This story is by J. C. Darcy and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
THE QUEEN BEE
I pull into the Public Services Office parking lot and sit behind the steering wheel, gripping it tightly. I need four hours flex time on Friday afternoon. The nurse insists that I come as soon as possible so the doctor can go over my lab results.
“There are some discrepancies from the last one,” she said. “We may need to repeat the test, but Dr. Wendy wants to see you first.” I feel apprehension tightening my throat. Maybe if I’m just honest with Ms. Dunne, my supervisor, she’ll relax her rule of no flex time before the weekend. The sick leave option’s out. I have none. I need the money, so leave without pay is out. Damn, of all times for the State to run out of money and decree a five percent pay reduction.
I see Ms. Dunne pull into her parking space. She’s overdressed again, wearing blues and yellows today with makeup and hair to match. All her jewelry sparkles and flashes in the morning sun as she hurries to the employee door, finishing her cigarette and tossing it as she opens the door. The Queen Bee, that’s what the rest of us call her behind her back. The queen bee with her worker bees and drones catering to her every wish, whim and want.
I sigh and resign myself to her probable response: a recitation of her office policy, the drill of questions as to why she should approve it, then a brusque denial. Maybe she’ll understand my need this time, I say to myself, maybe I’ll be surprised for a change.
After I put the purse in my desk drawer, I decide I’ll speak with her before she gets busy with other case managers. As I leave my office to schedule a meeting at the front reception area, I see Ms. Dunne pass in that direction. When I get to the front, I no longer see her. I ask the secretary if she knows where the Queen Bee went. “I believe she has a meeting in one of the interview rooms. At least she headed that way in a great big hurry,” Carol says. She agrees to let Ms. Dunne know I want to see her and will call me after she schedules the meeting.
I figure I may as well use the bathroom across from the interview rooms before I head back to my office. The first stall is out of order so I go to the other one. I open the door and see Ms. Dunne standing in front of the toilet, her panties and slacks pulled down under her hips, a stream of urine splashing into the bowl. She turns towards the door, her eyes wide and mouth open in surprise, and quickly turns away again.
“Excuse me,” I say and slam the door shut.
I walk as fast as I can back to my office. Was that a – a penis I saw? Knowing damn well it was. Shit. I don’t want to know this. Maybe she didn’t see me. She saw me. Shit. What do I do now? What? Why didn’t she lock the door? Shit. I don’t know what to think or do.
I keep mulling over the situation, confused and uncertain about how to behave when I see her, or him. Shit. After a half hour passes, the phone rings.
It’s the Queen Bee.
“Carol said you wanted to see me. I’m free now.”
“OK. I’ll be right over,” I say, my voice quivering.
Now what? Pretend I didn’t see anything? Maybe I won’t bring it up unless she does. Or is it “he.” Shit. I knock on Ms. Dunne’s door.
“Come in,” I hear.
“Please close the door,” she says after I enter. She doesn’t invite me to sit.
My hands are trembling. I don’t know where to stand and where to look. Ms. Dunne is staring at a file on her desk. “What is it you wanted to see me about?” she asks, shuffling some papers around.
I hear fear in the tremble and catch of her voice. I hear it in my own as I stumble through my need to take flex time on Friday afternoon.
Her shoulders are hunched. She glances at the rings on her hands and twists one several times. She avoids looking at me. She rubs her chin and fingers her lips, smearing her lipstick.
I’m dying inside. Should I apologize for walking in on her and pretend I saw nothing unusual? Joke about what I saw? Threaten to tell everyone if I don’t get what I want? What good would that do? Do I want to be that kind of person? Why doesn’t she say something? I shift my feet. I can hardly breathe.
Ms. Dunne turns toward me and begins speaking, looking at my waist. “I can certainly understand your need to come to some resolution regarding this health matter, especially one so important and personal,” she says in her husky voice. “I’ll approve your request although it’s against my policy. Be assured that the reason I am allowing you to flex on Friday will be kept private. Certain matters should be kept confidential, don’t you agree?” Then she looks up, her eyes meeting mine.
Time stops. My chin drops. Will my mouth work? “Y-yes, I do, most certainly so. I mean, sure, not everybody needs to know,” I sputter, not sure if we’re talking about me or her, or him, or all of us. Shit.
“I’m glad we understand each other.” She keeps staring at me with her smoky green eyes and her eyebrows raised. Did I nod? I see her nod in return. Her face and shoulders relax. “Do let me know whenever I can be of help to you.”
“I – I appreciate that. Thank – uh- thank you,” I reply and turn to leave. She nods again, her lips pursed and her gaze intent.
What happened? I ponder on the way back to my office. Did we pretend I don’t know anything? But we both know that I know and – did I just now promise to keep it to myself? Shit. This is certainly not how I wanted to get my flex time. Is it?
Carol passes me in the hallway and asks, “Did you see the Queen Bee?”
“I did,” I reply. “I – sure – did.” And, oh—how I wish I hadn’t.
I stop mid-step.
On the other hand…..