“What the hell are you doing here!?”
Was the reaction she was expecting. Something explosive, something confrontational. Something that spoke to the arrogant, abusive bully she had now met twice.
Instead, the man she now knew as Daniel Park simply looked lost, as though a piece of someone else’s jigsaw had turned up in his puzzle box and he had no idea how it was supposed to fit.
In fact, he looked suddenly so nonplussed, so lost for words, so utterly at a lack for what to do or say that Laura could have sworn she saw something flicker on his face like a bewildered child appearing from behind a curtain.
And then it was gone. Had she imagined it? She mentally shook her head to clear it of any momentary confusion.
She had to take charge of this situation. This was not her boss, her boss was the truly terrifying Mrs Park. This devastatingly gorgeous man child paled in comparison. Also she had won their last encounter. Probably. 90 per cent sure. 80 per cent at the least.
“I’m Laura,” she just said calmly. “I’m your new personal assistant”.
And there it was. That expression. Flint and stone. Anything else was her imagination.
8 hours earlier
At some point, Sandra had put a cup of tea into her hand and Laura was grateful because she was still trying to work out what to do.
Her first instinct was to run. Fake an emergency of some kind. Simply not be there when Mrs Park arrived. But, no, that was a child’s response. She wasn’t a child. She was a grown woman, almost a quarter of a century old. She would simply have to tell the truth and see what the response would be.
She had fucked up. There, she’d said it. No amount of excuses or rationalisations changed that. If Mrs Park fired her then… there were no consequences for being fired in her contract she suddenly realised. She would be penalised for resigning. But if she was fired then all she lost was the job. You can’t afford to lose this job.
Not exactly the comforting silver lining she was looking for but it would do.
“Do you want some eggs?”
It was Sandra, breaking into her musings.
“I can make you anything you want.”
“Oh, you don’t have to… really I’m fine with just toast. Vegemite toast if I can get it.”
Sandra shot her a genuine smile, “A woman after my own heart then. It’s on the table. Sit.”
Laura took her cup onto the cool deck and breathed in the summer humidity as she spread a thin layer of vegemite onto a piece of generously-buttered toast. The bread was divine, probably home made.
As the morning cacophony quieted and the sun flamed in the blue-white sky, she waited for Mrs Park to arrive so she could confess her failure. But Mrs Park never came. Realising she’d somehow come out of this unscathed, she called for a car and went to the office. But nobody was there either.
She picked up her mobile and dialled Charles who informed her that CEO Park had gone to the Loganholme Tran Park superstore and would be back that evening. And within five minutes she had a text from Mrs Park informing her that she was unimpressed with her work so far since this was something that Laura should have known.
A text was better than the icy wind of Mrs Park in person and it’s not as though she was wrong.
Despite her initial stumble, Laura felt strangely emboldened. Now that she was hired, Mrs Park had better things to do than watch her every move. For the first time since she’d met her, being beneath her had turned out to be a blessing. If all she was going to get for failure was a disappointed text then she could handle that. And she’d do better from now on.
The office of Park Holdings was exactly what you’d expect of the head office of a company of its size, all glass and generic open plan work stations, but the CEO’s office was almost spartan. There was a single generic painting but no photos or personalised touches. She had a desk set up in the corner of the room with a computer on it. She was sure that assistants sat outside the room, usually in front of the office or with other secretarial staff. Despite her education, she had little experience with actual corporate work so maybe this was normal? She and this Daniel Park would be working side by side. His desk was considerably larger though and there was a small videoconferencing system and work table in the corner as well as a more comfortable couch.
An overdressed blonde in pencil skirt and uncomfortable shoes had set her up on the computer system and she logged in and set up her email, scrolling through the company intranet and looking at her calendar. It had been synced with Daniel’s so now she wouldn’t be caught out when it came to his schedule.
A different yet almost identical woman slipped a menu under her nose.
“Executives and their staff get lunch ordered and delivered. This is the menu for this week, let me know what you want each day. It’s delivered around 12:30pm. We’re strict about lunch breaks and you’ll be expected to take one.”
Well, that was unexpected and welcome.
“Although,” the clone hesitated, “you should know that Daniel often doesn’t. He often works through. Just so you know.”
Of course. Mr Workaholic worked through. Noted.
“What he’s like?” she dared to ask, now that the woman had shown some humanness.
“He’s driven, hard working and has brought an air of professionalism and sophistication to a brand that has until now been seen as homespun. He expects a lot of his people but it’s that kind of perfectionism that has grown the business to be the successful integrated homewares and whitegoods company it is today.”
“Ah ha,” Laura said, “But as a person to work for?”
“He’s a total asshole. We have bets on whether you’ll last a week. His last assistant quit around the time we delivered her chicken caesar.”
“Well, then, I’d better have the sushi,” Laura said and handed her back the menu.
“Good choice. It’s easier to take with you when you go.”
Laura was starting to think there may be some method to Mrs Park’s madness. An assistant that she controls who can’t quit. I’m almost impressed.
Lunch came and she took her sushi to the Botanic Gardens wondering how her day could feel so anticlimactic. It was a feeling she kept with her until she swiped her way back up to the office and noticed the wall she had walked past on her way in that morning – photos of the Chairwoman, Board and senior executives.
“Yes, that’s him,” said second pencil skirt, “he just screams spoiled rich kid, right? Total Grammar kid.”
“Ah… yeah,” Laura agreed vaguely. “Spoiled rich kid.” With a bloodstained Gucci shirt and an expression of utter contempt on his completely perfect face.
“Wait, he went to Grammar?”
“Of course he did. Didn’t they all?”
Yes, yes they did. Laura shuddered slightly as she remembered the share house incident. Grammar boys.
“He’ll be here soon, he called to let us know he was on his way. Although from now on I imagine you’ll get that call. You know, since you came back after lunch.”
Laura took a deep breath and dragged her feet back to their, their, THEIR office and got herself ready.
So she was still and calm and laudably poised when he strode into the room and realised it was her.
And looked so lost and confused she almost felt sorry for him.
“I’m Laura,” she said, and her voice didn’t shake at all. “I’m your new personal assistant”.
Ice. Cold. Steel.