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This didn’t start with the Super Bowl. Charlotte and I have been in each other’s faces since we were hired together six years ago. It’s just that this football season seems to have brought things to a head. We are both section heads for Pearson Consulting, and our names are almost the same– she is Charlotte and I am Charlene– but other than that we don’t seem to have anything in common.I’m from the west coast, LA born and bred– well actually a northern suburb, but once you get out of California, all anyone knows is LA. She’s a New England snob from some high-class family that probably came over on the Mayflower. We were hired almost right out of college together as part of a new, specialized consulting company, but we’ve always gotten along like oil and water. And this year’s football season has really made that worse.She is all for the players kneeling in protest of social conditions and I have told her many times that doing protests like that during the national anthem is wrong. I agree with their concerns, it is just the wrong time. Kneel after making a touchdown or something. That would really send a message.According to her, I think the cheerleaders should be paid almost the same as the players, and– as  she has told me many times– “any bleach-blonde, beach bimbo can do that job.” She knows I’m a natural blonde and I think she knows I was a cheerleader in college. More likely, it is her stupid stereotype of someone from California and she’s just saying that to get under my skin.We couldn’t even agree on the proposed halftime program for this year. I guess she wanted all singers to refuse to sing. I’m more of a “The show must go on” type of person.To make matter’s worse, she is originally from Boston and is a rabid Patriots fan. I’m a Rams fan through and through and have been since I was old enough to look at a TV screen. My parent’s stayed loyal to the Rams when they moved to Saint Louis back in ‘94 and rejoiced when the team saw the light and finally came back to LA three years ago.Rooting for opposing teams and being from such different backgrounds, we definitely hadn’t planned to watch the Super Bowl together. Then Ms. Pearson decided that our entire office should have a week-long “bonding experience” together way out west at a retreat center in Colorado. She chose the first weekend in February to begin our experience because “Nobody wants any of our consulting activity the week leading up to the Super Bowl because they are too wrapped up in the game.” She then laughed and added, “And nobody wants anything the week after because they are too hung over.”We all laughed at her joke when she told us about the retreat, but we grumbled later when we were alone. We continued to grumble even after she assured us that it wasn’t going to cost us anything out of pocket because Pearson Enterprises was chartering a jet both ways and the retreat center was actually her ranch house with hundreds of acres of ranchland surrounding it. She said, “I consider it to be my personal retreat center. It’s where I go when I need to get away from people and just be me.”A personal retreat center consisting of a private ranch on the edge of the Medicine Bow National Forest sounds almost impossible, but the Pearsons are rich with a capital R. Our company isn’t the only one she owns. Ours is, however, the only company she manages personally. When asked why her corporate office for Pearson Enterprises is located with Pearson Consulting’s business office, she always answers, “I need to be near a national and international air hub, and I prefer to work in an area free of testosterone.”Our offices are located in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and all people who work for the consulting company are female. It’s not that Ms. Pearson discriminates against men. There are lots of men in her other companies, but this particular company specializes in consulting with and for female-run businesses. We work with many of the top female executives in the world, helping them in their daily battles to get a level playing field in what is– for now– a male-dominated world. We are also the go-to company for training middle and upper management– male and female– to understand the systemic biases against women in most businesses. Men will usually listen to a female consultant, but because of past bad experiences, high-level women don’t want anything that even accidentally sounds like mansplaining. So, an all-female staff is necessary for the company.No men doesn’t mean that there are no alpha personalities. Let’s just say that, if we were men, the testosterone would be overflowing out the windows. All twenty-two women in our office are very hard-driven and dedicated. almanbahis We can also all be somewhat bitches in our own right, and as section heads, Charlotte and I are the baddest bitches in the room. That makes us a rather difficult group to manage and keep focused on our task… which is making money for Pearson Enterprises.Ms. Pearson– nobody EVER calls her Joyce and no one had better EVER call her Mrs. Pearson– Ms. Pearson had noticed that there was tension building in our office. “What authority do I have,” she said, sounding upset, “to tell others how to create harmony– or at least order– in their businesses when I have such strife in my own office.”That led to two or three big meetings to talk about interpersonal tensions and relationships. But when every single one of us is a specialist in resolving such problems… and a bitch… and everyone already knows all the methods and tricks for bringing about unwilling compromise, both meetings devolved into barely restrained chaos as we growled at each other, “Don’t you dare try that shit on me.” or “No, I wouldn’t like to say more about that!”The manure really hit the ventilator, so to speak, when the Rams and the Patriots ended up facing each other in the Super Bowl… and it was going to be played in Atlanta! With our trash talking all season, everyone knew that the Rams were my team and the Patriots were Charlotte’s.  Our constant bantering, and all the local hoopla for the game helped the rest of the office coalesce behind one or the other of us. Surprisingly, some of the women in my section sided with Charlotte and some of the women in her section sided with me.  The turncoats were about balanced out, though, so it still ended up a perfect 50-50 split with ten women siding with her and ten women siding with me.Things were starting to get nastier and nastier in the office as February 3 approached. It was obvious that if that’s how we were at work, there was no way we could all be together in one place for the game. Two Super Bowl parties was the plan of the day. Charlotte was going to party with “her girls” at a local hotel. I was going to be a little more public about it and put down a deposit on a party room at a sports bar downtown. Evidently, Ms. Pearson found out about our plans because that’s when she called the whole office together and said that we were all going out west with her for two weeks.I had never heard of Clark, Colorado before. I had to run my map program almost all the way in before it showed up, let alone any of the roads around it. Her ranch is almost straight east of there right along the border with the national forest. She has a special permit to keep Bison so there is an unbelievably high and strong double fence surrounding most of the property. On the plane out, she told us that there are only a dozen or so Bison and they are actually just an excuse for the strong, high, electrified fence.“I like my privacy,” she said with a sly smile, “and I know how to get it and keep it.” She also evidently liked to stay in touch because when we got to the ranch, there were seven large communications dishes on top of the hill pointed to various parts of the sky.  Several ranchhands helped carry our suitcases into the house. I noticed that they were all women… very strong and hard-looking women, but women none-the-less.“You will be two to a room,” Ms. Pearson said cheerily as we got off the bus she had chartered to bring us from the Denver International Airport. Not surprisingly, Charlotte and I were assigned to the same room, and the other twenty women were also assigned so that there was one from each side in each room.“There are two queen beds in each room,” Ms. Deliah added as we filed into the huge ranch house. Ms. Delia was Ms. Pearson’s personal assistant and was as strict about her name as her boss was.“It’s Mizz Deal-E-uh,” she told me sternly my first day on the job. “There is no ‘sir name,’ I am not a sir.” Office gossip was that her name ended in “son” and so she didn’t want to use it. Others thought it must have contained the word “man.” I, personally, was betting on Manson. I don’t think Ms. Deliah likes men, but then again, I’m not sure she likes women. She is a rather threatening sort of person who seems to bow to no one except Ms. Pearson.All of our eyebrows raised more than slightly when we saw that Ms. Pearson and Ms. Delia were sharing the master bedroom. We could see through the open door that there was only one bed, a huge, at least king-sized bed with old fashioned posts on the corners and a huge canopy over it all.Ms. Deliah stood in the hallway and said loudly, “This is Ms. Pearson’s house and you will treat almanbahis yeni giriş it with respect. All clothing will be hung up properly in the closet or be placed in the drawers that are also in the closet. The house staff will collect your luggage when you are unpacked.”Both Charlotte and I started into our assigned room, but before we could close the door, Ms. Pearson announced loudly, “Ms. Delia will be leading some group exercises after supper.” She paused and looked up and down the hallway at all of us staring back at her from our open doors. “Until then,” she continued, “you have the rest of the afternoon off.”Charlotte turned to me saying acerbically, “I think I will spend it in my room reading.”“In that case,” I replied, trying to match her tone, “I will spend it out in the living room by the fire.”There is a huge living room that is open to the dining area. A large, open circular fireplace helps separate the two areas slightly. From the looks of it, it might even be possible to cook steaks– or even a whole meal– over the fire. There are several big, comfy chairs near the fireplace and dozens of huge pillow-like chairs spread all over.There was an unbelievably great wifi signal, so I curled up with my phone and began to catch up with my social media stuff. It got dark around five and a little after that, an older woman in a white apron rang a loud bell and called out, “Supper’s ready.”We all gathered around the long table. Ms. Pearson sat at one end and Ms. Delia at the other. “For supper,” Ms. Delia said, “I want you to sit across from your roommate.”She didn’t specify which side of the table to sit on, so everyone waited for Charlotte and me to sit down. Then all of Charlotte’s girls sat on her side and all of mine sat with me. I glared over at Charlotte and she glared back at me. There was a lot of glaring at each other over supper. While we were eating, several of the ranch hands were busy re-arranging the fireplace area. By the time we finished supper, all but two of the chairs had been moved up against the walls and twenty-two big, round pillow-chairs were in a circle around the fire. One chair, probably for Ms. Pearson, was at the very top of the circle, and other, probably Ms. Delia’s, was at the very bottom. There were eleven pillow-chairs on each side in the circle between the chairs.“We are going to tear down some walls tonight,” Ms. Deliah said as the kitchen staff was removing plates and other dinnerware from the table. One of them came back and very carefully washed and dried the table.“To do that,” she continued, “you are going to have to allow yourself to be vulnerable… completely vulnerable… vulnerable to everyone here.”We all looked around wondering what she meant. Then she stood up and took off her jacket and placed it on the table. “Ms. Pearson and I will also allow ourselves to be vulnerable for this exercise,” she said firmly.She continued taking off clothing until she stood nude at the end of the table. “I think you now know what is expected of you,” she said flatly. “Leave your clothing at your place on the table and take a seat in the circle.” She paused and added, “You may sit wherever you please except in the chairs.”I hurriedly undressed and scurried over so that I was sitting to the right of where Ms. Pearson would be seated. Charlotte was only a few seconds behind me and claimed the cushion seat on the other side of the chair. A few minutes later, Ms. Pearson– also nude– took her seat in the chair. A couple of the girls sat or stood at the table, hesitating.“This is a requirement of your employment,” Ms. Delia said. “It is mandatory.” She paused and then said in a much softer voice, “I can understand your reluctance. If you are unable to participate in this exercise, an equivalent position will be found for you in a different sector of Pearson Enterprises. No negative comments of any sort will be entered into your file and you will receive positive performance recommendations for your new position.” Her voice turned harsh again as she said, “But Pearson Consulting is dysfunctional and unless we correct that, the company may need to be dissolved.”Three of the holdouts stood thinking for a moment, then they began placing their clothing on the table One girl remained motionless.“No matter how you slice it,” Ms. Delia continued, “your job with Pearson Consulting is dependent upon this exercise being successful.”The girl gave a big sigh and placed her clothing on the table. I was glad to see that she was sitting on Charlotte’s side of the circle.After we were all seated in the circle, Ms. Delia began, “This exercise is simple. Each of you is going to honestly almanbahis giriş and completely tell the whole room a secret that you would not want your worst enemy to find out.” She paused and said, “Ms. Pearson will begin.”“Thank you, Delia,” Ms. Pearson said. Then she looked at everyone in the circle. “My secret, which some of you may have guessed, is that Ms. Delia and I are lovers, and have been for almost twenty years.”Everyone was silent until Ms. Delia said, “You may think that my secret would be the same as Ms. Pearson’s, but it is not. My secret is that I am a border-line sadist and have to work daily to control my impulses.” She paused to smile at everyone and then added, “… but many of you have already guessed that, too.”She then pointed at me and said, “We will start with Charlene, and then Charlotte, and then alternate back and forth down the circle.”I took a deep breath. No one knew this, but several of the people in my first job suspected. “The job market was really tight when I first got out of college,” I began. “I fucked the HR guy to get my first job.” I turned extremely red and then sputtered out, “I was qualified and did really well at the job, but I might not have gotten it if I hadn’t laid over the guy’s desk and let him fuck me from behind.”Several of the girls in my section were looking at me with very wide eyes. “Charlotte is next,” Ms. Delia said.“Okay,” Charlotte began, “if she can admit to fucking her way into her career, I guess I can admit that I…” she paused a long time looking over at me and then at Ms. Pearson and then at Ms. Deliah. “… I was the captain of the cheerleading squad when I was in college.”“After all you said to me… and about me…” I sputtered out, jumping to my feet, but Ms. Deliah cut me short by saying tersely, “No judgments. No attacking. No comments at all. We are opening ourselves up and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.”I sat, breathing heavily. That bitch was going to pay for this, I just didn’t know how or when. The rest of the office shared their dark secrets. Three of the women admitted they were lesbian. One woman said she couldn’t get enough cock and cruised the bars almost every night. One very shakily admitted to stealing from her former employer. “It wasn’t that much,” she said, “but I was in charge of the petty cash drawer and the vending machines were right behind my desk and if I was hungry, I sort of borrowed a little bit here and there and it got out of control.”She looked over at Ms. Pearson trembling in fear. “Don’t worry, dearie,” Ms. Pearson said, “we knew all about it before we ever offered you the job. But remember one of our catchphrases in consulting is Keep the Honest People Honest. There are always at least two people responsible for all liquid assets at Pearson Consulting.”“Speaking of liquid assets,” Ms. Delia said cheerily, “I think now would be a good time for some drinks.”Several of the kitchen staff came around with two beverage carts. Most of the standards were available. I had a Jack Daniels and Coke and asked them to make it a double Jack.After we had all mellowed just a little bit, Ms. Delia said, “We have one final exercise before we call it a night. We are going to go down the lines once again and this time you are to say something nice to the person across from you.”Great, I was going to have to say something nice about Charlotte. Ms. Delia only gave us a few minutes to think and called on me first. I looked over at Charlotte and said as sweetly as I could, “Whenever you say you are going to do something, you do it. You are a woman of your word.”“So are you,” she replied. “I have always respected that in you.”The rest of the circle said things just as tripe and stupid. “I like your hair,” or “You always are so cheerful,” or “You always dress so fashionably.”Finally, after everyone had said their piece, Ms. Pearson said, “The staff has taken your clothing to your rooms. You may now retire for the night. Please remain naked and vulnerable as you discuss with your roommate what you experienced here this evening. Breakfast will be at nine. Lunch will be at one. The game starts at three-thirty, mountain time, but our party basically begins at sunup. See you then.”When we got to our rooms, the beds were turned down… and the closets were locked. “Looks like we are supposed to remain naked all night,” Charlotte said.“Maybe you could practice your cheers naked in front of the mirror,” I replied snidely and she turned a deep shade of red.“You used to do that, didn’t you?” I hissed at her and she turned even redder.“I think I will go to sleep early tonight,” she said, trying to sound like she was in control. Then she turned off the light and pulled the sheet up over her nude body.***I was awakened a little after sunup by a short scream. It wasn’t really a scream, it was more of a yelp. Charlotte was standing in front of the closet staring in.

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