It was Wednesday and so far there had been no moments of panic, no fear, a little frustration about not exactly knowing what she was doing, but Tess felt more or less okay. She felt comfortable even. Monday has passed without any real problem. Tobias had sat in his office for hours on end. She’d popped her head in to let him know she was leaving, but he barely acknowledged her. When she arrived the next morning she didn’t bother to announce herself, and then he’d disappeared into meetings for the rest of the day. That was one thing she’d been able to work out at least, his meeting schedule. Which was just as well, because despite the particular neatness of his hair, his clothes, even his office, Tobias Sinclair had a disordered mind. He seemed perpetually distracted, but with the little she knew about her job Tess could at least keep him punctual.
To be honest, though, Tess wasn’t really sure what her job was. She couldn’t imagine it was just organising his meetings. There must be something else, anything else, or she was going to get bored, and soon. Wednesday wasn’t much better than Tuesday. There were muttered greetings from him as he acknowledged her on the way out to a lunch meeting, but there were no requests, no further information. Finally, at 3pm, after Tobias Sinclair had returned with barely a glance in her direction, Tess’ patience failed her.
She looked down into the drawers of the desk she sat at. It hadn’t seemed like a good idea before, who knew how many other personal assistants this guy had had. There would be papers, and grossness, maybe even some vengeful fish left in there. That’s what people did right? Leave fish to rot? But then, she considered, she probably would have smelt it by now. She opened the first drawer and found a cacophony of papers and stationery, in the bottom drawer a random assortment of computer cleaning equipment, a cash box with some cash, an out of date credit card, and enough poly-pockets to make a sixth former green with envy.
Tess looked up at Tobias’ office, he had his head down in his papers. She glanced over the open office, everyone else was busy. She quietly and carefully bent down on her knees in front of the desk, and began to pull out papers, keeping everything neatly piled under her desk. But as time went on and papers accumulated she surrounded herself with carefully organised piles; time sheets for past PAs, invoices, scribbled notes, promotional material, Callahoun & McCormick stationery. She sorted, she shredded – she emptied the shredder – she cleaned her computer and desk. She emailed Sandra with a whole bunch of questions. Tess finally felt useful. She felt in control.
Years ago Tess would have been stressed, she would have circumnavigated Tobias Sinclair, sitting patiently, afraid to touch anything. But these days she felt compelled to move forward, not worry so much. If he was going to get mad because she’s shredded PA number eighteen’s time sheet then she would have to deal with that. Oh yeah, there had been eighteen, Tess estimated she was something like number twenty-six in the last eighteen months. She felt like she had a proper challenge on her hands now; she could out last her predecessors, and how. She looked around the desk, sighing with contentment as Tobias Sinclair watched her through the glass. She didn’t notice. She also didn’t notice him jump as she whipped around her desk and into his office, tapping lightly to announce her entrance.
Hi!’, her informality was obvious, awkward even, but he wasn’t giving her much to work with. He looked up at her, faintly surprised at the sight of her as she stood in front of his desk, swaying slightly. Tess did always look slightly like a toddler who was asking you out to play. ‘Um, I wasn’t really told what I would have to do in the job. And I’ve got on top of the whole…’ she motioned to the desk outside ‘…organising system, and the meeting schedule and everything. So, I was wondering is there something in particular you’d like me to do, or need me to do?’. She raised her eyebrows expectantly. Tobias thought for a second, or at least Tess thought it was thinking. She also thought that he had a talent for making moments awkward, and wondered if this was his way of getting rid of people.
He leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head, it was a strangely out of the ordinary power move. She stood her ground. When Tess was bored she was a slave to her mind, if he wanted to get rid of her he best give her something to do. ‘Do you know of a stationary chain? An old one, called…’ Tobias leaned forward and picked up a piece of paper from his desk ‘Burnham’s?’. Tess nodded lightly, ‘yep, what are there like ten left, I thought they were going into administration’. Tobias swung forward out of his power pose, ‘well, there’s a still a chance for them. They have a stay of execution so to speak’. ‘Are they a client?’ Tess asked tentatively. Tobias gave her a puzzled, slightly patronising frown. ‘It’s just’ she followed ‘they are a very small chain, and they are stationers. I thought Callahoun and Mc-‘. ‘You thought what?’ Tobias snapped back.
Tess glared at him for a moment ‘I thought’ she said tersely ‘that Callahoun and McCormick dealt with larger and shall we say more affluent establishments’. ‘Well’ Tobias put his tongue in his cheek and narrowed his eyes at her ‘maybe we’re not the capitalists you imagine we are’. Tess narrowed her eyes at him. He looked down, talking quickly and sharply ‘I want their financial information for the past three years, I also want any statistical information available on their share of the market and how popular they currently are with their customer base’. Tess stared blankly for a moment, Tobias looked her in the eye ‘you think you can do that?’. Tess nodded lightly, her eyebrow crooked in surprise and confusion. ‘By Friday morning if you would, I have a lunch meeting with them’. Tess nodded again, spun on her heel and walked out of the office. She sat down gently at her desk. Tess didn’t like being tested, she especially didn’t like being tested by people who thought so little of her. As she pondered how this was most likely out of her remit, and wondered why Tobias didn’t already have this information, she opened a new email and began to write.
To read from the beginning go here.