Invitation to the Boardroom

Alice could see the boardroom from where she sat. In the interest of transparency and fostering a trusting work environment, Victor, the new General Manager, had taken to leaving the blinds open. She had worked hard on the proposal and Turner & Pearce Solutions was now one of three bidders short-listed for the $80M design and delivery of water and wastewater infrastructure for the growth areas south of the capital. Peter looked smug as he stood at the head of the table, using the laser pointer to highlight aspects of the design as he spoke. He hadn’t extended the meeting invitation to her, instead assembling only the boy’s club- James, Aaron, Luke, and even the vacation student Sean. The others hadn’t done much more than data collection and verification. It was Alice who’d built the hydraulic models, assessed odour treatment requirements, selected pumps and carried out a whole host of other assessments that underpinned the details in their proposal.

The twitch in her right eye returned, a giveaway to anyone who knows her well that she was under a great deal of stress. Peter was aware of the importance of this project in her application for chartership and prospects for a promotion. Without her input being clearly communicated at this point, she wouldn’t get a look in at the next stage of design, nor a role on the project team should they win the bid. She knew all this because it was not the first project she’d put her all into, working late during the week and putting in hours at the weekend, even sacrificing second or third dates on the rare occasions that she met someone she fancied. Her friends didn’t bother to invite her out anymore, having received countless rainchecks and excuses of deadlines, her work taking precedence over her personal life.

Victor was talking now, smiling and at ease, pointing at the charts and bullet points flickering on the white wall. He was clearly impressed with what Peter had presented, words were not necessary to know that. Seeing her chance close yet again, Alice slunk in her seat, her shoulders hunched with the familiar weight she felt. With her drop in height, her monitor blocked her view of the boardroom, so it came as a surprise to suddenly see Peter at her desk. The thick carpet lining the office tended to cushion footsteps, making it easy to sneak up on others or be snuck up on.

‘Alice, could I grab your laptop for a moment? Victor wants to see the model run with a revised ultimate flow. The client has changed the brief and we need to know if we need to factor in any more contingency.’ Peter looked nervous, the tell tale sign being the way he fumbled with his cuff as he spoke to her.

Alice’s face was flush now with indignation, knowing that Peter was going to continue to pass her work off as his.

“Alice, did you hear me?” She had drifted off into imagining various scenarios in her head, but no matter how assertive she was in her fictional musings, she just didn’t have the guts to stand up to Peter. He was her manager and held a lot of sway in the direction of her career. Things could be a lot worse, she reasoned, at least I have a job, and there will always be another project, maybe it will be different with the next one, if I just put myself out there a little more in team meetings.

“Yes, sorry. I’ll just save these files, hold on.” Closing the documents, she locked the computer, as was her habit, before removing her laptop off its dock and passing it to Peter, giving away any hope she had of continuing on the project team. Victor will never know I had any involvement she thought, resigning herself to defeat.

Wallowing in her loss, and lost in a doodle she was scrawling on a post it note- concentric circles that served as self-hypnosis, she was startled when Peter once more appeared at her desk.

“What’s your password?” If there was one thing she was not a pushover for, it was giving away passwords and other security details. Not even Peter was going to change her position on that, particularly as her current password was “Peterisaprick*!”

“Oh, sorry, did I lock it out? I’ll come and log in for you”

They exchanged a few more words, but Alice wasn’t going to relent.

The all male troupe in the boardroom turned to the door as Peter entered with Alice just footsteps away. She felt overwhelmed by the smell of the leather from the plush armchairs that circled the large table. The smell, coupled with the anxiety she felt as the familiar voice inside her head told her to stand up for herself, made her want to throw up.

Fingers poised on the keyboard, she deliberated. Her tap of the keys was the only sound to be heard. She cleared her throat and addressed Victor “Peter tells me the client has changed the brief. I can re-run my model if you’d like”

Victor looked from Peter to Alice and back to Peter as he responded to her “Yes, please do. I’m interested to know how your model compares to the one Peter said he’d simulated as a basis for the proposal”

Peter’s eyes were downcast as he fumbled with his cuff.

“Based on the projected growth to 2030, and the estimated influx of…” Alice was finally in her element, no longer the overlooked engineer, now having an audience with the General Manager.


Write a Cinderella story (prompt from this site).

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