“Maya, come see me in my office please.”
“Sure, I’ll be right there.”
I took a deep breath and my mind spun over what he’d want to meet me about. Kevin Dermott rarely had anything nice to say to me. Since I’d been at the company, he’d only spoken to me to note a shortcoming or highlight what he wanted me to do next. Positive reinforcement was a foreign concept to him.
I walked into his office. He was poring over some papers at his desk but motioned for me to sit at one of the chairs facing his desk. Dermott was in his mid-forties and predictably clean cut, with a crew cut of dark blond hair and a gray suit that highlighted the gray in his eyes. He was an attractive man, and I might have counted that among his qualities if he weren’t such a prick most of the time. He wore a simple platinum band on his ring finger, reminding me that I wasn’t the only woman who had to tolerate him.
“You were late from lunch today,” he said.
“Yes, well, I—”
“I’m expecting those reports today, as we discussed.”
“I’ll have them to you within the hour. I’m almost done.”
Never mind that I’d worked through most of my lunch. I decided not to bother defending myself. He was in the mood to railroad me so I didn’t want to spoil his moment. Instead, I sat patiently waiting for him to continue.
“The holiday party is next week. Assuming you’ll be attending?”
“Yes, of course.” I’d planned to attend out of sheer obligation. Sober mingling with dozens of people who I had the displeasure of working with on a daily basis was not my idea of good times. If I had anything to drink, I’d end up telling every last one of them what I really thought about them, as I was apt to do at the end of every Saturday night.
“The company officers will be there. There’s a deal coming through that we’ll need extra hands for, and they may be interested to know who will be involved.”
“Are you saying you want me to be involved?”
He sat back in his chair and looked me over. “Despite your attitude, yes. You’re one of the best people I have. This would be a good opportunity for you, that is, if you don’t have other plans for the holiday. It could run into Christmas.”
“I don’t actually.” I almost relished the idea of being able to work through the holiday so I could distract myself from the reality that everyone around me would be celebrating. Eli and Vanessa had their families, and every year I turned down their invitations to celebrate with them. Something about tagging along seemed even more depressing than waiting out the day on my own.
“Good choice. Consider yourself on the team. We’re starting on the paperwork today, so plan to stay late.”
Perhaps because Dermott’s offer was laced with an insult, I couldn’t quite celebrate it. He was giving me an opportunity, picking me among the mass of cubicle dwellers, to help with a deal that could set me apart. I reminded myself of Jia’s advice. I should jump at this. Play the game.
“No problem. Let me know what you need.”
A half smile twisted his features. I resisted the urge to tell him to f**k off. Instead I returned it with a perfectly polite subordinate smile.
“I will. I’ll look for those reports shortly too.” He straightened and shifted his attention back to his papers, scribbling his pen across some documents.
I took the signal to leave. Stepping out, I nearly ran into Jia.
“Hey, did you just talk to Kevin?”
“Did he mention the Cauldwell deal?”
“He didn’t mention it by name, but I assume that’s the one.”
“And you agreed?”
The twinkle in her eye made me wonder if she’d been behind the whole thing.
“I’ll be working on it too. It’ll be great to have some friendly company. Speaking of, what are you up to this weekend?”
“Uh, I don’t know yet,” I lied. Our rapport was launching forward pretty quickly. I’d already told her about Cameron and how much I couldn’t stand my job. I wasn’t sure about confessing how I partied hard every weekend. That seemed to go against the professional progress I’d very recently made.
“I might be grabbing drinks with a couple friends on Saturday night. Maybe we can meet up,” she said.
“Sounds good. Email me your number. I’ll text you with details.”
I agreed and returned to my desk, trying unsuccessfully to make sense of this new development at work. First Jia’s unexplainable eagerness to be…friends? And now this new opportunity to work on an important deal. At least this would be a welcome distraction from Cameron, who’d taken over my thoughts with a vengeance this week.