Two taps on the door.
"Just a moment," I said. I quickly put my hair up and mentally slipped into my professional demeanor. I wear it like a skirt-suit over the silk lingerie of my inner self.
At twenty-nine, I'm one of the youngest employees in the company, but I'm also the president, and the majority shareholder - and a woman. Keeping my demeanor in place and keeping it natural is very important.
"Come in," I called.
The hallway door opened. I looked over at the clock. It was precisely 1:30pm.
"Come in and close the door, Pauline."
She did, then quickly crossed her arms over her stomach and buried her head in her chest.
"Pauline," I said, "the worst thing I can do to you is fire you and Lance already did that. There's nothing more to be afraid of."
She looked up at me. A smile brought a glimmer of light to the dark cloud that seemed to hang over her. Her body sagged, letting go of some of the tension. Her chest quivered as a laugh tried to escape but was squelched.
"Why don't you come over here and talk to me." I remained seated behind my desk and pointed to an area in front of it, between the two chairs. I wanted her to remain standing for a while. It might help matters.
Pauline summoned her strength and walked over, stopping exactly where I had indicated. She stood up straighter and seemed to recapture some of her dignity. I looked for physical signs of the previous two month's stress on her and found none, as usual.
There were plenty of almost-physical signs. From outward appearances, it was a little hard to tell if she was putting on weight or just wearing an extra layer of clothes. Her face didn't look any worse for wear, but yet it looked puffier. She had been crying earlier in the day and the puffiness was probably a temporary residual effect.
No, except for the particular effects of a traumatic day, Pauline looked, as always, like a neatly dressed housewife: someone's mom gone back to work. The previous two months would have taken a toll on most anyone else but Pauline seemed to have survived it without much external damage.
Her ego was another matter. That was part of why I had called her into the office, to give her some perspective on her situation. I started with the most basic question, "Did you deserve to be fired?"
She took a deep breath and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. More of her dignity returned, maybe even a touch of acceptance. Her chin was up. "Yes. Lance gave me one last chance to make it work and I failed miserably. My revenues are down again and I lost four major customers on renewals."
I chuckled and leaned back in my chair a little. It was time to use my affectation, i.e. my glasses. I took them off and briefly sucked on the earpiece. "Actually, no, on all three counts."
An eye-frown remolded her face. "What do you mean?"
My sadistic side was tickled. "I'll explain that in a few minutes." Setting my glasses down, I asked her point blank, "Do you want to keep your job?"
She was momentarily flustered but quickly recovered, saying, "Well, yes, if I could find a way of succeeding at it."
I smiled. It was classic Pauline. At thirty-eight, she isn't old enough to be my mom but there's still something maternal about her, and it shows in every aspect of her personality. She cares about her job as if it were one of her children.
"So you like working here," I confirmed.
"You like working for Lance?"
She briefly turned into a bobble head doll, and then said, "He's OK."
I looked for one of the folders in the unkempt mess of my desktop while remarking, "Like a chicken salad sandwich..." My conspiratorial tone cheered her up. "... not great but not offensive either."
That brought a laugh of recognition, followed by her hand covering her mouth.
I found the folder and set it on top, and then I folded my hands over it and focused on her. "So, you want your job back, but only if you can do a good job at it."
"Do you trust me?"
She tensed but then relaxed. "Of course I do. That's one of the things I love about working here." She looked off into space. "It isn't just you, either. Not once have I been lied to, taken advantage of, cheated... Not even by Lance. Yes, of course I trust you."
"If I ask you do to something - way beyond reasonable, something I should never ask any employee to do, would you do it?" I paused and then added, "... assuming it didn't hurt?"
She smiled. "Yes."
"OK," I said, "first, go lock those doors." She did, while I got up and locked the back door.
I also buzzed my secretary and told her that I was not to be interrupted for anything less than a matter of life or death.
Pauline raised an eyebrow at me.
"Come back and stand where you were," I told her.
I returned to my chair. "Pauline, you didn't deserve to be fired, Lance didn't give you a last chance and you didn't fail."
She frowned at me. "Please don't patronize me."
I picked up my glasses and held them in front of my eyes, as if I needed them to see her clearly. "It doesn't sound like you're trusting me." Our eyes fixed on each other.
"You're right," she admitted, "OK, I'll take your word for it. I trust you."
"Good," I said, setting the glasses back down. "Now for the unreasonable part - take your clothes off."
Her eyes almost fell out of her head as her arms instinctively covered her chest. "Wha..." She sputtered.
"Trust me," I said. "I won't ask you to do anything immoral... unless getting undressed in front of another woman is immoral."
She paled. It's amazing that her skin can actually get whiter than it normally is. When she pales, she goes from ivory to chalky. Her hands shook. She looked at me, trying to read something from my face or body language, anything that would give her a clue as to what I was up to.
"Trust me," I repeated.
She took a deep breath and let it out. She looked down at herself then back at me. Shrugging her shoulders, she began to unbutton her sweater, slowly at first and then at a close to normal pace.
About half way, while she was still unbuttoning, she asked, "Are you going to just watch me or..."
I didn't answer.
Her hands finished the last button and she slid the sweater off of her arms. I pointed to the chair next to her and she neatly folded it over the back.
She looked at herself again and decided that her blouse was next. Reaching behind her head, she unzipped it in the back, while looking at me questioningly. Again, she asked, "Are you going to just look at me or what?" She wanted an answer.
"You know how I feel," I said.
She rolled her eyes.
I decided to make it a little easier for her. "I can appreciate the beauty of a woman without having to get my paws on her." I kept my voice soft, but not sensual. My eyes, however, made no attempt to hide the pleasure I was taking in watching her undress.
She pulled the blouse over her head, revealing a camisole, and folded it onto the chair. A tear formed at her eye.
"Relax," I said, "we're going to stay on opposite sides of the desk."
She smiled, her face brightening. A little more at ease, she reached behind her waist and unbuttoned her skirt, leaning forward a little as she did. She undid the zipper, also in the back, and let the skirt slide down her legs. She was falling into her normal undressing routine, that way of getting undressed when you're not thinking about it.
I continued to watch as she stepped out of the skirt, gracefully picked it up and laid it over the chair. There was no slip, so she was down to her pantyhose. Next, she pulled off the camisole and then removed her shoes.
Things got a little awkward as she took off her hose. It takes balance to do that while standing and it wasn't a natural movement for her. But she managed. That left her with just her plain white underwear and jewelry.
I nodded as she motioned to her necklace. It gave her a few moments' pause to remove it, her watch and her bracelet. With those placed on my desk, she tossed her hair aside, tilted her head and removed her left earring.
"You've never undressed in a boss's office before?" It was a silly question but it refocused her on what she was doing.
She smiled, "No, it hasn't ever been suggested before." She pondered a moment as she repeated the procedure on the right ear. "Although it's easier than I thought," she said.
With the jewelry off, she matter-of-factly slid the straps of her bra, one at a time, to her elbows, then reached back with both hands to unhook. She hesitated briefly before pulling it away and exposing her breasts. If she was expecting I would avert my eyes, she was mistaken.
Finally, she looped her thumbs into her panties and pulled them down, stepping out one leg at a time. With that done, she took a moment to organize her clothes and make sure nothing was rumpled.
Then she returned to her standing position and looked at me, hands at her sides.
I looked her over, top to bottom, studying her. She has an average, slightly-flabby, thirty-eight-year-old body: Sagging orange-sized boobs that aren't quite even, a tummy that bows downward, moles, bumps, bulges and a blue vein showing here and there.
Her legs were shaved only to mid thigh, and her pubic area wasn't trimmed at all. As unlikely as it seems, her torso was even paler than her arms legs and neck. There was a slight "farmer's tan" that was darker on the left side from driving a car.
.... There is more of this story ...