Hi everyone! This is where we'll be posting any DMM outtakes.
This first one was written for Fandom4SAA. It takes place pre-Frick Benefit (so before Ch17) and is in Seth's POV.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Thanks to arfalcon for betaing.
A Day in the (Work) Life of Seth Parsons
6:00am, Seth's Apartment, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
It's morning. Six in the morning to be exact. Well, that's the time according to the Today Show, and let me tell you, Matt Lauer is a lot more awake than me right now.
But that's the way it should be. He presumably has to get to work at four, whereas I only need to be in at eight. Thank God for small mercies. Or at least the institution of regular business hours. I don't know what I'd do if Cullen, Inc. required me to come in at four. I'd probably quit.
Oh, who am I kidding? I like my job. I'd probably just adjust.
As I get up and trudge to my kitchen, I wonder again why I haven't tried to find a place in Manhattan. I wouldn't have to get up this early if I lived closer to work; Cullen, Inc.'s offices are located in Midtown and my commute from here takes just under an hour. But then I remember that I like living here in Williamsburg. The neighborhood has character and this apartment is a great space. Besides, living in Manhattan would mean I'd be more likely to be at my boss's beck and call.
Wait. I like my boss.
Yeah, my brain doesn't work well before my morning coffee.
I always hear horror stories about assistants being called up in the middle of the night in order to make turkey sandwiches, arrange last-minute travel plans, and steam-iron suits, all while recording their boss's musings on a dictaphone. Mr. Masen would never do that to me. For a start, he likes schedules, and I can't imagine he'd approve of that much multi-tasking at such an inconvenient time. Not only that, but he's genuinely a nice guy. He would insist on sending a car if he needed me outside of business hours. Though come to think of it, all hours are probably business hours for him – he works really, really hard.
I take a sip of coffee and wander back to my room. Since I always iron my work clothes the night before – it's just easier that way – I head straight for the bathroom and let the coffee cool on the countertop while I take shower. After I'm done, I get dressed and resume drinking my coffee. I should be awake now. The shower always helps a lot.
A quick check of my laptop reveals that I already have a bunch of emails to read. I scan the subject lines and immediately take note of anything that could mean a schedule change for this morning. Everything else can wait until I'm on the subway.
7:11am, L train
The guy sitting opposite me is staring at me. I don't know why. At least I think he's staring at me. It's possible he's just switched off his brain – the vacant look on his face is very Whitlock-esque. Mr. Masen would totally agree with me, but he's not exactly the subway type. He doesn't even eat Subway, mainly because he prefers the sandwiches from a particular deli on 42nd Street. Lately I've been encouraging Mr. Masen to try other lunch options – including, dare I say it, Wendy's. All because the deli guy talks about his pet rock in the same way a pageant mom talks about her little superstar. It's odd. Too much excitement.
I really hope Mr. Masen doesn't want a sandwich today. Maybe I can drop sushi hints, which is entirely different from dropping sushi per se, because let's face it, who wants to eat sushi that's been on the floor.
Whitlock Clone is glaring at me now.
Why are people so weird?
7:52am, Cullen, Inc. Headquarters, Lobby
There seems to be some sort of fracas going on in the lobby. Normally I would turn a blind eye, but the argument is taking place right in front of the elevators and I'm not fit enough to climb forty flights of stairs. I am not the gym junkie my boss is, and even if I were, no one wants to see an assistant with sweat patches under their arms. That's just gross.
As I get closer, I see that Jenks – Head of Security – is being berated by Heidi. She's flanked by two people I've never seen before, both of them nodding vigorously.
"He's the CEO of the company! Have you forgotten that?" she snips, obviously displeased.
Jenks makes the mistake of cracking a joke. "You mean Masen hasn't taken over yet? Oops! That's still a secret, right? The retirement, I mean. My bad. Hey, you think they'll rename this place "Masen, Inc."?"
With Jenks cackling loudly at his own joke, I can only hope Heidi is too distracted to notice me walk by. Unfortunately, she spots me anyway, and the resulting dirty look makes me scurry toward the elevator button. I press it repeatedly like I'm using a Slap-Chop. Of course, by virtue of the fact that I want one of them to arrive faster, all of the elevators decide to take their sweet time. Heidi scolds Jenks one more time, telling him to do his job properly. He huffs and walks away, leaving her to dismiss the two other employees.
She sidles up beside me, the click of her heels unmistakable.
I'm not afraid of her, I just don't like getting dragged into other people's conflicts. She doesn't seem to like me much for some reason, so I figure it's safer to keep to myself. I avoid turning my head, staring at the elevator doors with such intensity that a passerby might just think I have the ability to melt them.
Maybe that's what the creepy guy on the subway was trying to do. Melt my head.
Heidi clears her throat. "Nothing to say, Parsons?"
"Not really," I reply, not really sure where she's going with this.
"I bet you can't wait for your boss to be the boss," she says tightly.
I shrug. "I just want to get to my desk."
One of the elevators becomes available, opening up with a ping. With other employees streaming in too, the elevator fills up quickly, but we hold it open for one or two stragglers. One of them being Mr. Masen himself.
"I can wait for the next one," he says with a smile. "Let's not overload the thing."
"Oh, we can get the next one," a junior employee says, gesturing at her colleagues. She's about to exit back into the lobby, but Mr. Masen isn't having any of it.
He holds up his hand. "Trust me, I'll be fine. It'll just be a minute or so. I can solve a Sudoku puzzle. Or boil an egg."
The unknown employee smiles and nods. She does a half-curtsy thing, which makes Heidi roll her eyes.
Mr. Masen spots me in the crowd. "I hope there's a muffin waiting for me when I arrive," he says brightly.
"There might be!" I call out as the doors close.
Finally, we're on our way up.
"Good luck with that," Heidi says a few moments later.
"With what?" I ask, slightly annoyed.
"The muffins. The Art Department took them all. They're having a morning tea for their staff."
Muffin shortage? Because of the Art Department?
7:55am, Art Department
I step out of the elevator when we reach the fourth floor, pretending it was my intended stop all along.
I have to find these muffins. And I need to be quick about it.
This is a snatch-and-grab operation if there ever was one. I'm not going to stand around and negotiate – I have no leverage. It's bad enough that I don't know how to act "natural" here in the Art Department. If there's anyone who can judge what natural looks like, it's these guys. I'm probably twenty shades off. They'll paint me as an impostor in no time, and then add a gloss coat for good measure.
Luckily, there's hardly anyone in their cubicles yet. This makes sense – I'm sure a lot of them don't actually start until nine. I quickly scan the area as I pass through, looking for their main meeting room, or perhaps their kitchen area.
Then suddenly I can smell them. Baked goods!
When I reach the table on the far side of the room, I find there are baskets of muffins. They're sorted by flavor, so I quickly make a judgment call. Acceptable: blueberry, apple and cinnamon, and banana. Unacceptable: bran, corn, and chocolate chip. I snap open my briefcase and steal one of each acceptable flavor.
"What are you doing?"
Dammit! I've been made.
I spin around and find myself face to face with a woman I vaguely recognize. I think her name is Jessica – she sat one table away from me in the cafeteria once, and boy is she a gossip. Great. Now everyone is going to think Finance sent someone down to here to take food off the artists. She's going to accuse the money men of expecting them to suffer for their art.
"Uh..." I shut my briefcase with a thud.
She tilts her head inquiringly. "Hey, aren't you Edward Masen's assistant?"
I'm careful not to misread the interested look on her face. She's not getting all gooey over me. I know this look – it's the "Excuse me while I fantasize about Mr. Masen" look. I have no idea how he puts up with all this attention, though I guess it's not always in his face.
I suddenly realize I can take advantage of this development.
"Yes, I am," I say smoothly. "You don't mind, do you? About me taking some muffins? He'd appreciate it if you didn't say anything about this."
She purses her pink lips and pretends to think about it. "Well, if they're for Mr. Masen..."
"He likes a muffin with his morning coffee," I tell her.
"Okay then," she says brightly. "But you should totally let him know it was me who okay-ed it. It's – "
"Jessica, right?" I flash my best smile. And it's pretty good, since I did visit the dentist recently.
She's a bit surprised, but pleasantly so.
"I'm sorry. I've got to run," I quickly add, glancing at my watch.
"Don't forget to mention me!" she calls out as I rush off.
"I won't!" I assure her.
8:01am, Finance Department
"Hmm? What was that?" Mr. Masen asks as he leans over my desk to inspect the contents of my briefcase.
"Oh, nothing," I reply, knowing that he'd rather not know. I swivel in my chair and pretend that some important emails have just popped up in my inbox.
"I'm not sure which one to pick," he muses. "Maybe you should pick the one you want first. That way it's only a fifty-fifty decision. I could flip a coin."
I shake my head and laugh. "No, sir. They're all yours."
He pokes the banana muffin with suspicion. "I should've asked you to get me a whole heap more. Then we could've set up a league. Make them face off with each other, you know? Like March Madness, except it's September and has nothing to do with basketball."
"They did come in baskets, but I didn't see any balls, sir."
"Yes, most departments don't have the balls to do much," he says with a chuckle.
I laugh conspiratorially before checking his schedule again, bringing it up on my computer screen.
"You may want to hurry," I urge. "You have a meeting with Mr. Crowley at 8:20."
"Oh yes, of course," he replies, pausing momentarily to check his watch. "Uh...okay, eenie meenie miney...banana. Great. First executive decision of the day." He grabs the chosen muffin and strides back into his office.
"Excellent. Coffee is on the way, sir."
Confident this morning's schedule is shaping up nicely, I get up to make Mr. Masen's coffee just the way he likes it. We have our own espresso machine here. I have a friend at Starbucks who stole some paper cups for me – they're great for when the boss is on the go. Sometimes I get a Sharpie and write someone else's name on the outside. Jack. Jill. Mayor Bloomberg. Yep, my boss steals other people's coffees. He's badass.
Not really. But it's fun to have our inside joke.
"You'll have to come with me to that meeting, by the way," he calls out from his desk after I've dropped his coffee off.
"Sure thing. That way I can get you back here on time. Victoria, I mean Ms. Redburn, at 9:15 sharp, remember?"
He groans. "Are you quite sure about that?"
Whatever his next comment is, it's muffled by the muffin.
Yep, my boss curses with his mouth full. Well, I like to think he just swore. He probably didn't.
8:22am, Finance Conference Room
"I honestly just wanted a drink of water," Mr. Crowley complains. He closes the door behind him, presumably self-conscious about his wet shirt. No need for the rest of the department to see. "Is anyone ever going to refill that water cooler? This wouldn't have happened otherwise."
I sit quietly in the corner with my notepad as Mr. Crowley walks over to the conference table, where a bemused Mr. Masen is already seated.
"When I said we needed more liquid assets, I didn't mean you had to wear them," Mr. Masen quips.
"Damn water fountain," he mutters, patting his wet tie. "Spraying water everywhere. Somebody in Legal should've warned me – it's in their department. I bet you they don't want to take responsibility for it. Lawyers!"
Mr. Masen leans over and eagerly shares his next idea. "You know what we need? An executive washroom. A friend of mine already thinks we have one. Surely there's something in the facilities budget? It would be perfect for accidents like this."
Mr. Crowley rolls his eyes. Mr. Masen laughs and turns to me for back up.
"What do you think, Seth?"
I clear my throat. "I'll write it down, sir. After all, any good executive is deserving of some privacy."
"Exactly," he agrees, turning back to Mr. Crowley and smirking. "See? It's a great idea."
Mr. Crowley opens his lever-arch folder and sighs. "It would be much easier, and cheaper, if we had a water cooler with water in it. "
"That's not for me to organize," he replies evenly, looking down at his folder. "It's below my pay grade, Crowley."
There's a mischievous look in Mr. Crowley's eye. "Well, would you look at that. Someone in this room sounds like Carlisle Cullen."
Mr. Masen looks around, feigning confusion. Finally, his gaze lands on me.
"Seth. Stop ordering people around, will you? Jeez."
I hold back my laughter and instead give him a gentle reminder of his schedule. "Remember, sir, you need to be on time for your 9:15."
"Yes, yes. Okay. Where are we with this project..."
Both executives literally get on the same page, flicking through their reports.
Productivity? Up. Mr. Crowley's shirt? Wet. Likelihood that someone will finally refill Finance's water cooler? Not anytime soon.
I take out my pen and begin to take some real notes for my boss.
10:15am, Finance Department
Uh-oh. Victoria is still in Mr. Masen's office.
She must be complaining about something. Whining can be time consuming, which is particularly unfortunate given that Mr. Masen's ten o'clock has been waiting for twenty five minutes. I've offered Mr. Newton here some coffee, but he's not interested. He just keeps looking at his watch with an annoyed expression on his face. I've already buzzed Mr. Masen twice, so it's not as if I haven't done anything to try and end the meeting. Still, if this drags out any longer I'm going to get very annoyed myself. The whole day's schedule will have to be pushed back, or rearranged so that we end up canceling on someone. It's not uncommon for this to happen in the Land of Corporate – hence the term pencil it in– but I don't like jerking people around. It's annoying and makes me feel like a douche.
Mr. Newton probably thinks I'm a douche. Assistants often get the blame for these sorts of waits. It's not like people can glare at executives and get away with it.
I check a few emails and then look up to address Mr. Newton. "I'm sorry, Mr. Newton. I'm sure they're trying to finish up in there."
He merely huffs and takes another look at his watch. I think about offering him a beverage again, or an assortment of reading material, but he'll probably take that as a sign that he'll be waiting for awhile. Either that or he doesn't want Mr. Masen to come out and see him sipping a chai latte and reading Page Six.
I sigh and take another look at today's schedule. I don't want to have to bump any of these people. If only I could pretend this was a bumper car situation: Oh, I didn't bump you. It was insert-name-here! I know, how dare they push you out. Yes, by all means try and bump them back. I'll stand here and watch with the rest of the carnies.
Stupid Marketing. At least come up with a way for me to sell lateness to the rest of the company.
11:06am, Mr. Masen's Office
"We're going to have to bump Banner," Mr. Masen declares from his desk. "I need to make it to Carlisle's by 11:15. I'll take a break at noon. Early lunch, perhaps."
I nod as I water the potted plant near the window. "Yes, I was about to suggest the same thing."
"Good thinking then. Apologize to Banner and tell him we'll see him tomorrow." He opens his drawer and starts rummaging for something. "Say, did I tell you about the blank check I found in here last month?"
"No, you didn't," I reply. I point to the drawer with the watering can. "Is it still in there?"
He chuckles. "Now, now. Don't get any ideas."
"Wouldn't dream of it, sir," I say with a smile. "Ideas are dangerous."
He gives me an odd look before nodding at the watering can. "You can put that down now."
"Oh." I look at my hand and realize I'm holding the can up rather eagerly. "You mean you don't want me to water your table?"
"Not today," he says, retrieving a self-inking stamp from the drawer. "Maybe tomorrow."
"How about your reports? You want the financial sector to grow, don't you?"
He laughs bitterly. "Is that why Victoria gave me so much shit today? She thinks we need it for fertilizer?"
"I'm not sure, sir. Maybe someone told her money grows on trees?"
"Well, they're not growing on that one," he remarks, waving his hand at the potted plant. "I didn't even know that was a live plant. How long has it been here exactly?"
"I bought it for you last week, on Wednesday. You'd said something previously about adding a bit of greenery. I said it would match your eyes. Then you told me to stand in the corner until I apologized."
"Right, of course I did." He scratches his head. "I suppose I've been too busy to take a closer look. I simply assumed it was plastic."
"Ah, no. It's real." I lower the watering can. "By the way, I'm sorry if Mr. Newton was annoyed when it was finally his turn. I did try to placate him."
"You did fine, Seth."
Mr. Masen starts stamping a series of papers, and I take the opportunity to call Mr. Banner's office to tell them we need to cancel. They're not happy, but it's not like they can do anything. I return the watering can to the supply closet, and by the time I reenter his office, Mr. Masen is up and about, pacing around while reading his BlackBerry.
"Walk with me."
I follow him out of the office and start giving him the lowdown on the revised schedule, as well as reminding him which reports I've photocopied and which ones he has on his computer. Hopefully this debrief is the sole reason why he told me to walk with him. I hope he doesn't want me to coordinate something with Mr. Cullen's office while he's in the meeting. Heidi doesn't like it when I'm near her desk – she must think I'm trying to move in early.
Maybe I should've brought the potted plant as a peace offering.
Nah. She wouldn't water it right.
11:13am, Mr. Cullen's Office (Heidi's desk)
I knew it. I knew this was more than an information walk.
Heidi gives me an annoyed look as Mr. Masen and I approach. She's one of the few women who doesn't immediately fall to pieces when Mr. Masen is around. Frankly, I'm glad, as I wouldn't want to be the one to put her back together again. She'd be bossy about it. Drive me crazy. Or krazy, rather, as I'm sure I'd need Krazy Glue for such a situation.
"Mr. Cullen is ready to see you," she informs Mr. Masen with a tight smile.
"Oh, excellent," he replies. "Did he tell you about coordinating next month's schedule? I need you to help Seth here. Get him up to speed."
I take a deliberate step back when she looks at me. In fact, it's more of a diagonal side-step back. This way, my boss is a partial shield. The move doesn't go unnoticed by him, however, and he looks at me with concern.
"Are you all right there?" he asks.
"Yes, I'm good." It's too late to step back forward, or to side-step horizontally. It would simply look like I'm doing a jazz square.
I know what schedule he's talking about. Mr. Cullen is continuing the handover process, making sure Mr. Masen meets all the people he needs to meet, and gets accustomed to certain responsibilities. Responsibilities of the CEO.
"Well, I'm going to go in now," he says, breaking the tense silence. "You kids play nice."
Before I can come up with an emergency excuse, he disappears into Mr. Cullen's office, leaving me and my incomplete jazz square.
I would give my regards to Broadway, but I think I'm facing the wrong way.
Heidi writes something down on her notepad. Then she sighs heavily before holding out a manila folder.
"I've already typed up a list of scheduling options. Events, lunches, and seminars," she says, sounding terribly annoyed. "Take them back to your office. Pick the times you want. Get them back to me. Then I'll confirm the list."
I step forward and take the folder from her. "Anything else?"
She takes a moment to answer. It's weird, because for those two seconds, it's like she's lost for words. Her expression softens too.
I'm not sure what she was thinking about, but whatever it was, she's finished now.
"No, nothing else," she snaps.
And with that, she keeps her head down and ignores me.
"Okay. I'll be going then."
I stride back to the elevator and will it to take a long time. The reverse psychology works – it arrives within fifteen seconds. This makes me so happy I start singing a tune.
Start spreading the news. I'm leaving today...
11:57am, 42nd Street Deli
...I want to be a part of it. New York, New York.
That's not me singing anymore. That's Deli Guy. He's talking about his pet rock again, and apparently he wants to take it to see a show.
I really wish Mr. Masen didn't like these sandwiches so much. He called me from Mr. Cullen's office to inform me that this was his preferred lunch option for today. Clearly I didn't drop enough hints this morning about possibly choosing something else. I might have to be more direct about it – like stick a picture of steak onto his computer screen. Or change his screensaver to a slideshow of spaghetti and meatballs.
That wouldn't be suspicious at all.
"So, you having the same sandwich?" Deli Guy asks me, jolting me out of my thoughts.
"Uh, yeah," I answer, pretending I'm reading something important on my BlackBerry. I'm really just checking Facebook, but he doesn't know that.
I bet the pet rock has a Facebook page.
"I think this sandwich needs to be named after you," Deli Guy adds.
I smile weakly and pretend to be more interested in the layers of pastrami he's adding to the sub. Unfortunately, my disinterest isn't obvious enough, because he stops making the sandwich and looks at me inquisitively. I brace myself for the follow-up question.
"Say, what is your name? Really, I'll name the sandwich after ya."
I've mentioned on multiple occasions that the sandwiches aren't for me, but I doubt that matters to him. If I smile any more weakly I won't be smiling at all, so I do my best to answer without showing how irritated I am.
"I'm just an assistant," I say modestly. "The sandwich is for my boss. So maybe you should call the sandwich The Boss."
He throws his head back and laughs heartily. "Nah, can't do that. Cos I'm the boss. Way to make things awkward!"
Maybe that's why he hasn't named a sandwich after his pet. How awkward would it be if he named one The Rock? Plenty awkward. In fact, WWE might sue him for breach of copyright. Or even better, maybe someone will wrestle him to the floor if he keeps talking about said rock.
But if that were to happen, he wouldn't be able to make Mr. Masen's sandwich, now would he?
Yep...I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.
12:10pm, Mr. Masen's office
I hand Mr. Masen his sandwich and linger for a moment, unsure of what he wants me to do. Most days I'm free to do as I please as he eats his lunch; I have his calls handled by the Finance reception desk. But every now and again he'll ask me to work through, so it's always worth checking first.
After all, you know what happens when you assume...You make an ass out of u and me. And then one of us makes it worse by taking lunch at the wrong time.
"You can go ahead," Mr. Masen tells me. "I have an email I need to write. Speaking of which, did you scan that invite to the Frick fundraiser?"
"Yes, sir. I emailed it to you a little while ago."
He nods and goes into his office, closing the door behind him. I make a mental note to check his desk later, just in case he gets crumbs all over his keyboard. Everyone is a food particle away from having a non-functioning keyboard, or at least one with a jammed E key. It's happened before. I spent half a day calling him Dward Masn until he finally let me call in someone from IT.
Shaking those E-less thoughts aside, I head to the cafeteria, making a beeline for my corner table when I get there. It's not that I'm anti-social – it's just that I usually use this time to tighten up Mr. Masen's afternoon schedule. I don't want anyone to disturb me.
But unfortunately luck isn't on my side today. Before I can get to my table, Jessica from the Art Department spots me. She has that "This guy plans Mr. Masen's day and I want in on that schedule" look on her face. So annoying. So desperate.
"Hey!" she calls out, walking over to me.
She's twirling a lock of hair around her finger and batting her eyelashes at me as if she could somehow vicariously flirt with him through me. I bite back a comment about how I don't have that sort of agency. It's best to be nice – you never know when you're going to need someone, as this morning's near muffin disaster demonstrated.
I tell you, my mouth muscles are confused. I was smiling weakly at the deli and now I'm smiling tightly. If I'm not careful, my face will get disoriented and I'll end up looking like a Richard Nixon mask.
"Did you tell Mr. Masen about the muffins?" Jessica prods. "You know, that I was the one who gave them to you?"
"I did. He was very happy with his muffins," I reply, being non-committal on purpose.
"You let him know if he needs anything else, I'm his woman," she says with a wink.
I'm no longer even attempting to smile, but she's not looking at me anymore – she's gazing dreamily at a spot just above my shoulder, no doubt picturing my boss and the anything she'd like to do to him. I shudder and back away slowly, lest I abruptly jerk her back into reality. I'm sure the regular response to being kicked out of a Mr. Masen daydream is a loud scream followed by "Noooooooooooooo!" That's not something I've prepared my eardrums for.
After I'm safely seated at my own table, I look back to see Jessica whispering to her table mates. The whispering is followed by a string of giggles. Pull on that string hard enough and you might just release all the air from their heads.
Get a brain.
Suddenly thankful I'm not a moron, I decide to pat myself on the back for not succumbing to such airheadedness. It's a mental pat on the back because, well, I have a sandwich in my hand. I take a bite – of the sandwich, not my hand – and start checking the afternoon schedule. It's tight, as usual, but definitely do-able.
The next time I look up, half my sandwich is gone and I spot a familiar face walking into the cafeteria. Isabella Swan from IT. The woman my boss specifically asked for to fix his computer, but who somehow wound up on the other side of the desk, touching his arm.
Now, Mr. Masen is a bit of an enigma where women are concerned. They obviously show interest – often and shamelessly – but I've only ever seen him politely and kindly completely shut them down. Years ago I'd considered he might be gay, but in the interim, I'd handled quite a few delicate phone calls from "women friends," though it's been a while since the last one. But he's only ever asked me to buy a gift for one woman, and that was his mother. Phone calls with her could also be delicate, but for entirely different reasons. Or should I emphasize, reasons.
Anyway, I watch as Isabella gets waved over by Claire from Reception. As she sits down and smiles shyly at her table mates, I wonder again about that day I saw her with my boss. It's entirely out of character for him to allow anyone, especially a woman, to touch him in the workplace. He seemed entirely comfortable sitting there with Isabella Swan, though. I know he would never blatantly break company policy, but there was definitely something there I couldn't quite comprehend.
Before I can muse on it further, a shadow falls across my table and a Tupperware with some sort of pasta in it is plunked down across from me. I look up.
She has a scowl on her face, as usual. Maybe she just got dis-invited from a Tupperware party or something. My guess is you probably have to be happy to enjoy plastic containers in a group.
A more logical reason for why she hates me is because in a few months I'll be assistant to the CEO and she'll be downgrading to Mr. Crowley, who'll be the new CFO. Mr. Crowley's assistant is retiring and this seems the best fit for Heidi after Mr. Cullen retires. She may consider it a downgrade, but I'm Mr. Masen's assistant and I'm not about to give that up – for her or anyone.
She sits and stabs her pasta angrily with a plastic fork and I wonder what she wants. Someone to complain to? I don't know. All I know is that I only have fifteen minutes left on my break and I don't want to waste it by being uncomfortable.
"Hello, Heidi," I greet.
She grunts and chews her pasta, eyeing me with what appears to be suspicion. She swallows her food before she finally speaks. One day I was bored and figured out her name is an anagram for "Hi. Die." It's certainly the approach she's taken when it comes to me.
"I have a meeting with the old lady after hours today," she reveals. The old lady is Crowley's retiring assistant, a nice older woman named Evelyn. "What's she like?"
"She's great," I say honestly. "Very efficient and no nonsense, with very little sense of humor. So Crowley shouldn't notice a difference when you take over." I'm being snide, but I can't help it. And I'm not sure I want to.
There are no anagrams for Seth. I am what I am.
Heidi looks at me for a split second before a smile breaks out on her face. I'm taken aback for a second – she's pretty when she smiles. I quickly recover, not wanting to be weird about it. No office romances – it's strictly forbidden and I like my job. Though I bet Heidi would love for me to get fired. Maybe this is all part of a ploy; get me involved in an office liaison so she can have my position. I decide to keep my eye on her.
You know what another anagram for Heidi is? I hide. She must be hiding something.
"I do take pride in the work I do," she says, still smiling at me. "So how is it working for Masen? Truthfully."
"It's great," I say, not bothering to think about my answer. It is great. "He works hard and expects nothing less from me, but he doesn't ask me to do anything he won't do himself. He's fair and compensates me well."
She nods and chews thoughtfully, and I wonder what she's thinking. I'm about to ask her when the alarm on my phone goes off, indicating that I have five minutes to get back to my desk. I turn off the alarm and stand. "I've got to get back to my desk. I'll see you later."
She opens her mouth to say something, but closes it quickly, blushing and looking down. Definitely odd behavior, but I don't have time to investigate further.
12:47pm, Finance Department
Or should I say Elizabeth Masen calls.
"Yes, hello, Mrs. Masen," I say politely, opening the top drawer of my desk to get a stress ball.
"Seth, darling. Would you be able to get my Edward on the phone?" She's sweet and demanding at the same time. Fortunately, she's well aware of how busy her son is. Well, usually.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. He's in an important meeting at the moment."
"Oh, he's so hard to get a hold of. Surely he has a minute or two to spare for his dear mother," she says with a chuckle.
"It really is an important meeting," I reply. "He would definitely get to the phone if he could. I can take a message, if you'd like?"
He's not really in a meeting. He's sitting at his desk, typing away at his computer. I throw the stress ball into his office to alert him to the situation; it's the agreed protocol for when these phone calls occur. My throw is so good the stress ball hits his keyboard, right in front of him.
"A message?" I didn't think it was possible to sound happily annoyed...until I met Elizabeth Masen, of course. "Oh, Seth. I'd much prefer it if he stepped out of the meeting and simply spoke to me for a few minutes."
"I assure you he would if he could," I insist, looking up to see Mr. Masen pacing around his office.
"I mean, is the room going to implode if he steps out for two minutes?" she asks.
"Well, there are some interesting personalities in that room, it's quite possible."
Why am I imitating her diction? Now she probably thinks I'm a dick. A dick putting the dick in diction.
She sighs, sounding terribly exasperated. "I think you need to ease his schedule," she suggests. "That poor man."
I think she's about to get emotional. Mr. Masen comes over to the doorway and quirks an eyebrow. I wave my hand and pretend I have everything under control. He knows better, though, and points to the phone to get me to put the call on speaker.
His mother's voice rings out into the room. "He just works so hard."
"I know he does, but I assure you he's fine. He just has a lot of things to do and he doesn't like letting the company down."
I think she's sniffling now, but it could be my imagination. "He has a company but no company. Don't you think that's odd?"
Mr. Masen frowns and leans on the door frame, folding his arms across his chest.
"I'm not sure what you mean, ma'am," I respond.
"Well, I better leave a message then," she says dramatically. "Tell him to call his poor mother."
"Yes – "
"Wait, I didn't mean that," she quickly corrects.
"I made it sound like he had another mother. A poor one. I'm actually quite wealthy, as you'd already know..."
Mr. Masen rolls his eyes.
I clear my throat. "Oh, right. I understood what you meant, Mrs. Masen. I'll make sure he gets the message."
"Thank you," she trills. "Bye bye now."
She ends the call. I put the receiver back down on the cradle and look up at Mr. Masen.
"She, uh, wants you to call her," I tell him.
"Yes, I gathered that," he says with a reluctant smile.
I point towards his office. "You could listen in from your desk, you know."
He gives me a reproaching look.
"Sir?" I ask tentatively.
"You've been practicing, haven't you?" he asks, eyes narrowed. "That pitch was remarkably accurate. I daresay you were aiming for my E key."
I laugh gently. "No, I assure you I wasn't."
He makes a hissing sound.
"Oh, forget it," he says, shaking his head. "I removed the E from your name, but I end up sounding like a snake. I suppose I should slither back into my office and finish up that report."
"You do that, Dward."
He winces. "I always think you're going to call me a dwarf when you start saying that."
"Oh, I wouldn't call you that. You're clearly an elf. Although, remove the E and you're a lf. Lllffff. The llllfff of Middl Arth."
"So you have lisp and I sound like a snake. We're an odd couple, aren't we?"
"Or should you say quit?"
"Can't say never without the Es," he points out, walking backward into his office.
"Never say never. Got it." I pause. "I think that's a Justin Bieber song."
He gives me an odd look, understandably. "Call IT and warn them you're going to break my keyboard one of these days."
"Yes, I'll do that. After you call your mother."
He laughs. "You don't play fair, Seth. Which is why I'm sending you to Marketing later to pick up some documents from Whitlock. You may bump into Victoria. She'll straighten you out."
Aw, man. Not her again. I already had to face her when she came up earlier for her meeting with Mr. Masen. She's like a tanning bed – too much exposure and you'll end up getting burned.
I grimace. "Pushpin and Simply Red."
He grins. "Needless to say, watch your step."
2:17pm, Marketing Department
With Mr. Masen's warning ringing in my head, I end up looking at the floor when I step into the Marketing offices. I know it's stupid to look out for pushpins, but you can never be too sure when within fifty yards of Jasper Whitlock.
I've seen Mr. Whitlock's world map, the one with the pushpins. I sometimes wonder what mine would look like, if I had one. I'm not as well-traveled as a lot of other people, mainly because I don't like taking time off work. I simply don't trust anyone else when it comes to handling Mr. Masen's schedule. I've always concluded that I would only take an extended vacation if Mr. Masen himself was taking a week off or something. So really, I stick to weekends away – short trips to places nearby.
A pushpin for the Jersey Shore!
Insert fist pump here.
Mr. Masen on vacation. The mere thought of it is a bit odd. He doesn't strike me as the type to go to Hawaii to sit on a beach and sip beer. Is that what people do in Hawaii? I guess they surf, but I can't picture him doing that either.
"Looking for the floor to swallow you whole?"
Startled, I look up to see a middle-aged man staring at me from his nearby cubicle. He's tired looking and even has a smudge on his glasses that he hasn't bothered to wipe clean. I'm not sure why he's talking to me. I guess I was looking at the floor, but I'm not sure if he thinks I'm depressed or whether he read my mind about the Jersey Shore thing and is now judging me.
"Uh, not really," I reply, suitably chagrined. I do that thing people do when they're out of place but try to act normal anyway. You know, shift uncomfortably and nod at no one in particular. The Awkward Shuffle, in dance terms. Add in the jazz square from earlier and I have enough choreography to audition for Cats.
"Sometimes I wish we had trapdoors," the man says wistfully. "Especially when she starts yelling."
I surmise my fellow employee is referring to Ms. Redburn.
"Fair enough," I reply, walking away slowly so as to leave him to visualize his escape route in peace. For his sake, I hope it's a good one.
I would hate to come to work knowing the head of the department is a raging bitch. Where's the comfort level? How can anyone be expected to be productive in such an environment? Yeah, fear can be motivating, but so can encouragement.
I literally tread carefully on the way to see Ms. Redburn's assistant. Sudden movements may alarm people in this department.
When I get to the assistant's desk, I find it vacant. Standing in the waiting area is Jasper Whitlock, a look of nervousness on his face. Well, I think it's nervousness. It could be constipation. Same difference.
"Any idea where Tia is, Mr. Whitlock?" I ask him slowly.
He rocks back and forth on his heels. "I think she went to re-photocopy a few things."
"Oh." I step over to the desk and try to see if the documents I need are around. Unfortunately, they're not, which means she's probably photocopying what I need right now.
And then I hear it.
Ms. Redburn yelling at Tia.
"Why would you photocopy these reports onto A3 paper?...An accident?...There's no need to blow up confidential documents to A3 size! What is wrong with you?"
Ugh. That sounds ugly.
"Talk about blowing up," I mutter, shaking my head.
"Okay," Mr. Whitlock says, clearly thinking I was speaking to him. "Blowing up...let's see...um, balloons?"
I need to get out of this department.
Oh, that was painful. The yelling. The insults. The broken photocopier. Ms. Redburn sure needs to calm down.
I did hear something interesting from Middle-Aged Guy, though. He said a whole group of them are planning to report her in an anonymous submission to Mr. Cullen himself. He was letting me know just in case Mr. Cullen let the issue tide over for the next guy. In other words, my boss. He then swore me to temporary secrecy. Said the revolution needed to be handled carefully, otherwise the Vice-President would end up head of the department. What's worse? Dumb or angry? It's hard to choose.
I clutch onto the Marketing documents and try to think of happy things. Fresh stationery, accurate clocks, subways free of weirdoes. When that doesn't work, I try to distract myself by coming up with anagrams of my surname. Let's see, Parsons can turn into...
Oh God. Now I'm even more disturbed than when I first left Marketing.
3:30pm, Finance Department
It's time for Mr. Masen's regularly scheduled coffee break. Brought to you by the kind folks at Starbucks.
"What's wrong?" Mr. Masen asks, sidling up beside me at the espresso machine. "You look perturbed."
"It's nothing, really," I say dismissively. "I just feel a bit jumbled after that Marketing visit."
Fortunately, he drops the issue. I pick his favorite blend and check the kitchenette cupboard for some cups.
"Oh, make mine to go," he requests. "I have a feeling Crowley wants to walk around the department. Who knows where we'll end up – he has this Aaron Sorkin thing where he likes to walk around in loops around the department. Very West Wing. I only tolerate it because by definition that makes me the President."
"Say, don't you think that's odd? Crowley is the Vice-President of Finance. But I'm not called the President. I'm the Chief."
"I wouldn't think about it too hard, sir. You're still the boss."
And he's about to be the bosses of all bosses. The chief of chiefs. The schedule for next month definitely reflects the impending promotion.
"So, any idea whose coffee you're going to steal today?" I ask, nodding at the Sharpie on the counter.
He mulls it over for a bit. "No, I can't think of anything. You'll just have to surprise me."
"As you wish."
"How's the schedule for next month looking?" he asks. "I was going to ask you earlier, but I got distracted. Heidi get you up to speed?"
"There was speed involved, all right. She couldn't wait for me to leave that office. Then she interrupted my lunch when I was trying to continue organizing said schedule."
I shouldn't badmouth other assistants, but sometimes it's hard not to. Plus, I'm not badmouthing her per se, just mentioning what happened.
"Interrupted your lunch?"
"Just sat down and started eating her pasta right in front of me."
"Is that rude? Eating her pasta in front of you?"
I shrug. "Well, she asked questions and stuff too. Even smiled at one point."
"Really?" he asks, surprised.
"I know, right? Must've been great pasta."
Mr. Masen tilts his head. "Maybe there's another reason she was in a good mood?"
"Like what? I can't think of anything."
"Yeah, neither can I. Though I'm not the best person to ask..." He tugs at his hair, perhaps in exasperation. "I don't really understand women."
"They are hard to figure out. Hot, cold, lukewarm, positively freezing – like, I wish they'd just say I like you. It would make everything easier. Though I guess they might be thinking the same thing..."
Says me who hasn't been on a date in over two months. But maybe I would already have a girlfriend if dating was simpler and devoid of mind games.
"Yeah, it's possible, I guess," Mr. Masen replies after a moment.
"Anyway, I think I have it all synced and figured out," I tell him, grabbing a carton of milk from the fridge. "Needless to say, you're going to be very busy."
"Are we still talking about women?" he asks with a chuckle.
"Oh, no. Next month's work schedule. As for the other type of schedule...you're on your own. Which should mean you'll have every female in New York City lining up outside your door, of course."
"Seth," he chides.
"I'm serious. You might as well call the Fire Department in advance. Things are bound to get rowdy. The sidewalks in your neighborhood aren't used to this sort of thing. Plus, I'm sure your doorman will be annoyed."
"Au contraire. Someone once bribed him with cake just to get to my door. But that's a story for another time."
"No time on the schedule for stories."
I finish making our coffees and make Mr. Masen close his eyes while I write a name on his takeaway cup.
"Okay, here you go," I say, holding it out to him.
He opens his eyes and takes the coffee from me, immediately reading the name.
"Ah, aren't you optimistic?" he says, ribbing me. "Your jazz squares weren't that good."
I pretend to be unruffled. "Haters gonna hate."
4:01pm, Finance Department
"You stole Andrew Lloyd Webber's coffee?" Mr. Crowley asks incredulously.
Mr. Masen chuckles. "It's not my fault the man wasn't paying attention when his order came up. He was probably composing a new musical in his head."
"I said I would fetch his coffee for him," I tell Mr. Crowley. "But he insists on getting his afternoon coffee on his own."
"I'm just an independent type of guy," Mr. Masen comments, taking a sip of his coffee as we continue to stroll down the hallway.
Mr. Crowley shakes his head and laughs. "Right."
"What? I am. Seth doesn't really do anything, you know. He just sits at his desk and looks pretty."
"Not as pretty as you, sir," I quip.
I'm met with a sidelong look. "Don't talk yourself down like that. You can be anything you want to be. Just believe. That's what I do. Yesterday I was an astronaut. Tomorrow, the pretzel guy on 43rd Street."
"Can we get some work done now?" Mr. Crowley suggests as we turn the corner and walk into the Accounting division.
"Can we?" Mr. Masen exclaims, clapping his VP on the shoulder. "Is the sky blue? Is the grass green? Is there water in the water cooler yet?"
"You very well know that the latter hasn't been taken care of." Mr. Crowley stops in his tracks and points to his shirt. "I had to get Evelyn to buy this, you know. She's too old to be shopping for me."
Mr. Masen pretends to judge the shirt. "Clearly. You look twenty years older in that shirt-tie combo. You should use my personal shopper. Riley would have you squared away in no time."
"My wife does my shopping for me. Maybe you should get yourself one of those. They come in handy," Mr. Crowley says good-naturedly.
"Riley would be devastated if I replaced him with a woman," Mr. Masen says. "Isn't that right, Seth?"
"Oh yeah," I readily agree. "He's already cried to me once on the phone. Something about Mr. Masen not liking a tie he'd picked for him. Very uncomfortable situation."
Mr. Masen looks at Mr. Crowley expectantly. "So, you want the Marketing reports? Someone here in Accounting is going to have a fit." He holds up the manila folder he's carrying. "It's not pretty. In fact, it's twenty percent bigger for some reason. A photocopying error, apparently."
I'm overcome by a Marketing flashback. By the department's very nature, the flashback tries to gloss over the bad, but I still know the truth. "Let's not talk about it."
"All right, then."
"You're two peas in a pod," Mr. Crowley mutters.
"I hate peas," I reply.
"I have a friend who says the same thing," Mr. Masen says. "Thinks they're nasty little fuckers. And that's a quote."
Mr. Crowley beckons one of the Accounting staff over. "Ben, come give us your opinion on these reports. We'll go into the conference room."
"What's with the work ethic, Tyler?" Mr. Masen jokes as Ben comes over form his cubicle. "Trying to take my job?"
Mr. Crowley stays silent, probably because Ben has just joined us – the promotion still isn't official yet.
"Fine, be that way," Mr. Masen replies. "Never liked you anyway."
He laughs. "Likewise, Mase."
Once we're all in the conference room, I ask Ben if he'd like anything to drink before I leave them to it.
"Just water. Thanks, Seth," he replies.
We really need to get that water cooler fixed.
5:05pm, Finance Department
With Mr. Masen still in the Finance conference room, I take the time to double check a few things before the end of the day. I make sure Mr. Banner knows of his rescheduled appointment. I call the organizers of the Frick fundraiser to make sure they know Mr. Masen is bringing a plus one. (That's definitely worth checking, as they'll be sure it's a mistake. I even thought I heard him incorrectly, but he clarified by saying he was bringing along a friend. We'll see who it is, I guess.) And confirming Mr. Masen and Guest, I decide it's time to send Heidi a copy of the synced schedule for next month.
Within two minutes of firing off the email, I get a phone call from her.
"You've already decided on all of this?" she asks, sounding annoyed, as per usual. "Doesn't Mr. Masen at least want to think about his options?"
"He did think about it," I say defensively. "As for the rest of it, I did the thinking for him."
Where's my stress ball when I need it?
"Oh, all right." She pauses. "I suppose that's acceptable."
Where is this conversation going? It's almost like she called for the sake of calling.
"Okay then," she continues. "When are you coming by to pick up the fourth quarter review files?"
"I don't know. It's not really urgent, is it? Internal mail can handle it."
"That wouldn't be appropriate. You're the assistant. And these are sensitive files."
"Not really," I argue. "A lot of that information is accessible by shareholders, you know."
"You should come to pick it up," she states firmly. "I'm not using internal mail."
"Yes, Heidi," I say in a sing-song voice. "Is there anything else?"
"Well, when are you coming?"
I groan out of frustration. "Fine, I'll get them now."
"Hurry up then."
She hangs up.
I have no idea what the rush is. It's too late in the day to be running back to Mr. Cullen's office like this.
I leave a note on a Post-it just in case Mr. Masen returns to his office while I'm gone.
There are two other people in the elevator on the way up. I recognize the man as being someone from Catering, and the other person is Isabella Swan, who must be on a call out job. My impression of her last time was that she was shy, but I start a conversation anyway.
"Hi, Ms. Swan," I say politely. "How are you?"
"I'm well," she says, sounding more confident than I expected. "How about you?"
"Yeah, can't complain. Well, I can, but I don't want to waste your time. Where are you off to?"
"Oh, someone has a printer problem in Legal."
"Ah, I see."
I think about telling her about the E key thing, but I don't want to be weird. Plus, I still don't really know what the deal was in Mr. Masen's office that day. I haven't seen or heard anything else that will clue me in, so for the time being it's probably not worth wondering about. I have other people to deal with. Like Heidi.
"How about you?"
"I'm off to see Mr. Cullen's assistant."
There's a ping when we reach Legal and the doors open for Ms. Swan.
"Okay, I'll see you around," she says as she steps out.
"Yep. Have fun fixing that printer."
I turn to the Catering guy when the doors close.
"Hey, what's the deal with all these muffin shortages?"
5:25pm, Finance Department
"These documents aren't urgent," Mr. Masen comments, perusing through the pile on my desk. "Even if I stamped them as 'urgent,' they still wouldn't be urgent."
"That's what I told her, but she wouldn't listen. There was no need for me to go up there," I reply.
She actually lectured me for five minutes about the internal mail suggestion, and then she started to go through the schedule I sent her. I rather firmly told her I didn't need to be present for her review – she could just email or call me with any pressing concerns. Maybe life is boring working for Mr. Cullen now that he's winding down. Jeez.
"Anyway, how'd the impromptu conference go?" I ask, changing the subject.
"Very well, actually. Although, we did waste a good five minutes talking about Broadway shows when Ben saw my coffee cup. He thinks it was absolutely blasphemous that I stole Andrew Lloyd Webber's coffee. Then he started speculating about why he'd be over in Midtown on a Tuesday afternoon. I had to cut him off – he was getting too close to the truth. I think we need to neutralize him."
"I'll put it on tomorrow's schedule," I say, playing along.
"Yes, how is tomorrow looking?" he queries.
"Honestly? It looks kinda like today, but with fewer muffins and less Marketing."
"Oh, that cancels itself out then." He scratches his head. "Eh. We'll make it work. We always do."
I nod. "Yes, sir. We always do."
I'm relieved when it's time to knock off. To some extent, it's always weird when I leave Mr. Masen at the end of my working day. He usually stays on until seven or eight, later if there's something major to deal with. But I guess I'd be useless to him if I was worked too hard, so I accept the fact that I have to go home at six. I'm always reachable by phone if anything happens, anyway.
Since I don't consider Cullen, Inc. to be a prison, I wouldn't say I feel free after leaving the building, but I do feel that work burden lift off my shoulders.
That is, until I bump into Heidi out on the sidewalk.
If I didn't know any better, I'd say she waited for me just to be extra annoying.
"You again," I say with a tight smile, glancing around to see if anyone is going to bail me out.
"I'm just checking that Mr. Cullen's town car is here," she informs me. "Jenks gets nervous when cars pull up and wait for too long, but hey, it's Mr. Cullen."
Ah. That's what she must've been yelling about this morning.
I try to say something nice. "Well, props to you for looking out for your boss."
It happens again. She smiles at me.
"You're much prettier when you smile," I tell her honestly. "See you tomorrow, Heidi."
She looks stunned as I walk away. Now she's probably glaring at me. Great. Maybe she'll follow me to the subway station too.
Oh well. That's (work) life at Cullen, Inc.
And to be perfectly honest...I wouldn't have it any other way.