"I nearly ran the last company I worked for! I've never been so insulted in my life! You'll hear from my lawyer!"
The woman slammed the office door behind her, and glared at the others waiting in the foyer. "He's a sexist pervert! Get away while you still can!" She slammed the outside door and was gone.
Everybody looked at each other. Three got up and left. Only four remained.
Ms. Roberts didn't even think about leaving. She was desperate for a job, any job.
This was her first interview in The Skirt. She was so desperate that she'd swallowed her pride, and bought a skirt to interview in, with pleats and a hem just above the knee. Her blouse had a mildly plunging neckline. Her only concession to properly severe business fashion was a vest.
The other applicants had looked her up and down with disdain when she'd come in. They were all in suits, with trousers and ties. All had short hair, most dyed gray, to project an air of experience. Her father's dying wish had been for her to let her hair grow; it was now down to her shoulders. After much soul-searching, despite being shamed by the memory of her professors, she'd even tied a thin burgundy ribbon into it.
With a few touches of makeup, she looked two or three years younger than her actual 21.
She was beginning to wonder if she'd made a bad choice, when the inner door slammed open, and the firm's new President, Mr. Henderson himself, stepped out.
"The posting said, 'executive assistant'. Anybody who believes that means 'assistant executive' get the hell out."
His voice was rough, with an odd rushing sound to it, but it was solid, blunt, forceful.
Nobody moved. He stared at each one in turn. His gaze settled on her.
"Get in here."
"Hey, she just got here. We've been..."
His gaze didn't even flicker. "You. Get your butt in here. Now."
The others' outraged muttering beat against her as she stood, heart pounding. But, she noticed, they didn't leave.
She had to squeeze past him, and he grinned as her breasts brushed his arm. She forced herself to raise her eyes, meaning to glare, but instead she gaped.
There was a dusting of faint, star-like scars around his eyes.
The faint spark of hope she nursed blazed up. There were rumors about the survivors...
She remembered--How not!--the spattered lesions around her father's face; they'd had to tie him down to keep him from clawing his eyes out, even with the morphine. He'd died anyway. This man had survived that agony, brought by the plague that had killed off nearly ten percent of men between the ages of 25 and 35, rising to near all of them over age sixty. His voice was likely damaged by screaming for hours, days on end.
Experienced male leaders were rare these days. Nobody, anywhere in the world, was trying to fight a war. Male warriors were too precious.
The weird thing was, women had tried to fill the leadership gap, and that was turning into a second disaster. Company after company stagnated, shrank or collapsed.
As evidenced by the women outside, the implications of that were not yet widely accepted.
She, however, had bet her future on it.
"Resume?" He held his hand out.
"I ... I don't have one. Sir." She did, of course, carefully worded, precisely padded. But it was useless for what she was trying to do. She held her breath.
With a grunt and a shrug, he motioned for her to sit, and leaned against the front of his desk.
"Just out of school?"
"Yes. Yes, sir." Never hurts to say "sir", Her Mom and Dad had raised her to be polite, but college had nearly scrubbed the reflex out of her.
"Uh, I uh, I can take shorthand."
He stood bolt upright, frowning. Damn!
"What did you study?"
"Uh, I took, uh, business and, uh," she almost whispered, "social science".
"What kind of social science?" He loomed over her.
"Uh, nothing, uh, relevant?"
His hand shot out and grabbed her hair.
"What. Did. You. Study. Or do you not want this job?"
Oh, please, please, please don't throw me out, she thought.
"Gender ... ow!"
He yanked her towards the credenza, forcing her to bend over it. She braced herself with her hands, trying to keep him from bashing her face.
"If you don't want this job, just say so. Anytime. I've been listening to that shit for two days, and I'm sick of it. You think men and women are equal?"
"I ... I can't fight you, sir."
" ... Close enough, I guess."
He let go of her hair.
"Anytime, girl. All you have to do is stand up and walk out. You think the asterisk plague was Mother Earth punishing the patriarchy?"
But a lot of her professors had said so, rather triumphantly. She'd quit when one had mocked her grief for her father, telling her that she was free now, that she should be celebrating. And rumors were circulating that it had been tailored, and to be sure the genetics labs tended to be run by women...
She could feel her skirt flipping up over her back. No, please no. She tensed, almost in rictus, but did not try to escape.
"You think anything boys can do, girls can do better?"
His hand was on her butt.
"N ... no."
Smack! The spank really stung.
"So I can hear you!"
Get out, the would-be assistant executive had said. But her student loans were crushing her.
"Shorthand, you say. Why?"
"Mom made me. She was a court reporter." In fact, Mom had been Dad's court reporter. She'd quit to take care of her baby daughter.
Oh, Christ, he was fondling her ass.
"Nigh ... ninety seven words per minute."
He was fondling her ass really damn well.
He gave her a little pat, right where her cheek still stung from the earlier blows.
"You know your typing speed. I've had applicants who were offended I asked."
He hadn't asked a question. Mom had taught her what to say to that: not a damn thing.
He patted her again.
"I take my coffee in a twelve ounce mug with three teaspoons of sugar and half an ounce of cream."
His finger slipped under the waistband of her panties. Her shoulders tensed, ready to push her up and away.
"I work fourteen hours a day. Eighteen, sometimes. Can you keep up?
Well, maybe a little gumption was called for.
"If the pay is good, sir."
He named a figure. "Exempt. No overtime."
It was enough. Generous, to be honest, well over the posted hourly rate.
"How do I take my coffee?"
"Black as your shriveled heart." It just popped out. Ah, what the hell. "My Dad always said that only little girls turn their coffee into hot chocolate. Personally, I think it's not coffee anymore if the pot is older than twenty minutes."
He laughed. His laugh made her feel ... it was a good laugh. His hand slipped between her thighs, the edge pressing into her slit, and her knees locked.
"The job is whatever I say it is, including personal shopping and other errands."
His hand caressed the inside of her thigh.
"What do you think your job title is?"
She almost said, executive assistant, but caught herself in the nick of time.