Camille felt queasy. She’d had a good lunch, too good to suspect her Mario’s meal was prepared with anything other than their usual perfection, but she still wished she hadn’t eaten as much as she did. Perhaps less around her middle would better balance the lightheadedness she now felt from the neck up. She didn’t like this foreign feeling of something stuck in her throat.
Walking into Ally’s office, Camille was so tempted by the decorative chair rail along the wall; reaching for it could steady her nerves with the few steps more she had to go. She resisted, knowing she had to appear cool and composed. She kept her hands casually at her sides and imagined them to be wings instead. The thought almost made her laugh at loud; surely she’d be an awkward stork, but more like that one with the goofy hat and glasses on the Vlasic pickles commercials.
Camille was up for promotion, and when Ally summoned her, she was sure this would be the day she’d learn if the job was hers or not. Never in the company’s history had a woman held the position, and that brilliantly smooth Jacob Silvers was her competition for it. He was as determined to uphold the male legacy of the job as Camille was in her resolve to bring it to an inevitable end and long overdue female reinvention.
If pressed, both Jacob and Camille would admit they were equally qualified, equally connected, equally destined to be wildly successful —and it was likely they each would be. Up to now they had made a fabulous team. They’d worked together so well that besides their obvious differences in gender, there seemed to be very little difference between them really.
The wild card turned out to be a totally unanticipated one: Ally hadn’t been the boss two short weeks before this, and she’d freshly shattered that high glass ceiling in the company. If Camille did get this job, that wouldn’t be a win she could claim.
Would it be a win Ally was ready to share? Camille knew that Ally’s arrival made this much more difficult when she took over, for there was another difference between Camille and Jacob, one that only Camille was aware of.
Camille had a very well kept secret, one she’d been keeping with a kind of almost malicious glee. It was one she’d convinced herself she was a thousand percent in the right about keeping until the winner of the promotion had been announced. She’d worked so hard, and this company owed her that much, yet Camille had no doubt in her mind that to let her secret out before the promotion would destroy her chances of getting it. It would be a supreme injustice, and it would surely play out that way. However if she let her secret be told afterwards ”“ for there’d soon be no hiding it ”“ she would have had enough time to begin, to make her mark, and for any decision reversal to bathe the company in a less than flattering light ”“ they’d never go that far.
Yes, Camille was absolutely right about keeping her secret. Or she was before Ally. She’d even have been admired, being able to pull it off and get away with it in a company long known as the bastion of male dominance in their industry. To succeed at their game you had to play it.
Surely Ally would understand ”“ or would she? Would it be better to bring her into Camille’s confidence now? Just how much does gender become another factor, just of a different sort when a woman is the boss, and she still has so much to prove? Women can be so much tougher than men can, and in the short time she’d been there Ally had already revealed the quick smarts and steely resolve she brought to her position; she was not someone to be underestimated.
By the time Camille had walked into Ally’s office and taken a seat she knew what she had to do. Ally looked up, smiled at her, and said, “Camille, I think you’ll be very happy with the news I have for you.”
That one sentence was all she needed to hear. She’d won. Camille knew she had to take the high road, and live with herself even though it may be career suicide for her. She looked at Ally and blurted out her decision with as much calm as she could muster before she changed her mind.
“Can I go first Ally? I have some news to share with you too. I’m going to have a baby.”
It took the barest of fleeting moments, but it was long enough for Camille to see the look which flashed in Ally’s eyes. Keeping a secret from men was easy, and it wasn’t half as risky as sharing it with another woman.
Ally’s smile was as sweet as sweet could be. “Congratulations Camille, this will be your first won’t it? My goodness, your life will never be quite the same. You must be thrilled.”
My mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
About the #FridayFlash fiction community: Scroll to the Postscript. This is the 3rd time I am participating, with fictional stories that do reflect some of the struggles we have in our workplaces today. My first two stories: The Vision, and The Manager (Learn more about Ally in that one :) A special note of thanks to Jeff Posey of Anasazi Stories for this encouragement:
Rosa: By golly, you have hit into something I have long thought is ripe for fiction, especially short fiction — and that is the work environment. I find your “workplace genre” of flash fiction to be highly interesting […] because the workplace has all the elements of good stories — desire, power, obstacles, outcomes, strong characters, etc. I applaud how you’ve managed to elicit a true emotional engagement in a work setting.
True confession: I was Camille over twenty years ago, keeping my pregnancy a secret until I had won a promotion I knew I otherwise would not have received, a fact verified by my boss afterwards, who said, “I honestly can’t hold this against you: If you’d been my wife I’d have told you to keep it from your boss too. You played this well.”