“There you are!” the petite blonde with huge blue eyes says as she approaches with an equally huge smile on her lips. “Welcome to Burbank and Hughes! I’m Ellie with HR and I’m going to give you a tour of the offices and show you where everything is. Do you have any questions?”
She waits the briefest of moments, her lips pressed in a tight line as though it’s an extreme effort not to speak. “Great. Well, let’s go to the lunchroom first. It’s my favorite room in the building. You know why? Because it has windows to the courtyard! At my last job, the lunchroom had no natural light at all. It was so depressing. But, see. The windows are huge. The snack machines have a great selection and the coffee machine does caramel lattes. Isn’t that the best? It saves money from running out to Starbucks. Which is a great help when you’re saving for vacation or a nursery, not that I would know about that. Not since Jeff left,” she says, her voice suddenly strained. Quickly she replaces her 100 watt smile. “But, you know, some people are. Every little bit helps.”
“Now through here, we have a little waiting room. It’s for clients and staff. Look at the view from here. You can even see the river. Spectacular, isn’t it?” Her eyes grow momentarily vague as if reliving a memory.
I nod when she glances at me.
“Down this hallway, which you probably shouldn’t go along unless you’ve been called for, are the partners’ offices. Burbank and Hughes.” She pauses. There’s laughter at the end of the hallway and a very tall brunette in a very small skirt laughs broadly at something a man, I recognize as Jeff Hughes, says. I glance at my blonde tour guide who suddenly scampers down a different hallway, amazing me by her agility in those three inch heels.
“Down here we have the community room, nice name, right, where you’ll be working. Have you seen your cubicle? What I really like,” she says as she opens the door and lowers her voice as not to disturb the people working. “Is the natural light. Again! And your cubicle is over here. You have a skylight right above your cubicle. Fantastic! I’m so psyched for you.”
“Ellie, a moment,” the tall brunette who had been with Jeff Hughes calls away my tour guide.
Ellie smiles an apology to me and then stands in front of the brunette, looking up despite her very high heels. Every emotion plays across Ellie’s face as she listens, mottled red, creamy pallor, narrowed eyes, and finally pressed white lips. She nods without ever saying a word. When she returns, she looks suddenly as if she had run a marathon.
I’m about to speak, when her smile, maybe only at 60 watt this time, returns. “Back here is the supply room. We work on the honesty practice. Basically just sign out whatever supplies you take. If it’s the last, you just take . . .dammit. Honesty, what a laugh! You know I caught him back here with her? They thought everyone had left for the disaster planning seminar. Me included. And he was there just jackhammering into her. Where does she get off telling me not to waste time when she was doing my husband on the clock?”
Ellie has been speaking these words to the grey speckled carpet. A blush settles over her features.
“I’m so sorry,” she says. No tears. She shakes her head. “I thought he was the love of my life. Stupid, right? Well, I guess I was just as stupid as he thought I was. Right. Well, my extension is x642. I’m sure I forgot something. I’m just going to the waiting room and pour caramel latte in the potted plant.”