A reminder popped up on her monitor.
Her heart pounded as she clicked on the pop-up notice, dismissing the reminder.
Jasmine Wright stood, took the matching navy-blue jacket off the back of her chair and shrugged it on. She pushed her rolling chair under her desk then buttoned her suit jacket. She smoothed her skirt and checked her hose.
Not a single run. This pair was worth what she’d paid for it.
When she had stepped out of her Greenwich apartment building this morning and felt a blast of chilly air, she almost turned around and ran back up to her apartment to change into slacks. But then she remembered.
Today was the day.
The day when Mr. Wells was going to announce whom he would promote to Advertising Analyst.
Jasmine had gotten up extra early just to put on makeup and style her hair. She picked out her most professional yet feminine suit and ironed it—again.
Jasmine pulled her long coat closer and ignored the chill against her legs. A block later, insulated by the crowd of New Yorkers on their daily commute, she hadn’t noticed the cold air. Her mind was focused on the upcoming meeting.
She didn’t think she’d have to give a speech. But she’d have to say something. So she rehearsed a few well chosen words that would convey her gratitude and signal the end of the meeting.
Her heartbeat quickened.
Hopefully she would remember her speech.
Her coworkers on either side of her stood, stretched then made their way to the conference room. She picked up her notebook and pen then walked down the hallway. Another coworker brushed past her, jabbing her with an elbow and stepping on her toes as he rushed to open the door for Carolyn, the young intern who had recently joined their department.
Grimacing at the pain in her little toe, she limped toward the door as he closed it in her face. Burying her anger, she plastered a professional smile on her face and reached for the handle.
While it would be a nice change to have someone hold the door open for her, she would rather have her brains—and her promotion—than Carolyn’s beauty.
Three of her coworkers were already sitting at the long wooden table, white Styrofoam cups on the table in front of them. She inhaled the comforting scent of coffee. Afraid she would spill coffee on her suit, she had abstained from her usual cup this morning. She didn’t need a shot of caffeine, not when she felt close to bursting out of her skin.
Ignoring Carolyn and the two men fawning over her, Jasmine pulled out a beige fabric rolling chair and sat. To keep from fidgeting, she scribbled today’s date in her notebook.
A short line had formed on the other side of the glass wall. As casually as she could manage, she wiped her sweaty palms against her skirt while waiting for the rest of her coworkers to file in.
Mr. Wells stood at the front of the room in an expensive tailored charcoal gray suit that flattered his lean frame and enhanced his steely gray eyes.
She admired his jet-black hair, trimmed and neatly combed. Slender, well-manicured fingers smoothed his tie then deftly buttoned his suit.
The last person stepped into the room and Mr. Wells began the meeting with his usual greeting.
Her hard work paid off this time. After five years of slaving away, she would finally get the recognition she deserved. More importantly, she’d be able to prove to her mother that she had made the right decision by focusing on her career. Every Sunday when she called her mother, she had to listen to a lecture about working too hard.
Neglecting her social life.
Neglecting her romantic life.
She scoffed. As if men were beating down her door. And even if they were, she was in no hurry to fall into bed with another lukewarm lover.
“…going above and beyond….”
A large office with a window. A view of the city. A workspace with four real walls and a door instead of ugly gray cubicle half walls.
“…for her exceptional work….”
An office right next to Mr. Wells.
He winked at her and continued his speech.
“…lengthy market study and keen analysis….”
This is going to be so embarrassing. I wish he’d just skip all the fanfare and—
“…welcome Carolyn as our new Advertising Analyst. Let’s give Carolyn a big hand, shall we?”
Jasmine’s mouth hung open as Carolyn giggled—giggled! Then sashayed her way to the front of the room, nodding and smiling as if she’d just been crowned Miss America.
Jasmine’s mouth snapped shut as Carolyn took her place beside Mr. Wells.
She couldn’t stand it any more. She was out of her chair and heading for the door, her notebook forgotten on the conference table.
“Jasmine?” Mr. Wells called. “Where are you going?”
No one had ever dared to leave a meeting before they were dismissed. Her coworkers fell silent. Her heels clicked loudly against the tile floor.
She stopped, wracking her brain for something witty to say. Something scathing. Something snarky to put him in his place. To let him know just how wrong it was to promote an intern. An intern whose only contribution was to bring donuts every Friday morning for their team.
Having nothing to say, she reached for the handle.
“Jasmine. It’s unprofessional to leave—”
A white-hot flare of anger took possession of her mouth.
She released the handle and spun around to face him.
“‘Unprofessional?’ I’ll tell you what’s unprofessional—taking advantage of a hardworking individual. It’s unprofessional to promote incompetent people while ignoring the ones who actually deserve it.”
Her chest was heaving now and her face red hot.
“I spent months on the Peterson project. Worked late every single night. Worked on weekends because I wanted us to succeed. I wanted that promotion and worked hard for it.”
She let out a breath, releasing her anger.
“And you gave it to the intern.”
She spared Carolyn a glance.
“Well, good luck, Carolyn. You’re going to need it.”
She turned around.
“Jasmine, if you step out that door—”
She twisted enough to address him.
“What? You’ll fire me?”
He seemed at a loss for words. His lips pressed into a fine line and he nodded. His eyes darkened and it sent a curious thrill of excitement through her body.
She was pushing her luck and oddly enough, she didn’t care.
Her gaze swept the room. Her coworkers’ expressions ranged from curiosity to panic to fear.
None of them would dare speak up. They had families to think about. Children to provide for. Their loyalty kept them chained to this job. Made them mute in the face of unfair practices.
Realizing she had none of those constraints made her grateful. She was beholden to no one. Especially a company that didn’t appreciate her efforts. For the first time, she felt powerful—drunk—taking control of her life.
Her decision was wild.
“I’m tired of being used. I quit.”