Slipperless #5

By: Sloan Storm

GABE

It had been a couple of days since I fired Fiona. While I waited for word on whether or not she’d accepted my offer to return, I’d been focused on assuring all of the investors who still remained that we were very close to correcting the lingering issues with the clinical trial data.

Unfortunately, nothing could have been further from the truth.

Without Fiona’s continued involvement, salvaging things at this point would be almost impossible. In many respects, she held all the cards. My hope was she didn’t realize it and try to gain leverage over me. Never again would I allow myself to be put in a situation where this would happen, but none of that mattered very much right now.

And so it was in the early afternoon, I received an email from Mrs. Jameson. In it, she detailed the specifics of the offer she’d made to Fiona and included a copy of Fiona’s response to it. As my eyes traced the letters on the screen, I couldn’t believe what I read.

Disgusted, I picked up the phone and dialed Mrs. Jameson’s extension. I wasted no time making my frustrations clear.

“What is the meaning of this offer you made to Fiona?”

“I’m sorry sir?” Mrs. Jameson asked, with a hint of confusion in her tone. “I’m afraid I don’t understand what you mean. What’s wrong with it?”

“Well, for starters, I never authorized you to use any language relating to wrongful termination. And, secondly, how am I to supervise Fiona without being able to summon her to my office? Do you understand the predicament you created for me here, Mrs. Jameson?”

“My apologies, Mr. Hawkins. However, if you’ll recall, you left it up to me to come up with a suitable offer for Fiona. I consulted with other members of the department here and we decided, after much discussion, that the offer with the least amount of risk to the company in a legal sense would be to prevent her from filing a wrongful termination suit.”

Still speechless, I sputtered a weary exhale from between my lips and leaned back in my chair, sliding my fingers through my hair as I did.

Mrs. Jameson continued, “As for her demand that she not be put in a situation where she has to be alone with you…” She hesitated for a moment or two.

“Yes?” I replied. “You were saying?”

She cleared her throat before answering. “May I speak frankly, sir?”

“Please. We really don’t have any time to waste.”

“Well, Mr. Hawkins, it’s not exactly a secret… I mean, what’s been going on between you and Ms. Matthews.”

As she spoke, I closed my eyes and leaned over my desk. Propping an elbow up on it, I squeezed the bridge of my nose between my thumb and index finger in frustration as she continued to ramble.

“And well, sir, while we didn’t add the stipulation she not be left alone with you, I can’t say that I think it’s a bad idea, either. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, of course. However, as the Director of Human Resources, it’s my responsibility to look out for the best interest of all employees. I hope that you understand what I am saying and…”

“Yes, yes,” I replied, cutting her off mid-sentence. “I understand what you’re saying, Mrs. Jameson. Do you have any indication as to whether or not she intends to return?”

“Only what you see in the email there.”

“All right,” I began. Nodding my head, I continued, “I want you to go ahead and press Fiona on her decision. One way or another, I have to know what she’s going to do.”

“Yes sir, Mr. Hawkins. I’ll take care of it right away and let you know what she’s decided.”

“Very well. Thank you, Mrs. Jameson.”

“You’re welcome, sir.”

I hung up the phone and pushed myself into a standing position. Walking around the side of my desk, I made my way towards the bar. Minutes later, with a fresh gin and tonic in hand, I took a seat at the conference table to do a bit of thinking.

I suppose I had to admit that Mrs. Jameson had a valid point. As much as Fiona’s demand frustrated me—hell, angered me—digging in over it would send the wrong message to everyone in the company.

I understood she hurt from the loss of her grandmother, but at the same time I couldn’t help but feel insulted. Yes, I’d made a mistake in firing her the way I did, but otherwise, I’d been nothing but good to Fiona. Perhaps this was her way of trying to bring our physical relationship to an end.

I picked up my cocktail, and took a sip. The juniper berry flavor of the liquor and carbonation of the mixer rolled across my taste buds, heating and cooling them at the same time.

As I finished, I placed the glass back down on top of the table. Spinning it in place, I watched as tears of condensation flowed down the sides, collecting in a watery ring around the bottom.

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