I looked through my collection of summer dresses from the closet and pulled on a long maxi dress covered in roses. The halter style top was perfect for the hot weather that was about to meet us and I completed by ensemble with a white sun hat and large shades. Daddy was wearing a pair of khaki shorts and a casual polo, something I'd never seen him wear. I was so used to his formal appearance that the image of him in relaxed clothing was rather comical. I giggled. My unintended laugh offended Daddy and he grabbed my arm to scold me.
“Don't you laugh at Daddy,” he warned. “Or I will tie you up at the next party and refuse to play with you.”
Alarmed at the thought of being ignored, I quickly apologized and adjusted my glasses, bowing my head to Daddy who released his grip of me as soon as he heard the sorrow in my voice. He kissed my forehead, forgiving me verbally and ordering me to get in the car. I obeyed his words and fastened myself into the seat, being as perfectly behaved as possible. At the restaurant, I hardly spoke and kept my elbows off the table, trying to show Daddy how much of a good girl I could be. Our quiet brunch was interrupted by a very attractive man in a beige suit, his expensive shades hiding his eyes as he approached our table.
“My good sir,” he spoke clearly. “Have you thought about our new terms?”
Daddy didn't look up from his plate, but dabbed his mouth gently before replying, “I have given it much thought since we last spoke.”
I looked between the two and realized this must be Julian, the man who had been arguing with my darling Daddy just last night. My gaze was hidden by my shades and I focused on my chewing to appear less than alarmed. It seemed to be working up until the point where Julian introduced himself and took my hand to kiss it.
“What a lovely woman you have, Mr. Bloom,” said Julian. “She looks so radiant during the day.”
Daddy's grip on his fork tightened at the sight of Julian touching my hand, the nerve of this snobbish man seeming to push Daddy into a bit of a fit.
“I just thought I would come say hello after finishing my brunch. I look forward to our meeting next week, Mr. Bloom,” said Julian while releasing my hand to shake Daddy's. “And I do hope we come to an agreement soon.”
He bowed his head to me, nodded to Daddy, and sauntered off in the direction of a very expensive foreign car that appeared to have been imported. As I watched him drive off, I heard Daddy's breathing labor briefly before he took a deep breath and exhaled. I pulled my sun hat off and placed it in my lap, reaching across the table to Daddy who appeared to be incredibly stressed.
“What a rude man he appears to be, Daddy,” I said in my sweetest voice.
“Don't let him bother you. He's just another business client.”
Smiling in the bright light of day, Daddy looked up from his plate and squeezed my hand with appreciation. He didn't need to deal with business outside of work and I felt so bad that he had to handle such an annoying person without the walls of his office to protect him. My poor Daddy had been caught without his fortress. How dare that awful man intrude on our delicious meal! I was certain the stress came from his sudden appearance and did my best to comfort Daddy who seemed to lighten up after I told him a few silly jokes. Our laughter filled the air, effectively defeating our enemy who had attempted to penetrate our happy castle.
Brunch ended soon after he had cheered up and then the weekend went with it, passing suddenly across my vision and ending with me walking through the front door of my house. I sank into my couch feeling somewhat defeated, hoping maybe Daddy would want me to prolong my stay with him. I was so lost without his presence and I felt useless, looking about in a distraught fashion trying to find something to do. I took care of the memos he had assigned to me for the week and then found myself scrubbing the floors. When I was done, the floor sparkled and I felt accomplished, rewarding myself with a cocktail and a little playful teasing from my fingers. I closed my eyes and leaned back against the couch, lulling myself into a state of utter bliss.
When I opened my eyes, it was Monday again and I watched the elevator with intense longing for my sweet Daddy's glorious appearance. The reflective metal doors parted and revealed his handsome face smiling in the beautiful light of morning, his eyes glittering as they absorbed every bit of my image that he had lost overnight. He approached my desk to shuffle through his morning calls as I greeted him in my most professional voice. When he was finished, he nodded at me and winked, then headed to his office to handle business for the day. My eyes remained fixed on the spot where he had been standing, totally enveloped by the smell of his cologne. My concentration was broken by a stack of folders landing on my desk which caused me to jump and squeak. Giggles rippled through the office and I turned to find Maura walking away from me, her shoulders pulled back tightly as she made her way to the back of the office.
Glaring after her, my feet followed the same path and I spun her around once we were privately in the break room. Maura was shocked to see me huffing in front of her face, my hands firmly upon her shoulders.
“Is there a problem, Miss Harper?” I asked firmly.
Maura's eyes narrowed as she kept eye contact, her lips pressing into a thin line.
“You've changed since you started seeing him,” she said.
“I don't know what you're talking about,” I said while releasing her shoulders.
“That man is going to keep changing you until there's nothing left. I can already tell you're under his spell,” she explained while brushing her blouse.
“What do you think happened to the last secretary?”
I considered her question with some thought. It had never occurred to me to ask. I would have no way of knowing whether he was doting upon the previous secretary, but now I wanted to know. Some dark part of me grew jealous all of a sudden and I went to the coffee maker to pour myself a cup of hot liquid in order to occupy my hands. I didn't want to smack Maura in the face though I figured she would deserve it for being so rude.
“And what did hap
pen to your previous secretary?” I asked casually while stirring sugar into my mug.
“She disappeared. But she had the same look on her face as you did just five minutes ago,” answered Maura while pointing her finger. “I'm just telling you because I'm concerned.”
I raised my eyebrows, amused by her tone and said, “Oh really? Were you concerned the first time you saw that dress? You seemed more focused on the potential gossip than you were my safety. What makes you care so much now?”
Rolling her eyes, Maura firmly placed her hands on her waist and nodded.
“Fine, Andrea. Have it your way. I won't miss you if you happen to disappear,” she said and then left the room.
I felt alone all of a sudden, the air empty without Maura's presence even if it also meant her anger occupied that space as well. I wasn't sure what to do with the information she had given me because she was always the drama mongrel and the gossiper. Truth hardly ever came from those lips making it difficult to give credence to the warning she had just given me. Whatever she was trying to do only made me want to run away with Daddy that much more. In fact, I had to stop myself from stomping straight into his office and begging to leave this dreadful business that seemed to hold us back from our true nature. I wouldn't mind being his personal assistant somewhere else, maybe even overseas. It would be such a lovely relationship and it would only be the two of us. We wouldn't have to deal with hostile or jealous employees.