Prospero part one
Jessica Whitehead was angry, she was as furious as only a tall, statuesque redhead could be. What the hell was going on? It wasn’t as if she’d been away a long time. She’d extended her two week summer vacation by just one week. She’d known about the proposed take-over of course, but as she understood it that wasn’t even definite. Now, a mere three weeks after she’d left the building, workmen were actually in the process of changing the name on the front of it! Seren Systems was no more it seemed, the concept that she’d given the last three years of her for was now apparently abandoned. She marched up the stairs to the building and waved her ID card at the door. Nothing happened and she had to brake hard to prevent herself crashing into the non-sliding glass door. Oh my God, they’d changed the login key to the main door without informing her! How absolutely dare they?
Angrily she pressed the door buzzer repeatedly.
“Good morning, Prospero Communications how may I help you?” asked the disembodied voice.
“You can help me by opening this bloody door!”
“Who are you please Ma’am?”
“I’m Jessica bloody Whitehead you fool, let me in this instant!”
“I’m very sorry Ma’am; I can’t let you in without the proper authority.”
“What? Who the hell are you? I’m a director of the company and I demand that you let me in immediately!”
“My name’s Kyla Ma’am. I’m very sorry but I can’t let you in through this door unless either your ID card works or you’re on the list that I have in front of me. Mr Taylor has impressed upon me that there can be no exceptions Ma’am.”
Now she was even more confused, who the hell was this Kyla? More pertinently who was Mr Taylor? There were no male senior managers at Seren and never had been. She guessed that he was something to do with Prospero Communications, whoever the hell they were. She’d certainly never heard of them. Momentarily she considered kicking the glass door as hard as she could until they had to let her in until she remembered that she was wearing a particularly expensive pair of Balenciaga heels.
“How do propose I get into the building Kyla? Considering I can’t work unless I can get to my desk. My desk on the eighth floor.” She added the last bit to impress upon the new girl that she indeed was a senior executive.”
“There’s an employee entrance around the back Ma’am. If you go there and knock, I’m sure they’ll do all they can to help you.”
It took all Jessica’s immense willpower not to stand and shriek at the inanimate box she was speaking into. Employee’s entrance, what the God damned fuck was going on? Almost crying with rage she made her away around the side of the building and found the only door. She pushed against it and found it was locked. This was too much; angrily she took out her mobile. Why didn’t she think of this earlier? She’d simply call one of the girls to come down and let her. Taking a deep breath she scrolled through her contacts and called the first one she came to, Annabelle. The empty hum on the line confused her at first. Perhaps Annabelle had changed her phone? But how could she as they all had business phones? Quickly she tried the next one, Belinda. The same empty humming noise greeted her. With a sinking feeling she tried her sister’s number, with the same result. Her phone she realised couldn’t make outgoing calls.
Resignedly she banged on the locked door. Nothing happened for a minute and then it was slowly opened by a scruffy looking older man armed with a clipboard and pen.
“Name?” he asked in a bored sort of way.
“Who the hell are you?” demanded Jessica angrily.
Slowly the man looked her up and down. “I may ask the same of you, young missy.”
Jessica couldn’t help but stare at his unshaven face with open-jawed bewilderment. She was so confused that she forgot to be angry. This was a whole new situation for her. She’d always been able to intimidate men of any age, even as a young child. She was tall and quite striking looking and this allied to her superior brain –power meant she was quite used to getting her own way. This shabby -looking old man seemed quite impervious however. Nothing in her formidable armoury had really prepared her for indifference. She’d always been top of the class, her wealthy parents had been happy to pay for tutors and good private schools. Lots and lots of hard work had brought good exam results and then a good university. A decent degree had then brought her to the notice of Madeleine Fox and Serena Systems. Her Maths degree had secured her a post in the Finance decision and from then on it had been plain sailing. The several years of female led government had resulted in very pro-feminine business conditions. Serena Systems had benefited enormously from their business connections with other female-dominated businesses, and business had been booming.
“I don’t know who you are, but my name’s Jessica Whitehead I’m a director at Seren systems.”
Reluctantly the man consulted his list by running a grimy finger down it. “Whitehead, Whitehead, Whitehead. I don’t have a Jessica on my list.”
“What? You must have!”
“I have a Jessy Whitehead, that’s all.”
“Jessy? Well I suppose that must be me and that someone’s made a mistake.” Jessy? That brought back memories, it was what her parents used to call her. It was the pet name her younger sister still used as well.
She made to push by him but he had the nerve to step over and block her path. He was so close to her that she could smell his slightly acidic, unwashed odour.
“Where do you think you’re going missy? You can’t just barge in here. I’m going to need to see some ID.”
Jessica resisted the urge to throw her laminated card at his ugly face and simply handed it to him.
He looks at it suspiciously for a few seconds. “I suppose it might be you. You’ve put on a few pounds haven’t you?”
“Thank you.” She replied with just a hint of sarcasm.”And now, if you don’t mind…”
“Hold on missy, you’re going to need to sign the late register. You’re over an hour late by the clock.”
She didn’t even bother asking. All she wanted to do now was to make her way upstairs and to find out what the hell was going on. Without reading the form she scrawled her illegible signature across it.
“And the time sheet young lady, you mustn’t forget that.”
She scrawled her name again.
“Put down 9.17.”
She realised that he was serious. He’d make her sign a timesheet! Realising she was free to go she made her way up to reception. As she approached the lift she was aware of a figure sat at a desk. Wasn’t there something familiar about her? She walked over, oh my God it was Michaela Davies! What the hell was she doing on the reception desk?
“Michaela…w…what are you doing? Why are you on reception? Why are you dressed like that?”
The intern, normally a most stylish young woman, was wearing a plain white, nylon blouse with the two top buttons undone. That was mad by the fact that the blouse seemed almost translucent and at least a size too small, even for a girl as modestly endowed as Michaela. She was also wearing way too much make-up for a woman her age and her shiny, blonde hair was tied up in a high pony-tail with a bright-blue ribbon. She looked up shamefaced at Jessica.
“Hi, Miss Whitehead. I…I’m not supposed to chat with visitors. C…can we talk later maybe? They’re waiting for you on the eighth. You’ll have to use the stairs I’m afraid.” Silently she pointed to the far corner of the hall.
Worried more than angry now, Jessica quickly climbed the stairwell up to the director’s floor. At least she’d get some answers up here. Once again the doors were all locked and she had to be buzzed in. The first door she arrived at wasn’t Madeleine Fox’s any more. The new logo read ‘Mr C.T Taylor, CEO’. Impatiently she pushed and went in. As she did, three heads turned almost simultaneously to look at her. Three unfamiliar, male heads.
“What are you doing up here, girl? Are you lost?” Asked one of them rudely.
For a minute she couldn’t answer, she just stood and looked around. The room was clearly the same dimension as when she left, but somehow it was completely different. Where were the inspirational feminist quotes that used to hang on the walls? Where were the pot plants? Where was Madeleine’s desk? Where was Madeleine for that matter?
“Well?” asked the man.
“I know who you are, Miss Whitehead. Please take a seat.” A tall, handsome, well-dressed older gentleman, apparently the leader of the little group, ushered her to a wooden chair in front of a large, tidy desk.
“I’m Charles Taylor, Miss Whitehead; please take a seat it’s so good to meet you at last. You’ve been away I understand?”
“Erm…yes I’ve been in Italy for a couple of weeks.”
“How very pleasant for you, did you have an enjoyable time?”
“Yes, yes thank you.” This all seemed so surreal; chatting to a man she’d never met before about her summer vacation.
“Excellent, Miss Whitehead. But now you’re home and must be wondering exactly what’s going on, I assume?”
“Y…yes…exactly. Where’s Madeleine, why are you sat at her desk?”
“Oh Maddie’s around somewhere isn’t she, Nigel?”
“I imagine she’s in the building somewhere, Charles.” Answered the shorter blonde man who’d spoken so rudely to her.
“Charles, if you could just explain to her. She looks awfully vague, a bit like a poor little fish that’s just been landed” requested the third man in the room.
A poor little fish? She certainly didn’t recall ever being referred to as a poor little anything in her life. Who were these people?
. Even the forbidding Charles Taylor smiled at that. “Well, Miss Whitehead it does seem that a lot has happened since you’ve been away doesn’t it? First, as you can see Serena Systems is I’m afraid, no more, Mrs Fox simply couldn’t resist the generous offer from my Company for her little outfit.”
“Little outfit? We turned over 40 million pounds in the last financial year!”
“As I said before being rudely interrupted, Miss Whitehead, a little amateurish outfit. A business that will be run properly and profitably for probably the first time.”
“I resent that very much, Mr Taylor. Serena was a well-run, profitable business as you well know.”
“Really, Miss Whitehead? Do you think so? I would say that Serena Systems earned less than half what it should have earned over the last three years.”
Jessica blushed hotly. “Once again I reject entirely what you’re saying.”
“You reject what I’m saying Miss Whitehead because you personal deficiencies as CFO have robbed the company of hundreds of thousands of pounds. It’s a situation that will have to be rectified.”
“How do you mean, rectified?” Asked Jessica angrily. “What is there to rectify? Serena Systems made year on year profits. “
Charles Taylor smiled paternally. I see from your file that you’re a barely qualified accountant, Miss Taylor. But even you should know the difference between turnover, of which you’re so proud, and profit, about which you appear to be woefully ignorant.”
Jessica blushed to the roots of her very expensively styled hair. “How absolutely dare you!?” Was this man insane? Nobody had ever suggested to her that she was anything less than perfect, never mind ignorant.
“How absolutely dare you?” mimicked the blonde man, cruelly capturing Jessica’s cultured upper-class diction very well.
Jessica got to her feet. “Sit down this instant please, Miss Whitehead! I’m afraid we have more to tell you. Let me introduce you to Mr Walters, he’s our legal man.”
Despite herself Jessica returned to the uncomfortable wooden chair. She was beginning to have worrying feelings about this. She half turned to look at the tall, thin man.
“Good morning Miss Whitehead, as Mr Taylor has intimated I work for our parent company, Selectacorp. I’m head of Corporate Governance and I take SelectaCorp’s responsibilities very seriously. We are very much a ‘by-the-book’ organisation. We never cut corners and we carry out our duties strictly to the letter of the current legislature. And for your information incidentally we turn over more a week than Serena Systems turn over in a calendar year. Jessica swallowed nervously. There was no doubting those figures.
“Even as we speak, Miss Whitehead, Serena’s books are been inspected, and I mean forensically inspected by some of the very best minds in the country. And I’m afraid to say that already they have discovered enough evidence to have you personally investigated.” He held up his hand as Jessica tried to say something. “We’ve applied to the Financial Service Office to have your personal assets frozen while we finalise our investigations, and they have complied.” He glanced at his watch before he carried on. “ In precisely seven minutes the Police will arrive to escort you off our premises and remand you in custody pending the outcome of said investigation. As a consequence you will hand over the keys to your company car and surrender your mobile phone. Do you have anything further to add?”
Jessica was absolutely shattered. In just a few minutes her gilded world had come crashing around her ears. “B…but prison…you can’t send me to prison…I haven’t done anything! I want to speak to my lawyer…right now I want to speak to my lawyer.” Out of the corner of her eye she could see the horrible blonde man, who she still hadn’t been introduced to, sniggering and obviously enjoying her discomfiture.
“Do you mean Miss Rachel Sloane? Miss Sloane is both your business and personal lawyer I believe?” asked Charles Taylor.
“Yes…yes Rachel won’t stand for this ! She won’t let me be put in prison.”
“I’m afraid that Miss Sloane is in prison herself, Miss Whitehead. Life is ironic like that sometime. I believe she is also under investigation by her professional body. Something to do with a conflict of interest and an unhealthy association with a shady communications company as I understand it.”
At that moment there was a firm rap on the outer door, “Time’s up I’m afraid Miss Whitehead. I’ll take your keys, your phone and your ID if I may.”
As she stumbled to her feet the blonde man strolled over to her. “My name’s Nigel Barton, Miss Whitehead. I’m sorry that we haven’t been formally introduced but I’m sure that we’ll get to know each other a lot better in the future.”
Prospero part two
“WHITEHEAD!!!” Jessica felt her stomach lurch and broke into an involuntary jog. She hated to hear her name being bellowed down the corridors. As much as she disliked the horrible pig however, she simply daren’t ignore the summons. Slightly breathless, she quickly smoothed down the front of her gymslip and polished her black shoes on her calf-length white socks. She tapped on the door and waited until she was summoned.
“Ah, there you are Whitehead. Where have you been?”
“To the second floor, sir. You sent me to deliver a note to Mr Saville, sir.”
“So I did, young lady. And to you have an answer for me?”
“Yes sir, Mr Saville asked me to tell you that he would be available at 7.30 this evening sir.”
“Good girl, now go back downstairs and ask him the venue for our meeting.”
“Yes sir, thank you sir.”
“Oh, and Whitehead?”
“Take one conduct point, your tie is crooked.”
He was such a bastard! She quickly straightened her tie and then wiped her eye with the sleeve of her uniform white shirt. How her life had changed in just six short months. She could still clearly remember the day when she’d been handcuffed and humiliatingly frog-marched out of her own offices. She’d spent a week on remand until being charged with multiple counts of fraud and one of financial malfeasance. Due to her own circumstances she couldn’t afford her own lawyer, she had to use a court appointed one. He was a young, unkempt, sweaty sort of fellow and unfortunately a hopeless solicitor. He was clearly intimidated by SelectaCorp’s battalion of big-hitting legal advocates, and the result was pretty much a foregone conclusion.
Before the official verdict she and her lawyer were called to the Judge’s private office and offered a plea-bargain. Rather than serve a guaranteed minimum five year sentence she was to be offered an internship back at her former place of employment. At first she resisted, how could she return to her office as an intern when she had left it as a director? However sense did eventually prevail. Her formerly tongue-tied lawyer suddenly became surprisingly loquacious. If she went to prison on a fraud related case, then she’d never get another job in finance. Had she seen the current job market? Women were being laid off in their thousands from management jobs. There was currently huge competition for any sort of corporate job. Here she was being offered one on a plate. Clearly she couldn’t have her old job back; she must be seen to be punished for her crimes. But on the other hand what was to stop her from starting at the bottom and working her way back to the top? Surely a woman of her ability wouldn’t remain an intern for very long?
That final piece of advice clinched her decision. Yes, he may be a rubbish lawyer but perhaps he was right? She was a talented woman, her exams and her degree successes proved it. She knew, despite SelectaCorp’s evidence, that the whole fraud thing was simply a device to prise her out of her Directorship. Perhaps they feared her knowledge and experience; she was after all the natural successor to poor Madeleine? She also reluctantly acknowledged that this farce of a trial would definitely find her guilty, so ultimately her choice was rational rather than emotional.
“Very well, I’ll take the job.”
As she descended the first flight of stairs those words seemed to echo around her head and mock her. The weekend after the sham trial she’d been allowed home to prepare herself for work on the following Monday. Arriving back at Prospero was a real eye-opener. She reported back to the side-entrance at 8am as ordered. There she was reacquainted with the old man and his clipboard who looked at her expectantly.
“My name’s Jessica Whitehead, I’m starting work here today.”
He looked her up and down. She was wearing one of her best Dior dresses, stockings and heels of course; her make-up and hair were perfect as benefiting someone intent on making an impression. He gave her an ugly grimace which later she was to realise was his attempt at a smile.
“You’re one of the new interns are you? Dressed like that? Miss O’Neil’s going to love you darling. I’ll see you later when you’re properly kitted out. My name’s Mr Dutton by the way, I imagine we’ll be seeing quite a bit of each other.”
She soon found out what he meant. Deborah O’Neill, the office manager, had taken one look at her before quickly hurrying her into a the bathroom.
“Quick, wash you face and take your make-up off. Didn’t you read the employee handbook regarding interns?”
She had obeyed and then found herself hustled to another anonymous room which was apparently the uniform store. With a practised eye Deborah had thrown her a long-sleeved white blouse, some white ankle-socks, some blue schoolgirl knickers, a royal blue, pleated gymslip and a plain blue tie with a sort of eye emblem on it.
“Quickly, put it on and get ready, you’ve only got a couple of minutes.”
Jessica rapidly descended the stairs. What stuck in her mind from that first meeting was the suppressed fear in the office-manager’s voice. She was chivvied along by the anxious woman until she was dressed, even then Deborah had to undo her tie and carefully retie it for her. Then she produced some matching hair ribbons, brushed out Jessica’s very expensive hairstyle and retied it into a simple high pony tail. She remembered glancing at herself in the bathroom mirror as they left the room. Oh my God! What did she look like! Before she had time to think, never mind to protest she found herself back outside Charles Taylor’s office. Already stood there were two other girls, dressed in a similar demeaning manner to her. The difference was that they both looked as if they were about the right age to be still wearing school uniform. One was short, plump and blonde and wore her hair in a pony tail. The other was taller and dark haired and had her hair tied in two long pigtails. Both looked as apprehensive as she felt, the younger blonde girl looked as if she was near to tears.
“You’ll wait here until you’re called girls, in silence.”
Without waiting for a reply she’d scurried away leaving three scared looking uniformed inters behind her.
Finance was on the second floor. When she found the door she wanted she knocked and waited.
As quietly as she could she pushed open the door and entered the pleasant corner office. The young man behind the desk looked up briefly before ignoring her and carrying on with his work. Jessica stood to attention as she’d been taught, head up, bottom in and tits out. Her thumbs searched for the seams of her finger-length gymslip. The phone rang and the man answered it. A conversation rumbled on for a good ten minutes which seemed to revolve around football as far as she could tell. As he put the phone down there was another knock at the door.
The door opened to reveal one of the office girls.
“I’m here for you eleven o’clock sir.”
He glanced at his watch. “Good lord, doesn’t time fly? Come on in then, you know what to do.” He rolled his chair back and allowed the buxom redhead to squeeze into the space under his desk. When he was comfortable he looked up at Jessica.
“What do you want, girl?”
Girl? Even a short time ago, Jessica would have bridled at that comment. He was at least five years younger than her. She dimly remembered when he was an intern. Well, she remembered his acne-ridden face; she couldn’t think for the life of her what he had actually done in that year. But that was immaterial at the moment, right now Paul Saville was the finance manager at Prospero and therefore the man she reported to.
“I have a message for you sir, from Mr Taylor sir.”
“And what is ahhhh, that message Jessy?”
She used to be shocked by the casual oral sex that was now commonplace in the office. But now it was almost normal, even so receiving a blow job while talking to her seemed unusual even by Prospero’s debauched standards.
“Mr Taylor would like to know where you propose to hold this evening’s meeting sir?”
Saville closed his eyes and half opened his mouth, “slowly Bunny…slowly.”
Jessica, still at attention, fixed her eyes on a spot a metre above the man’s head and let her mind drift back to the first meeting with Taylor and the new interns. The three of them had stood in a line in front of his intimidatingly large desk. He had looked them up and down with a slight smirk. He looked down at the files on his desk. “Which one of you is Fiona?” The dark haired girl tentatively raised her hand. “I am, sir.”
“Fiona Balshaw, seventeen, attended St Hilda’s convent school, a clever girl I see, if your exam results are anything to go by.”
“Yes sir, thank you sir,” she blushed prettily at the compliment.
“Nice CV, pity about the face though, those specs might have to go,” he carried on as if she hadn’t spoken.
Jessica could almost see the poor girl deflate in front of her eyes. Taylor turned to the blonde, “you must be Lucy Mckenzie…Mmmmm, nice. Sixteen, blonde and a nice, perky pair of tits. I think you and your melons will work out very nicely here at Prospero, Lucy.” If the girl was at all surprised by her introduction to the company she at least had the wit not to show it.
She smiled to show her perfect teeth. “Thank you sir, I’ll try my best.”
Eventually he had turned his cold, blue eyes on her. He licked his thin lips as he did so. “And last, and most probably least, our great big new intern Jessica Whitehead. Twenty eight, former CFO of the corrupt Selena Systems shambles, disgraced fraudster and potential jail bird.” He looked expectantly at her.
“Well, well Jessy, don’t you look ridiculous? Although I have to say that the schoolgirl look most definitely suits you. In fact it’s extremely appropriate as you will in effect be returned to your school days. And talking of schooldays, your initiation into the SelectaCorp family does have an element of school in it. You can go first, Jessy. Pull you knickers to your knees and put yourself over my desk. I’ve been looking forward to this.”
He reached into his desk and removed a thick, leather strap. Jessica looked at him for a second. He was sorely tempted to fling open the office door and run howling down into the street. But that was hardly an option now. Her choice had been made and surely even this option was better than years in prison? Reluctantly she laid herself across his desk. She felt him raise the skirt of her scandalously short gymslip. Oh God, what must she look like? A mature woman bent across a desk with everything she had on display. That modest thought was soon driven from her head by the terrific crack across the cheeks of her vulnerable backside. Oh God that hurt! It was if pain had been painted across her bottom. A second fell, agonising, burning pain. She writhed and kicked but daren’t let go of the desk. A third and then a fourth followed. A ripping noise told her that she’d managed to tear her recently acquired knickers. The last two were sheer agony. She screamed in pain and her tears began to pool on the desk. She could dimly hear one of the girls behind her, already crying. That in effect was their introduction to Prospero. After receiving their own welcome beatings, Fiona was told to report to the Marketing manager, Lucy to Sales, and she to Finance. Which was how she came under the control of Paul Saville.
A long, loud drawn out groan brought her back to the present.
“Tell Mr Taylor that either the Red Bull in the High Street or that new wine bar, Ulver’s is fine for me.”
“Yes sir, of course sir.”
“Oh, and Jessy?”
“Make sure you hurry back with that important information.”
She blushed enormously. That’s what her new role seemed to involve, fetching, carrying, and relaying pointless information that could be done in a ten second phone call.
“Yes sir, I will sir.”
As she turned to scurry from the office she heard him tell poor Bunny to clean him up and then get her lazy arse back to work.
Wearily she headed back to the stairwell. This was about the tenth time she’d been up and down the steps and it wasn’t even mid-morning break time yet. Her life was such a mess now. She’d recently had her house repossessed by the bank due to her inability to pay the mortgage. She remembered with a grimace how she’d taken the internship without asking any questions regarding the package she would receive. The package she would receive? How ludicrous did that sound now? Interns, she realised were the lowest of the low. The least paid the most overworked and the most punished of all Prospero’s employees. The junior HR manager had taken great pleasure in explaining her new position to her. She didn’t have a contract because she was on a 12 month probationary period and could be dismissed at any time. Her wage was £4 per hour and that was subject to the new Fem tax of 50%. Her hours were as and when her immediate manager decreed, but usually she had to sign her timesheet and be at her desk before 8am. She was subject to a dress code and could be inspected at any time by anyone superior to her which as the man happily pointed out to her was literally everyone in the building apart from her fellow interns. She was subject to a code of conduct as well. Her behaviour could be monitored by any one from junior management upwards and any transgressions reported to her manager. These took the form of conduct marks. When she accumulated enough conduct marks her manager had a variety of options, he could make her come in on a Saturday and ‘volunteer’ her time for free, he could fine her a certain amount of money, or he could take her across his knee and spank her. The choice was always hers.
She panted her way back up the stairs, halfway up she met Fiona Balshaw coming down the other way and paused thankful for the rest.
“Hi Fi, how’s it going?” Her office name was actually FIfi, but Jessica couldn’t bring herself to use it which was of course an offence in itself.
“Not very well to be honest. Mr Howell is getting at me again. He wants me to stay after work for some extra tuition.”
Jessica grimaced sympathetically. Bill Howell was a notorious old lecher who just loved to have a pretty intern under his thumb. She knew what ‘extra tuition’ with him would involve.
“How are you?”
“I’m sick of running up and down stairs. See you at mid-morning ?”
They parted at a jog, it didn’t do to be seen time-wasting with a fellow intern at Prospero. She felt sorry for Fiona. She was obviously an intelligent, middle-class girl who, ten years ago, would have been preparing herself to go to a good university. But instead, in the current political climate, she found herself dressed as a junior schoolgirl running errands for a dim-witted misogynist old enough to be her grandfather. Now that she’d been forced into sharing an employee’s dorm with the girl, she’d learned a little about her. Apparently her parents had divorced and her new step-father wouldn’t countenance paying for her university education. He couldn’t see the point of wasting his hard-earned money educating a girl. Unfortunately she soon realised that as well as being a bastard he was also showing a little too much interest in her for comfort. She knew that she would have to leave the house if only to avoid his wandering hands. A friend of her mother’s knew someone at SelectaCorp, and so rather than going back to school to complete her final exam she’d applied for a job and been taken on.
Prospero part three
The three new Prospero interns stood side by side nervously in front of Charles Taylor’s desk. Being called into the CEO’s office together like this was seldom a good thing.
“And how are you this fine morning girls, ready to face what the world brings today?”
Three confirmations made him smile. he looked them up and down. All three were immaculately turned out as usual. Even Jessy suited her schoolgirl uniform. By now he’d pretty much forgotten how she used to dress. His mind slipped back to remember the first time he’d met her, when she first realised that her days of management were over. That was a great day. She’d been wearing a suit he recalled, probably a very expensive suit. But all that was in her past now. Now her luxurious black hair had been tamed and bound up in a single pony tail. She wasn’t of course allowed to wear make-up in her capacity as an intern. Even then, he was reluctant to admit, she didn’t particularly need it. She was a natural beauty; together the lack of make-up and the uniform made her appear much younger than her actual 28 years. In fact it seemed quite natural to treat and to refer to her as a teenager.
“As you girls know, you’re coming to the end of your first 6 months with us. This milestone is celebrated by a mandatory assessment of your work, appearance, behaviour, and ability. I have written my own assessment of the three of you, and over the next week I’ll be going through them with each of you individually and in some detail.”
Jessica tried not to grimace at this piece of unwelcome news. She was fairly sure that she could guess what ‘in some detail’ actually meant. She realised that Taylor had more to say.
“One of the directors has asked me to create a new intern position for him. I have of course acquiesced to that request. Unfortunately, as a matter of policy, Prospero only employs 3 new inters every 6 months. Clearly the new girl will be one of those three; therefore I’m afraid that one of you 3 will be fired next Friday.”
Jessica heard a sharp intake of breath from Fiona by her side. She swallowed nervously; it surely wouldn’t be her would it? After all she was a former director; she had a lot of knowledge and experience. Plus she was a graduate for God’s sake and from a proper Ivy-League University! Her two colleagues were still virtually school kids.
“I know one of you will be very disappointed, it’s not great for your CV to be fired from a company like Prospero, I understand that. But you should also know that my hands are tied on this one.”
Jessica was worried now, the two girls were young enough to potentially go back to their parent’s house and to start again but what would happen to her if she were sacked? As if reading her mind, Taylor asked her to stay behind while he dismissed the other two.
“This isn’t an ideal situation I’m afraid, Whitehead. I’ve taken the time to deal with our legal people about this and evidently if you leave the company for any reason within five years then an automatic five year minimum prison term will apply.”
Jessica was dumfounded, “But I don’t want to leave the company, being sacked isn’t the same as wanting to leave, surely?”
“I’ll overlook your insolence this one time, Whitehead. I understand that you may be under a certain amount of stress. Unfortunately I don’t make the rules, I merely enforce them. My lawyers, who incidentally charge me more an hour than you make a week, have assured me that the term ‘for any reason’ is the key one here. I think their professional experience counts for more than your one semester of Corporate Law, don’t you?”
“Yes sir, I’m sorry sir.”
“Apology accepted, young lady. There are times when you just have to accept that you’re not nearly as clever as you think you are. Now, I must emphasise that my mind is far from made up. I know it’s important to you girls, but with respect it’s quite a long way down my to do list. What I have proposed is that because you interns support a great number of the staff, it’s them that should have the final word. So, a little advice young lady, if you want to remain here at Prospero you’ll need to canvass the entire workforce because my final decision will be heavily based on which of you interns the staff want to keep. I think that’s a very reasonable way of doing business, very democratic don’t you think?”
“Yes sir.” She replied, what other answer she could give?
“You’re dismissed, Whitehead. I’ll be explaining my decision to your two colleagues very shortly. There’s no favouritism here at Prospero, but if I were you I’d take advantage of the situation and start gathering votes right now.”
Jessica hurried from his room, none of the staff really liked to spend time with their austere CEO. What on earth was she going to do? She had a one in three chance of going to prison, for five years at least!
And the only way around it was to win a popularity contest against two teenagers. Oh my God, oh my God! For a second she considered the possibility that he was joking and doing this just to frighten her, but she’d been at Prospero for nearly six months now and if she’d learned anything it was that Charles Taylor didn’t make jokes. The only thing to do was to canvass the entire building as if her life depended on it, which in a sense it did. She considered her possible strategies, work harder and longer, smile as much as possible, be very nice to everyone. In the end though she knew that sexual and physical favours would be the key, as they always were, she thought bitterly. She made her way as quickly as possible down to the secretaries’ station on the fifth floor and knocked on Sandra Worthington’s door.
“Do you have any jobs that need doing, Miss Worthington?” How demeaning it was to have to call a secretary by her title. Unfortunately the unpleasant, aggressive woman held sway over the secretarial pool and therefore she was a potential ally.
“I don’t at the moment, Whitehead. I suggest that you go and stand in the corner for a little while until someone calls you.”
“Yes ma’am, thank you ma’am.”
Standing in the corner of the secretaries’ office hands on head like a naughty little schoolgirl was one of the most humiliating things that Jessica was required to do. The idea was that any secretary could see that she was available to carry out work. The reality was that it was extraordinarily demeaning to have to stand with her nose literally pressed against the wall while all around her the young secretaries chattered and gossiped.
“Whitehead! Stop dreaming girl and get over here. “
Jessica immediately left her corner and made her way to where one of the youngest secretaries was sat.
“This needs signing by Mr Howell, chop chop now young lady and no dawdling.” All around her there were sniggers of derision as she hurried to obey the teenager.
“Yes miss, thank you miss.” She scurried away, her cheeks scarlet with embarrassment. But if this was what it took to avoid going to prison then she’d simply have to do it. She even allowed herself to flirt with perverted old Bill Howell, although she was about ten years too old for his tastes. As she leaned across his desk with the letter she arched her back and tried to wiggle her bottom, almost immediately she was rewarded with a firm pinch and thirty seconds of groping. The day and indeed the rest of the week progressed in much the same way. The difference was that by now the entire office knew about the battle between the three interns. The secretaries took great pleasure in tormenting the three contenders. They were sent on pointless, non-existent errands. They were subject to random knicker inspections, and on one memorable occasion the three of them were spanked one after the other by an enthusiastic Miss Worthington in the main office. To complete their humiliation the young secretaries were encouraged to rate the interns by their tearful reaction to the painful punishment.
She was also called into Charles Taylor’s office and subject to a harrowing two hour personal assessment. The CEO seemed happy to list her apparently numerous faults in some detail. In his opinion she was arrogant, lazy, and quite dim. He’d received numerous complaints from management. Mr Howell had described as frigid, for instance. How could she explain that even her own manager, Mr Saville, had described her as obstinate? In fact he didn’t have an actual positive reference from any manager. Nigel Barton, one of the senior Directors had gone so far as to declare that she was ‘irredeemably stupid’. How did she feel about that? Actually she felt bad, very bad. Not necessarily because of the insults, but because she could feel herself being squeezed out of Prospero and into prison. Taylor also let it be known that with two days to go before he announced the result she was way behind her two fellow interns in terms of popularity. When asked to describe the words from a list that most suited her, the secretaries had variously described her as ‘old’, ‘stuck-up’, and ‘useless’. At the end of the meeting she was advised most strongly by Mr Taylor to pull her socks up.
She left the meeting in tears, crumpled in her hand were two copies of her Mandatory Assessment Report. One had to be pinned above her bed in the dormitory, and the second had to be pinned on the notice board by the water cooler. She read the report again,
Work: Barely acceptable, Whitehead appears to think that the bare minimum is enough.
Appearance: Slovenly at best, Whitehead needs to smarten up and make the best of the few advantages
Behaviour: Despite the best attempts of her supervisors, Whitehead still has a supercilious, insolent
air about her which will have to be curbed.
Ability: Minimal, her apparent belief in her own abilities is not matched by any particular
CEO Notes: Most emphatically this is not a good MAR for any intern let alone one as mature and
experienced as Jessy Whitehead appears to be. There is very little in it that encourages me
to think that she may develop into a useful intern, let alone a junior office girl. I
recommend that a firmer hand is taken with her and that she should be subjected to more
stringent observation by both her supervisors and the general staff.
Jessica was mortified, never in her life had she ever received such a negative report. Quite the opposite in fact, she had always been the best performing, teacher’s favourite throughout her school days, even in university she had been marked out as someone special. But all that had merely led to this, pinning up a terrible assessment to a public notice board for all the world to see. Not only that but if, or rather when she supposed after this, she lost the contest she’d be going to prison. There was nothing to be done as far as she could see. Even running away wasn’t an option, where would she run to? The police would find her and then her sentence would no doubt be increased. As she turned away in shame from the notice board she noticed a little group of secretaries making their way towards the water cooler. Quickly she walked away and tried desperately to plot her next move.
She was out of ideas. She’d tried flirting with senior management but the whole idea was unnatural to her. Until recently men always made the first move on her. She’d never chased anyone in her life and therefore was out of practise. Her clumsy moves merely seemed to amuse the men. And what was more galling was that most of them were completely ordinary and unexceptional. In her previous existence she wouldn’t have given one of them the time of day. But now, in this parallel universe, she was desperately seeking their attention. She’s given numerous blowjobs, again something she’d never previously done for a partner let alone lascivious workmates. She’d been spanked in numerous, humiliating ways, Paul Saville had even acquired her own personal paddle for her which was hung ostentatiously in his office She truly hated her demeaning ‘job’, but the alternative was far worse. She’d tried smiling and trying to help out the secretaries as much as she could but had met mainly derision and personal abuse. Even her fellow inters seemed to have turned against her due to the pressures of the contest, which was what that bastard Taylor probably wanted she thought, bitterly.
The day she had been dreading finally arrived. She’d tidied her tiny dormitory room for what she imagined would be the last time and made her way to work. As the office filled up she couldn’t help but notice the sly glances and occasional smirks that came her way. The decision was going to be announced in the lunch-break she had discovered, which meant that she was on tenterhooks for half the day. She had sneaked a look at the other two assessments that were still pinned to the notice board. Neither was exactly glowing but they were both immeasurably better than hers. In fact she noticed that some unkind soul had scrawled the single word ‘loser’ across the bottom of her own assessment. That on its own was enough to upset her. She’d never felt quite so low. Eventually the three of them were called to the centre of the dining-room. Charles Taylor had assumed control of the floor and all the staff were gathered in front of them. Nobody it seemed wanted to miss what they assumed was going to be an entertaining thirty minutes or so. Taylor introduced the three to the crowd and then like a magician, produced a white envelope. The crowd ooohed their appreciation.
“In time honoured fashion I shall read the result in reverse order. In first position, voted by you as intern most likely to succeed and therefore retained by the Company is …Juicy!!!”
The pretty blonde teenager squealed with delight and clapped her hands, she was safe! The crowd applauded and waited expectantly for the next announcement. Taylor ordered the two remaining interns to stand together and to hold hands.
“In second place, and also guaranteed a job at Prospero is,…”
Jessica glanced to her left, Fiona was near to tears.
Fiona held her hand to her face in shock.
“So that of course means our third placed loser is Jessy.”
The crowd laughed and applauded in equal measure. Jessica hardly noticed, she felt an icy coldness in her stomach. It was all over, she was going to prison. Not only was she going to prison but she was going in the knowledge that she was the least valued, most disliked person in the building. It was all too much and for the first time she simply broke down and cried.
“Normally at this juncture I would require Jessy to be removed from the premises and to forfeit her place in the dormitory. However in this case I’m not going to do that.”
Jessica realised that he was going to shame her further, if that were possible, by having her arrested on the premises. But she was wrong.
“This morning I learned that Mr Barton had decided, as an act of kindness, to adopt Juicy as his own personal ward. As we speak the Court papers are being registered and by this evening, Juicy will be accompanying Mr Barton home to meet her new step-mother. Can we all please show our appreciation for this magnanimous act?”
The crowd dutifully applauded until Nigel Barton held his hand up for silence. ‘Juicy’ Lucy Mckenzie looked absolutely shocked. Clearly this was news to her as well.
“So as a result,” continued the CEO “the result stands but Jessy will be allowed to remain here at Prospero. I hope that you realise, young lady, how close you came to losing your job today?”
For some inexplicable reason, Jessica felt an extraordinary amount of gratitude to Charles Taylor.
“Y…yes sir, I do sir, thank you sir,” she managed to stutter.
“That’s all, thank you for attending our little competition everyone but I’m afraid it’s back to work now. As a gesture of goodwill towards management, I’m sure the junior office staff won’t begrudge working an hour’s unpaid overtime tonight.”
There was, unsurprisingly, little dissent at that unwelcome piece of news. Even working for an extra hour on a Friday evening was preferable to not actually working at all.