Unprofessional Behavior: Chapter Three

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Williams knocked shave-and-a-haircut on the doorway to her office. Victoria stifled a yawn as he came in without waiting for permission. “Delivery,” he said cheerfully, a napkin full of pastry in his hand. His suit was pinstriped; his shirt and his pocket square were lavender.

“What is it?” She didn’t get up, didn’t greet him or even pretend to be pleased. She’d picked a dusky rose for the day’s color. They almost matched. She wished that they did, were glad that they didn’t, wished that she didn’t wish it.

“Chocolate cherry scones,” he said, and she perked up.

“Where the hell’d you get those?”

“Bakery between here and my house,” he said, his other hand in his pocket.

“Like a real bakery?” He nodded. “What the fuck. Go to Costco like a normal person.” He laughed. “Hand them over.”

“That doesn’t sound like ‘please’,” he said, as perky as before.

She opened her mouth, then shut it again before she said something she’d regret. Like suggesting he wanted her to beg. The last thing she needed was for him to know the thought had occurred to her. “Fuck off,” she said instead.

“If you say so.”

Victoria huffed. “Don’t just bring scones in here to taunt me, you dick.”

“Language,” he warned. “You’re still at work, remember?”

“Give me the scones or don’t, don’t show up with breakfast I didn’t ask for and expect me to—”

“Fine,” he said, interrupting her and deflating completely her righteous indignation. He set the napkin on the edge of her desk, and she had to stretch to reach it. “Enjoy your breakfast, Miss Garcia.”

She was still floundering in the aftermath of her foiled tirade. She considered a scone with caution. “Yes, sir, Mr. Williams sir,” she said under her breath with forced cheer.

He knocked two bits on the way back out.

●●●

(She knew exactly what she was doing.)

(She had to.)

(Right?)

●●●

Technically Victoria had bought the fried cheese curds to share, but she wasn’t complaining about the fact that Jeremy wasn’t having any.

Even if she was consequently eating about a pound of cheese on her own.

“At that point,” Jeremy said, perfectly content to continue his story without any input from her, “I’m about ready to strangle Bill to death.” She snorted. “I tell him we can’t do that, he’s just fucking flabbergasted. ‘On my son’s computer’ and I’m about ready to strangle his fucking son, too. He’s a little shithead, by the way, I don’t know if you ever saw him at any of the company picnics.” Victoria shook her head. “Greasy little ginger? I’m surprised he never tried to hit on you, you’re probably too intimidating.” Her snort turned into outright laughter that time. “What? You’re very intimidating. Especially to a teenager, you probably scared the shit out of him. You know Bill tried to get him a job? God, that was a whole fucking… ordeal. I feel like I was talking about something else, what was I talking about?”

“Johnson wanted to pirate Visio.”

“Right! Right, fucking… god. He doesn’t want to tell me I’m wrong, obviously,” because of course Jeremy fucking Williams couldn’t be wrong, no one would dare try to tell Jeremy fucking Williams he was wrong, “but he keeps talking about how his son gets this fucking software. Finally I tell him, you know, if we did that and Microsoft found out we’d get fined out the ass. The fact that it’s illegal, that’s not getting through to him, it’s not processing at all, but maybe he doesn’t want to get fined. Maybe that can be a thing that doesn’t happen. And he’s just… ‘how would they find out?'” His eyes boggled in annoyed horror, and Victoria snorted again.

“I bet he wanted it for some stupid shit, too,” she said as he paused to sip his beer.

“Don’t step on my punchline,” he scolded, and she laughed, grabbing another cheese curd. “Fuck, you ruined it. Are you happy now? You ruined the punchline to a perfectly good anecdote.”

“What did he want it for?”

“A flowchart,” he said, and she cackled. “A fucking—not even a complicated flowchart, or an interesting flowchart. This flowchart had maybe three steps. This was a sentence split between bubbles with arrows instead of commas. It didn’t even need to be a flowchart.”

“Why did he think he needed Visio?”

“I have no fucking idea,” Jeremy said, running his hands through his hair. “I told him to just use PowerPoint but he got all huffy about how it wasn’t as ‘full-featured’. What the fuck does that even mean. He’s still insisting it would look better if he could make it ‘right’, like his idiot baby flowchart has so much fucking room for improvement.”

“Do you think he saw a networking diagram, once, and thought it was a fancy flowchart?”

“Oh, god, he probably did. Fuck. I would not doubt that for even one second.”

“And just think,” Victoria said, “he’s my boss.”

“I don’t know how anyone in Finance survives, I really don’t.” Jeremy sighed. “I’m sorry, I’ve just been talking at you. This isn’t even a conversation.”

“It’s fine.”

“It’s totally not fine. I know this isn’t mansplaining because I’m not trying to explain anything, but I feel like this is man-something.” She snorted again. “Man-opolizing the conversation.”

“If puns are happening, I’m leaving.”

“Nooo, don’t go.” He took a cheese curd, which he was perfectly entitled to and which she resented anyway. “No more puns. How’s your week been?”

“Fine.”

“You’re too full of hate for your week to have been fine. I thought you wanted to set Collins’ desk on fire.”

“I did,” she agreed, “but I already told you about that.”

“You texted me about it,” he corrected, because he seemed to consider these distinct.

“Yes. Exactly.”

“Should I talk at you more, then, or shall we sit in companionable silence?”

“Your choices are talking, or awkward silence.”

“Does it have to be awkward?” he asked with an exaggerated pout.

“Yes.”

“Would you like to know the latest dumb thing that’s going to blow up in everyone’s faces?” Jeremy asked.

“God, yes,” she said, no hesitation whatsoever.

“Opening up access to the global mailing list.”

“What.”

“Reply all,” he summarized.

“Oh, god. What?”

He had that wolfish grin again, the one she only seemed to see on him when it was just the two of them. “They’ve been bugging me for years, now, for access to the ‘everyone’ list. I explain to them why that’s fuckstupid and tell them to just come to me if they need to send out a global email. But half the time the emails they want to send only need to reach about three people, so I tell them to just email those three people instead. They’re just too fucking lazy to type out more than one email address. I even made—did you know there are departmental lists? No one fucking uses them, because they figured out they could go to Brooks and ask him to send shit out. He didn’t know they were going around me.”

“Now he’s fucking sick of sending out everyone’s stupid bullshit emails, so Wednesday he tells me he wants everyone to be able to use ‘everyone’. I try to explain—nicely, you know, he’s old so what the fuck does he know about email—why that’s fucking stupid. He says it’ll be fine, we’ll just open it up to management and supervisors and I can tell them how to not be fuckups. It’s not like I can say no, he’s my fucking boss. But we both know there’s at least one weak link in that chain.”

“Johnson,” Victoria groaned.

“I have no idea how he’s going to fuck it up, but he’s going to fuck it up big time.”

“How did he even get his job?” she asked, popping another cheese curd into her mouth.

“He’s not bad at running numbers, from what I’ve heard—he just got promoted and now that isn’t his job anymore.” Jeremy shrugged. “My theory is that he’s a quarantine.” She laughed. “Just have one enormous fuckup, and minimize the number of smaller fuckups. Keep it isolated.”

“I don’t think that’s how fucking up works,” she said.

“But you can’t prove it.” Right as she was about to take the last cheese curd from the plate, he snatched it away from her. She glared at him. “These are for everyone,” he reminded her, still chewing.

“I was just saying that to be nice,” she said, licking crumbs of breading from her fingertips.

“If you’re going to lie, I’m going to take advantage.”

She flagged down the waitress to order another beer, and tried not to overthink it.

●●●


Subject: Finance Meeting
Date: Tues, 13 May 2014 08:24:17 -0500 (EST)
From: bjohnson@aai-louvenia.com
To: everyone@aai-louvenia.com

There’s going to be a mandatory meeting for everyone in the finance department on Thursday at 2 to discuss recent reporting issues. Please make sure to be there. Other departments are also welcome.

Bill Johnson
District Manager of Finance
bjohnson@aai-louvenia.com


Subject: Re: Finance Meeting
Date: Tues, 13 May 2014 08:27:52 -0500 (EST)
From: kstevenson@aai-louvenia.com
To: everyone@aai-louvenia.com

I am out of the office today. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Jeremy Williams at jwilliams@aai-louvenia.com. Otherwise, I will respond to your email as soon as possible when I return to the office tomorrow.

Karen Stevenson
Sales Team Supervisor
AAI Louvenia Office
812-555-7309


Subject: Re: Finance Meeting
Date: Tues, 13 May 2014 08:29:21 -0500 (EST)
From: lroberts@aai-louvenia.com
To: everyone@aai-louvenia.com

Thank you for your email! I will be out of the country from May 11th to May 17th. If the contents of your email require attention before my return, please get in touch with my assistant manager Kyle Gordon. I may be able to check my email while abroad, but even if not, I promise to get back to you as soon as I can.

Lars Roberts
District HR Manager
LinkedIn Twitter


Subject: Re: Finance Meeting

Date: Tues, 13 May 2014 08:32:12 -0500 (EST)

From: kstevenson@aai-louvenia.com
To: everyone@aai-louvenia.com

I am out of the office today. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Jeremy Williams at jwilliams@aai-louvenia.com. Otherwise, I will respond to your email as soon as possible when I return to the office tomorrow.

Karen Stevenson
Sales Team Supervisor
AAI Louvenia Office
812-555-7309


Subject: Re: Finance Meeting

Date: Tues, 13 May 2014 08:33:43 -0500 (EST)

From: lroberts@aai-louvenia.com
To: everyone@aai-louvenia.com

Thank you for your email! I will be out of the country from May 11th to May 17th. If the contents of your email require attention before my return, please get in touch with my assistant manager Kyle Gordon. I may be able to check my email while abroad, but even if not, I promise to get back to you as soon as I can.

Lars Roberts
District HR Manager
LinkedIn Twitter


+234 messages [Expand]



Subject: Email System
Date: Tues, 13 May 2014 11:05:34 -0500 (EST)
From: jwilliams@aai-louvenia.com
To: jwilliams@aai-louvenia.com
BCC: everyone@aai-louvenia.com

I apologize for the brief interruption in email services. Everything has been restored to usual functionality, and the problem should not recur. If anyone is still having trouble with email, please contact me.

If you have an email that you would like sent to the office, please send me the contents of the email you would like sent, and I will take care of it for you. I would also like to remind everyone of the more limited mailing lists available. In many cases, these smaller lists may suffice for departmental announcements. I have attached a list of all currently active office mailing lists, as well as the permissions associated with each.

Thank you, everyone, for your patience and understanding regarding this issue.

Jeremy Williams
District Manager
Accounting and Information Technology
812-555-8479


●●●

Victoria: Karen said to contact you for immediate assistance.
Will.he.is: Don’t you start
Victoria: I almost replied to your email but I was paranoid about reply-all.
Will.he.is: Good
◦◦◦
Will.he.is: Those emails are all corporate property anyway
Will.he.is: No privacy at all
Victoria: Because our conversations are so scandalous.
Will.he.is: Goddamn right
Victoria: So I shouldn’t be using my work email to send nudes?
Will.he.is: I already know that’s hypothetical
◦◦◦
Will.he.is: The only person to try that was Kyle
Victoria: Have you seen Kyle’s dick?
Will.he.is: I assume so
Will.he.is: Unless it was a stunt dick
◦◦◦
Will.he.is: Either way I’m not happy about it
Victoria: Ahahaha.
Victoria: Poor baby.
Will.he.is: I’m so done with this week
Victoria: It’s only Tuesday.
Will.he.is: Don’t remind me.
◦◦◦
Will.he.is: Good morning to you, too
Victoria: ?
Will.he.is: I waved in the hall
◦◦◦
Victoria: I didn’t see you.
Will.he.is: I guessed that, yeah
Victoria: Don’t be snippy.
Will.he.is: I’m not snippy!
Will.he.is: You are the one who is snips
Victoria: Hahahaha what.
Will.he.is: Don’t ask me like I know, I checked out last night
◦◦◦
Will.he.is: Guess who got salted caramel cream cheese danishes
Victoria: What the fuck.
Victoria: That’s not a real thing.
Will.he.is: The realest
Victoria: I demand five immediately.
Will.he.is: Aren’t you bossy all of a sudden
◦◦◦
Victoria: There is nothing sudden about this.
Will.he.is: No free danish unless you come and get it this time
Victoria: What!
Will.he.is: You heard me
Will.he.is: Read me
Will.he.is: Whatever
◦◦◦
Victoria: That’s bullshit.
Will.he.is: Either come and get it or don’t get it
Victoria: This feels like a trap.
Will.he.is: Yes
◦◦◦
Will.he.is: The trap is that I get to stay at my desk
Victoria: I wouldn’t even know where to find your mythical danishes.
Will.he.is: I have a couple in my office
Victoria: Are you luring me into your office with sweets?
◦◦◦
Will.he.is: Okay when you put it like that it sounds bad
Victoria: Ahahahaha.
Will.he.is: I figured you wouldn’t want to go taking donuts from the cart
Will.he.is: Where all the accountants could see
Victoria: True.
Victoria: But they’ll see me going into your office, and leaving with danishes.
Victoria: Which is even more awkward.
◦◦◦
Will.he.is: You can help me with this report
Will.he.is: And eat danishes at the same time
Will.he.is: Totally legitimate work business
Will.he.is: Business work
Victoria: Hahaha, Johnson didn’t tell you why he wants to have a meeting?
Will.he.is: ? No?
Victoria: The ~reporting issue~ is “nonstandard layouts” which is not technically against the rules but he hates it.
Will.he.is: You’re shitting me
Victoria: I’m not 100% but I’m pretty sure that’s what the meeting is about.
Will.he.is: What the fuck
◦◦◦
Will.he.is: The standard reports are confusing as hell and look like shit
Victoria: Agreed.
Victoria: Obviously.
Will.he.is: Well then you definitely need to help me with this
Will.he.is: Make it as nonstandard as possible
Will.he.is: That’ll shut him up
Victoria: Hahahaha.
◦◦◦
Will.he.is: Also, danishes
Victoria: Fine, fine, I’ll be there in a minute.
Victoria: Assuming I remember where your fucking office is.

●●●

There was a Live, Laugh, Love sign in Victoria’s office.

She had not put it there.

It was on the wall across from her desk, and had been placed high enough up that it was nearly touching the ceiling. It was above a shelf, putting it even further out of her reach, since she could hardly risk climbing on the cheap plasterboard.

Furthermore, it was a very small sign. If she did not stare at that wall every single day, even she might not have noticed, except that she was practically allergic to Live, Laugh, Love signs. It was a tiny square of frosted glass with a different font for every single word. The words themselves were done in gold. Someone, somewhere, thought it was tasteful.

It was her lunch break, and instead of eating lunch, she was trying to figure out how to get it down without drawing attention to it. She’d closed her office door and shuttered the blinds, and had pulled one of the spare office chairs as close as she could manage. It was still further than she’d like, thanks to the shelf in her way. Her heels were unsteady on the cushion of the chair, and the chair was unsteady on its wheels. It was a series of bad decisions stacked on top of one another, and she was still about a foot too short.

She really hated that sign.

A familiar shave-and-a-haircut knock did not wait for a response before opening her door. She didn’t have time to get down and pretend that all was well.

It was all his fault, anyway. She was sure of it.

Garcia,” Williams said, horrified, instead of whatever gloating she had expected. He was immediately by her side and putting his hands on her hips to steady her, which had entirely the opposite effect. Fortunately, he seemed strong enough to compensate for her going weak in the knees. “Are you trying to break your neck?”

“No,” she snapped, “but whose fault would it be if I did?” She nearly put her hands over his to help hold herself up, stopped herself and pressed her fingertips to the wall. “Let me go and close the door,” she hissed at him.

“You get down first,” he ordered, and she bristled in indignation and inconvenient arousal.

“Fuck you, get the door before someone sees.”

Williams did not argue. What he did instead was worse. He pulled her down and pushed the chair out from under her with his foot, and Victoria’s survival instincts were garbage, because her immediate response to plummeting toward the ground was to clap both hands over her mouth so she couldn’t scream. He caught her like it was nothing, set her down just as quickly and was closing the door before she could even process what had happened. Just a split-second of his arms around her waist and her back against his chest, nothing but sense memory to indicate that it had even happened. He smelled like a mint mocha. He kept bottles of green mint syrup in his office, next to his French press.

She was going to set the building on fire.

“Sorry,” he said once the door was shut, as if that could even remotely begin to cover the indignities she had suffered.

Her hands finally left her mouth. “You bet your ass you’re sorry,” she said, and he winced.

“That was a definite workplace safety violation,” he said, but he was clearly grasping at straws.

“I wouldn’t have even been up there,” she said, “if you hadn’t done that.” She pointed to the hideous little dollar store sign on her wall.

“You can’t prove that was me,” he said, which was practically a confession.

“We both know it was you.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to hurt yourself trying to get it down,” he said.

“You clearly don’t know me very well,” she said, and something in his jaw stiffened. “Take it down.”

“Is that an order, Miss Garcia?” he asked, and the way he asked it made her knees feel weak again. A low warning of a question, and he was probably angry with her, she was certain that he was, it only seemed thrilling because she was her. Her survival instincts were garbage.

“Yes,” she said rather than backing down, tilting her chin higher and rolling her shoulders back. “Is that a problem, Mr. Williams?”

“Not at all, Miss Garcia,” he said, though the tilt of his head made him out as a liar. “I just wanted to be clear.” He came closer, and she took a step backward before it occurred to her to stand her ground. He paused. It felt like they were having some kind of standoff. Then he turned, and lifted her entire bookshelf in order to move it out of the way. Her various books—chosen for professional-looking spines and for no other reason—shook, but did not tip over. He was then able to stand right next to the wall, and reach up to grab the hideous little sign.

He barely had to rise up on his toes, the absolute insufferable fuckass.

He offered her the little square of glass. He looked smug about it. She thought about knocking it out of his hand, but instead accepted it as gracefully as she could. “Thank you, Mr. Williams,” she said.

“No trouble at all, Miss Garcia.” He put her bookshelf back without apparent strain, didn’t even ruin the lines of his perfect Italian suit. “Let me know if you need anything else.” He made it sound like a threat.

“Will do,” she said, as perky as she could. He knocked twice on the doorframe on the way out.

Revenge. Revenge was necessary.

●●●

Williams didn’t knock when he came into her office. He might have if his arms weren’t full. She pretended to be engrossed typing random words into her browser’s address bar.

He dropped an enormous pile of frames, canvases, etched mirrors, and glass knick-knacks onto her desk. The pile was topped with vinyl lettering that he must have peeled painstakingly from his office walls.

They were all covered in variations of Live, Laugh, Love.

Where,” he asked, “did you even find all of these?”

“Around,” she said simply. She’d gone to five different stores. Three of them were dollar stores. One was a craft store.

“How did you get into my office?”

“I have my ways,” she said, checking her manicure.

She’d asked one of the IT guys if they knew how to get in. She’d said she was helping him with a project. They’d been happy to help.

“It took me three hours,” he said, and she smothered a giggle, “to find all of these fucking things and take them down.”

“Oh, that’s not all of them,” she said with a flutter of her eyelashes.

“You’re shitting me.” She continued to flutter. “Where are the rest?”

“You’ll find them,” she said, an unspoken ‘eventually’.

“You know, usually when someone initiates a prank war, there’s a slow escalation.”

Victoria looked to the stack of terrible typography, then at him. “Is this not?” she asked.

●●●


Subject: Desktop Wallpapers
Date: Wed, 28 May 2014 14:47:28 -0500 (EST)
From: jwilliams@aai-louvenia.com
To: jwilliams@aai-louvenia.com
BCC: everyone@aai-louvenia.com

Thank you, everyone, for your emails regarding the desktop wallpapers on company computers. Sometimes, during the normal course of operations, I.T. finds it necessary to push through updates to the operating system and software. Usually, we try to email everyone well in advance of these updates. I would also like to remind everyone that, as these computers are company property, it is a good idea to keep any personal files backed up on a regular basis.

Due to a glitch in our usual software updates, it seems everyone had their wallpaper set to one randomly chosen from a database of wallpapers. If your wallpaper changed, this glitch was why. I would like to assure everyone that there has been no hacking, and the rest of your files should be perfectly safe. If you did not have a backup of the wallpaper you were previously using, the I.T. department apologizes for the inconvenience. It should nonetheless be possible to change the wallpaper back to whatever you would like.

If you need help customizing your desktop, please contact Darren Nguyen at dnyugen@aai-louvenia.com

Jeremy Williams
Live, Laugh, Love – Mother Theresa


●●●

LiveLaffLuv: You’re a fucking monster ~ℓινє~ℓαυgн~ℓσνє~
LiveLaffLuv: Oh my god ~ℓινє~ℓαυgн~ℓσνє~
LiveLaffLuv: HOW DID YOU GET MY PHONE ~ℓινє~ℓαυgн~ℓσνє~
LiveLaffLuv: WHAT IF I HAD TRIED TO TEXT SOMEONE IMPORTANT ~ℓινє~ℓαυgн~ℓσνє~
LiveLaffLuv: Oh my god how do I even disable text signatures on this fucking phone ~ℓινє~ℓαυgн~ℓσνє~
LiveLaffLuv: Why are text signatures even a thing ~ℓινє~ℓαυgн~ℓσνє~
LiveLaffLuv: You’re the fucking devil
Victoria: Mwahahaha.
LiveLaffLuv: I’m going to be getting emails for weeks about wallpapers
◦◦◦
Victoria: Karen says she likes hers.
LiveLaffLuv: Yeah, I know
LiveLaffLuv: I’ve gotten like ten emails now from people asking about the wallpaper database
LiveLaffLuv: The stupid fake thing I made to cover your ass
LiveLaffLuv: I’m going to have to make a real wallpaper database
LiveLaffLuv: Full of shitty mom quotes over soft-focus photos of flowers and seashells
Victoria: That is the best thing I’ve ever heard.
◦◦◦
LiveLaffLuv: I give up
LiveLaffLuv: You’ve beaten me
LiveLaffLuv: I have learned an important lesson about fucking with you
Victoria: I will accept my victory prize in the form of macarons.
LiveLaffLuv: Is the fact that I’m a broken man not enough for you??
Victoria: No.
Victoria: I also want macarons.
Macarons: Evil, evil woman

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