If Gabi thought her encounter with Ryan Cole at Jake’s Pub was a turning point in their professional relationship, she was dead wrong. Ryan was extremely cold to her at work; Always barging into her office unannounced and micromanaging her every move. Two months into working at Cole Industries she was fed up with his domineering personality and was one lecture away from losing it on him.
“Miss Perez! I need to see you in my office immediately!” Ryan yelled down the hallway at Gabi who was talking to Molly at the reception desk.
“Oh, crap he called me ‘Miss Perez’. What have I done to piss him off now?” Gabi said, straightening her skirt.
Molly rolled her eyes. “You’re doing a great job, Gabi. Just ignore him.”
Ryan leaned out of his office once more. “Now, Miss Perez!”
“It’s kind of hard to ignore him when he’s yelling like that,” she muttered to herself.
Gabi hurried down the hallway, her heels clicking loudly as she walked. “You wanted to see me Mr. Cole?” she said as she stepped into his office.
“What the hell is this garbage?” he asked, gesturing to the papers on his desk.
Gabi stepped closer to get a better look. “This is my proposal for the fall ad campaign. Is there something wrong with it?”
“It’s terrible! I can’t present this to the board! What the hell were you thinking?”
Gabi took a deep breath to keep from screaming at him. “If you tell me what about it displeases you, Mr. Cole, I’m sure I can rectify it. You continuously calling my work ‘terrible’ is not constructive.”
“I’m just calling it like I see it.” He picked up the papers and threw them into the waste bin. “This is unacceptable. I’m extremely disappointed but not surprised. I expected you to fail if I’m being honest. Now I can tell my father I was right about you.”
Gabi was seething at this point. “I will start over on the campaign if need be,” she said through her teeth.
He snorted, taking a seat at his desk. “That’s hardly necessary. I don’t need you to screw this up twice. I’ll do it. And I will be discussing your performance with the head office. We’ll see what they think about an underperforming director of marketing.”
He looked up from his computer and saw that she was still standing there. “That is all. You may go.”
Gabi fought back tears as she left his office. There was still thirty minutes until it was time to go home but she had to get out of there. She grabbed her bag from her office and left quickly, ignoring Molly’s calls after her.
She found herself driving straight to her mother’s house, wiping the tears from her cheeks as she drove. A short while later she pulled into the driveway, happy to see her mother’s car and not Marisol’s. She walked in the back door and called out to her mother.
“En mi cuarto! I’m in my room mija!”
Gabi made her way up the stairs, careful not to trip on the toys that were strewn about, and into her mother’s room.
Isabella Cortez was sitting on the bed watching a movie while she typed on her laptop. Even in pajamas, with no makeup on and her hair pulled into a messy bun she was still stunning. When she was younger, Gabi had always felt like an ugly duckling next to her mother and sister.
Isabella took one look at Gabi and immediately knew something was wrong. She didn’t ask any questions, simply moved her laptop and opened her arms to her daughter. Gabi rushed into her mother’s embrace and broke down sobbing.
“Shhh, mija it’s okay,” Isabella said, rubbing Gabi’s back as she cried. “Que pasó? What happened?”
“I can’t take it anymore!”
“Take what? What’s going on?” she asked in heavily accented English.
“My boss! He’s always yelling at me! I can’t do anything right in his eyes.” She sighed deeply. “I should just do us both a favor and quit.”
Her mother gasped and lifted Gabi’s face from her chest. “Gabi! Why would you do that?”
“He’s just going to fire me anyway. He said something about reporting me to the board.”
“Have you done anything wrong? Anything to deserve being fired?”
Gabi shook her head.
“Then why should you quit, mija? You need to tell him that you deserve to be treated better than that.” She held Gabi’s face in her hands and wiped her tears away with her thumbs. “You are a strong, independent, intelligent young woman and you worked very hard for this position. Don’t let some insecure man-child intimidate you. Hold your chin up and keep doing what you’re doing.”
Gabi dove back into her mother’s arms and hugged her tightly. “Gracias Mami. I needed that.”
“Well, isn’t this nice,” A voice called from the door. Any peace Gabi had gained from her mother was drained by Marisol’s presence.
Gabi looked up and gave her sister a smile, in an attempt to be cordial. “Hey, Mari.”
Marisol rolled her eyes. “Hello Gabriella,” she said, crossing the room to take a seat on the other side of the bed. “How nice of you to grace us with your presence.”
“Mari, be nice to your sister,” Isabella admonished her youngest daughter.
“Why should I? She’s just an uptight bitch who only comes over here when there’s a flaw in her otherwise perfect life. She just likes to see my life falling apart to make her feel better about herself,” Marisol replied glaring at Gabi.
Gabi felt tears welling up in her eyes again and got up. “I wish you would grow the hell up Marisol. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Mami, I’ll call you later.”
She fled the room, willing her tears not to fall as she heard her mother screaming at Marisol. Her oldest nephew was at the bottom of the stairs, smiling up at her.
“Hi Titi!” he said, reaching for a hug.
Gabi gave him a soft smile and hugged him tightly. “Hey, Marco.”
“Are you here to play with us?” he asked excitedly. “I miss you.”
She felt a pang in her heart. “Not today sweetheart; I’ve got some work to do.”
His smile fell from his face. “Oh. Was my mami mean to you too? I don’t like when mami yells. She does that a lot since Papi left.”
Gabi frowned. Marco was exceptionally bright for a six year old but her sister had to have been obnoxiously mean to her kids for him to make the connection between his father leaving and her behavior.
“No Marco, she wasn’t,” Gabi lied. “Titi just has a lot of work to get done. How about this though; If your Mami says it’s okay, you guys can come spend the weekend at my house. Does that sound fun?”
Marco’s face lit up again. “Oh yes! We would love that!”
Gabi smiled and planted a big kiss on his cheek. “Awesome! I’ll call your mami tomorrow and ask her if it’s okay.” She snorted internally. Of course Marisol would say okay to getting rid of her kids for the weekend.
Later that evening, Gabi was curled up in her bed with an empty tub of ice cream reading Harry Potter fanfiction after talking to Angela and Lizzie. She tossed the empty container in the trash and pulled out her laptop to prepare what she was going to say to Ryan the next day. When she was satisfied, she sent a couple of emails, put her laptop away and went to sleep.
The next morning, she walked into the office with her head held high and greeted Molly before dropping her bag in her office. She walked across the hallway, took a deep breath and knocked on Ryan’s door.
“Yes?” he called from the other side.
She took another deep breath to steady herself and pushed the door open.
Ryan looked up at her and frowned. “I don’t recall summoning you this morning Miss Perez.”
“You didn’t,” she replied curtly, closing the door behind her. “But I need to speak with you.” She had planned on speaking to him calmly but simply being in his presence was already infuriating her.
“I’ve already told you--”
“You will listen to what I have to say Mr. Cole.”
She felt his eyes studying her before he nodded and gestured to the seat in front of his desk.
“I prefer to stand,” she said firmly.
He scoffed. “Suit yourself.”
“Since I started here, you have treated me like dirt on the bottom of your shoe--”
“Which you are,” he muttered under his breath.
That was the moment Gabi lost it. “Now listen here you selfish, entitled hijo de la gran puta. I have let you get away with being horrible to me for far too long.” She leaned over his desk, eyes narrowed and poked him in the chest.
“It ends now. You will treat me with respect or I will report you to HR for harassment. Your father hired me because he knows that I am capable of performing well. You will stop micromanaging me and allow me to do the job I was hired to do! I want none of your surliness, your contempt or your bad attitude from here on out. Only speak to me if absolutely necessary. Otherwise, stay out of my way and I’ll stay out of yours. Got it?”
She didn’t stick around to hear his answer. She stopped on her way out the door and turned back to him. “By the way, I submitted my original ad campaign proposal to the head office via email last night and they approved it this morning. So there.” She stuck her tongue out at him and tried not to laugh at the way his mouth was gaping open in shock.
She slammed the door behind her and crossed the hallway to her office, slamming that door as well. She stood with her back against the door for a moment, trying to catch her breath. When she had calmed down a bit, she sat down at her desk and got to work. She fully expected to be fired for her little outburst but until then she was going to continue working.
Three days passed and Gabi heard nothing from Ryan. She had been avoiding him like the plague but still, she was starting to get anxious that he hadn’t yet sought her out.
At the end of the workday on Friday, there was a soft knock at her office door.
“It’s Ryan. May I come in?”
Gabi frowned as her heart began to race. Were her ears deceiving her? He almost sounded, polite. “You may come in,” she called, straightening the papers on her desk.
He stood awkwardly by the door and sighed deeply before taking a seat opposite her.
“Is something the matter Mr. Cole?” Gabi asked, hoping her voice didn’t betray the nervousness she was feeling.
He looked up at her with an unreadable expression. “Miss Perez, I would like to apologize for my behavior these past few months.”
Gabi’s jaw dropped in shock.
“Don’t look so surprised,” he said, laughing slightly. “I’m not as arrogant as I’ve made myself seem.”
His smile dropped, his mask of seriousness returning. “As I was saying, I have been very rude and unprofessional toward you for no reason at all. And for that, I am truly sorry.”
Gabi’s mouth open and closed repeatedly as she searched for an eloquent response. “Mierda! I thought you were going to fire me!”
Ryan’s face scrunched in confusion. “Why would I fire you? You were one hundred percent right. I was micromanaging you and stifling your potential. I can’t fire you without giving you a chance to properly do your job. So I’m stepping back. I will only give input when it is asked for. Sound good to you?” he asked, extending his hand to Gabi with a smile.
She hesitated for a moment but took his hand and shook it, giving him a radiant smile. “Sounds perfect.”