Later in the afternoon Malcolm was on his way back from an executive board meeting when he noticed Gill looking pleased with herself and paused to see if there was anything that had come in over the couple of hours the board had been in session he needed to attend to urgently.
“She’s processed and over in Steve’s department receiving her orientation.”
“Wow! You’re super-efficient. How did you get it all done so quickly?”
“I had a strong hunch she’d get the job after talking with her so had some of the forms filled in anticipation and we were able to complete the rest quickly.”
“You get the smart secretary award for that Gill.” He went into his office laughing. Gill was the best.
That evening Malcolm headed for the restaurant as his usual custom was glancing around as he went in case there were any more unwelcome intrusions on his winding down meal at the end of a busy day.
He was halfway through his meal when another figure stood by the table. He looked up quickly wondering if this was going to be an unpleasant pay back for hiring the Abdullah girl.
“Asma, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to thank you for being fair to me giving a chance to prove myself at that job. I’m happy and love the people I’ll be working with. You were brave to do that considering the threatening visit you received last evening. May I sit?”
Malcolm smiled. This was a very unusual person considering her background and culture. He kind of liked that. He beckoned to the waiter.
“The lady is joining me, would you kindly take her order and put it on my bill.” The waiter returned with a menu as Malcolm paused to study this unusual woman. She quickly pointed to a number on the menu and sat back to observe Malcolm.
“How did you know I’d be here at this restaurant Asma? It seems everyone knows where I go and what my habits are these days.” He laughed.
“I’ve been using this restaurant for a year now and just happened to see you at this table on one of my visits. Usually, I come earlier than this. You wouldn’t have seen me as you come with a purpose and leave with a purpose without looking to the right or the left. You’ll also be surprised to know we went to the same university for our master’s studies. On occasions I happened to be in one of the classes you took for the semester, but you would not have recognized this Lebanese girl wearing all the trappings of her cultural identity. I found it restrictive though most of my Lebanese girlfriends find it a joy to wear this symbol of their faith. I began to dress western style when I got my first job feeling it would give me more opportunities and now, I find that is my favoured choice of things to wear. Of course, this shocked my community, so I got my own apartment despite protests from my family. I used to watch you in class and wish there were no barriers between our societies so when I saw you in this restaurant recently, I wanted to bridge that barrier and have a strong impression you can help me do that. I guess a job application was one way to do that.”
The waiter delivered food to her setting place and Malcolm watched spellbound as she delicately sampled each of its contents. He thought of what she’d said and realized she had his personality accurately described. He was only focused on work and had no hobby or social activities to balance things out. He had harboured thoughts of romance about Gill, but she was taken by his best friend, and he’d not looked on himself as attractive enough to try his luck with someone else. This attractive woman with her olive skin black hair and dark eyes seemed to have been placed in his line of vision for a purpose. But that was impossible. It was a strict rule there should not be any romances within the corporation to avoid the perception of favouritism. But he was HR and not part of the department this woman would be working in. Nevertheless, he was HR and that dealt with things like remuneration a highly scrutinized issue by all employees. He remained silent waiting for her to finish her meal. She looked up and smiled.
“I’m quite capable of paying for this meal you were not planning Mr Gilbert but thank you for the thought.”
Malcolm thought quickly. “But I thought this was a date and a gentleman always pays for his date’s entertainment Asma.”
She laughed happily. “Well in that case I have nothing to say but thank you. I never imagined I’d be so lucky as to have a date with you Mr Gilbert. I’ve dreamed of that since university days.”
Malcolm groaned. “Asma you’re a remarkable woman and I realize I’ve been attracted to you since you first walked in my office now that you’re sitting in front of me. But you know the rules. No romance between employees. Anyway, you can call me Malcolm. I need to think this through.”
“Malcolm, you have no idea how much money I spent on courses in western manners and how to impress an interviewer for a job and it was all because I wanted you to see me and feel the electrical connection between both of us when we met for the first time. It was worth the money, and I think you do see me as a woman who thinks you are wonderful. I think Gill saw that possibility when I first met her and has sung your praises to entice me but what she didn’t know was I was there in her office to make a bid for happiness with you if I could. If you would give me a chance to show that over time by letting me into your life, I’d give you my resignation from the job now to solve that corporate rule.”
Malcolm felt a stirring inside him. Someone wanted to be with him that much she’d take another job just to get an interview with him. He felt an overwhelming feeling of happiness. He wanted someone to share his life with and the latent feelings for this woman Asma came bubbling to the surface. He didn’t care what community or society she came from. He wanted to develop a relationship with her.
‘Asma, I feel comfortable and happy with you and want to explore if this can develop into something that will bring us both fulfillment and happiness. I must settle this with my corporation administration first and then there must be an understanding with your family. I’m not prepared to become one of your faith as that would be hypocritical of me when I’m not persuaded it fits my beliefs. I equally wouldn’t want to persuade you to accept what I believe. Don’t resign as the department really needs your skills. You are more than fitted for the job. Let me work on this and perhaps we could dine together in the evenings to see how things develop for us.
From a dark corner outside the restaurant two men observed the two talking together. Ahmad turned to his son. “The honour of our community is at stake son.” They retreated into the shadows as the two emerged and followed at a distance as Malcolm escorted his new love home to her apartment. Malcolm waved as Asma turned at the door and lingered for a moment then waved and shut the door behind her. Malcolm returned home with high hopes for the future and a determination to talk with his relative in the upper echelons of the corporation.
He was in the office next morning when the phone rang. He picked up the phone.
“This is Steve, where’s our recruit? Not the best way to start out in a new job Mal.”
Malcolm called Gill and several attempts were made to contact Asma through landline and cell phone. They tried messaging and email and received no response. Malcolm took a taxi and went to the apartment complex. There were police cars and an ambulance parked outside. The security guard was sitting with bandaged head. Malcolm headed for the security guard and one of the police came over to listen.
Malcolm addressed the security guard. “Ms. Asma Abdallah was supposed to turn up for her first day at work this morning and we are unable to contact her. Could you please check her apartment and find out if she’s OK?”
The listening policeman intervened and pulled Malcolm to the side. “What is your interest in Ms. Abdalla sir?
“We hired her yesterday and she hasn’t shown up for work. We have been trying to contact her all morning.”
Malcolm was led to an inner apartment in the building. “Have you been in this apartment before sir?”
“No, I dropped her off at the entrance last night and she had a key to the entrance and let herself in.”
“Can the security guard vouch for that sir?”
“I don’t know I didn’t see any security guard. Anyway, why are you questioning me?”
“Ms Abdallah is dead sir and I’m afraid you’ll have to accompany one of our officers to the station to make a statement.” He motioned to a fellow officer who bundled Malcolm into a police car and took him to the station.
Malcolm was permitted to phone his secretary to pass on the news to Steve Asma was dead and they’d have to make do until another recruit had been found. Then began gruelling interrogation and the whole past few days events were unfolded. The story of a visit from Ahmad and his son pressed an urgent response calling for an all points alert to find them and bring them in for questioning. Eventually he was permitted to leave but as a person of interest he was to check in each day until cleared.
As he was leaving the station for the office a police car arrived and two persons were pulled out and propelled forward to an interview.
Ahmad paused as he passed Malcolm in the corridor. “The honour of our family was at stake Mr. Gilbert. We pled with you to avoid this.”
Malcolm returned to his office and shut the door. His sobs could be heard in the outer office so Gill silently entered the office and held him in her arms until he quietened down. She dried his tears with a tissue. “I’ll cover for you today. Go home!”
The next day he resumed his professional outward appearance and went about his work. Gill was careful not to use her usual banter around him as he needed time to heal. She’d placed her own hopes on this woman Asma to be the one to provide her beloved boss a happy future home and she grieved for his loss. Something had died in her boss along with his new love, but she’d work on that and look for another possibility when the time was right.
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