I feel apprehension tighten my throat as I watch Ms. Dunne pull into the agency parking lot. She’s overdressed again, wearing blues and yellows today with makeup and hair to match. All her jewelry sparkles and flashes in the morning sun as she hurries to the employee door, finishing her cigarette and tossing it as she opens the door. The Queen Bee, the moniker she’s earned among us employees since she’s acts like one and expects us worker bees and drones to cater to her every wish, whim and want.
My request for flex time on Friday for an emergency doctor appointment will create a recitation of office policy, a drill of questions as to why, then a brusque denial, as usual.
I decide I’ll speak with her before she gets busy with other case managers. As I walk to the front reception area, I see Ms. Dunne pass in that direction. She’s gone when I get there. I ask the secretary where she went.
“She has a meeting in the interview room. She headed that way in a great big hurry,” Carol says. She agrees to let Ms. Dunne know I need to see her.
I decide to use the Women’s room before I head back. I open a stall door. Ms. Dunne faces the toilet, her panties and slacks are pulled down, a stream of urine splashes into the bowl. She turns, her eyes wide and mouth open in surprise.
I slam the door shut and leave. Was that a ―? I want to unsee that. Maybe she didn’t see me. She saw me. What do I do now? What? Why didn’t she lock the door? How should I act when I see her, or him?
A little later, my office phone rings.
It’s the Queen Bee.
“You wanted to see me? I’m free now.”
Now what? Pretend I didn’t see anything? Don’t bring it up unless she does?
I stand in Ms. Dunne’s doorway.
“Please close the door.”
Ms. Dunne stares at a file. “What do you need?”
I hear fear in the catch of her voice. I hear it in my own as I stumble through my request for flex time.
Her shoulders are hunched. She twists the rings on her hands.
Should I apologize or pretend I saw nothing unusual? Joke about what I saw? Threaten to tell if I don’t get what I want? Do I want to be that kind of person?
I shift my feet.
Ms. Dunne turns toward me, looks at my waist. “I understand your need for resolution in this matter,” she says, her voice husky. “Personal concerns are confidential, don’t you agree?” She looks up, her eyes meeting mine.
My chin drops. Will my mouth work? “Y-yes, I do. I mean, sure, not everybody needs to know,” I sputter. Are we talking about me or her, or him, or all of us?
“So, we understand each other.” Her smoky green eyes stare at me. Did I nod? She nods. Her face and shoulders relax. “Hope your doctor’s appointment goes well.”
“Thank―uh―thank you,” I reply. She nods again, her lips pursed and her gaze intent. What happened? I ponder as I return to my office. Did we pretend I don’t know anything? But we both know that I know and―did I promise to keep her secret?
Carol whispers as she passes me, “Did you see the Queen Bee?”
“I did,” I reply. “I―sure―did.”
Marcia Dahlinghaus has several short stories, articles, and poetry published over the years. Her background is in Special Education, Spirituality, and Social Work.