Craig Ross sat quietly in the hard backed wooden chair, trying hard not to stare at the older woman sitting behind the desk in front of him. It was his first day at Eaglestone Communications and the last thing he wanted to do was get off on the wrong foot by having the personnel director catch him staring at her breasts. Not that they weren’t worth staring at, even if she was at least twice his twenty-two years. Almost as bad, he thought, would be for her to catch his eyes wandering the room or staring out the large window to his left, either action might demonstrate a lack of interest in his new position.
Instead, while she continued to check the small stack of forms that made up his newly created employee file, Craig kept his gaze on the small, hand-made nameplate on the corner of her desk. The metal letters that spelled out Estelle Jones had a few imperfections in them, leading him to believe that an amateur had made it. It reminded him of some of the projects he’d made in high school shop class. Every twenty seconds or so, he glanced upward to see of the dark haired woman was done with her review, and then returned to his study of her nameplate.
“Well,” Estelle said a long minute later as she finally laid down the last sheet and closed the folder, “everything seems to be in order.”
Craig was relieved that he had been looking up at the same time that she did.
“I just like to double check that all the forms are filled out right,” she said with a smile. “Nothing worse than having the excitement of your first payday ruined because some obscure box hadn’t been checked off and you didn’t get your check on time because of it.”
Craig returned the smile, surprised that she would take such an interest in a new employee. In fact, he was still surprised that he was here at all. Only a few months out of college, he’d put in an application at Eaglestone as one of a half dozen that day alone, never expecting to be called in for an initial interview, much less a second one.
The first interview had left him with the impression that it had only been a pro forma exercise, just to show that they were giving applicants a chance before they hired whom they intended to from the start. The second interview had been with Ms. Jones herself and her attitude had been totally the opposite. Suspicious of the change, Craig had convinced himself halfway through it that her friendly demeanor was designed to make him not feel as bad when he walked out of the meeting disappointed. Therefore, he was quite astonished when it instead ended with an offer of employment. It was all he could do to remember to say thank you.
“Mr. Brown, in whose department you’re going to be working, is out today, so there’s no need for you to report over there until tomorrow,” Estelle continued. “So we can use what is left of the day to introduce you to your mentor and let you learn a little about how things are done around here.”
“Mentor?” Craig repeated, not having heard the term in any of the prior interviews.
“Oh, it’s just a little program we instituted here at Eaglestone a year or so back,” Estelle explained, “geared specifically to new employees like yourself who are just entering the workforce. Just someone to help you adjust to how a business really operates as opposed to the theoreticall model you learned about in school.”
Having interned for two other companies during school, Craig thought he already had a good handle on that, but wasn’t about to contradict the personnel director.
“It’s important for you to understand that they don’t report to anyone, or have any input into the quarterly performance evaluations that all employees go through during their first year,” she continued. “All they are there for is to answer any questions you might have about how things operate, and perhaps guide you over any of the bumps along the way.”
“Isn’t that the kind of thing that you would go to your department manager for?” Craig asked, remembering one of his professors saying just that.
“Traditionally yes,” Estelle answered, “but we’ve found that sometimes a new employee might be hesitant to go to their immediate superior with some things, especially if they thought going to them might make them look bad or unable to handle a task they were given. By assigning them a go to person, as it were, to ask those not as silly as they thought questions, we avoid surprisingly many problems. Whatever you might think of the idea at the moment, it does work out quite well.”
Thinking about it for a few moments, Craig decided it might be a good idea after all. His thoughts flashed back to just that kind of situation during his first internship, when he felt more comfortable asking one of the other interns a question about his project rather than risking appearing ignorant in front of his boss. The problem was his fellow intern had known as little as he did and the advice she had given him almost proved disastrous.
“In fact,” Estelle concluded as she glanced down at the desk clock in front of her, “she should be here just about...”
Almost as if her words were a signal, the door to the personnel director’s office opened and an equally smartly dressed woman entered. Following Estelle’s lead as she turned her attention to the new arrival, Craig turned his head far enough around to see her as she approached the desk.
Standing five foot six, just an inch shorter than Craig, the forty-four year old had shoulder length brown hair, emerald green eyes and a pleasant smile. The finely tailored business attire she wore did little to divert attention from the decidedly female form beneath it, especially a bust that easily matched Estelle’s. This time however, it wasn’t a set of impressive breasts that drew Craig’s attention, but a face that was instantly familiar.
“Craig Ross, I’d like you to meet...” Estelle had started to say.
“Mrs. Parkes!” Craig exclaimed, cutting off the personnel director in mid- sentence.
“Craig?” the new arrival queried, her tone reflecting equal surprise.
“I take it that the two of you already know each other,” Estelle said a heartbeat later, having risen from her desk and already gone half way around it.
“Knew would probably be a better word,” Kay Parkes said, “but it must be four, no make that five years since the last time we saw each other.”
Almost automatically, Craig found himself nodding in agreement.
“Craig here went to high school with my oldest son, George,” Kay went on to explain Estelle’s unasked but certainly apparent curiosity about what connection she would’ve had with a then teenage boy. “But that was so long ago that I never made the connection when you mentioned his name to me.”
“Well, if it’s been five years, I can certainly understand that,” Estelle said. “But as it is, a past relationship, however indirect, might compromise the spirit of the mentor program. If you like, I’m sure I can find another volunteer easily enough.”
“I don’t see it being a problem for me,” Kay said after a moment’s reflection, “but the decision really should be left up to Craig I think. After all, he’s really the one who needs to feel the most comfortable with it.”
Both women turned to look at the still seated young man, putting him in the middle of his first professional decision. There were pros and cons to going either way, he quickly thought, but while there was no guarantee that Mrs. Parkes was still the same person he’d known back in high school, he was sure there would be little problem getting along with her.
“I don’t see it as being a problem,” Craig finally replied.
“Excellent,” Estelle smiled, “then we’re done here.”
It was obvious to Craig that both women were pleased with his decision.
“Since I know you have other things that you need to get done,” Kay said, “why don’t I take Mr. Ross here out to lunch and give him his first counseling session?”
“It sounds like a good idea to me,” Estelle agreed. The comfortable way the two of them interrelated caused Craig to think that, even in absence of any evidence thereof, the two women were friends as well as co-workers. “But be sure to point out to him that long lunch hours are hardly the norm around here and there will be plenty of days when even a short one will be a much missed luxury.”
As he rose from his chair and once again thanked Estelle, Craig was certain that her latter comments, while containing an expected truth, had been added more in jest than anything else. More proof of the relationship between the two of them.
“I seem to remember that you had a preference for Chinese food,” Kay said once they were in the corridor outside of the office, “does that still hold?”
“Most definitely,” the dark haired young man replied.
“Great, because there’s a truly excellent restaurant just around the corner and since it’s only just noon, we should have no problem getting a booth where we can both eat and catch up,” Kay said in turn. “Just give me a few minutes to get my coat and let my assistant know where I’ll be.”
As he waited in the empty corridor near the elevators for Kay to return, Craig wondered what her position was in the company that allowed her an assistant. Obviously, she had some authority if she could just leave when she wanted to, which only made it seem strange to him that she would be assigned as a mentor to a new employee like him. Not that he was going to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth.
“Ready to go?” Kay said as she turned the corner, coat in hand.
.... There is more of this story ...