8 years later
"Hey Callie," Raymond called from across the partition that kept them separate. "What's a five letter word for arrogant?"
Shaking her head in amusement Callie Daniels dumped rather than placed the remaining papers from the last of the drawers into a cardboard box where they now lay in disarray.
"You never do give up, do you Ray? She tossed back teasingly. "So tell me something," She laughed. "Have you ever actually finished one of those things?
She walked around to the other side of the cheap wall where she leisurely laid both hands on his shoulders, giving him a gentle squeeze.
"Coming to the party?" She asked.
"Wouldn't miss it for the world." He got up from his chair then turned to face her, giving her a fatherly squeeze. "It's not going to be the same around here without ya kid." Feeling the sting of tears he released her, immediately turning his back.
"Admit it cowboy," She slapped his shoulder as though a pesky fly had just landed, then turned to walk away. "Your gonna miss me!" She could feel the choke in her own voice.
Wiping his dampened eyes with the backs of his hands, he turned around. Silently he watched her disappear through the open doorway.
Seven years ago if someone would have shown him the scene he had just been part of, he'd have laughed in their face.
After rubbing his hands through balding shaded silver, Raymond Jenkins opened the bottom drawer and removed several folders exposing the tiny silver flask. He took the flask from the drawer, unscrewed the top then smelled its contents and took a well deserved stingy gulp. He relished the clear liquid, ignoring the burn of ecstasy. When he could no longer be satisfied, quick as lightning he sheltered the empty container, then properly arranged its contents.
She had been twenty five then, he remembered. No more than a kid.
A nickname that still followed her.
Barely old enough to be her father, he had stood in the background unnoticed and watched her walk up the steps and into the building. She was wearing a shapely black dress on the borderline of casual. Her auburn mane was a neat pony tail riding low on her back.
He didn't have to try very hard to see it still dance with every step she took.
He could still hear the sound of her heels thundering across the freshly waxed linoleum.
She stopped directly in front of a well protected oak desk where she immediately demanded a job. "I may be a woman," she preached, "and a damn fine one at that! But I assure you I can do this job as well as any man here." As though she were a second grade school teacher reprimanding a student, she waved a finger in the young mans face. "And before you say a word," she continued, "Let me tell you something I already know. First, I know you have an opening and have for quite some time now. Second, You can't "not" hire me because I'm a woman, as you well know that would be discrimination. Third, I'm more qualified than any applicant you've had in here. Which by the way I could count on one hand." Just as sarcastically she slapped the hefty folder on the desk.
He wasn't sure how she did it, but at 7:00 A.M. the next morning she appeared in his office as arrogant and pushy as the day before.
It was her first day on the job.
The collision between the two had been near fatal.
It didn't take long for her to prove herself to him or anyone one else and she delivered...just as she had promised.
"A penny for your thoughts." She interrupted.
He didn't see her when she walked in the room. He jumped at the intrusion.
"Just going down memory lane a bit." He stood up, took his jacket from the back of his chair and redressed himself. "I was remembering the first time I saw you."
"You hated me!" She laughed.
"Your right... I did." Laughter roared out of him.
"Lets get to your farewell party kid"
Arm in arm, simply like a father and a daughter, they walked the long hallway together for the last time, and opened the door to the break room.
She noticed immediately the room was nicely disguised.
Where earlier, depressing gray walls took notice, the room now splashed of an array of brilliant colors.
Banners in numerous shades of purple and blue nicely covered any earlier detection of gloom. A rainbow of balloons graciously strewed the ceiling, where streamers began flowing endlessly towards decorative walls.
Tears stung Callies' eyes the moment she walked into the room.
"Surprise!" She knew there was going to be a group of people meeting to wish her well, but this...this she hadn't expected.
The room was filled to capacity with faces she had been familiar with along with some she had never seen before.
"Surprise kid." Ray kissed the top of her head.
"See, I can keep a secret after all." He murmured smiling. Unnoticed, a single tear slid carelessly down his cheek.
"Come on kid, lets eat." Draping a single arm around her shoulders they walked into the festive room.
Tables were decorously arranged with take-out from "Joe Bologna's."
Several large specialty pizza's dotted a large portion of an extended, cloth-covered buffet, while the left-overs held an assortment of sub's. A smaller table held a setup of breadsticks and salad, while the smallest displayed a scandal of beverages. Some of which Ray noticed, were intoxicating.
A vegetarian since childhood, Callie chose a slice of the garden vegetable pizza between gestures of friendly hugs and kind words of good-bye, while Ray, after mixing a toxic drink of bourbon and water, grabbed a slice of the meatball.
She knew the moment he walked into the room.
Her heart crashed to her feet where she immediately stood frozen. To her, the noise in the room diminished to utter silence, leaving only the sound of her own heartbeat hammering loud in her ears.
Nearing six feet tall, his dangerous good looks and well tanned athletic body, loomed in the open doorway. His hair was an ironed sea of black that hung well below his shoulders. His face was chisled to perfection, the tiny scar decorating the left side of his chin only added to his appeal.
His eyes, the color of the Pacific wandered aimlessly around the room she noticed, unable to peel away.
He had the look of trouble set deep in his eyes. He wasn't in the mood for Pizza and he damn sure wasn't in the mood for her.
She could feel the icy chill rapidly webbing over most of her body. Her heart was painfully accelerating.
Afraid she would drop her slice of pizza, she quickly set it on the end of a table.
She raked her hands through a mountain of copper quickly exhaling her fear as well as a held up breath of air.
She damn sure wasn't going to let the Son of a Bitch get to her! She decided.
"Sloan." She muttered.
"Hmm...?" He took a long sip of his drink breaking off his recent conversation. "What did you say Callie?"
"Sloan!" She snapped, quickly giving him an extended hug. "There's your five letter word for arrogant."
Knowing it was useless, and that the Son of a Bitch was getting to her, she turned and quickly walked away. "Thanks for the party Ray." She tossed over her shoulder, and like hot butter melted into the crowd.
Quick as lightning, Sloan Michaels had a powerful hand wrapped around her wrist spinning her to within inches of his face.
"Going somewhere Callahan?"