The Foibles of Fraternizing–Part 1
"What's wrong, Leanna? Why do you look so blue?" Chad asked sympathetically.
Leanna managed to force a smile. She had just returned from the doctor with some bad news. "The doctor tells me I have endometriosis plus some other stuff."
"Oh wow," Chad said. "What's the prognosis?"
"Well I have to have an ovary removed, which probably cuts my chances for having children by 50 percent. And since Harry and I broke up, I don't even have any potential prospects on the horizon–and my clock is ticking," she moaned.
"I'm sorry, Leanna. I know you feel scared, but from all that I've read about the new laser technology and advances in infertility, your chances are probably much greater than you think," Chad said encouragingly.
"You're so sweet, Chad. Thanks for being such a caring friend as well as a terrific secretary," she said, smiling.
Chad had been the human resources department secretary for nearly a year now. He was certainly an anomaly for an industry where men only did "men-type things." But Leanna was pleased with his performance. She took a lot of flak from the others for hiring a male secretary, but Chad was the fastest typist and most efficient secretary she had ever known.
Later that afternoon Victor McGrane, her colleague in the benefits department, popped his head in her office. "So how did it go at the doctor's?" he asked.
Leanna had been invited to dinner the week before by Victor and his wife, Marge. They were considerably older than Leanna and had offered to help her get established when she first moved to town. She viewed Victor as a mentor and Marge like a mother, so she felt comfortable confiding in them about her physical problems. "Not wonderful, Victor. I guess I have to have the surgery after all. I'm just wondering what I'm going to do. With Harry out of the picture, by the time I establish another meaningful relationship, I'll be too old to have any children. Although I could consider artificial insemination . . . but the thought of not knowing the full background of the donor makes me uncomfortable," she rambled.
"Look, you're just feeling down right now. Once you have your surgery behind you, you'll figure out a way," Victor assured her.
"You know, Victor, you'd be a perfect donor," she joked. "If I could find someone like you, I'd be thrilled. You're healthy, intelligent, honest, tall, and best of all, Methodist. Who could ask for anything more!"
Victor tossed his head back and laughed. "Leanna, I never know what you're going to say next! Tell you what–Marge has a cousin who's about your age. I'll tell her to arrange a casual dinner for the four of us. I think you'd like him."
"Excuse me, Leanna," interrupted Chad, who had been waiting patiently for a break in their discussion. "Your interview is here. Are you ready to see him?"
"Yes, certainly, Chad," Leanna responded and turned to Victor. "Go ahead and arrange that dinner, Victor. I'd like that a lot."
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Leanna's surgery was successful. Several weeks later she invited her friend, Dan Jones, to join her for dinner in Old Town. Dan was the computer support representative from the human resource information systems department. Although they had different bosses, they often worked together on projects and had become fast friends. He gained her confidence with his competence and won her friendship with his sense of humor. He had helped her keep her sanity through system crashes and other crises, so his fun-loving attitude was the perfect antidote for Leanna's lingering post-op depression.
Chad seemed to like Dan as well. He often called Dan in to help whenever he had a sticky problem with his software, since Dan was the software support guru for the department. As they finished up the day's business before heading off to dinner, Dan confided in Leanna that he thought Chad purposely messed with his system to create glitches that required Dan's personal attention.
"Come on, Dan, why would he do that?" Leanna asked incredulously.
"Well, don't you think he's a little weird? After all, how many guys do you know who are male secretaries?" Dan asked.
"No, I don't think he's weird. He's the best secretary in the business," she said firmly.
"Well, if he's such a great secretary, why does he keep doing stupid things to his computer to get me to come in and fix them?"
"Just what are you getting at?" Leanna asked, getting annoyed. Although Dan never told her directly, she had heard through the grapevine that Dan received a number of gifts and romantic messages from Chad during the holidays. Dan claimed that Chad left him a box of candy with a signed note saying, "You are my dream, my desire, my enigma. I celebrate the thought of you!" However, since Leanna never saw the note, and Dan never mentioned it to her directly, she chose to ignore the whole matter as office gossip.
Dan danced around Leanna's question with a half-answer. "Oh, he just leaves weird stuff for me."
Leanna saw her opening, and pressed, "So what did you do about it?"
"I just told him, 'Chad, I'm had, I'm had; I'm not interested,'" Dan laughed.
Leanna wasn't sure whether Dan was telling the truth or exaggerating. Sometimes it was hard to tell if he was serious. He loved to tease her because she was a good sport. She thought he may be pulling another one of his "GOTCHAs," so she decided to change the subject and avoid being the butt of one of his jokes.
As Leanna and Dan were packing up to leave the office, Chad leaned in and casually asked, "Where are you two off to tonight?"
"Oh, we're going to cruise a few spots in Old Town," said Dan. "Do you want to come along?"
"Sure," Chad said, as his face lit up. "Let me run these copies and I'll meet you in the parking lot."
As Chad took off, Dan elbowed Leanna mischievously. "See what I mean?" he grinned.
Leanna contorted her face and shook her head with an "I've-had enough-of-your-nonsense" look.
The three took off for Old Town in Dan's car. They had a wonderful night listening to music, eating, and drinking beer. At the end of the evening, they all piled into Dan's tiny car to return to the company parking lot where Leanna and Chad had left their cars. As Dan put his keys in the ignition, she noticed a grimace on his face and saw him look in his rear-view mirror at Chad who was sitting in the back seat. "Cut it out, Chad!" Dan demanded sharply.
Leanna looked in the back seat at Chad who was giggling, but she couldn't see anything unusual. "I said knock it off," Dan repeated, raising his voice several tones louder. "Try that on Leanna and see if she thinks it's funny," he added sarcastically.
The three drove back to the company parking lot in silence. Leanna couldn't figure out what the rift between the two fellows was all about, but she thought the sun roof would blow off any moment from the tension. As soon as Dan stopped the car in the lot, Chad jumped out of the car, slammed the door, and raced to his car. Then he sat in his car and glared at Leanna and Dan. Dan turned to Leanna. "Did you see what was going on?"
"No, I couldn't see anything," she said.
"Well, let me show you what he was doing," Dan said angrily. He got out of the driver's seat and sat in the back. Then he pushed Leanna's seatback slightly forward and thrust his foot through the crevice between the seatback and the seat. She felt Dan wriggle his toes under her fanny and inch seductively toward her privates. "Okay, okay, I get the picture," she said, feeling her face flush.
"I kept hinting that he was gay. You thought I was kidding," Dan said.
"Okay, so what if he is," Leanna said defensively. "He's still a great secretary."
"Look, it's dark. I'll walk you to your car," Dan offered. Dan could see from the corner of his eye that they remained under Chad's surveillance. While Dan stood at Leanna's car, he told her of all the times that Chad had expressed his romantic interest in him. Then he explained how he tried to gently rebuff Chad's advances without appearing homophobic. Dan explained that he had asked Chad to join them this evening for a specific purpose. Dan wanted Chad to understand that he liked him as a person, but that he had no desire to develop a gay relationship.
Things were starting to make sense to Leanna. Between the grapevine and some other incidents, Leanna suspected that Chad was gay, but she had no first-hand knowledge. He never discussed his sexual preference, and she never asked. He was not especially effeminate, and she never considered his sexual preference an issue. Her first real inkling that he might be gay came when she overheard him at Christmastime poring over catalogs with the other secretaries. He had selected a dress for Marla and said, "Oooh, don't you think this little number would be just darling on you?" But beyond that discussion, Chad behaved very businesslike.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Over the next several weeks Chad's attitude toward Leanna grew progressively negative. He'd do his work begrudgingly, grab papers from her hands, and keep all conversations to a minimum. Leanna was startled by his behavioral changes. She was going to discuss how to handle the situation with her boss, Phil Portman, but Phil beat her to the punch.
"How have things been going with you and Chad these days?" Phil inquired.
"Frankly, not great," she replied. "Chad's been behaving strangely ever since Dan and I took him to dinner with us a couple weeks ago. I think Chad is somehow jealous of my friendship with Dan. I'm not exactly sure how to broach the subject. I just don't think it would be appropriate to impose my personal feelings. What do you think?" she asked.
"Well, actually, Leanna, Chad came to me yesterday with a complaint about you," Phil said.
"A complaint? What kind of complaint?" To learn what Chad was complaining about, click here.