I look at my watch and curse under my breathe. I am going to be late. I am never late. Well, maybe just that one day in the year when I wake up feeling like I have been run over by a truck. The one day I wish could be wiped off the calendar and cease to exist.
Quickly, I grab my travel mug filled with some hot chocolate goodness. I look around the house one more time to make sure that everything is in its place and set straight whatever is out of order. What can I say? I have often felt like the state of my house reflects the state of my mind, plus, I just like coming back to a tidy house. I pick my car keys, laptop bag and lock the door behind me.
The lift takes a while to come and I tap my foot impatiently and glance at my watch willing the time to stand still. If I am to make it to the office in time, I need to double time and hope the traffic will cut me some slack. Half running to my car, dodging the winter cold, I throw my laptop back in the back seat and climb into the driver’s seat, peeling off the pavement I quickly join the city traffic and make my way downtown to Winter Towers where I work in the Branding division as the Marketing and Design Manager.
“Good morning Mr. Corey,” my assistant greets me as she relieves me of my winter coat and hangs it on the coat rack.
Sarah - my assistant - always arrives before I do no matter the time I am clocking in. She is beautiful in her own right. Sarah has a kind of understated beauty, maybe it is because she is so disarmingly unaware of her prettiness. Her chocolate skin is completely flawless. I doubt she uses face masks or expensive products that really aren’t her mo. She is all about simplicity, making things easy, helping those around her to relax and be happy with what they have. Perhaps that is why her skin glowed so, it is her inner beauty that lights her eyes and softens her features.
When she smiles and laughs one couldn't help but smile along too, even if it was just on the inside. To be in her company is to feel that you too were someone, that you had been warmed in summer rays regardless of the season. Perhaps it is one of the reason I chose her as my assistant and why she has stuck with me all this time. That and the fact that she is good at what she does – she thinks five steps ahead of me.
She looks pretty today dressed in the pastel pink high neck sheer blouse tucked in a monochrome back and white pencil skirt complete with black four inch heels. They add to her height to match mine.
“Morning Sarah, you look wonderful today,” I compliment her and she blushes. “I am taking you slept well,” I ask with a smile.
“Yes I did. Can't say the same for you Corey. You look like crap!” she exclaims as she picks up her iPad to follow me into my office. She is brutally honest, a quality Iike about her.
“Tell me me about it!” I reply with a chuckle and take my seat then power up my laptop that is connected to two high tech monitors that aid with my designs.
"That time if the year huh?" she asks.
"You know it!" I reply with a sigh.
Sarah is not only my assistant but a close friend who knows me well outside of work. She has been there in my lowest of low moments and understands my struggles over the years we've known each other. Hell, she has held my head over toilets as I puked my guts out after drinking myself to stupor at the time when I felt I had nothing to live for. I have never fancied alcohol but at the time, it was the only thing that seemed to numb the pain or knock me out long enough to get some decent sleep. We have learnt how to separate our professional and personal life and never let one interfere with the other unless there is a good reason to.
“Sorry about that,” she apologizes. "I will prepare some camomile tea to give you a boost," she offers. I am not a coffee person. Promptly she swipes across her iPad to wake it up and takes me through my schedule for the day.
“I pushed your nine o’clock to nine thirty, to give you time to settle in,” she begins.
“Thanks Sarah, that was thoughtful. What does my other schedule for the day look like?” I ask.
“Well, you have a meeting with the team at eleven o’clock to go over the latest designs for Malcom Enterprises and then you have a two o’clock with the branch manager of Neko Limited. Oh and don’t forget the dinner with the new client to work your magic and convince them to choose us for their marketing and branding needs,” she concludes her briefing with a smile.
“Is that today?” I ask surprised. I had imagined it wouldn't be soon and especially not on a day like today.
“Yes it is,” she confirms. Before I could open my mouth to ask if she can reschedule it, she reminds me of how important the client will be to the company and I cannot for any reason cancel or reschedule. Just my luck.
She exits my office with an elegant sway of the hips and closes the door behind her. Her confidence radiates even in her gait. I lean back into my chair and sigh as I wait for my laptop to fully load. On a day like this, I just want to be curled up with a cup of hot chocolate in a fluffy blanket and watch Netflix all day without care for what is going on in the outside world but I can't because I am an adult with responsibilities and bills to pay. Adulting sucks.
I catch up on a few emails before my nine thirty appointment arrives. Moving to the meeting area of my office, I go through the final presentation for the design that was to be presented to the CEO later in the day and give my opinion as well as make suggestions for some changes that were to be made. I have a competent team and they always do a good job at pitching our final ideas to the CEO. I am well aware as the manager of the team I should be handling this but I trust in my team and it’s the main way for them to gain visibility in the company and grow in rank at work. Well, at least that is what I tell myself.
For the three years I have been working here, one of which I have been a division manager, I have done everything in my power to avoid meetings with the CEO. While I was part of the team, I never had to worry about things like meeting with the big boss because our manager at the time took it as an opportunity to shine for ideas that weren't his. Now it frustrates me that I have to worry about it. I just want to exist quietly and do my job without drawing attention. I have nothing against the man, I just find him unnerving.
I have on more than one occasion declined a meeting and sent one of the team members in my place with a plausible enough excuse as to why I could not attend personally. If I wasn't any good at what I do, I positively sure I would have been fired a long time ago. With the power he has he could easily send an army to come and drag me to his office but then again, I wonder why he hasn’t done that yet. There has to be a reason but, I do not want to dwell on that.
I quickly conclude my meeting and make my way to the meeting room for my eleven o’clock. I hate to brag but I have amazing rapport with my team. I have never wanted to be the type of boss everyone steers clear of whenever they see me and I believe it is why we work well as a team. There is transparency, openness and a freedom that allows each member to be the best at what they do.
“Hi Sally,” I say as I walk into the meeting room. Sally works with the team that brings our design ideas to life and she is the presenter at today's meeting.
It’s a brainstorming session and a progress check to see how far we have gone with the designs for Malcom Enterprises. They have been our client for a couple of years now. When I took over as manager, they were threatening to close the account with us on the premise of substandard work we provided. Turns out the previous manager was an entitled lazy son of a bitch who thought he knew everything and disregarded the input of the team - even the best designs and refused to take responsibility for work not well executed. I knew this because I was part of that team.
This account is my baby because with it, I proved my worth as a manager and it set the pace for me for all future projects. It was a big step up moving into the role but the faith and respect my team members had for me went a long way into molding the team that we are now.
“Hi Mr. Corey,” she replies as she sets up the projector.
“How many times have I told you not to call me that? Just Corey will do,” I protest feigning annoyance.
“You are the boss now,” she replies. “I have to respect that.”
“Calling me Corey does not mean that you respect me any less. We used to sit side by side remember?”
“I do. But now you sit in the boss’ office,” she defends herself with a cheeky smile.
I drop the subject entirely because I have always known that there is no winning with her as the other members of the team walk in and take their seats. The meeting goes by in a blur. There were so many ideas put on the table and Sally had done a great job with the presentation. Our next check in would be in a week.
Two and a half hours later, I am back at my desk in time for my lunch. The darling that she is, Sarah has already ordered my lunch from my favorite Italian restaurant around the corner. I dig in at my desk as I catch up on my emails, plan for my two o’clock and dinner meeting later and try to come up with new designs. I need a break from this, to recharge and clear my brain so that I can come up with new ideas. A change of scenery maybe?
Before I know it, its five o’clock, I need to make a dash home to freshen up and change for dinner. Entertaining clients isn’t something I really enjoy, rather I endure. Once in a while I get the nice clients who are open and are willing to listen to reason and ideas. What I hate are the clients with a know-it-all attitude with terrible ideas. These clients are difficult to handle and sway and I have to hold my tongue to avoid telling them to go shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.
“I cannot wait for dinner to end,” I whisper to myself as I walk up to the pretty lady at the reception.
“Hi, welcome to Petit Italie, do you have a reservation?” she asks politely. She is nice. I like nice people.
“Thank you and yes I do. I believe it should be under Mr. Marcus from Blue Enterprises… My name is Corey, he is expecting me I believe,” I respond.
“Right, this way please,” she directs me to an almost private area after she looks me up in the computer. I follow her as she points at the middle aged man seated at a table. I approached him as he stands to greet me and motions me to seat.
Mr. Marcus was a handsome man but only on the outside. He had the kind of face that stopped you in your tracks. His reputation preceded him. How do I know? I did my homework. I never liked to be caught off guard. Never again. He was highly practiced in the art of deception and not many people knew this. He was the proverbial sheep in wolf's clothing. With his Caucasian looks and high cheek bones it was all too simple. Nothing handsome could harm you right? He was the kind of person to make someone feel like they were in charge by guiding the conversation with unnoticed prompts.
To anyone with a feeble mind, it would only take a few minutes before they were jumping through hoops to please him. His seductive charm and perfect cadence with a slight hint of an accent could get him anything from anyone. As he spoke, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had ever been rejected or denied.
Over the course of dinner, I had to fist the napkin on my laps in an effort to restrain myself and avoid throwing a punch across the table to rearrange his annoyingly handsome face. He was not a nice man at all. I knew this so I was prepared mentally. His shady and inappropriate remarks made me pity those who worked under him or anyone who called him friend. They also made me want to throw up all over the floor. In his tiny brain, he must have thought that I was one of his minions who would bend over easily to please him or run mindlesslyto do his bidding. Which explains why he was getting agitated and nastier as the dinner progressed.
While I had come here with the sole purpose of closing the deal with his company by convincing him why they should go with us for their marketing needs and going over the finer details, Mr. Marcus had other ideas. His idea of closing a deal was bedding a ‘young handsome thing’ like me. I knew he was a man whore - one to fuck anything with a pulse.
“Come on!” he exclaimed in anger and trying to maintain his composure. A grown man throwing a tantrum... so unclassy. I internally rolled my eyes. “Don’t tell me you do not know how the world works these days. Isn’t that why they sent a young hot thing like you to convince us to do business with you. I doubt it was because of your competence,” he said with a sneer on his face as he holds my right hand firmly in his on the table.
I forcefully pulled my hand from under his and reach out for my phone. While I am one to respect data privacy laws, I needed to have a reason to explain why I had not closed the deal with this client if things went south. Discreetly, I pull up the record app, started it and put my phone face down.
“Excuse me Mr. Marcus, I am a man of integrity who believes in closing deals the right way. I do not know what world you live in or how you close your other deals but we at Winter Marketing and Design do not handle our business that way,” I reason calmly.
He laughs at my ‘little speech’, and in a deadpan voice says, “Then they shouldn’t have sent a youngling to close such a big deal. And a beautiful one at that.” The way he licked his lips was so disgusting I wanted to throw up. Handsome or not, this man was nasty.
“I will have you know that I am good at what I do and if you had done your homework, you would know that this youngling is actually the manager of Marketing and Design division. And with all due respect, I do not appreciate your tone and insinuations. So let’s kindly keep it professional, shall we?” I reply.
“Feisty. I like feisty ones. They are fun to break,” he replies mockingly.
“You know what, I do not think we will be doing business with you,” I say as I wipe my lips with a napkin and get ready to leave.
“Good luck explaining to your CEO why you could not close the deal with a big client. I hear he is not a very forgiving man,” he spits.
“So what you are trying to say is that the only way for me to close this deal with your company is if I sleep with you?” I ask him.
“Now you get my drift,” he replies, winks at me and leans back in his seat. It’s sickening. “No one has to know, and it will be good for you. Who knows, you might even get a promotion when you close this deal and you will have me to thank.”
Oh how I want to floor this man with punches but being the grown up that I am, I maintain my composure and courteously decline his offer. “I am afraid Mr. Marcus but I cannot take you up on your offer. Sleeping around to close deals has never been my forte. I am sorry, we could not come to an understanding,” I apologize my voice laced with sarcasm as I stand, bow mockingly and turn to leave.
“I can’t wait to see you come back with your tail between your legs, begging for a chance,” I hear him say as I head out and it takes all the resolve I had not to turn back and break his nose.
I settle the bill on my way out, request for a taxi and head home. I did not drive here because I knew I would be drinking tonight. That was an absolute disaster. I sigh as I toe my shoes off. Before I can let the fatigue take over, I quickly pull out my work laptop, compose an email to my assistant explaining why we could not close the deal and attach the recording. Sarah is competent, she knows how to handle any problems that may arise with the client and any questions that may be asked.
A hot shower and a cup of tea later - just what I needed- I am cuddled up in my bed. I select a random show on Netflix and let my mind wander.
Today, this date - June 22nd - is not my favorite day of the year. It is exactly three years ago today. Three years since that fateful day.
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