I wrote this after watching a high school/college production of the show. So, obviously, our actors were much younger than the movie portrays them as. But I think that's completely alright! Still, do keep that in mind as you read :)
When John Bratt is promoted, he is given the opportunity to pick his secretary. He chooses Smitty, because she has spunk. And she handles his affairs quickly and easily, while he deals with Biggley's ridiculous firing and hiring whims.
"Mr. Bratt," Smitty calls through the door. "There's a phone call for you."
He likes the way she says this, no nonsense. He has noticed how she is different from the other secretaries, different even from her good friend, Rosemary, who lives with stars in her eyes.
John thinks he should miss having a starry-eyed girl as his personal helper. Those girls are easiest to manipulate, and keep a man's wits towards dreaming. But Smitty grounds him, and he needs this, because lately the entire company has been going to rot anyway…
"I'll get it, Smitty, thank you."
Later that day he contemplates leaving the company, just to see what else is out there. He mentions it to her in passing.
"I'm not sure, Smitty. Just, there must be something else too."
She sighs, and plucks at lint on her sweater. "So, whose secretary will I be then?"
John isn't sure what she means why this. He isn't sure if she just means she's resigned to the fact that they aren't in a permanent partnership, or if she's seriously just asking very calmly, or if she actually cares about severing their relationship.
"Well, I didn't say I was leaving for sure, Smitty. Things like that can be worked out, you know."
"My job isn't a last minute thing to be worked out," she tells him coldly.
The next day he gives her a day off, citing that there isn't much work. There is, in actuality, but he feels guilty.
Some days the coffee isn't good. This is all right. But some days, it is nonexistent. This usually happens on Thursdays or Fridays, which are really the worst days for it to happen at all.
Smitty storms in the door to the office and plops on the chair in a huff.
"Something wrong?" he questions.
"Coffee," she explains. "It's Thursday."
"Again?" John asks, exasperated. Really, he was looking forward to some caffeine himself.
He hands her a few dollars. "Want to run down somewhere and buy some coffee for me? I mean, for you too, of course."
The next day it happens is that Friday. She is sitting at her desk, rather defeated looking, with her black high heels lying haphazardly on the ground next to her. He shrugs.
"Do you want coffee?"
"It's gone," she tells him.
"I was going to run down and get some…"
"Alright. Oh, God, where's my purse?" She begins to rummage around, and he realizes that he makes more money than her anyway.
"On me, okay?"
"Mr. Bratt, I don't need any special favors," Smitty says pertly.
"You can buy me some next time, alright?"
When John returns, she is trying to fix her bun. Wisps of hair fall around her face, and she pushes them back in annoyance.
"Late night?" He pushes her coffee towards her.
"Not exactly. Well, yes." For once, she looks embarrassed.
"It's Friday. Dress-down day," John says. "You've been working with me for a year now, Smitty. It's alright for me to hear about your wild nights."
"Rosemary wanted to go out," Smitty mutters. "Clearly not a good idea."
He thinks of her in a club with a sleazy dress on, kissing a man's neck. The image doesn't fit, so instead he imagines her drinking in the corner, wishing she were with someone else. He likes this better.
"Well, better get back to some of that paperwork…" He eases himself out of the chair. "Did anyone call?"
"No, Mr. Bratt."
So buying coffee on Thursdays and Fridays becomes a habit. He likes to slip a few dollars on her desk every so often, because it's generally her who goes out to get it (he's usually in a tedious meeting).
Smitty usually tries to give the money back, but he tells her the company doesn't give out big enough bonuses. Then, she takes the money, but her cheeks are usually red, and he doesn't know if it was the right thing to do. But then sometimes she comes in with a new dress and her face glowing, and he knows it's a dress that was really too expensive for her salary. And he nods at her, knowing where they money came from, and knowing that the dress was a gift for her and for him, because seeing her happy gives him a kick.
Soon, sitting down for a few minutes and talking after the Thursday and Friday coffee breaks becomes a habit too. John likes this, because…because he wants to know more about his employees, of course. And Smitty tells him all the gossip, hardships and absurdity that go on. And he has her call him John for those fifteen minutes.
One day, the phone rings. She picks up promptly on the third ring (she has told him she does this because this implies to the caller that the office is very busy).
"Hello, personnel, Mr. Bratt's office, how can I help you?"
She pauses, and turns to him with disgust. "It's your lady friend calling, Mr. Bratt."
He takes the call and she leaves quickly.
When she returns she tells him quietly, impertinently: "She really shouldn't be calling the office during business hours."
"You don't approve?"
Something flickers in her eyes. "No."
That night he calls up Audrey Dennis for the last time, and tells her: "I like you, Audrey, but I don't think this is going to work out."
"Well, why not?" Audrey asks him in her sweet Southern belle voice.
John doesn't know what to say – because my secretary, Smitty, doesn't approve?
He never tells Smitty that he and his "lady friend" have parted ways, but no calls ever come from her again, and he can see a gleam in her eyes every time he informs her that he is working late. She knows, John is sure.
John works late on a Wednesday night and at about five asks Smitty to stay around to help him with dictation. She purses her lips.
"Alright, Mr. Bratt. For a little bit."
He notes a box in her hands. "What's that?"
"It's my dress. I'm…going out tonight."
He looks down at his hands. "Smitty, I apologize. Please, go to your party. We can finish the dictation some other time."
Smitty puts the box down on her desk. "Mr. Bratt, I said 'yes'. I'm perfectly able to manage my own time and events calendar. Or am such an unreliable secretary that you doubt even that?"
John shakes his head and takes out his notes.
An hour and a half later, she checks her watch surreptitiously.
"I think that's all I need you for, Smitty."
She rises. "Of course, Mr. Bratt." She pauses. "I think I'll, uh, go change then."
"Yes, that's fine…I'm not going to leave quite yet, so you don't need to worry about being locked out."
"Thank you, Mr. Bratt."
He sits in silence for fifteen minutes, reading over a horrendous job application. Yet, while the presentation is terrible, the boy might actually have some worth in the long run…
The door opens, and he looks up. Smitty, in a flowing blue dress stands in the doorway. John stands abruptly.
She looks at him. "I'll see you tomorrow, Mr. Bratt."
"Smitty, you look lovely." He can just barely see her curves through the dress, but he can just imagine how they might ache to be caressed. Her hair flows her around her shoulders, and the hints of make-up highlight her best features – all her features: the pert little nose, stern, but plump lips, smoldering eyes.
"Thank you," she replies, cool and collected. She bends to pick up her purse, and he moves forward at an arrestingly fast pace. When she comes back up, they are far closer than they have ever been.
Smitty moves to leave, and he slowly places a hand on her hip.
She freezes. He pulls her in, until her body presses against his.
"Mr. Bratt," she says, and then stops. John presses a kiss to her shoulder and closes his eyes. The smell of her perfume is entangled in her hair and his hands are moving to caress her stomach. In his private darkness, he pretends they are not John Bratt and Smitty, but just two people with no obligations.
"Smitty, this could be considered sexual harassment," he finally rasps out, willing himself to break the moment.
She turns abruptly so her breasts are pressing against his chest; she slowly raises her eyes to meet his.
He begins to kiss her neck while trying to find the zipper of her dress. It pools at her feet. She touches the light switch. When they have sex, he wants to speak lines of poetry to mirror their beautiful conversations from before. He wants it all to be beautiful.
They keep an arrangement for weeks. A sexual arrangement. It is completely sinful, like devilishly good chocolate, and yet neither of them attempts to stop it.
They talk like friends over coffee, work together for hours on end, and have sex like two frustrated lovers who haven't seen each other in years.
He reminds her once a week that she has no obligation to him. Another woman might, but not Smitty, because she is a damn good secretary, and he has no idea what woman will know him so well. She knows he likes to keep his 3 to 3:30 timeslot free, because he uses it to make lists of what to do the next day. He likes his coffee with two sugars and just a dab of milk. If he needs to send out flowers to anyone higher up, he prefers to send out lilacs; to anyone lower, he likes carnations. And she realized all this without instruction.
He hopes she won't give up anything: not their arrangement, not work, not their friendship. He loves their steady cycle. She is always there for whatever he needs, and he tries to protect her from the hungry predators of the business field.
Smitty glares at him when he seems interested in Miss Hedy LaRue. She glares at everyone, every man in that hallway, but the most stinging look is clearly towards him.
As she leaves to go do…whatever she said she was doing, John stares at her, wondering if she might actually be angry. And yet, no obligations for either of them, he reminds himself. He ushers Hedy into his office.
Later, when Smitty returns, John is sitting alone, waiting for her.
"Well, did you check out her particulars?" Smitty asks chillingly. The lines in her face show that she is hurt.
"Of course not," he replies with a slight smile. She stands stiffly, staring at him suspiciously. "After all, a secretary is not a toy."
"That's true," Smitty nods. "Some of these men you have hired…they really don't understand that."
John cocks his head and looks at her. Her chin is slightly upturned, and he notices again how strong her posture is. If Hedy LaRue is a 'Z', Smitty is definitely an 'A'. And he likes 'A's. They're more sensible. And when they love, they love wholly, not like Hedy who would give any man affection if he could give her something in return.
"No, Smitty, a secretary is not a toy."
He steps forward and moves the hair out of her eyes. His hand lingers.
"Not a toy, at all." He strokes her fierce jaw-line.
Smitty narrows her eyes again, and he kisses her deeply. He has never kissed her before, not at one rendezvous. It is worse than sex; he suddenly needs to hold her, and he clutches her to him, hands tight on her waist. She responds and he can only feel Smitty. Hedy LaRue's figure is lost in his mind; all he does is track Smitty's with his fingers.
When they finish, she sits down and fixes her hair, while he does some more paperwork. They do not touch for the rest of the day.
John does not kiss her again; perhaps he assumes that she realizes every touch should be equivalent to a kiss. And he pretends not to see her disappointment. But John Bratt does not know what to do. Lunch might be prudent, but Biggley does not approve of such things with executives and their own secretaries. Besides that, she is going to be a part of the welcoming committee for the new Vice-President of Advertising soon.
"It's supposed to be Paris original dress," Hedy complains to a nearby executive.
"It looks the best on you," the man tells her fervently. John almost rolls his eyes. This is not even true; Hedy simply wore the highest heels, and it almost looks as if she cut the neckline a bit more than everyone else. But she doesn't have a bright glow in her cheeks. Hedy just looks drunk.
"Smitty, would you care to dance?" John asks.
Smitty puts her martini glass down and straightens out her dress sadly. "I suppose so."
John leads her out to the dance floor, and touches her, for once, appropriately.
"Nice dress," he comments.
"Nice dress for Hedy LaRue. The rest of us look like frumps." She suddenly looks horrified. "Not like that Frumps, though! I meant…oh, God."
He has no idea what she's talking about, though, so he just taps her shoulder absentmindedly.
"Mr. Bratt…John, I think I need to talk to you," Smitty says.
Suddenly, he sees the new Vice President stand on a chair. He groans.
"Smitty, I'll be right back."
He hears her expel a breath, but for the moment, there's little he can do about it. He must stop the insane speech – Biggley might pay him a few special favors for it.
Later, he sees Smitty talking to Rosemary.
"Well, how is Ponty working out for you?"
"It's alright, I suppose. I mean, the whole dress thing…that didn't work out," Rosemary says quietly. "And you're right, he's very dedicated to work."
Smitty sighs. "They all are, Rosemary. You could want to give them the world and a half, but you'll never be the same as the President of the company. That's all that matters to them."
On Monday, John buys her lilacs. She smiles at him, and puts them aside.
"Thank you, John."
He likes his name on her lips.
"You do realize what I mean…"
"I realize you were eavesdropping, mhm. But yes, I know."
He leans forward for a kiss, hoping this too will help smooth things over.
Smitty stares at him, and he looks down at his feet.
Apparently, every secretary wants to be a Cinderella. John wants to ask Smitty about this, but he will only be accused of eavesdropping again.
He wonders where her bitterness comes from.
"Every secretary wants him to love her, Rosemary. And you're finally living the dream. There's someone who can actually care enough about the lowly secretary! Please don't give that up. After all…there are some of us who get hope from you. And maybe some of the other ones will talk to Ponty one day, and they'll see it's not that bad to love a secretary."
Rosemary squeezes Smitty's hand. "Alright. Smitty. You're right. We're not that bad, after all."
"No, we're not," Smitty whispers. "If we're good enough to bed, shouldn't we be good enough to love too?"
"And…they shouldn't play games either; pretending to love us for one day or something? I don't even know."
"Oh, Smitty," Rosemary says. "Maybe Ponty can talk to-"
"It comes from inside, Rosemary. Not from someone else's prodding."
John has a funny feeling that he has broken Smitty's heart, and then, very suddenly, he realizes that his has been broken for a long time too. Torture, he decides, is not helping either of them.
At the end of the day, everything is all right, and John has been promoted. Again. There is a party, and John spends much of the time looking for Smitty. When he finally finds her, he rudely cuts into the conversation and pulls her over, outside the room.
"Hello," he says with a broad grin.
She looks away. "Hello, Mr. Bratt."
"What is it, Mr. Bratt?"
He stares at her face. "Smitty?"
"I was in the middle of a very interesting conversation about Chicago with Miss Turner!" Smitty says hotly. "So if it's nothing, then I would really like to get back to that."
He drops her hand. "I just wanted to make sure you were going to be my secretary now that I've been promoted."
"Oh." Suddenly, Smitty looks sheepish. "Well, I might as well tell you now, I'm resigning."
"What? Smitty, I know I've been busy, but you realize it's because of company matter. I mean, Finch…. and, well, yes, so why are you leaving? Did something happen?"
"Yes. I found someone. And he is moving to Chicago, and has invited me to go with him, and I've decided to take him up on the offer."
"How long have you known him?"
"Known him?" she asks coolly. "I've known him for a very long time, but we didn't start anything until now. And even if we don't…work out, well, Miss Turner says Chicago is wonderful."
"Oh, for God's sake."
"Glad to know your opinion on it, Mr. Bratt," she retorts.
He grabs her and slams her hard against a wall, kissing her fiercely. His fingers are tangled in her hair, and her hands are on his slightly unshaven face (work and responsibilities have made him a bit lazy).
"God, Smitty, don't go," he pleads, diving in to kiss her tantalizingly again. He buries his head in the crook of her neck.
"John," she says quietly, " there's very little left here at this company. And, well, I would really like to try out some new things."
He kisses her lips, her cheeks, her forehead, her eyes, her nose, the top of her head, her neck and then her lips again. She does not budge.
The broken pieces of his heart crack some more, and he lets go of her hand.
"Smitty, as your employer, friend, and…lover, I ask you not to go."
"If it doesn't work out, I'll be back here. I like this city too," Smitty says.
She is back in six months. He feels as if he has aged in that time, and she has grown younger and lovelier.
His new secretary looks warily at Smitty, but John nods.
"It's alright, Marilyn. We're old friends."
Smitty sits in a chair on the other side of his desk.
"Well, you're back," John says. He scrutinizes her face. "But you don't look too unhappy."
"Chicago was wonderful," Smitty explains, "but there was a lot missing. Friends, for one. Rosemary and Ponty. Things I knew. I couldn't get married to him, and I couldn't have his children. Especially not in Chicago. Maybe if this had all happened a year ago. Maybe then. But after all, I got used to this place."
John looks down at his hands. "What are you going to do now, then?"
"Well, working here means starting from the bottom again. I'm not sure if I like that idea."
"I'm friends with the personnel manager," John says. "I could probably help you out."
Smitty nods slowly. He feels ill.
"How are you and, uh, Marilyn getting along?"
"Fine," he replies shortly. He hates Marilyn's cheery smile and how she always agrees with him.
"Mr. Bratt. John. Let me tell you something. I love you, and have loved you for a very long time. I gave up a lot for you, and it became too much, and I left. And I came back."
John runs his hand through his hair. "So you did."
"I'm staying with Rosemary and Ponty for now. Well, Ponty is out of town, which is good, since they haven't built their mansion yet, so it's a little cramped."
He is a stalker, waiting for Rosemary to leave the house so he can meet with Smitty alone.
Finally, when the house is devoid of anyone except the latter, he rings the doorbell.
He hands her a blue salvia plant.
"It means, 'I think of you'," he tells her. "Took me forever to find it. Oh, and well, I meant to say, 'I think of you everyday'."
"Oh. Well, thank you."
"I didn't want to do roses. They seemed cliché," he babbles.
Smitty nods. "Coffee?"
"That would be nice."
That night they sit and talk about everything she saw in Chicago and all the things she dreamed of when she was younger. He tells her stories about his family, and how the company was while she was gone. The conversation is soothing.
They open wine and she tells him what she likes to do. He contributes, finding they have similar hobbies. Smitty laughs a lot, and he grins like a madman. They talk about Biggley's knitting habit that everyone actually knows about. She brings up Hedy LaRue and they laugh some more.
He tells Smitty that they are going to get married. Smitty agrees: "One day, John Bratt, I will probably be Mrs. Bratt."
He tells her he is taking her out on Saturday night, and that is that.
And it's all surprisingly easy, he finds.