Dante knew the call from head office would come sooner than later, and he had his answer. The offer was appreciated, and he had spent considerable time thinking about it. Right now, he was just not prepared to move. He practiced in front of the mirror and on his way to work, and anytime he had a spare moment alone in his office.
Dante wasn’t sure why he believed this was the right decision, but he did. Not that he didn’t have a twinge of uncertainty. There was no doubt the promotion would have been a major feather in his cap. The salary it would bring was beyond belief. There was some guilt at turning down such a prestigious offer. The executives would be unhappy with his decision, and so it was unlikely anything else would come down the pipe for him soon, if ever. Still, he was more than satisfied his decision was the right one.
Back in the training fields of purgatory, Dante’s decision satisfied Tauren. His insistence could only go so far. The ultimate choice had to be Dante’s. The champion was not under the command of the guardian. They were in many ways equal. The nature of their responsibilities sometimes coincided, but their roles were different. Tauren would serve with the forces protecting earth’s domain, the champion was the war chief. Tauren would do his best to impart all he knew about warfare. Tauren knew that in purgatory, and on earth, Dante, as champion, had no superior, but he had to chuckle; he could see Dante deferred to Astrada as if she was his boss. When battle came, they would be comrades in arms with Dante the unspoken leader.
In the office, Dante felt nothing like a leader. He knew he would soon be on the promotion hot seat and he would have to present himself in front of the directors and the board chair and turn down their very generous offer. When the call came, Dante made his way to meet with his friends Adam and Earl, and he even invited Merilee to join them for some encouragement before boarding the elevator to the senior administration’s floor. He told them what his final decision was and although the three couldn’t have been happier; they understood the impact the decision would have on their friend Dante’s career. As he made his way to the elevator, Merilee ran over to him and wrapped him in a warm embrace and kissed his cheek.
If Dante’s heart had been fluttering before, it now skipped. He returned Merilee’s affectionate squeeze and as casually as he could under the circumstances, said, “Ok, I’ll see you later. Maybe we could grab a bite to eat, or something.”
Merilee just smiled and nodded.
On the elevator, Dante may have had some concern about the directors’ response to his answer, but he was thinking more about Merilee’s embrace. His thoughts as the elevator doors opened on the executive floor were so confused, he turned the wrong way, not realizing it until he came to the doors of the executive washroom.
It had been many months since he had felt so out of focus. Looking at the key lock with its numbers back lit by a led light with a gold glow, Dante’s thoughts returned to the reason he was on this floor. “Pull yourself together, Dante. These next few minutes may be the most crucial ones in your life.”
He was focused and ready by the time he stepped up to the senior secretary’s desk. “Checking out the priorities of office before your meeting?” she asked, a grin on her face.
Susan was the manager of the slow pitch team, so he knew her well. She had a wonderful sense of humor.
“Actually, I got turned around there, Susan. Not used to the carpeted floors and expensive wall coverings.”
“That, too, shall pass,” Susan said with a knowing smile, “they’re waiting for you in the boardroom. The door on your left, just past my file cabinet.”
Dante nodded and walked past her in the direction she was pointing. “Good luck,” she said as he passed.
“Thanks,” Dante replied, adding under his breath, “You have no idea how much I’m going to need it.”
Walking through the doorway into the boardroom, and gazing at the faces looking up at him, Dante felt a feeling of confidence and control. The director whose son Dante had rescued rose from his chair and pointed to an empty seat across the table. After introductions, along with some brief small talk, they “got down to brass tacks,” according to the senior vice president.
The scenario regarding the proposed position in Vancouver set out, the vice president asked the critical question. “Are you ready for the big move, Dante?”
“I’ve decided to pass on your very generous offer. I am just not ready to move so far away. You felt I was worthy of the position and I am honored by that, but, I’m sorry, I must turn it down. It is a wonderful opportunity, but it just isn’t one I feel I can take at this time.”
There was a long pause as the members of the board stared at him. Their mutual expression was dumbstruck. The father of the rescued canoeist was the first to speak, “do you realize what you are saying? Are you sure? This is an offer of a lifetime. Do you need a few moments to think about your answer?”
“No,” said Dante, “As I said, I appreciate your offer, but I just can’t accept it. I am so sorry.”
“Very well,” said the Vice President, “If that’s your decision, then thank you for coming. I hope you realize offers like these are rare. It is unlikely there will be another opening soon. If your decision satisfies you, then it is my hope you will not regret it. You may leave.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Dante, rising from the chair and leaving the boardroom.
He made a few dance steps as he passed Susan’s desk. “How did it go?” She asked.
“Fabulously!” Replied Dante and gave her a brief wave as he stepped through the open door of the elevator.
Susan would tell him later she had never seen the senior officers so upset. They didn’t know how to react to Dante’s refusal to accept the assistant directorship. “Who,” they would wonder, “does that? Who gives up a high-paying, important job on a whim?”
All Dante could think of as he took the elevator to his office floor was that Merilee would be there, and he was going to take her out for lunch.