I slunk into the office on Monday, praying I wouldn’t run into Mallory.
“Why do you let her get to you? You need to take control of the situation!” Katy’s reprimand echoed in my head.
I had shrugged, totally wordless. I really had no excuse on why I turned into a passive aggressive puddle when I saw Mallory, but Katy wasn’t going to let me get away with just a shrug. She gave me a look until I finally gave in.
“I just am so…so…unnerved by her,” I said, trying to figure it out as I went along. “She acts perfect, looks perfect, and nobody would find any fault with her. Yet, it’s the little things that just get to me, and I have no proof that she’s doing it to bother me!” At least with other bitches, like Nikki, I knew where I stood and could give it back. But Mallory had me half thinking that I was the one that was the crazy one.
At least Jessie was on my side. “She owned that situation,” she said, shaking her curly hair, pointing at Katy with a breadstick. “He ignored her? Leave. No point of being there.”
Explaining it to Nic was no picnic either. “She wasn’t hanging on me!” Nic had argued when I had timidly brought up how Mallory’s actions came across. I could almost hear him shake his head across the phone lines. “She’s just a nice person. Seriously, I don’t get why girls get all catty with each other.” The disapproval in his voice was clear – Nic thought I was the bitchy one, not Mallory.
At that, I dropped the subject. Maybe it was all in my head after all, and I was the one bringing it on myself. Crisis temporarily adverted, we made plans to go see some war movie he wanted to check out later that week.
This morning though, stomach was in knots all day, and not just over the potential of seeing Mallory. Today was the final decision day on the project Minda had put me on, the one where the other manager Chad had questioned my numbers and why I had chosen Cintrex as a supplier rather than one that had a better price. Obviously the answer was because Minda pushed me to it, but I couldn’t exactly say that without looking like an idiot who couldn’t handle their job. I had her this time though. I had gone through the presentation, air tight, and had the numbers to back me up. There was no way, none, that she could spring Cintrex on the group without looking like a fool.
“How ya feeling, Maddie?” Mallory’s voice chirped over my monitor and I cringed internally. Forcing a big smile, I replied, “Much better, thanks. I’m sorry I had to leave early.”
I berated myself internally while Mallory clucked to herself. “Me too. I really missed you there!” Her voice lowered and she gave me a little wink. “That TJ is really something, isn’t he?”
Visibily annoyed, I shrugged. “Wouldn’t know. Only chatted with him for a few minutes.” Seething, I turned back to my computer. It was just so…so…obvious to me that Mallory was one of those girls who would throw herself at a guy just because he was rich or famous or an athlete and not really care about who they were. Not so much of a groupie as an opportunistic. Ugh. I couldn’t respect that.
Not getting the hint, Mallory bubbled on. “Yeah, we danced to 2 songs!” she said in a hushed voice, like she was dancing with Jay-Z himself. Which, to me, despite his zillions of dollars, houseful of awards, and a banging wife, is still just another guy.
“Good job,” I said, just a touch of sarcasm to my voice. Mallory, if she caught it, didn’t say anything.
Minda’s door opened just then. Saved!
“Meeting time!” I said cheerfully, undocking my computer. I was so looking forward to getting away from Mallory that the thought that I was going into a super tough meeting.
I started to say “I’ll catch you lat-“ when Minda’s voice floated over me.
“Ready ladies?” she called from her office door and Mallory nodded.
I looked at the 2 of them, momentarily confused.
“This morning, I’ve asked Mallory to come along. She did so much of the initial work, and I thought she’d be a big help.” Minda and Mallory fell into a conversation and headed towards the hall. Having no choice but to follow, I headed out as well, seething the entire way.
I cooled down once we were in the room. What’s the worst the two of them could do? They could over run me talking, sure, but I had solid numbers and handouts and everything. I was going to win this thing, damn it!
It wasn’t until towards the end of my presentation, when I had all the directors nodding along with my numbers and recommendations, when the bomb dropped.
“So, you think Sun Technologies is the best place to put purchase? Seems like a solid recommendation to me,” Chad said. I breathed a silent sigh of relief. “I’m glad you got the numbers with Cintrex sorted out.”
I involuntarily gave a little jerk. Chad hadn’t mentioned Cintrex since then, and truth be told, I had hoped he forgot about it.
“Maddie, can you go over how you got to those numbers?” Shit. Minda’s voice was as sweet as pie.
“Of course!” I said cheerfully, ignoring the underlying calculated tone. I pulled up the reports I used and comparision chart, which I spent the last 2 weeks on.
Minda slowly shook her head. “This doesn’t seem accurate. Mallory, didnt’ you have some kind of historical reports?”
Mallory was shaking her head as well. “Yes, they reflect different numbers….here, let me present. I’ll show you what I have.” I had no choice but to allow Mallory to pull up her documents, wondering all the while what in the hell was going on.
“Here!” I only vaguely heard Mallory’s voice. I was too busy trying to pull up reports of my own in case I had to defend myself. “Look at this – I did this in the explore phase of the project.”
I jerked my head up and saw on the screen that Mallory had put together a comparison chart like mine, but much more professional looking. In it, Cintrex had clearly been the biggest supplier over the last 3 years. “Now if you click on this hyperlink here, you’ll see where I got the numbers…” Mallory continued. “In my experience working with the vendor, we’ll be able to secure an additional discount of up to 3-5% if we promise our purchase with them, which can add up to thousands of dollars in savings.”
Chad looked at the screen. “Well, that changes things. Maddie, why didn’t you have these numbers?”
Though his voice was far from accusing, my face turned bright red and I had to blink once to prevent myself from bursting into tears. “I don’t know, I just pulled the reports from the system…”
I knew something was wrong. Knew it. Every fiber in me wanted to stand up and shout that Mallory was wrong. But, surrounded in a room full of directors, I didn’t have a leg to stand on and no way to prove it.
“It’s ok,” Chad said kindly. I buried my head in my screen while I thought it out. “You’re new here.” He smiled patiently, and for a minute he reminded me of my dad.
Rubin, a director on another team, was already nodding at Mallory’s numbers. “Do you think we can get a contract in place this week?” he was asking.
“I don’t see why we can’t get a preliminary agreement going,” Mallory answered back, making my blood boil further.
“Sounds good. Hey, I got another meeting to go to. Keep us updated.” With Rubin’s nod, everyone stood up and started gathering their stuff.
I slammed my laptop shut too and headed to my desk without saying a word to Minda and Mallory. I knew what I had to do now, it was just a matter of proving it.