I hugged Olivia and Todd goodbye - him holding the hug a few seconds longer than necessary. He gave me an extra squeeze and I moved away. Olivia walked me out and offered to call a cab. I waved off her offer and pulled my heels off, starting the drunken stumble home.
In every successful swinger relationship there must be a set of rules so that everyone knows their place, and so that no one is offended or taken advantage of. Different couples practice different rules depending on their own preferences.
The Dupont / Murray file sat harmlessly enough in the center of my desk. I walked in my office and stopped short, staring at it. I instantly knew it didn't belong; it was Red, instead of the Blue or Green folders that were used for civil litigation or corporate filings. I picked it up hesitantly and thumbed through it. Immediately I could tell it was a divorce file - Custody and Division of Assets were prominent tabs. I closed the file and tapped it on my desk, thinking. What to do….
I could call Ancient Dorothy, tell her that a file has been mis-delivered, but that was just silly. I was less than 20 feet from the East Wing. I could just walk over there and deliver it to the first secretary I saw. It would take less than a minute, and then the file would be properly handled. It was the obvious and responsible course of action.
Except that Broward doesn't want you going to the East Wing, my conscience nagged at me with a know-it-all tone. What am I, five? I countered, getting irritated at my conscience. I'm perfectly capable of returning a file without getting into any trouble.
Decision made, I grabbed the file and strode out of my office, ducking past Sheila and practically jogging past the remaining open doors. I felt like the red folder was a giant LOOK AT ME sign advertising my destination. Which, of course, it kind of was. I ducked the folder under my arm and willed myself to be invisible. My concern was unnecessary, no one even looked up, everyone absorbed in the ever-present pile of work. Broward being out of town didn't mean the presses stopped.
I took an unexpected detour into the restrooms located just to the right of the elevators, and took an appraisal of myself in the mirror above the sink. The light in the bathroom was muted, but it was bright enough to show me that it was not my best day. Whether intentional or not, my knowledge that Broward would not be in this week had caused me to dress down, and not put as much effort into my appearance. I was wearing khakis, a pressed white button-up shirt, and one of my new pairs of sensible, low, open-toed heels. My hair was, as always, up in a bun, and I had opted for glasses instead of my normal contacts. Some might think of glasses as sexy. Those people haven't seen my glasses.
At age six I started wearing glasses. By age twelve they were officially coke bottles. Around that age I start wearing contacts, and the ribbings from classmates dropped off. Slightly. I bring in that background information to let you know that me wearing glasses does not in any way increase my sexual intensity.
Getting back to my appearance, I had neglected to put on makeup, which mean I had pale, untouched skin and dark circles under my eyes. I knelt and opened up the sink cabinet and fished around behind the tampon box, reaching into the dark depths and feeling blindly until my hand bumped against what I was looking for, my small cloth makeup bag.
My first day I had packed an emergency makeup kit - one that includes mascara, lip-gloss and concealer. I had stored it here in case I ever needed to freshen up before a big meeting, or hadn't had time to "do my face" before work. I sent a silent "thank you" up to God for blessing me with such incredible foresight, and hauled myself back up to a standing position.
Three minutes later I looked reasonably presentable. I still had my coke bottle glasses, but I had long, plump lashes behind them and my lips had some color now. The dark shadows were still present, but minimized by the concealer.
I grabbed the red file folder, opened the door and scolded my nervous butterflies. Then I straightened my shoulders, pulled open the heavy bathroom door and headed for the East Wing.
Rule 1: She is kept blindfolded for the first meeting. If the blindfold is to be taken off, it must be done by her alone.
The heavy East Wing double doors opened to a sea of noise and activity. People were everywhere, and everyone seemed to be very important, very busy, or very emotional. I stopped just inside the doors and tried to get my bearings.
The room was large, dominated by three large curved secretarial desks that created a semi circle at the back of the room. To get to the secretaries, there was a wide, wood path that was flanked on either side by leather seating clusters. Both seating arrangements were full, one seemed to hold a meeting in progress, the other had two leggy blonds and an older man in a suit, apparently waiting. To the right was a large, glass conference room, a meeting in progress. I could hear muted tones of what sounded like an argument coming from that side. On the left were offices, probably holding paralegals and Todd. Behind the secretaries was a large office with floor to ceiling windows, from which I could see the downtown skyline. I could also see a man, standing at his desk, a phone to his ear. From the size and the view of the office, I assumed that was De Luca's office. Okay, Julia. Get in, Get out, and Stop Gawking.
I moved quickly and (I hoped) confidentially toward the secretary cluster. Their three desks were elevated, and I felt like a defendant approaching the judge. The secretaries all seemed cut from the same cloth. Old, dignified, and spicy, headmistress-style seemed to be De Luca's preference. Or perhaps HR's preference for De Luca. The center headmistress worn a red suit and had a brass nameplate on her desk that indicated her name was Carol Featherston.
She looked up as I approached, and her sharp gaze immediately locked on the red folder in my now sweaty clutches. She skipped a greeting and held out her hand. I passed the file meekly over. Her phone started to ring. She ignored the phone and flipped quickly through the file, then snapped it shut and looked back at me.
"Where did you get this?"
"I'm Julia Campbell, from Broward's office. I -
"Where did you get this?" Her piercing gaze and shrill voice told me to get to the point.
"It was on my desk, ma'am."
"Alright, I'll handle it. Thank you." The snappy response seemed to indicate that I was done. I couldn't imagine this women planning stripper-filled parties. Todd must have been exaggerating. I smiled politely at the woman and turned to leave. My exit was interrupted by a large rapping, knuckles on glass. I paused, mid-turn and glanced back at Ms. Featherston. She held up a finger and glanced over her shoulder. I followed her gaze.