“Are you asleep?” Rachel sat up quickly and looked around. Shannon stood in the doorway to her office with a stack of folders and a well-dressed older man. She turned to the man. “Would you excuse me for a moment please?”
He looked at Rachel. “Certainly.” Then stepped back for Shannon to close the door.
Rachel pushed a few papers around her desk. “I’m sorry. I was going over the number for-.”
“Do you know who that man is?” Shannon said in a low growl
“Uh…Yes, I do…She lifted a folder to find her calendar. She remembered the two of them talking about an appointment today. Where was her calendar? She always kept it next to her keyboard. Her wrist his something hard which was followed by a clank on the desk.
The word registered at nearly the same moment Hot coffee began to pour over the edge of the desk and on to her lap. She jumped up when the hot liquid hit her. Shannon grabbed papers off of the desk and started spreading them across the floor.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t even see it there.”
Shannon didn’t say a word. She went out the door and appeared a few moments later with a towel.
“Thanks.” Rachel said in a near whisper. She sopped up coffee from the papers that remained on the desk. “Found my calendar.”
“That’s nice.” Shannon laid down the few papers left in her hand. “Let’s go meet in my office.”
Rachel followed without a word.“
Clean yourself up first.”
She looked down at the brown splatter that covered the thighs of her khaki pants and the edge of her salmon colored silk blouse. Paper towels in the bathroom were not going to fix this. She pushed the bathroom door open and grabbed a handful of papers towels. The coffee went across her thighs and around to the back of her legs. She spun to look in the full length mirror then walked out. These were beyond salvageable, even for her dry cleaner.
“I’m sorry.” Rachel walked in the meeting and sat in a chair next to Shannon. The older man she’d seen before spilling coffee everywhere was seated in a chair across from Shannon. He turned when she entered and offered a nod in greeting.
“It’s fine. Shannon here was outlining your plans for the mentorship program with our school.” The older man, whose name Rachel still didn’t know, said.
“I was telling Mr. Fischer about our mentorship programs with the high school.”
“We have one of the best business mentorship programs in the area.” Rachel had a passion for working with the high school juniors and seniors. They came ready to learn about the business and having an opportunity to put something positive in their life, even with the additional work, was a highlight of Rachel’s year.
“Shannon showed me a bit. It is very impressive.”
“Here are some testimonials from other principals and teachers.” She handed across a three ring binder. “And these are some letters from student who have gone through our program.”
He took the folders and flipped through the pages without reading any of them.
“I have to be honest ladies.” He placed the binder in front of him on Shannon’s desk. “You don’t have to convince me your program is among the best. I have spoken to a number of my colleagues leading up to this meeting. What concerns me is the reports we’ve heard that the office may not be fully safe.”
“The students here are never in jeopardy-.” Rachel said.
Mr. Fischer looked at Rachel and the stain on her pants. “The news reports are giving another story and to be quite honest many of the parents have shared with me their reluctance to allow their students to participate in an internship program affiliated with your company until a few of those issues are resolved.”
Shannon stepped in and tried to convince him everything was safe but one look at Rachel would tell anyone that there were problems. Coffee stained, puffy-eyed, scatter-brained Rachel was not a vote of confidence.
They shook hands and he left.
“Well, that went very well.” Rachel said being sarcastic after Shannon had closed the door.
“I’m really glad you can find humor in this.”
“So what else am I going to do>”
“I don’t know Rachel but something’s gotta happen. We don’t have the budget to hire the staff we need to replace the mentorship program.”
“It’ll get along fine.”
“The work of six part-time students? We can’t spread that around to everyone else. We’re already running on fumes around here trying to make up for the work you can’t do and losing the half-day when the cops were fingerprinting.”
“So this is my fault?” Rachel broke in.
“It may not be your fault but you’re the cause of all this.”
“All of this?”
Shannon scooped a spreadsheet off of her desk. “Have you even looked at the numbers this month?”
“I was working on them when you came-.”
“Don’t bother. I ran the books.”
Shannon shoved the sheet of paper in Rachel’s hands. She didn’t need to look at what it said. She saw the four columns that flashed red.
“We’re running this business out of our reserves and there isn’t much there.” Shannon yelled.
“What do you want me to do about it?” Rachel tossed the paper back to Shannon’s desk. It floated, skitted the top and fell to the floor.
“We? Who is we?”
“The accountant, some of the staff and I think it might be a good idea if you became a silent partner for a little while. Only until this blows over.”
“Am I being fired from my own company?”
“No, you can work from home. We need you to not come to the office until these things blow over and this guy gets caught.” Shannon reached for Rachel’s arm. She jerked back. The whole office wanted her out.
“Fine. I’m out.” She jerked the door open, stomped in to her office and slammed the door. Something crunched under her and she looked down. She was standing on some of the wet papers Shannon had spread out when Rachel spilled her coffee. She lifted her foot and the paper clung to her shoe. Enough was enough, she ripped the paper off the bottom of her shoe, jumped over the rest and called Curtis.
You are reading A Face in the Shadow by Tiffany Colter.
Tiffany is a writer, speaker and writing career coach. She is a frequent contributor to print and online publications in addition to her regular marketing blog at http://www.writingcareercoach.com/
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This story is copyright Tiffany Colter. 2007. It may not be copied, distributed, sold or included in any larger work without the expressed written permission of Tiffany Colter.
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