Dorthea stretched out her back then bent over to rub the back of thighs.
Dorthea straightened and turned toward Char who had suddenly materialized beside her. “You're early aren't you?” she asked glancing over Char's shoulder at the clock on the far wall.
“I could say the same for you. I thought you were going to be gone two weeks,” Char said pulling on her work gloves.
“So I see. Mr. Fundley asked me to come in early.” Char leaned over one of the wire baskets and pulled two pressure cooker lids out then placed then on the conveyor belt. “He said you were moving a little slow.” She smiled nervously hoping her friend wouldn't be offended by their supervisor's unusual action.
Dorthea pulled two lids free. “He's right. I can't believe how much I hurt today.”
Char relaxed when Dorthea didn't seem to be bothered by the reason behind her early arrival. “Did too much on your vacation?”
“No, I think I just got used to not being on my feet all day.”
“More reason for you to ask to be transferred to one of the positions further down the line. You can sit at the grinders; that would be good for you.”
“Maybe you're right,” Dorthea agreed again stretching her back.
Char laughed. “Of course, I am. In fact, I talked to Mr. Fundley about moving down the line myself. He said there are a couple of spots available. You really should talk to him.”
“I will. After shift.”
Kim made a notation on the inside cover of the file before closing the folder. “Sheesh,” she said tossing the folder onto the top of the pile in her out box. “You'd think I'd been gone a whole month instead of just one week.”
Marge looked up from the page she was reviewing. “I'm sorry about that mess. I really tried to keep up with it but Mr. Eyler had some special projects and I—”
“Not your fault. I know you were busy.” Kim reached up to rub the sore muscles at the base of her neck. “Why didn't you asked for a temp from the secretarial pool?”
“Don't think I didn't try.”
“Got turned down?” Kim asked. It wasn't uncommon for requests to the pool to be denied if the manager of the secretaries felt they didn't have the time to take on more work.
“Not in the way you're thinking,” Kim said as she returned to reviewing the column of numbers on the paper. “Kapin told Mr. Jackson there was no need. She said we could handle things.”
“You should have talked to him directly.”
Marge circled a calculation that needed correcting then dropped her pen on the desk and spun around in her chair to face Kim. “I did. But he said not to worry about it. He said I should concentrate on Mr. Eyler's projects and, if I had time, I could work on your stuff. Otherwise, I should let it sit until you came back.”
“That's what I thought. But then I got to thinking about it and you know what?” Kim shook her head. “I think,” Marge continued, “he was testing Kapin.”
“Yeah. As in, giving her enough rope to hang herself.”
Kim looked at Marge questioningly. “I don't get it.”
“I think he was seeing how much she would do. Every time he came out and added something to your inbox he would look to see if she was at her desk. If she was, he would ask what she was working on. Of course, most times, she was no where to be seen.”
“What did he do then?”
“Nothing. He just went back into his office.”
Kim reached for the next folder in the pile. “All I can say is I'm glad I came back early. I can't imagine how high this stack would have been by next week.” She glanced at the clock. “I guess I better see how much of this I can get through by quitting time.”
Marge stood up. “I'll run down and get us some more coffee,” she offered.
“Oh, that would be wonderful,” Kim said as she held up her empty cup.
“I'll be right back.”
Kim watched her leave then opened the file folder.
Dorthea groaned in relief when the buzzer finally signaled the end of shift. She thanked Char for her help then walked toward the door that led to the supervisors' offices. Just inside the door was a bulletin board and a poster caught her attention. She paused to read it.
Kim tossed another folder onto the overflowing stack in her out box. She stood up and stepped away from her desk. Spreading her arms out from her sides, she twisted at the waist trying to ease the muscles in her back.
Marge reached to turn off her computer then stopped. “You staying late?”
Kim eyed the pile of untouched folders on her desk and frowned. “I probably should.”
She stopped stretching. “I, sort of, wanted to get home at my normal time tonight.” Before she could say more, a door across the room opened and her boss walked out of his office. “Good evening, Mr. Jackson.”
Without responding, he walked directly to her desk. “Looks like you've made quite a dent in all this,” he said as he thumbed through the files in Kim's out box.
“I can work late,” Kim said unsure if he was pleased with her progress or disappointed.
“I will, too,” Marge immediately added.
Jackson looked up from the pile and smiled. “No, no, no, no, no. I think you've done more than enough for one day.”
“I don't mind,” Kim started.
“Well, I do,” Jackson said firmly. “Besides, I know what the first day back from vacation is like… it's usually the worst day of the whole year. No, you go home. You, too, Marge.” He lifted the pile out of the out box. “Get some rest.” He smiled. “Looks like you'll need it to get through that,” he said pointing to the pile still on Kim's desk.
“Oh, my goodness,” Mrs. Kapin rushed into the office. “Good, you're both still here. I expect you'll be working late to—”
“No!” Jackson interrupted. “I've instructed both Kimberly and Marge to go home.”
“This work has sat here for a week, Mrs. Kapin. Another day will not make much difference.” Jackson turned to Kim and Marge. “Good night. And thank you for your work today. You managed to get through more of this than I expected.” He smiled. “Now, go home.”
“Very well, Mr. Jackson,” Kapin said brusquely. She waited for Kim and Marge to leave then walked to her desk. “After all, those are your projects being left undone,” she said contemptuously as she leaned down to retrieve her purse from her desk drawer.
“Mrs. Kapin, may I have a word with you in my office,” Mr. Jackson said in an even tone.
Kapin straightened. “I am heading out. Perhaps, the morning would be better.”
She hesitated, debating with herself how far she could push the vice president. “I hope this won't take long,” she snapped as she moved around her desk.
“I'll keep it short,” Jackson told her as he followed her into his office.”
Kim reached for the knob on the apartment door, a smile spreading across her face. She was startled to see the door swing open without her touching it.
“You're home,” Dorthea exclaimed grabbing Kim's hand and pulling her into the apartment. She shoved the door shut as soon as Kim cleared the opening. Then she wrapped her arms around Kim and pressed their lips together. “I missed you,” she said breathlessly moments later.
“Thanks for the welcome.” Kim grinned, dropping her purse onto the floor so she could return the hug and continue the kiss. “I missed you, too. What smells so good?”
“Me,” Dorthea quipped then laughed and tugged Kim to the couch. “But, seriously, roast beef with potatoes, onions, and carrots.”
“Sounds wonderful.” Kim pulled Dorthea close to her and began nibbling on her neck. “But I think you're right, you taste better.”
Dorthea giggled. “Silly, girl.”
“Ow!” Kim cried out when her body protested the awkward position she was twisted into.
Kim reluctantly released Dorthea and slumped back against the couch. “Long day.”
Dorthea slumped back and laid her head on Kim's shoulder. “You can say that again. My legs hurt so bad by noon that I wasn't sure I could finish my shift. And Mr. Fudley must have noticed because he called Char in early to help me out.”
“Ouch. Will that be held against you?”
Dorthea reached for Kim's hand. “You know, I don't care,” she said entwining their fingers. “I'm getting too old for that job, anyway.”
“You are not.”
“Yes, I am.” Dorthea snuggled closer. “You know what?”
“I spent today wishing we were back on the road.” She lifted Kim's hand to her lips and kissed it. “I really missed spending every minute of the day with you.”
Kim smiled at Dorthea. “I missed that, too.”
“I was going to talk to Mr. Fudley today about moving to another position on the line.”
“But, I changed my mind.”
Dorthea nodded. “I went to personnel and asked set up an appointment to talk about retiring.”
Dorthea laughed. “Is that all you're going to say?”
“Um… no. But, I'm a little surprised. Isn't this out of the blue? I mean, were you thinking about retiring?”
“No, not really. I never really had a reason to before now.” Dorthea gazed out the window. “Would you mind?”
“Mind what? You retiring? Why would I?”
“Retirement wouldn't pay what I make now. It's not a lot less but it is less.”
Kim shifted to face Dorthea. She reached up and tenderly cupped Dorthea's face and gently pulled it toward her. “Honey, I don't care how much you make. I make more than enough for both of us.”
“I wouldn't want to be a burden.”
Kim placed a finger against Dorthea's lips. “Hush. You've more than earned the right to retire from that job. Thirty years is a long time.”
“You've worked at your job thirty years.”
“But I haven't done it by standing on my feet all day. If you want to retire, do it.” Kim kissed Dorthea. “In fact, I think it's a grand idea.”
“Yes. I can think of nothing better for my girl then sitting at home with your feet up, watching TV, and eating bon-bons all day.”
“Dorthea laughed. “If I did that, I'd weigh four hundred pounds in no time. What would you say then?”
“I say, the more of you to love.”
Mrs. Kapin sat rigidly in the chair opposite Mr. Jackson's desk. She glared at him when he ignored her opening a file on his desk instead. He took a few minutes to write some comments then closed the folder and placed it aside. She didn't bother to hide her displeasure when he finally turned his attention to her.
“Mrs. Kapin, I am most disappointed in your lack of execution during Kimberly's absence. It was at your insistence that I did not request a temporary replacement from the secretarial pool yet you made little effort toward accomplishing what you assured me would be done.”
Kapin's back stiffened even more and her nostrils flared. “As you are fully aware, Mr. Jackson, I am Mr. Gilroy's administrative assistant. And, as such, I must prioritize my work to meet his needs… not yours, ” she said haughtily.
“I am fully aware of your position,” Jackson said, keeping his tone even. “I am also fully aware of the demands Mr. Gilroy, Mr. Eyler, and I make on your time. However, seeing as how Mr. Gilroy was away from the office last week, I would have anticipated you having more time to assist Marge.”
“Mr. Jackson, I perform my duties to Mr. Gilroy's satisfaction. If you have concerns regarding the timeliness of Kimberly's and Marge's work, perhaps it would do you good to remember that I have, on numerous occasions, requested my staff to be increased.”
“So you have.”
“Mrs. Kapin, I think it only fair that I inform you I will be discussing your performance last week with Mr. Gilroy.”
Kapin abruptly stood. “Mr. Jackson, if you are in any way doubting my ability to perform my duties, I am sure you will soon discover that Mr. Gilroy has no such worries. Now you have kept me longer than necessary.” She spun around and marched toward the door. “Good night,” she barked as she stormed out of the office.
Jackson leaned back in his chair and sighed. When he heard the outer office door slam shut, he picked up his phone and pushed a button. “Good evening, Mr. Gilroy. A moment of your time? I'll be right in.”
“This is really good,” Kim said with a grin as she helped herself to another spoonful of potato slices and carrots.
“Glad you like it.”
“You do know I don't expect you to cook every night.”
“I know,” Dorthea replied as she refilled her glass with cold milk. But I like cooking.”
“Well, I'm not going to complain. Tell you what, you cook dinner and I'll make dessert.”
“Honey, it doesn't count if all you do is open a bag of cookies.”
“Hey, that's not fair… I dish up ice cream sometimes.”
Dorthea laughed. “Yes, and you are extremely good at it.”
Kim smiled smugly. “Yes, I am, aren't I?”
Dorthea took a bite of roast beef and nodded. “So, how high was the pile on your desk?” she asked after swallowing.
Kim held her hand a foot above the table. “I really felt sorry for Marge. She was swapped with special projects for Mr. Eyler last week and didn't have much time to spend on my work.”
“Didn't she get a temp to help out?”
“She tried but Mrs. Kapin refused.”
Kim shrugged. “Who knows why she does what she does?”
“You'd think she would want a temp… if for no other reason, to make her look good.”
“Marge thinks she was trying to prove having me gone wasn't too big of a deal.”
“Then she's crazy. You work hard and it's about time they realize that.”
“Mr. Jackson knows, honey. And Marge works just as hard.”
Dorthea frowned. “Knowing and saying are two different things,” she grumbled.
“Me thinks you are talking more about Mr. Fudley recognizing your efforts then Mrs. Kapin recognizing mine.” Kim laughed when Dorthea stuck her tongue out at her. “Well, if Marge is right, it may have backfired on her.”
“She said Mr. Jackson was keeping a close eye on Mrs. Kapin's work. Or, on the lack of any.”
“It's about time.”
“I think he would have gotten rid of her a long time ago but she does report directly to Mr. Gilroy so Mr. Jackson really can't do anything about her.”
“Let's hope Marge doesn't go boncos before they do,” Kim said with a laugh.
“I'd love to see that,” Dorthea said then yawned. “Dang, I think the day is catching up with me. If you're done, I'll start cleaning up.”
“I'll help. Then I think I'll take a hot bath and crawl into bed.
“Star Trek is on tonight.”
Kim yawned. “They'll have to conquer the universe without me. I'll be lucky to stay awake for my bath.
Dorthea stepped into her pajama bottoms, pulled them up and adjusted the elastic waist band. Kim was already in bed and half asleep. “Did you check the door?”
“Locked,” Kim answered sleepily.
Dorthea sat on the edge of the mattress and turned off the lamp before swinging her legs up and slipping them between the sheets. She scooted over beside Kim, sighing happily when she was wrapped in her lover's arms.
“Can't do much more than this tonight,” Kim mumbled. “Love you.”
Dorthea squirmed closer. “I love you more,” she said, beginning what had become a nightly ritual.
The women lay quiet, content with the closeness.
“You really don't mind if I retire?” Dorthea asked softly.
“No. You really plan to do it?”
Kim shifted so she could kiss the back of Dorthea's neck. “Good for you.”
“I hope I don't get bored sitting here all day.”
“You can always get a part time job at something you like to do.”
“Like the bookstore at the mall. Or the library. Or that little knick-knack store by the park that you like so much. Or—”
“Go to sleep.”
“Good night, sweetheart.” Dorthea's eyelids closed as she listened to Kim breath.
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