Lisa's Quest, Part 1

(by SSTORYMAN, 02 February 1996)

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    Note: This story is entirely fictional. It contains some offensive
language and mild sexual content. If such language and content offends or will
offend you, please do not read further.


    1. Friday - The Perfect Job, Just Out of Reach.

    Lisa Robinson sat nervously in the reception area and continued to wait.
She'd been making small-talk with Johnson & Myers' receptionist, a very
pleasant, strikingly attractive young black girl named Joyce. The phone rang,
and Joyce smiled at Lisa. "Hang on, let me take this. Don't worry. I'm sure
Ms. Johnson will be ready for you soon." Joyce picked up her phone. Lisa
nodded, smiled back and looked at her watch. It was two o'clock.

    Lisa felt good about her interviews. She knew she'd done well on her
typing, spelling and other tests. Lisa smiled to herself and absent-mindedly
began to play with her long, blond hair. She knew she was nothing if not
determined. She'd worked hard in the Clark Community College legal secretarial
program. Her hard work paid off when she finished at the top of her class.
This was Lisa's second job interview since classes ended, but she knew this
was the position she wanted. When she set her sights on a goal, she never
rested until she got it. Lisa wanted to be a legal secretary for a top-notch
law firm like Johnson & Myers.

    Before interviewing, Lisa did her homework. The firm was formed three
years ago by four lawyers who left Williams & Connors, the most prestigious
firm in town. Johnson & Myers had grown quickly, adding experienced lawyers
recruited from the best firms in the city. J&M now had twelve lawyers, five
paralegals, eight secretaries, a receptionist and an office manager. Their
spacious offices on the 20th floor reflected the first class nature of their
law practice.

    Best of all, Lisa knew, J&M had a reputation for treating its legal
secretaries well. Heather Summer, a graduate of last year's class at Clark,
worked here. Heather was very happy at J&M. Lisa'd called and talked with
Heather about J&M yesterday before her interview. Lisa knew the firm had a
good working environment, paid top salaries and had great benefits. "Yeah,
this is the job I want," Lisa mused, "and now I'm going to get it." Soon she'd
be the secretary to Jack Johnson, the firm's senior partner, and Rene
Williams, a bright, young female lawyer.

    Lisa looked again at the clock on the wall. It was now 2:15. "What is
taking so long?" she worried. Nervously, she reached into her purse for her
Tic-Tacs. As she popped several in her mouth, the receptionist picked up the
phone again. "Bonnie," Lisa heard Joyce say quietly, "get your ass out here
for my break! I need a cigarette now!"

    Lisa sighed. It was the one thing she wasn't crazy about. Almost everyone
in this firm smoked. She noticed ashtrays throughout the reception area, an
obvious invitation to clients to smoke while waiting to meet their lawyers.
That was unusual these days. And all the secretaries seemed to be smoking when
Lisa walked through the hallway. In fact, cigarette smoke filled the air
throughout the firm. During her interview with Jack Johnson, he chain-smoked
the whole time. And when Jack took Lisa into Rene Williams' office to meet
her, Rene was smoking, too. Rene even asked Lisa if she wanted a cigarette,
and seemed surprised when Lisa told her she didn't smoke. Actually, cigarette
smoke didn't bother Lisa that much; after all, she had friends who smoked. I
wouldn't mind working for two smokers, she rationalized, especially because
otherwise this job is exactly what I want.

    A tall, attractive redhead entered the reception area. She stopped, looked
at Lisa and then smiled. "Hi, Lisa," she said extending her hand, "I'm Bonnie,
Ms. Johnson's secretary. She'll be with you in a minute." A few wisps of smoke
escaped from Bonnie's mouth as she spoke. God, Lisa thought to herself, this
girl smokes, too. Obviously she just finished a cigarette! Lisa watched Bonnie
approach the reception desk. Joyce quickly stood up and pulled cigarettes and
a lighter from her desk drawer. "It's past time for my break," Joyce pouted as
she got up. Bonnie sat down and teased her with a big smile. "Life is unfair,
honey! But go on, get yourself some nicotine! You deserve it!" "Don't worry,"
Joyce grinned, "I'm smokin' three in a row!" "You've got fifteen minutes,
Joyce," Bonnie laughed as Joyce walked out, "and no more!" Lisa raised her
eyebrows. Boy, she thought, everybody here smokes! The only person who can't
smoke at her desk is Joyce, the receptionist. But obviously she's a smoker,

    Lisa's musings were interrupted as Judy Johnson appeared in the doorway.
"Lisa, please come in," she smiled. Lisa rose to follow, and Bonnie winked at
her. "Good luck, kid," she whispered with a smile. Lisa walked through the
smoke-filled hall swallowing the last of her Tic-Tacs. Judy led Lisa into the
her office, where Lisa'd done her testing. "Sit down, Lisa," Judy said as she
crushed out a cigarette left burning in the cut-glass ashtray on her desk.

    "Lisa, I'll come right to the point," Judy began. "Your test scores are
excellent. Jack and Rene liked you. But," she paused for a moment, "we're
going to interview one more candidate before making a decision." Lisa was
surprised. This sounded like a rejection. Before Lisa could say anything, Judy
continued. "We're looking for the right person for this job, Lisa. We want to
consider another candidate." Somewhat dazed, Lisa asked, "Is there anything I
can do so you'll decide in my favor?" Judy stared thoughtfully at Lisa, then
smiled and simply said, "Lisa, you're going to be an excellent legal secretary
for some firm. Let me just say, I feel we need to interview another
candidate." Lisa wondered what went wrong? Everything seemed so positive until

    Judy stood up. "Lisa," she concluded, "thank you for coming in. I assure
you we will still consider your candidacy. The second candidate interviews
after the Memorial Day weekend. We'll make a decision by Wednesday morning."
Judy walked Lisa toward the door. "So, we'll be in touch. In the meantime,"
she finished, "have a good holiday weekend."

    Lisa was stunned. She walked into the reception area and reflexively
reached in her purse and took out her Tic-Tacs again. She put some in her
mouth as she stopped at the reception desk. Bonnie was still there and, seeing
the look on Lisa's face, asked, "What happened?" "I didn't get it," Lisa
stuttered. "I mean, Ms. Johnson said they're going to consider another
candidate." Bonnie's inquisitive but sympathetic smile encouraged Lisa to keep
talking. "I don't get it," she went on, "I finished at the top of the damn
class. What went wrong?"

    Before Bonnie spoke, Heather Summer walked into the reception area with a
stack of files. She was a perky, attractive girl with short blond hair and
long, dangling earrings. She recognized Lisa immediately. "Hey, how'd it go,
kid?" Heather grinned. "Did you get the job?" Before Lisa could speak, Bonnie
answered for her. "Heather, they're interviewing someone else." Heather looked
surprised. "Oh, God," she said, "I'm sorry, Lisa. What happened?" Sucking
nervously on her Tic-Tacs, Lisa stammered, "I don't know."

    Heather set her files on Bonnie's desk. "Hold these for a minute," she
said, "I'm going to talk to Lisa." Heather took her to a corner of the
reception area. They sat down. "Lisa," Heather whispered, "I'm sorry. I don't
get it. Did you bomb your test scores or something?" Still dumbfounded, Lisa
just shook her head. "I'm not sure," she began nervously. Before she could
continue, Heather stopped her. "Listen, honey, you're sucking that damn candy
like there's no tomorrow. Come to the kitchen with me and let's have a
cigarette so you can get a grip on yourself. You look like you could use one!"
Lisa smiled weakly and replied, "Thanks, Heather, but I don't smoke." Heather
looked quite surprised. "I see," Heather stuttered. "Well, Lisa," she
continued matter of factly, "I have an idea what's going on. Let me check and
I'll give you a call. When will you get home?" Lisa looked at her watch.
"Probably around 4:30," she decided. "Okay, honey," Heather answered. "I'll
give you a call, okay?" "Thanks, Heather," Lisa smiled.

    Lisa left Johnson & Myers in a daze. She got in her car and, still sucking
Tic-Tacs, kept trying to imagine what went wrong. After running errands, she
returned to her townhouse apartment before 5:00. The phone was ringing when
she walked in. "Hi, Lisa," a voice said, "its me, Heather." "Oh, hi Heather,
thanks for calling," Lisa answered. "What'd you find out?" There was a pause.
Lisa thought she heard Heather lighting a cigarette. It figures, she thought
to herself. "Well, Lisa," Heather began, audibly exhaling into the phone,
"it's like this. You won't be hired because you don't smoke." Heather paused.
It sounded like she was taking another drag. "You see," she went on, "every
single person who works here smokes. A lot. It's an unwritten rule at Johnson
& Myers - the firm hires only smokers. When the school sent your resume over,
knowing that we only hire smokers, Judy Johnson assumed you were a smoker,
too. Jack and Rene both liked you, but when you told Rene you don't smoke,
that was it. She's not willing to hire a non-smoker," Heather concluded,
exhaling again as she spoke. "If I'd known you didn't smoke, I'd have told you
not to even bother applying. I'm really sorry."

    Lisa put Tic-Tacs in her mouth. "Heather," she said bluntly, sucking on
her candy, "is there anything I can do to get the job? I don't mind being
around smokers. I wouldn't give anybody shit about smoking. I want to work at
J&M. What can I do?" Heather paused. "Knowing the firm's views on the subject,
especially Rene's," she finally answered, "the only thing you could do is
start smoking, Lisa." "What?" Lisa's replied. "Are you kidding?"

    "You've got to understand," Heather explained, "that's the whole reason
this firm started. It was founded by Jack Johnson when he left Williams &
Connors. He was furious when his former firm banned smoking in the office.
Jack was one of W&C's top business producers and a heavy smoker. He swore he
wouldn't stay when W&C banned smoking. So the day W&C's offices became
non-smoking, Jack formed his own firm. Three other W&C lawyers left with him,
along with his wife, Judy Johnson, one of W&C's office managers. Judy's a
heavy smoker, too. Judy became the new firm's office manager." Heather paused
for a moment, and Lisa was sure Heather was lighting another cigarette. "Since
then," Heather went on, "we've hired some of the best lawyers from other firms
in town. They all came here because they were sick and tired of working with
people who gave them shit about smoking. And I have to tell you," she laughed,
"this is a great place to work if you a smoke! Since I've been here, I've
doubled the number of cigarettes I smoke each day. It's a 100% smoking firm,
Lisa. I'm really sorry. Everyone we hire, from secretaries to paralegals to
lawyers, has to be a real smoker."

    Lisa thought for a moment. "Heather, do me a favor?" Sure, anything,"
Heather replied, exhaling into the phone. "Tell Judy about our conversation.
Tell her I'm thinking about becoming a smoker." Heather laughed. "Sure, Lisa,
I'd be glad to. But a word of advice. If you're serious, you'd better decide
to be a real smoker. Honestly, I don't think Judy will hire anyone other than
a confirmed smoker. I mean someone who smokes at least a pack a day."

    An idea was formulating in Lisa's mind. She wasn't going to let this
problem stop her from getting what she wanted. "Listen, Heather," she pleaded,
"I've got the holiday weekend. I can learn to smoke. I'm sure I can." Lisa
paused. "Tell her I'll come in on Tuesday. By then, I'll be a real smoker!
Okay?" "Okay," Heather answered. "God, that'd be great, Lisa. I mean, I know
it's politically incorrect to encourage you to start smoking, but honestly
you'd enjoy it." Heather giggled. "God knows I do! Okay, I'll tell Judy. And
if you want some encouragement, I'll be around on Memorial Day. Give me a
call. I hope you do decide to start. Smoking, that is. Good luck!" "Thanks,
Heather," Lisa sighed, "I'll call you."

    Lisa hung up the phone. Instinctively, she reached for her Tic-Tacs. Her
thoughts were racing. God, she thought, what am I thinking? How in hell can I
become a confirmed smoker over a long weekend? Do I want to? Lisa began to
pace her apartment. No one in her family smoked. She'd never even tried a
cigarette. Lisa wasn't a prude, but she didn't like the smell. The thought of
taking up smoking as a habit did not appeal to her. But then Lisa thought
about the prestige of working at Johnson & Myers, about the great people she'd
met there, and about all the work she'd done to get a first-rate legal
secretarial job. Oh shit, Lisa thought to herself, I'm going to try it. It
can't hurt, she rationalized, because if I don't like smoking, I can always
stop. She paused. But if I'm going to learn to smoke, she thought, how will I

    Lisa picked up the phone. I know what I'll do, she thought, I'll call
Patti. Lisa and Patti were in high school together and were still good
friends. Patti started smoking a couple years ago when she began dating her
current boyfriend, Rich. Now Patti was always smoking. Smoking was part of
whatever she did. Patti can teach me, Lisa thought, dialing the number.

    "Hello," Patti's voice answered. "Patti, it's Lisa. Do you have plans
tonight?" "Not really," Patti answered, "Rich and I are just going to Rocky's
later." There was a pause. Rocky's was a yuppie bar, very popular with Patti's
smoking crowd. "You want to come with?" "That'd be great," Lisa replied. "But
listen," she continued, "can we get together for dinner beforehand? It's
important! I need your help." Patti was surprised. "Just the two of us?"
"Yeah," Lisa answered. "Okay," Patti said. "Meet me at Hoolihan's at six."
"Done," said Lisa, looking at her watch. "Thanks, Patti. I'll explain when I
see you." "No problem, Lise," Patti said. "See you there."

    Lisa grinned. The first phase of her plan was underway. She rushed to
change her clothes. She chose a pink designer sweatshirt and tight blue jeans.
As Lisa looked at herself in the mirror, she looked good and she knew it. Lisa
was proud of her appearance. Her dedication to work and school hadn't left her
time for a love life, but she wondered if things might not change now. As she
played with her long, blond hair for a moment, she toyed briefly with the idea
of pulling it back into a ponytail. Then she decided against it. "If I'm going
to go bar-hopping with Patti," she reasoned aloud, smiling at herself in the
mirror, "I'll wear my hair down. It's sexier that way, and you never know who
I might meet. Maybe some guy who likes girls who smoke!"

    Lisa pondered the other parts of her evolving plan. Her roommate, Kristen,
was out of town for the holiday weekend. Kristin didn't smoke, but she
wouldn't be back until Monday night. That's perfect, mused Lisa. I'll have
this thing nailed down by then. Lisa's thoughts turned to her work schedule.
She'd be waitressing the afternoon shift on Saturday and Sunday, and then be
off Monday. Good, Lisa thought, I'll have time to get together with Heather.
God, she decided, it's perfect. I'm going to be a smoker by Tuesday.

    There was just enough time to get to the restaurant after making a quick
stop. Lisa pulled up at Hoolihan's a few minutes before six. When she walked
in, she didn't see Patti. "Can I help you?" asked the hostess. "Uh, yes," Lisa
said, "a table for two, please?" "Sure," the hostess replied, "smoking or
non-smoking?" Lisa smiled. "We'll need smoking."

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