Very early that next morning had Sharon walking up to the White House employee entrance with her stomach in knots. The afternoon before, she had been led around the West Wing by Ms. Washington, first to complete the box loads of virtual paperwork – the forms were actually on the computer – then to see her office. Ms. Washington said that Sharon’s predecessor had hired a staff, but since he had passed before the office could begin functioning, they hadn’t been officially working.
The office, itself, was made up of a pod of cubicles clustered, more or less, around her main office. The staff included four researchers and a personal assistant. Ms. Washington had said that she would see to calling the staff members and telling them to come in the next day. Then Ms. Washington slapped a flash drive with samples of the rest of the advisory team’s reports into Sharon’s hand and sent her on her way.
Sharon had spent the night poring over the reports. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t expected to present one on her very first day on the job, she still was determined to make a good impression.
Now, as she approached the guard gate at 6:30 a.m., she swallowed and put on her formidable best. So what if her stomach was doing loop the loops and that soft malevolent voice in the back of her brain whispered that it had all been a dream and the second she presented herself at the gate she would be immediately arrested for impersonating a successful woman?
Fortunately, the guard at the gate had no clue what the malevolent voice was saying and handed Sharon her temporary badge, explaining that she would need to go straight from the gate to the security office so that she could pick up her permanent badge and ID.
The woman was fairly short but carried herself with authority. Her hair was shiny, deep black and perfectly straight, falling just below her shoulders. She wore a dark wooly top coat over black dress slacks and boots, with a matching fuzzy hat perched on the top of her head. She stopped as she saw Sharon fumbling with her box and her temp badge.
Tanaka laughed. “Yeah. We all have. But there’s nothing like this. Don’t let the guys fool you. We’re all a little freaked out about being here. Even the boss. But they keep saying we’ll get used to it. Come on. I’ll show you around.”
“You almost made it. Most of us don’t get in until seven or so. The boss said that he doesn’t want a lot of working late, either. He wants the entire staff out of the office by seven p.m. unless absolutely necessary.”
Sharon remembered that Tanaka was a single mom with two children, one in middle school, one a freshman in high school. Sharon was about to ask for more details when a snow ball caught her hard in the back of the neck. Sharon yelped and Tanaka whirled.
But Sharon knew that one ignored Dr. Edward Cooper at one’s peril. And it wasn’t because he was President Jerguesson’s best friend. Dr. Cooper was fairly widely acknowledged as being a beyond brilliant economist. He was also fairly widely acknowledged for his tendency toward practical jokes.
Sharon dropped her badge and bent quickly to pick it up. Cooper dove, as well, but Sharon got the badge first. She also got a nice chunk of ice, which she quickly slipped underneath the collar of his suit. Cooper yelped as the ice hit the warmth of his skin, but he stood up, laughing.
It was blessedly empty. Sharon set her box on her new desk and fell into the padded, but aging swivel chair, all pretense at being strong and formidable gone.