As time passed, I grew worried that Mr Vincent would not keep his promises to get me an internship in his company (read previous chapter). His wife was becoming more and more jealous and paranoid and she definitely suspected that he and I had an affair … in which she was right. She very rarely let him alone, she often came back at home at unexpected times, she was clearly checking on him and ensuring her husband was faithful. It was absolutely impossible to meet again and I suffered a lot from this situation. I often wondered why she did not kick me out of the maid room I was renting to the family, but I understood later that it was actually a good way for her to keep an eye on me. I considered a few times moving, but the price I had here was unbeatable and to be honest, I was not the richest person in the world … quite the contrary.
Getting an internship in his company would offer new options to our unfaithful relationship, but of course for him, it was a great risk. He told me once that she was the one having the money and the properties … would she decide to file for divorce and he would be finished. Being a cautious person, of course I looked for internships on my side. My internship period approaching, I was about to accept an offer when I received one morning a letter in my mailbox. To my surprise it was from CMNF Corp., they asked to see me to finalize the internship contract. I could not believe what I was reading: the position seemed very interesting in the Communication department of the company and the salary was unexpectedly high. He did it, he actually did it! I was jumping like crazy in my little maid room. I called their HR department and got an appointment the day after, I was so excited! I wished I would be able to share the news with him, I actually hoped he was aware of it already.
I arrived very early at CMNF Corp headquarters the next day: there was no way I would let them have a first bad first impression. I clothed in a strict and professional outfit: a knee-length skirt, a white blouse on which I wore an elegant and comfy turtleneck and finally high heels for the sexy touch. I walked towards the front desk where a lady welcomed me with a smile.
-“Good morning, how can I help?”
-“Good morning, I am Catherine Palen … I have an appointment with the HR department today.”
She checked the schedule on her computer and nodded.
-“Yes I can see that … the appointment is in 45 minutes though. Could I see your ID please?”
-“Of course!” I said fetching my passport from my handbag and handing it to her
She made a brief check and gave it back to me
-“It’s all right. If you would please follow me?” she said standing.
She led me upstairs to an empty office where the door could read “Mr Vincent – Communication Department Manager”.
-“Please wait here, Mr Vincent will arrive shortly.”
-“Sure, thank you.” I nodded.
She smiled and left me alone. I looked around, the office was very modern and I liked the calm atmosphere of the morning. I went to the coffee machine and grabbed a coffee that I calmly sipped while sat at Mr Vincent’s office. He finally arrived twenty minutes later, he displayed a wide smile as soon as he saw me. He cautiously closed the door and without a word he approached and kissed me passionately. I was over the moon.
-“Catherine, I missed you … I missed you so much!”
-“I … I really missed you too!” I said with a bright smile.
He stared at me with an intensity I had not seen in his eyes before.
-“Catherine … our future depends on you now … if you go through the day, we might be able to see each other here. We will have to be careful but we definitely are going to see each other a lot more often … with all the benefits it could bring” he finished with a wink.
-“I … well … it seems I am just going to meet a few people and sign the papers, as far as I understood.”
He shook his head, his face still very serious.
-“Oh no dear … it’s gonna be a though day. They are actually going to assess your skills and if they are not happy they will call off the process. It’s actually what happened to two candidates last week … smart ladies but they said they doubted their ability to commit to the company.”
I nodded starting to stress now.
-“None of them were recommended by me though. We could expect it could help, but well … this internship is far from being a sure thing, so please honey, do your best! Show them how committed you are to this … I took a risk passing on your resume and I did it because I want to see you again, but do not fail me!”
-“I … yes, you can count on me!” I said shivering though.
-“I am a bit disappointed you did not comply with the dress code I defined when I agreed to help you” he added.
-“I … I will on my first day … I promise” I said with a smile
-“You’d better do” he said with a neutral tone … was he threatening or kidding?
I had no time to give it further thoughts as someone knocked on the door.
-“Come in!” said Mr Vincent. A tall man entered, he smiled at me and then looked at Mr Vincent. “Oh Philip, meet Catherine … she will be hopefully our next intern” said Mr Vincent.
-“Nice to meet you Catherine” said Philip extending a hand.
-“Nice to meet you as well” I said shaking his hand.
Both men started to talk about the “Connors Program”. I did not understand anything and tried to console myself thinking I would soon be speaking the same language than them … but then it sounded like Chinese to me. Philip eventually left and we were about to resume our conversation when a new face arrived in the office.
-“Good morning Mr Vincent!” said a very low toned voice. I turned to face the newcomer and saw a very impressive black man starring at us. “I was expected to meet Miss Palen 15 minutes ago … I presume … you are Miss Palen” said the man looking straight at me.
-“Yes she is” cut Mr Vincent. “I am sorry … I was supposed to lead her to your office but I got interrupted and …”
-“Enough!” said the impressive man. “I am Mr Bokolo, HR manager here, follow me Miss Palen” he snapped.
I followed in his footsteps after having discreetly shrugged at Mr Vincent. I was led to a very large room with comfy sofas … it was I guessed not his office but a meeting room for VIPs.
-“Have a sit Miss Palen” he said gesturing to one of the sofa. At this moment a secretary entered and handed him a folder. I noticed her very short skirt and thought it was barely a professional length. She left letting us alone.
Mr Bokolo opened the folder and started to read or maybe re-read what I understood was my resume. I was patiently waiting, growing more and more nervous. He raised his stare to me a few times but did not say a word before he was finished.
-“Good Miss Palen, tell me about yourself.” he finally said staring at me.
I was now really nervous but I fought my fear and concealed it the best I could, trying to look confident. I described my experience and the more I spoke, the more it was easy. I was doing a pretty good job I thought for myself. He interrupted me numerous times, asking very pertinent questions, he was definitely a smart man but I actually defended myself well. We discussed like this for more than one hour and I thought we were nearly done, but he caught me by surprise with an extra question:
-“Can you tell me more about this experience?” he asked pointing to a line in my resume.
He was referring to a past summer job when I used to work for a temp agency specialized in events management. I had a few jobs as an hostess for big brands events … it helped me to pay some bills and I did not understand his interest in this experience in particular. I started to describe what I did but I froze when I felt his hand landing on my knee. He was staring at me very calmly, gauging my reactions.
-“Continue Miss Palen!”
I kept silent. The words did not come to me … I was wondering what to do: slap his face, remove his hand or let it where it was. The two first options were definitely going to lead to the end of my internship. I hated that man so much at this moment for putting me in that stupid situation, I was cornered.
As I was not saying a word, he changed his strategy:
-“My hand disturbs you, doesn’t it?”
-“Y… yes it … does” I stammered.
-“Good, you’re acknowledging your feelings … What do you think now? What do you think of me?”
He stared at me and I looked down. He chuckled.
-“You think I am a pervert don’t you?” I simply nodded to answer him. “You are judging people a bit too fast Miss Palen… I have my own way of testing the candidates and my methods are not always very … standard but I rarely make mistakes you know. Actually Miss Palen, what I did is to give you the complete control on this interview, I surrendered: you choose your next move, you choose your destiny.” He looked at me calmly waiting for me to react.
I tried to process what he said and to decide what to do as fast as I could… it was definitely the hardest test I ever had to go through. However in my situation I did not have many options. I cleared my throat and resumed my explanations.
-“Good Miss Palen, good!”
I remembered the exact words of Mr Vincent: “Show them how committed you are”. Was it what he meant? Fueled by the hope to be able to see him again regularly, I put my hand on Mr Bokolo’s and slowly uncrossed my legs, letting my knees slightly apart while continuing my speech.
-“Very good Miss Palen, you’re a fast learner” he commented while his hand progressed up my thigh, massaging it through the fabric of my skirt.
I focused on what I was saying, forgetting the wandering hand on my thigh … and suddenly he removed it.
-“That’s ok Miss Palen … you are going to meet the CEO now.” He stood. “Come with me.” I followed him and he led me back to Mr Vincent’s office. “Wait here, he is going to fetch you.” He vanished before I had time to acknowledge.
They let me alone for nearly one hour. I guessed they discussed my case and I was not sure that this amount of time needed was a good thing or not. Each time someone approached the office I thought it was the CEO, but it was never him … they played with my nerves. Finally a grey haired man walked eagerly towards the office and entered the room without further knocking. He stared at me directly.
-“Yes it’s me” I replied extending a hand. We shook hands vigorously.
-“I am Luc de Millier, nice to meet you. I will be very direct with you … we are not sure of your commitment capability. If you agree, we are going to submit you to one last test.”
I looked at him aghast and replied like a robot.
-“Yes … well sure, I would be glad to”
-“Excellent! Follow me!” He took a fast pace and led me to a big conference room. In the middle of the room was a large oval glass table. He let a gentleman enter and closed the door behind me. He looked at me again with his frank and direct stare. “Miss Palen, meet Mr Conway… a potential investor in our company.”
I looked at Mr de Millier, then Mr Conway, very stressed to be in the same room of such powerful men in the company… I was not even hired as an intern and I was starting to get completely lost. I mechanically shook hands with Mr Conway who stared at me.
-“So Miss Palen, I was explaining to Mr Conway, how much we value commitment in the company.” I nodded in acknowledgement. “… and we have an issue here, you have been recommended by Mr Vincent, didn’t you?”
-“Yes it’s … true” I said wondering where he was leading the conversation to.
-“Well … Miss Palen, I have not been impressed by your resume … and my devoted HR manager, Mr Bokolo, has serious doubts about your … expected commitment.”
-“I … I assure you Mr de Millier that I will be committed to the company” I replied not really knowing how to react to this.
-“Oh don’t lie to me Miss Palen … you will be committed to him …because you are his mistress … don’t deny it, he admitted it. I have to admit it surprised me of him, he had a lot of affairs of course, but compromising himself for a woman, it’s not really his style. So is it the truth Miss Palen? Are you his mistress … or one of them?”
I kept frozen unable to answer.
-“Your silence speaks for you. Such a shame! You won’t get that internship with us I am afraid … and poor Mr Vincent will get fired tomorrow! Such a shame really! See Mr Conway how we deal with untrustworthy and uncommitted staff!”
-“No, nooooo! You can’t do that … he … he tried to help me!” I cried.
-“I just cannot believe Mr Vincent did such a mistake…his addiction to women caused his demise it seems. He even admitted that he imposed a dress code to you, a dress code that you did not even comply to. You are not reliable.”
-“Please do not fire him … I will work day and nights, I will be committed, I promise! I’ll do anything!”
-“Words! What do you think Mr Conway?” he asked turning to him
-“Well … you should put her to test” he simply answered.
-“Did you hear that Miss Palen? We are going to test how committed you are.” He chuckled. “Climb on that table and dance for us.”
I looked at him aghast a few seconds and knowing that I had no choice, I climbed on that table, nearly falling in the process. Once standing on top of it I looked at both of them and started to dance. I looked absolutely ridiculous, they both laughed at my expense.
-“She is by far overdressed don’t you think?” asked Mr Conway to Mr de Millier.
-“You are right. Catherine? You don’t mind me calling you Catherine?” He was not expecting an answer to that so I did not bother to reply. “Strip down to your undies will you?”
I concealed my fear and my anger and simply obeyed. I was now dancing in my unmatched undies, even more ridiculous even if I could now feel the interested and lustful stare of the two males. Their amused and contented smiles were driving me crazy in anger, but for the sake of Mr Vincent, I had to hide it.
-“I understand better Mr Vincent now” said Mr Conway.
-“I agree with you Mr Conway … Catherine, actually just keep the heels, I don’t like your lingerie style!”
I was humiliated. I was naked in front of them and they were devising about me as if I was a horse or a dog… I felt tears wetting my eyes but I fought them back. Suddenly:
-“Enough Catherine! You have your internship! You will receive your contract shortly, you can dress.”
I climbed down the table and started to dress back, the two men still staring at me.
-“What about Mr Vincent?” I risked.
Mr de Millier looked at me and smiled
-“He has nothing to worry Catherine … it was just part of the test, we now know that you can fully commit when it’s needed. By the way, Mr Conway is my personal secretary not an … investor.”
I looked at them shocked.
-“Our methods are a bit surprising but we care for our employees Catherine. As an intern, we will consider you exactly as a full employee … oh and consider your wage doubled” he said.
I looked at him very surprised now fully dressed
-“Oh and you will not work in the communication department … I will find you a position in the marketing division directly under my supervision. You will learn a lot with us.” He chuckled and left the room followed by Mr Conway.
I made my way, shocked, to the front desk and asked for Mr Vincent. I was told he was busy all day … I sighed and left the building finally … not really knowing what to think of this very bizarre interview morning. For sure the salary was very interesting! I would have to consider what to do when I would receive the offer.
TO BE CONTINUED