By the time I get a grip and stop crying, I am in no shape to go back to my desk and get any work done. So tidy up my face and hair, dash to my desk to grab my earphones and before anyone gets the chance to catch or interrupt me, I hurry out the door to take a walk.
I put my earphones in my ears, start on the playlist of my favorite songs and set out towards the short hiking trail at the back of the office, which people use for after-lunch walks or bike rides.
The trail is deserted at this time. There’s just the occasional squirrel or a butterfly or the birds. I start walking aimlessly, at a moderate pace. Crying earlier relieved some of the tension I was feeling since morning. So while my eyes are still puffy, my sight is clearer now.
Half a mile into the trail, I involuntarily start thinking about that meeting again.
I play it back in my mind, trying to keep a neutral eye. I think about what everybody said. And I thought about all the things I could recall, which were discussed. In hindsight, I still feel belittled and a little patronized. Being the youngest on the team, with the least work experience, I am used to being patronized. But I usually hold my ground and don’t lose my temper. So what happened today?
I pause to look at nothing, deep in thought.
The answer was not as elusive as I thought it would be. Plain and simple, ‘Eric Northman’ is what happened today. What I couldn’t handle was feeling belittled in front of him. Or being patronized by him.
Was he patronizing or condescending?
I think hard on everything he said. Everything he did.
And I have an epiphany.
Eric was on edge from the start, not just when I started talking back. He was trying to ignore me, concentrating overly on Sam, who did not have any positive update. I didn’t like him ignoring me or the other women trying to get friendly with him. Is it possible that he was nervous about seeming over familiar with me and compensated with his boss routine?
I start walking, starting to feel a little ridiculous with myself.
Sam was the one who was late in getting the teams to start working. He was also nervous and eager to agree with everything Eric was saying. He was quick to introduce Bill into the team again when Bill had not done any coding on the project and was involved only till the design stage. Pat had been the coding project lead, and had done more work on the project than Bill, but yet, Sam had pulled Bill back in instead of her, even though both of them were busy with other things. In my annoyance I had failed to ask for Pat’s assistance instead of Bill’s. I had not even questioned Sam on why he was putting Bill to work with me, all the while questioning everything Eric said.
Eric, who came up with the least suspicious argument to ease my workload, practically telling me to just run the script I already have and put void code at the back, letting the user interface team to deal with making everything look good on the front.
I skidded to a stop and cursed out loud, scaring a benign squirrel away.
I had been quick to judge Diantha and Jane and even Peter for appearing more alert and thinking about how they were looking in front of Eric. I, on the other hand, couldn’t even tell what was discussed in the first half because I was too busy watching Eric-porn on the video-conference TV.
How would that have made me look?
“FUCK!” I yell again and kick a twig out of my way.
“Stupid stupid Sookie! Have you lost your everlovin’ mind?!” I scold at myself, loudly, forcing more small animals into scary retreats.
“Ofcourse he was angry!” I continue the angry soliloquy, “I could have listened to his suggestions and avoided having to work with Bill again. Instead of questioning everything, I could have said something about the two changes I had already completed. I could have gotten off my high horse and asked for more people before Sam Fucking Merlotte pulled Fucking Bill Compton. But I didn’t fucking DO IT!”
I turn around to retrace my way back, while inner me continues with the rant.
‘Eric is your boss’s boss’s boss. Of course he needs to act like it. He still was looking out for you. You have known him what? Two days? How else is he supposed to act? He wasn’t asking for something you haven’t been asked for before. Get a fucking grip Sookie! You are one of the most productive programmers Sam has. But Eric doesn’t know it yet. Sam Merlotte does know it though and that motherfucker needs to be reminded! Bill is just going to freeload and take advantage of your rage to walk over you. Get back to work and get some shit done!’
And that’s exactly what I did.
8:30 PM and the area around my work place looks like a war-room. Everybody who is anybody is still here. Pizza has been ordered. Coffee machine is in full swing. Work is getting done.
I am down to number five on my list. Bill is sitting on number seven.
“Yes Bill?” I say without looking away from my monitor, “what do you want?”
“Ummm, can you tell me why you wrote this piece of code? Right here? I need to change some things here for item seven.”
He must have gestured at something. I choose to not look and continue my work.
“Hmmm…What does it do?”
“If I had known that, I wouldn’t be asking it of you, now would I? Honestly Sookie, how many times…”
“Look closer. Or just google it. I’m sure you’ll find an explanation.” I interrupt calmly, before he can complete his sermon.
“Well I have. But it says…”
“AHAAA!” I cheer, lock my monitor, take my marker and go over to the white board listing everyone’s tasks. I cross out item number 5 on it with a flourish and draw a smiley against it, before announcing to the testers, “Number five done guys. You can get on to testing it after you complete the current tests.”
Sam looks up from his laptop and smiles appreciatively. Diantha gives me a thumbs-up.
Bill looks constipated when I come back to my desk.
“I am taking up number 6 Bill, unless you have started on it. Did you complete number seven?”
I turn to look at him when I don’t receive a reply.
“Number seven Bill? What’s the status?”
“I don’t have to report my task status to you.” He sneers.
“Fine! Report it to Eric then, when he asks in ummm,” I pause to check the time, “ about half an hour. Good luck with that!”
When all I am greeted with is more radio silence, I turn and continue with item number six on the list.
At exactly one minute to nine, I execute the command to run my final script and go over to get a cup of coffee, before making my way towards the conference room.
When I reach the room with my steaming cup of not so good workplace coffee and my laptop, I am the third to reach from our side. Sam and Diantha are there already, sitting on two opposite corners of the oval table, with the flat screen with live video in the middle of them, mounted on the far wall. I wink at Di, pass Sam a smile and settle my things on the chair directly in front of the screen. Then I turn to the TV.
Eric is sitting, err slouching, spread out, in a chair, his head is tipped back and his eyes are closed. He is holding a pen between his hands, slowly rotating it. He looks stressed out and deep in thought. On his right sits Godric, looking through his iPad. Clearly, they are waiting for our team to start the meeting.
Jane and Peter come in together, discussing one of the screens that had the most changes in it.
Eric straightens and his million dollar eyes land on me. For a moment, we just look at each other. I want to do something to convey an apology. But before I can do anything, he looks away and starts greeting everyone.
When his eyes land on me again, I take a deep breath and give him a small smile, crinkling my eyes in a slight expression of contrition.
“Good Afternoon sir. I hope you are doing well?”
He must have seen something in my smile. Because after he takes another extra moment to look at me, his shoulders visibly relax and he smiles too. That smile reaches his eyes in the way that takes my breath away.
“Good evening Sookie. And please call me Eric. We are not that formal around here.” he cocks an eyebrow and grins.
Godric’s head whips up at Eric’s words and his eyes pop when he sees me sitting at the other end of the TV screen.
“Sure Eric.” I grin back and wave at Godric.
Eric leans forward and whispers something to his zonked assistant, who promptly closes his mouth.
“Alright. Who else are we waiting for Sam?” Eric asks Sam, while still grinning at me.
“Of course. What time zone is he working in? Someone please call him.”
At that moment, the door bursts open and in rushes Bill.
“Sorry. Sorry everyone. I was looking for the right meeting room.”
Asshole couldn’t even come up with a better excuse!
Sam just sighs in relief and starts, “Ok so I have Diantha, Jane, Peter, Sookie, Bill and I from the Palo Alto team.”
“Right. And I have Godric, my executive assistant with me. So team, where are we with the product changes?” Eric gets straight to it.
“Umm Sookie?” Sam asks and everyone turns to look at me.
“Ok so I have completed items one to six on the change list. As of five minutes ago, all the changes are available on the live test environment. The testing team has already tested the first four items I gave them one by one as I completed them. They are now working on item five I put in half an hour back and I have emailed them to start item six as soon as they complete item five. Oh and Eric?”
“Yes Sookie?” smiles a very pleasantly surprised Eric.
“When I was working on change number four, the one adding another security level on the login screen, I figured the same security level should also be included on the sign-up page and the forgot-password page. So I have modified that code too. I have emailed you and Diantha’s team the details.” I finish my update. With my head held high. Like a boss!
My g-talk messenger pops at the side of my laptop screen and I covertly click it open.
VikingEric> You are so hot when you do that!
Shit! How did he? My eyes snap to Eric, who is smirking.
“That’s great news Sookie.” Sam bursts forth.
“Amazing work Stackhouse.” Eric smiles, teeth and all, “How many hours did you take to complete the changes?”
“Well Sam gave me the list at around eleven. So ummm…” I answer aloud, while I silently type into the chat window.
FairySookie> How did you get my personal messenger id? :-O
Eric looks briefly at his laptop.
“Eleven? Eleven AM today morning?” Eric gives a sidelong glance to Sam, his smile dissolving a little, making my boss’s boss squirm uncomfortably in his seat.
“Yeah around that time.”
“I see. Anyways…” he types something but continues talking, “I am sure Bill helped you?”
“Ummmm. Bill took up number seven.” I answer, just as my chat window light up with his response.
VikingEric> You don’t want to know ;)…And was that an ‘o’ face Miss Stackhouse?
FairySookie>Pervert! No ‘o’ face for you till you don’t tell me where you got this id from! 😛
“And where are we on that?”
Where are we on what?
Oh! Number seven of course! Focus Sookie…
“I don’t know. Bill didn’t inform me about it.”
This time, it’s Bill that’s squirming in his seat as he receives the Eric Northman glare.
“Bill Compton.” Eric says flatly, “What’s the status of number seven?”
“Oh I am working on it. The changes look good. I’ll complete it soon.” Bill answers smarmily.
“How soon would that be?” Eric lifts an eyebrow.
“Ummmm…There’s a bit of a snag. I was hoping Sookie could work with me on it as she wrote that piece originally? Sookie?” Bill looked at me, dripping honey from his eyes, thinking he had put me in a spot and I couldn’t refuse or ignore him now.
I’d crash his computer before explaining him my code!
Turned out I didn’t have to waste my inner rant though. Because Eric didn’t even blink before turning him down. Soundly.
“I have other things for Sookie to do. So Sookie will not work on it. You will. How much longer is it going to take?”
The chat window pings again.
VikingEric>Would you like to hear about the other things I want you to do?
FairySookie>I have a feeling those things are going to be pretty unprofessional Sir. 😉
“Ummm the plan was for coding to be completed by today. So…” Bill is walking himself right into the ditch!
Eric makes a show of looking at his watch, then his laptop screen, “So there’s three whole hours to midnight. Lots of time for you. Take the three hours and finish number seven before the testing team can start the consolidated tests” Eric settles it.
VikingEric> Sir huh? Groan!
FairySookie> What’s wrong with that? Makes you feel old? 😀
VikingEric> Oh no! It makes me want to spank a certain unruly blond.
FairySookie> *Gasp* :-O :-O…Eric! Don’t distract me!
VikingEric> *Gasp* *Gasp* wide mouths again? Sookie! Don’t distract me!
FairySookie> Me? Distract you? Why I haven’t even flashed you my boobies yet ( o) ( o) 😀
I look up and see Eric’s eyes widen as he looks at his laptop screen, no doubt reading my response and mentally pump my fist.
Meanwhile, Bill is looking around the table, trying to catch the eyes of someone who could help him out of the hole he is in. No one is eager to rescue him though.
“Eric it will take Sookie all of five minutes to explain the previous lines of code to Bill and then she can get on to the other tasks you have planned for her. I am sure that should not be a problem. Sookie do you have an issue with that?” Sam asks.
Asshole strikes back! Riding on the skinny arse of another asshole!
However, they forget, time and again, just who the hell they are dealing with.
Fuckers never learn!
I need to nip this in the bud before it comes around to bite my ass. So I interject.
“Eric if I may?” Eric nods and I turn to Sam, “I looked at item seven when you emailed me the whole list.”
I bring up that email on my laptop to go through it again.
“It’s a small five-minute change. It will take time to explain a small part of my program to Bill and then for Bill to actually make the change. I suggest I could just do the changes myself and save our team precious time. Bill can get back to the other stuff he was working on. I am sure that’s important too.” I actually manage to say it all with a straight face, without looking smug.
Sam looks at Bill and guess what Bill’s face looks like?
(**insert patented constipated expression**)
VikingEric> Go Stackhouse!
“But Bill still needs to get a grip of everything you have done. If you don’t work with him now, you’ll have to do the knowledge transfer later or write some documents.”Wait! what!?Why? “He will need this information for that official meeting with the client’s tech people.”
WHAT THE FUCK?!
“His meeting with tech? In China?” I ask Sam in disbelief.
When was this Bill-going-to-China plan hatched? Why didn’t I know about it? And why the fuck is he of all people being chosen to go?
“Yes he is travelling with me to China in three days. Didn’t you know? I am sure everybody knew.”
So that’s what this help bullshit was about!
Sookie does the work. Bill spies on her and gets to go strut his meager stuff in front of the client!
I just knew something was fishy about pulling Bill into coding today!
FairySookie> Seriously WTF?
“You are bringing Bill with you?” Eric asks Sam, barely concealing the sneer forming on his lips.
“Yeah I’ll be the overall domain expert and Bill knows all the technical details.” Sam answers, now looking nervous on seeing Eric’s less than encouraging face.
“Hmmm. We’ll discuss travel plans after this discussion Sam.” Eric tells him seriously. He then turns to look at the room at large and continues, “and as far as item number seven is concerned, Bill will do it. Make sure it is done today. What else team?”
Sam starts on the testing updates.
I am still struggling and stewing at the idea of fucktard Bill getting the important chance of going over to the client’s office and getting to meet them along with the higher management. He might be my senior by a couple of years, but I am sure I knew more about this project than him. I certainly had more experience on it. In fact, I was the one who had started this darned thing as a small self-assignment with Patricia, to improve my coding skills. It just grew from there. Agreed that since it’s start, a lot of amazing people worked hard on it and the end result was a consolidated effort of the entire team. But I still felt this was my baby.
With some effort, I bring my attention back to the meeting and this time, listen through it carefully, giving my inputs when required and trying my darnd-est to not get distracted by Eric’s ocean blue eyes or his words on chat. And by the way his gaze keeps drifting over to me, his laptop screen, again on me and then elsewhere, I can tell he’s struggling too.
Godric’s knowing smirks and occasional pointed coughs are not helping our cause.
Somehow I make it through the meeting, without making a fool of myself. And when it ends, I am the only one who has completed her tasks of the day and can go home. So I don’t waste any time in collecting my purse, stuff my laptop in my bag and leave before someone comes up with another task for me.
I am pretty sure I’d have fallen asleep before my head hit the pillow if my phone hadn’t started ringing.
I am scared to look at it. What if it’s from work? Donning my grownup pants, I turn on my other side and pretend its not ringing. The ringer runs its course and shuts up.
Of course to start ringing again the next second.
I grab it from behind me and put it against my ear.
“Mmmm half asleep I see. What are you wearing lover?”