A Strong Girl
The bus stopped smoothly as usual and Lucy got up from her seat along with all the girls. Burke, the driver, opened the front door of the bus and the passengers slowly streamed out of the bus. Of course, there was one thing they all had to do before getting off.
One after another, Lucy saw the girls in front of her did it before stepping off the bus. When Lucy reached the front, it was her turn. She turned to Burke, bowed her head slightly and said the words prescript on the employee manual, “Thank you sir for bring this girl safely to her workplace.”
As she raised her head, she saw a big smile on Burke’s face. Well, she can’t blame him. It must be a kick for him to have a busload of female passengers thanking him for doing his job. Silently, she wondered if the few men who used the male company bus had to say this “respectable” line to their driver. Most probably not!
Lucy got off the bus and walked through the carpark of the Sun Horizon Building. The new owners had built a new room in the basement of the building for the female workers and nowadays, this was where the company bus dropped off their female passengers. It was where the women went to change into their company uniforms.
She stepped into the room and when to her locker. In the past, Lucy would have turned up at the company in a power suit benefiting her position as a high-level executive in the sales department but now she came to work in a T-shirt, a windbreaker and a pair of pants. Gone were the suitcase, the designer bag and the high-heel shoes. Dressing up for work was no longer needed because as a female employee of the Sun Horizon Group, she had to put on the prescript uniform for the women in the company.
When she first heard that the company would be bought over by a Middle Eastern investment group, Lucy had been delighted. The non-stop financial crisis in the West had caused extreme strain on the world economy and there were fears that the company would have to declare bankruptcy. She had some expectations that the new owners would bring with them some changes to the company but she now knew that she was sadly mistaken.
The Sun Horizon Group didn’t just make some changes; they bought wholesale changes that changed almost everything about the company. The first things they did were to change the company name to “Sun Horizon Inc” and the name of the building the company owned to “The Sun Horizon Building”. After that, they bought changes to the culture and workplace of the company including installing a uniform for all female workers of the company depending on their jobs within the company.
Lucy looked at the clothes hanging on her locker and again wondered why she stayed with the company. Of course she knew the reason. She and her husband had a mortgage to pay off on a house they couldn’t sell and she couldn’t afford to pay the penalty to break her contract. Sighing silently, she took off her clothes, her sneakers and started putting on her uniform.
She put on the long-sleeved blouse and skirt given to her by the company. The sleeves of the blouse covered her arms while the skirt reached the floor. Both pieces of the uniform were larger than necessary to hide the figure of the wearer. She ignored the socks provided by the company as she was already wearing black socks and put on the company shoes. The shoes were supposed to make no sound when she walked and while that was true, they were made of material so soft at times Lucy thought she was walking around barefooted. She tied them up firmly.
Once that was done, she got to the part of the uniform she hated the most; her niqaab. She first tied up her hair in a headscarf which she wound around her head, then she put on her veil which was fastened around her head above the eyes. The veil dropped down in front of her face till her midriff, leaving only a tiny slit for her eyes. There was even a small piece of fabric down the middle between her eyes for added modesty!
Looking at the mirror of her locker, Lucy could fully understand why the men mockingly called the room “The Black Ghost Room”. Her entire uniform was black and she was covered from the top of her head to feet. She hardly recognized the girl in the mirror but there was nothing to it. She needed the job and the majority of the girls in the company wore this uniform. Lucy put on her black gloves and the last part of her uniform; a name tag that had her name “LUCY” written on it. She clipped the name tag on her niqaab in front of her chest.
She stepped out of the changing room into the corridor and walked to the end where the stairs were. Girls were now on longer allowed to use the elevators or escalators within the building so she had to walk up to her office on the 23th floor in her uniform. It was a horror at first started but now Lucy no longer fear tripping on her long skirt. However it was still heavy exercise going up 23 floors and she took care to use the handrails.
Once she reached the 23th floor, Lucy took a moment for a deep breath. She needed the time to compose herself for the morning greeting.
When the Sun Horizon Group first took over about a year ago, they happily announced that there would be no layoffs and anyone who wished to resign and break their contracts need only pay three quarter of the penalty fees stated in their contract. Everyone stayed except for a few who took early retirement but when changes started taking place people, especially the female workers, started resigning. The morning greeting ritual caused more resignations in the company than any other changes the Sun Horizon Group introduced.
Lucy exited the stairways and walked past the elevators. She saw that 3 other women were already at the entrance of the office and took a quick look at the clock. The company bus dropped her off exactly at 7am and it was already 7.20am.
“Lucy, come on.” The girl who spoke was Danielle, one of the only 5 girls left on her floor and who worked as a secretary to Matt, the manger of the sales division. “You are the last one.”
Lucy’s eyes widen in surprise before she realized that none of the girls could see her face. She looked at the name tags and quickly asked Danielle, “What happened to Michele?”
“She resigned!” Danielle replied.
“Shit!” Lucy answered. “Only 4 of us left then.”
Danielle shrugged in resignation. “Nothing we can do about it. Let’s just get into position,” she said.
The other 2 girls nodded to Lucy who nodded back. They were Jamila and Suriani, new employees the group hired as other women resigned from the company. Lucy could understand why they were hired. The duo were hard workers, comfortable with the niqaab and work culture of the company, and they also seemed to have no problem following the various rules of the company.
The girls spilt into 2 lines facing each other, standing just beyond the entrance of the office. Lucy and Danielle were in one line, while Jamila and Suriani in another. Once the clock hit 7.30am, the office siren sounded and the 4 girls fell to their knees. Kneeling on the floor with her knees wide apart, Lucy then put both hands on the ground in front of her. On her hands and knees, she waited in the humiliating position for her male co-workers.
The Sun Horizon Group said they were taking a leaf out of the Japanese, installing a rule that all the female workers of the company need to greet their male co-workers when the men arrived for work. They said that this was to improve morale.
Lucy was sure the Japanese never has any rule that required their female workers to be on their hands and knees but the rule was pushed through and it applied to all female employees in the company, no matter what her position was. Lucy could only comfort herself in the thought that all the female employees in the company were in the same position as her right now.
She did not have to wait long. The bus for male employees was supposed to reach the building at 7.30am and it was almost never late. The men who drove to work usually arrived after the company bus. Girls of course had to take the company bus as no parking space within the building was given to female employees and the basement changing room was barred to all who did not entered through the carpark entrance. A few minutes after she got into position, Lucy heard the sound of the elevator door opening and the men walking to the office.
As the men walked towards the office, the 4 women lowered their head to the ground and said the words prescript on the employee manual, “Welcome Sir! This girl wishes you a good day at the office!”
The men walked past the women and only after they had passed did the 4 women lifted up their heads. However they stayed on their hands and knees waiting for the rest of the men. The official starting time of the workday was 8am and for the next 30mins, the 4 girls bowed their head and said their lines to all the men who walked past. Most of the men ignore them but occasionally Lucy could hear a chuckle or two from the passing men.
Again Lucy couldn’t blame them. A year ago, most of them were working with her, some were even under her, but now she was on her hands and knees welcoming them to the office. The sad thing was that Lucy could see that the morning greeting was working! Morale around the office had truly increased since the rule had been introduced and what’s more was that the men were never late for work. All of them came between 7.30am and 8am to partake in the morning greeting and male absentees were so rare you knew it must be something serious for men to miss work. All the women of course had to take the company bus, so they were never late. It was a rule that truly did worked!
At 8am, the officer siren sounded again and the 4 girls got to their feet and went to their desks. The day has officially started.
Keyboards were being banged and the phones were ringing. A year ago, Lucy would have been with the men on the phones, analyzing the various markets of the world. As a company with national reach, they had business throughout America and being on top of the market was of vital importance to the company.
Nowadays, Lucy could do nothing but continued her typing. When the Sun Horizon Group took over, most of the girls within the company were reassigned to other jobs in the company. When she said most, it meant any girl who was in an executive position. To avoid lawsuits, the company still allowed Lucy the title of her former position and she still drew the same pay, but now she had none of the responsibilities.
Lucy Rice, who was an executive in the sales division was reassigned to being an office girl.
The female executives were insulted by their new roles and most of them rather paid the financial penalty to break their contract than continued on. If not for her financial situation, Lucy would have joined them. Now her job mainly consisted of typing documents of the work done by her male co-workers. If only that was all, it wouldn’t be so bad. However Lucy had other duties assigned to her as well.
Suddenly the light on her desk turned red and the number “9” was shown on her dashboard. Lucy immediately stopped her typing and got up from her seat. Table 9 was Oscar Mendez.
Lucy had once thought of Oscar as a pretty decent guy but since the company had been taken over, that had changed. More than any guy on the floor, Oscar had taken advantage of the Sun Horizon takeover and thoroughly enjoyed the power he had over the girls.
Lucy walked across the floor with her head bowed. It wasn’t due to any shame she felt in her new position. Her head was bowed because this was prescript in the employee handbook. Girls were only allowed to walk with their head bowed.
When she reached Oscar’s desk, Lucy stood at the position prescript in the employee handbook for girls when they were waiting for orders from men. Her feet were about shoulder length apart, her hands were clasped at the small of her back, her eyes were downcast on the ground between her feet and she made sure her voice was in a respectful, submissive tone, “Sir, how may this girl assist you?”
“I dropped my pen,” Oscar pointed at a pen just behind his seat. He could have just bended over to pick it up but since he didn’t, Lucy knew what was coming. “Pick it up for me girl.”
Making sure not to lift up her head, Lucy quietly knelt with her knees apart and pick up the pen. Holding it in both hands, she lifted the pen above her head and said, “Your pen sir.”
She heard a chuckle from Oscar and laughter from some of the men but Lucy knew better than to break her position. According to the employee handbook, this was how girls were supposed to offer items to men. Failure to present this position when offering something to the men would be a reason for a demerit. If she got 25 demerits in a month, her pay would be docked but if she got less than 15, there would be a bonus at the end of the month. Lucy had already got the bonus twice.
Lucy felt the pen being taken from her hands. “Thanks you girl.” The mocking in Oscar’s voice was clear for all to hear. “You are a good girl Lucy.”
Lucy wasn’t going to give Oscar the satisfaction of seeing her losing her cool. “Thank you sir. This girl is glad to be of service. Is there anything else I may assist with sir?”
“Not at the moment girl. You may leave.”
Lucy got to her feet and went back to her desk. She continued her typing, blocking out the laughter coming from Oscar’s desk. She continued till the light on her desk was brightened again. Her dashboard showed 9.15am and Lucy got up to do her rounds.
Taking along her pen and notebook, she went to all the men in her area. Standing in front of each of them the same way as she did with Oscar, Lucy took their orders. Once the orders were taken, she slowly walked to the pantry and saw that Jamila and Suriani were already there. One look at their trays and Lucy knew that something was wrong.
“What’s all that?” pointing at their trolleys.
“It’s Michele’s area,” it was Suriani who answered. “Jamila and I are going to spilt her area between us.”
Lucy nodded her appreciation to the two girls. It was one of the reasons she enjoyed working with both of them. The thought of taking over Michele’s area never even occurred to her and she was glad it did to the 2 girls. Knowing the men, failure to serve would be a reason for a demerit for all of them.
Lucy went to the counter and started preparing the snacks. Danielle came in and went to the counter with a tray. Lucy nodded at her and Danielle nodded back.
“Matt wants to see you after lunch.”
Lucy looked up at Danielle in surprise. “What for?”
“Who knows,” Danielle said as she placed the snacks and coffee on her tray. “Remember, after lunch”
Danielle took the tray and left the pantry. As Matt’s secretary, she only had to care for Matt’s needs. As one of the girls in the office however, Lucy had to serve all the men whose desks were in her area. She took out the cups from the cupboards and started on the tea and coffee. The clock stuck 9.30am and the 3 girls pushed out their trolleys.
Lucy went to each individual desk and kneeled. She then offered the men their snacks (which was either sandwiches or biscuits) and drinks (coffee or tea) the same way she offered up Oscar’s pen. Her humiliation was only completed after she thanked the men, happy to be of service to them.
After serving the men in her area, Lucy pushed her trolley back into the pantry. As she walked back to her desk, she saw that Jamila and Suriani were still in service. Lucy sat down and continued her typing.
Her dashboard lighted up again at 11am. Lucy went back to the pantry and took her trolley again. This time on her rounds, she took back the cups and cleaned up the desks of the men. She made sure she was not a “bother” to the men as she cleaned. Most of the men were good enough to stay out of the way but a few, like Oscar, tried having a little fun at her expense by obstructing her.
Lucy let them have their fun. She wasn’t going to tell them off and get herself into trouble again over such juvenile tactics. She once got a demerit for such an offence and besides, she found that after awhile the men would tired of the games and let her do her cleaning.
Lucy took the cups to the washing area and washed them clean alongside Jamila and Suriani. Rubber gloves were given to them for the washing. After the cleaning, she took the cups back to the pantry and placed them back in the cupboards. Lucy, Jamila and Suriani then waited in the pantry for the DSO.
To ensure that the girls did a good job, there was a male worker who would be assigned as the DSO (daily supervising officer) of the girls. The men on the floor had a rotating schedule where they would serve this duty once every few weeks. Basically, the DSO would be the girls’ superior for the day and since the men had a rotating shift, this meant that every man in the office was Lucy’s superior. Today, it was the duty of a young man named Brandon.
Brandon had only been working at the company for a few months before the takeover by The Sun Horizon Group and it was his first job. He was just fresh out of college and Lucy had been one of his seniors. She had even offered him some advice from time to time back then. Now she was waiting for his approval with her eyes downcast, her feet apart, and her hands clasped behind her back for a job well done.
Luckily for Lucy, Brandon was one of the few men who seem highly embarrassed by some of new rules in place. He was happy with the cups and quickly dismissed the girls for lunch. The 3 girls had to thank him of course, “Thank you sir for inspecting our works.”
The girls then filed out of the office to the stairs. Lucy, Jamila and Suriani walked down to the 5th floor where the girls’ lunch room was.
Unlike the men who were allowed to go out for their lunches, girls in the building were only allowed to have their lunches within. Not that it matter as none of the girls wanted to go out in public in their niqaabs anyway. The Sun Horizon Group had setup a mini canteen on the 5th floor where all the girls could go for their lunch and this was where all the girls gathered for their daily break.
There were stalls in the canteen where the girls could buy their food but some of the girls bought their lunches from home. Lucy never did. The stalls at the canteen were rented out by the Sun Horizon Group at very cheap rates to the operators after a background check. The group only allowed the needy to operate the stalls, and from what Lucy heard, it was almost a form of charity. That was why she always bought from the stalls.
The canteen was a cauldron of noise when she entered. Everyone within was a girl, even the operators of the stalls. None of the men was allowed into the canteen and the reason was immediate. For lunch, the girls were allowed to release themselves from their veils. Most just flipped their veils over the heads like Lucy, but a few unfasten theirs off their heads.
Lucy bought her lunch and found a seat. She spoke to some of the girls, not always knowing who they were. As an executive, in the past she didn’t really join the rest of the girls in the office for small talk. Most of them were in lower positions than her but that was no longer a problem.
And talk they did! Most of the girls were able to speak only a few sentences throughout their mornings and all were more than happy to gossip about what happened on their floor without their veils.
Lucy had to turn to see who was speaking to her. “Jennifer? How are you?” It was a minor surprise that Jennifer Harris was speaking to her. Lucy didn’t like her much in the past and she always thought the feeling was mutual. However they were both former executives in the company and in a way she guessed it was expected the two of them would be talking. After all, they were the few female executives left from the old company.
“As well as can be expected in this stupid costume.” Lucy couldn’t help but gave a small laugh at that. Costume was exactly the right word.
As one of the girls in the mailroom, Jennifer was wearing the uniform of the mailgirls which was highly different from the normal niqaab. Harem pants, with a long-sleeve shirt that hugged her body, Jennifer was wearing an outfit that came straight out of “I Love Jeannie”.
The outfit was completed by a yashmak, a type of veil that is similar to the niqab but different. Unlike the niqaab, the yashmak consists of 2 different pieces of cloth that covered both the face and the forehead. The costume was completed with gloves and shoes similar to what Lucy was wearing and a belt with numerous small bells attached on it.
Although it covered every part of her body, Jennifer’s uniform was far more eye-catching and alluring than hers. Maybe it’s because of the bells on the belt or the fact that the outfit was pink in color, but whenever one of the mailgirls came to the office to deliver mail, there should be whistles from the men of the office. Hence their nicknames, the “whistle girls”.
“Thanks a lot.”
Lucy smiled at the annoyed Jennifer. Despite the words Jennifer said, the common consensus among the girls was that the “whistle girls” loved the attention they received. More than a few of the whistle girls deliberately swayed their bottoms when they walked so that the bells on their belt would sound. However Lucy understood that sometimes pride must be maintained.
Lucy smiled in sympathy and said, “Must be tough working in that.”
It was the correct move as Jennifer smiled back and whispered. “You got that right. Free tomorrow after work?”
“I think so. Why?”
“We’re having a meeting. I like you to join us.”
“A meeting? About what?”
“About what to do with Sun Horizon”
“Keep your voice down!”
After looking around to make sure no one was paying them any extra attention, Lucy asked. “What do you mean?”
“Just go here,” Jennifer handed Lucy a piece of paper. “Make sure you’re on time. Everything will be explained.”
Jennifer walked away and Lucy was left with an easy decision to make.
Standing in front of his desk with her feet apart and her hands clasped behind her, Lucy’s eyes darted around the office of Matt Hanson. She knew her eyes were supposed to be downcast on the ground but it had been quite some time since she had been in Matt’s office.
Manager of the sales division, Matt Hanson’s office was bright and warm. There were no binds at the windows and sunlight shone through to give the office the warm feeling it always had in the past. Matt famously had an open door policy that welcomed all his employees to come into his office to speak to him but since the takeover by Sun Horizon, Lucy had not been into his office. Girls were supposed to bother their daily officer, not management, about their problems.
Matt’s desk was neat and tidy and Lucy could see numerous pictures of his family scattered through his office. He and his wife, Karen, were quite the power couple in the past as both were managers of their respective department. The status of their marriage was quite the gossip with the girls of Sun Horizon. Rather surprisingly, Karen was still with the company. Now working as a receptionist on the ground floor of the building, Karen greeted every visitor in a sky-blue burqa, the standard uniform of all receptionists in the company.
“Lucy, you know what you’re here for?”
“No sir, this girl does not.”
It was a lie. She did have some idea why she was there. Matt seemed to understand the situation as well. “It’s about your contract girl. It’s almost up. You have less than 6 months left on your contract with our glorious company.” He smiled as he said that and not for the first time, Lucy wondered how Matt truly felt about Sun Horizon.
“Sir, may this girl enquiry on what is it about the contract you wish to speak to this girl about?”
“It’s very simple really. Lucy, the company wishes to extend your contract for another 3 years.” Matt’s smile didn’t waver. “Of course, you will no longer part of the sales team, so your new job title would be “Office Assistance Girl”. Oh, and your new salary will be a third of your current one.”
It took all her willpower not to laugh at the joke. “I…this girl is sorry sir but this girl would have to refuse the…kind offer of the company.”
“Unfortunately I can’t accept your refusal at the moment. You have to bring this document,” Matt put a yellow file on his desk, “and let your husband read it over the weekend. On Monday, you may come back with your answer.”
“Over the weekend?” Lucy was surprised. Why would the company impose such a rule? “That’s stupid! I’ll reject it now!”
“Language girl!” Matt admonished. “I have to give you a demerit for that.”
Lucy bit her mouth and composed herself. “This girl is sorry sir. This girl wishes to know why this girl can’t reject the offer now?”
“Let your husband read it and you’ll know,” Matt lifted the file to her. “It’s Friday, read and think about it over the weekend. Trust me, both of you want to read it first.”
The bus came to a stop just outside her house and Lucy got off. There was no need to thank Burke for a safe trip, but frankly Lucy wouldn’t have minded if she had to do it. She was just thankful she was no longer in the niqaab and another horrible day was over.
The house was a dream of suburbia. Big, spacious, with a driveway and white picket fence, it seemed perfect when they made the down-payment. Now it was the nightmare that stuck Lucy in her horrible job.
Lucy walked up the driveway and saw that the car was still there. Of course it was there! Where could Simon be but at home? The couple did not have the best of relationship nowadays. She opened the door and saw that dinner has been prepared already. Lucy took off her shoes and went to the study. As expected, her husband was sitting in front of the computer again.
Too skinny, too pale with thick glasses, Simon Kelly looked every bit like the tech geek he was. Looking back, Lucy realized what a mistake she made marrying him. She wasn’t a model or anything but she was good-looking enough to have her pick of guys. Unfortunately, she had to pick a decent guy who became a dead-weight in his career.
She tried to start off on the right foot. “Thanks for getting dinner ready honey.”
Simon looked up in surprised. He didn’t even know she was there. Like always, put him in front of a computer and Simon would lose track of everything. “Oh…Chestnut! Didn’t hear you come in; dinner still warm. Help yourself with it.”
Lucy tried her best to smile. The nickname referred to her hair color and while it was cute when they were dating, it had long lost its sparkle. Now it just sounded tacky. “What you’re going?”
“Looking around…you know the usual.”
The usual meant doing nothing. Simon had been laid off 2 years ago and had never found another job since. Lucy had to admit he tried, even scoring an interview with Sun Horizon a few months ago, but with the American economy in its tailspin, no one needed another information technology specialist. When they were first married, there were talks of start-ups and Silicon Valley. Now he was just another bum lazing around the house.
“Okay, but you may want to read this.” Lucy handed him the file from Matt. “My contract is up in 6 months and this is Sun Horizon’s kind offer.”
“What it says?”
“God knows with those Middle Eastern pricks. I’m not signing it.” Lucy turned and headed to the dining room when she heard Simon getting out of his chair.
“What? Why? We need the money Chestnut.”
“Money’s the problem. They’re only offering a third of my current salary and this is the best part; my new job would be “Office Assistance Girl”! Fuck them!”
“It’s better than nothing. Without your job we’ll have no income to speak of.” Simon opened up the file and Lucy lost it.
“Yeah, well whose fault is that? I’m not the one doing nothing for the last 2 years!” The moment the words came out, Lucy knew she made a mistake. “Look honey, you don’t know what…”
“No, no,” Simon waved off the apology. “It’s not your fault. It’s your decision.”
Simon retreated back to the study as Lucy stood there feeling guilty. There was nothing she could do now. She was about to start her dinner when Simon ran out with the file.
“Chestnut, you haven’t read this?”
Simon looked at her in shock. “They’re offering me a job!”
The next day was a Saturday and Lucy was back at work. One of the things Sun Horizon changed was moving the company to a 5 and a half work week. There were some complaints but Sun Horizon claimed this was the norm in most of the world (which was true) and in the end, everyone had to adapt.
For the first time, Lucy was grateful for the change. She didn’t think she could have waited till Monday!
Lucy knew she wanted to see Matt the first chance she got but as a girl, she couldn’t see him directly. Protocol dictated that she had to go through her DSO. Unfortunately for her, that happened to be Oscar.
Standing beside his desk in the prescribe manner, Lucy asked submissively, “Sir, this girl request to see our manager Matt.”
Oscar leaned back on his chair with a wicked smile on his face. “Really? You know girls aren’t supposed to go to management right? What possible reason does a stupid girl like you have to bother management?”
“It’s a private matter sir.”
“You know girl…I don’t think that was very respectful of you.” Oscar pointed at the floor. “Why don’t you ask that again on your knees?”
Lucy quietly knelt and asked again, “Sir, this girl request permission to see our manager Matt Hanson.”
Oscar smiled and…went back to the work on his desk. Not having been told what to do, Lucy decided to do nothing but to continue kneeling. She wasn’t leaving without seeing Matt and she knew Oscar had to acknowledge her request sooner or later. She just had to wait.
After about 10mins, Oscar looked back at her and exclaimed, “Girl, you’re still here? I thought you went off already.” Lucy silently fumed but kept quiet. Oscar finally stood up. “Hang on then. We can’t have you just lazing on your knees right? We have work!”
Oscar walked into Matt’s office and Lucy could see them talking through the window. After a minute, Oscar came back. “Good news girl! Matt’s too busy to talk to a girl like you but you are to report to the head of human resource right now.”
Lucy guessed that a “team player” like Matt would hate confrontation but she couldn’t help but felt that Matt was a coward for dodging her. However, she then realized that speaking to the main man might be better for her.
The secretary of the human resource manager was a girl with the name tag of Betty. Lucy didn’t know if she was a new hire but she was good at her job. She got her boss on the line the moment she saw Lucy entered the office. When Lucy arrived at her desk, Betty was already on her feet at the door of the manager office.
She opened the door but stopped Lucy from walking in. Betty pointed at the ground and Lucy silently cursed. Stated in the employee handbook; when girls enter the office of a manager, they had to do it on their hands and knees unless they are carrying an item on their hands. Basically, girls were not allowed to walk into a manager’s officer, they were only allowed to crawl in. It was a rule most managers ignored but as the man rumored to have written most of the employee handbook and the head of human resource, Lucy guessed it was no surprise Abdullah bin Ismail would follow all the rules within it.
Sighing, Lucy fell on her knees and crawled into the office. Lucy could see that there were 2 chairs for guests and she crawled between them. Stopping just in front of the desk, Lucy asked for permission, “Sir, this girl request permission to stand”
At the single word command, Lucy stood up carefully. She made sure her feet were at shoulder length apart, her hands were clasped, and her eyes were downcast on the ground between her feet. She had the feeling Abdullah was not someone who was forgiving to girls who did not obey all the rules in his rulebook.
“You may look up”
Slightly surprised, Lucy looked up at the man in front of her. Abdullah was a short man with a big belly on him. Looking around, Lucy saw a cold office, devoid of all manner of decoration. She immediately asked her question and was shocked by his admission.
“Yes, I know. I was the one who drew up the offer to your husband.”
“You…but why?” The man frowned and Lucy quickly remembered her mistake. “Sir, this girl respectfully asks why did the company tag my husband’s employment to this girl’s continued employment with Sun Horizon?”
“Silly girl, I would think the answer to that would be obvious. We want you to stay with us!”
Lucy bit her lips at the remark and continued, “Sir, my husband is well-qualified for the position he applied for. There is no reason for the company to do this sir.”
Abdullah smiled and Lucy could see that he was enjoying this.
“First off girl, you are being disrespectful to your husband. Simon Kelly isn’t just well-qualified for the position, he is overqualified for it!” That stunned her but before Lucy could say anything, he continued. “However, we could get what he could do for us from any new college graduate in America. I could even hire a guy from India at half the salary we are offering him. Frankly, he can do the job but Sun Horizon does not really need him.”
Abdullah paused, waiting for his words to sink in. “Second; we loved you. Girl, you used to hold a high ranking position in the company but you had adapted to your new post better than almost any other female. You are subservient to the men, respectful in your words and tone, and you do your job without complain. I won’t say you are the best girl we have but among the girls who stayed, you are among the best. Most of the other girls get demerits left, right and centre but you actually managed to get the bonus twice! We love you! You are a great example to the other girls!” Lucy reeled from the revelations. The last thing she wanted was to be some sort of role model for Sun Horizon. “So when your contract came up, I was almost ordered to find a way to keep you.”
“And you came up with the idea of offering my husband a job…sir?”
Abdullah laughed. “I’m quite proud of it in fact. Although we are a huge multi-national company, we at Sun Horizon still like to think of ourselves as a family company. This is an idea that we had tried out in other countries with great success.”
“So instead of offering me a job I’m suited for, you just offered me a bribe? Blackmailing me with my husband?” Her anger clearly showing in her voice, Lucy didn’t care about her tone, speaking in the third person or the “respectful” sir at the end of the sentence.
Abdullah’s smile disappeared. “It’s not a bribe or blackmail girl. This is a deal and a very good one. With the economy as it is, your husband would be lucky to get any job, much less one at the salary we are offering him. The one goes for you. For a girl, you are pretty smart so you should know what your chances are of getting a new job in this economic environment. You two could reject our offers of course but I don’t think you will be getting anything better than this. With the economy as it is, you guys have a better chance of hitting the lottery.” Lucy thought of everything Abdullah had said and knew he was right. However he wasn’t done yet. “I’ve checked and found that your husband had not worked for over 2 years. A man with talent and passion for his chosen field but still…2 years without work in the IT sector? Girl, Sun Horizon has been more than fair. We’re not taking him as a new hire but offering him your old salary! Tell me he can get something better than this?”
Abdullah was calm and collected throughout the whole thing but Lucy did not care. Lucy practically screamed at him. “I’m not working here for another 3 years just because of that! I don’t care about the fact he don’t have a job!”
“You don’t care?” Abdullah’s look went from shocked to one of cold understanding. His next words were spoken in a voice made of ice. “Oh, you are one of those then!”
“One of what?” Lucy had no idea what the man was talking about.
“One of those women who think nothing about your husband’s position and well-being. There’re a lot you here in the West. Women who believe you are more important than your husband; who think it perfectly all right for a man to go 2 years without work! Tell me girl, is this Simon a henpecked husband?”
She had heard enough. Lucy turned to storm out of the office but was cut short by Abdullah’s commanding voice. “Girl!” Lucy turned back to the man. “I will have to give you a demerit for your disrespectful performance just now. You should know the proper way to get out of my office.”
“The Proper Way” meant crawling out of the office on her hands and knees, the same way she came in. To that, Lucy only had one answer, “Fuck you!”
When Lucy arrived at the law firm, she was suitably impressed. The office was huge and she was quickly ushered into a conference room where she saw over 30 women inside. She quickly realized that all the women there were either working or had worked for Sun Horizon before. However the meeting, as Jennifer called, wasn’t really a meeting at all; it was a call for war.
“Well? What do you think?”
Lucy sipped her coffee while thinking of a response to the question by Danielle. “It’s sound. The lawyer seems to have done some work already on the matter. A class action suit against Sun Horizon…we probably have a case.”
“That’s what they say,” Danielle smiled, obviously happy with Lucy’s words. “They say a law suit against Sun Horizon for discrimination is a slam dunk!”
“Famous last words” The words came out before Lucy could stop herself.
“You don’t think so? You don’t think we’ll win?”
“No; nothing like that.” Lucy took a moment to compose herself. She needed to choose her next words carefully. “Remember, Sun Horizon gave all of us a lot of chances to back out when they first took over. They could argue that anyone who stayed made their own decision.”
“But what about your duties? Lucy, you’re one of the best in sales but now…”
“I’m not arguing with you Danielle. The lawyer is probably right, we’ll probably win but I’m just saying it’s not a slam dunk. It’s just not a sure thing.”
“Oh,” Danielle sounded strangely relieved. “This means you’re in right? You’re joining our lawsuit against the company?”
“Yes” Danielle hugged a surprised Lucy who almost dropped her cup. “Whoa, what’s the matter girl? There’s no need for that.”
“Oh Lucy, I was just so worried about you. We’re been trying to get all the senior female executives still in the company to come on board and you’re the last one. That plus the rest of…”
“All of the senior female executives? I don’t see Karen.”
“Oh…we won’t be approaching her.”
“Why not? She’s even more senior than me or Jennifer.”
The good thing about “not” being in a niqaab was that Lucy could clearly see the war on Danielle’s face. After a short while arguing with herself, Danielle decided to talk. “Well…we won’t be approaching her because she might say no. Worse she might tell Matt and the company. We don’t want to tip our hand before we’re ready.”
“You think she’ll say no?”
“I’m Matt’s secretary. I know things about Matt and Karen.”
“Like what?” That was all it took. You know what people always said about women and gossip; Danielle was the living example.
“Like how their marriage has gotten a lot better since the takeover. You know Karen is the best well-behaved girl in the company, even better than the new hires? She had the bonus 8 times already!”
“8?” Lucy was shocked. Just this morning, Abdullah told her having gotten the bonus twice made her one of the best girls in the company, but now she discovered that Karen got 8? Despite herself, Lucy felt her competitive juices flowing at the news.
“Yeah, I even heard Matt boasting once to someone on the phone about how proud he was of her and how much she enjoyed her new role in the company!”
“She’s a front-line receptionist now and Matt thinks she’s enjoying it?”
“Frankly I think he’s right.” Danielle whispered. “You know how rough their marriage was in the past?” Lucy nodded. It was one of the things known throughout the company. “That’s no longer the case. Since the takeover of Sun Horizon, I hardly hear them fight on the phone anymore.”
Lucy scoffed at the idea. “So…she’s what? Embracing her burka? Enjoying her role kneeling and bowing at the company? Come on Danielle, that’s ridiculous.”
“Come on Lucy, you know of the whistle-girls too! There are some of them who get off on the veiling and the humiliation. Hell, I thought you were one of them!”
“Yeah, I mean you used to be so strong. In the past when you wanted something, you would just go through anyone who was in your way but now…you are just so good at your job! Even with jerks like Oscar around the office, you just take it and don’t let them faze you at all.”
Lucy thought about what Abdullah said of her being a role model. It was the last thing on her mind but it seemed Sun Horizon weren’t the only one who thought she was a good worker.
“Come on Danielle! This is me you’re talking to! It’s just my natural instinct to do things well. You know I don’t do things half-ass!” It then hit her. “Wait, is that why you guys waited so long to approach me? Because you thought I would say no!”
“Yeah,” Danielle said with a laugh. “At times, I really thought you kind of enjoyed it!”
“Hell no! I just…just don’t mind it that much!”
Danielle gave her a curious look. “Lucy dear, that’s the problem! Honey, why don’t you hate it?”
To that question, Lucy Rice found that she had no answer.
For the rest of the week, Lucy had to wake at 5am in the morning to prepare and wait for the company bus that arrived at 5.45am. Her house was one of the earliest stops of the bus route and it would take the bus over an hour before it reached the Sun Horizon Building. Sunday was the one day of the week she could sleep in late.
So she wasn’t pleased when the phone rang
“Lucy? Oh, did I wake you? I’m sorry.”
“Oh Macy! No, it’s okay. I was getting up anyway. What’s up?”
“I just want you to know Simon was here last night.”
Lucy’s hand went to the side of the bed where her husband should be. There was another argument between them last night and she guessed it would make sense for him to go to his mother’s for the night.
“Yeah, thanks Macy.”
“Lucy…I don’t want to impose…but are you guys in trouble?”
“Trouble? No, it’s just the usual fight…”
“A few months ago, Simon asked us for a loan.”
“Oh…,”Lucy’s mind went into overdrive. Their financial position was tough but for Simon to ask money from his parents…
“Lucy? You there?”
“Yeah…look Macy. Don’t worry. We’ll okay. It will tide over soon.”
“You’re sure? Brad and I don’t have much but if…”
“No, it’s okay. Simon still there?”
“Yeah. He was drunk yesterday night.”
“He don’t drink”
“No, he doesn’t.”
Well, now it made sense why Macy called her so early in the morning. With the request for money and the drinking, she must have been worried about her son. Abdullah’s word yesterday came to haunt her and Lucy made a quick decision.
“Macy, can you do me a favor?”
“Sure honey. What you need?”
“Tell Simon to go to the interview tomorrow.”
“He’ll know what I mean. Thanks Macy.”
Lucy put down the phone before her mother-in-law could answer. She put her hands on her face and wondered. Between Abdullah and Danielle, it was a tough day yesterday and she had to ask herself some tough questions.
Top of the list? Did she enjoy her job more than she admits?
Simon didn’t come home for the rest of the day and when Monday arrived, Lucy went to work knowing full well the shit was going to hit the fan. As she left the bus and put on her uniform, she knew instinctively that there would be consequences for what she said on Saturday. It was a given that Abdullah would find a way to punish her for her outburst so she wasn’t surprised when her DSO told her to go to Human Resources.
Lucy calmly went to the office and as Betty opened the door, she saw her husband sitting inside. Sitting in a chair, he turned to see her and Lucy saw his mouth formed a big “O”. Simon had never seen her in the niqaab before and Lucy knew it must have been a shock to his system seeing her like this. She also saw that the look on his face wasn’t one of disgust but strange bemusement. His eye lit up in…something. Guiltily, Lucy found that she was smiling beneath her veil. Right then, she decided to give Simon a show. She hoped Simon don’t have a heart attack for what comes next!
Falling on her hands and knees, she crawled on all fours towards him. Just before her head reached Simon’s chair, she turned and crawled towards Abdullah. Stopping before his desk, she prostrated herself. After a moment, Lucy heard a noncommittal noise and knew it was safe to lift up her head. She did not bother to ask permission to get up.
“Let’s get the formalities out of the way first shall we?” Abdullah smiled brightly at Simon. Lucy could immediately see why he was in human resource. When speaking to her, Abdullah’s expression was the one of patient contempt. Now the man had a warm smile that put people at ease. “Mr. Kelly, Sun Horizon is a conglomerate that is based out of the Middle East. We are a private company with subsidies throughout the world, mostly in Asia and the Middle East. This company is our first venture into America but it will not be the last. So if you join us, the prospects for you are good as there is room for growth. You will also be well-compensated for your work. Sun Horizon is always looking for talented men.”
Lucy had to admit Abdullah was nice and smooth; making it seem like the company was seeking to hire Simon for his skills instead of who his wife was. Fortunately, her husband was not buying it either.
“That and the fact you want my wife to continue with the company.”
“Ha, she’s just a bonus.”
“Yes! It’s you we want!” The lie came so smoothly even Lucy believed it for a second.
“Then why did the contract state that Sun Horizon would only accept my employment if my wife signed on the dotted line as well?” Simon asked the question in a calm, collected voice. Not angry, but merely inquisitive. Lucy had never been prouder of him than right now. He was holding his own against Abdullah.
“That’s simple. She will make you work harder.”
“You think having a couple working together make them work harder?”
Abdullah was quick with his reply. “It’s true. A family that works together will also work harder for each other. However…that’s not what you really want to ask about, is it?”
“Why yes, I guess you get this a lot so I’ll just come out and ask. Why the veils?”
“The official line is that having the women in veils caused the men of the company to be less distracted. With the men being less distracted, they will be more productive.”
“You said “the official line”. What’s the unofficial line?”
“Girl! What are the three things you must remember when addressing a male employee of Sun Horizon?”
Thus far the 2 men had been ignoring her so Lucy was a little caught out by the question. Luckily, she already knew the answer by hard. “This girl must refer to herself in the third person; this girl must address all male employees with a “Sir”, and this girl must have a respectful tone when addressing a male.”
“Tell me Mr. Kelly, have you ever seen your wife like this?”
“Have you ever had her calling you “sir”? Do you enjoy hearing her call you “sir”?” Simon’s silence answered the question. “Now imagine coming to work everyday to a workplace where all the girls are respectful and treat you like a superior. Would you want to work at a place like this?”
“You can have the rules without the veil.”
“We, Sun Horizon, tried that before in other countries. We have all the rules but without any uniform. You know what happened?” Simon shrugged. “By the end of the first month, girls were coming in short mini-skirts. By the end of 6 months, girls were coming in wearing bikinis. Needless to say, men were distracted and productive suffered.”
“So have a standard uniform. Why veils?”
“It is a uniform Simon. You don’t mind me calling you that right?” Simon nodded in acceptance and Abdullah continued. “We at Sun Horizon knew that we need a uniform that enforce the superior roles of males in the company, yet at the same time not be a distraction to them.”
“And the veils were your solutions?”
“It worked and it’s still working. Ask your wife how many of her colleagues have called in sick since Sun Horizon took over. They now want, even look forward to coming to work. Also, they are now more productive than ever because they are not distracted when they are working.”
“So what’s your explanation for the “whistle-girls”? I would think they would be distractions.”
“They are mailroom staff that comes and goes. They walked in, give something for the men to enjoy, then walked out in less than a minute. No one can work without stop; that even we must accept. The “whistle-girls” give the guys a short lift, a little eye-candy. They are distractions but short ones, less than a minute or two then they are gone and the guys all feel better for it.”
Simon gave a chuckle at that. “That’s not very…uh, Middle Eastern of you. I thought you guys are all about your women being all covered up and stuff.”
“Veiling is a cultural and religious thing. Sun Horizon is a business. The girls in our company are veiled strictly because we believe men worked better in such an environment, not due to any religious dogma. In fact, we at Sun Horizon believe guys are happier working in such an environment!”
“What about your female employees? Your girls? They are happy in such an environment?”
“Yes, most of them are.” Simon and Lucy both looked at him incredulously. Abdullah continued, “The girls loved the ritual and ceremony of what they do here. There is a time limit for everything they do everyday and they loved it. Think about it; if they truly hate it, why do we have so little resignations from them?”
“There were a string of resignations from your female employees when you took over.”
“Yes, the girls resigned before they gave their new jobs and the rituals a chance. If they had stayed, they’ll probably grow to enjoy their job like Lucy did.”
“Abdullah, I can tell you for a certainty my wife do not enjoy her job.”
“Does she hate it? Do you hate your job Lucy?”
Both men looked at Lucy and Lucy felt herself whittling under their gaze. She knew the answer she was supposed to give, the answer expected by society, her husband, even herself but the “no” was struck in her throat. Like what she told Danielle, Lucy didn’t really hate her job. She looked at the ground and let the silence answered the question for her.
“So…” Simon hesitantly replied, “we were talking about my job offer?”
“Oh yes!” Abdullah smiled. “However we have a problem there.”
“A problem?” Simon’s surprise was evident.
“ Yes,” Abdullah’s smile never dropped. “It has to do with your wife.”
“Oh yes, she was very disrespectful with me last week. Frankly, we now have a question of whether she truly wants to stay at Sun Horizon.”
“I thought you said it was me you guys want?”
“You both are! You are both a team right? A husband and wife team even. However, if one of you don’t wish to…well, let just say we have no wish to force anyone to do anything she don’t want to.”
A silence reigned in the room.
“So…” Simon finally asked. “What did Lucy do?”
“First she never referred to herself in the third person, she did not address me as “Sir”, she wasn’t respectful, and to top it off, she told me to “Fuck off”.” Abdullah’s smile was directed at Lucy. “I’m afraid Sun Horizon can’t just let that stand.”
Lucy raged. Lucy understood what was going on. This was Abdullah’s punishment. The bastard wasn’t going to do anything to her directly, he was going through Simon. He was going to take away the job offer and he’s making it known it was her fault this was happening. Simon seems to understand this as well.
“So you are taking away the job offer?”
“Oh no!” Abdullah directed his smile back to Simon. “However we would like you to show that you are a team player and the man of your house. Just a little example will do for us.”
“What kind of example?”
Abdullah reached into a drawer and took out something. He placed in on his desk. “This is a bamboo cane. I say…10 strokes on Lucy’s ass would do.”
You could hear a pin dropped in the ensuring silence. Lucy’s mind raced. Something wasn’t right. Abdullah could have just taken the job offer away and it would be the end of the matter, so why is he now having this show for no reason? Then Lucy remembered that Abdullah had said that he was almost ordered to retain Lucy. It would stand to reason that Abdullah can’t take away the job offer without hurting his own standing in Sun Horizon so he was now trying to force Lucy and Simon to reject Sun Horizon’s job offers. The silence did not last long.
Surprisingly, it was broken by Simon’s laughter. Lucy and Abdullah looked at him while Simon tried to control himself.
“I’m…I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry…ha, but did you really think I would beat my wife just for a job?”
“Well…” for a moment Abdullah seemed out of words. He quickly recovered. “Well Simon, this is just a test. To prove that you…”
He was cut off when Lucy stood up. Both men looked at her, waiting to see her reaction. Lucy knew that Simon was going to reject the offer, but if he did, Abdullah wins. And if there is something Lucy hate, it was to lose!
Lucy walked to the desk and took the bamboo cane with both hands. She looked at Abdullah for a moment and was glad to see that he was nervous. He was afraid of what she was going to use the cane on him but if she did that, he wins in the end. It would be the perfect excuse for Abdullah to cancel the job offer. No way was Lucy going to let that happen.
Lucy turned back to Simon. She walked slowly toward her husband. Standing just before him, Lucy knelt and saw Simon’s face changed before her eyes. She now understood the face. It was the same face he had when he first saw her in her niqaab. It was a look of lust.
Lucy knelt with her knees apart and lifted the cane above her head with both hands. Holding the cane in her upturned palms, she whispered the words that would change her life forever. “My lord.”
The title came out of her mouth and Lucy knew it was perfect. Simon wasn’t just a normal “sir” to her, he was her husband. It was the perfect title to address him in the office. Simon took the cane in a daze and Lucy, still on her knees, turned her back to him. She bowed her head to the floor, and raised her ass high in the air.
She heard Simon standing up and felt him getting in position. She heard the cane a moment before her ass exploded in pain. SWISH! Her cry echoed in the room.
SWISH! The second stroke was delivered before she recovered and Lucy cried again.
“Lucy? You okay?” Simon’s concern could clearly be heard
Lucy said the only thing she could. She wasn’t going to let Abdullah win. “Two my lord! Please continue.”
The next 3 strokes came together! Lucy cried again but she discovered the pain wasn’t as bad now. Her ass was still on fire but Simon was so fast her pain seemed to have lessened. Either that or her ass was getting numb.
“Five my lord! Please continue.”
“I’m going to give you a choice Lucy.” Simon asked, “You want me to do all 5 together or one at a time?”
Lucy thought for a moment. Even as a kid, she had never been caned before so she didn’t have any reference to go on. She went with her gut. “Please give me all 5 together my lord.” She was never a girl who delayed the inevitable.
Simon struck the moment Lucy gave the word. He did not give Lucy a moment to get ready and Lucy immediately knew she made the wrong choice. Her body was wrecked with pain but Lucy did not break her position.
Lucy broke. She curled up on the floor and tears flowed. Even then she should hear the voice of Abdullah, reluctantly, congratulating Simon on a job well done. He was going to get the job.
She had won.
As she opened the door to her house, Lucy did it with both dread and curiosity. After her beating (there’s no other word for it) in Abdullah’s office, she was sent back to the sales floor while Simon and Abdullah spoke about his contract with Sun Horizon.
After that episode, she was curious about how Simon would react now in the comfort of their home. She opened the door and saw Simon waiting for her. He moved towards her with purpose and any doubts Lucy had were swiftly forgotten when he planted a huge kiss on her lips.
Lucy heard a sound and realized it was the door being closed. They were working their way to the sofa when Lucy tripped. Both of them fell and Lucy gave a cry as her still sore bottom hit the floor. Simon didn’t stop.
He literally ripped her shirt off her. Friends of Lucy would tell you Lucy never giggled in her life, that she just wasn’t that kind of girl, but Lucy giggled now. This was fun!
She helped Simon with the shirt but they both stumbled with her jeans. Simon gave a chuckle and said something about now knowing why skirts were better on woman than pants. Lucy silently resolved never to wear pants, trousers or jeans ever again.
They finally got the jeans off and Simon pulled her panties halfway down her legs. Lucy was working the panties off her legs when Simon lowered his shorts and shown off his penis.
Simon’s tool was, to be polite, below average and Lucy had more than once cracked jokes about it with her girlfriends. However it was eager now and Simon entered her without warning. Not that it mattered to Lucy. She had sent the whole day thinking of Simon and she was wet and ready for him.
As usual, the sex was quick but it was also different. Lucy could feel the intensity of each stroke. Simon was more…brutal, like he didn’t care about whether he was hurting her. Lucy realized with a start that this was what had been missing from their love-making. The intensity and the lack of care from Simon was great for her. She much preferred this to the usual care Simon showed when they were having sex. It was as if she had been given a new perspective of how sex should be!
Lucy never remembered a time when she had an orgasm. Lucy never had a great sex life, and frankly never thought much about it. To her, it was something like a myth girls tell each other. In her mind, Lucy thought maybe she had one before but she just didn’t know it. Now Lucy realized she had being lying to herself. She never had an orgasm before because she never had this feeling before in her life. She felt that she was having an out-of-body experience, as if she was alive and yet unconscious at the same time.
It was bliss!
“You can say that again,” Lucy giggled. Both she and Simon were laid out on the floor after their session and Lucy hugged her husband closely to give him a kiss. “You were great!”
“So were you. The best I ever had by a long shot.”
Lucy kissed her husband again. “Yeah well, we need to try and top that from here on out!” Both of them laughed. “So,” Lucy knew she need to poach the situation carefully, “you know why it was so good this time?”
Simon gave her a weak smile. “It could be sensory depravation. I read that women who were deprived of touch gets a…”sensory overload” so to speak when they finally have someone touch them. With you covered up in a niqaab the whole day, maybe that’s why.”
“I’ve been wearing the niqaab for close to a year now and we never had sex like this before.” Lucy smiled back at her husband. “You don’t really believe that do you?”
“No,” Simon admitted. “Not really.”
“It was the cane.” Lucy said.
“It was the cane and the niqaab together,” her husband corrected. “It was probably the combination of both that made us so…responsive.”
“The pain and the niqaab for me, and the delivering of the pain for you.” Lucy kissed her husband again. “Never thought you were into these kinds of things.”
“Well…I never did anything like caning a woman before of course but…always thought about it.” Simon guilty admitted. “It’s not something you talk to your wife about.”
“Well, that’s going to change buddy. Wait…no, it’s “my lord” now!” Both of them laughed again at that. “You know where we can buy a cane?”
“You sure?” Simon seemed surprised at the suggestion. “I mean…”
Lucy never let him finished. “We just had the best sex ever. Don’t tell me you don’t want to do this again.”
“I do but…only if you’re sure. I mean you could get hurt with the caning.”
Lucy laughed again at her husband and kissed him. He can be such a fool at times. “Don’t worry about me. I’m a strong girl.”
“So…I should sign the contract with Sun Horizon?”
Lucy was shocked. “Simon Kelly, don’t tell me I took the beating today for nothing! You didn’t sign?”
Simon defended himself. “Well after today I thought you might change your mind. I told him I have to talk to you first before anything. Abdullah gave me a day.”
Lucy sighed in relief. “Ok. Call him tomorrow and tell him we will sign the contracts.” Then she suddenly remembered something. “Wait, there might be a problem.”
Lucy heard the security guard walked past her and silently wondered if he was as bored as she was. For the past hour, she had been kneeling there in her black niqaab uniform awaiting her turn and it was boring as hell.
It had been 3 weeks since she told Simon about the impending lawsuit by the women of Sun Horizon and after a discussion, the couple decided to inform the company about it. It wouldn’t do to have him start work at a company his wife was suing.
Lucy told them everything, and even went to one more meeting at the law firm to get further information for the company. She didn’t really think she was betraying the girls because she hadn’t signed on the dotted line. She only gave a few verbal agreements indicating she was interested in joining but she hadn’t signed on anything confirming she was joining the lawsuit yet. If anything, the way things were going, she might have helped the girls out.
Simon told her Sun Horizon didn’t really seem surprised at the news of the lawsuit. The company was expecting something like this but they still wanted her to go to another meeting to get some information, mostly about anyone currently working in Sun Horizon who was in the lawsuit. So she went to another meeting at the law firm, asked around and gave the names to the company.
3 weeks later, here they were.
Everyone knew something was up when rumors whirled that the Deputy CEO of Sun Horizon had arrived. When all the girls in the company were told to report for a one-on-one interview with him and some senior executives, anyone who knew of the lawsuit knew what it was about. Personally, Lucy was surprised it took Sun Horizon so long to do something about the case after her information.
Of course even with the early exodus of girls from the company, there were still over 50 girls currently working at Sun Horizon. The girls were called in batches of 10 to wait on the 50th floor of the building and one by one, the girls were called in for a private meeting with the executives. Of course this being Sun Horizon, no seats were provided to the girls. While awaiting their turn, the rest of the girls were made to wait on their knees outside the office. Less surprising for Lucy was the fact that the executives wanted to see her last.
This meant that she had already seen 9 veiled bodies crawling into the office. Lucy had been quietly waiting on her knees with her hands clasped behind her. The girls had been warned not to speak to each other and the security guard was there to ensure the order was followed.
The door opened and the girl who entered before her crawled out. A female voice inside the office called out her name. Lucy started crawling the moment she heard her name.
Once inside, she heard the door being closed and an order was issued to her by the female voice. “Please go to the marked spot on the floor.” There was a red square on the floor and Lucy crawled on her hands and knees towards it. Once she got there, she turned and waited on her hands and knees for permission. After a moment, Lucy heard a noncommittal cough and moved her hands behind her back. She made sure her knees were shoulder length apart and her head was looking down at the floor.
An unfamiliar male voice asked her a question, “Ms. Lucy Rice?”
“I thought you are married?”
“Sir, this girl is but this girl kept her maiden name after marriage.”
“It is very unbecoming of a loyal employee of Sun Horizon. You will remedy that fault the first chance you get.”
It sounded like a suggestion from the man but Lucy was in no doubt it was a clear order. “Yes sir.”
“Good. You may look up girl.”
Lucy looked up at the 3 men sitting behind the long table. On the left was Abdullah, the head of human resource; on the right was Rahmat Khan, a Pakistani who was the head of sales. In essence, Rahmat was Matt’s boss which meant he was Lucy’s boss as well. Between the 2 men was Hardi al-Katatni, the Deputy CEO of Sun Horizon. The fact that he had flew from the Middle East showed how serious the company was taking the lawsuit. There was one other person in the room. A girl was kneeling to the right of the table. Dressed in a sky-blue burka, the name-tag read “Jenny”. If Lucy had to hazard a guess, she would say Jenny was a personal secretary to one of the men.
Hardi spoke again. “Girl, Sun Horizon wishes to thank you for the information you provided to us on the lawsuit. Frankly, we had been expecting it and had engaged a firm to defend Sun Horizon from such an unjust lawsuit. Our lawyers were greatly helped by your info however and as such Sun Horizon is ready to reward you for your loyalty to the company.”
There was silence in the room and Lucy quickly realized she was expected to say something. “Thank you sir. This girl wishes to thank the company for their kindness.”
“First off, we will be offering you the same deal we are offering all the other girls in the company.” Hardi made a show of looking at the papers in his hands. “For withdrawing your name from the lawsuit and an agreement not to involve yourself in any future lawsuits against the company, we will offer you a contract for 3 years with a sign-on bonus of 2 months.”
Lucy was surprised at the offer and quickly asked. “Sir, this girl is not in the lawsuit and this girl and her husband had already agreed to a new contract with the company.”
“We know that,” it was Rahmet who answered her question. “However the rest of the girls in the company do not know how we got the info of the lawsuit and we understand the tough position we would put you in if the information got public. With this, you can maintain your innocence with the rest of the girls. Just inform them you would not be joining the lawsuit as you would be taking up the company’s offer. This would be accepted by everyone as many of the girls who crawled in before you took our offer already.”
Abdullah took up the speech from there. “The company however would like you to continue to monitor the situation with the girls in the company. You are to report to the company any of the girls who took up the company’s offer but still intend to sue the company for any reason. Also, you are expected to inform us on any girl who badmouthed the company in any way, shape or form.”
“Sir, people always talk. It’s a natural thing.”
“Still, you are to inform us of the matter. No matter how trivial it seems, we want to know.” Abdullah gave her a wicked smile. “Don’t worry about how important it sounds to you. Let your betters worry about that.”
“So you want me to…” Lucy bit her tongue and controlled herself. “The company wants this girl to spy on the rest of the girls?”
“We wish you to help ensure the smooth operation of the company.” Hardi chipped in with the cream. “We also want you to help any girl having doubts to make the ‘right’ decision regarding taking our deal. If you agree, the company will give your husband a 6 month sign-on bonus.”
Lucy was shocked. A 6 month bonus at Simon’s salary was…a lot of money! However she had to ask another question. “What about the girls who refused to take up the company’s offer? Is this girl supposed to report them as well?”
“Any girl who refused to take up the company’s offer would be asked to immediately resign from the company.” Lucy reeled from the news but Hardi didn’t stop. “However they would not be asked to pay the financial penalty for breaking their contract and Sun Horizon would still pay them their salary for the month.”
That made Lucy felt better. Most of the girls had spoke of leaving and now they could do so without paying any penalty. The fact that they still would be paid for the month almost made it a fair deal.
“Do you agree with the terms?” Hardi asked.
There could only be one answer for Lucy. “Yes sir, this girl agrees.”
Danielle got to Lucy the moment she stepped back into the office and bundled her into the pantry.
“Well, what happened?”
“Probably the same that happened to you. I waited on my knees for an hour before finally crawling into the office where they asked me questions about the lawsuit; then they made me an offer in return for withdrawing my name from the lawsuit.”
“You didn’t say yes, did you?”
“Actually, I did.”
Even though she was wearing the niqaab, Lucy could see that Danielle was surprised and slightly fearful of her answer. It’s surprising how much you could tell just from looking at someone’s eyes. Lucy silently chuckled to herself that this was one skill she could have never picked up if not for wearing the niqaab.
“Why did you do that Lucy?”
There was a slight accusation in Danielle’s voice but Lucy knew this was going to happen and was ready with the answers. “Money, stability and a job for the next 3 years. It’s that simple Danielle.”
“Don’t give me that! If it’s money, you would get plenty once we win!”
“And how long will that take?” Lucy asked patiently. “Danielle, you need to think things through. If you don’t take the deal, you will have to resign. Even if you win, and it is a “if”, Sun Horizon would appeal and it would be years before anyone sees any money. What are you going to do in the meantime?”
“Get another job”
“In this economy? Come on, we both know how bad things are out there and do you really think someone out there is going to hire you once they find out you are suing your last employer?” From her eyes, Lucy could tell that Danielle had not thought of that. Time for her to strike while the iron was hot. “I’m not the only one who thinks this. The 3 heads up on the 50th floor told me a lot of the girls had taken up the offer.”
“And you believed them?”
“Why not? It’s the sensible, logical thing to do. Jennifer took the deal as well.”
Danielle went from being surprised into shocked. “Jen…Jennifer? No way!”
Frankly Lucy was surprised as well when Abdullah told her the news. It was at this moment the other 2 girls came into the pantry. Jamila and Suriani saw the argument between Lucy and Danielle and the 2 girls quietly went to the counter to start preparation for the snacks. Lucy realized the time and turned to look back at Danielle.
“Look Danielle, I’m not arguing with you on this. Everyone needs to make their own decision. For me, I had made mine and I will respect your decision whichever it is but you must think things through. If you sign the deal, you get a job for the next 3 years. If you do not, you will be jobless with little to no prospect of getting another. That means no money for the next few years because it will take at least that long for the lawsuit to clear the courts. That is if you win the suit.” Lucy waited for Danielle to digest everything she had said. Then she went for the kill, “If you want my opinion, it’s not a risk worth taking. Jennifer thinks the same way I do and that’s why she took the deal. As a friend, I say take the deal. It as good as any you are going to get.”
Danielle’s eyes went wide with horror but Lucy was glad to see that there was some understanding there as well. Danielle said, “You don’t seem to have a problem admitting the fact you taken the deal?”
“Why should I?” Lucy asked back. “I made my decision and I’m not ashamed of it. I did what’s good for me and I suggest you do the same thing. Don’t make any decision for the sake of sisterhood or any crap like that. Make a decision that is best for you.”
After a second, Danielle nodded. She knew everything that was said was true. “I’ll think about it.”
Lucy nodded her head and smiled beneath her veil. She knew she got Danielle. Lucy watched as Danielle walked out of the pantry and turned to the counter. She was surprised to see that the snacks and coffee had already been prepared for her. There was even a notebook on her trolley stating the orders of all the men in her area. She looked at Jamila and Suriani in question and Suriani was the one who answered her unspoken question.
“We knew you would be late so Jamila and I took the orders of everyone in your area. Just follow the notebook and it will be fine.”
Lucy nodded in thanks and quickly made a decision. She was going to be here for the next 3 years and it was about time she began to build bridges in the office. “Thank you both but from now on I think we need change the areas we are all in charge of.”
“We do?” Suriani asked.
“Yes. The two of you had been splitting Michele’s area between you. There are 3 of us in the office so it is only fair I do my part as well. I’m sorry it took me this long to realize how unfair I had been. From now on, we’ll spilt Michelle’s area between the 3 of us equally.”
The 2 girls nodded in acknowledgement. The clock stuck 9.30am and the 3 girls pushed out their trolleys. Now for the second part of Lucy’s plan to build bridges in the office. She should need to especially submissive and obedient to the men from now on. Lucy smiled beneath her veil.
Her panties were getting wet just thinking about it.