“Hi, is Joshua available?” I gave his admin a winning smile. All of us admins interacted on some things, but Joshua’s was one I didn’t talk to very often.
Shelly raised one eyebrow, making the caked on purple eye shadow on her left eye raise a good inch into her tanned, wrinkled forehead. “He’s busy,” she sniffed.
Liar. I could see Joshua looking at some papers on his desk, in the office behind her. It was already 4:30, and I highly doubted he had some 5pm meeting. I had waited a week to approach him after the disastrous meeting, and I refused to be put off any longer.
“It’ll only take a minute,” I said sweetly. By the looks of it, Shelly was about 70 years old and acted like she was 100. She clucked over all of us other admins like a mother hen, and I know she pissed more than just me off.
“What does Minda want? Can’t you just email it to me?” Clearly Shelly wasn’t going to be sweet talked.
I rolled my eyes. I didn’t have time for her BS bodyguard act. “Hi Joshua!” I called out over her shoulder. He looked up and smiled as Shelly started to hiss at me not to disturb him.
“Hi Maddie, good to see you!” he started to get up from his desk to say hi. Shelly glared at me, and it took everything in me not to glare back.
Deciding this was not a conversation I wanted her to overhear, I swept past her to the door to head him off. “Got a minute?” I asked.
He gave me a surprised look. “Of course.”
I hesitated at the door, trying to decide to close it or not. Shelly was one of the biggest gossips in our admin group, and I’m sure she was already IMing her cronies about my antics. Shutting the door behind me would just lead to her thinking we were talking about something secretive. Which, I reflected, was true.
Deciding a gossipy woman’s wrath was better than being overheard, I shut the door behind me and took a set across from Joshua. Glancing towards the door, I saw Shelly clearly gawking at us through the glass partitions on the side.
Joshua’s eyebrows knitted together. “What brings you here today?” Clearly he could tell I wasn’t dropping by for a social visit.
Blowing out my breath, I opened up the folder I was carrying and removed a sheet of paper.
“Minda asked me to help manage a project for her team on infrastructure services for the new data center. The first step was to determine the cost and suppliers. I’ve been working on it for weeks.” My voice started out as a squeak but got smoother as I went along.
“Yes, she mentioned that to me. Good for you to take on a project like that!” Joshua’s words were kind, but I could tell he was still wondering what in the hell was going on.
I pressed on. “But a few weeks ago, I realized I couldn’t get the numbers to match. Then Chad, the director over the network services, started to question where I came up with information.” I continued on, telling him the whole story, about how I overheard Minda talking to the salesperson at Cintrex and how Mallory came up with reports I had never seen before.
“And then I saw this,” I finally finished, pushing the piece of paper I printed out across the desk to him.
Joshua’s eyebrows rose as he scanned the document outlining commissions from the Cintrex rep. “Where did you get this?” he asked after a minute.
I squirmed a bit, not wanting to admit that I was the one who sent it to the rep. “I have access to Minda’s inbox as her admin,” I finally said. I waited a beat, then decided that I may as well fess up. “I saw an email and replied on behalf of her to see what was going on.”
Joshua looked up sharply at that. “So you suspected something was going on? Is there a reason you didn’t come to me right away instead of waiting so long?”
My stomach dropped. “No, I mean, I guess I just wanted to make sure…”
Joshua was already folding the paper in half and tucking it inside an expensive looking padfolio with his initials monogramed on it. “You need to come to me, or HR, right away when you suspect something wrong. We have processes for this type of thing. Didn’t you read the corporate policy when you first started? I thought HR had everyone go through it these days when they first start.”
Ashamed, I looked down at his desk. I did have to go through a slew of boring policy documents online when I first started, but they were so tedious. Did anyone actually read them?
Joshua shrugged into my silence, palms facing up. “It may be nothing, but we don’t know until we look into it. And the more time we have, the faster we can get to the bottom of it.”
I nodded quietly. He was absolutely right. I really had no business trying to figure things out myself when everything screamed “RED FLAG.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, almost in a whisper. I hoped that I wasn’t going to get fired over something like this.
Joshua nodded, but his face was serious and he looked distracted. “Don’t keep something like this to yourself.”
I wasn’t sure, but it sounded like a dismissal. I started to rise up from the chair when his words stopped me.
This time he gave me a smile. “Thank you for bringing this to me.”
“You’re welcome.” I gave a small smile back and collected my folder.
I was almost at the door when he stopped me. “How is school going?”
I visibly relaxed at the topic change. “Great! I was officially admitted in December!” I couldn’t help but to be cheerful. All the studying for the GMAT, all the hours, all the money spent had paid off, and I was officially in the MBA program at the University of Minnesota, where I would be spending all my time and money for the next 3 years or so.
“Fantastic!” Joshua’s voice brightened as well. “You’ll do well there, I know it.”
Thanking him, I headed back into the hall, bypassing Shelly. She opened her mouth as I went by, but I didn’t have the energy to deal with her and just gave her a little wave as I walked past, eager to get home and throw myself into a bottle of cheap Trader Joe’s wine and veg out to some Girls on Netflix.
As soon as I walked through the door though, I gritted my teeth. Jessie and Tyler were there, and it sounded like they were having a disagreement. For the most part, they had patched things up after Christmas, but I knew that Tyler still felt slighted about being proposed to and Jessie was overcompensating for her guilt at taking the moment away from him. By the sounds of it, they were making last minute decisions about their Vegas wedding package.
“I like the chocolate better,” Tyler was saying.
“Ok, chocolate? That’s great!” Jessie flicked through the paper in front of her. “What icing flavor?”
“But you like vanilla better,” Tyler said woodenly.
“It’s ok, we’ll get chocolate!” Jessie’s voice wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a cheerleader.
Tyler pushed back on his chair. “This is SO irritating.”
“What is?” Jessie was acting innocent.
“This” Tyler gestured to the brochures in front of him. “You’re agreeing with everything!”
“I just want you to get what you want!” Jessie argued back.
“Well I just want you to act normal!” Tyler retorted back when I decided it was best to announce my presence so I didn’t embarrass them.
“Hey guys! Whatcha doing?”
“Cake flavors!” Jessie was desperately happy for the interruption. “What do you think?”
I took a quick glance, even though I didn’t care. I loved all kinds of cake. “Chocolate and vanilla buttercream sounds good.”
“Oh, that sounds sooooo good! Tyler, what do you YOU think?”
Tyler shook his head impatiently. “We’ve spent two hours on cake flavors. Chocolate is fiiiiiine.”
I winced, feeling sorry for poor Tyler. Wedding planning wasn’t his thing in the first place, and he was clearly at the end of his rope, both with Jessie’s kiss butt attitude and wedding planning in general.
“What, you don’t care?” Jessie’s eyes took on a pissed off look. I started backing away to my bedroom.
“No! Not really! I just want to know when to show up!” Tyler shook his head exasperatedly, like he had already said it 10 times before. Which me most likely had.
“Well, I just want you to be happy and get what you want!” Jessie repeated her phrase from earlier, this time with more force.
“Obviously you want to take charge, so just pick what you want!” Tyler’s voice was weary. His hands made a bridge for his face, pinky fingers sticking out.
“Who says I want to take charge? You’re just mad about the” here Jessie inserted air quotes “propooooosal…”
That did it for me. Getting reprimanded by Joshua, fear of getting into major trouble for sticking myself in where I didn’t belong, and of a long few weeks of hearing them argue about a stupid thing did me in.
“Are you guys still arguing about the stupid proposal?” I demanded.
“Seriously. It’s not my place to get involved, but you guys have GOT to get over this.” I started shaking my head, remember what my mom said to me a few weeks ago. “In the grand scheme of things, who proposed to who is NOTHING.” Jessie slowly nodded, which fueled me even more. “Do you know how many people in the world, including myself, that would LOVE to have a fantastic relationship like you guys? Who wouldn’t care who proposed to who as long as at the end you got a loving marriage? Hell, who would even settle for having a guy call you when he says he will? Geesh.”
Jessie cast her eyes down and Tyler looked ashamed. I stomped over to the fridge and grabbed a glass of white and a glass. I may have overstepped my boundaries, but damn, it felt good.
I saw Tyler reach for Jessie’s hand out of the corner of my eye. Catching my eye, he gave me a little nod. I smiled, and gave a little nod back.
Hopefully things would finally get back on track.