By Delia Lavender

"Miss Aubergine...Miss Aubergine!"

"Right here, sir." (Where else would I locked the door after Mr. Alpert

left. The key is in your pocket).

"Ah, there you are. Come into my office...I want to go over some figures."

(You mean you want to go over my figure. There's no law against sexual

harassment here on Grabass Island, is there?). "Very good, sir". She rose,

stepped away from the reception desk, then followed him into the inner office.

Fortunately her heels weren't too high. Cerise had lengthened the side slit

of her '50's retro dress to accomodate rapid, evasive movement. Unfortunately

the side slit made Mr. Locke even crazier than usual. It was a good thing, she

thought bitterly, that roller skates were in short supply on the Island. Mr.

Locke was very athletic. And he utilized whatever was available.

"Miss Aubergine..."

Cerise Aubergine hated her name...among other things. Why would any sane

woman name a daughter "Cherry Purple?" Because that was what her name

ultimately meant...

But maybe she shouldn't complain. She'd had a friend in high school whose

name had been "Lily Meadows".

"Miss Aubergine...ah...Cerise? Do you mind if I call you "Cerise?"

"Not at all, Mr. Locke." (Call me what you want...but I won't call you "John".

It's too friendly).

He sat down and leaned back in his office chair. She noticed he had cleared

off his desk. Uh oh.

"I'd like it if you'd call me "John". It only seems fair. We go back a ways...

don't we, Cerise?"

"It's been a long time since the box company, Mr. Locke."

"You were Randy Nations secretary, weren't you? Sometimes you came to

my cubicle..."

"To deliver the mail...yes."

"I always wished you were my secretary, Cerise."

"Well...I guess you got your wish. You've had a number of wishes granted,

haven't you, Mr. Locke?"

His expression hardened. He glared up at her.

"Yes I have. But I don't need you to remind me. And I didn't wish you here,

Cerise. The Island..."

"Oh, yes...the Island, the Island!" she said, losing her professionalism along

with her patience. She began pacing back and forth in front of his king size

desk "Did the Island send me a round trip ticket to Guam? Did the

Island invent a contest...just for me to win? Does this look like a vacation,


He stopped staring at her legs and raised his eyes. Slowly. "No...the

Island didn't do it. I didn't, either. I think Matthew Abaddon did it."

"Matthew Abaddon? That creepy looking..."

"He worked with me for a while. One day we were discussing women. I

mentioned you. I guess I was rather crude about it. But I didn't think..."

"No...of course you didn't think. And now I'm supposed to fulfill your fantasy

in this...this secretarial hell. Well, I'm sick of numbers that mean nothing, Mr.

"Island Leader". I'm sick of memos that go nowhere and typewriters with

worn-out ribbons. Who changes typewriter ribbons anymore? No one but

"Miss Aubergine"! I'm sick of your old, worn-out equipment...!"

"It's NOT worn's hardly been used...!" he snapped back at her.

"It's antique! It probably worked fine in 1978! And why won't you turn up

the air-conditioner?!"

"It's not that hot!"

She abruptly planted her rump on the edge of his desk, fanning herself

violently with her clipboard and pricking his hand with her pencil when

it crept within groping distance.

"It's sweltering...the humidity is murderous and this stupid dress is clinging

to every inch of me..."

"I know." he said appreciatively. He rubbed his hand where her pencil had

scratched him.

"...And we're in a time warp, so I can't even wash out the horrible rinse that

turned my hair burgundy. The only reason I bought this dumb, tight dress was

because it matched my silly hair. I thought it was a joke...but it's not funny


"But you'll never grow old - and you'll never get sick. Besides...I like you in

burgundy. Burgundy all over. It's pretty, it's...different."

"Well, you wouldn't like it on your head!" she said, twisting around and staring

pointedly at him. "Or maybe you would like it!"

For a moment Mr. Locke looked abashed, perhaps visualizing himself with a

thick, dense cloud of burgundy-colored hair.

Maybe he needed to learn that sometimes bald was better. She reached over

to the supply shelf and grabbed the scissors.

He abruptly rose from his chair "Cerise...what are you doing? Cerise! Put the

scissors down! Now!"

"Don't be stupid, you nasty old coot...I'm not half as crazy as you are - at least,

not yet. I'm just trying to cool off..."


During his headlong dive across the desk, Mr. Locke managed to knock the

scissors out of Cerise's hand before the blades could close over the first thick strand

of hair. He fell heavily to the floor, carrying her with him, his arms wrapped

around her waist.

"Get off of me! Get off! You're crushing me!"

"It hasn't affected your voice yet!"

"Let me's too damn hot for this!"

"Don't cut your hair, Cerise..."

"What business is it of yours?"

"Don't...please. I'll turn up the air conditioner. I'll let you wear shorts to


"Stop dreaming. You drool enough as it is."

She rolled, trying to shake him off, and they hit the file cabinet.

"Dammit, Mr. Locke," she moaned "You used to be so nice!"

"I'm still nice, Cerise," he panted "Let me show you my..."

"...No! I don't want to see any part of it!..."

"...Goodwill. What do you want, Cerise? Do you want some time off?"


"Good. Where shall we go?"

"You're coming too? Forget it!"

"You're my responsibility, Cerise. Of course I'm coming with you."


"Then what?"

Cerise lay still and allowed him to sniff behind her earlobe. "I think..." she

said deliberately "That I want you to fire me, Mr. Locke."

He stopped sniffing and froze "Cerise...why would I fire you? Don't you

remember how well we got on, back in Tustin? Randy was a such a jerk..."

"Certainly. But HE never crossed the line, as you keep trying to do. And

the work here is nonsense..."

"It isn't. You don't understand yet..."

"I hear beeping buttons in my dreams..." she stopped abruptly. She didn't just

hear beeping buttons, she saw his stern, autocratic face in her dreams. He

always looked at her so reproachfully: as if he suspected her dreams might

include other men, and he disapproved in advance.

But he was one tough, charismatic old dude. She'd sensed it sometimes,

when they'd worked together, back in the box factory. She'd sensed it when

she watched him play "Risk", and when he answered the taunts of Randy.

And she sensed the loneliness dominating his heart's center. She had

always avoided his eyes - she hated seeing the wistfulness there.

"You were always courtly, Mr. Locke. I used to look forward to

seeing you. You're so different now..."

He loosened his hold on her, just a little.

"I'm not the same," he admitted, looking straight into her eyes "Since 815

crashed on the Island. I became a leader, and grew used to getting my own

way. I couldn't believe it when 316 arrived, and you were on it: I felt like a

teen-ager again. But I wanted to give you something familiar, to keep you safe

until you adjusted. The Island can be dangerous, Cerise."

"I want to go home." despite herself, she felt tears forming. She turned her

head, hoping he wouldn't see them.

"You can't, Cerise. The Island is not part of the world you knew, and now

there's no way back. Juliet wanted to go home, too...but now she's Mr.

Linus' assistant."

"With those bulbous eyeballs crawling up and down her front all day..." she

made an attempt to laugh, but it came out as a sob. She blushed with


"Exactly. I'm not so I Cerise? You could do worse."

She thought about it a moment. In a way, Mr. Locke was right. She thought

about the more prominent people she had met:

Mr. Albert liked to steal her eyeshadow.

Mr. LaFleur and Dr. Jack didn't need a secretary...they needed someone to

referee during their constant battles over Kate.

Mr. Reyes could use a secretary - but it was pointless as working for Mr. Locke.

Mr. Reyes was rewriting Star Wars. And she couldn't just sit there,

watching the poor man eat...

Mr. Nemesis raved all day, throwing mangos at the giant foot that served as

Mr. Jacob's dwelling place.

Mr. Jacob didn't need a secretary...he needed a seamstress. And Cerise knew

nothing about sewing or weaving.

Ilana and Bram needed no secretary...they confided only in each other, and

wrote nothing down.

Maybe Eloise Hawkings could use a secretary...but she would need a fellow

scientist. Cerise's training was out of her field.

Mr. Widmore was even scarier than Mr. Locke was.

What about the Returning Dead?

Mr. Locke judged the Returning Dead. She stood beside his chair for many

weary hours...looking over his shoulder in case he "made a mistake". Her feet

hurt just thinking about it, but she had evaluated many people:

Mr. Cooper would have loved having a secretary...but Mr. Locke had sent

him back to the Underworld.

Mr. Charlie was warmly welcomed by Mr. Locke...but Mr. Charlie already had

Claire Littleton to help with his music.

Mr. Eko needed no secretary...Mr. Michael just cried a lot.

Dr. Faraday, like Eloise Hawkings, needed a scientifically-trained person as

assistant. He had found a good partner in Charlotte.

Mr. Horace would have made an excellent boss...but when his wife saw

Cerise, she'd grabbed him by the ear and marched him right out the door.

The Returning Dead dribbled in and she met most of them. But few of them -

so far - had needed her services.

This was impossible.

"Mr. Locke," she asked "Does Mr. Smoke Monster need a secretary?"

Her boss rolled off of her. She sighed in relief and wiped her sweaty brow.

"Don't joke about the Smoke Monster, Cerise...have a little respect. You

don't know what you're talking about. I hope you never run into him."

He sat a little distance from her, legs bent, his brawny arms resting against

his knees.

"You know, Cerise, one of Richard's people found this hatch just before

your arrival. Nobody knew it was here. It's called "The Secretary"...isn't

that ironic? It's an so much is, around here. You have your

own little room...and your own shower and bunk..."

"You haven't taken the surveillance cameras down yet. I'm still dressing in the

closet and showering in my swim suit."

Mr. Locke took a moment to settle his temper. He picked up the end of his

tie, examining its pattern.

"I can fix that," he said, after a pause "And maybe we can find a hair dye to

cover the burgundy you hate so much. I can turn up the air-conditioning. But

what are you willing to do for me? This isn't the Mainland...for all we know,

the Mainland is gone. There's no Complaint Bureau you can run too. I'm the

Authority here. The Island is like a frontier existing between the known and

unknown worlds. I can protect you...but what are you willing to give me

in return?"

"I can give you my loyalty, Mr. Locke...but little else. I've known several girls

who slept with their boss. It always ends badly..."

"Not with me, Cerise. I don't start affaires lightly. The women always leave

me. And I don't lie..."

"I'm sure you don't mean to. But you can't deny that my skills are wasted

here. You really don't need me as a secretary..."

"Yes I do. You help me keep tabs on the Returning Dead!"

"Oh, them. Funny...they don't look dead. Boone Carlisle certainly doesn't..."

"Down, Cerise. He only likes his sister."

"How do you know?"

"I knew him before he died. Anyway...our population is exploding, and you

are the only person who can keep up the statistics."

"Thank you, Mr. Locke. But someone else could be trained..."

"And where would you go? You'd be camping on the beach with the sand

fleas! Remember the sand fleas?"

"Yes, I do. But..."

"And you'd be forced to consort with low-life Island bums!"

"That's up to me, Mr. Locke! You had no right to kick Hunter McBean's a..."

"I kicked his ass! Yes! This is the Island - and the Island is not some

skinny-dipping, meet-and-greet resort for oversexed male airline attendants!"

Cerise sat up and got to her feet. She went to the office door and turned

the handle. Locked. He'd locked this door, too. She was locked in with the

awful Mr. Locke...

She turned to face him. His expression had a severity she'd seldom seen

before. He looked quite seriously pissed. His green eyes were like chips

from an arctic pond.

Suddenly she no longer needed the air-conditioning. Cerise looked at her boss

and felt cold.

Mostly to cover her fear, Cerise walked back to his desk and sat back on it,

allowing her feet to dangle in the air.

Around the desk was a ring of trampled-down carpet. The path worn by her

many sprints in the "John Locke Invitational Track Meet". This time, she

knew, she wasn't going to win - no matter how many records she broke.

"Cerise? Are you listening to me?"

She stared at her knees for a moment, then looked up at him. He was a

damned attractive man. And he was right...the Island wasn't the Mainland.

Different rules and different ethics applied here. It was time for her to adapt.

Maybe she could bring something positive to "Secretarial Hell".

"John...turn up the air-conditioning. I'm hot...and we have a hot

afternoon ahead of us."

He was silent as he unlocked the door to the climate control panel. He turned

the control knob to medium/high, then replaced the door and locked it. His

hands trembled a little.

He turned and leered tenderly at her. The cool air hadn't affected him yet, and

she saw that he was sweating. He loosened his tie.

"Miss Aubergine...Cerise...are you ready to take dictation?"

"Yes, sir." (Come here, you lech. I'm going to own you.)

"Then we'll start immediately. Let's see what you can do with the "old