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  • keliciahollis

House of Cards

(You can listen to this piece in S3E3 of the podcast)

Chandra’s phone buzzed as she made her way through the lunch line. She grabbed a bottle of water to round out the food on her tray, then checked the message.

My room in 5?

Chandra scanned the dining hall, and sure enough, her boss was clear across the room, but looking pointedly in her direction. He winked, and she blushed despite herself. She tried to regain control of her expressions. She was a serious professional. Not a schoolgirl. Looking back down at her phone she typed a quick reply.

Can’t. We might get caught.

Chandra pressed send, then made her way through the mass of conference-goers—all fellow accountants in her region. Chandra’s phone buzzed again, but she didn’t check this time. She knew it was him. And though her resolve was weak, she knew their fling had gone on long enough. She couldn’t allow their secret to leak. She could only imagine how shocked her coworkers would be to find out that homely, awkward, entry-level accountant Chandra had clandestine “meetings” with the company CEO.

“Is this seat taken?” Chandra asked, pointing to an empty seat next to a strawberry blond with 2-inch-long lashes and an inch of caked-on makeup on her face. She’d never seen the woman before, but she was determined to sit in the first empty seat she could find or risk her boss having the gumption to approach her in the crowd.

“All yours,” the lady said with a smile.

It was a table full of women who seemed deep in conversation, so Chandra pulled the chair from under the table and tried her best to avoid plopping her tray down like a goofball. The chair screeched and the tray’s contents slid, but no one seemed to notice as Madame Long Lashes had already resumed holding court. Chandra was relieved. No one at this table was paying her the least bit of attention, and she preferred it that way. Being a wallflower was her favorite role.

“As I was saying, the regulators are on their backs right now about those reports not being up to federal standards. I wouldn’t take a job with them unless you’re ready to be laid off in 12 months.”

Chandra dug into her beef stroganoff, listening halfheartedly to the conversation as her phone buzzed yet again. She did a quick scan of the cafeteria but couldn’t spot him anymore. After yet another buzz, Chandra gave in and checked her messages as the women continued chattering.

Our secret is safe.

Stop worrying baby.

Forget lunch. I have something you want more.

This game of theirs of sneaking off was fun at first. And before this morning, Chandra would have left the dining hall and gone upstairs to his hotel suite with no problem. But the opening speaker had said something that hit her hard. “Accounting is one part sharpness, one part smartness, and all parts integrity. You can be sharp and smart, but if you don’t have integrity, the numbers you deal in are a house of cards.” And she didn’t plan to be entry-level forever. She wanted a career that was solid. Not the house of cards she was building sleeping with a married CEO. So, this was it. They had to be over. She’d tell him face-to-face. Before it was too late.

“Dear?” said Madame Long Lashes, staring at Chandra. “I asked, who are you here with?”

Chandra blinked. Embarrassed, she flashed a sheepish smile.

“K&D Group,” she replied. “Our CEO is the keynote speaker.”

But it didn’t seem like she needed to add the last bit of information, because as soon as she said K&D, the tittering started back up at the table. Madame Long Lashes’ attention was now focused more keenly on her. All the ladies at her table were staring at her.

“Do you know him well?” Madame Long Lashes asked.

  Chandra choked on an egg noodle. Recovering, she shook her head and avoided the lady's gaze. “Not really. I’m entry-level. A new hire.”

            “Good,” Madame Long Lashes said, though her tone held an air of caution. “You know he’s been linked to some sordid tales.”

            The whole table seemed to lean in towards Chandra at once.

            “It seems he has a fling with some young girl at the office,” another lady said. “But of course, there are several new, young hires, am I correct?”

            “Yeah,” Chandra said breathlessly. “A few of us.”

            She felt herself sweating, and wondered if the other women could hear her heart pounding in her chest.

            “It’s a wonder anyone ever thinks they can hide these things,” Madame Long Lashes said, and the other women chorused in agreement, shifting their attention off Chandra and onto the topic at hand. “Like the opening speaker said—he and that girl are building a house of cards.”




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