This story is by Stacey Knox and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Well, I’ve been here for five years now and, as I believe you’re aware, I have a proven track record of consistently exceeding my targets,” I said, trying to keep my tone cool and confident. “I’ve compiled some figures here.” I added, sliding a folder over the sleek mahogany desk.
“Mmm.” Andrew Hoggatt, Chief Commercial Officer at Empiro Consulting, flicked through the pages without seeming to read them. “We certainly recognise you’re a great account manager, Sophie. Your commission must be a nice little reward in itself I expect? You were the top performer in your division again last quarter.”
“I appreciate that, Andrew, but it doesn’t quite make up for the fact that I wasn’t even considered for a role I’m more than qualified for, and that a significantly less experienced colleague has now been offered it.”
Eye contact was not Andrew’s strong point. If he wasn’t scrolling through his iPad, he was permanently fixated on my chest. I cleared my throat loudly to get his attention. “You know I would be perfect for the strategic accounts lead position. So why wasn’t I even granted an interview?”
Andrew sighed, looking pained. He leaned back in his leather chair, chewing a Mont Blanc pen. His garish pinstripe shirt strained against his gut, which had began to succumb to many years of his busy ‘client entertainment’ schedule; consisting mainly of extravagant lunches and beer swigging at strip joints.
“I thought you might react this way. Listen; you know with these senior roles, there’s got to be the right sort of personality fit as well as the experience. Right? The Head of Strategic Accounts needs to be able to lead teams. Charlie is just a natural born leader, and —”
“Andrew – I’ve got four executives underneath me, all outperforming Charlie’s team. Leadership? Please. In fact, all I see his guys do is get drunk at lunch with the same old clients, and he doesn’t seem to care. I need a better answer.”
Visibly irritated, Andrew got to his feet, paced for a moment and approached the window, fiddling with the blinds.
“It’s…it’s the business, you know. Empiro Consulting has always been a…certain way. Our senior roles are always performed by a particular type of person, and those underneath support them. It’s a team effort; everyone has a crucial part to play. You play yours very well, and your folder there proves that. Aren’t you happy where you are?”
I gritted my teeth, feeling my cheeks burn. My hands were slightly trembling. Keep it professional, I reminded myself. It wasn’t the first time a less qualified male candidate had triumphed over a woman in this company, and it wasn’t the first time I wondered why I’d bothered staying there for so long.
I’d carefully nurtured some of our top performing accounts over more than five years. I had. Me. I owed nothing to the so-called leadership. Why should I be forced to leave, let someone else come in and take my accounts, all because apparently I lacked enough meat in the pants to run a boardroom? The very thought made my skin prickle. A hot spike of adrenaline jolted through my chest.
“When you say, a particular type of person, do you mean one who has a penis, by any chance?” I asked quietly, glaring at the back of his head.
He turned and caught my gaze unexpectedly. Smoothing down his tie, he came away from the window, a half-smile lingering on his fleshy, red lips. As he approached, I realised he was quietly laughing; an odd snorting sound just audible under his breath. He stood behind me, placing his hands onto the back of my chair. My body sank under his weight.
“I see what you’re saying, Sophie.” His voice was low. I felt his breath on my hair. Goosebumps crawled over my skin as his hands came up to squeeze my shoulders. “Listen. Undoubtedly, there are — shall we say — certain roles for certain people here. I know how focused you are…how much you’ve given up for this job. If you like, we can consider some sort of restructuring. To improve things for you. If this is the extra contribution you’d like to make. ”
What on earth does he mean? What does he think I meant?
Andrew moved around to my side and I tried to conceal a shudder as he stroked my hair. With horror, my sneaking realisation finally surfaced. His hairy, chubby hand was pawing at his crotch.
“I always knew there was more to that fire in you,” he murmured, my stomach turning. “I knew there was something between us. I just didn’t want to be too forward.”
“Fire?” I parroted, my eyes fixed straight ahead.
A raw bitterness I’d been harbouring, for longer than I could remember, began to overwhelm me.
So, these are my options, are they?
After consistently outperforming my peers for half a decade, single-handedly building my client base — even sacrificing my personal life — to earn this pathetic company millions of pounds. I could either languish in the same role, being continually overlooked, dismissed and underpaid. Or, I could pay my grotesque, arrogant boar of a boss in sexual favours, for the vague promise of a “restructure.”
It would almost have been funny, if it wasn’t so depressing. Like a Carry On film. Perhaps if I just say “ooo-er,” we could laugh the whole thing off and erase it from history. I would essentially have done anything to stop myself from uncontrollably vomiting all over my impeccable sales figures.
“You think I haven’t realised?” Andrew grunted. “No wonder your clients are always so satisfied. You must be a fantastic lay.”
Jumping up, I headed towards the window, buying myself time. A strange ha sound escaped from my throat. Huge grey buildings surrounded gloomily outside. Through the windows I saw tiny office workers having meetings, making coffee, slowly killing each other.
“Make me your deputy.” I blurted out. I pulled out his chair and gestured for him to sit back down. Hesitant, yet dumb with desire, he sat.
It was my turn to squeeze his shoulders, now. I leaned forward, my mouth grazing his ear. He trembled, attempting to speak, but coherence was impossible. His arms flailed behind, grabbing at my hips, but he failed to hold me. He slobbered at my neck desperately.
“You’re going to send an email to the entire organisation. You are delighted to announce the new VP, Commercial. I’ll report directly to you, but all of the senior account managers, including the strategic lead, will report to me.”
I reached over him for the mouse and opened a new message window on his screen, selecting the company distribution list. Andrew turned in his chair and pressed his ridiculous red face into my chest. I ignored him, blocking out his disgusting grunts and groans, mouthing at me through my shirt, making it wet with spittle.
It was staggering. Apparently, the prospect of meaningless sex with a subordinate was enough for this supposedly smart businessman to forget all of his responsibilities. I calmly typed out one message to the organisation, and another to Human Resources, confirming an attractive financial package to go with my new promotion.
“There,” I said happily, after clicking send. “Now, you’ll celebrate with me, won’t you? There is much to be done.” I kneeled to face him, close enough to touch, but ensuring our lips never did.
“St…Stockyards Court,” he managed to slur. A luxury hotel tucked away nearby, where the staff were widely known to be discreet about the transgressions our male workforce committed between its walls.
“Perfect,” I purred, handing him his coat. “This calls for champagne.”
We descended through the building in the glass lift, office floors blurring into one. As we escaped out of the rotating doors below, the dazzling July sunshine hurt my eyes. The street heaved with afternoon activity. Buses and taxis ferried one corrupt person to the next; irritated workers huffed past, desperate to get to their next meaningless meeting or illicit liaison. Andrew gripped my hand roughly, pulling me towards the hotel.
This is my time now. The only person standing in my way is – well – him.
My surroundings began to slow down and fade; the noise of the afternoon dulled as if everything had been submerged underwater. Suddenly I could see only Andrew pulling me along in front; deranged determination on his pink, sweaty face.
I could do nothing but let myself be dragged, painful stilettos burning my every step. He gripped harder and hauled me to the right, intending to cross the street. I saw nothing but his huge round frame yanking and pulling and dragging.
Nothing but him, his red face, and that red bus. My arm pulling back and pushing, just as it passed. His red face. My red fingernails. That red bus. A screech and a crunch.
Red, red blood. Sacrifice.