tagNovels and NovellasThe Sara Chronicles

The Sara Chronicles

byJimnewsphotos©

THE LAST THING I NEED IS ANOTHER INTERN

"You've gotta be kidding me. No! I put up with that for four months last year." My voice was somewhat stern, almost belligerent as the words spilled out of my mouth. Without even realizing it, I had slammed my hand down on the top of the desk. It's not the way most people would talk to their direct report on the job site. But Dan and I go back over 20 years. Dan sat back in his black leather desk chair and shot me the same calm expression he always uses. It was the same, calm, expression that was on his face the day he interviewed me for a position as an accountant with his new business venture.

I had worked for several years as financial administrator at a small college in the Pittsburgh area when Dan met me at an alumni event he was attending. Now over twenty years later, his little business venture has been bought out by an internationally known accounting and consulting firm that has benefited us both.

"Jim, bring it down a notch. You just need to relax. This intern will be different. She's intelligent, engaging, and every reference we've talked to tells us she can handle the workload. You know we're pretty swamped right now with Mack moving on to the San Francisco office." As always, Dan's voice was calm and steady. If either of us was to ever lose control in an argument, it would be me. Dan on the other hand was soft spoke, confident and unfortunately he was usually right.

Of course he was right. We were short handed and found ourselves missing deadlines or working long nights. For those of us under salary contract, those nights were cutting into our personal time. Yet his calming voice didn't ease my mind much. The last intern assigned to my team had caused us more frustration than he was worth.

Our division of the corporation targeted a niche market for consulting that includes compliance auditing of healthcare and non-profit agencies receiving major grants, such as small colleges, nursing homes, and rural clinics. Since we often need to be on site to review facilities we wind up driving or sometimes even flying to a city, working several days and then returning home to finish the paperwork. Needless to say, when you're spending several days at a time - all but living with a small group of people - you hope those people get along. Our team was usually three to five people. So getting along during the constant travel was highly important to me as the team leader. The fear of having a "team member" who wasn't a "team player" was stuck in my brain at this point.

Even Dan admitted that the most recent experience was less than positive. Our last intern spent his evenings at the company provided hotel rooms, drinking and partying like he was still living in a frat house. Then he'd show up the next morning hung over and unable to get his work done. He was immature and really not ready to venture out into the world as an adult.

I left Dan's office and headed down the hall toward mine, still fuming at the thought that I'd have to break in yet another rookie. The resume he had handed me was tossed on the pile of reports and reams of budget statements, giving me the sense of - yet one more thing to deal with. Of course the good news is that interns get stuck with the grunt work of bean counting and inventory. Some accounting dweebs seem to thrive on it, but after nearly thirty years of work as an accountant I found my self more and more bored with my life. So letting an intern get stuck with the routine stuff probably wasn't as bad an ideal as I was making it out to be. I just didn't want Dan to forget about how bad our last one turned out.

It was 4:30 pm when a petite, young, brunette, waitress, with a gorgeous ass seated Dan and I at our favorite Italian place just a few blocks from our Pittsburgh office. I noticed the young waitress because I've always had a thing for brunettes, and she was certainly a fine example! She was wearing a pair of those tight, clingy, black leggings that showed off her youthful legs. "God, would you look at that!" I muttered under my breath.

"Focus on why we're here." Dan whispered with a half smile on his face.

The new intern was meeting us at the restaurant for introductions and an early dinner. Just a simple meet and greet so we could hit the ground running. We'd begin training the the rookie the next morning. Which meant un-training the rookie of all the stuff today's colleges are feeding these kids. This intern should be easier. She was a good bit older than our typical interns, had graduated near the top of her class in an undergraduate program, and was now just a month away from completing her MBA.

We were gratuitously exaggerating a story about our recent golf excursion when I saw Dan's head raise and look to the front door. It was the kind of spring that couldn't make up it's mind. One day cold and drizzly and the next warm and sunny. Today, it was brisk and the cluster of people entering the restaurant were wearing a mix of jackets and full coats. As a group of four senior adults were led away to their table, what remained near the entry area was a young woman taking off her coat and scanning the room.

You've seen girls like this. She's the typical girl next door that when you look at her in just the right light, she's pleasingly attractive. But at the same time, there was an awkwardness to her that made you think she was an extra from a comic book store scene in an episode of the Big Bang Theory. Don't get me wrong, she wasn't unattractive. Just not the "hot intern" that I guess I secretly had hoped she would be. At least that would have made the necessity of having an intern more pleasurable.

Her hair was slightly disheveled from traveling all day. Her wardrobe choice seemed an interesting cluster of mismatched apparel. A very attractive sweater showed her charming female form but her skirt seemed to emphasis her wooden stance. And her glasses! What reeks 'accountant' any louder than back rimmed, large lensed, glasses? They all but intentionally covered up her big brown, puppy-dog, eyes.

As she scanned the room looking for Dan's face, she gently tugged at her sweater, swiping away any lint and arranging her self for meeting her potential employer. Her gaze caught sight of Dan and her quizzical expression turned to familiar. In that moment, suddenly the awkward grad student emerged as an attractive young woman. Her facial features still partially hidden behind the nerdy girl glasses, were mildly attractive. I remember thinking for a moment that she was fairly cute. But the moment passed! She tried to walk across the room, probably wearing heals for the first time since her high school prom; if she actually went to the prom. There was an air of apparent uncomfortableness in her stride.

Both Dan and I got up and stood next the booth where we had been seated earlier. Call it an ingrained response for someone of our generation; but standing as a woman joins your party, holding a door open for a lady, and all the other 'old school' attitudes had been drilled into our heads by the finest Catholic nuns at Pittsburgh's finest private schools. Dan was in his mid 50s and I was just months away from turning fifty. In many ways we're now the dinosaurs that we used to mock as young bucks with the company. God, looking at the interns and new employees at work can make a guy feel pretty old. They're just kids. So there we stood, two middle aged, married, two kids, three cars and a mortgage type guys; watching as this wide eyed, innocent, young lady clumsily traversed the obstacles of tables, chairs, and patrons, to approach us.

Dan reached out to shake her hand and invite her to join us. She confidently took his hand and with textbook Dale Carnegie business school confidence, she greeted us.

"How was your trip in from Virginia?" Dan asked.

"Okay I guess. But I hit some fog this morning coming over out of Maryland on I-68. It slowed my progress a bit, but I made it okay." She replied. She had a calming voice. It was confident, mellow, with just a mild hint of southern virginia accent.

"Well, let's hope your stay in Pittsburgh for the next few months brings a bit better weather. It's actually supposed to clear up through the rest of the week with some sunshine." Dan bantered back.

"I certainly hope so. I could use a bit of sun." She replied. Subconsciously I was agreeing with her. She was fairly light skinned and looked like some sunshine would improve her condition. But then again everyone looks a bit pale in the early springtime.

As she and Dan continued with questions about her hotel accommodations, I found myself trying to gauge if this was going to be a problem intern such as our last fiasco or if we were going to get along.

That's when Dan turned to me. "Jim, let me introduce you to Sara Wilson, your intern for the next few months."

NOTHING MORE ATTRACTIVE THAN A CONFIDENT WOMAN

The hot water flooded over my body as the shower stall began to fill with steam. My morning routine was off and running. Coffee was made, morning news was echoing into the master bathroom from the bedroom, and now I found myself basking in the warmth of the water. This was always a great time to think through the tasks I had to accomplish during the day. Today's sole task was breaking in an intern. I mentally took notes of all the things I'd have to work through with her before even beginning to "train" her for the job. While I knew HR would send a check list training outline, I just wanted to think though the more practical side of things. We'd begin with general office practices, facilities, standard forms, and time sheets. Then on to more specific accounting practices of our form of consulting. The task seemed overwhelming.

My hands were planted against the back wall of the shower when I felt the vibration. It was the all too familiar vibration of the garage door opening and closing. It was happening again. My wife spent her entire morning getting ready for work without saying a word to me. Now she had left for work without even saying good-bye. I guess it's par for the course. We had survived twenty seven years of marriage but the last few years brought greater emphasis on "surviving".

I remember our early days together. She would have never left for work without spending a few moments with me. There was always a kiss good-bye; a flirtatious and fun kiss at that. But things had changed. Our oldest was graduating from the university in a few weeks, then heading off to grad school in California. And our youngest was graduating from High School. My brother who is a tour manager for bands out of Nashville, had landed him a job as a roadie for a minor league rock band all summer. So within days we would truly be empty nesters. While some people our age find that a freeing and renewing time in their marriages and relationships, we were finding ourselves left with feelings of emptiness.

Constant travel on my part didn't help. Early on, it was almost fun. Every time I'd get home from being on the road a few days, my wife wanted us to spend a lot of time together. We'd go out to our favorite restaurants and act like kids. We'd go shopping and spend more time playing around together than actually buying anything. It was almost as if we had the chance to court one another over and over with each new week. Once we were even asked to leave a grocery store because we were acting like teenagers in love ... in the produce section. But as the years passed it became less fun. Arriving home was no big deal. Just another day. Now we hardly knew each other.

I finished getting ready for work in total silence, trying to quench the frustration I felt about my life. For some reason, I thought if I could just ignore the problem, maybe the hurt would go away. The fact remained. Somehow my life was beginning to unravel and I couldn't figure out how to stop it. At this point I had even lost the will to care. I let my head drop back so that the water was striking my face directly, hoping it would wash away the despair and depression I was experiencing.

I arrived at work and headed up the elevator to my small office. I never really minded having such a small office space. Being on the road several days each week, there wasn't much point in having a larger space. While our planning, scheduling, and final reports were done here, we often met at another building that provided us a large enough working space for the whole team.

"Is the kid here yet? We need to get the training done before her nap time." I asked as I rounded the corner of the office suites. I expected Brenda, our team secretary, to be at her desk. But as I looked up from the handful of envelopes and letters I had been fumbling through, Sara was seated in Brenda's chair.

"Yeah, the kid is here!" Sara shot back. She gave me an impish smile, knowing she had caught her new boss at a disadvantage.

"Sorry, Sara. But you know how it is. You kids get younger to me every day." I tried to get myself out of it, but we both knew my first words of the day were a blunder.

"Yes, she does know how it is. Probably just as well as you do." Brenda breezed by me from behind, giving me a mild slap on the back of the head as she passed. An older woman who had seen senior consultants like myself come and go ... as often as I've seen interns come and go, Brenda was a rare find. Unlike some older secretaries, she had remained current with technology and seemed to enjoy the pace of change in our office. And Brenda always kept me on my toes.

Brenda handed Sara a cup of coffee and set another one on her regular coaster next to her keyboard. She picked up a pile of envelopes, littered with post-it notes and a file folder. Scanning the information she walked around the desk to stand in front of me.

"You have an appointment for a conference call with Genesis group at 9:30 and a Leonard Phillips called about that photography workshop you wanted to attend this fall. You can reach him at these numbers." She pulled a post-it-note off her pad and stuck it on my chest before returning to her desk. Sara seemed to enjoy the banter we had developed over the many years we had worked together.

The next few days of training clearly proved me wrong about having an intern, even if I wasn't ready to admit that to Dan. Sara was amazingly competent for her age. Of course I had to keep reminding myself that Sara was a bit older than the typical intern. She learned quickly, seemed to understand my preferences, and at times was even able to be thinking ahead in the process of our tasks.

By the time we were on our second audit trip, she was already doing some work on her own without distracting me from the tasks that I normally cover. If she did ask questions, it was to understand how the tasks of each employee fit into the big picture of our final consultation report. They were intelligent questions from someone who seemed like she wanted to learn all she could from this experience.

One of the benefits of my being a senior member of the division was the opportunity to choose my own team members and have first selection of projects to schedule at the beginning of each quarter. I had taken a few projects that would keep our team on the road longer but would be in more desirable cities. While Columbus Ohio isn't my thought for a vacation in late May, it sure beats being stuck in Erie, PA for a week.

Now planning for our next trip away from home base, the project required just three team members. My regular "go to" second person, was already tied up in Philadelphia for a month. So I sent Dan an email to notify him of my intent to take Sara in his place. Dan was rather shocked by the note, knowing I had fought against having an intern just a few weeks earlier. Usually with a three member team, you can't afford to take an intern. If it was our normal four or five person group, an intern wouldn't set us back. But even Dan was beginning to see that Sara was the exception.

The third team member was Pete who had already worked with Sara on an earlier trip. Pete is a crusty old building and property inspector who had retired from working for the city of Pittsburgh. Still in great health, he became bored with retirement so he sub-contracted himself into these excursions to prepare facility reports for our consultation team. While most people found him to be a pain in the ass, he was perfect for our needs. Pete wasn't afraid to tell you the truth even when you didn't want to hear it. More than once I had seen him go toe to toe with facility management directors of hospitals and even small colleges, not even blinking. He knew his stuff and was not at all what you'd expect from a former "city-county worker" (Pittsburgh speak for government type).

The initial work in Columbus went well. We rushed through tasks like clockwork. Sara once again proved why she was at the top of her class. She was capable, competent, and more than anything else I began to realize that "the kid" was really fun to be around. Okay, I admit it. I was wrong about having an intern. She had a sharp, sarcastic wit that just fed off my sarcasm. She seemed to thrive on throwing a comeback, even more sarcastic than I could dish out.

Movie quotes were thrown back and forth to describe every situation. Our running puns weren't really all that funny except for the fact that they ran for days. She had an uncanny ability to turn any situation into a jab about my age. Knowing that my hobby of choice was photography, Sara and I spent one week throwing photography puns at each other. By the third day Pete was tired of the game. "Let me pose a question....," "We'll see what develops," "Framing an issue." "Shutter the thought," ... and on and on....

We spent our days working in a cramped office space that had been left over from the full time employees of the hospital we working with this particular week. Even in the close quarters, we seemed to get along without the drama that can come from living in tight quarters.

Evenings that week were free to relax and hang around doing nothing. Pete often disappeared to his hotel room and crashed. He wasn't much for chit chat and hanging out at the hotel bar. So as soon as dinner was over, he was gone. Sara tended to be a typical young adult, wanting to stay up late talking with friends online through chatrooms, watching tv, and surfing Facebook.

On our last night in Columbus, I took the team to a nicer restaurant to close out the trip. It's somewhat traditional for us to scrimp and eat at cheap restaurants early in the week - saving our per diem travel budget for a great, last night on the town. Dinner conversation was enjoyable, even with Pete's grumbles from time to time. We ended dinner fairly early and planned to go back to the hospital in the morning to wrap up our data. Hopefully we could make the three hour drive back to Pittsburgh and be home by dinner time tomorrow. As we arrived back at the hotel, Pete made is traditional exit leaving Sara and I in the lobby just wandering around.

For some reason, on this particular night, Sara just looked adorable. Thumbing through the visitor's guides and brochures in a rack by the front door, I realized what a great look she had today. She was wearing one of her now signature outfits; a white, men's, button down dress shirt and a black, short skirt that for some reason I had missed noticing all day. God, how could I have missed that. As she fumbled through the advertisements and brochures I found myself watching her from across the lobby. I had taken a good, long look at her before I realize I was vacantly gazing at her. The stance she had taken seemed to highlight her legs in a way I had never noticed. Damn, there's a hot lady under the starched white shirt and geeky accountant glasses.

"Let's find a bar somewhere and get smashed", Sara suddenly spit out bluntly. Wow, where did that come from? Both of us knew by now that neither one of us drank a whole lot.

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byJimnewsphotos© 14 comments/ 53736 views/ 75 favorites

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