A seal upon your heart, p.3
A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.3Pepper Pace
He handed her five sheets of paper. They were heavily marked in red ink with messy scribbles in the margins and arrows pointing to where he wanted his ‘notes’ directed. It was…a mess.
“I need this done by 11:30. Can you do this?”
She sat down in the vacated chair. “Yes…but is this saved on the computer?”
He reached past her and clicked on a word document file. “This is the original.”
Oh, well this would be easy. She could have it corrected in minutes. “Yes, Mr. Singleton. You’ll have it before 11:30.”
Mr. Singleton left again, nearly slamming the door and leaving Jane in the now quiet office. She relaxed, the tension leaving her body while she pulled up a fresh word document page. This office was even nicer then Sister Louise’s. Music played softly, but not office music but radio music. Best of all, you could look outside at the city below. She didn’t have time for that now. She saved the document and placed the word ‘final’ at the end of it then she began working on the corrections that Mr. Singleton had noted. Some of the mistakes made by the assistant were embarrassing. She very nearly had to retype about half of it.
But before long she reached the end of the document and ran the spell check. Perfect. She read it over once more, just to be sure. Still perfect. Then she checked the small clock at the bottom of the screen. It was almost nine. She really needed to pee. There was a small door here in the office and she figured it was his private bathroom. She hoped he wouldn’t get mad but she just couldn’t bring herself to step out of the office and ask a stranger; a man where the bathroom was located.
She opened the door into the small, neat restroom and quickly used it. He would probably hear the toilet flush…Her face burned and she hurried back to the office and pressed print. While the corrected report quietly spit from the printer, Jane looked around. There was a cold mug of watery looking coffee on the desk, but it was otherwise neat. She peered at the picture of a pretty lady; his wife? Next to it was another photograph, this time with Mr. Singleton and the same woman. They were wearing ski outfits and were hugging and smiling before a snow capped mountain.
She could barely believe it was the same man. He was…very good looking. It was obvious that he was still older when this picture had been taken, maybe mid to late forties, but when he wasn’t scowling he looked vibrant. She saw dark hair streaked with white beneath his woolen cap and blue eyes. The laugh lines surrounding his eyes made him look rugged. He looked like a man that would trek through the wilderness, sleep in a tent, fight off wolves but then would hold his pretty wife delicately in his big hands. It was in the way that his head tilted in her direction; he was leaning into her as he smiled for the camera.
Jane smiled. She decided she would like Mr. Singleton. Even if he seemed brusque, she knew that he was more than that. She opened the door and walked out into the main room. There were eight file cabinets that looked like pieces of furniture. They were probably four feet high and 2 feet wide and they lined two walls. Each had three drawers. Half of which stood opened. As her eyes scanned one of the cabinets she knew that it contained a lot of files.
She cleared her throat and the both of them looked over at her. There were several more files on the desk. They would need to be replaced but…that seemed like an impossible task.
“I finished the report. Is there anything else that I can do?” He didn’t seem to understand the words that came from her mouth as he just stared at her.
“Where is it?” He finally asked.
“On your desk, Sir.”
He gave her an odd look as he walked past her and into his office. She followed while the other woman seemed relieved to be rid of him. He picked up the papers and scanned them quickly. He moved to the next page, his movements a bit slower. By the third page he glanced at Jane. And when he got to the fifth and final page he gently placed the papers back onto his desk.
He seemed to see her for the first time. “Very good.” He rubbed his chin in deep thought. Tim was thinking that this girl seemed much more efficient than the one that had been working with him for the last three weeks. Her work was passable at best, and it wasn’t that she had lost the files that he so desperately needed. But she couldn’t find them when he wanted them and he had no idea how the filing system worked. He had just always asked for what he needed and Corrine had been there…
His eyes flitted away. “Why don’t you go out and help her. She’ll tell you what I’m searching for.” Figuring that she was dismissed she turned to leave.
“Jane.” He said with a final nod. “I won’t forget again.” She closed the door behind her and the woman collapsed into her chair.
“Sheesh…” She fanned herself. She was pretty. A little older than Jane, smallish with short dark hair and wearing a pretty beige suit with pretty heeled shoes. Jane smoothed down her blouse. They dressed really nice here.
The girl looked at Jane; appraising her in just the same way that Jane had done to her. She came to her feet and offered her hand. “Hi, I’m Jen. What’s your name?”
Jen managed a smile. “Jen and Jane.” She lowered her voice until it was an almost whisper. “He never remembers my name. I’m sure he’ll be calling you Jen and me Jane. I heard him say that you’re going to help me.”
“Yes.” The both of them looked at the mess on the desk. “Well, let’s get back to work. Mr. Singleton has to be at court at one. He likes to get there forty-five minutes to an hour before, which means we don’t have much time to find that damned file.” Jen explained what they were searching for. Jane searched in a cabinet that hadn’t been opened. She scanned the large accordion folders and thumbed through the subfolders. Well there definitely was no consistency to how they were filed; some were in alphabetical order, some weren’t.
“Um…how do you find anything?” She finally asked.
“By luck. Evidently there have been a lot of girls that have worked for him.” She tilted her head to the door as she whispered. “He’s an asshole. I’m the third girl who hasn’t quit or been fired. So…God only knows how the people before me handled the files. For all I know they just threw them in the first open cabinet….like I want to do.”
Jane frowned. Well that would be stupid and more work in the long run. A while later her stomach began to growl. By that time Jen had told her about her deadbeat boyfriend, his horrible kid from a previous marriage, and their pet that wore clothes and had to be given medication daily for diabetes.
“Jen, when do we take a break or eat lunch?” She managed to interrupt.
“Oh, it doesn’t work like that here.” She leaned in for about the millionth time to whisper conspiratorially into her ear. “You can’t take breaks during a crisis and you eat lunch when Mr. Singleton tells you to. Most times he will tell you to go out and get him something, which is cool because then he buys your lunch too…well it’s cool if you like to eat where he likes to eat. He likes crazy food like Indian and…” Jen blushed realizing that with Jane’s slight accent and coloring that she might be of some Middle Eastern descent.
Jane sniffed slightly and glanced at the coffee pot. “Actually…a cup of coffee would be nice.”
“Oh my god! I’m so sorry! Please help yourself to coffee. It’s probably old. I bring my own mug from home and Mr. Singleton has one that he uses. There is an extra one in the cabinet there. You’ll probably need to make fresh coffee. That’s been sitting for ages.”
Jane went to the small wet bar where there was a coffee pot next to a sink and a mini fridge below. An overhead shelf held a microwave. Jane checked the cabinets and found the coffee and liners and threw out the old coffee. It was so weak it looked almost like tea. No wonder Mr. Singleton had made that comment in the elevator about not having had a decent cup of coffee. She liked it strong but since she wasn’t the only one in the office she backed off on the strength a bit.
She retrieved a dark blu
“That is…some coffee you made there, Jane. It…looks pretty strong.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t like weak coffee. I’ll find a happy medium it it’s too strong for you.”
Jen shrugged and ran tap water into her mug then popped it into the small microwave. “No worries. I can just add water.”
The two women glanced at the mess on the desk and then at the last two file cabinets. How could there be a filing system that anyone could decipher? And Jane just did not believe that anyone would have the time to thoughtlessly un-file this many documents. Someone would have had to do it maliciously and who had the time for that?
Jen sighed and headed for the last few cabinets. “I guess we better tackle these two.”
Jane shook her head. “Those files are really old. You’re looking for 2007 and those are seventies and…” Jane and Jen’s eyes locked. They smiled in understanding. It had taken them 2 1/2 hours to figure out that the files were set up in chronological order. But who could have figured that out? The larger accordion folders represented a timeframe—which none was noted outside of the file, then the subfolders were placed in alphabetical order based on that time period. Some years had several accordion folders and some had multiple years within one—it all depended on how large the documents.
“Insanity.” Jen said as they finally located the correct accordion file…and viola, the missing documents! Jen snatched them and hurried into Mr. Singleton’s office. Jane heard her saying, ‘I found them, Mr. Singleton.’
She found them? Jane felt a bit disappointed that Jen hadn’t included her considering it was her comment that had allowed them to crack the code. But all that really mattered is they had avoided disaster…and maybe now she could go and take a break.
Jen returned a few moments later, beaming. “Jane, can you go out and get lunch? Mr. Singleton was very happy and he’s treating us all!”
Jane’s eyes grew big and her stomach growled again. “I don’t know where anything is located. I’ve never been downtown before.”
Jen’s brow gathered. “Are you serious? This is the first time you’ve ever been downtown?!” Someone from the outer office glanced in their direction and Jane nodded quickly, embarrassed.
“I’m afraid that I don’t know the city very well.”
“Well I’ll go. You just need to stay here and man the phones. Take good messages and say, ‘Mr. Singleton’s office. How may I help you?’ Got it?” She nodded. “He wants me to order from Shanghai Mama’s. What do you want?”
“Um…” Shanghai Mama’s??? “What are you going to have?”
“I usually have the house salad with ginger dressing.”
Jane was much too hungry for just a salad. “I’ll have whatever Mr. Singleton is having.” Jen nodded and grabbed her coat and purse from a cubby.
“Why don’t you re-file these and when he leaves I’ll show you around.” She didn’t wait for an answer and soon had her cell phone out and was placing the order as she hurried down the corridor.
Jane stared at the folders piled on the desk and floor and sighed. She had nearly cleaned everything up when Mr. Singleton opened his door. His blue eyes scanned the area in surprise. He had lost the scowl but seemed far from happy. It was as if his face didn’t know how to be happy anymore. But at least he wasn’t angry.
His eyes suddenly locked onto the blue mug and he seemed to blanch. His already pale face paled even more and he looked away.
“Is that coffee I smell?”
“Yes sir. I’ll pour you some-”
“No, I’ll get it.” He went back into to his office and returned with his own mug. “I’m sorry that your first day has been so hectic. It wasn’t my intent to throw you right into the fire. But this is how it can get around here. If you prefer…I can place you into the typing pool or even the mailroom-”
“Oh…no, sir. I’m fine here.”
He nodded and Jane watched as he took a sip of his coffee, noting that he took it black. “Mmm.” He looked into the mug and she saw his lip twitch upward into an almost smile. “You made this, I gather?”
“I want you to make the coffee every morning.”
“You got this cleaned up very well. And you re-filed everything properly?”
“Did you have…any difficulties putting everything back in order?”
“Not at all, Mr. Singleton. Once I knew that everything was filed in date order, it was very simple.” He seemed pleased by her response.
“This is probably a little late, but I’m Tim Singleton. If you work for me I expect you to call me Tim and not Sir, or Mr. Singleton. And I’ll call you Jane. There are a lot of responsibilities by working as an assistant. Many people work very hard for an opportunity to get out of clerical or secretarial to become an assistant. You’ve fallen into the job. However,” his eyes studied her closely, “if you can’t cut it, you will be demoted.”
He continued. “The hours are a little crazy. The other girl will tell you how to track your time so that you get paid. Some days you might leave early, some days you might leave late. If I allow you to leave early, you will still get paid your full eight hours. You live in the…convent, right?”
“Well is that going to be a problem?”
Jane couldn’t foresee a day that he would ever expect her to work 12 hours. She didn’t think it would be a problem. “I just have to be back by eight.”
He nodded. “This position does come with a higher salary. “You’ll start out at $12 dollars an hour. After ninety days the job will be offered to you permanently, with a raise…if you want it. Do you find this acceptable?” She nodded happily. Tim spent another few moments talking. He explained that after he left for court, she was to go to the personnel office to fill out her employment paperwork. He finished his coffee and placed his empty mug in the sink then he retreated down the corridor and disappeared.
Jane smiled to herself. He kept referring to Jen as that other girl, but he had remembered her name.
Tim headed for Marx’s office thinking about the girl. He had been surprised by her height; it was rather odd to see a woman that tall. She typed fast and accurately, not to mention she knew how to make a decent cup of coffee. He rather liked the new girl, much better than the other, who had referred to his wife’s filing system as ‘crazy’. His wife had been his assistant for twenty years! It was due to her ‘crazy’ filing system that he was able to work himself up to partner. Who was she to criticize when he kept catching her on her cell phone when she should be working? It was no wonder she had rushed through that report. Well, after she got the new girl trained, Tim intended to let her go. Or maybe he wouldn’t even wait that long. He didn’t want her teaching…Jane, yes Jane any bad habits.
“You sure you don’t want anything to eat?” Jane and Dhakiya were walking the short distance to a nearby pub. Her friend had offered to meet her downtown for drinks. Jane didn’t want to ‘drink’, but she wouldn’t mind having a soda or something.
“I am stuffed. I cannot even tell you the wonderful food that I had to eat. I don’t know the names of the dishes but they were so good! Tim bought us lunch at a place called Shanghai Mama’s and I had no idea what to order, so I had what he had; a huge bowl of noodles with chicken and vegetables in some type of sauce. Then there was an egg roll and lastly sesame chicken wings!”
“You ate all of that?” Dhakiya asked in amazement.
Jane covered her smiling face. “It’s bad. I’m a glutton. But I ate every bite.”
Her friend smiled. “Tim? You call your boss by his first name?”
“Yes. But he requires it. He says, ‘You are to call me Tim and I will call you Jane.’ She mocked playfully. The two friends chuckled.
“What’s he l
Jane thought about that for a moment. “Well, he’s tall, like the men back home, but big too, and very formidable. He seems very…white; lots of thick white hair that is badly in need of a trimming, and white skin. He frowns a lot…but I don’t think it’s because he’s a bad person, or mean.”
Dhakiya gave her a curious look. “Why do you say that?”
Jane shrugged. “Just a hunch.” She thought about the picture on his desk and the smile he had for the pretty lady. Maybe tomorrow when things weren’t quite so hectic, she would see his more pleasant face.
They sat for only about an hour and Jane spent most of it talking about her job and Jen and how the young woman had told all of her business. Then Dhakiya drove her back to the school and asked her about the books and music. Jane answered honestly that it was difficult to find the privacy to enjoy them. She offered to return them.
A Seal Upon Your Heart by Pepper Pace / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes