THE BALANCE OF POWER

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: The Imaginarium
Following the interview from Hell, Sarah accepts a lucrative job offer she can't refuse, a decision she comes to regret until...

Submitted: December 13, 2018

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Submitted: December 13, 2018

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Sarah walked from the interview room with a heavy heart, mopping the beads of perspiration from her forehead. To say it had been tough was a gross understatement. She had reported at the College to find herself one of a group of six short-listed candidates for the position of Senior Human Resources Officer... for the interview from hell!

Lorna Evans, Director of Human Resources had welcomed and addressed the assembled group. “The recruitment process will be carried out in two stages,” she had explained. “Stage one will involve all candidates in a formal question and answer session, from which three candidates will be selected to proceed to the second and final stage. This will take place after lunch and will involve delivery of an impromptu presentation for a maximum duration of ten minutes on a given topic, for which you will have twenty minutes to prepare.”

Sarah took in her carefully arranged shoulder length blond hair, the navy power suit and crisp white blouse. Her air of authority and self assurance had bordered on arrogance and Sarah felt tempted to excuse herself there and then, but resisted the urge.

Please help yourself to coffee while you're waiting. My Personal Assistant, Carla, will escort each one of you to the interview room, as and when you're required.”

Sarah had found herself facing Lorna Evans, accompanied by three other senior members of staff who stared at her with stony faced, beady eyed solemnity, over the surface of a large conference table. They each took it in turns to ask questions from a printed sheet... there had been no effort to make her feel at ease, which she concluded had been deliberate. With monumental effort, she had somehow managed to keep her composure and had carefully considered each question before providing her answers with appropriate justification, when challenged.

When Lorna Evans announced the names of the finalists, Sarah had been both pleased and terrified. As she read the topic and remit of the presentation, she had to fight a strong urge to beat a hasty retreat. However, after reminding herself of the career progression opportunity and attractive salary offered, she took some deep breaths and got on with the task in hand.

It had not been the presentation that had fazed Sarah, but the battery of questions that followed. As she valiantly attempted to validate her recommendations, her heart hammered, her face burned, her hands shook and her legs turned to jelly. She realised it had been another deliberate attempt to test her, which she had flunked in fine style.

********************

A heated debate about the preferred candidate for the post raged between the four interview panelists. It was only Lorna Evans who was in favour of appointing Sarah Carter, and what Lorna wanted, she was determined to get. They were all convinced that in terms of qualifications and experience, Sarah had shone, but reservations had been strongly expressed about her inability to cope under pressure.

Sarah had proved to be exactly the sort of person Lorna Evans had been looking for. She was in no doubt she possessed the competences required, and was certain she would prove an asset to the department. But for Lorna, her vulnerability under pressure was the deciding factor. She had no intention of appointing anyone who posed a threat to her power base and position and, in that respect, she considered Sarah Carter to be the closest match.

**********************

It didn't take long for Sarah to realise that her perception of Lorna Evans at her interview had been spot on. She was clearly power crazy, ruled the department like a Head Mistress and was hugely disliked by both her peers and staff... with one exception... the Principal of the College. Sarah had filled the position that Lorna had vacated, but had soon realised she was in a no win situation.

Lorna always kept her office door open, not because of an 'open door' policy, but to keep a watchful eye on everything that went on in the department over which she ruled.

It was during her second week when the confrontation had occurred. Sarah was going through the absence procedure with one of the managers, when Lorna had burst into the interview room. “What's going on, Sarah? You're always holed up in here having secret meetings, I need to be kept informed. Please make sure you copy me in on your diary commitments every morning. This is out of order.”

Sarah met her blazing eyes. “I'm just doing my job, Lorna. Richard has an absence problem in his department and asked for my advice.”

Don't be insolent, I will not tolerate it. When you've finished doing-your-job, I need to see you in my office,” she barked, flouncing out.

Don't let her bully you,” Richard said. “She can't keep staff and you're like a breath of fresh air. You do realise she's screwing the Principal, who has a photo of his loving wife and young kids proudly displayed in his office... that's why she got promoted.”

Sarah sighed, could she continue working for such an unreasonable, power crazy. harroden?

********************

Damn,” Sarah said out loud, realising she had left her reading glasses on her desk. She glanced at her watch then picked up her car keys.

As she pulled up in the car park, she noticed Lorna's car and assumed she was working late. She walked through reception, told Jenny she had just popped back to get her glasses, mounted the steps and unlocked the door to the main office with her key card. As she went over to her desk she noticed Lorna's office door was shut.

I suppose I had better tell her it's me, Sarah thought, tapping the door and popping her head round. “I've just...” Sarah stopped mid sentence at the sight of Lorna reclined on the desk, her naked legs wrapped around the Principal, his trousers in a heap at his ankles and his face euphoric.

Oh, s-s-sorry,” Sarah stammered, slamming the door shut.

On the journey back home, Sarah smiled a wry smile.

Can I have a word with you, Sarah,” Lorna asked, the following morning.

She cleared her throat with a nervous 'ahem'. “About last night, I, I hope I can trust you to keep the matter confidential.”

Sarah could see the fear in her dark eyes, the nervous way she picked at her scarlet thumbnail. “Oh yes, of course, provided you allow me to do my job without unnecessary interference and intimidation. Is that clear?

From that moment on, for Sarah, the balance of power changed.


© Copyright 2019 Sue Harris. All rights reserved.

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