I stared at the young intern for a while. She just stood in front of me with her eyes looking everywhere but at mine. I felt sorry for her and knew what she was going through. Finally, I looked over her story again and shook my head.
“Listen dear,” I said, trying to remain calm. “I think you need to take the rest of the afternoon off and really, really decide if this is where you want to work.”
“But Ms. Harell,” Laurie stammered. “I do. I really do!”
“Then you need to show me,” I fired back at her.
She coiled away shyly. I wasn’t going to beat around the bush or sugar-coat anything. I started off as a hungry, passionate journalism intern here ten years ago. I was good, very good but I wasn’t nearly as hungry as I thought. And after seven years, all I had to show for my hard work was a cubicle and a silk flower on my desk.
“You need to man up, you hear?” I said as I got to my feet and stood within inches of her. “Don’t ever take ‘no’ for an answer. Follow-up on every lead and don’t ever let anyone walk over you.”
Laurie looked like she was about to burst into tears after I wadded up her story and threw it in my trash. I sauntered over to my office door and showed her the way out. I didn’t mean to slam the door shut but I did. I slid into my cushy, leather chair and leaned back.
What a day! That was the third writer that handed me nothing but a paper full of shit. I realize that working for a gossip magazine doesn’t exactly say “I’m a real journalist” but we’re successful and one of the biggest publishers in our market. I rubbed my temples with my eyes closed and thought about Laurie.
I started to think back to when I started in this place. I was what you would call a “good girl.” I kept my head down and pencil up and made as few waves as possible. Even when I was given several awards for my work performance, I never let it go to my head. I was riding high, very high, and then came the disappointment.
At the time I was working as an assistant line editor. I had been in that position for a couple of years before my boss retired. Before he left, he urged me to apply for his position. So I did and was sure I’d get it. Why wouldn’t I?
Of course I didn’t get the job; I figured someone more qualified got it. That happens. But during the rest of the year, I was passed over for a few more promotions. I was even passed over for a fucking lateral position. That’s when I got pissed and decided that enough was enough. I was tired of getting it in the ass without a simple thank you.
I stretched my arms a bit and began thinking about the day that changed my entire outlook on life and work. Until then, I was what you would consider a “good girl” though my boss and co-workers called me a “team player.” I was naïve enough to believe they were truly praising me. I wanted to do my job to the best of my ability and I wanted my peers to respect for me for it.
I was so excited because I had put in for a promotion a month ago and they were supposed to make a decision any day. I knew I was finally going to reap the rewards for my hard work and dedication. I was working on a piece about a local, prominent business man who had been seen out on the town with a couple of very attractive young women. Being married must have slipped his mind.
“Any word yet?” someone asked from behind me.
I turned around and to see Janessa standing there. I smiled and shook my head. She was an absolute doll. She was always willing to help me out with projects or give me some pointers on angles and investigations. I remember one time she was doing this really elaborate piece on someone; I forgot who it was though. Janessa gave me the lead on investigating it and said she’d take care of the writing.
I learned so much and was extremely grateful for the insight the assignment had given me. I was a little disappointed that when the story was published, they accidentally left my name off the by-line. Things happen, especially in a world as technical as ours.
“No,” I said. “But any day now.”
“Well, I hope you get it,” Janessa said, boosting my confidence. “You certainly deserve it.”
“Thank you, I hope I get it too,” I said.
“Cynthia, I need a favor,” she said quietly, almost in a whisper. “I’m supposed to go away for the weekend but my section editor has been on my ass to get this piece ready for publication, can you help me out? I understand if you can’t, it’s just that I’ve been planning this getaway for months now.”
Of course I said I’d help her. Why not? I was sure if our roles were reversed, she’d to the same for me. I know it added to my already stuffed assignment list, but I was happy to do it for her. Maybe I’d learn something but if not, that was okay.
So over the weekend I worked on Janessa’s article for her and had it sitting on her desk first thing Monday morning. The same morning, the promotion announcement came out. I stared at my e-mail program. I was too nervous to open it to see what happened. What would the others think of me getting the promotion?
Finally I mustered up the nerve to open my e-mail and my heart dropped into my stomach. They promoted someone else. I was shocked; I should have gotten it. For days, I moped around, still in disbelief that I was passed over yet again. Then one day the following week, I just snapped.
I think it was some time after lunch. I was going to have it out with someone higher in the food chain than me, and it wasn’t going to be my immediate boss either. I dropped my purse on my desk and marched off to have my words.
His name was Darren Burke and he was my boss’ boss. He and I worked together on a few occasions since my immediate boss was on the road frequently. Darren was handsome in an older, stoic way, though I never felt attracted to him.
I shut down his secretary’s protest with the palm of my hand before barging through his door. Mr. Burke’s eyes snapped up from the papers in his hand. He looked surprised. I suppose I would have been too if someone came storming through my door without warning.
“What the fuck is the deal?” I fumed while standing in front of his desk with my hands on my hips. “I’m getting sick and fucking tired of the bullshit! Why the hell are these other assholes who have been with this place for less than half of the time I have, getting promoted over me? Huh?”
“I think you need to dial it down a few notches, Cynthia,” Darren said evenly.
“Why should I?” I jabbed my hand at his desk and knocked his fancy name plate across the room. “What is it? Am I supposed to have a dick in order to get promoted? Or are you up-tight, testosterone-pumping assholes afraid of what some errant cunt could do?”
“You should leave,” he said firmly.
“I’m not leaving until you tell me why I shouldn’t sue the shit out of you for discrimination!”
“You want to know why you keep getting passed up?” Darren stood up from his chair and glared at me. I held my ground. I wasn’t going to keep my head down on this one.
“You got no balls!” he shouted. “That’s right. You got no fucking cajones! Good little Cynthia. Does as she’s told. No back talk. No nothing! No hunger!”
His words stung me deeply.
“No drive! No desire! No fucking nothing!” he growled.
I was shocked. I really didn’t know what to say.
“I could probably tell you to get on your knees and suck my dick and you would! Because that’s how you are! No?” By now Darren was standing face to face with me.