Thursday, December 01, 2005

You mean she didn't even vacuum the carpets?

Monday, October 17, 2005, 8:30am
Steve's office

I played up the idea that everyone in the office wanted Lila back, because I didn't want the HR people thinking that there would be any resentment about us rehiring her. The actual truth is that I thought everyone would be neutral.

Then I see the ten-foot long string of multi-colored party letters hanging in the break room:


Seeing it actually chokes me up a bit. What a thoughtful thing for her coworkers to do!

Maybe the employees think a little less than I suspected about Dom and me.

I saw her briefly, last week, when she stopped by to fill out some forms. She was scrubbed out, in sweats and a baseball cap, and waved to me from across the hall as I went into a meeting. Today, I am seeing her up close for the first time in months.

She's gotten hotter.

Her hair has grown noticeably longer; now it cascades well past the small of her back, as straight as falling raindrops, and shiny as clean glass. I can smell her green-apple shampoo from ten feet away.

Maybe it's the pleated skirt and dark sweater she's wearing, but her ass looks fuller, and her chest bigger. My eyes fix on her thick, lipsticked lips and her huge almond-shaped eyes, and, staring at her face from afar, she exudes the glamorous perfection of a supermodel or a Hollywood actress.

Lila has a desk now, not just a cubicle, in a small alcove with three other underwriters. I stop by as she is arranging staplers and paperweights on her desktop.

"I need to speak to you," I say, in my best work-voice, a bit deeper and more humorless than my regular one.

"Sure, Steve," she says, in a womanly version of the work-voice, darker and more mature than her normal one.

And just like that, Lila and I are partners in crime again, expertly hiding any hint that we were ever a couple, or that there is even a remote possibility that we ever could be. And we somehow manage to do so unspeakingly, knowingly, without any advance planning or discussion. It's simply a mode we slip into, together.

"You're ok on the procedures, right, Lila?" I say in my office.

"I have a 10:00 with Kevin to go over everything. But I studied what you gave me."

"Good. There's also a training class I want you to go to. It's out of state."

"Kevin told me. It's fine."

"Ok! Well, I'd show you where the bathrooms and the water cooler are, but..."

"Totally unnecessary?" she says, her pink lips stretching into a smile straight out of a toothpaste ad. God, she is beautiful.

"Huh?" I say.

"Are you daydreaming already? It's only ten after nine!" she chuckles.

"You- you look really nice."

"Thanks! Now I don't feel so bad about being broke!"

We laugh. "Well, I guess that's about all I had. Just remember, Lila, we're going to get one shot at this. It has to go well-"

"I'm ready. I won't let you down. I want to thank you for giving me another chance, Steve."

"You're welcome."

"I mean it."

"Do a great job. That's all you have to do to thank me. Go out there and show them what you can do."

"I will."


Steve's office

Kevin, the underwriting manager, taps on my door frame.

"Come on in!"

He plops into the chair across from me.

"So I came back from lunch, around two today..."


"We have a basket where we keep all of our pending policy applications. It's sorted by date, oldest first."


"This time of the year, we're about, I dunno, a week, ten days behind, maybe. But when I came back, the basket was empty. So I started yelling at them. I said, "Don't take an application out of the basket unless you're working on it! Sometimes they'll take two or three, so they don't have to get up."

"I see."

"So then I looked at Lila, and she went, 'Hey, Kevin, I need you to sign off on these.' And she had a pile of completed applications like THIS," he says, stretching his index finger and thumb far enough apart to hold a Big Mac. "I checked them all. Every last one. They were PERFECT! She finished all of our backlog in THREE HOURS! She's INCREDIBLE!"

"I told you," I say.

"And you know InsurePro, that software we use for underwriting? Ever since the upgrade, there was a bug where we couldn't save the file halfway through a project. We had to finish the job in one sitting or we'd lose our work."

"I heard that."

"Well, she got someone on the phone from tech support, and they found the problem and fixed it! It was one line of code!"

"You're kidding!"

"And wait 'till you hear this! The copier's been busted for about three or four days. Somebody melted a transparency in there, and they sent the replacement fuser unit, but we haven't been able to get them to come down and install it..."

"So she got them to come down?"

"NO! She installed it herself!"

"No shit!"

"Yep. Steve, this girl is gold."