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When I descended the staircase into the living room, most of the people were already downstairs and the table was already set. Despite the temptation to change into something nicer, I resisted and simply freshened up my hair and makeup. I didn't overdo it, and took into account that the fireplace was very close to the dining table, so I would look like Tammy Baker by dessert. Mrs. Parsons was the only person not in the room, as she was in the kitchen getting ready to serve the meal. I walked in and took a seat right beside Jimbo. Nicholas was sitting beside him at one head of the table, and across from Jimbo and I was Josh, Angie and Mr. Parsons. They left the head of the table open which made it easier for Mrs. Parsons to serve and access the kitchen whenever she liked. I kissed my fiance on the cheek and sat down.
"Sorry to hold things up," I said, trying to be polite.
"We all just got here, so no problems." Mr. Parsons said, "You're right on time."
Mrs. Parsons soon arrived and served the first course whcih was a light salad. It was free of any tofu, apparently thanks to the efforts made by Nicholas and her husband. Besides the occasional chit chat and comments about the ride up, it was rather quiet at the table while every was eating. The second course was a roast with mashed potatoes, gravy and asparagus. Again everyone was rather quiet while enjoying their meal with a choice of wine or sparkling water. Just as everyone was finishing up while Mrs. Parsons was clearing the table, Mr. Parsons stood up to get everyone's attention.
"While my purpose to bring you down here was to just relax and socialize," he started, "I also brought you down here for other purposes. I have invited a few of you because there is a big change going on at the office, and I will spend this weekend evaluating all of you. Before any of you panic, no one is being let go. One could say it's quite the opposite. I'm going to spend the weekend doing a series of interviews."
"What kind of interviews?" I asked, curious about the situation.
"Some of the interviews will be one on one," Mr. Parsons answered, "But more than a few of them will be in a group setting as I want to evaluate how you interact with others. The only thing I ask is that you be yourself and just answer as honestly as you can. I apologize for the secrecy but I think this is the fairest way to conduct these evaluations."
"And what is the purpose of inviting our spouses?" Angie asked.
"Well, I think that is an important thing to evaluate as well." Mrs. Parsons answered for her husband. "How you interact with your significant other and function is something we need to evaluate as well."
"This seems awfully like a job interview." Josh said, even though he wasn't one being evaluated. "A weekend away to see people acting normal is a sly way to do it."
"I'm not denying nor confirming anything." Mr. Parsons responded, "But what is said or happens here this weekend, stays here at the cabin. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain."
I sat there, nursing what was left of my potatoes. On the outside, I looked calm and ready for anything. Yet on the inside, I was going over everything I knew about what went on at the office the last few weeks. It made no sense. My source in H.R. hasn't received any transfer requests or papers of resignation. As far as I knew there were no new positions opening up. So what were we all being evaluated for. The fact that our spouses or significant others were here could only mean one thing: a new office overseas. It mean we'd have to move, and that meant it might cause troubles at home if everyone is not onboard. I'd have to look online to see if there was any truth to that after supper.
"Are you alright, Rachel?" Mr. Parsons asked, noticing i was spaced out a bit.
"I'm fine," I replied, smiling back. "My mind wandered a bit."
"Well, I do apologize for the secrecy." the boss continued, "But this is a process that my wife and I not only feel is fair, but will allow us to dig deep in our search."
"I can only speak for myself," Nicholas said, "But I welcome a challenge."
"As do I, Sir." Angie agreed. "I am eager to get started."
"What about you, Rachel?" Mr. Parsons asked.
"I usually don't like surprises." I admitted, which was true. I normally like to prepare for interviews and have a strategy going into them. Springing this on us had the feel of a shit teacher tossing out a pop quiz of the class. Total chicken shit move. "Yet if everyone else is alright with it, as long as we all have an even playing field... I can dig it."
"Great!" Mr. Parson said, "Then let's do the first question before dessert."
I tensed up a bit, bracing myself for the questions to start. Jimbo could tell what I was feeling as he was sitting beside me, and he reached over and took my hand in his. He didn't say anything but he didn't have to. I could tell in his eyes that he knew how I really felt. While I was being blindsided with a surprise test, I wasn't alone and I had someone there to support me. What Mr. Parsons didn't know was my fiance was a very competitive man, and he would try to win this evaluation, even if he wasn't actually eligible for the prize. It's just how he was wired, and he was going to stick it to his opponents if necessary. I smiled as I understood his gesture and appreciated it.