I hung up the phone with Mr. Brown and headed to the HR office to deny our relationship. As I walked through the office, I could tell by some of the looks I was getting that people knew exactly where I was going. I ignored the stares and whispers and headed into the HR manager’s office. Mrs. Roberts saw me coming and offered me a seat.
As I sat down, she walked around me to shut the door and I got a good look at her. For a woman in her late 40s she looked great for her age—a trim figure, long reddish brown hair, and great skin. She looked far younger than she really was. I had worked at the firm for a while, but never really talked to her. She sat back down at her desk and pulled out a folder. She told me that it was my employee file and that she wanted to talk to me about some office gossip. I looked at her, smiled, and told her to ask away.
She flipped through the pages in my file and, without even looking up, she blurted out, “So, you and Mr. Brown are an item now, huh?” I looked and her and chuckled, trying not to look too nervous. I told her exactly what Mr. Brown had instructed me to, that I was over at his house to help take care of his wife. After all, I was his assistant and it was my job to do things that he asked me to do. She then asked, “Does that include him?” I was flabbergasted—what was I supposed to say? That he was my lover and my boss? His wife was aware of our relationship, but it was supposed to remain a secret due to her will and the money that was to be left to him upon her death.
My eyes averted hers; she knew I was trying to avoid eye contact. I told her that it was strictly professional. She put my file down and moved from her chair to the desk. She asked me if Mr. Brown had ever mentioned her. Of course he had, she was his HR director. I said yes, frequently, because of work. She laughed and told me I was not the only girl in the office that Mr. Brown has messed around with. She explained that a few years back, she and Mr. Brown had fooled around for a while. She told me that they were pretty serious and that he was supposed to leave his wife for her.
Mrs. Roberts then rattled down the list of gifts that he had bought for her—purses, designer dresses, and the yellow canary pendant she was wearing, which was obviously an expensive piece of jewelry. The necklace alone had to be worth at least $10,000. I felt a tinge of jealousy. How had I been here so long and never known about it? She kept talking about all of her extravagant gifts—the trips, salon visits, and then, of course, the Volvo she drove. It was a few years old at this point, but still beautiful.
I shot her a look of anger. What could I really say? Mr. Brown had a lot of power at the firm, but this was the HR director. She could fire me for anything really, and I would need the reference from the company if I ever left voluntarily. What was I supposed to do? I sat there thinking about what I would say next. But what I ended up doing came as a surprise, even to me.