© Copyright 2002
I know how to handle her, I told myself as Casey walked in. Fifteen minutes late for work and I detected no trace of remorse, almost defiance. Casey was the key, I'd figured out; get her in line and everything would follow. It was my first day, now that George was out of the picture. The settlement had been complicated, but I'd been surprised at George's relatively quick acceptance of my proposal that I buy him out. That left me with not quite all the assets a divorced wife usually receives not to mention couple of payments due to him out of future revenue. And of course it left me with the sudden job of running the show.
Casey. As nervous as I felt at what was obviously to be a key moment, I knew I was enough of an actress not to let it show. And I knew well that the tone I set at this moment would have implications. I thought briefly of how George might have managed Casey, then quickly suppressed the thought given the things I might not have been aware of. Sure, she was twenty five, but I instinctively knew the experience I'd gained as a high school teacher was exactly what I needed, even if I hadn't seen a classroom for some time. I surreptitiously took a breath, then dove in.
"I expect you here at 9AM," I said, without looking up from my desk. She said nothing and I pretended to work for a few more seconds, then looked up at her. "Black, if you please," I said, handing her my coffee mug.
I was completely matter-of-fact. I knew it couldn't be performed much better, but for all my acting, she made no move and we simply looked at each other. And if anything, she wore a slight smile, as if amused.
My heart was beating and I knew I wasn't home yet. "Is there a problem?" I asked.
Still we stared at each other and I felt nerves overtaking me. The problem was she didn't look like this was bothering her in the slightest, and I knew I needed to say something even if to do so was a defeat of sorts. "I need an assistant I can depend upon," I said, pitching my voice as serious, but also with a hint that if Casey didn't shape up, that she was out.
If anything, her smile grew, but only for a brief moment. Then, still wearing that slight smirk, she finally spoke. "Let me tell you what you need," she said. "You need an assistant who knows your business, especially the aspects that you haven't mastered yet. You need an assistant who knows the deals in progress and the leads we are working on. You need an assistant who can get you up to speed on the finances. You need an assistant who can keep the payroll and finances functioning this week and next. You need an assistant who knows the passwords that you don't. You need an assistant that has your employees' trust and who is loyal to you, and backs you through thick and thin. In short, you need an assistant who can pull you through until you get those payments made lest George end up with everything, which you know could very well happen. And you need such an assistant even if she happens to have two job offers from your competitors on her desk at this very moment."
When she stopped talking, we were once again left staring at each other. Unlike earlier, she now looked completely serious. I mentally cataloged each of her points. And it was with a sinking feeling that I knew I had to agree with every single one of them. "Now let me tell you about what I need," she said. I briefly thought I saw just a hint of the smile return, but then she was serious again. "I need you to show me some respect."
"I also need silence," she cut in, suddenly her voice more sharp. I realized I'd started to talk without thinking, that nerves were ruling me again, but I was also stunned by the way she'd cut me off. I'm sure I sat there with my mouth hanging open. She still held my eye. Then she spoke more slowly, seemingly calm, but carefully. "I'll tell you exactly what I require," she said.
Again, silence. Every sense told me this wasn't good. I felt the need to say something but couldn't be sure what it should be. Finally, without moving a muscle, she spoke again. "I need you on the floor, on your knees."
I stared in amazement. Her eyes never left mine. "Casey..."
"Silence?" she asked, in a slightly sarcastic tone. Then she simply held my eyes.
Somehow I couldn't look away. We stared at each other, for what seemed almost like a minute. I couldn't believe the tension I felt. Finally she moved, a little shrug. Humor awoke on her face, and she turned to leave. "If I leave this room now, it's for good," she said.
Every single one of her points flew through my head again. "No!" I said quickly.
She turned back to me, her eyebrows showing question.
I had no idea what to do, but I didn't let another tortuous minute pass. I thought about what she said, the company going into confusion, being unable to pay George. There was absolutely no way I could let that happen.
And as if my body were doing its own thing, I observed myself slip out of my chair. I looked up at her. From my knees.
I'm sure this time she didn't smile, not in the least, but she turned and shut the door. And locked it. "On your hands and knees," she said.
Slowly I obeyed. Yes, that's the word, I obeyed, I swallowed every bit of self respect and did as she asked. "Good," she said. "Now, I need you to slip your pants down to your knees."