By Dawn Natelle
So far: The wildly successful day of departures is over, and now the scene of the action leaves River for a few chapters and concentrates on her mother and brother over the next two chapters.
Lois Macintyre stood at the elevator banks at 200 Bay Street in Toronto, waiting for a car that would be headed up to the Royal Bank head offices on the 41st floor of the south tower of Royal Bank Plaza. She noticed a new face, a young blonde dressed in a smart suit that accentuated her fantastic figure. This was not surprising, young graduates were always joining the bank. What was surprising was that this girl, no more than 25 by her looks, pressed the button for the 39th floor. Junior employees started on the 36th floor, the lowest of the Royal block of floors. Occasionally a new hire with an MBA might start on the 37th floor, but these were seldom female, and almost never as attractive as this girl.
When the elevator stopped on the 39th floor and the pretty girl got off, Mrs. Macintyre pressed the hold button. None of the other three remaining on the car complained. Few at the bank were brave enough to question the assistant to the Vice President of Branch Operations. Lois noted that the pretty girl walked over to the Audit department, and then towards the offices, not the cubicles. This merited investigation.
In her office Lois phoned down to one of her contacts in the audit department. “Harriet, did you have a new employee start today? A pretty blonde with blue eyes, about 25?”
“No, Mrs. Macintyre. There are no new hires today that I know of. Wait, was she wearing a dark blue pantsuit? Very smart?”
“Yes that is her. Who is it?”
“That is Alison Waters, one of the heads of the audit teams. She has actually been here longer than I have, eight years. It is amazing. She looked like a normal 35-year-old before she went on vacation, and came back looking like a flipping teenager -- well, almost. All the girls in the department are going after her to find out how she did it. The men are just drooling. I mean, one of her sons is a teenager, and she looks like that? Is that fair?”
“Look into it for me, and let me know, Harriet. I will consider it a personal favour.”
Lois hung up the phone, confident that she would know the entire story within a few hours. The name Alison Waters had tweaked a memory, and she checked. Yes, the girl, or woman more correctly, had phoned in a week or so ago asking for a half hour appointment with Mr. Langston. She had some idea about a new branch location up north somewhere. Lois immediately rescheduled Mr. Langston’s other appointments before 2 p.m. She knew that he would want to extend the meeting to a lunch meeting, at the least. Unfortunately the 2 p.m. meeting was with a senior vice president, and could not be rescheduled.
The girl would get her new branch, if she played her cards right with Mr. Langston, Lois mused. The man was a bit of a player, and liked young meat like Ms. Waters. But Lois knew that Mr. Langston would tire of her after a few weeks, or perhaps a few months. The girl really was that pretty. She had no hopes of it being more than a fling. Mr. Langston’s career and success was tied into his marriage into the Weston family, and divorce was not an option for him. Even a long-term affair could jeopardize his position.
Lois had learned all that 25 years ago when she had been the pretty young thing given a position with the young fast-rising star executive. Their relationship had been hot, torrid, and long, lasting five years before Mrs. Weston-Langston learned of it. For a half year Lois was banished to the secretarial pool, but after Mr. Langston had a fling with another girl, she was offered a position to be his assistant again, but without the hanky-panky. She admitted it: she was still in love with him, and was sure that he loved her in a way. For a few years she dreamed of plots to remove Mrs. Weston-Langston from the picture, so that she could marry Thornton. But eventually even that dream faded. Why would such a successful man marry an old frump like her? He would pick a young trophy wife like Ms. Waters.
Alison didn’t get much work done that morning. Her office was a constant hive of activity as word of her appearance got around the office. Everyone wanted to know her secret, and to get in on it. She couldn’t tell them that she had been magically transformed by sitting in an ice-cold river with her daughter, formerly her son. Instead she just used the story that two weeks in a campsite, with no worries or concerns had eased the wrinkles, and noted that in a week or two of running her audit team, they would be back again.
Even Mrs. Macintyre had dropped in to see her. It was a nice gesture, to see what equipment she might need for her presentation to Mr. Langston tomorrow. She had apparently also heard about her transformation, and was as pressing as the girls in the office to find out how she had done it.
In the afternoon, things calmed down a bit, and Alison was able to get a report from her assistant on the team as to what had happened over the prior two weeks, and what was coming up. She even had a chance to go over her presentation again. It didn’t need to be so rushed. Mrs. Macintyre had told her that she was going to get a full hour with Mr. Langston, and that she should keep her schedule clear until after lunch, in case the vice-president took a liking to her plan. Alison was thrilled. It all looked so positive.
That night she connected with Mark, who had spent most of the day wandering the local mall, and had picked out a few clothes for school, as Alison had requested. He apparently had spent more time at the video games store, and had a wish list there that was larger than his clothing list. Alison realized that without River or his dad around, Mark might get lonely this year, so she agreed that she “might” buy him a game or two, but only if he concentrated on back-to-school wear tomorrow. On Wednesday, after work, the two of them would head out to the mall together to buy the items Mark had selected.
The next morning Alison got in early and pretty much locked herself in her office, fine-tuning her presentation to Mr. Langston at 10. At 9:55 she was in Mrs. Macintyre’s office, waiting for the meeting, which actually started a couple of minutes early.
Alison started to worry within a few minutes. The leering look that Mr. Langston gave as she entered was a concern, as was his initial suggestion that they “take off their jackets and get to work.” One does not question a vice president, so after the man doffed his suit coat, Alison grudgingly took of her jacket, glad that she had chosen a fine silk blouse to go with the power suit.
She wanted to get started on the presentation right away, by Mr. Langston went over to the settee in the office and suggested that the two “get to know each other” a bit first. Alison hesitated, but knowing she had a full hour to deal with a half hour presentation, she sat down, only to find Mr. Langston sit uncomfortably close to her.
Alison tried her best to keep her distance, mentioning her husband several times and her kids as well, to let the man know that she was happily married. He didn’t seem to hear though, and was entirely too tactile, touching Alison on the knee, the shoulder, stroking her long blonde hair, while complimenting her on her beauty and her figure, stressing how much he would be able to assist her in moving ahead in the company. He didn’t mention the price he would charge her for his help, but she was savvy enough to know that it was a price she would be unwilling to pay.
“You really have a wonderful figure,” Mr. Langston said. “Who did your breasts?”
“What?” Alison asked in amazement, standing up quickly as the man’s hand started to approach her bosom. He continued to pursue, and Alison managed to get his massive desk between them. He trailed her around the desk once, and on a second trip he pushed on the end of the desk, and it slid across the floor, trapping her between him and the wall. It was a little invention he had a cabinet-maker install years ago. A release would raise the desk on wheels, and pushing the button a second time would lower it the quarter inch needed to make the desk completely immobile.
“Please Mr. Langston,” Alison said. “I want to keep this on a business level.”
“And I want to take it to another level,” the man said snidely, looming over her and finally putting his hands on his targets. He tugged, the silk top ripped, and then he pulled Alison’s bra down, exposing her breasts. Alison gave up and screamed.
Mrs. Macintyre was in the office in seconds, and could clearly see that Alison was being molested, but instead turned on her.
“You hussy,” she accused. “Coming in here and trying to seduce a happily married man. You should be ashamed of your self.”
“What? No. It wasn’t me, I …”
“I saw everything Mr. Langston,” the woman lied. “First she tried to seduce you, and when you wouldn’t react, she tore her bra off and pretended you were molesting her. Some women will do anything to get ahead. I have already called security.”
Alison was completely at a loss. While she was trying to make herself look decent again, Mrs. Macintyre went into Alison’s purse and took her keys and her phone.
“I need those,” Alison complained.
“The keys are bank property, and the phone is too,” Mrs. Macintyre said, taking the bank keys off her chain and then tossing the other keys back to her, as Mr. Langston pushed his desk back into its normal position and released the catch. “You can consider yourself unemployed. Security will take you down to HR, and to your desk if there is anything there that is not bank property. Your computer accounts will be closed.”
Two security men came into the room, and Alison and Mrs. Macintyre gave their conflicting accounts of what happened. When the guard tried to move the desk, it failed to budge, to Alison’s surprise. Suddenly her account seemed less solid. She was escorted in shame down one floor to the HR department where she was, as Mrs. Macintyre suggested, let go with cause. She was asked to sign various termination documents, which she wisely refused. She was given a package to take home and read at her leisure and later sign, to gain her record of employment (needed for unemployment insurance) and any termination benefits.
The most embarrassing part of the day came when she was taken down the next floor to her offices. She was marched in shame across the floor, past her staff in her torn and dishevelled suit, to her office, where she was allowed to take home her desk pictures of her husband and family, and not much else. She was then escorted to the elevators, and down to the front door of the building, and unceremonious dumped onto the street.
Alison didn’t remember much about the ride home on the subway and bus to her home. She didn’t even have access to a phone to call anyone until she got to the house. She finally arrived home just after noon, and wondered who to call. If she called Dale he would come back and storm the bank, probably trying to bodily harm to Mr. Langston. She didn’t need a husband in jail. She decided she would need a lawyer, but was unsure who to call. Then she remembered River’s friend Nick. He had practised in Toronto, and probably could recommend someone himself. But how was she to get of him?
Wayne! He would know, but Alison now had to contact him. Finally, she called the park office, in hopes that someone there would be able to get a hold of them.
“Gelenamikwak Park, Margie speaking,” a voice said. “How can I help you?”
“Hi, Margie. This is Alison Waters, River’s mom. I’m calling from Toronto. I wonder if you could give me Wayne’s number. I need to contact Nick, and thought he would know.”
“Wayne will be out with the JR crew right now,” Margie said. “But I happen to know that Nick is in Toronto right now. He left just after your family did. He’s in Toronto for a few days looking after his house and some other things. Would you like his cell number?”
“Could you?” Alison said, amazed that the receptionist would give out personal information so easily to someone she really didn’t know. But that was the difference between Toronto and the band. Here everything was cold and dangerous. She didn’t know if she could survive down here without a job. Mark was so insistent about going to school for this year here. She hoped that she would be able to change that to just a term. She really wanted to get back to the peace and safety of the river, with her husband and her new daughter.
She called Nick, and within a half hour he was at her house. His wasn’t far away, but in a much nicer neighborhood on the ravine. She spent most of that half hour in tears recounting all that had taken place today.
Nick immediately saw the distress in Alison’s face. He listened patiently while she described what had happened, and then read through the papers the bank had submitted. He finally finished and spoke.
“They are definitely trying to screw you, excuse the poor imagery. It’s a good thing you didn’t sign anything at the bank. They probably would have left you with nothing. This settlement is pretty average with two weeks salary for every year you spent at the bank? That is 15, right? We can do better if we threaten to sue for sexual misconduct.”
“Of course we will sue,” Alison said.
“Oh, we can’t win,” Nick said glumly. “Your case is too weak. It’s your word against two senior bank officials. But they won’t want it to go to trial. The media coverage would be lurid and sensational; I’d make sure of that. We won’t be able to get a million dollar settlement, but we should be able to get close to that.”
Alison was just starting to process what Nick had said when the phone rang. It was Mark. “Mom, I couldn’t get you on your cell. Thank goodness you picked up. I’m in jail!”
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