Previously in this space, the prior chapters of this work in progress, the previous excerpt in which Rebekah lost her husband. We pick up the story with her assistant, Tycho, in the latest installment.
PRESENTING TYTY FORD
I really like working for Rebekah, but I’ve got this enormous secret crush on her husband, Matt, and why wouldn’t I? Dude is tall, dark, and OMG. I’ve always had a thing for older men.
When she can’t get hold of him after the Riverside quake, I get as worried as she did. And I can’t help but feel that she thinks I’m reacting like this because of my concern for her. Not that I don’t care for her because I do. She’s a great boss. But… her husband. Oof!
So, to be honest, when she taps me to helicopter into the Moreno Valley for search and rescue, I almost wet my pants in glee at the prospect. What if I could be Matt’s hero? Pull him out of the rubble? Maybe even give him CPR and have him revive, look into my eyes, and shove his tongue in my mouth in gratitude. Okay, so I don’t actually wet my pants, but I am making them tighter, hoping that she doesn’t notice.
Of course, I also almost shit them when the helicopter takes off, but I get over it pretty quickly, and when we finally do find Matt, alive but damaged in the hospital, I’m not sure what to do. I mean my instinct is to tell Rebekah, “Hey, whatever you need me to do for him, it’s done.” On the other hand, I have a feeling that she’s going to throw herself into the task one thousand percent. It’s been clear and obvious from even before he disappeared that she is totally devoted to him.
Hell, that inspires me. If only I could find a man I loved one tenth as much as she loves him. But I’m a realist. I know that Matt is never going to dump her and run off with me, but I cannot help admiring his sexy ass from afar.
But she has other plans. After the reunion and when the nurse tells us that it’s time for Matt to have some test done, we leave for a while, she takes me to the hospital cafeteria and buys us both lunch — which is surprisingly good, because I’d always thought that hospital food was supposed to be shit but this food isn’t — and then we sit at a corner table, and she suddenly goes into that “Boss about to lay down some heavy stuff” mode.
“I’m just going to be kind of blunt with it, Tycho,” she starts. “The condition Matt’s in, I know that I’m going to be taking a lot of family leave now. I don’t even know how long he’ll be stuck here, which means I really can’t be physically working in L.A., unless they want to copter me in and out all the time, which I know they aren’t going to.”
“Uh-huh,” I nod, not sure where this is going, but wondering if I’m about to get the dream job of playing nurse to Matt. How hot would that be?
“But you’ve been proving yourself for a while, and you certainly proved today that you’ve got what it takes. So, if you’re interested — ”
OMG, here it comes, yes!
“ — I am going to immediately request that the regional manager make you acting director of communications until I’m able to return, and then create the post of deputy director of communications to be your permanent position after that. And…”
OMG, WTF. Not at all what I expect.
She grabs a napkin and a pen, writes on it, folds it over and slides it across the table. “Top number would be your salary as acting director per annum, bottom as deputy director. It’s slightly less, but I can tweak that up with perqs like continued clothing allowance, per diem, and so on.”
The napkin thing amuses the hell out of me. I mean, I’d heard about it, but I’d only ever experienced it once before, and that was in a college restaurant job, when the owner, who was in his late 70s at least, offered me a promotion from head waiter to assistant manager. I had no idea why it was so damn hard to just say the numbers, but when I unfolded this napkin and looked at it, I got a boner that could have broken the table.
I’m barely twenty-fucking-four, and here I am being offered an annual salary with six digits in it, and even the lower salary figure was still well above a quarter million dollars, and what the hell else could I say? Except that all I say is… well, not words, but just this weird inarticulate squeak comes out of my throat like I just accidentally coughed up a swallowed condom.
“So is that a yes, Tyty?” Rebekah asks, smiling at me and using my nickname for only the second time ever. Honestly, I’m kind of grateful, because my parents were total science nerds who named me after this ancient astronomer who was pretty well known for being kind of an asshole and having a brass nose because of it. Or… something like that. But since I spent school being bullied by nerds who thought it was funny to shout at me, “Hey, Tycho… bra!” Tyty was a big improvement. Even if my namesake would have pronounced his last name as BRAH-hee.
“How can I say no?” I tell her. And I realize that I’m about to start crying for a second time out of sheer joy, but manage to hold it back and just say the most sincere “Thank you” that I ever have in my life.
“You’ve earned every penny of that. My only regret is that I can’t get you the director rate as a deputy, but don’t worry. You’ll take over my job soon enough.”
“I don’t want to steal your job,” I tell her.
“It’s not stealing,” she says. “This is the government, and that’s how it works. Everyone has ambitions to move up. The commissioner is old and is going to retire within a decade, the regional manager is already jockeying for his spot. I’m jockeying for hers. I’m inviting you to jockey for mine, and when the time comes, it’s like volleyball. Everyone rotates. One out at the top, all the others move up.”
“I… I’m not really great at jockeying,” I tell her.
“You are when your boss is the horse who’ll take you over the finish line,” she replies with a grin. “I’ve always liked you, Tycho. You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re intelligent, and you’ve always got my back. So, what do you say? I’m guessing that you’ll get at least a year, maybe even two, as the interim director, and then, if you want, about another eight as deputy before you go back to the bigger bucks.”
I can hardly breathe. This is just so… unexpected and life-changing. In the back of my mind, I’m imagining the fancy condo I can buy and move into — in one of those twenty-story plus mixed-use buildings on top of a Metro station, and no more need for roommates. Work is an elevator and subway ride away, and if I pick the right place, then all of my shopping and entertainment needs are also right downstairs. All I’d need to find would be a husband and a dog, although I briefly wonder whether an older man would resent being the kept one. Is there a term for that kind of thing? Does the concept of “Sugertwink and Kept Daddy” even exist?
And… holy shit. That kind of money could achieve L.A. Valhalla — buying an actual fucking house, even maybe one with a yard and a pool and place for dogs and… if I get any harder, I’m going to just rip the shit out of my pants, so I try to think grandma, and then other things, but…
God, it’s so funny what can go through your head when you’re given a decision that, on the one hand, should be a no-brainer: “She’s throwing money at you, dude!” On the other hand, it’s a hard decision, because, for what I’d have to do for that money, well, it makes me fall into imposter syndrome, and see myself as acting director of communications standing at the podium, doing a Goofy laugh, and saying, “I don’t know what I’m doin’, folks. Har har har!”
Okay. Deep breath, and then I look Rebekah in the eyes and say, “The offer is amazing, and I’d be an idiot to say no, but the idea of doing what you do, honestly and pardon my Anglo Saxon, scares the motherfucking shit out of me.”
I wasn’t expecting her to laugh at this, but she does, gently touching my wrist with her hand. “I’ve never told anyone but Matt this,” she says, “But that’s exactly how I felt when they hired me originally, and I started out about two positions below where you are now.”
“Really?” I ask.
“Really,” she replies. “You know what the secret to doing all this public speaking is?” not waiting for me to reply. “Confidence sells it. If you’re questioning what you’re saying in your own head, no one is going to buy it. But if you just put it out there as if it’s the rock-solid truth, most people won’t have the guts to question it.”
“Yeah, well… the trick is that confidence part,” I tell her, voice quivering.
“Actually, the trick is losing the questioning. Our brain likes to lie to us and tell us ‘everything you do is wrong.’”
“Not everything,” I protest. “I mean, what about — “
“Sssh,” she stops me. “I’m not talking about criminal acts or anything like that. I’m talking about self-presentation. And, when it comes to this position, you already know so damn much about how it works and what to do. I mean, come on. You were the one who told me before we flew out here that you and the staff could do whatever was needed to make it look like I was doing my job, right?”
“Um… yeah?” I answer sheepishly.
“Not confident,” she chides me. “Answer that again.”
“Uh… Yes. Yes, I did.”
“And you did indeed. So if you can make it look like I’m doing my job, then you sure as shit can do my job. Got that, Tyty?”
“Did I mention that I really appreciate it that you’re using my nickname now?” I ask her.
“No,” she replies. “But you didn’t have to. The joy is in your eyes.” She laughs as I glance down at the table, then she adds, “Oh, I would love it so much if you were introduced in media mobs and pressers as Acting Director of Communications Tyty Ford while I’m gone, because I know that it’d make the commissioner shit himself.”
“But… how does that help me if he shits himself?” I ask.
“Because the mayor hates him but loves Gloria Steadman — the regional manager — and is looking for any excuse to boot him.”
“Good to know.”
“So… Acting Director of Communications Tyty Ford… you amazing, confident person who has kept my ass out of many a jam… what do you say?”