What on earth? This isn’t right. Has Human Resources made a mistake? I stare at my pay stub: it’s bigger than usual. A lot bigger. I wish!
Sighing, I pick up the phone and dial HR.
“Hello, Mrs Beatty, this is Andrea Parker, Mr Grey’s PA. There’s a problem with my pay slip.”
“Oh? I’m sorry to hear that Ms Parker. Mrs Beatty is on vacation this week. You’re speaking with Anthea Thorne; I’ll just look into that for you.”
That’s probably what’s happened; Veronica Beatty is away.
Sometimes it’s just not worth going on holiday when you come back to a backlog of mistakes and inferior work. It’s not that I don’t trust Olivia to handle Mr Grey’s affairs when I’m away, except… well, I don’t trust Olivia to handle Mr Grey’s affairs when I’m away.
He’s a full time job. Oh boy, do I know that! I was up half the night directing press calls and fire fighting after Mr Grey’s helicopter crashed out near Silver Lake. But that’s what I do: handle crises. That’s why he pays me top dollar to be his personal assistant: and I’m very good at what I do. Mostly because I don’t have a life.
That’s not entirely true. I had a date last week… or was it the week before? Well, anyway, the guy was a banker from the east coast. I met him in that fancy cocktail bar Zig Zag Café. He acted like he was god’s gift until I told him who I worked for. That quietened him down a bit, but then he started trying to get an introduction to Mr Grey. I hightailed it out of there. And I was wearing a great new Prada dress, too. What a waste.
It’s certainly… expanded my horizons, shall I say, working for Mr Grey. I remember the day I got a call from the Executive Recruitment agency. I’d gotten a bit bored working for the MD of this blue chip company. He was such a jerk: always chasing me round the desk. I practically had to beat him off with a stick. Plus, the slimeball had me buying gifts for his wife and mistresses (plural). I mean hell, I had to keep a spreadsheet just to make sure no-one got the same gift, or the wrong gift. It was just so sleazy. But the final straw was when I caught him jacking off in his office. I mean, come on! Time and place! He just smiled at me and said he needed help with his outgoings. Yeesh!
I placed my resumé with the agency that evening. I really hoped they’d come up with something quickly. It’s always easier to find a job when you’re already in a position. But I was ready to walk if necessary. I’d even have taken a temporary contract just to get the hell out of there.
But as it turned out, I got a call to come in see them for a breakfast meeting. So I put on my Tom Ford suit, Xeroxed a dozen copies of my (though I say it myself) shit hot resumé and arrived at their offices at 7.30am.
Marlene De Witt, the head honcho, interviewed me.
She looked me up and down so conspicuously that I wondered if she was going to open my mouth and look at my teeth like an old horse doctor! But I could see she was impressed. Gotta love Tom Ford!
“Thank you for joining us so early, Ms Parker. May we offer you coffee?”
“Thank you, no, Ms De Witt. I’m good.”
“Excellent, well… we have a position that might interest you. It’s a considerable step up from what you’re doing now but, having said that, you’re resumé could be just what we’re looking for. You would however, be required to do long and possibly unsociable hours, but the renumeration package is more than generous. It also comes with the usual insurances, medical, dental and…” she paused long enough to make me salivate… “an Audi A2 automobile. I believe you can choose the colour.”
She had my attention. A new car? Nice! I didn’t know what an Audi A2 looked like, but it sounded foreign and lush. Drool!
Then she wrote a figure on a piece of paper and pushed it in front of me.
“This is the starting salary that’s been offered.”
Holy shit! How much? So, what was the catch?
It was as if Ms De Witt read my mind.
“The client in question is a young man… just 25…” Alarm bells were ringing like the cathedral at Notre Dame – all I needed was a hunchback to swing out yelling ‘Esmeralda’!
“Yes, Ms Parker. Is that a problem?”
Only if he plans on chasing me around the damn Board Room again! And I’m assuming it’s a guy – it usually is.
“I’m sure that won’t be a problem: I’m just a little surprised.”
“Yes, well,” she smiled a secret smile that really made me nervous, “our client is a most… er… unusual gentleman.”
Oh, that doesn’t sound good.
And if he has to pay the kind of salary, there must be something wrong with him. I need to dig.
“May I ask what happened to his last PA?”
She smiles like a Great White about to chow down on rowing boat full of fat fishermen.
“Nothing at all. His last PA is still in situ at one of his companies, but our client has just finished constructing a new office building and requires additional staff.”
Hmm: sounds like he wanted to get rid of someone, or sideline them. New office block? Interesting.
“We’re drawing up a shortlist of suitable candidates and we’d like to put your name forward, Ms Parker.”
“Do you have any questions?”
“Can you tell me who the client is? I’d like to do some research before I take this further.”
“I’m so sorry, Ms Parker: that information is confidential at this stage.”
She doesn’t sound sorry.
“And if you’re selected for interview, you’ll be required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement.”
“I see. So if I’m selected for interview I will, at that stage, be given some background on the client?”
“That is correct.”
Frankly, I have nothing to lose – except the jerk-off I currently work for.
“Well then, I’d be delighted if you would put my name forward for interview.”
We smile, shake hands and I’m left with a barrelful of questions.
As soon as I get to work I google new office blocks in Seattle. There are two possibilities: Capstan Service Industries and Grey Enterprises Holdings. The CEO of Capstan is a family man of 59; the CEO of GEH is Christian Grey and…. Fuck me! Gorgeous! Oh yes! Result! I really hope he wants to chase me around the Board Room after all!
I spend the rest of the morning checking my Blackberry for a message from Ms De Witt or one of her minions.
By 4pm I’m about ready to chew off my whole arm with anxiety; ok, not quite, but I decide to book myself in with that fancy beauty parlour Esclava and get a manicure, just in case. Jeez, as it’s Christian Grey, maybe I’ll get a complete facial, pedicure and wax. A girl can hope.
Just as I’m clearing my desk for the day, my cell rings.
“Good evening, Ms Parker, this is Marlene De Witt. I’m delighted to inform you that you’ve been selected for interview.”
“That is good news! Thank you, Ms De Witt.”
“Are you free now?”
What?! What about the pedicure, manicure and whole-fucking-body-cure I was going to have?
“Excellent: I’ll email the details to your cell and messenger over the NDA. Good luck, Ms Parker.”
I practically sprint to the ladies room, thanking the Almighty that I keep a toothbrush in my purse for emergencies. Nope: no spinach between my teeth. You didn’t have spinach for lunch, you ditz! I sniff my armpits – delightful, as always, but I spray on a little more Acqua Di Gio. Not too much, of course, gotta be professional. Yeah, I know that scent is for guys, but it smells adorable on me.
The NDA arrives by courier. I sign it without reading it and it’s returned the same way. I wonder if that was deliberate: not giving me time to read it?
And I really wish I had time to buy a fresh blouse but time to hustle.
Luck is favoring the brave today and I get a cab straight away and arrive at Grey House ten minutes early.
Holy fuck! It’s an impressive building; even the security guards are wearing great suits. This place is architect designed with a vengeance. And, regardless of how cute the CEO is, I really want to be a part of this. GEH is a happening company; you can’t live in Seattle and not know how happening. I feel really excited; this is a great opportunity for a girl like me. Who’d guess I came from the roughest part of downtown Detroit? Yeah, I’ve cleaned up real good.
Then this really cute guy with a buzzcut escorts me up to the twentieth floor. I’m having trouble remembering my own name, I’m so nervous at this point. I really want this job.
He shows me in to this enormous office with a drop-dead stunning view of the Seattle skyline; and then I see the Greek god who’s standing up to shake hands with me. He’s even better looking face-to-face than in his publicity shots. Wow! My mouth goes dry and I’m afraid I’m going to babble; I always babble when I’m nervous.
“Thank you for coming at such short notice, Ms Parker,” he says with a soft voice.
“Er, not at all. I’m very pleased to be here.”
Oh, thank God! I can speak actual words!
He runs through the job description and I manage to ask some half-way intelligent questions. Then a weird thing happens: I realise I really want this job; not because my boss is just so yummy, but because I know I could really do something here, really make something of myself. This is my turn; my chance to fly. And I don’t get any sense from Mr Amazingly Fucking Beautiful that he’s just after me for my, admittedly, stunning Nordic looks. He asks me about my work and how I’d respond in a given situation. And I think he likes my answers; I almost forget it’s an interview.
After 40 minutes he sits back and asks if I have any questions.
“Only one, Mr Grey, when do you want me to start?”
I know that sounds arrogant but I think he’ll get where I’m coming from.
For a moment he looks taken aback and then he smiles. I nearly pass out.
“How much notice do you have to give, Ms Parker?”
“Two weeks, sir.”
“Then I look forward to seeing you in two weeks on Monday.”
“Thank you, sir!”
We shake hands and as I get up to leave, trying to avoid stumbling through the door he says,
“Oh, and Ms Parker, you will earn that salary.”
Two years down the line I’d have to say he was right. But hell, it’s been fun! Hard work, but fun. The only disappointment is that he’s never once chased me around the Board Room. I’ve pretty well given up hoping. But it’s nice to dream.
And although he can be hell on wheels and has a scary temper at times, I’ve come to realise that he’s also basically a decent person who cares about his staff. He knows everyone in the building, it seems; what they do and what they need. Pretty impressive given there are around 3,000 staff at Grey House.
Last week was one of the worst of my life: for a few bleak hours, I really thought he was dead. I was handling the Press, liasing with his family, speaking to the rescue services and trying to hold back the tears at the same time. And when the news came through that he was alive and well, I didn’t care that I was still working at 3am. I was just glad my scary-ass, drop-dead beautiful, irritating-as-fuck boss was still alive.
“I’m so sorry to keep you waiting, Ms Parker,” says Anthea Thorne. “But I’ve checked and there is no problem with your salary check.”
“But… it’s too much!” I say feebly.
“I believe that’s a bonus and a salary increase,” she says, a wistful tone in her voice. “Authorised by Mr Grey himself.”
“Thank you,” I say faintly and replace the phone. “Thank you very much.”