I’m a single mother to my fifteen-year-old daughter, continuously striving to provide a comfortable life for her. One day, I was horrified when I walked into my boss’s office and saw my sweet girl’s pictures on his computer.
I got out of the taxi and dashed to the building where I’d applied for a job, ruining my favorite heels in the process. Trust me; I was in a terrible shape that morning!
My trousers were stained with muddy water, I took the lift barefoot, holding my heels in one hand, and I almost tripped and fell outside the interview room. I was awfully late for the interview.
“Miss Webb! Candidate 33,” I said breathlessly to the woman standing outside the interview room holding an iPad.
She gave me an awful stare and cleared her throat before checking the iPad for my name. “Miss Webb, I’m hoping you’re aware you’re late,” she said sternly. “I’m sorry, but we’re interviewing the last candidate now. I hope to see you again when the position becomes available next year.”
“No, please,” I begged. “Look, I can explain why I’m late, alright? It was a chaotic morning! Really. Believe me!”
She shook her head. “A good attempt, I’d say,” she said with a smirk, “but we’re tired of hearing the same excuse from the candidates every year. Let me give you a suggestion. Work on your excuses and come up with something better if you want to be believed. The exit’s right behind you.”
There’s no point in trying. It’s over. A voice inside told me. I sighed and ran my hands through my hair. “Is there nothing you can do?” I asked. “I’m a single mother, and this job really matters to me. Please.”
She softened a little when I said I was a single mother. “I’m sorry,” she said. “But I wish you luck.”
Dejected, I was about to leave when a woman walked out of the interview room. She must be the last candidate, I thought. And behind her, I noticed a man in a pressed suit who was quite attractive for his age.
“Can I assist you with something, ladies?” he asked, looking at me and then at the woman holding the iPad. I later learned that she was his secretary, Lily.
Lily sighed and looked at me before briefing her boss on my situation. “Miss Webb, right?” he asked, and I nodded. He then looked at me from head to toe, and I shifted awkwardly because I was looking very, very unprepared for an interview.
After all, what woman arrives breathlessly in a sloppy outfit with sweaty underarms and bare feet for a job interview that could change her and her daughter’s lives?
No career should be more important to you than your children.
“So may I know why we had a delay here, Miss Webb?” he asked.
“I’m sorry,” I said, apologizing. “I know this is not a valid excuse, but I’m a single mother. When I was walking my daughter to school, a bus drove right into the puddle, splashing water all over me… Actually, it was my daughter, and I covered her. Then I didn’t get a taxi on time, and I’m really, well, sorry.”
“Permit me to ask you a question,” he said. “What would you do if you were in my shoes? What would you tell a candidate who arrived late for an interview wearing mud-splattered pants?”
“Perhaps I would be grateful that they were able to save their shirt?” I said nervously. I had managed to save my shirt!
He started laughing. “Well, I would definitely take that for an answer! A good one, indeed! You’re a witty lady, Miss Webb.”
He introduced himself as the company’s director, Mr. Coleman, and told me to wait for the results that would be announced a week later.
I was not optimistic. I thought I’d made a fool of myself by giving an awkward answer, but I was… hired!
My daughter, Eve, and I were walking around the neighborhood park when my phone pinged with a notification. It was an email, and I gasped as I read it.
“Eve!” I screamed, my eyes welling up. “I got the job! Oh dear, I really got it!”
“You did?” Eve rushed up to me to check the mail. “WOW! Congratulations, Mum! I’m very proud of you!”
I kissed and hugged Eve. “Thank you, hun. I’m so glad. It’s a big corporation, and the benefits are very good. This can really change our lives, Eve.”
But believe me, I had never imagined that a large corporation would put me in a dark and dingy room next to the building’s back exit, where I would meet older frowning ladies on my first day of work. It was my new office, and these people were my coworkers!
“We don’t bite! Don’t look at us like that!” Margaret, the front desk clerk, hissed when we first met. “Every year, they send people here, and nobody lasts more than a month! Don’t get your hopes up and think you’ve bagged something huge!”
“Oh, well, nice to meet you. I’m Jade,” I said nervously, but no one cared. I sat at my desk, and the chair was so old that it creaked under my weight. Then I turned on my computer, which only started working after the third thump on its monitor, and looked around.
It wasn’t just Margaret who was weird. There were four of us in one room, and the other two women were equally strange. I was wondering why we had a separate office, and I learned a few days later those ladies were the most terrible employees in the company.
They weren’t good at their jobs, and I was hired to finish their pending work! I had to read tons of files every day, and the job was very stressful. But I tried my best. I even befriended those ladies, and things seemed fine.
I was doing the job well, and I finished two months successfully! “Guess you’re a tough one!” Margaret told me one day, and I laughed.
“And you really don’t bite!” I said. “I don’t mind working here. It’s strange but fun!”
Since my office was an isolated, disregarded spot that no one cared about, I could leave anytime I wanted, and I finished my work at home. One day, I left my office ten minutes early, like I always did, and ran into Mr. Coleman at the building exit.
He checked his wristwatch and smiled. “I guess it’s a bit of an early end of the day for you, Miss Webb,” he said.
“Hello, Mr. Coleman. Yes, yes, I was just… I leave the office ten minutes early every day because I don’t want to miss the last bus. I can’t afford the taxi every day. I’ll finish the pending work while helping my daughter with her studies. And… Thank you for the job. I mean it.”
“Oh, please don’t mention that,” He waved his hand dismissively. “You earned it very much. I receive good feedback about you every month. Keep it up.”
Then Mr. Coleman’s driver brought his car, and he was gone. I receive good feedback about you every month. Those words kept ringing in my head all the way home, and I couldn’t stop smiling.
Eve almost assumed I was dating someone when she saw that smile on my face! I was THAT happy!
“Is it a special someone, Mum?” she asked, and I shook my head. “No, no, hun. It was my boss. He’s impressed with my work, and I’m just grateful for everything. Everything’s falling into the right place.”
“You’re strange!” Eve said. It was natural for a teenage girl to say that.
“So, how was school today? Anything exciting?” I asked.
I noticed Eve seemed tense. “Good,” she said. “Good. It was fine.”
“OK, hun,” I said, believing Eve was worried about her upcoming tests. “Are you sure there’s nothing you’d like to talk about? Anything that’s worrying you, maybe?” I asked again.
“I’m fine, Mum,” she said and paused. “And… Can we have cheese toast and tomato soup for dinner? I’m really craving them today.”
“Yes, yes! We can! I love you, baby,” I said.
Eve smiled nervously. “Me too, Mum. More than you know.”
I forgot about Eve’s tense mood a few days later. Why? Because the workload was crazy. Mr. Coleman’s secretary was away on sick leave, and nobody pitched in to share her workload, but I did.
I wanted a promotion sooner so I could move to a better office and position. But I was wondering why nobody came forward to do Lily’s work, and it was then I discovered something about Mr. Coleman that I had never imagined in my wildest dreams.
“Don’t you know he’s having an affair with that secretary of his? That Lily? She’s licking her lips and swaying her hips around him! He’s got the charms and money! And she’s one of the many, let me tell you that!” Margaret said.
“They think we are stuck here in this crappy office and don’t know anything! But we do! Even the walls have ears! We know everything that goes on inside this building!”
I shuddered, and the respectful image of Mr. Coleman in my mind had taken an awful hit. He and Lily… seemed to have a considerable age gap!
One evening, I ran into Mr. Coleman again, and this time I avoided him. But he approached me. “Oh! Miss Webb! What a pleasant surprise! May I have the pleasure of assisting you today? I could ask my driver to drop you home?” he asked.
“No, no, I’m fine. Thank you very much,” I said politely.
“We could stop for a coffee on the way. What do you think? Pretty ladies should never say no to coffee!” he said with a smile, and I cringed.
“Oh no, I’m… I’m allergic to coffee,” I lied. “And I really need to go home. My daughter must be waiting for me. I’m sorry.”
“How about some other time? Maybe we can have tea?” he said. “You’re very pretty, Jade, and I—”
“Mr. Coleman,” I cut him off. “Look, I respect you, and I’m not up for tea or coffee or anything. I’m sorry if I come across as rude, but please, I only see you as my boss.”
“Oh!” He looked surprised, but I didn’t care. It was OK if he fired me! I was not going to sleep with him!
“Well,” he said gently. “That’s OK. I understand. Have a pleasant evening.” And he was gone.
I stood there, terrified. He had just asked me out for coffee! Margaret was so right, I thought.
It never happened again. Mr. Coleman kept his distance and never approached me for coffee. But one day, he did something that sent shivers down my spine.
That day, he asked me to get a document from his office. He told me his computer password and the file I was supposed to print. I accidentally clicked on the wrong folder and gasped as I saw what popped on the screen.
This has to be a mistake! My hand went to my mouth in shock as I saw my daughter’s… my precious Eve’s photos on Mr. Coleman’s computer! At that moment, I couldn’t help but think about my conversation with Eve, during which she’d seemed very tense.
I hadn’t thought much about it before because the workload had been crazy, but after finding Eve’s pictures on Mr. Coleman’s computer, I was furious!
How dare he do this to my daughter? Did he think she was one of those girls who would fall for his money and charm?
In a rage, I confronted Mr. Coleman. “Why do you have my daughter’s photos on your system? Did you think you could hit on her because I turned you down? She’s just 15!” I screamed, but he seemed oddly calm.
“Watch what you say, Miss Web,” he said. “I can explain it.”
“Oh, you better do, or I’m reporting you to the cops!” I said.
He shook his head and sighed. “It was a surprise,” he confessed. “You’re getting a promotion next week.”
“A surprise? Promotion? You expect me to believe that?”
“As I’ve previously stated, I greatly appreciate what you do for our company, Miss Webb,” he continued. “And I had to give you a promotion. And yes, I was hurt when you turned me down for coffee, but come on! I don’t force myself on women! I would never cross the lines of human decency.”
“I’m sorry you had to work in that old office beside the exit. You deserved more, and I wanted to set up an office with your daughter’s pictures… something like your personal space with everything ready for you! I lost my wife and my unborn child in an accident years ago, and I was moved when I saw how committed you are as a mother.”
“And you were equally honest with me and everyone around you. So I asked Lily to contact your daughter, and she’s a part of the surprise… And I’m afraid you’ve ruined it for yourself.”
I was embarrassed. I apologized to Mr. Coleman and thanked him for all he had planned on doing for me, but I didn’t understand why Eve was so upset the other day, so I confronted her. And then I learned it was about a boy in her class.
She had dumped him after he tried getting too intimate with her. “He tried to kiss me, Mum, and I was so scared. What if he came after me? He was, like, obsessed with me!”
“Oh, God!” I gasped. “Is he still bothering you?”
“No, Mum, no,” she said. “I’m glad he’s not. By the way, you ruined the surprise, didn’t you?”
“I don’t care,” I said as I wrapped my arms around her. “I have you, I’m getting a promotion, and our lives are improving. That’s all that matters to me.”
What can we learn from this story?
No career should be more important to you than your children. Jade didn’t care about anything when it came to Eve’s safety, and she confronted Mr. Coleman in a rage after finding her photos on his computer.
Don’t be too quick to judge someone. While Mr. Coleman was flirty and seemed to have many admirers, he didn’t have bad intentions, as others suspected.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.