May include spoilers.
My office door opens and a woman with curly brown hair peeks in. “Um, are you ready for me?” she asks with a smile. Not waiting for a reply, she crosses the threshold, with the familiarity of an old friend.
“Hi Charlotte, come right in.” I gesture for her to close the door behind her. Charlotte flops down in a chair with a mug in hand while I rummage around to find the collection of papers stapled together with her name on them. “I can’t believe it is already time to do performance reviews again,” I say, handing her the pages. “How long have we been doing this?”
Charlotte leans back in her seat, scanning my written comments on the first page with a quick glance. “Hmm,” she begins, tapping her lip, “technically it will be five years this October, but I think this is only my second or third one of these.”
She shrugs. “You kind of forgot a few times.”
“Oh, that’s right.” The heat from my cheeks is a better gauge of the severity of my blush than any mirror. “Sorry. All I can say is I was distracted.”
Charlotte leans forward, returning the papers to my desk face down. “It’s fine. I understood. The Project’s success was, is, a huge priority for everyone.”
“It is, but I don’t want you to think I don’t value you too,” I say, nodding at the papers. “You’ve done good work, and I want you to feel like you are contributing.”
Charlotte laughs. “I’m not exactly saving the world over here.” She takes a sip of her beverage.
“I’m serious, Charlotte,” I say, thinking I could go for a coffee too after this is done. “You might not be expected to go on epic quests, but what you do still matters to a whole bunch of people.”
She shakes her head, though the smile remains. “That’s nice of you to say, but really, I’m okay. It’s not like I would want Juliane’s job anyway.” Charlotte shudders. “That woman is a freak.”
“Charlotte,” I chide, imagining the conversation I would have to have with the human resource department later if I had one.
Charlotte’s eyes grow wide as she slaps her hand over her mouth. “That didn’t come out right at all. I meant she’s a workaholic. I didn’t mean to imply I thought her … her … you know … the project made her a freak, which it totally didn’t.” Charlotte’s hand dropped to rest over her heart. She gulps. “I just like having time to spend with my family. That’s all.”
I purse my lips and take a deep breath before speaking again. “Let’s stop talking about Juliane and keep this focused on you. What can I do to help you become more successful this year?”
She looks up at the ceiling in thought. “Well, maybe I could attend a workshop.”
I raise an eyebrow.
“Or two,” says Charlotte, meeting my gaze once more. She chews her lip when I don’t respond. “Three?” she squeaks.
“Think bigger, though I’m making a mental note to revisit your thoughts on a workshop later.”
“Bigger?” Her brows knit. She eyeballs the papers on my desk. Her hand twitches. I can tell she’s itching to give my review a more in-depth read. “But … but … look, I appreciate the vote of confidence and don’t take this the wrong way,” she takes another sip, “but I’m not certain … Kids are only young once. You know?”
“Oh, believe me, I know.” I grin. “Which is exactly why I am so excited.” I pick up the papers. “What if I’ve come up with a way for you to grow within the company while also giving you the opportunity to spend even more time with your family?”
Charlotte cocks her head to the side and looks at me out of the corner of her eye. “How would that work?”
This time it is my turn to lean forward. Opening the papers to the back, I point to the last paragraph. “Because, Charlotte,” I say, my grin threatening to split my face, “before this year is out, I’m giving you … a sequel.”
That’s right, early revisions are all but done and I will be looking for beta readers for my latest contemporary / cozy mystery novel entitled An Uncertain Confidence in the coming weeks.
Charlotte is back in a new story proving happily ever after is a constant work in progress following one disastrous night out. Those interested should send me an email at Allie at alliepottswrites dot com for additional details. You don’t have to have read the first book, but it certainly helps.
Speaking of beta readers, Lucy over at http://www.blondewritemore.com was kind enough to feature a guest post of mine entitled Writers: What to expect when your beta reader is an elven prince. Click on the link to check it out.