The Archbishop called me into her office yesterday.
"Precta? May I see you for a moment?" sang out her bell-like voice as she leaned against her doorframe shyly. "It'll just take a minute. I know you're busy."
The Archbishop's sudden exclamation came as an absolute shock. Had she somehow realized I knew about the office boys' escapade? I thought about Zandes' hopeless gaze as he opened up to me, what the apparition in my dreams had begged of me. My heart nearly beat out of my chest as I made the long trek over to the Archbishop's door.
I could feel Zandes staring at me, the intensity in his aura rapidly progressing to undeserved levels. I could only resolve to keep my calm as I took a seat facing across from the Archbishop.
He's just a kid, I reminded myself. Just a kid. Better me than him.
“I hope this isn't an inconvenient time for you, Bishop," Archbishop Firges began, folding her hands across her lap. "I just wanted to let you know that I sent Cardinal Renus those schematics for PRIDE-Σ that you've been working on." A sweet smile crawled across the edges of her long face. "He is simply in love with the idea of programming it with a reward system! In fact, he wants to meet you in person to discuss it further! Imagine that! Your genius has even gotten the Cardinal to come out of his shell."
Under any other circumstances, I would have felt overjoyed at such an announcement. But at that moment, I could only respond with a strained “Thank you, Archbishop.” I had hardly remembered that Archbishop Firges said that she would contact the Cardinal on my behalf. It had felt like ages ago.
"Of course," the Archbishop nodded. Suddenly, her smile dissipated, and she folded her arms over her mouth. "You know, Precta," she began, "I've been thinking of transferring to another division. Coding has never been my strong suit. And you have years on me in experience." She straightened out then, a firm look on her face. "That's why I want to nominate you as the newest Archbishop to the Technological Research Division."
"Who? Me?" I began. "I don't think, no — "
"Now, I don't want to hear another word!" declared the Archbishop. "You've worked in this division for far too long with far too little pay-off. It's time you reap the benefits of your labor, wouldn't you agree?"
"I suppose..." was what I managed to choke out in reply. "But I—"
"It's hard for women like us to climb the corporate ladder, even if we have all the talent in the world," the Archbishop continued, cutting of my access to any excusatory words. "That's why those of us that've somehow managed it need to build up the others. That's what I want to do for you, see."
I felt my heartbeat began to steady. "Really?"
"Of course. It's the least I can do," she nodded. "If it wasn't for all your efforts, I'm sure Renus would have had me replaced by someone else long ago."
As the initial spike of adrenaline coursing through my body steadily began to wear off, I felt obliged to engage in small talk with the Archbishop. Before I knew it, two hours had soon passed by.
"Everyone around the office loves you, you know," Archbishop Firges said as she poured me another glass of wine. "They all look up to you. You're the go-to woman for any issues they may be facing."
"I don't think that's the case," I sighed, my words coming out a bit slurred. "They ignore me. I'm an old woman in a young man's game. I've got nothing."
"Are you kidding? After all you've done, and you still think that? Come on! I see how much you and Zandes talk! You're a hero to those kids."
"I guess." I couldn't help but hide a small smile underneath my glass. But it was getting late — even by my standards. I knew I had ought to begin my long trek home. I stood up, thanked the Archbishop for the drinks, and began to head for the door.
But suddenly, her soft voice cut in.
“By the way, Precta — you haven’t heard anything strange lately. Have you?”
I stopped short. My hand wavered above the doorknob a bit.
“I’m not sure what you mean, Archbishop," I gulped.
The warmth that had begun running through my body stopped cold in its tracks.
There was a moment of silence between us. I felt the urge to conceal my breathing, keep it steady. I became as stiff as a board. Finally, I could feel the Archbishop nod her head behind me.
“Of course," I could hear her lilting voice say. "Well — It's nothing to be concerned over.
"Take care, Bishop. And get home safe.”
Believe me, I fled out from that office like it was nobody's business. Even now, I just feel dizzy recounting it all. Honestly, I just pray that was the first and last time we ever come close to talking about what happened the other day. I wasn’t involved. I only overheard some things. Rumors. And I know none of them are true. They couldn't be.
It was such thoughts that kept me restless all throughout my walk home, and both my girls were both in bed by the time I stepped through the front door. I hope they’ll forgive me for all the time I’ve spent away from them. I'm starting to question whether or not it's even all worth it.