BY LINDA LEWIS
Being totally honest can have fairly dramatic effects – as David discovers at his sister’s dinner party…
It’s Friday. Some of us are headed for the pub. Fancy coming?”
“No, thanks. Honestly – I’m not in the mood. Sorry.”
Liz sighed at me.
“You can’t keep saying no, David.”
That’s where she was wrong. I could keep saying no.
I knew what it would be like. Jo would be telling everyone about her wedding plans, flashing her ginormous engagement ring at all and sundry; Phil would be handing round photos of his twin girls, Jane would be going on about the holiday she’s planning with her boyfriend, etc, etc.
Right now, I’d rather not listen to how happy everyone else is.
I thought I’d found the one – that we’d end up growing old together. Instead, my girlfriend dumped me.
Apparently, I’d got it all wrong
We weren’t serious at all, we were “just two people spending time together” until somebody better came along.
I just wish she’d told me the truth, before I got in too deep. Then it might not have hurt quite so much. I can’t face going through all that again.
I watched from the corner of my eye as Liz tidied her desk, turned off her computer, then flung on her coat. She stopped in the doorway and mouthed the words “Last chance” at me.
I shook my head. I had to give her ten out of ten for persistence. I’d lost count of the number of times she’d invited me.
Once I was sure she’d gone, I headed home. There was a message on my machine. I pressed play and my sister’s voice filled the hallway.
“Hi, David. It’s Sally. We’re having that dinner party tomorrow – remember? I’m sure I told you about it. Please say you’ll come.”
Then she launched into a long, rambling explanation about why she wanted me to be there but I’d stopped listening. I don’t know what it is about my sister and answering machines, but her messages go on for ever.
I left her talking away in the background while I prepared my dinner. I caught the end.
“Eight o’clock sharp. Call me!”
I really didn’t want to go. Everyone else would be in couples – or worse still, Sally would have invited a single “friend”. But there was a problem – I love my sister. So, I called her back.
“About tomorrow night. Do you really need me there?”
“Didn’t you listen to my message?”
“Most of it.”
She pretended to sulk
“Why do I bother? You never listen.”
“That’s because your messages are way too long,” I said good-naturedly. “So, tell me. Why do you want me there?”
“One of the managers is retiring soon, and I’d like his job, but my boss refuses to take me seriously. I was hoping you could put in a good word for me. You’re in PR. If anyone can sell the idea to him, it’s you.”
She’d done exactly what I expected her to do – played the little sister card.
“OK, you win. I’ll be there.”
I was the last one to arrive, even though I was on time. Sally hugged me, then led me into the dining room.
There was one space left, opposite her boss. That I expected; what I didn’t expect was to find Liz from work in the seat next to mine.
“I didn’t realise you knew Sally,“ I said as I sat down.
“We only met recently. We use the same gym.” She smiled.
Before the starter arrived, Sally’s boss, Mr Hibbert, fixed his eagle eye on me. He wasted no time getting to the point.
“Sally’s your sister, right? You’re the brother who works in PR.” I nodded. “Did she tell you she’s looking for a promotion?”
“Yes. She did.”
He tapped his fork on the table. “I have a question for you, but I’d like a straight answer. None of this PR flannel. What do you say?”
His attitude made me bristle, but I thought of Sally, and managed a smile
“Sure. Fire away.”
He leaned forward, giving me the benefit of his cold dark stare.
“The question I want answered is this. And like I said, I’d appreciate a straight answer – if you were me, would you promote your sister?”
I didn’t know what to say. I could tell him the usual stuff – how hard-working and reliable my sister was, that she knew the job backwards – but he already knew all of that.
When I didn’t answer, he smiled.
“What’s wrong? Not used to telling the truth in PR is that it?”
It was the last straw. I thought of my ex and how, if she’d told me the truth sooner, the break-up would have been easier to take. I decided that if Mr Hibbert wanted the truth, I’d let him have it. Both barrels.
After all, he had just more or less accused me of lying as part of my job.
“No,” I said evenly. “If I were you, I wouldn’t promote my sister. “
His mouth dropped open. Obviously, that wasn’t what he’d been expecting.
I looked straight into his eyes. “Because your record on promoting women isn’t great. And you’d probably need to hire two people to replace her.”
When Mr Hibbert didn’t reply, I wondered if I’d gone too far. I was about to go into full grovelling apology mode when he did something I didn’t expect, he pushed back his chair, and stormed off. Moments later, the front door banged behind him.
My sister gasped
“What did you say to him?”
“He asked me to tell him the truth so I did. Do you want me to go after him?”
She shook her head. “He’ll be fine once he calms down,” but I could see she wasn’t convinced.
Liz’s reaction was something else I didn’t expect.
“Wow!” she said. “That was amazing. I wish somebody would stand up to my boss like that.”
Of course, I knew who she meant because she was my boss too – the dreadful Miss Wendoline Derbyshire, she of the short sentences and the even shorter temper; a bully in tweeds.
I’d seen the way she pushed Liz around but I felt it wasn’t my place to interfere. Liz could take care of herself.
Apparently, I was wrong.
“Technically, I’m your line manager. If you think it would do any good, I could always have a word with her.”
She laughed. “And have her think I’m scared of her? No, thanks. Besides, I’d rather keep my job.”
But I noticed that she looked more amused than concerned.
By the time Sunday came along, I was regretting what I’d said to Sally’s boss. I’d wrongly assumed he was big enough to see the sense of what I’d told him. He had asked for the truth, after all.
I was in the middle of cleaning the fridge when my sister called.
“Mr Hibbert’s sent me an email.”
My heart dropped like a stone in a well. If Sally lost her job because of something I’d said, I’d never forgive myself. It would be my fault.
“I’m so sorry, Sally. Give me his number. I’ll call him and apologise.”
I didn’t expect her to laugh but that’s exactly what she did.
“There’s no need because whatever you said did the trick. He’s not only giving me that promotion, he wants me to help find my replacement.”
I could hardly believe it.
“That’s wonderful news, sis! I’m so happy for you.”
“There’s more,” she said.
The following Monday at work, I asked my boss if I could have a word. As usual, she gave me the brush-off. It wasn’t convenient right now but she could try and squeeze me in after lunch.
“So what did you want to see me about?” Miss Derbyshire asked when I finally stood in her office.
She signalled me to sit but I preferred to remain standing. What I had to say wasn’t going to take very long.
“It’s about Liz Rogers. She’s the best administrator we have. It’s high time you recognised that.”
“And what’s that got to do with you?” she asked.
“Apart from being her line manager, nothing,” I admitted. “It’s just that I’ve never been keen on bullies.”
It was like watching a kettle trying not boil
She drummed her fingers on her desk and looked me right in the eye.
“Well, David, if you’re not happy with the way I handle things here, maybe it’s time you found another job.”
She smiled but it was more like a sneer. I guess she must have thought she had the winning hand – but I was hiding an ace up my sleeve.
I pushed a letter across the desk. “That’s my resignation. I’m owed four weeks holiday so if it’s all right with you, I’ll take them now.”
She glared at me and I understood what the expression “if looks could kill” really meant.
“In that case you can leave now. You have ten minutes to clear your desk.”
“Suits me,” I said. “Goodbye.”
I strode out of her office, head high and began sorting through my things.
I was about to leave the office when Liz came back from lunch. She must have heard the news, because she was running.
“What’s going on? Somebody said you’re leaving.”
“I’ve just given notice. I have holiday owing so I’m taking that in lieu.”
“Why? What happened?”
I nodded towards the office
“I told your boss I wasn’t happy with the way she treats you.”
Liz put her hand on my arm.
“I’m so sorry, David. If I’d had any idea you were going to speak to her, I’d have stopped you.”
“It wouldn’t have made any difference,” I told her. “Not this time. Besides, it was the truth. It needed saying.”
Miss Derbyshire opened her door and shouted across the office at me.
“If you’re still here in five minutes, I’m calling security.”
“I’d better be on my way,” I told Liz.
“I’ll be in the Royal Oak at six. Let me buy you a farewell drink. And this time, please, don’t say no.”
There was something about the way she asked me that made it impossible to refuse, so I nodded. A quick drink wouldn’t kill me.
I dumped all my stuff at home, took a shower and changed into something casual. I was going out.
When I got to the pub, Liz wasn’t there. I was about to turn tail when she appeared. She looked flushed.
“Miss Derbyshire was in such a bad mood, I couldn’t get away,” she explained. “Thanks for talking to her – but she’s never going to change. She’ll always be a dreadful boss.”
“You really should think about finding something better.”
“I will. I still don’t understand why you did it. Why throw your job away?”
That’s when I told her about my new job, the one my sister’s boss offered me because I’d dared to tell him the truth; the new job with more money, expenses and a company car.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m very happy with the way things have turned out. In fact, I fancy celebrating properly. There’s a lovely little Italian restaurant near here where I happen to have reserved a table for two.” I paused. “What do you say? Will you join me?”
“Hmmm. I thought you’d vowed never to date anybody ever again.”
I could see the twinkle in her lovely blue eyes
I knew she was teasing. I finally admitted the truth to myself. I cared about Liz, very much. I decided to tell her the truth.
“All those times you asked me out for a drink after work, I wanted to say yes, but I didn’t want to risk getting hurt again.”
“And what do you say now, David?”
“I’m willing to risk it if you are.” I reached out and took her hand. “Shall we give it a go?”
And as I’d rather hoped she would, she said yes.