I don’t swear.
I don’t use swear words, four-letter words or expletives.
I don’t even think them.
The foulest word that comes to mind and mouth when I am excited or upset is ‘Bloody’ or the phrase ‘Bloody hell’ and even then I apologise.
But on the first day of the third month of last year, I swore.
You see, there’s this girl that works at the reception. She was hired on account of her expertise, connection to the CEO; everyone knew it. I wonder why she thought no-one could tell.
She was a picture of sullenness and surliness; nowhere near what her job specification required. She was also fat, short and had rat-tailed hair.
I avoided her as much as possible, tried to come in five minutes earlier than the start of the work day, so I wouldn’t see her face in the morning. It reminded me of curdled milk and mouldy bread; enough to put one off Full English breakfast for life.
Anyway, on this fateful day, I slept early because I wanted to get up extra early and finish off two of my outstanding projects. Projects and toilette done, I headed off to the office. I wanted everything to be just right. It was going to be my big moment.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have said that part out loud because the moment I stepped out of my front door, everything went pear-shaped.
First, I locked myself out; keys left on the side table by the front door.
Then I missed my bus because I spent three futile minutes, pulling at the door as if that would have solved anything. Too impatient to wait for the next one, I sprinted to the bus stop on the side street to catch the alternative bus… it pulled away from the kerb just as I turned the corner.
Hot, sweaty and bothered, I called for a cab which arrived almost immediately, wonder of wonders! Then we got stuck on the high street rush hour traffic!
A limp, bedraggled me arrived at the office just in time, but not a lot to spare.
“You are late!”, a high-pitched whine from down below.
I had no idea that the whine was directed at me so I carried on…walked past the reception to swipe my card and…that whine again.
“Didn’t you hear me, Charlotte or have you got your finger stuck up your a*** again?”
No one, no one; least of all, a fat, short unpleasant ball of dough, called me ‘Charlotte’ and used offensive language in the same sentence. I was ‘Charlie’ to everyone except my father.
I halted mid-stride.
“Good. Next time, I prefer not to run after you to deliver any messages.”
With an alarming dexterity, I plucked the Post-It note from her hand without actually turning and looking at her.
“Next time, you have any need to speak to me, address me as ‘Charlie’ or nothing at all, you fat, little sh**!”
A gasp, followed by tens of gasps rolled over me as I walked off, swiped my card and got into the lift to my office.
Minutes later, Johnny at security popped his head through my door.
“Mr Gaines would like to speak to you”, he said sternly, the twinkle in his eye giving his true feelings away.
I took my time in getting to the CEO’s office. Fat, little sh** was already there.
I knew which way this was going to go; it went that way all the time. I stood, uninterested, waiting for the reproof, the reproval, the harangue I knew was coming.
“Nettie, how many times have I warned you not to speak to Charlotte with disrespect,” Mr Gaines, my father, the CEO of Gaines & Fuller Inc. asked my cousin wearily. “She’s ‘Charlie’ to you and everyone else.”
Two astonished faces stared back at him.
For the first time in a very, very long time, my father stood up for me.
For the first time, in a very, very long time, I called him ‘dad’.