spine and then back down again, at the thought of tax law. Dry, boring and mind-numbing was the only way to describe tax law. It was also a pretty apt description of the eight lawyers in our group.
Ashley on the other hand was cute and perky and her voice sounded like fingernails on a chalk board. It didn't take me long to figure out that there was a high turnover in support staff in our bullpen and Ashley had assured me it was because of the boring work. Not that she thought it was boring. I was sure the high turnover was because of the perky Ms. Ashley. Every piece of work that came our way passed through her hands first and she doled it out. I was still getting my feet wet, she told me every day, so that was why I had to do all the photocopying and open the mail. My computer was gathering dust from lack of use and access to the files was still restricted to me, "until you understand the department," I was patronizingly told, at least two thousand times each day.
My mother would be proud of my restraint, but I had started grinding my teeth again. To keep my comments to myself I had to constantly clench my jaw and physically restrain myself. It was a job. And a paycheck.
The ton of paper I was carrying made a loud thunk when it hit my desk and I had to quickly grab it as the pile started to topple.
"Kathleen," I heard Ashley behind me. She was big on proper names and made a point of using mine.
"Yes, Ash." My voice sounded bored and I hoped she got the dig with the way I had shortened her name.
"The personnel manager wants to see you," she said excitedly. "Right away."
The little bitch, I thought. She's reported me for something and I felt like I was back in the seventh grade. I turned around and faced her.
"Is there a problem Ashley? Did I put the staples in the wrong corner on that tax return yesterday?"
Her faced flushed and she looked a little guilty.
"No." She took a deep breath and puffed out her 32 double A chest. "I have no idea why she wants to see you." There was defiance in her voice so I believed her. She was too young and stupid to lie well. Lying truthfully came with experience. I knew.
I made my way through the rabbit warren of workstations and waited patiently for the elevator, which, if I was in luck, would arrive before quitting time. The law offices occupied five floors and there was no way I was walking up five floors to the personnel manager's office. In the six weeks I had been off work, I had started an exercise regime to get myself back in shape. Religiously every day, after dinner, I would walk briskly around my neighbourhood for an hour. I did that five nights a week and took the weekends off. I hated exercise, so I refused to do any more than my nightly walk. Including walking up stairs.
I had also quit smoking which was a feat in itself. I had been a chain-smoker who would've put the Marlboro Man to shame and deep down I was quite proud of myself for successfully kicking the habit. So far. At the thought of smoking, my hands went automatically to the pockets of my skirt for a cigarette. My finger punched impatiently at the elevator button instead.
Linda Beeston was sitting primly behind her neat-as-a-pin desk when I knocked on the door frame. The lack of visible work or mounds of paper was in no way indicative of how busy I knew Linda was. She was responsible for all of the support staff in the firm and the latest numbers indicated she rode herd on over 200 people. She herself had a staff of four just to keep track of everyone. Linda had interviewed and hired me because, being the smart lady she was, she recognized my skills and experience. However, they had no need at that time for another paralegal, so she had hired me as a secretary. I was grateful, but I was close to putting Linda on my shit list for having hooked me up with the perky Ashley.
"Come on in," she invited me. "I've been expecting you. Close the door."
She had one, uncomfortable, straight-back chair in her office. Just like the ones we've all sat on outside the principal's office. I lowered my weary butt into it and smiled at her. It was a wary smile, because I wasn't sure what was on the agenda.
"So. How's it going with the great Ashley?" Her eyes were smiling at me.
"Wonderful," I joked. "I'm thinking of naming my first born after her. She's a peerless leader."
Linda laughed. "Look, I'm sorry for having to put you in that group. We know your qualifications. The firm was thrilled to get someone of your experience and as I told you when I hired you, if something came up that was more suitable for you, we'd move you." She paid me the compliment with sincerity.
"Just don't tell me you're promoting Ashley and you want me to take over her job."
Linda shook her head. "God forbid. Ashley wouldn't move out of that group. Tax is her life. So she tells me," she said with a smirk.
"That's a very telling statement, you know Linda."
We both laughed.
"McCallum & Watts has just hired a senior corporate securities lawyer from one of the rival firms and he's specifically asked for you. He's coming in as a very senior partner and when he found out you were here, he almost made it a condition of his employment. Are you interested?"
She certainly had my attention now.
"Of course. If it's corporate securities work, I'm there. And I'm flattered."
I couldn't imagine who it was but I did know most of the top guns in Toronto. I'd either worked with them, or against, them in the job I had at Scapelli, Marks & Wilson.
"Great. We consider it quite a coup that we've lured him away from Scapelli's. John Clancy, our senior corporate partner is retiring next year and between you and me, I think they might have their eye on Mr. Johnston to replace him."
When she said Mr. Johnston, my stomach sank so I waited for the sucker punch.
"Would Mr. Johnston have a first name?" I asked.
"Cleveland. Says everyone calls him Cleve."
Well, Cleve had obviously forgiven me for my past sins or this was his way of making me pay for all those nasty things I'd said to him. My mind shot back to the last time I'd seen him and how I'd been an absolute, first-class, no doubt about it, bitch.
"Monday," I heard Linda say and I jerked my attention back to her voice. "Come on and I'll introduce you to your new workstation."
I followed her meekly down the hall. Today was Friday. I had all weekend to figure out how to apologize.
Chapter Two"Is this supposed to be good news or bad news?" I asked incredulously. My voice was raised a little and I made a conscious effort to lower it.
"Bad news for us. Good news for me," he said meekly.
To say the least, I thought. Shit, fuck and damn. We were less than three months into our relationship and Jay was telling me he had to move. Cities. Not down the block.
"Sorry," I told him. And I meant it. In my typically selfish style I was just thinking about myself. "The job. Tell me about the job. It sounds fantastic."
"Well, that remains to be seen. But it's something I can't pass up. It's only six months in New York and then I'll be back in Toronto. Like I said, they want to train me there and if everything goes well, they'll promote me back here."
His hand rubbed my shoulder distractedly and we were both silent. Jay Harmon and I had known each other all our lives but we had only taken the relationship to an intimate level in the past couple of months. He told me he was head over heels in love with me and although I hadn't admitted it out loud to him, I felt the same way. I was still having trouble with our age difference and the fact that I was six years older. We started out as best friends and even though the relationship had taken on a new twist in the last few months, we remained first and foremost, best friends.
As a friend, I was ecstatic for Jay because I knew how much his career meant to him. Like me, he had lost his job at TechniGroup Consulting. Jay had his MBA from Western and like all Western grads, he was a mover and a shaker. He had loads of potential, and I for one wasn't about to hold him back. As much as I was going to miss him, it was only six months, I told myself.
"So, can I assume you'll wait for me?" Jay said with a grin.
"You have to ask? I guess I'll have to change my long distance carrier now."
I heaved myself off the sofa where we'd been watching the ball game. "I'm going to make some coffee. Want some?"
"Sure," I said as brightly as I could.
Jay had delivered the good news/bad news to me on Friday night and here I was on Sunday night, waving good-bye at Pearson Airport. The bad news had continued to get worse when he told me, after the ball game, that he had to leave Sunday.
I stood like a lost child beside the car as I watched Jay weave through the other passengers into the terminal. Air Canada was about to whisk away the only bright spot in my dreary life and I waved pathetically at Jay's disappearing figure.
Excerpted from ARTIFICIAL INTENTIONS by Rosemarie A. D'Amico Copyright © 2010 by Rosemarie A. D'Amico. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.