The difference between a law firm and a fairy tale is this: in the fairy tale, when the last virgin (usually some patriarch’s own youngest daughter) is delivered to the beast (often a dragon, but any beast will do), everyone goes into mourning. In a law firm, when the best secretary is forced to work for the beast after he has alienated everyone else so that he now works in pampered solitude in his corner office on the 27th Floor, everybody secretly rejoices. They can now relax for a while.
One or two might say a prayer for Beauty. Protect her, Lord, from high blood pressure and other distress.
Publicly the Beast is puppy-dog-eye humble, though he is ugly. If you were to confront him, even right after he has brayed like an ass, he would bat his donkey-length eyelashes. Who, me? The one who just received another award for outstanding client service? Besides, it’s her job to know what he wants.
Plus: he likes female tears.
Unlike a traditional Beauty, his secretary didn’t volunteer to work for him. But ‘let him type his own damn pleadings’ would be in violation of his negotiated working conditions, whereas Beauty works at will. In any event, in today’s fragile economy, it was impossible for her to decline the honor of being deemed the best, the most likely to succeed.
At first she hoped (as did everybody else) that she might redeem him. It is a matter of pride to be known as one who can handle anything. But lately her eyes are haunted. Will bestness be rewarded? Not likely. Just now there is another freeze on support staff salaries.
At some point, Beauty leaves and comes back in the nick of time. Things went wrong. She went home to visit her family, that’s true. But when she returned, he wasn’t lying on the ground under some mulberry bush, struggling with his last breath. Instead he was in full explosive rage. He’d missed her all right. But it was she who limped to her bedroom that night with dark circles under her eyes and fantasies of committing suicide in his office just to make a point.
Wisely she decided to see a psychiatrist instead, on a fraction of the salary of the Beast who could more easily afford it even in today’s economy. She cut back on her wardrobe and weekly fresh flowers and skipped a vacation for which she had saved for two years.
She learned that sometimes a beast is just a beast.
Most nights she dons a peacock colored gown, floor length, and sits at her window and looks out at stars and dreams, even schemes, of a world in which Beasts become princes and Beauty has the power we have come to expect from her.
published 20 February 2013