Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21, Chapter 6

I smoothed my pulled-back chignon-styled hair, straightened my pin-striped black suit as I entered the Administration Building, and headed for Bennett Boyle’s first-floor office next to the president’s suite. I was about 30 minutes early, thinking I would get a jump on my first day at work. Boyle’s outer office was open and empty, but the door to his inner sanctum was closed. 

Through the semi-frosted glass insert I could tell he was at his desk. Hesitant to disturb him, I went instead to the massive ornate marble stairs in the middle of the building and walked up to the third floor in the opposite wing only to find my new office locked. I don’t know what I was expecting. Leaning against the wall in the hallway, I took several deep breaths to recover from the steep climb and to calm my nerves. 

  “Don’t be silly, Margaret Riley Grant,” I sternly told myself. “You’re quite capable of handling this job. Just use your instinct, intellect and skills.” I looked up, “But I could use a little help, God.” 

“Oh, did you say something?” came a female voice from behind me. Startled, I turned to see Elaine, my assistant, hurrying toward me. Elaine, Elaine ... what’s her last name?

  “Oh, no,” I said recovering. “Well, actually, just a little pep talk to myself. First day nerves and all that, I guess.” 

Elaine smiled.

  “How are you, Elaine?”

“I’m good, Mrs. Grant, now that you’re here. The stairs get easier, trust me. Here, let me get the door. I’ve got keys for you inside and all the things you’ll need to get settled in.”

   Elaine unlocked and opened the door, turned on the lights and headed for the small inner office. I followed the slim cocoa-skinned woman into the second room. Easton, I thought, remembering Elaine’s last name, wondering how old she was. I guessed about mid-forties, although her tight, smartly fashionable short skirt showed off well-toned bare legs that didn’t look a day over thirty. Two-inch heels accentuated her slim figure. Noticing that Elaine wasn’t at all out of breath from the stairs, I silently chided myself about getting back into shape.

  “There’s barely room in here for your desk, but I think we got it situated all right for you, Mrs. Grant,” Elaine said as she cranked open the only window.

  “Maggie. Please call me Maggie.” Looking around at the cramped room, I hadn’t remembered it being this small. “It’s fine. Thank you. I don’t really need more than a desk, computer and phone, and the window is a nice bonus.” 

     I moved over to the view of the familiar flagpole circle, noticing I could hear the water cascading in the fountains. Soothing 

Wonderful spring flowers are planted all over campus. Red tulips have begun to bloom this week among the variety of pansies. Lots of them in the esplanades. Some type of trees—I never can remember what they are so I call them popcorn trees—are in full bloom, too. Several of them can be seen out my window. 

Elaine squeezed around the other side of the desk and disappeared into the outer office, which was about twice the size of mine. 

       Over her shoulder she called back to me, “It’s just a shame to put you, and us, way up here. Mr. Leonard had an office area about six times this size, and we were all housed in adjoining offices around him in the first floor, east wing. But Boyle confiscated it all when Ms. Danielle left just after Christmas, even though it was our office space forever.”

   “Mr. Boyle took the Communications offices?”

   “Yep, and he doesn’t even use half of them,” she said.  Then I heard her mutter under her breath, “The bastard.” 

“You worked for Mr. Leonard?” I asked as Elaine returned to my tiny office.

“Oh, yes, we all did,” she said as she brought in keys and some paperwork. “He was —is— the nicest man and definitely knew what he was doing. I started with him about 16 years ago, along with Charlie. Susan and Steven worked for him a while, and just before he retired, Ricky was hired.  You’ll like the guys. Ricky’s an incredible graphic designer and knows everything about computers. He’s the reason we have these fairly up-to-date models and all the software we could ever want. So you should be okay with at least a modern computer, even if the office and furniture are from the middle of the last century.” 

  She continued talking as she efficiently moved around the room checking for dust, straightening the few files and books that fit snugly in the office. “Charlie is a great photographer — been here forever and knows all there is to know about Tech. Worked for National Geographic right out of college before he came back and settled down. Whole family went to Tech.  Susan and Steven keep up the website news and news releases and anything that needs to be written. Both have been here ’bout five, six years, somethin’ like that. Their offices, if you can call them that  — more like closets similar to yours — are just across the hall. When I need to tell ’em something, I just pop from room to room to room. 

  “They should all be here soon. We like to get in early in case Mr. Boyle stops in first thing, which he does, or did, often.  Even though he’s our boss now, he hasn’t come by as much this semester — either because Ms. Danielle isn’t here to gawk at or maybe because of having to use the stairs instead of the elevator. That darn elevator only works one or two days a month. Anyway, about Boyle. Here’s hoping the elevator stays that way so he stays away.”

  I smiled and shook my head slightly in amazement at my new assistant’s unapologetic opinions.

  Elaine smiled back, “Let’s get you settled, OK?” 

  Elaine and I fell into an easy, almost one-sided dialogue, with Elaine trying to relate everything to her new boss at once, and me, imitating a sponge, attempting to soak it up as quickly as it was spilled.  Even when the other staff came in, were introduced and quickly left for their own offices, Elaine kept up her rapid-fire soliloquy on the department’s procedures, accomplishments, quirks and shortcomings. 

  Finally, when she began to describe the postal process at the university in detail, I stopped her with, “Let’s save some of this for later, shall we? How about ...” but stopped myself when Elaine’s eyes widened like a cartoon character as she looked over my shoulder to the outer office.

I turned to see an enormous green plant spanning the doorway to the hall. “Oh, my,” I said softly as Elaine stepped around me and headed for the door squealing, “That’s huge! Where’d it come from? Is it for me? Where did you get it?” 

  An out-of-breath voice from somewhere behind the immense foliage replied, “Um, a delivery for Mrs. Margaret Grant?”

  “Yes, yes, come in,” Elaine said excitedly. “Put it down right here,” indicating the middle of the floor in front of her desk. “I’ll sign for it,” she said, stepping around the greenery to the delivery man, who deftly slid the heavy plant off a dolly. She sent the winded man on his way back down the stairs and handed the card to me, my mouth hanging open. 

“It’s for you. It’s gigantic! What a gorgeous philodendron bipinnatifidum! It’s as tall as me! Who's it from?”

  I read the card silently and smiled, shaking my head. 
         Mom- A new plant for a new adventure. 
Know you’ll kick ass! 
Love, Michael & Ben, et al.
  “From my sons. I’d forgotten. We have a tradition of sending a small plant to each other’s office when we start new jobs ... this is my first in about 15 years. I’m ... it’s huge!” I said laughing. “What did you say it was?”

  “Oh, it’s a philodendron bip-in-nat-if-id-um. They grow really well under florescent lights. Don’t they have the prettiest leaves? If I take good care of it, which I will, it might reach the ceiling!”

  It took both of us to drag the plant into one corner of the outer office. There was no way it would fit in my small space. Elaine promised to water and feed it faithfully, proudly relating her green-thumb prowess with all things growing. 
I immediately liked my new assistant and worked with her to set up regular weekly staff meetings, filling out the necessary first-day-at-work paperwork for Human Resources. I then dutifully headed downstairs to a scheduled mid-morning meeting of the university’s administrative staff, still smiling about the plant. I would have to remember to call Michael and Ben tonight to thank them.
  Bennett Boyle, hair sprayed firmly in place, stood at the door of the president’s conference room and looked startled when I greeted him. He frowned even deeper than I remembered. Was his scowl permanently set? He massaged the side of his head and said, “What are you doing here?”

  “Reporting for my first administrative staff meeting,” I said brightly. “I noticed it online. Did I get the time wrong?”

“Yes, I mean, no. It’s the right time, but you don’t need to be here. I’m your direct supervisor and I attend this meeting. I’ll relay to you anything that you might need to know.”

  I looked at him for a moment before answering. “All right, Mr. Boyle. I’m just accustomed to being on the administrative team.”

  “Well, you’re not,” he replied tartly.

  “May I meet with the president then, later this afternoon?”

  “You may not. There’s no need. You don’t report to him — you report to me. You can talk with me if you need anything. Call my secretary for an appointment.”

  “An appointment?”

  “Yes, an appointment,” Boyle said coldly, dismissing me by turning his back and entering the conference room.

  “Okay, then. An appointment it is,” I said looking up to the ceiling and turning to head back upstairs. “Not going to make this easy, are you God?”

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