Home > The Do-Over

The Do-Over
Author: Suzanne Park

Chapter One
The call I’d been eagerly waiting for came at the worst time.
Sitting on the reclined, wax-papered examination chair while waiting for my wellness checkup was not the ideal setting for a life-changing phone discussion with an executive headhunter. The nurse had already taken all of my vitals, but my doctor hadn’t made her appearance yet. It was only a matter of time.
I swiped to accept the call and whispered, “Um . . . hello?”
“Good morning, Lily. It’s Patricia. Did I catch you at a good time?”
I glanced down at my breasts and belly peeking through the opening of the cotton cloth gown. “Yes.” After double-checking the screen to make sure it was an audio-only call and not a video one, I added, “It’s a great time. I’m out and about. Running errands. Keeping busy. Do you have any updates for me? Did I officially get the job?”
When I had left the final interview with the founder of Swain & Wallace, he asked me when I could start, and soon after that, the company’s social media accounts followed me on every platform. In this digital age, that was pretty much the same thing as an offer letter.
I’d left my corporate job a few years back to forge my own professional path—consulting for start-ups and writing a series of career empowerment books—to earn more money so I could save for a down payment on a home. The salary for this executive role at Swain & Wallace was more than double what I was making now. And as a bonus, they had just built a brand-new, in-house gym. Not that I would use it, but it did have a cucumber ice water station near the locker area that I planned to visit every day.
She cleared her throat. “Well, I have good and bad news. Everyone at Swain and Wallace loved you. The hiring manager and his entire team thought you were a slam-dunk hire. The CEO even commented to the HR lead that he could see you in a C-level leadership role there someday. And technically, this morning, you were offered the position.”
Dream company. Dream job. Dream team. And an offer of employment. All of this was too good to be true. My body tensed when I noticed she didn’t end that positive feedback with a heartfelt “congratulations,” and that she had said the last part with a downward inflection. Headhunters like her worked off job-placement commission, so why wasn’t she offering to pop champagne bottles with me?
The waxy paper underneath me crinkled loudly as I sat upright. “Is there a problem?”
The sound of air expelling from her nose could mean only one thing. The bad news.
“Swain and Wallace’s HR team performed an extensive background check, as is their standard procedure. This step of the hiring process used to take a few days, but with the latest advancements, we’ve seen these screenings turned around a lot faster. I’m not sure the best way to say this . . . I’m calling to inform you that you didn’t pass.”
Didn’t pass? “Wait, I failed the background check?”
How was that possible? I wasn’t a criminal. There had to be a mistake. Unless . . . the unpaid parking tickets from Martha’s Vineyard from my early twenties had finally caught up with me? I accidentally ran a stop sign at 3 A.M. a few weeks ago in a borrowed car when I thought no one (especially no police cars) had been lurking around . . . but how could that be traced back to me? I’d also discovered I’d been driving with an expired license, but the renewal was paid, processed, and the new card was en route to my Brooklyn apartment. Then there was that angry neighbor incident, someone (not me) had poured birdseed all over his Hummer—a birdwatcher’s paradise. Oh! And there was the office package stealer who threatened to press charges when I rigged a glitterbomb explosion a few years ago—
Patricia elaborated, “I hoped it was some kind of mistake, that maybe something was wrong with the vendor’s software. We separately ran our own background check and it yielded the same results. I hate to ask this, but did you tell the truth about attending Carlthorpe College?”
That was the red flag on my record? “What? Of course I did! I’m not a liar.” The gray-haired nurse popped her head in the room, her eyes widened, and she stepped right back out, closing the door with a thump. Had she come back in because of the ten-pound discrepancy between my stated weight on the medical forms and my actual weigh-in? Because she could single-handedly prove without a doubt that I was, in fact, a liar. But honestly, who didn’t lie about those things?
Patricia let out a breath. “That’s good news. Maybe it’s just a glitch in Carlthorpe’s system then.”
“I recently paid off my student loans for college, so if I made up that part of my life, I want my money back!” I’d want all of it, plus interest.
Patricia chuckled. “Well, okay, I believe you.”
I added, “I have graduation photos to prove it.”
“Actually, if you have something more official, like a diploma or a college transcript, I think we can submit that to the HR group, argue that their system had a glitch, and this will all go away. I’m afraid photos of you in a cap and gown aren’t going to cut it though.”
My heartbeat thumped hard in my chest. Ten years since graduation and nothing like this had ever come up before. Then again, I’d worked in only one company and its subsidiaries since college and rose in the ranks there.
Did I have a diploma? Maybe? Actually . . . maybe not. After graduating, I had temporary housing before finding a more permanent living arrangement. Some of my stuff made the move, some didn’t. I didn’t have a job right away and was couch surfing for a while. It wasn’t the best time in my life, and I certainly didn’t have my mind laser focused on my diploma’s whereabouts. I never thought to get one reissued because I never had any wall space to display it. And who hung up their college diplomas these days anyway?
I took a deep breath in and exhaled slowly. “I’ll call the school and get a transcript overnighted to you.” If this was all that was standing in between having no job offer and having a dream job offer, I needed to act fast.
“Great! We have a plan then. I’ll let you go on with your day. Have a great rest of the afternoon.”
I hung up and fell back into the crinkly seat just as the nurse reentered the room. “I’m so sorry the doctor’s still running behind schedule. Unfortunately, your health profile didn’t update when I took your vitals, so I need to get your oxygen levels and BP again.”
She put a clip on my finger and wrapped the blood pressure cuff on my upper left biceps. “Try to relax your arm if you can. I’ll make sure it uploads to your records this time.” The armband puffed and deflated automatically while she took my O2 reading. “Your oxygen levels are excellent, ninety-nine percent. Your blood pressure is . . . whoa, a little high. A lot higher than before, actually. That’s strange.”