Career Move by Bill Tope

Monday, October 23, 2023
Erin goes to great lengths to entertain her lover's boss; by Bill Tope.

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With her face screwed up and her eyes moist, the pretty blonde broke into heartfelt sobs and was soon weeping with abandon. Sophie edged her way into the bedroom and asked, "Erin, are you going to be alright?"

Erin drew a staggered breath and nodded her head. "I'll be okay."

Without reacting further to the outburst, Sophie quitted the room and went about her business. Which was par for the course, thought Erin. Sophie always had bigger fish to fry. As much as Erin loved her, she knew that Sophie, five years younger than she, was, above all else, ambitious.

Erin tossed her drenched tissue into the waste basket, wiped her face with the heel of her hand, and walked from the room.

Sophie was in the kitchen, fiddling fecklessly with one of Erin's cookbooks. "Isn't it about time you started dinner?" asked Sophie. "Mike will be here at six." Sophie always cut to the chase, thought Erin.

Erin glanced at the clock over the stove: 3:00. "I'll get started now," she told her lover of nearly one year. "We'll eat at seven. Okay?" she looked at Sophie, who nodded. Suiting the action to the word, Erin pulled the brisket from the refrigerator, turned on the oven, then set about making preparations for entertaining Sophie's new boss, Mike Garrett. Though Sophie had been working for the firm for more than two years, ever since graduation from law school, Garrett was a newcomer, a so-called "rainmaker," who immediately took over as managing partner. Erin, for her part, had been a chef at the Hilton for seven years and knew her way around a kitchen. So when Sophie promised Garrett a home-cooked meal, Erin had readily agreed. She'd do anything for Sophie, as she had told her many times. Which was sort of the problem.

Three and a half hours later, the apartment was redolent with the savory aroma of roasting beef. Erin checked on the roast. Another five minutes and she'd extract it from the oven, she thought. The potatoes and carrots and gravy and butter-roasted sweet potatoes and homemade dinner rolls were caressing her senses as well. The water for the steamed asparagus was just reaching the boil.

In the living room, Sophie was busy entertaining Garrett with cocktails and cannabis - recreational use now being legal in the state - and Erin could hear Sophie tittering delightedly.

Erin had only briefly met her lover's boss, and it had not gone well. Garrett had brazenly undressed Erin with his eyes. His handshake, taking in her whole arm, had lingered uncomfortably long. Erin had at last hurriedly extracted her hand from his grasp, and she'd unconsciously wiped her fingers on her dress - yes, Sophie had insisted that they both wear dresses. "Mike," Sophie told her, "is an old school type of man." Yes, thought Erin, he was that; a man, and to her he represented everything about men that she eschewed: he was demanding, entitled, vain. From the kitchen she could hear Sophie stroking his ego. Taking the dinner rolls from the oven, Erin shook her head unhappily. The sooner this evening was over, the better, she thought.

Finally, dinner was served and Sophie and Mike fairly oozed into their chairs around the table. Erin hadn't often seen Sophie this stoned, though she suspected that the four or five highballs she'd consumed had an impact, as well. The meal was well-received, by everyone. Garrett went on at length about what a superlative cook Erin was, noting that she would make someone a "really terrific homemaker." Erin blinked at him.

"I already do," she pointed out. Sophie's face darkened a little, but she said nothing.

Garrett grinned. "Yeah, you're playing at it, but once you girls grow up, you'll find someone to keep you satisfied - know what I mean?" he asked libidinously.

"I'm quite satisfied, Mr. Garrett," she told him archly. She looked to Sophie; why wasn't she speaking up? Nothing more was said on the subject, and Erin excused herself to serve dessert - a magnificent carrot cake, her own recipe, with cream cheese frosting. Everyone ate with relish. Garrett boasted about his many accomplishments in the legal wars. Erin glanced surreptitiously at her watch, wondering when the guest of honor was going to scram.

When dinner was finished, Erin basked indulgently in compliments from both Mike and Sophie, the latter of whom seemed a little distracted. Was she still high? wondered Erin. The women led Mike into the living room, where Sophie put on music - Van Morrison, an Irish balladeer who had ceased recording before any of them had even been born - and Mike broke out still more pot. Erin reluctantly took one or two tokes, but didn't get nearly as stoned as did the others. What happened next floored Erin: Mike extracted from his jacket a glass vial, which turned out to be filled with cocaine! This guy was a lawyer? thought Erin. He was going to need an attorney, if he kept flashing illegals in front of people he'd only just met.

Pulling out a small mirror, which Erin didn't even know that Sophie possessed, her lover handed it to Mike, who spilled white crystals onto the surface of the glass and began dicing them up with a razor blade that he must have pulled out of his ass. Arranging the coke into three neat little lines, he offered the mirror to Sophie, who moved over on the sofa next to Mike and snorted up the line with a tightly-rolled hundred dollar bill, with great proficiency. Their thighs touched provocatively. Mike, meanwhile, ran his hand along the inside of Sophie's thigh. Erin could have sworn she heard the other woman moan. This was getting wildly out of hand.

"Erin," said Mike, pushing the mirror across the coffee table before her. "Your turn."

"Thanks, Mike. I don't do street drugs." She hoped her bluntness and disdain were apparent.

"Yes, you do," he contradicted her meaningfully.

"No," she said, "I don't." She crossed her arms over her chest.

"Erin, please," said Sophie, speaking for the first time in a long while. "You promised you'd cooperate this evening."

"I promised to cook, and to serve, and to entertain; I said nothing about illegals"

"Consider this as part of the entertainment," inserted Mike, more harshly than before. Erin regarded him with surprise; then she looked at her lover, who stared back with a sullen, unhappy face.

"I have to use the loo," said Mike, getting to his feet. Sophie directed him that way.

Once Garrett had gone, Sophie turned to Erin and said, "Mike can do a great deal for me, Erin. This means a lot. He means a lot!"

Erin shook her head uncertainly. "I don't understand, Sophie."

"The firm has over a hundred lawyers; when Mike was brought on, it was decided to pare back 10% of the attorneys we employed. Tonight can make the difference between my having a career now, or starting over."

"And all this hinges on my snorting up a line of blow?" asked Erin incredulously.

"Not just that," said Sophie, looking distracted again.

"Then what else?"

"Mike wants to make love," said Sophie desperately.

"When you admitted to me you've been out on several dates with him, I sort of picked up on the sex part," snapped Erin unhappily. "What does he want, for me to take a walk around the block for a couple of hours while you get him off?" Her anger and outrage were rising. She put up with a lot from Sophie and this was fast becoming more than she was willing to bear. This is what the two women had been discussing prior to Erin's preparing dinner. Erin hadn't taken it well. It was the first real betrayal in their relationship.

"Not exactly," said Sophie quietly. "He wants me to take that walk. He wants to make love with you, Erin."

If possible, Erin looked at her lover even harder. "No, he doesn't want to make love; he wants to fuck me! What, does he have some sort of bizarre lesbian fantasy thing going on? Does he think he can straighten us out, ruin us for other women, or what?" she demanded.

"You've done it with men before, Erin. You were even married once. What's the harm, if it can save my job, my career?" Sophie's hands were folded and she was pleading with her lover. In the background they could hear the chain being unlatched from the bathroom door.

Erin stared at Sophie. "Is this what you want?" she asked bluntly. Sophie nodded.

Garrett took that moment to reappear; Looking appraisingly at the two women, he asked, "Are we good?" Sophie stared imploringly at her lover. Erin nodded. Garrett grinned victoriously.

Erin stood in the doorway of the bedroom, slowly pulled the door closed, locking it behind her back. She stood regarding her guest for the evening, Mike Garrett, teetering unsteadily on his feet, a feckless grin on his bloated face. Releasing the doorknob, she stepped forward.

A cautious knock came from the door of the apartment, and Erin pulled the door open. "Come in," she invited, and Sophie stepped tentatively into the apartment they both shared. "I've been waiting for you to turn up," said Erin without rancor.

"Mike..." she began.

"Left about an hour ago," replied Erin.

"How did... did he say anything?" asked Sophie.

"He said to tell you he'd see you at work on Monday," said Erin, pulling on a jacket.

At once, Sophie seemed to relax. Then, noting that Erin's suitcase was in readiness for an apparent departure, she asked, "What's going on?"

Erin buttoned her jacket, then said, "I've decided to take a lateral transfer to another Hilton - in Kansas City. They offered it weeks ago, but I told them I'd be giving up too much to leave Denver. That was true before; now, not so much. I'll send for the rest of my things." "You're leaving - now?" asked Sophie, in surprise. "I think I deserve... some explanation," she said.

Erin regarded her coolly. "Are you serious?" she asked. At Sophie's perplexed look, she went on, "I told you that I'd do anything for you, Sophie. And I did it. Please allow me a little dignity." And with that, she grasped her suitcase and exited the apartment, leaving her former lover, with Sophie's career intact and on the ascendant.


  1. This story had rising levels of shock! “What happened next floored Erin” was a great segue to shock number one. Erin was expected to do cocaine with no consideration for her own preferences. Then there is a shock that Erin is expected to sleep with Sophie’s boss! I’m just grateful Erin left after all of that. Fascinating story! Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much, June, for your great comments. I always try to measure my work – with decidedly mixed results, alas – against David Henson (poignancy); Doug Hawley (humor); Rozanne Charbonneau (drama); Adam Strassberg (erudition); and more recently, June Wolfman (rich characterization) and Natalia Liron (sheer literary beauty). You authors always give me a lot of aspire to. Thanks each one of YOU!

  2. It was a “Sophie’s choice” of a different kind, and she made the wrong one. Bill, you did an excellent job of developing three distinct characters. I’m happy Erin is getting the heck out of that relationship! (Excellent title, too.)
    -David Henson

    1. Thank you, David. I always enjoy your perspective on things literary. I appreciate your reading AND writing.

  3. Hi Bill - adding to the praise here. I raced to the end - rising dramatic tension with the stakes escalating. A real page turner - for me, almost a modern-day noir theme. Well done! David

    1. Thanks very much, David. I’m glad you enjoyed my little story. Seeingyour name, I recalled with pleasure your “Heartsick” from last August. I hope you’re conjuring a continuation of that wonderful story.

  4. "A razor blade that he must have pulled out of his ass." Sorry, Bill, but I am going to steal that line. I am assuming that this story took place in the late seventies? Early eighties? Sophie displays no love for Erin whatsoever. Or is she like Tey - lost and trying to swing with the times? If Sophie and Erin had "taken care of Mike's needs" together, they might have stood a chance in hell of staying together. But at what cost? This story gives another take on the age old fidelity struggle. Nobody gets it right...

    1. Hi Rozanne, I was hoping that you would write. And you needn’t steal my razor blade line; I’ll officially give you exclusive free use of it in future (Ha-ha). And you’re right: the story takes place in the late seventies or early eighties. You can always tell when it’s not contemporary – no bleating cell phones mucking up the place. And I suppose that Sophie and Te do share some aspects of a damaged character, as you point out. I guess my female characters are rather flawed, in retrospect. Thanks a lot for writing, and please write a new story; I need by Charbonneau fix.

  5. I’m not aware of a genre called “70’s noire” - but this story is so very 70’s and so very noire.

    It packs so much into a short space - lack of sexual fidelity, exchanging sex to secure and advance a career, commitment and loyalty, recreational drug use, male chauvinism… Quite an adventure for Erin, Sophie and Garrett!

    1. What? You never heard of “70’s Noire?” Where have you been? It was founded in 2008 by a conclave of disparate writers and artists and unregenerate drug users in the U.K. and is known informally as the “Charlie Fish School of Literary Endeavor.” Only qualification is you have to be somehow stuck in the 1970s, with literally no way out. But, back to earth, thanks for reading and writing, Adam. I always enjoy your perspective.