Promoted From Within
“Larry wants to see you,” Katherine said, whispering every word.
“Now?” Daisy looked down at her leggings and slip-on sneakers. With each year toward her five-year company anniversary, came decreasing levels of dress code compliance. “I’m wearing pajamas today.”
“You’re fine,” said Katherine, swatting away the thought. “He’s going to offer you a number, but I want you to ask for more.” She reached over Daisy and grabbed from a pile of sticky notes nested by the computer.
“What?” Daisy felt a stab of sweat prickle her underarms. She had never negotiated a salary. She always accepted what was offered without further discussion.
Katherine scribbled a number on the sticky note. “You have to interview but it’s more of a formality.”
“Fifty-five?” Daisy said. She saw her cubicle neighbor’s head crest above the separating wall, a nosy mountain, and lowered her voice. “Are you sure?”
“He’ll offer you way less, and then you can settle on fifty.”
Daisy wasn’t quick-witted when others were watching, but with Katherine by her side, she could follow the script.
Daisy followed Katherine down the hall to the open concept portion of the building. Departments deemed profitable resided in the sunlit portion where shining silver signs hung from the ceiling, announcing each division. A glow warmed the area where it opened to the atrium on one edge and to a wall of windows on the other. Desk plants grew unfettered, their tendrils pushing aside paperclips and unending pencil cups in their stretch toward the sun. Katherine and Daisy walked to the corner, to Larry’s glass-walled office. Daisy had heard whispers about Larry, but because she worked in one of the fluorescent-lit, locked offices she had seen no evidence.
“Oh, hello,” he said now, folding down the top of a paper bag he was about to explore.
Daisy felt they were interrupting. She imagined Larry diving into the paper bag, absorbed by its crumbling walls. The bag burst into flames which spread to the desk, across the carpet in a wave of light.
Katherine slid the glass door closed. “Larry, Daisy is here to talk about the position.”
“Ah! Yes.” He sat behind his desk and used an arm to slide a mound of paperwork to the side. “You’ve worked here for three years?”
Daisy visualized the sticky note with the number on it. “Almost five years. In records.”
“And you’re interested in working with us instead? Big change.”
“I’d love the opportunity to work more closely with clients,” Daisy said. “I have experience providing—”
“What does your husband think of this? He’s okay with it?”
Daisy shifted in her chair, planting both feet on the industrial carpet dotted with potato chip crumbs. “He’s…fine.” The sticky note in her mind was blank, useless. She wondered why he assumed she was married but her eyes landed on her gold band. Sometimes she forgot she was married because she didn’t see herself from the outside like that. She was singular.
“Good,” Larry said. He glanced at the gaping paper bag.
“Do you have a number for Daisy?” Katherine smiled. A prompt.
“Let’s see.” Larry rifled through some papers but surely there was no document there labeled Salaries for Employees. He stopped and said, “We can offer you forty-seven.”
“I was thinking fifty-five,” Daisy said, the number a dare as it left her lips. She felt she was observing the office from outside her body, actors arranged in a diorama. In another version of her life, she floated up from the chair and out the front doors onto the street. She’d spent so much time in and around this building that she did this in her mind – traipse around the block – as she willed herself to sleep at night. She could hear from the safety of her bed the rattle of the monorail overheard. The first time she’d heard the monorail, she thought the sky was falling and hunched in the street mid-crosswalk, like a frightened animal, before straightening herself and continuing to cross.
“Don’t think we can go that high,” Larry said. “But we’ll talk this over.” His hand crept back toward the bag. “I’ll get back to you with a number.”
Daisy lost sight of the sticky note altogether.
He smiled at Daisy. For a moment she thought she saw fangs threatening to slide over his bottom lip, bright white breaking through the split of red. It was the light from the atrium, the midday throb of sunshine enduring through glass, distracting her from turning to run.