Secret Keepers, Chapter 2
Link to the previous chapter here.
“Team, I’d like to introduce you to our newest recruit, Kanishka.”
My first reaction was to choke on my glass of water.
She looked like a kid playing dress-up in her floral white kurti and bright yellow leggings. She wore a gauzy shawl and intricate dangling earrings. They clashed against her short pixie cut and the piercings at her eyebrow and the side of her bottom lip.
“She looks like she’d be swept away by a gust of wind, the little pipsqueak.” A senior chortled.
She glared at the senior, instantly shutting him up.
The HR manager continued, oblivious to the entire exchange. He gave her bio: a recent graduate from one of the premier engineering colleges of the city, and would work with us in QA. I was assigned as her mentor/manager, given that I was recently promoted to Senior Lead QA Engineer after four years in the company.
When the others left - after a good bit of jesting about my ‘new responsibility' - I said to her, “You know, we’re super casual around here. You can wear whatever you like.”
“What, you think I don’t like ethnic because I have piercings?” She bristled.
“Chill out, Salander - I was just making conversation.”
She glared at me, but didn't respond.
The GM of the QA division dropped by, chatting up the new hires and their mentors. He was well-known in the industry for his ‘hands-on' approach to management. Of course, I had a clear idea on how ‘hands-on' he really was on and off the job. Both he and his wife were my clients. His wife had been the one who waylaid me in the restroom, distraught by the new hires. Between the two of them, I'd heard enough of how ‘hands-on' he got with nubile young men and women.
When he came around to meet us, Kanishka finally cracked a smile, making me wonder if she had mentioned in one of the confessions. Both husband and wife were careful to not name any names, but she had come with his recommendation.
Nevertheless, she was a brilliant hire. She had a nine-point GPA with a Computer Science major. She was already proficient in more than four scripting languages and three programming languages. She was already more well-versed in mobile and web technologies than our seniors. Her résumé had mentions of her three-time win at her college hackathon and white-hat contributions to major applications like Facebook and Youtube.
Yep, she was Lisbeth Salander come to life - piercings, sulking demeanor et al.
“So, is the new employee up to our standards?” A senior asked a week later at the lunch table.
“Given how serious she is at work, we’ll have to start hunting for new jobs by the end of the month.” I replied.
It set off a round of laughter, with the seniors trading stories of their naiveté ages ago.
Kanishka had declined to come with us for lunch. I stopped asking after the third day. She kept to herself, speaking in clipped sentences only when spoken to. Poor thing, she should realize soon that this company would chew her up and spit her out in no time.
After a long walk around the campus, we came back to our cubicles. I headed to the restroom to kill time. The seniors were driving me nuts with their locker room yapping.
The stalls were empty, save one with a sniffling occupant. Everyone has their off days, and not all can afford me. I sent a mental note of solidarity to my suffering comrade.
The stall unlatched with the roar of the flush. Kanishka walked out, head down.
The hardcore had a heart.
She turned to me, shocked and embarassed at my presence.
“I saw nothing.” I said.
“No...” She said, shaking her head, “No, I... I wanted you to see me. You usually head here after lunch, so...”
This was uncharacteristic. I bent forward, curious as to where this was heading.
She rummaged the pockets of her skinny jeans and fished out a familiar card.
“Can you keep a secret?” She said, as if the words were in a foreign tongue.
Oh boy, here we go again.
“Haven’t I always?” I said, pulling her to a stall.