WHO'S THE MASTER

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Part 1: Nostalgic Action

Deidra arrives to work first and pleasantly recalls the first time that happens and leads to new knowledge about her boss and herself. This is Deidra’s POV...


Something’s not right when I enter the office suite I share with Amalea and our boss Sam. I mean I’m never the first person to arrive at work. I frown as I look around. No coffee has been started. Everything’s quiet. Quiet, by the way, is all wrong since Sam practically lives at work. He’s here before even Amalea and begins coffee.

Looking around with a sigh, I’m right. Neither of my office mates is here. I listen to my work voicemail seeing a message flashing. The digital voice tells me it is from yesterday. On speaker, I hear Sam’s voice.

“Plan to be off for the next few days. Need some time off, but I’ll call with an update later. Finish up the report to our boss with the number changes we discussed yesterday. If emergent, text me.”

Nodding, I delete the message not sure what to make of it. Sam sounds hurried, but nothing out of the ordinary there. The man has been that way from the day Amalea and I meet him four years ago now.

I glance at my cell phone and notice that it’s off. Low battery flashes when I try to turn it on. Plugging it in the charger, I’m surprised at myself. I don’t usually let it go so long without charging for it to shut off like that. Smiling a little, it has everything to do with my boyfriend Sterling.

I’m still floating in my own little world experiencing the high I always feel when I spend time with him. In fact, I can’t help but recall the first time I meet Sterling. It is the first time I ever arrive to work before everyone.

“Can’t do it today. Sick with flu,” the voice on the phone croaks at me that fateful day.

“Who is this?” I question with a frown.

“It’s Amalea,” the male voice I barely recognize says.

“Yuck! You sound like shit.”

My friend clears her throat sounding like a 30-year chain smoker. “No fooling?”

I shake my head at how the mighty have fallen. This girl never misses a day of work and takes pride in that. It must have been God-awful. It sure sounds like it as Amalea coughed up a lung on the other end of the line.

“Well, stop talking to me, dummy, and go back to bed. Drink lots of orange juice and make chicken soup. Hope you feel better tomorrow.”

“Yeah, I do, too.” Amalea hangs up.

I whistle, so elated she stays home. I won’t have to hear her whine about being sick. There’s also no way I want to be around her when she sounds that poorly. Amalea and I both went to CVS and got the flu shot this year. Whatever she had I wanted her to keep it all to herself.

Hehehehe! I know. No sympathy. Tough love; that’s all.

Shifting through emails and last the boss’s calendar, I see Sam should have arrived already.

Ding! The elevator sounds with doors opening. Off walks Sam in his usual confident stride. He makes no effort to explain his late arrival but does not look at me. He glares at the empty desk in front of mine with a look of disappointment.

Sam appears handsome in his suit as always. A black one (my personal favorite) with a small windowpane design for his tie against a white shirt. The cut of his pants and jacket isn’t classic. More of a slim-fit on the leg and around his shoulders. A good look for him. Sam is fit but not overly so. Not that I checked him out, but yeah, I sorta did. All the girls do who intern at the company. Some, of course, more than others if you can believe that.

Amalea and I when interns did not differ from the others, although she would never admit it. We heard the stories about the prowess of this older man and cringed when sent to work for the big bad wolf in a nice suit. Both of us assumed it would be a regular sex fest working directly for him. Some of our friends who still interned question us about it.

It seems working for Sam directly means he never touches us. Ever. In some ways, it’s a relief not to worry about sexual harassment. In others, it's kinda a let down to our egoes. Here Amalea and I are, two hot young college grads men like Sam desired to take on a trip along the old sausage just not Sam himself. Serious burn, primarily when we see him still pursue other interns like a horny old hound.

“Neubalm’s not in today?” he inquires, panning his intense green eyes on me after they lingered upon Amalea’s desk for a moment.

Shifting in my seat, I return his magnetic gaze I find intimidating. I want to look away but know better. I take a deep breath. “Uhmmm, yeah. The flu has taken her out, and she sounds terrible.”

“Humph,” Sam grunts and moves on to his office without another word.

I blink at him. Surprised a little, I guess. Very little does he say to Amalea and me at the beginning when we start working together. Generally, Sam yells demands like a spoiled toddler. Neither Amalea nor I like that much yet get used to it, eventually. We don’t have much of a choice if we want to keep these higher-paying jobs than the ones we slummed in as interns.

With me alone, Sam is different though. Almost kind. At least, that’s the way I perceive it. He seems calmer when Amalea isn’t around in the beginning. However, nearly everything sets him off now especially when she’s not around. Weird.

I wish I understand what goes on in his head some days. Amalea tells me not to waste my time. It’s a worthless cause. I don’t know about all that.

Anyway, unlike he does any other day, Sam strikes up a conversation with me when I go to file something in his office. Right out of the blue. A rainy day turns outside gray like today. I could see the water streaking down the windows and hear the patter of it strike on repeat. Everything beyond the interior looks blurry like a dream.

By his impressive reflection in the floor to ceiling windows in his office, my boss appears far away. His mind lingers on other things than the company acquired and in need of liquidation or consolidation into the parent company. It seems that Sam isn’t in the mood for work. Something has him very preoccupied.

“Nothing has ever been handed to me, Deidra,” Sam says that day I will never forget for as long as I live.

“Is that so?” I ask because I find that hard to believe based on the rumors I hear on the contrary.

A lot of jealous people at the company believe the job Sam holds is created for him because of his “special” relationship with his boss Drew. I am not sure of that in the few weeks Amalea and I work for him. We accomplish much and make the company a lot of money in the meantime.

“For years, I’ve had to work very hard for the right people in the company to take me seriously.”

I frown at his back and scratch my eyebrow. “They didn’t take you seriously before? Why?”

Sam waves a hand in dismissal. “Some don’t even take me seriously now, but I don’t care about them or their opinions. This is a numbers game. The facts matter. The reports matter. Right now, they dictate the path we take rather than the egos of some people in this company.”

“So you don’t worry that they will try to boot you out since they don’t like you or take you seriously? Don’t they worry that someone else might hear about all your good work here and try to steal you away?”

Sam chuckles. “I’m not going anywhere. I like it here.”

“It sounds like you have a lot of enemies.”

He nods. “In the long run, they’re worthless if they dare stand in my way. Those smart enough to understand my value whether they like me as a person or not, get that giving me the freedom I need to operate the way I want will yield better results, period.”

“A lot of people don’t like that,” I comment based on the rumblings I hear.

“From my point of view, that’s their problem, not mine.”

I just blink at him amazed by his arrogance sometimes. All the same, I suppose that’s part of the reason Sam is the success he is. He would have to hold himself to something of a higher standard to oppress the nay-sayers who would continuously try to bring him down.

“Success like mine, Dee, does not come overnight as the gossip mill would lead you to believe. The truth is that real success has no magic wand you can simply wave at your own discretion. You have to pick your enemies, choose your battles. Make deals. Play politics. Success can only be gained with hard work in every instance and great personal sacrifice.”

I sit down on his small couch surprised he even lectures me like this. In these early days, we never speak much beyond the customary retrieval of coffee, finding a report or raising someone on the phone for a conference. I oddly I like the sound of his voice when he isn’t barking out commands.

“What do you mean?” I ask with wonder.

“I used to be like you and Amalea when I first started out here as an intern. So full of promise and ambition. The company hired me before I even graduated. I’ve been working my way up through the ranks ever since. Nothing and no one was going to stand in my way. Not even my wife.”

Frowning at his back still turned to me, he should have been a fixture in his metallic office. He’s that stationary with his hands in the pockets of his suit. However, I could see his face. Not troubled or angry but nostalgic. Something is definitely wrong. I’m not used to seeing him this way. Unnerving.

“Did something change?” I query in almost a whisper for I am shocked.

I have no idea that he was married. A wedding band, much less any ring, has he ever worn. I would remember that or Amalea would have pointed it out. She misses nothing or should I say most things before what happens this day.

It isn’t like Sam has any personal effects on his desk either. He has tension relievers like squeeze balls and things like that but no pictures of any kind. No links to the person beyond the office we saw every day. It only adds to his mystery in my eyes.

“In this business, even that is a sacrifice. Sometimes you really can’t have it all. In the end, it would not matter anyway. Fate had other ideas involving a rainy day like this and a trip over a bridge to visit her mother. The truck was driving too fast; there was no place for her to go. In an instant, my wife and son were gone, and I would never be forced to choose between them or my career.”

Silence follows all he says, while I mull over it all. Many emotions astonish me as I am caught off-guard by my boss who has never been one to share intimate things about himself. He could have been stand-offish. His demeanor has always been sharp and cold. This day... not so much. A shocking but welcome change sums up my feelings and Amalea's if she were here to witness this!



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