“Mr Tee will see you now, Miss Steele. Do go through,” Blonde Number Two says. I stand rather shakily trying to suppress my nerves.
“Damn Kate for being ill,” I think. I don’t belong here, interviewing such a powerful man. As a hand grips mine in a full-blooded hand-shake, I am impressed by the strength of the grip, the way he places his hand on mine as he shakes it firmly. I am too unworthy; I cannot meet his gaze.
“Miss Kavanagh, I believe,” says a strong voice. I swoon. This is the sort of power that nobody could refuse.
“Mr Tee,” I stutter, still unable to look up.
“No, I’m his Chief of Staff, Mr Tee is in the next room. Please follow me.”
When I eventually look up, I see that his chief of staff is a woman. I try to explain that Miss Kavanagh is indisposed and that she has sent me in her place, but I feel so undeserving, so out of place. Apart from a couple of blondes and his chief of staff, there don’t seem to be any women around here. Which is understandable because this is a place where important things get discussed, and they certainly don’t want women around discussing silly topics like the best way to iron a shirt or childcare…
Suddenly Mr Tee is in front of me. He’s more powerful than I could possibly imagine and I instantly feel that I’d do anything for this man because if there’s one thing that turns people on it’s power.
“Miss Kavagh,” he says, extending his hand.
I curtsy and kiss it, before mumbling, “I’m not Miss Kavanagh. She’s sick so she sent me because … well, I’m her roommate and I study with her. I hope that’s all right.”
“I see,” he says, with the trace of menacing leer. “Would you like to sit?”
“No,” I reply, “I’m content just to kneel here.”
“Come, come, you must sit,” he insists, and I am powerless to refuse.
After I struggle to a chair, I tell him that I have some questions for him, as I stroke a lock of hair behind my head, twirl it and place it my mouth, while suppressing a slight whimper.
“That’s usually the way interviews go,” he says,
Oh, he is so wise, so commanding, I can see why people regard him with such esteem. I have only been in here a few moments and already I feel that I’m unworthy to have him spit on me.
“To what do you owe your success?” I begin.
“It’s all about people, Miss Steele, and I’m very good at judging people. I now how to make them tick, what flourishes them, what doesn’t, how to inspire them, how to frighten them, how to incentivise them, how to use words cleverly to trick them, and when they ask a question, I know exactly what to say to make them aware that all the good things are thanks to me and all the bad things are someone else’s fault. My belief that for any scheme to succeed you need to be master of it, not its mistress, and that means ensuring you have a good team, and that you let them know that you’re the captain.”
“Of course,” he added, ‘that doesn’t mean that you don’t consult. In the future, I promise to be more consulative.”
“But,” I stammer, “surely someone as gifted as you shouldn’t need to consult. I mean, you know what’s right and why should…”
I stop, feeling that I’ve said too much, feeling that he may take what I’ve said as a contradiction and that he may become angry and fling me out the window. For a second, the thought of his hands upon me throwing me to my death is strangely exciting…
He sighs. “Of course, you’re right! But people seem to demand being consulted these days. Back in the good old days, a father was in charge of the house and a boss was in charge of the work. And a bad boss was like a bad father, better than none at all. I mean, who’d spank the children and bring them back into line if they did something naughty.”
“Who are you beyond the public persona?” I ask, a little nervous that he may take me over his knee and spank me like I truly deserve for asking such an impertinent question.
“Let’s talk about Captain’s Picks. I don’t subsribe to luck or chance. It’s really about having the right people in your team and directing them accordingly…”
“You sound like a control freak!” The words came out of my mouth before I could stop them.
He smiles. “Not in everything. Most things I leave to my chief of staff.”
Why does he have this overwhelming effect on me?
Is the way that nobody has ever forced me to make difficult choices? Is it because I’ve lived all my life in the age of entitlement? Or is it the fact that I was expecting a man in a suit and tie, not someone wearing a hi-viz vest, speedos and a life-saving cap? Here’s a man who doesn’t care about social norms, I thought, and that thought sent a shiver through me.
Whatever, I asked my final question.
“How does it feel to cop so much unfair criticism when you’re clearly doing what’s best for everyone?”
“I don’t mind. It’s part of being a leader.”
“It’d break my heart.”
“There are those that say I have no heart.”
“Why would they say that?”
“Because they know me well!” His lip curls into a wry sneer.
His chief of staff is at the door, reminding him that his next appointment is here. Suddenly, I hate her, and wish that he’d get rid of her and employ me.
“Postpone it,” he commands. “I’m not finished with Miss Steele yet. There is much that I need to explain to her about letting an adult be in charge.”
Oh my god, I think. Why does the chapter have to end here? Can’t we go on just a few more lines, so that I can feel his firm hands on my shoulders, and…
“You can’t postpone it,” says his Chief of Staff. He sighs and tells me that I’ll have to go.
Bugger, I think.
“That comes later,” he replies.