The Truth Will Set You Free #FridayFlash

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.

Vintage Postcard ~ Girl on Bird by Chicks57 on Flickr
Vintage Postcard ~ Girl on Bird by Chicks57 on Flickr

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.”

Umbrellas for Spring

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.”

Comments

  1. says

    Yes, well played Camille! And I am so glad that Ally was willing to share the “win”.

    It’s wonderful how you can weave these tales from your experience and expertise and make them some lovely stories, that are really enjoyable to read. Mahalo!

    • Rosa Say says

      Yes, Camille was one of the lucky ones – no morning sickness to give her away, and a healthy appetite instead :-)

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you Clive, and welcome to Talking Story. I appreciate your following the Twitter trail here. I enjoyed your story immensely as well, and am so glad you’ve joined our #FridayFlash forays.

    • Rosa Say says

      Mahalo nui Laura. It is quite fun to keep this company growing by adding to their character complexity each week. Soon I’ll have to decide what business they are in! Have a couple of ideas…

  2. says

    Camille did the right thing in her situation, as far as I’m concerned. It’s tough out there. The war between the genders in the business world is still going on, and the issue of procreation is quite an issue.

    I agree — the workplace stories are not only interesting and engaging, they’re familiar. Good job!
    .-= netta ´s last blog ..A Dichotomy of Hearts ”“ Flash Fiction Friday =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      You’re right Netta. My own version of this story happened a long time ago, but this is a quandary many women still face. Sad that a lie can be admired as smart strategy.

      That familiarity you mention is one reason I have not committed this company to a specific industry yet; I am glad this appealed to you! Welcome to Talking Story, I am so happy to welcome you here.

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you Annie! As we talked about at your place, I get concerned about length and keep trimming it, so I am happy to hear the pace worked for you.

      I greatly appreciate the support you shared for me on Twitter as well Annie: So many wonderful stories to read this weekend!

  3. says

    Oh, what a tightrope you led us all along. You had this reader, right from the beginning. And, please forgive the obtuseness of a male, the secret caught me by surprise – and made everything that came before it make complete sense.

    Perhaps a different secret could have done something similar, but this was perfect.

    Thank you for the enjoyable read.
    .-= KjM ´s last blog ..The End of All Things =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      No obtuseness to forgive Kevin, for I was hoping the secret would be a surprise :-) I am so pleased to know you enjoyed it, thank you!

  4. says

    The ending caught me me by surprise as well. I actually was waiting to hear that she did not get the job AFTER she told about her pregnancy – as in the news Ally was sure Camille would be happy about hearing was that her friend and team member Jacob got the promotion. (The positive spin on someone else getting the promotion is the norm in the workplace as well.) Great job!
    .-= CJ ´s last blog ..#fridayflash "Family Ties" =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      You could be right CJ… thank you for commenting for me. I left the ending purposely opened to both possibilities. Camille is making a big assumption here: “That one sentence was all she needed to hear. She’d won.” Maybe not.

    • Rosa Say says

      Aloha Trev, welcome to Talking Story,
      There can be quite a lot of devious in the workplace, that’s for sure, especially where career tracking gets so carefully calculating. This could have gone another way, but I allowed two things to guide me: I stumbled across that photo of the vintage postcard, and it triggered my own memory.

      It’s very satisfying to know when I have surprised someone, for as the writer you know what will happen and can only partially empathize with your reader, so thank you very much for giving me this win!

  5. says

    Rosa: I’m flattered that my comment resonated with you so well. Thank you for the call out.

    I love how you pose what is really an ethical dilemma and you “solve” it without apparent ideology. Camille handled it in a very buddhist way, keeping to a center path, engaging nothing in excess. Very balanced. Reminds me of how ballarina-like athletes can be while they excel in their sports. This kind of character feels compelling and strong. If she or you had any ideological leaning, you’d risk having a “goody two-shoes” feel. I detect none of that. Admirable.

    I do have to wonder how you will handle more imbalanced characters. The workplace can be a battlefield of the dysfunctional. I look forward to seeing your skill in battle.

    Jeff Posey
    .-= Jeff Posey ´s last blog ..Of Lines and String =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you Jeff. I have noticed your #FridayFlash comments elsewhere too, and I appreciate the learner in you. You are becoming quite a distinctive leader in this forum and this community: While your intentions may be quite personal (your own learning) you are teaching many of us at the same time. When I read your comments I want to improve my own feedback for others too, and give as well as you give.

      You teach us to learn too, to be open, and thus optimize the experience of writing to share, but also to improve. Constructive criticism is not an easy thing for anyone to receive, even when we know we should: We can better welcome in the possibility we may need to kill some darlings or make shifts, or we see happy accidents because you call them out – that is honestly what you just did for me with this particular comment, saying that “Camille handled it in a very buddhist way.” I thought it important that she admire Jacob Silvers because to “play the game” well you must have that appreciative regard for those who are winners in their own right.

      When younger I was very ideological, but over the years I have learned how little black and white exists, and further, how very fascinating the grey can be! I am more interested in context and variation than in fact, for there is so much abundance there (whereas to me, fact is scarcity.)

      As for how I will handle more imbalanced characters, we shall see! It is something I have become comfortable with in my coaching, but I am learning that doesn’t always equate to the written word in this flash fiction form – at least not within my present skill level! So we keep learning. Thank you so much for continuing to mentor me.

  6. says

    Rosa, your stories are a true breath of fresh air. While I must admit I guessed the twist, I had no idea where or how you were actually going to bring us to the ending and was so relieved with how you handled it. I’m beginning to really look forward to your work.
    ~Chris
    .-= Chris Chartrand ´s last blog ..The Warden =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Oh thank you so much Chris! I am reveling in this feeling of being looked forward to, mahalo for this joy :-)

  7. says

    I figured she was pregnant, and I cringed when when she blurted out her news first. Since the words had not actually been said, it was not too late for Ally to pull the plug. Never count those chickens while the hawk’s still in the air. ;) Nicely written.

    Sorry I’m so late. I’m WAY behind this week.
    ~jon
    .-= J. M. Strother ´s last blog ..UserPagemathsinger =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      The beauty of the blog Jon – never too late! I love having your feedback whenever it comes, and I appreciate your reading, thank you.

      I have yet to finish all of last week’s entries too; #fridayflash is reaching runaway popularity! Wonderful reading during my evening hours after work.