Limit of Authoritybyoggbashan©
Copyright Oggbashan September 2005 revised July 2014
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.
I couldn't own and run my company without being sometimes not very nice and occasionally nasty. I try to make the nasty part only an act but managing a business isn't always pleasant.
I first met Eleyna about four years ago. She was taken on as an employee in one of my food factories as a production line worker. On my regular walks round that factory I noticed her. She was impossible to miss. The most obvious sign was her headscarf. She always wore one, in different ways each day, not totally covering her hair but enhancing it.
Eleyna is tall and blonde with a slight build. She isn't beautiful but she has the sort of looks that make a man look twice and then a third time before starting to wonder why he is looking so much at this woman who isn't beautiful.
I had been thinking about Eleyna far more often than is good for an employer. Finally, on one of my visits I stopped beside her workstation and spoke to her. I don't remember what I said first, probably something about how did she like the job. Her reply was in clear educated English. That made me ask the second question.
"Why are you working in this job?"
Elenya's reply was that it was the only job she could get. That made me think hard. If that was true, and if she was well educated as she sounded, she must be an illegal immigrant. That would mean real trouble for me and for her. I couldn't afford to employ illegals. I had too many employees to be certain that one or two weren't on forged papers but my personnel department checked as best they could.
The immigration department left my company alone because we tried to comply with the law. If they found one or two of our hundreds of employees were illegals then apart from removing them to a detention centre their department wouldn't prosecute us. They could. They didn't if it was just one or two and we could show that we had done our best to prevent illegals getting jobs with us. The system is stupid. If illegals could register to work legally while their applications were processed then they wouldn't be such a strain on our welfare system. Their employers could help sort the genuine willing future citizens from the workshy and criminal.
But now I had a problem. I suspected Eleyna was an illegal. If I wanted to retain my relative immunity from the Immigration Department then I had to do something to make certain about Eleyna's status. I beckoned to Eleyna's forewoman who was standing at the edge of the group of managers around me.
I took the forewoman away from the group.
"Please tell her, what's her name," I pointed discreetly to Eleyna, "to report to the Personnel Department at two o'clock. Ring Personnel, tell them that I have asked her to come and get an interview room ready for me at one forty-five with her personnel file. Understood?"
The forewoman was obviously frightened of me. She was perspiring despite the chill on the factory floor.
"Yes, Mr Andrews. I will tell Eleyna to be at Personnel at two o'clock."
She struggled with her fear of me.
"Is anything wrong, sir? Eleyna is a good worker. I wish we had more like her."
That sounded good for the forewoman. Despite her fear of me, she had stood up for her worker.
"What's your name?" I barked at her.
"Mary Jones, Sir."
That was a prompt and certain response. Mary Jones wasn't afraid of me for herself but for Eleyna.
"Thank you, Mary. I'm not sure whether anything is wrong or not. I'd like to see you too in the Personnel Department. At three o'clock. OK?"
I dismissed Mrs Jones. I had noticed the wedding ring on her finger. I beckoned to the factory production manager.
"Alan," I said. "I am pulling that girl off the line just before two and her forewoman at three. Make sure the line is covered."
"Yes, Mr Andrews. Will do."
He wanted to ask why. I let him sweat.
When I had finished lunch in the factory canteen, eating the same food in the same conditions as any of the employees, I dismissed my entourage and went to the Personnel Department. They had the small conference room ready for me and Eleyna's personnel file. I read it and found what I didn't really want to find. Some of her paperwork was forged. They were good forgeries but I had seen too many, more than the Personnel people at this one factory.
I stood up when Eleyna was shown in. The conference room had double-glazing to half of the walls. The staff in the Personnel Department could see us but not hear what we said. There was a recording facility for audio and video. I hadn't switched it on. I asked Eleyna to sit down. She sat, crossing her wrists in her lap.
"Miss Eleyna," I said. Actually I didn't. I used her surname. I won't record it here. Eleyna has relations back home who might object if their name was shown. It was a complicated surname for an Englishman to pronounce. I got it right first time. I could see that Eleyna was surprised.
"We have a problem." I continued.
"We?" she asked.
"Yes. We. I have a problem because I have looked through your personnel file and some of the paperwork is not genuine."
Eleyna looked shocked.
"How can you say that?"
"I'm sorry. I have seen too many similar documents. Your immigration papers are good forgeries but forgeries they are. That is the problem."
"Mr Andrews, I can see that would be a problem for me if it were true. Why did you say that we have a problem?"
"It is true. Your papers are forged. The only way I can prove that is to call in the Immigration Department. I don't want to."
Eleyna looked at me as if I was a slug that had crawled out from under a stone. Her voice showed her contempt.
"And what do I have to do to stop you?"
"Nothing?" She still sounded disgusted.
"I am not going to call the Immigration Department because I think we can sort out your paperwork between us."
Her face showed what she expected. I held up my hand.
"Not how you think. I am not going to ask you to sell yourself. I am a widower and happy with my life as it is."
That was true. I was happy with MY life as it was then.
"Then what do I have to do?" She was unconvinced.
"I said nothing and nothing is what I meant. Certainly nothing like that. I can't continue to employ you as a factory hand. That would be dangerous for both of us if the Immigration Department found out. However there are other ways that you can stay in this country and earn money – legally. Would you listen while I explain, please?"
"You are the manager. My job is at stake. Of course I have to listen."
"You made three mistakes in those three statements. Firstly, I am NOT the manager. I own the business. This factory and the others are mine. Secondly, your job is not at stake. You have lost it because you are an illegal immigrant on forged papers. Thirdly, you should listen because we can help each other. You do not HAVE to listen. I can arrange for you to be paid and you can walk out of this factory at the end of this shift. I would do nothing to report you to Immigration."
"OK, Mr Andrews, you have convinced me that I should listen. As long as I am being paid to be here I can listen to the owner..." Eleyna hissed 'owner' as if it was a swearword, "...of this factory."
"Would you like a cup of tea? Or coffee?" I asked politely.
I rapped on the window behind my head, held up my hand and made a C with my fingers followed by thumb and forefinger for two. Someone close to the window nodded and rushed off. The coffee arrived a few minutes later.
"You are aware of student visas?" I asked.
"Yes. What good would one be to me? I need to earn money to support myself not pay out money to be a student."
"Maybe. But some student visas allow the student to work and earn for up to twenty hours a week. Did you know that?"
"No, Mr Andrews. It still doesn't help. I can't earn enough in twenty hours a week in your..." She spat out 'your' "...factory to keep myself."
"Probably not. You are employed as an unskilled worker. What are your real qualifications? Assuming of course that you are not who your papers say you are."
"If I say, what will happen?"
"Nothing bad. Humour me. If Elenya is not who her papers say she is, what qualifications might she have?"
"Assuming that, Eleyna might admit that she has a Ph.D."
"I suspect something like that. What languages do you speak apart from English?"
"My own, and I am fluent in German and French. I can speak some Italian and Greek but not fluently."
"OK. This is what I think Eleyna could do if she has the Ph.D. and can prove it."
"I need a tutor for my son Darren. He is fifteen and will be taking his GCSEs next summer, in eight months time. He is a good lad but has two faults. He is lazy and he has a poor opinion of women. His mother was too indulgent and when she died two years ago he felt betrayed. He doesn't listen to women. That is unfortunate because most of his teachers are women. I want you to do two things, if you agree to become his tutor. First, coach him so that he gets good grades in his GCSEs, particularly in English. Secondly, change his attitude to women and to women teachers. Do you think you could do that?"
"How did your wife die?"
"She crashed her car on an icy road. She was driving too fast. She didn't understand that all the safety devices on a car are no use on black ice. I had tried to tell her the limits of cars. So had Darren. Neither of us would get in a car she was driving."
"Maybe. But she is dead. Darren isn't. Would you consider being his tutor?"
"Is that all I'd be?"
"That and a student. I could get you admitted to our local college as a student teacher. Once you have the teaching qualification you could become legal and work as a teacher. You would be earning more money than you are now, and not have to fear the Immigration Department."
"Are you sure there are no other duties?"
"Where would I live?"
"Either where you are now, or, if you want there is a flat above the garage. It is totally self-contained and would be rent free while you are a tutor."
"I'm not sure about that flat. I'd owe too much to you."
"If you can get Darren an A in English I'd be repaid in full."
Later that afternoon I saw Mary Jones, Eleyna's forewoman. I explained that Eleyna was an illegal immigrant on forged papers and that Eleyna would have to be discharged.
"Can't you do anything for her, Mr Andrews?" Mrs Jones asked. "She is one of our best workers and her output shames the others into working harder. It's just not fair."
I agreed that it wasn't fair but I couldn't break the law. I had to explain to Mrs Jones what I had planned for Eleyna. Mrs Jones couldn't have given me a fiercer grilling if she had been Eleyna's mother and I was an unsuitable suitor. Eventually Mrs Jones was satisfied. She was even more satisfied a month later when I made her a junior manager.
Eleyna was discharged from the factory and I arranged a student visa. She enrolled in the college and started tutoring Darren. He and I had angry words about it for the first few weeks. Eleyna brought him round. By the time he passed his English with an A* he thought she was wonderful. He would do things for her he'd never do for me.
I treated her as an employee. She did what I told her to do. I ordered her around and I took advantage of her in many ways but never as a woman. Sometimes I'd give her presents if she had done something special such as accompanying me to Darren's parents' evening. She told me that what she really liked was silk scarves, real silk ones by famous names. I bought her two or three in those first eight months. Even inside the house she wore scarves, sometimes on her head, sometimes around her neck or flung across her shoulders.
Eleyna was enjoying being a student. She moved into the flat above the garage within two months. It took her the first academic year to complete a foundation course. After that, correspondence with her country's university established that her degree, masters and Ph.D. were valid in the United Kingdom when combined with a UK teaching certificate.
The next year Eleyna started on the teaching certificate and Darren started his A levels including English tutored by Eleyna. When she qualified she had to do a year's teaching as a probationer. Her status had been changed from student to legal immigrant. If she wanted to, she could become a British Citizen. She continued to help Darren but less intensively. He had rediscovered his application to work and used her for guidance and advice only. I, however, had come to depend on Eleyna more and more as a confidential secretary. She was running my business life under my direction.
Darren passed his A levels and went off to university. Eleyna successfully completed her probationary year and received her teacher qualification. She took a part-time post because she was working part-time for me. The work for me paid better than teaching. She was an essential part of my life, so essential that I couldn't face losing her to another employer. I was working from home more frequently and spending a large part of my week with Eleyna.
I still treated Eleyna as an employee, a favoured employee, but still one of my staff. I issued orders and expected her to obey them without question. She did.
When Darren reported that his university tutor had suggested he swap to an honours course I had been delighted. I also knew how much of his achievement he and I owed to Eleyna. She had taught him how to express himself grammatically and precisely. Those skills she had learned when studying English as a foreign language. Her knowledge of the structure of English was better than many native English teachers who had been through our flawed educational system. Her knowledge and love of the classics of English literature had inspired Darren and revived my interest as well.
I determined that both of us should celebrate Darren's achievement. After issuing a string of instructions to her about company matters I asked:
"Eleyna, would you come out for a meal at a restaurant tonight? To celebrate what Darren has told us?"
She stopped what she was doing and studied my face.
"Mr Andrews, is that an invitation to me as an employee?" She asked.
"No," I said. "As a friend who has helped my son."
"In that case I accept. I presume you want me to book the restaurant?"
"Yes please. Somewhere you would like to go. We'll leave at 7.30. You book the restaurant for an appropriate time depending on the distance I have to drive."
"Could we walk?" She asked.
"I suppose so. Why?"
"Then you could drink wine with the meal."
"So I could. Or we could take a taxi each way. Up to you. I'll walk or we can take a taxi."
"And I arrange it all?"
"Yes please Eleyna."
"OK. Will you wear your dress suit, please?"
At seven thirty I walked out of the front door. Elenya was standing under the portico dressed in a sweeping black gown, her hair piled up on her head and a wrap around her shoulders. For once she wasn't wearing a scarf. I took her hand and kissed it just as the car arrived. It wasn't a taxi. It was a Bentley from a local limousine hire company. I opened the door for Eleyna and settled her in before going round to the other side and climbing in. Eleyna nodded at the driver and we started off.
The journey took about twenty minutes to a country hotel I hadn't visited before. The Bentley delivered us to the entrance. A flunkey opened the door for Eleyna. I made my own way around to join her. She took my arm as we entered the foyer. The Maitre d' greeted us.
"Table for Mr Andrews?" he asked.
Eleyna nodded. We followed the Maitre d' past the main restaurant and through a pair of glass doors. The room was lined with cubicles with head height partitions. Each had a pair of swing doors. He ushered us into one cubicle. He pulled out the chair for Eleyna, relieving her of her wrap. When she was seated, I sat down.
"Thank you," Eleyna said to the Maitre d'. "You have your instructions?"
"Yes, Madame. Everything is arranged."
I caught a hint of a curious look at me. I relaxed, prepared to let Eleyna enjoy her little surprise for me.
The wine waiter brought two glasses of fino sherry. He offered a wine bottle to Eleyna. She nodded approval. He uncorked it and left it to breathe.
The meal was magnificent. The waiting staff came and went unobtrusively. The food was well presented and obviously freshly cooked from fresh ingredients. The wine, I didn't see the labels, complimented the meal. I drank more than I had done for some time.
Elenya talked to me about her country and asked questions about my childhood and early adulthood. We exchanged information that neither had told each other before.
I found the situation intriguing. I had handed Eleyna a carte blanche. She had produced a wonderful experience for me. Was part of the enjoyment that I had handed the organisation and control to someone else? I didn't know. Even my wife had never dared to assume that I would agree to as much as Eleyna had this evening.
After the meal we sat in our comfortable chairs with liqueurs. Eleyna hadn't offered me a choice. I was presented with a liqueur and she seemed to have assumed, like the rest of the meal, that I would accept everything I was given. I had.
"Thank you," I said to Eleyna.
"For what?" she replied.
"For this evening, the meal, and everything."
"It is part of my way of saying 'thank you' to you, Mr Andrews. Since you found out that I was an illegal immigrant my life has changed for the better. It is even better than it was before my country fell apart."
"Tonight you can call me Alan," I said.
"Thank you – Alan. I have only one wish left. I want to settle down in this country and build a life of my own. So far I have been what you wanted me to be. You have given me so much except one thing."
"What is that?" I asked, sipping the liqueur.
"The freedom to make my own decisions. For the past few years I have followed the path you made for me."
My heart sank. Was Eleyna going to leave me? She was a significant part of my life. I felt as if I was walking on very thin ice.
"What do you mean by freedom?" I asked cautiously.
"The freedom to do things my way, Alan, not the way you tell me I must go. Tonight is an example. I arranged everything without directions from you."
"But I paid for it." I retorted.
"No. You didn't. I did. The booking is in your name. The bills are in mine."
"To show that I am a person in my own right, not just your employee. This evening can be the start of something new, or just the end of a stage in my life."
"What decides which is true?"
"You do. Either you continue to accept that I am arranging things for you without consulting you, or you tell me what happens next."
I wasn't sure how to answer. I decided to take the risk.
"OK, Eleyna. I'm in your hands. You decide."
Eleyna had been holding her breath. She panted for a second or two.
"Thank you, Alan."
"What happens now, Elenya?"
"We stay here tonight. I have booked a room for us."
"Yes, Alan. One room. Is that a problem?"
"No. If that's what you want."
"It is. Shall we go?"
I went round the table and took her chair as she stood up. Eleyna slid her hand on to my arm. She directed me to reception. She signed in for both of us, took the key and gently steered me to the lift. Upstairs she guided me to our suite. Inside, two suitcases were left inside the door. I recognised one of mine.