Being Me

Book Cover: Being Me
Part of the Being Me series:

Mitsy Collins can handle herself with wit, but not with her weight. She’s content in her world of skinny coworkers and fulfilling the needs of her cat, Mr. Perkins, when their floor gets a new boss. The rumors of his physique don’t lie, and the whole floor is in combat mode to win his attention, and maybe his heart. Mitsy keeps out of the war, but becomes a casualty when Dunner ignores the bloodshed and takes aim at her. Is his intentions pure? Can Dunner really want her? Will Mr. Perkins be jealous?

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I admit it, I’m a little plump. Not overweight, just big boned and under-short. This was an anomaly in our office full of sticks and bones, and hurtful words. The other girls talked about their weight-loss diets and gym memberships, I talked about watching movies with a bowl of popcorn in my lap. I was thrilled when Twinkies were brought back, everyone else was horrified. I think some of them were a little jealous that I ate without caring what or how much I ate. I was a little jealous of them for having enough self-control to keep to those crazy diets and exercise machines.
So that was the situation in the office regarding my relationships with my coworkers. It was a love-hate type of one where we tolerated each other for the sake of office peace. That is, until he showed up and turned everything upside down.
We’d all heard there was an up-and-coming manager climbing the ranks, and our floor was one of the stops up to greatness.

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I joked that it was a rest stop, since we weren’t really all that important in the company. Nobody laughed. Anyway, we were going to get a new manager since the old one, Ms. Finner, was retiring. After so many years of herding high-strung women through their daily chores, she was glad to be rid of us. I for one was going to be sad to see her go; she was a strict judge, but fair. If one of us screwed up she’d tell us that, point-blank. If we performed well, we got a cookie. Literally. She’d hand out a cookie for a job well done. Now you know why I liked her, and why everyone else hated her.
Her last day was also the day we were going to meet our new manager, kind of in a transition, passing-the-key sort of thing. Everyone on the floor was excited to meet him for several reasons. One was his rumored good looks. He was said to be the reincarnation of a god; I just hoped it wasn’t going to be Hephaestus. That would have disappointed everyone and made them extra bitchy. The other was that, with him being so good at his job and climbing the office ladder, he was a good catch for any prospective woman. That brought me to the last reason; he was single. That meant our new manager was rich, single and aspiring to great heights in our successful company, all neatly stuffed in a cute package of availability.
The day arrived and everyone was ready for their prospective mate. The clothes never looked so clean and lacked creases, and everyone’s hair looked like they’d dropped it out of a fashion magazine. Well, everyone was ready for him except me and the guys. I had on my usual dress pants with my long brown hair tied up in a ponytail; that kept it out of the way. There was also my white blouse that had a neckline too low for my tastes, but the price had been right; cheap.
Before the grand entrance of our soon to be anointed new manager, Ms. Finner came up to me with a sad smile on her face. “Good morning, Miss Mitsy.” My real name was Monica Collins, but she had that pet name for me. Everyone else called me other not-so-nice names, at least behind my back. “You look nice today,” she complimented.
I glanced down at myself. “Oh, it’s just the usual. I figured I’d shock the new manager the first day so he’d get over it faster.”
“Well, I still think you look nice, and is that some makeup I see next to your lips?”
I flicked my finger up and stared at what came off. “Nope, white donut powder.”
Finner snorted and clapped her hand over her mouth. She always liked me being funny, even when I wasn’t trying to be funny. Finner straightened up and brushed her hand across the front of her shirt. That was her way of trying to save face. “Oh, I see. Anyway, I came by to say my goodbyes to you in person. I had to write enough goodbye letters last night that my hands are cramped. Besides, you were always my best friend here.”
I blushed at the compliment and looked down at the floor. “You were always really nice to me. I hope you have fun in your retirement.”
Her voice sounded eager, tired and excited all at once. “Oh, I will. I’m planning on doing some traveling around the world, and then I’ll settle down in some remote jungle where they’ve never heard of paperwork.” I snickered and glanced up. That sad smile was back on her face again. “But I really am going to miss you and your smile. It was always worth coming to work just to see you.”
I made sure to give her my best smile for that. “Thanks.”
There was an awkward silence between us for a few seconds and Finner stepped back out of my cubicle. “Well, I’d better get ready for the new manager. He’s supposed to be a worse stickler for tardiness than me.”
I gave her a look of fake shock and horror. “Is that possible?”
“Oh, ha-ha, and yes, I heard it’s possible, but I’d better be off. Good luck, and oh, here’s something from me.” She handed me a small box wrapped in shiny silver paper. Before I could say thank you she sped off to get ready for the coronation.
I turned the package over and upside down. Nothing to say it was or wasn’t a bomb. I brushed aside caution and unwrapped the gift to reveal a small box covered in red velvet. It had a hinged lid, and I opened it to find a tiny card with a pair of solid gold earrings. Tears sprang to my eyes as I opened the card to read the note inside.

Dear Mitsy; If I haven’t already, I wanted to thank you for always keeping a chipper smile on your face. You’re the joy and kindness in this office, and I wish you the best. You have a wonderful life. That’s an order. Sincerely, Feodora Finner

That was the perfect time for me to start blubbering if a few of my coworkers hadn’t wandered by the entrance to my cubicle. They stopped to give my outfit a once-over and I quickly hid the gift. I didn’t want to make office tensions worse by revealing Finner’s last show of partiality to me. As they stared at me, I stared back. I noticed they had their fineries of dangerously high-heeled shoes, custom suits made from first-born children, and earrings wrought by slave labor. I was joking, of course, but it made me feel better.
One of my coworkers, a woman by the name of Alicia, happened to glance at my face. This woman was the one I least liked on the entire floor. She let out a snort and nodded at me. “What’s that on your face?”
I frowned. “It’s donut powder,” I replied.
“It really suits you.” Her two friends let out a snort.
This witty conversation was thankfully interrupted by an announcement from one of our more enthusiastic coworkers. She was crying the alarm at the top of her lungs as she rushed from the elevator. “He’s coming! He’s coming.” For all the fuss she was making over it you would have thought the British were coming.
I peaked my head over the short walls of my cubicle and watched the chain reaction in, well, action. The women who were confident in their appearance mugged our coworker for details while those who weren’t ready rushed off to the bathroom. The few men on the floor looked on like I did, with horror and fascination. We weren’t sure whether to laugh or hide. The women preened and crowed like a bunch of hens until Finner stepped out of her office.
Finner’s voice was firm, calm, and loud. “Everyone please calm down,” she shouted above the din of the hens. They all stopped squawking and turned to her. “That’s better. Now why don’t we all just get back to our desks and wait patiently for Mr. Dunner to arrive? You’ll have plenty of time later to speak with him, as he’s requested a private interview with everyone on the floor tomorrow.” That reignited their gold fever, as the first thing on their minds was to get the new boss alone. Finner caught the gist of their glee and stamped it out with a few words. “Remember, ladies, that there is no outside relationships allowed between a manager and an employee.” That dampened out all but the most ardent of prospectors; Alicia was one of them. They were willing to risk their careers for the chance to be trophy wives, or better yet mistresses. Then they could keep their jobs and move up the ladder with their boy-toy.
The display was disgusting enough to get me to sit down and stick my tongue out at my computer monitor. The poor thing only stared blankly back at me. The hustle and bustle on the floor simmered down to a low hum so I was able to get back to work. The clickety-clack of the keyboards and murmuring voices were interrupted when the elevator doors opened a few minutes later. There was a collective groan of disappointment. It was only the mail. The delivery guy was given dirty looks and retreated back into the elevator.
Finally, an excruciating half hour after the announcement of his coming, the elevator doors opened and out stepped our new manager. I didn’t look over my cubicle walls, but the sounds of chairs pulling back and audible gasps told me some were impressed with his looks. Since I was going to see him tomorrow at my private interview I kept at my work, though with one ear on the conversation. Ms. Finner met him at the elevators.
“Good morning, Mr. Dunner. Would you like me to take you around the floor?” The floor was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. Well, except for my keyboard and those of the guys. We kept working while all the ladies shot us dirty looks for making so much noise.
A soft-spoken male voice answered her question. “No, I had a look around last night after everyone left. It’s a nice floor.”
“And has some nice people,” Finner added. My heart skipped a beat because I knew she was talking about me. “But why don’t I show you to your new office and we can hammer out any questions you might have?”
“Sounds great.”
Their footsteps walked along the floor straight from the elevator to Finner’s office. She had a view office on the outside of the building with some of my coworkers who were senior employees. My cubicle was diagonally at the opposite end from the elevator, so I didn’t see anything. I could have, but that would have involved me sticking my head out and staring down the hall. I didn’t want to join the other dozen or so people who were gawking at him. Besides, all their heads would have been in my way.
When the door closed on Finner’s office, the twittering birds came alive. Admiration for their prey and aspiration for their seductions spread across the floor. The men and I laid low, but as a fellow woman I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the loudest of the conversations. One of the talkers was Alicia, along with her two cohorts, Delilah and Stacy.
Delilah’s voice oozed out her awe of his manliness. I silently gagged over my keyboard. “I think someone was lying to us when they said he was just cute. He’s definitely handsome.”
Stacy didn’t sound too happy with Delilah’s eager tone. “You think you’re going to get him?” she scoffed at Delilah.
“I know I’m going to get him,” was the quickly reply.
Alicia stepped in to fan the flames. “Neither of you are getting him, now get back to work and wipe off that lipstick. It doesn’t match your complexion,” she scolded in a terrifyingly motherly voice.
Delilah wasn’t impressed. “Uh-huh, just so you can get him alone later and try to reel him in with your banshee tactics. You should really drink more water, your voice is raspy.”
The door to one of the offices opened and the whole place hushed. Finner’s voice rang out through the floor. “Stacy, Alicia, Delilah, you’re loud enough to wake the dead, now please get back to work before you give Mr. Dunner a bad impression.”
That cowed them into a work ethic, and for the rest of the day the place was a beehive of progress. Never before, or since, was that place ever run so smoothly and efficiently. It was a nice way to send Finner off. She left at noon for her retirement, and the whole floor waved her goodbye as she stepped onto the elevator. For once I was at the front of the crowd smiling at her while a lot of my coworkers stood there with insincere grins. Finner the slave-driver was gone, replaced by a young, handsome man they hoped they could steam-roll into doing nothing.
But I wasn’t thinking about that right then, just about Finner. Finner gave me a wink before the elevator doors closed and took away the best boss I ever had. The other half of the day was still productive for everybody except me. I was glum from the separation, and apprehensive about the interview tomorrow. I felt there was some sort of ulterior reason for talking with everyone on the floor. Maybe cuts were coming, and I’d be laid off. That would really suck because I hate looking for a job.
That long work day finally ended. The fitness-conscious filed out down the stairs while I and my cadre of men filed into the elevators. The benefit to having coworkers intent on exercising themselves to an early grave was that there was always plenty of room on the elevator. I was on one of the last ones down; well, actually, the last one down in that particular elevator. I’d wanted to get some work done, so I stayed five minutes late. That made me alone in the elevator, and I was given a scare when, just before the elevator doors closed, a hand reached out from the other side and stopped it. The doors opened and revealed a man I didn’t recognize. He had a briefcase in his hand and a smile on his face
“Sorry about that, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he apologized. He stepped in, the doors closed, and the elevator made its way down to the lobby. “I see you’re working late, too. Do you do that a lot?”
“Um, sometimes, when somebody needs help,” I hastily replied.
Since I knew everybody on the floor, this could only have been Mr. Dunner. Out of the corner of my eye I caught little peeks of him, and I saw now what the other women admired. He was a little under six feet tall, not too skinny and not too fat; just right for a tasty treat of man porridge. His hair was a sandy brown and he had a pair of blue eyes that dazzled when he looked at you. He wore his tailored suit well, especially against his nice ass, but had a clumsy way about him. The way he was fidgeting with his briefcase made me wonder if he’d ever held one before. With all that fine man-meat next to me I was nervous enough to break out in a sweat.
“Oh, sorry. I guess I haven’t really introduced myself,” Dunner spoke. He switched hands with the briefcase and his clumsy fingers caused it to clatter to the floor. The top popped open, and the ensuing explosion was like a clown car of cardboard. The whole elevator floor was littered with papers and yellow file folders. “Oh damn…” he muttered, and stooped to pick up the mess.
I knelt down and helped as best I could. That meant a lot of leaning over, and when I looked up from grabbing a folder I noticed Dunner was looking at my blouse. Correction, he was looking down my low-cut blouse. I leaned back on my legs and scowled at him. New boss or no new boss, I wasn’t going to put up with gawking. I knew my weight made them big and bouncy, but that was no excuse for ogling. “I didn’t know something dropped into my blouse,” I quipped.
Dunner shook himself from his peeping tom impression and sheepishly smiled. “Sorry, I thought maybe your blouse was one of the larger papers.”
That was a lame excuse, possibly the worst in the history of lame excuses. “No, I try to wear synthetic materials,” I replied as I stood up.
“And wear them very well,” he complimented. Dunner got his paperwork back into the briefcase and clicked it shut. The whole thing bulged with the papers and folders, and I took an uneasy step away from him. He was a walking time bomb with that thing. Papers could burst out at any moment and cause some painful paper cuts, probably on the fingers I typed the most with. “But I think I was trying to tell you who I was.” He held out his hand and smiled. “Steven Dunner.”
I was still a little miffed with his peeking at me, but I needed to behave around my bosses, even during off-hours, so I shook his hand. “I’m Monica Collins.”
“Oh yes, you’ve been working here for a few years, haven’t you?”
I didn’t like the way he phrased that, like maybe I’d been working here too long. “Yeah, about two. I’m expecting to retire in another twenty-five or so.” That’s the way, Mitsy; a nice, unsubtle hint to desperately cling on to your livelihood. Riiigghhhtt.
He just continued to smile at me. “It’s always good to have a future goal in life just as long as you stay focused on the present. I’m sure your boyfriend appreciates that.”
What a funny statement; that is, if it didn’t hurt just a little. “I don’t have a boyfriend,” I told him.
“Oh, really?” He was pleased, I was mad. For once I was wishing he was apologizing. “I must have been thinking about somebody else. Ms. Finner gave me a run-through of all the relationships on the floor, and I’m afraid I didn’t take notes.”
“You must not have been,” I replied. It was a miracle I could say anything with my teeth ground together like that. The opening of the elevator doors avoided any more mild insults from either of us. I stepped out and glanced over my shoulder. “Guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He followed me out of the elevator and nodded. Even through my anger I had to admit he had a nice smile. “Indeed. Have a good rest.”
Then he stepped past me. I glared at his back as he walked out of the lobby and disappeared into the streets. My nature, however, didn’t let me dislike anyone for long unless they’d done something really terrible. He was no exception, and he wasn’t the first person to ask if I had a boyfriend when I hadn’t had one in years. I sighed and drove myself home to my lonely apartment in a decent neighborhood. Nothing fancy, but it was home.

COLLAPSE

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