Several people lined up on mats sparing off against each other in a dingy, dimly lit gym. There was one woman in particular who, despite her shorter stature for lack of better words, beat the shit out of her huskier Hulk looking-type opponent.
A steady THUMP, THUMP, THUMP echoed through the sweaty, smelly gym. Sameen Shaw continued to pummel her opponent until a whistle was blown. She then took off running, doing laps around the gym, leaving her opponent groaning in pain on the ground. The whole class was impressed and scared of her.
Across town in an overly decorated, yet super fun, cozy dorm room type of studio apartment Root was sprawled out on pink sheets with bunnies on them. Next to her littering, the bed were notes scattered everywhere, and two laptops both open with code streaming across the screens. She slowly opened her eyes and then squinted at the laptop as her eyes started getting wider she fell out of bed.
“Shit! Shitshitshitshitshitshit,” Root stumbled around and crashed into her dresser as she hurriedly got ready for work. And then minutes later ran out of her apartment as fast as she could, messenger bag thrown over her shoulder, which still made the dress she was wearing even cuter somehow.
Root kept sprinting down streets, dodging people and cars. It was quite impressive how fast she could run in dressy flats and in an actual dress. She was banned from wearing heels at work since her first day. Her boss, the brilliant, fierce, sometimes scary Sameen Shaw, had forbidden her from being any taller than necessary. Root continued running down streets while making sure her messenger bag didn’t fall off her shoulder, her long brown chestnut hair blowing in the wind.
Meanwhile, after Shaw finished her workout, that was nothing short of Olympic weight training; she had a high protein shake and headed to the office dressed in an all-black tailored suit with her hair in a fierce, tight ponytail. Not making any eye contact with anyone on the street and making sure she didn’t hear anything with her noise-canceling earphones on and, of course, dark sunglasses to make the ensemble even more unapproachable.
Shaw’s phone rang, so she had to slide off the earphones. She checked the caller ID and had a smug look on her face when she saw the caller.
“I knew you would call. Now come on, tell me what I want to hear. Give it to me,” Shaw said in her most demanding, yet slightly sexy tone before answering the call.
When Root got to Starbucks, she groaned, looking at the massive line until she saw a pretty barista calling out to her. Two coffees waited for Root. A lovely barista named Jillian, smiled as Root hurried over to the counter to fetch the coffees.
“Hey Root, got these waiting for you,” Jillian said as she adoringly stared at Root.
“Jillian, you are the best. And literally saving my life today,” Root did her version of a wink to Jillian, which caused the barista to blush.
“If you think I’m good at this, you should use that coffee cup sometime,” said Jillian as she watched Root dash out of the coffee shop.
Root finally made it to the Thornhill Digital Arts building. A taxi nearly swiped her as she dashed across the street, she smiled and kept running while juggling the two coffees. She almost spilled the coffees several times, especially when she nearly fell down, running to catch the elevator to her floor.
Mercifully, a hand reached out and stopped the doors. Inside the packed elevator, Root’s co-worker/friend Claire looked sleepy yet had a smile and chuckle. When they exited the elevator, a particularly frustrated co-worker confronted Root.
“How long is she gonna make us come in by seven?” said a guy wearing a concert t-shirt and hoodie.
Root stared at him, annoyed, “She doesn’t exactly consult with me on these things.”
“Well, this sucks ass,” the frustrated co-worker said as he stomped off down the hall.
“Welcome to my nightmare,” Root to him, but mostly to herself. Claire just shook her head.
As Shaw got closer to the building, she continued to talk on the phone.
“You’ve been thinking about our talk because I’m right. No one else can do justice to your intellectual property. NO ONE. We are the best, that’s why even Lucas comes to us,” Shaw looked completely proud and smug as she walked further down the street.
Root hauled ass through a sea of cubicles in the office. Along the way, grumpy employees begrudgingly nodded their good mornings to her as she made her way to Sameen Shaw’s corner office and her cubicle in front of said office. And right before she got to her goal, WHAM! One of her co-workers slammed into her while he was catching a football thrown across the cubes. Coffee spilled all over the floor as one of the cups went crashing down.
“Seriously!!” Root yelled out in frustration as one of the coffees was utterly destroyed, but thankfully nothing else is.
Root hurried over to her desk with only one coffee now. At her desk, she pulled a brush out and tried to make something of her messy hair. She noticed her wrinkled dress; she pulled a spray bottle out of a drawer, she sprayed it all over her body, and then on her head to help mat down a tricky section that was standing up. Satisfied, she hurried into the big corner office.
Shaw walked into the lobby of the company and continued talking. Employees avoided her like the plague and piled into a supply closet to get out of her way.
“I’m not pushing so you’ll sell more licensing, I’m pushing because it’ll be a crime if the world doesn’t get to experience your characters, your universe in a three-dimensional experience. Or never get to see them again at all. The world needs to truly see your genius piece of art that you have bestowed upon them,” Shaw paused for a brief then second then quickly added, “They will never really die, let your characters live in another realm.”
Shaw waited for an answer and smiled when she heard the “yes.” She did a little fist pump to herself.
“You’re making the right decision! Great news. Going into an elevator, think I’m going to lose you...” Shaw hung up fast. Never give them a chance to change their mind.
Shaw exited the elevator and received an enthusiastic ‘Good morning!’ from the receptionist, which only got a slight nod from Shaw.
Root raced back to her computer to send out an instant message.
‘IT IS HERE’ attached with a dragon emoji.
The instant message popped up on screens spreading through the cubicles just as Shaw stepped off the elevator and headed towards her office.
Shaw walked through the cubicles and nodded hello to her staff, who all looked busy on their big workstations.
Root stared at the printer as a sheet of paper came out. A clock above the door read 7:00 AM. The paper cleared the printer, and Root grabbed it quickly and dashed back into Shaw’s office.
Shaw opened the door to her office and found Root standing at attention with papers in one hand and coffee in the other. Her office looked perfect. And so did her damn assistant Root.
“You’ve got a conference call in thirty, a staff meeting at nine, and your immigration lawyer sent some papers for you to sign,” Root said as she handed over the coffee to her boss Shaw. Her finger brushed up against Shaw’s; she had admitted to quite a few people that yes, while her boss drove her crazy, worked her to the bone, and mostly ruined her social life, she still found the woman infuriating attractive.
“Did you call... What’s her name? The one with the ugly hands.” Shaw asked while putting her bag down and getting situated at her desk.
“Janet,” Root smirked to herself, thinking how her stone-cold boss noticed a woman’s hand; there was hope for her yet. “She does have slightly unattractive hands.”
“Did you tell her that if she doesn’t get her design proofs in on time…”
“You won’t give her a release date,” Root almost always could finish her boss’s sentences. She had studied and written so much code; it also sometimes translated into learning and understanding some human code. She continued off Shaw’s call list, “Your immigration lawyer called. He said it’s imperative...”
“Cancel the call, push the meeting to tomorrow, keep the lawyer on the sheets,” Shaw continued to get everything organized on her desk, “Bolan said yes.” Just saying it out loud made Shaw grin, this was the biggest get of her career. She couldn’t wait to get her team on this franchise treasure to develop the best game on the market.
Root stood stunned for a second; then, a true look of awe crossed her face, “Wow. Nicely done.”
Shaw’s news made Root happy; if there was any game that would be her ultimate dream of developing, that would be her favorite superhero franchise – Team Machine. And now proudly it was the company she worked for and one of the main reasons she ran herself completely ragged working for the boss she nicknamed Satan’s Mistress. Almost every single day with Shaw as her superior was #BitchBoss day; however, on rare occasions, there were a few #BossBitch days, and those days truly kicked ass. And this was a #BossBitch day.
“When I want your praise, I’ll ask for it,” Shaw snarked to Root, “Is Jeremy here?”
“I’m sure. You want him on the phone?” asked Root as she straightened up and slowly moved away from Shaw’s desk, she hadn’t been aware how close she was standing. Then again, the two of them were so used to spending nearly every day almost every hour together working, they usually somehow unconsciously migrated to each other in some weird way. Stockholm Syndrome, maybe?
“We’ll be going to his office,” Shaw blurted out as she scrolled through her email on her massive computer screen.
Root calmly backed out of Shaw’s office, but once she was out of Shaw’s sight, she ran to her computer and sent an instant message to the office people.
‘THE ANGRY FIRECRACKER IS ON THE MOVE SOON’ with firecracker emoji and angry face ones attached.
Root popped her head over her monitor and watched the instant message pop up on screens across all the cubicles, the quiet office jumped to life as everyone in a cubicle picked up their pace and resumed vigorous working.
Shaw walked over to Root’s desk, holding her coffee. She noticed a message on the coffee cup she was drinking out of, a Jillian phone number. She took special notice of the hearts that dot the “I’s” in Jillian.
“Who is Jillian? And why does she want me to call her?” Shaw looked at Root with her eyebrow’s raised.
“Well, that was originally my cup.” Root looked shocked and tried to recover. Shit.
“And I’m drinking your coffee why?” Shaw squinted her eyes at Root as if using them as Wonder Woman’s truth-telling gold lasso.
“Because your coffee spilled,” Root fessed up.
“So, you drink straight up black coffee with nothing in it? No cream. No sugar.” Shaw challenged Root; she didn’t seem like the no-frills kind of woman. Admittedly, after three years, she was surprised she didn’t know how the woman took her coffee.
“I do. It’s like waking up in a black hole every morning,” Root said deadpanned.
“Isn’t that a coincidence? So do I.” Shaw said in her most snarky tone to her assistant Root.
“Incredibly, it is,” Root did her best to bat her eyelashes innocently at her boss. “I wouldn’t drink the same coffee that you drink just in case yours spilled. That would be pathetic.”
The assistant said in a joking, yet truth be told tone. Just then, the phone rang, and Root lunged to answer it.
“Morning, Ms. Shaw’s office.” Root watched Shaw turn around, scan the office, and then pay attention to her desk again. “Hey, Jeremy.” Shaw then raised her head and motioned to Root. “Actually, we’re headed to your office right now.”
As they walked to Jeremy’s office, “You gonna call her?” Shaw stared at Root.
“What?” Root didn’t know what Shaw was talking about until she nodded at the cup. She couldn’t help a smirk on her face, was her boss jealous, simply just bored or making sure she was going to be on beck and call for the foreseeable future.
“You have another late night out?” Shaw started walking down the hall. Root quickly caught up, with a slightly worried look on her face. “I’m firing on all cylinders, and you’ve got hearts on your coffee cup, wicked bed head, and a wrinkled dress.”
“Oh. Well, it won’t be wrinkled for long,” Root said with a smirk.
“You’ll magically unwrinkle?”
“Absolutely. I’ve got a magic potion from Target.”
“Does it work on everything?”
“Anything that’s wrinkled.” Root looked up and down her boss’s body.
Shaw rolled her eyes. “Buy me some.”
“Will do,” Root had a feeling that Shaw would never admit it, but sometimes the intense petite woman seemed impressed by some of her ideas. She somehow liked buying non-office related things for her boss, gave her a little more insight into the closed-off woman.
Root made a note on her tablet. Shaw stopped to make her point.
“I don’t care what or who you do on your own time, but when you walk through that door, you represent me, and I will not have your personal life affect you at work. If you want me to think of promoting you to a programmer, I need you sharp, focused, and professional. Got it?” Shaw stared intensely into Root’s eyes, a few people around the office watched the two women for any gossip; then quickly turned their heads when they started walking again.
“Got it.” Root and Shaw continued walking. “Although, since when do I have my own time?” Root held down a yawn. “Plus, it’s very time consuming on finding a who to do; we could just cut the middle person out and do each other.”
Both women stopped walking for a brief second. Root cursed her brain, why had she said that out loud? She blamed a lack of sleep and a severe lack of caffeine. And as always, Shaw smelled really good and tended to stand too close to her sometimes and admittedly vice versa. Shaw seemed at a loss for words for a hot second.
Root quickly said, “I was up late coding.” Shaw stared at her slightly dumbfounded.
Root desperately changed the subject as fast as she could. “Have you finished reading over that pitch and some of the code I gave you?” Root tried her hardest not to look nervous; she did bite her lower lip, though. Nothing like getting turned down on dating and professional fronts all in one quick walk down an office corridor.
“I read a few pages. I wasn’t that impressed,” Shaw was impressed; she didn’t want to show it yet. She knew this pitch was Root’s, and honestly, she wasn’t ready to lose the best assistant she ever had yet.
“Can I say something?”
“I’ve read thousands of pitches and ideas; this is the only one I’ve given you. There’s an incredible game in there, the code alone is worth buying to build something else on. It’s the kind of game and development you used to cultivate.” Shaw shot her a cold glare. “I mean before Bolan, of course.”
“I think you do order the same coffee as I do just in case you spill, which is, in fact, pathetic,” Shaw said in a slightly condescending tone to Root.
“Or impressive and ingenious,” Root shot right back at Shaw.
“I’d be impressed if you didn’t spill in the first place.” Shaw stopped in front of Jeremy’s office, “You’re just a prop in here, so don’t say a word.”
“Not a peep,” Root did her slightly evil grin to Shaw.
Shaw and Root entered Jeremy’s office, which was decorated with beautiful antiques and first edition books. But unlike Shaw’s office, this one wasn’t in the corner. Shaw nodded at Root to shut the door. Jeremy wore a prim tie, circular tortoiseshell glasses, and the air of superiority. He completely clashed with Shaw’s more modern look.
“Hey, Jeremy,” Shaw said very casually while Root stood next to her, not knowing what to expect.
“Ah. Our fearless leader and her liege,” Jeremy took off his glasses and motioned to both of them.
Shaw noticed the new piece of furniture in Jeremy’s office. “Is this piece new?”
“It is English Regency Egyptian Revival, built in the 1800s, but, yes, it is new to my office,” Jeremey said way too smugly.
Shaw smiled to the cocky son of a bitch, “Witty. Jeremy, I’m letting you go.”
“You’re fired.” Shaw crossed her arms against her chest. Root looked at her boss and decided to follow the action. “I asked you a dozen times to get Bolan and close the deal, and you didn’t do it. You’re fired.”
“I have told you repeatedly that it is impossible. Bolan said he would never sell, never wanted anyone to touch his characters, his franchise, or his vision.”
“That is interesting, because I just got off the phone with him, and he is in.”
“You didn’t even call him, did you?”
“But...” Jeremy was at a loss for words, mainly because everything was true.
“I know, I know. Bolan can be a little scary to deal with. For you.” Shaw stared Jeremy hard in a commandeering way, “Now, I will give you two months to find another job. And then you can tell everyone you resigned, okay?”
Shaw walked out of Jeremy’s office with Root following behind her. Root watched him closely while Shaw pretended not to notice; however, her assistant of three years knew better.
“What’s his twenty?” Shaw asked as they continued walking down the hallway back to her office.
She didn’t know why, yet she completely trusted her assistant even if Root had some crazy eye vibes of her own sometimes. And especially since the lanky, tall woman probably couldn’t hold her own in any type of a fight, just having her assistant watch her back was somewhat not terrible. Shaw didn’t do comforting. The fact that she could spend long days and nights with Root without wanting to stab or shoot her meant she finally found the best somewhat competent assistant. The fact the woman was also pretty didn’t hurt; it didn’t help either.
“He’s moving. He has crazy eyes,” Root looked back and saw Jeremy fuming and about to explode.
“Don’t do it, Jeremy. Don’t do it,” Shaw said softly just to herself.
“You poisonous cold bitch! You can’t fire me! You don’t think I see what you’re doing here? Sandbagging me on this Bolan thing so that you can look good to the board? Because you are threatened by me! And you are a monster.” Jeremy yelled for the whole office to hear him, probably thinking he was doing some kind of Jerry Maguire moment.
“Jeremy, stop.” Shaw stopped in her track in the hallway with Root by her side. They both turned around to stare at Jeremy.
“Just because you have no semblance of a life outside of this office, you think you can treat us like your own personal servants. You know what? I feel sorry for you. Because you know what you’re going to have on your deathbed? Nothing and no one,” Jeremy definitely looked like he was grandstanding and thought he had hit a nerve; perhaps put a crack in the cold, cold bitch of a boss.
Shaw flared her nostrils and stared intensely at Jeremy, “Listen carefully, Jeremy. I didn’t fire you because I feel threatened. No. I fired you because you’re lazy, entitled, incompetent, and you spend more time cheating on your wife than you do in your office.” Shaw tilted her head to stare down Jeremy.
Root watched on slightly terrified but mostly oddly proud for some reason.
“And if you say another word, Root here is going to have you thrown out on your ass, okay?” Shaw could tell Jeremy was about to word vomit all over her again. “Another word and you’re going out of here with an armed escort. Root will shoot the whole thing and then post it everywhere. Even on …what’s that one I hate?” Shaw snapped her fingers, trying to think of the name.
“Snapchat,” Root said right on cue with a slight evil smirk. She was totally behind Shaw on Jeremy’s firing. He was a lazy toad. And now that he insulted her boss, she thought she might ruin his credit reports for fun tonight.
“Exactly. Is that what you want? Didn’t think so.” Shaw spun on her expensive shoes and continued walking back to her office. She turned to Root, “I have work to do. Have security take his laptop and put it in my conference room.”
“Will do.” Root nodded and made sure Jeremy went back into his office to pack.
“I need you this weekend to review all his files and projects his teams are working on.”
“This weekend?” Root looked at Shaw, surprised.
“You have a problem with that?” Shaw turned to Root mildly surprised, her assistant usually didn’t scoff about working on the weekends.
“No problem. I’ll just cancel my trip this weekend.” Root had a slight glum look on her face.
“I gave you the weekend off?” Shaw asked, surprised.
“You might have been sleep working at your desk at the time I asked you,” Root had watched Shaw work so many late nights, she didn’t know how either of them functioned on such little sleep.
“You can have half of Christmas day off this year instead.”
Root looked concerned as she spoke, “It’s just that... it’s my grandmother’s 90th birthday, so I was going to go home and...” Shaw had an intense stare directed straight at Root. The assistant found it very difficult to concentrate when her boss stared intensely at her. She crumbled. “It’s fine. I’ll cancel it. You’re saving me from a weekend of misery…family politics, overcooked meat, sappy birthdays...” Shaw had already walked away, “Good talk, yeah.”
Later, Root was on the phone at her desk with her Aunt Grace explaining why she couldn’t come home this weekend. She sounded a bit like an annoyed teenager.
“I know, I know. Okay, tell Gammy, I’m sorry. Okay? What...What do you want me to tell you? She’s making me work the weekend. No, I’m not... no. I’ve worked too hard for this promotion to throw it all away. I’m sure that Uncle Harry is pissed,” just then Shaw walked out of her office and stood next to Root’s desk “…we take all of our pitches, submissions, and coding around here very seriously. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Thank you for calling.”
Shaw looked at Root with an inquisitive stare, “Was that your family?”
“Yes.” Root said blankly.
“They tell you to quit?”
“Every single day.” Root said as if landing a punch line.
Just then, Root’s office phone rang, “Ms. Shaw’s office. Yeah. Okay. All right.” Root hung up the phone and turned to her boss.
“Claypool and Ingram want to see you upstairs.”
“Come get me in ten minutes. We’ve got a lot to do.”
Root watched Shaw leave with her pristine posture and stern look on her face. She didn’t know how it was possible to hate someone so much yet still kind of want to make out with them. She blamed Shaw’s lips. Mostly though, she wanted to bite said lips for making her miss Gammy’s 90th birthday. She needed to get a promotion soon or quit.
Shaw walked passed by Nathan Ingram’s assistant and ignored his executive assistant’s greeting to enter her boss’s office. As Shaw entered Nathan Ingram’s office, she saw Nathan, one of the board of directors for Thornhill Digital Arts, along with Arthur Claypool sitting on the couch. Shaw didn’t do nervous; she nodded to both men and stood before them with her fierce confidence.
“Good morning, Sameen,” said Nathan as he smiled a warm smile.
“Nathan, Arthur,” Shaw nodded and did her fake, kiss up smile to both men.
“Congratulations on the Bolan thing. That’s terrific news,” Nathan said.
“Thank you, thank you. This isn’t about my second raise, is it? Just kidding,” Shaw did a fake laugh, she sucked sometimes playing fake with people.
Nathan got serious. “Sameen, do you remember when we agreed you wouldn’t go to the SHCC to promote the Irrelevant Evil game,” Nathan said while putting his hands on his desk. He continued looking sternly at Shaw, “because you weren’t allowed out of the country while your visa application was being processed?”
“Yes. I do,” Shaw wasn’t quite sure why they were bringing up Shanghai, that trip had been hugely successful.
“And... you went to Shanghai,” Arthur jumped in with a solemn look on his scruffy, yet adorable face.
“Yes. We were going to lose ground to Samaritan and their copycat version of our bestselling game. So...really didn’t have a choice, did I?”
Shaw motioned with her hands for added effect and her best fake smile again.
“Seems the United States Government doesn’t care which video games are popular. We just spoke to your immigration attorney,” Nathan glanced at Arthur then to Shaw.
“Great. So, we’re all good? Everything good?” asked Shaw as casually.
“Sameen, your visa application has been denied,” Nathan said grimly.
“And you are being deported,” added Arthur even more grimly.
“Deported?” Shaw looked genuinely surprised.
“There was also some paperwork you didn’t fill out in time,” Nathan said in a kind of disappointed parent tone to Shaw.
“Come on. It’s not like I’m even an immigrant! I’m from Canada, for Christ’s sake.” Shaw laughed a little; it was a terrible joke. “There’s gotta be...something we can do,” Shaw looked to both of the men she admired and respected.
“We can reapply, but unfortunately, you have to leave the country for at least a year,” Nathan said in a slightly more hopeful tone.
The wheels were spinning in Shaw’s head, “Okay. Okay, well, that’s not ideal, but I can... I can manage everything from Toronto...”
“No,” Arthur said as he turned to Nathan.
“...with videoconferencing, Skype, instant messaging…I mean, our Aspera account moves big stuff all over the world in a very short time now…” Shaw was spouting off how living in another country wouldn’t affect her work at all.
“Unfortunately, if you’re deported, you can’t work for an American company,” Arthur said while standing up.
“Until this is resolved, I’m going to turn operations over to Jeremy Lambert,” Nathan said glumly.
“Jeremy Lambert? The guy I just fired?” Whoa. Shaw didn’t see that one coming.
“We need a CEO. He is the only person in this building who has enough experience.” Nathan stared at Shaw.
“You cannot be serious. I beg of you,” Shaw couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“Sameen. We are desperate to have you stay. If there was any way, any way at all we could make this work, we’d be doing it,” Arthur looked at Shaw with his warm eyes.
There was a knock on the door. Root pushed half her body through the doorframe, to look around the tense room.
“No. Excuse me, we’re in a meeting,” Nathan said to shoo Root away.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Root looked to Shaw.
“What?!” Shaw growled out to Root; she had completely forgotten she had instructed her assistant to save her from this supposedly boring meeting.
“Denise, from Bolan’s office called. She’s on the line…” Root continued to stare hard at Shaw, a slight nudge in her eyes.
Shaw squinted her eyes at Root, forgetting on the forced interruption.
“She’s on hold. She needs to speak with you. I told her you were otherwise engaged. She insisted, so...” Root shrugged in a fake innocent way. Root was way better at being fake everything than Shaw.
Shaw stared intensely at Root, replaying what she just said. One word stood out in that sentence and could be used in a completely different meaning. She just had a brilliant idea. An idea that would let her keep her dream job and apartment in New York.
“Come here,” Shaw motioned for Root to come into the big office. Root walked in slowly; she inched her way to stand next to Shaw. “Gentlemen, I understand. I understand the predicament that we are in.” Shaw turned her head slightly and ran her eyes over Root, who stood dumbfounded.
“And...uh…” words were coming out of Shaw’s mouth more slowly now.
Everyone in the room stared at Shaw, confused to what the high powered woman was getting at, as the woman stumbled around for words.
“And there’s...well...I think there’s something that you should know.” Shaw smiled a big smile, she put her arm around Root’s waist and pulled her tight against her chest, much to her assistant’s shock. “We’re getting married.” Shaw nodded her head to Root, who now looked even more dumbfounded and stunned.
“We are getting married,” Shaw said it again to the room because the three people in the room didn’t seem to understand her declaration.
Root leaned into Shaw with a completely bewildered look on her face and whispered, “Who is getting married?”
“You and I.” Shaw leaned into Root, always taken back a little at how damn good her assistant always smelled. Root looked at Shaw so confused. “You and I are getting married,” Shaw smiled at Root and awkwardly patted her stomach, then tried for a hug on one arm and withdrew, not used to touching people casually.
“We are…” Root was in a daze and stiff. Did Shaw just pat her on the stomach? Was she actually pressed up against her boss’s chest with her strong arm snug around her waist? The three top people in the company that she loved were staring at her hard, waiting for an ‘I Do’. She stared back blankly and mumbled out, “…getting married.” It still almost sounded like a question, yet a little firmer this time from Root’s mouth.
“We are getting married,” Shaw said more firmly and continued to smile at Nathan and Arthur as she awkwardly patted Root’s belly again. She then wondered why she was patting Root’s belly.
“We are,” still almost a question out of Root’s mouth. She then awkwardly reached for Shaw’s hand on her stomach and patted it.
“Isn’t she your secretary?” asked Nathan with an extreme look of confusion.
“Assistant,” Shaw lightly barked back.
“Executive Assistant,” Root corrected both of them.
Shaw then winked to the two men, “Wouldn’t be the first time one of us fell for our secretaries. Would it, Nathan?” Shaw paused for a moment then said in a lower voice, “Veronica, remember? So, yeah. The truth is, you know, Root and I, we’re...” Shaw looked into Root’s big brown eyes and got a little stuck for a moment, “…are just two people who weren’t meant to fall in love, but we did.”
“Yeah…no…” Root softly said as she shook her head in a confused daze, she didn’t know if she was in a waking nightmare or some cheesy romcom Hallmark movie dream sequence. Maybe a combination of both? Or maybe her boss was punking her? Maybe that old show was making a comeback?
“All those late nights at the office and gaming conventions...” Shaw did another great, forced fake smile, especially giving a high wattage smile to Root showing off her gorgeous teeth, scanning her eyes up and down her assistant’s body landing back on her lips. “Yeah...” She glanced and looked over to her flummoxed superiors.
“No…yeah,” Root shook her head a little to get out of the Shaw trance. Her head was spinning, or was the room spinning, she thought.
“Something happened that uhh…” Shaw searched for words to sell this insane idea to her board of directors, she widened her eyes to Root for some possible help; but her assistant just looked like a sweet deer caught in super intense bright headlights on a pitch-black road.
“Something…quite…” Root was at a loss for words too. She felt weird being this close to Shaw, she then stared into Shaw’s eyes and got lost for a moment, “….yeah…and uh, she’s pretty…” Root needed to stop talking.
Shaw moved her hand up for Root to stop talking. “Yeah…we tried to fight it and... can’t fight a...” Shaw once again patted Root’s stomach awkwardly. “Can’t fight a love like ours, so...”
Root stood there frozen; she then looked Shaw. Shaw grabbed Root’s hand to hold; her boss’s hand felt warm and soft Root thought. The two women still stood pressed up against each other, holding hands that felt completely foreign to both women, yet they looked like they fit together.
“Are we good with this? Are you happy? Because, well, we are happy. So happy.” Shaw raised up their joined hands stiffly.
Root continued to look completely dazed and confused, like a lost puppy.
“Sameen,” Arthur spoke up and watched the two women carefully.
“Yes?” Shaw asked nicely with her plastered fake smile on her face.
“It’s terrific,” Arthur seemed genuinely happy for them.
“Just make it legal,” said Nathan, he motioned to his ring finger; he seemed way more disbelieving than Arthur.
“Legal. Yeah, well, then that means we...we need to get ourselves to the immigration office. So we can work this whole mess out. Right, babe?”
Shaw patted Root again as she nudged her out of the office. Her assistant was stiff and slow moving to the door. “Thank you very much, gentlemen. We will do that right away.”
“Thank you too?” words just tumbled out of Root’s mouth as Shaw pulled her out of the office. Shaw squeezed Root hard on the side because she was making everything sound like a question, the squeeze elicited a small yelp from the assistant.
“Gentlemen, thank you,” Shaw said one last time as she pulled Root, pushed her out and closed the door.
They both stood on the other side of the door staring down at the floor.
Then Shaw didn’t miss a beat; she walked off towards her office as if nothing totally weird just happened. Root watched perplexed as her boss or bizarrely her fiancé walked back to her office like normal. Wide-eyed Root followed behind Shaw down the hall and through the cubicles. As the two women made their way to their part of the office, the entire staff was watching them, mostly with shocked expressions.
An instant message with the words - ‘SHAW AND ROOT ARE GETTING MARRIED???!!?! WTF???!! ANdlkldVKzxldakDAEALVKDLDKEHAflajeD’ – popped up all over the office instant message system.
There were so many pop up messages going on around the Thornhill office that it sounded like a bubble explosion. Root caught a few people’s eyes, and they looked terribly stunned, in particular, Claire motioned widely with her hands. Root followed Shaw back to her office with a bewildered look on her face, yet to some annoying people, she did throw a smug look like, ‘Yeah, I banged the boss.’
There were several murmurs going around the office floor, some the ones that Root could hear included –
‘WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?’
‘BITCH BOSS BE BANGING HER ASSISTANT?!?!’
‘IS ROOT INSANE???’
‘MARRIED? DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THEY WERE DATING’
‘THEY TOTALLY HAVE HATE FUCK EYE SEX ALL THE TIME’
Root did whip her head around to see who had said the last one; she squinted her eyes at several people. As much as Root was loved around the office, much like her boss, she was also feared some times for her extreme brilliance and unsettling, slightly murderous stares at times.
When they finally got back to Shaw’s office, Root closed the door while looking at all her co-workers watch her close the door. She watched Shaw go sit behind her desk and go about her normal business day with just regular business stuff. She stood in front of her desk and crossed her arms against her chest.
“What?” asked Shaw like she was asking about an email and not about a major life event.
“I don’t understand what’s happening,” Root stared hard down at Shaw extremely confused, her dress seemed very wrinkled all of a sudden.
“Relax. This is for you, too,” Shaw said a little too smugly.
“Do explain,” Root raised her eyebrows, completely intrigued and perplexed.
“They were going to make Jeremy CEO,” Shaw sighed, stopped what she was doing on her computer, and looked up at Root.
Root looked at her a tad more bewildered, “So naturally, I would have to marry you?” She worked on trying to connect the dots.
“And what’s the problem? Like you were saving yourself for someone special?” Shaw snorted, which didn’t go over well with Root.
“I like to think so,” Root squinted her eyes at Shaw. “Besides, it’s illegal.”
“They’re looking for terrorists, not for game developers.”
Root tried to make eye contact with a distracted Shaw. “Sameen.” She thought maybe using her forbidden first name might help.
It did. Shaw looked up at Root. “Yes?”
“I’m not going to marry you,” Root said while staring seriously at Shaw.
“Sure, you are. Because if you don’t, your dreams of touching the lives of millions with positive female realistic game characters are dead. Jeremy is going to fire you the second I’m gone. Guaranteed. That means you’re out on the street looking for a job.” Shaw leaned on her elbows to push the point, “That means all the time that we spent together, the black hole coffees, the canceled dates, the midnight steak runs, were all for nothing and all your dreams of being a programmer and developer are gone.”
Shaw stared intensely into Root’s eyes.
Shaw watched Root; she was unable to read her assistant at this moment. Root watched her closely.
“Don’t worry, after the required allotment of time, we’ll get a divorce, and you’ll be done with me. But until then, like it or not, your wagon is hitched to mine.” Shaw made a gesture with her hand to close the point.
Root stood motionless as she watched her boss. How did she get herself in this situation? Marry Sameen Shaw? Marry Sameen Shaw to defraud the government? To save her job? Okay, yes, she did want to save her job. And maybe, just maybe being fake married to Shaw could be fun. Maybe for once, she could do the torture instead of always being tortured by her boss. However, this could end in nothing but disaster. Or fun really could go either way. Mostly disaster, though.
“Okay? Phone.” Shaw pointed out that her phone was ringing on Root’s desk. Another busy day at the office, despite the getting engaged part. Root walked out slowly back to her desk, still stunned.
During their lunch break, Shaw dragged Root to the immigration offices with her. When they arrived at the offices, there was a massive line. Shaw bypassed it and went up to one of the front windows. Root sighed; she didn’t much appreciate cutters or self-entitled people. And the thought of marrying one for fraud was making her stomach feel queasy.
Shaw saw Root was uneasy, so she turned to the next person in line and lied.
“Sorry, I need to ask him something really quick.” She then turned to the annoyed man working the window, “I need for you to file this fiancée visa for me, please.”
Shaw gave both the immigration clerk and the person who’s place she stole in line with a big smile, one of her best smiles. Even Root admitted a lot of people were powerless against this one smile of Shaw’s, begrudgingly even herself.
“Ms. Shaw?” asked the annoyed immigration worker.
“Yes.” Shaw said while she motioned for Root to stand closer to her.
“Please, come with me,” said the annoyed immigration worker as he ushered through the locked doors to offices behind him.
Shaw pulled Root along with her as they headed off towards an immigration office further back into the building.
They were seated in Mr. Hersh’s office and waited for him rather impatiently.
Finally, a tall, stern-looking man in a crisp government-grade business suit entered the office, “Hello. I’m Mr. Hersh.” He sat down at his extremely organized desk; the pleasantries were short-lived. “Sorry about the wait.”
“We understand. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate you seeing us on such short notice,” Shaw gave a big smile to Hersh, in hopes of working her charm and beauty on him.
She thought maybe if she wasn’t his cup of tea, Root could turn on some charm; she had seen her assistant work something close to resembling charm a few times in difficult work situations with other departments in the company.
“So, I have one question for you,” Hersh stared hard at Root then Shaw, “Are you both committing fraud to avoid her deportation so she can keep her position as CEO at Thornhill Digital Arts?”
“That’s ridiculous. Where did you hear that?” Shaw was surprised; Root looked on more surprised and a little worried.
“We had a phone tip this afternoon from a man named...” Hersh read off a report on his desk.
“Would it be Jeremy Lambert?” asked Shaw with a scowl on her face.
“Yes a Mr. Lambert,” Hersh looked up at Shaw from the report.
“Jeremy. Poor Jeremy. I am so sorry. Jeremy is nothing but a disgruntled former employee. And I apologize. We know you’re incredibly busy with a room full of gardeners and delivery boys to tend to.” At this extremely offensive remark, Root closed her eyes and cringed. “If you just give us our next step, we will be out of your hair and on our way.”
Hersh kept his blank expression, “Ms. Shaw, please. Let me explain to you the process that’s about to unfold. Step one will be a scheduled interview. I’ll put you each in a room, and I’ll ask you every little question that a real couple would know about each other. Step two, I dig deeper. I look at your phone records. I talk to your neighbors. I interview your co-workers. If your answers don’t match up at every point, you will be deported indefinitely.”
Hersh stared very harshly and intensely at both women.
Then Hersh put his full, intense dead-eye stare on Root alone now, “And you, pretty lady, will have committed a felony punishable by a fine of $250,000 and a stay of five years in federal prison.” Hersh let the thought sink in then pushed hard, “So, Root. You wanna... you want to talk to me?”
Root did let this somewhat scary information sink in, yet she still shook her head no to Hersh.
“No?” asked Hersh, watching Root, possibly having an internal moral struggle, “Yes?”
Shaw watched both of them; she looked over to Root and did her best encouraging smile to her assistant.
Root took a big gulp of air. “The truth is...Mr. Hersh, the truth is...a vast thing. Sameen and I...” Root stammered a bit, trying to compose her thoughts. Was she going to go along with this now that the stakes were real, dangerous, and pretty awful? She looked over to Shaw, who being the strongest person she knew, actually looked a little scared at the moment. Seeing Shaw look a little scared made her stronger while, for some reason, also making her eyes a little misty. Because if Shaw was a little scared, she wanted to be the one to help, like she had been for the past three years. “...are just two people who weren’t supposed to fall in love.”
Mr. Hersh remained expressionless and darted his eyes back and forth between the two women.
Root continued, “But we did.” She looked over to Shaw, who nodded her head yes and gave her a warm smile. This caused Hersh to lean back in his chair. “We couldn’t tell anyone we work with…” she just had one of the best ideas of her life, she was going to get something out of this if the stakes were raised that high. Root reached over and draped one arm on the back of Shaw’s chair, “…because of my...big promotion that I had coming up.”
“Promotion?” Mr. Hersh asked very skeptically.
Root held down a smirk because she could tell by the look on Shaw’s face she wanted to bust out the same response, but she held her tongue wisely. And her boss opted instead for a head nod that wasn’t entirely convincing as she squinted her eyes at her assistant.
“Yeah. We, we both felt that it would be deeply inappropriate if I were to be promoted to Senior Programmer...”
Shaw caught on to this game and corrected her assistant, “Programmer.”
“Senior Programmer….” Root said firmly, slamming her point home; she noticed Shaw gritting her teeth and squinting her eyes at her, “...while technically I was still under her...professionally and physically…you know what I mean?” Root did one of her non-wink trademarks to Hersh, who still remained a stone-cold butch.
“Have the two of you told your parents about your secret love?” Hersh leaned back to his desk to make notes on the report.
“Oh, I... impossible. My parents are dead. No brothers or sisters either,” Shaw said with very little sadness.
“Are your parents dead?” Hersh asked Root.
Shaw jumped in and spoke for Root.
“Yes and no, her aunt and uncle who raised her are very much alive. Well, we were going to tell them this weekend. Gammy’s 90th birthday and the whole family’s coming together. We thought it’d be a nice surprise.” Shaw said all of this while smiling at Root.
Root was completely taken aback with her boss remembering anything about her life and family.
“Where is this surprise going to take place?” asked Hersh, still taking notes.
“At Root’s family house,” Shaw answered.
“Where is that located again?” Hersh asked suspiciously.
“Why am I doing all the talking? Pfff, it’s your family’s house. Why don’t you tell him where it is? Jump in,” Shaw joked with a smile to Root when of course, her assistant knew her limited recall of her life was done.
“Sitka,” Root said while she smiled back to Shaw.
“Sitka,” Shaw tried to say as quickly behind Root as possible as if she knew the answer.
“Alaska,” Root added in case her boss didn’t know where Sitka was located.
“Alaaaaskkkaaa.” Judging by Shaw’s suppressed surprised reaction, she did not know where Sitka was off the top of her head.
“You’re going go to Alaska this weekend?” asked a very skeptical Hersh to the two women.
“Yeah,” Root said with a genuine smile, looked like she was going to get to celebrate Gammy’s 90th birthday after all.
“Yes, yes. We are going to Alaska. Alaska, that’s where...That’s where my little...” Shaw awkwardly reached out and put her hand on Root’s shoulder, “…that’s My Rootey Tootey is from,” Root reached over to put her hand over Shaw’s hand, but her boss had already moved her hand away.
“Fine. I see how this is going to go. I will see you both at 11:00 Monday morning for your scheduled interview, and your answers better match up on every account,” Hersh said sternly to both women.
“Thank you,” Root said as she slowly got up from her chair to flee the tense filled room, and Hersh’s questioning looks back and forth between her and Shaw.
“Looking forward to this,” said Hersh in a completely deadpan way that was pretty scary.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Shaw gave her best fake smile, all teeth. Root knew this was one of her boss’s biggest fake smiles; she usually saved this one for the ‘talent.’
“Thank you,” is all Root could say again as she followed Shaw out of the immigration office.
Root wandered outside in the chilly and busy New York streets; she kept hearing the scary words fine and prison; those words made her head hurt. She looked deeply dazed. Shaw was oblivious as she caught up with her and started talking like she was dictating a grocery store list.
“Okay... so, what’s going to happen is we will go up there to Alaska,” Shaw continued walking on and hadn’t noticed that Root stopped in tracks frozen, “We’ll pretend we’re together, tell your parents we’re engaged. Use the miles for the tickets. I guess I will pop for you to fly first class. But make sure you use the miles. If we don’t get the miles, we’re not doing it. Please, confirm the steak meal. ‘Cause last time they gave my steak to somebody else, and they forced me to eat this vegan meal thing, go cow or go home...Hey, I’m...” Shaw finally stopped and looked at Root, “Why aren’t you taking notes?”
Root stared and Shaw and pointed to the immigration building with a serious look on her face, “I’m sorry, were you not in that room?”
Shaw looked like she wasn’t getting a punchline of a joke, “What? What?” Shaw shook her head at Root, “The thing you said about being promoted? Genius! Genius. He completely fell for it.” Shaw gave a genuine smirk to Root; clearly, she was impressed with Root’s fast thinking.
Root moved closer to Shaw and was super serious, “This is serious. I’m looking at a $250,000 fine and five years in jail. That changes things.”
“Promote you to a programmer? No, no way,” Shaw scoffed and looked at her phone instead of looking back into Root’s eyes.
“Then I quit, and you’re screwed,” Root shrugged and started walking away from Shaw, “Bye-bye, Sameen.”
Shaw couldn’t believe Root was walking from her; she had never seen her assistant walk away from her; never in the three years, they had been together. Wait, she thought the three years they had been working together, again she thought the three years Root was working for her. She felt furious, needing Root so badly at this moment. Without thinking anymore, she yelled way too loudly, “Root!”
“It has been a slice of heaven,” Root continued on, walking down the street.
“Root, Root! Fine, fine,” Shaw walked to catch up to Root. “I’ll make you a programmer. Fine.” Shaw stared intensely into Root’s eyes as her assistant slowly walked back towards her. “If you do the Alaska weekend and the immigration interview, I will make you a programmer. Happy?” Shaw squinted her eyes at Root.
“And not in two years. Right away,” Root stared back at Shaw and invaded her personal space; she was feeling pretty confident with her boss right now.
“Fine.” Shaw gritted her teeth and flared her nostrils.
“And you’ll develop my game. Six-month development...” Root’s eyes sparkled with excitement.
“12-month development,” Shaw countered back, not backing away from the Root personal space invasion.
“Six-month. And we’ll tell my family about our engagement when I want and how I want,” Root watched Shaw, who let out a big sigh, “Now, ask me nicely.” Root’s eyes sparkled again, staring at Shaw.
“Ask you nicely what?” Shaw stared back, momentarily confused.
“Ask me nicely to marry you, Sameen.” Root tilted her head with a small smile at Shaw then bit her lower lip.
“What does that mean?” asked Shaw with a huff as she stared at Root, why did the woman have to be so infuriating attractive even when she was annoying.
“You heard me. On your knee,” Root said in a demanding tone as she pointed to the hard New York street pavement.
“Fine,” Shaw rolled her eyes and then slowly lowered herself onto the pavement, it was a little hard in her skin-tight black leather pants, tailored blazer, and high heeled boots; she finally managed. “Does this work for you?” she asked Root, sarcastically looking up at her. Shaw didn’t want to admit that Root’s demanding tone did something funky to her stomach.
“Oh, I like this. Yeah,” Root had a very pleased, almost suggestive look on her face as she looked down at Shaw on her knees. She had to admit seeing the Sameen Shaw on her knees was a pretty attractive sight.
Despite fighting the slight urge to kick her boss for all the holidays she was forced to miss while working, it was pretty hot seeing Shaw on her knees. Root kind of hated to admit just how alluring Shaw looked on her knees. It wasn’t every day your drop-dead gorgeous no-nonsense romantically impaired boss dropped to her knees to fake propose.
Shaw let out a big huffy sigh, then stared very intensely into Root’s eyes as she slowly and in a deeper voice than usual, “Will you marry me?” Shaw could tell this had an effect on her assistant, and she held down a smug smirk; instead, she opted for an eye roll.
“No.” Root stared hard at her boss. Shaw had never realized how intense Root’s eyes could be, no wonder her assistant was so well respected around the office. She held her gaze despite feeling a little uncomfortable, even for someone as stoic as she was. Root pushed hard, “Say it like you mean it.” Root reached out and lightly touched Shaw’s shoulder.
Shaw decided that if her assistant needed to hear an earnest fake proposal, she would give her a snarky one. “Root?” She said in an overly saccharine tone.
“Yes, Sameen?” Root batted her eyelashes at Shaw, playing along with her.
“Sweet Root?” Shaw reached out and grabbed one of Root’s hands to hold; she rubbed her thumb over Root’s skin.
“I’m listening,” Root despite herself might have purred a little; she enjoyed hearing her name, said nicely by Shaw and not her usual bark. And the hand-holding, thumb rubbing over the top of her hand was a very nice touch; her stomach felt weird and airy.
“Would you please, with apples on top, marry me?”
Shaw did know Root loved apples, and she could tell by the slight look on her assistant’s face she was surprised her cold-hearted boss remembered this little factoid.
Root looked down at Shaw and acted like she was thinking over the proposal.
“Okay. I don’t appreciate the sarcasm, but I’ll do it. See you at the airport tomorrow,” Root smiled quickly and pulled her hand away slowly. Her smile then morphed into a slightly annoyed face as she walked away from Shaw.
“Good. You’ll be taking my name! Yours sucks.” Shaw yelled after her assistant, Root turned her head and flashed a wicked smile which kind of scared Shaw, then she continued walking down the New York busy street.