Work has been completely hectic this week, barely having a spare minute to myself. Helping Theo with something he was behind on, and looking at the work Weston had asked me to prepare for the pitch.
We had a group meeting with the directors, Theo and another new starter, understanding what the main brief is for the pitch. Understanding that Weston wants to expand the software and looking at possible collaborations for sponsors. This would be an extreme event, hosted by Weston in some fancy hotel and inviting all his clients along with other important people. And why he wanted me to be on it, I'll never fully grasp.
The event is planned for next month, meaning that we needed to move fast but efficiently. Weston emails me every other hour with something else to research and compare, or how I'm getting on with my visual designs.
By Thursday I had collated a lot of things I wanted to share with Weston especially, so I knew if I was going along the right lines or not.
In the afternoon Weston called me to his office to discuss what I had worked on this week, hours pass and I completely disregard the fact that it was time to go home. But this doesn't phase me because Weston keeps asking me questions on what I found and how we can put it into a presentation that flows.
Having moved to a boardroom for extra space, Weston on his laptop with multiple pieces of paper spread across the table. His computer casting the projector, my statistics in different charts on the screen.
Weston loosens his tie and pulls it off his neck, never have I seen him wear a tie at work. Rolling his shirt up to his elbows as usual, his thick forearms on show. I could smell his aftershave waft over to me as he undoes a couple buttons of his shirt. I'd be lying if I said it didn't make my mouth water, gladly I'm already looking away so I don't look interested in his actions.
"Oh shit," Weston curses as he checks his watch. "It's past seven, I didn't realise."
To be honest, I didn't mind. I liked being in the office after hours, it was better than being at home doing nothing. "We got a lot done," I comment as I sit up straighter in my chair and pick up a pen.
"Are you hungry?" He questions as he picks up his phone and unlocks the screen.
I purse my lips in his direction. "Yeah I guess but I can just go home and look what's in the freezer."
"We're working well," Weston instantly shakes his head. "Lets order something,"
My eyebrows drop to look at him. "You sure?"
He ignores my question. "What kind of cuisine do you like?"
"Ummm," my fingers begin to play with the pen in front of me because I wasn't sure what else to do. "I'm easy, I like everything."
"They do these burrito's down the road at this unreal Mexican, would you be up for that?" He asks as he scrolls through his phone, not once looking up at me.
I clear my throat and nod. "I'm up for anything."
"You like chicken?" He questions, his dark eyes for the first time glancing up at me from his phone.
I nod and he smiles back at me. "Great then I'll order."
"Thanks, let me know how much I owe you," I rush awkwardly. "I don't have any cash but can transfer."
Weston laughs as he continues to look at me, his teeth sitting so perfectly against his pink lips. "Micah it's fine,"
My cheeks begin to flush with blood, embarrassment already seeping in. I hated feeling like this around him, no way to control my stupid feelings. "Okay, well thank you," I say eventually, realising its better to accept it than fight it.
"So did Fred like what I had made originally for statistics?" I question in attempt to change the subject.
"We've been working all evening Micah, let's just have a little break,"
My lips almost cement together at his words. I'm not sure if having a little break meant we would sit here in silence because we never have spoken about things outside of work. Never have we spoke about anything personal and quite frankly, that scared me.
Weston taps away at his phone as he lightly swings in his chair, I quickly follow his actions and flick through my phone. Not entirely sure what I was looking at because I am barely on my phone, so I settle with the newsstand.
A few minutes tick by and neither of us have said anything, why couldn't we just be normal and talk about what we would be doing at the weekend? Probably because he's the boss and he doesn't give a single shit what I do in my spare time.
He looked busy, his eyes completely fixated on reading whatever was on his screen. I sometimes forget that he would be doing work all round the clock, whether that meant being at his laptop or just speaking to someone on the phone.
Eventually he sighs and drops his phone onto the table, rubbing his fists into his eyes. His tiredness now getting the better of him. "Lets hope the food comes soon," he mumbles. "I'm starving."
"Same," I agree.
Weston leans on the table on his elbows, clasping his hands together in front of him. Tilting his head towards me, he looks at me for a brief moment before pushing back into his chair. "Can I ask you something?" He asks, his voice soft and non-invasive.
"Sure," I nod before licking my incredibly dry lips.
He studies me for a few moments as he rolls a pen between his fingers. "Why did you hate me when you worked at Cafe Cosmo's?"
I felt stunned from his question, my throat closing up at the thought of having to answer. "I didn't hate you," is what I make out.
His eyes narrow towards me slightly. "Well you hated something," he says confidently.
A deep sigh rumbles from my chest as I clench my eyes shut for a brief second. "I didn't hate you. Hate is a strong word." I repeat. "I just didn't like the atmosphere I worked in, the people that I had to deal with."
"You didn't like Marco?" He quizzes me.
My eyes widen at his words. "No, no, not at all," I say quickly. "I love Marco, he did so much for me."
Weston's eyes flick between mine causally. "Oh, you mean the customers you had to deal with,"
I open my mouth to speak but just end up nodding my head. "You wouldn't understand," I say before folding a corner of a piece of paper to distract me from this conversation.
"Why wouldn't I understand?" He replies, his voice slightly harsher than before.
"Because you weren't in my position," I say matching his energy. "I know Cafe Cosmo is a Michelin Star restaurant but sometimes people expect the impossible. They're rude and entitled because they can afford the hefty bill at the end of the evening. I've left that place feeling no bigger than a penny sometimes and it's not fair to be treated like shit just because I'm the server and they have money. It's degrading and embarrassing."
Weston remains quiet and watches me carefully as I speak. "Most people acted so snobby, which made it hard to believe any of them earned their success. They've never known what normal life is like, or how to treat others who aren't on their level. How are people like me ever supposed to reach the top?"
"And is that what you thought about me?" Weston's eyebrow raises ever so slightly but his face remains non-responsive.
"You weren't rude to me," I sigh and turn to look at the wall. "But there is a hierarchy and you can feel it. From all the customers."
"I would never want to give off that impression Micah," his voice drops and I glance up at him. "I tipped you that money because you dealt with what happened professionally and I understand, hospitality is hard."
"But you heard my conversation in the bathroom," I mumble and rest my head back onto the edge of the chair.
"Yeah," he confesses. "I did, but honestly you deserved it. And I don't know what you did with that money and I don't care. It's my way of showing appreciation."
I find myself chewing on my lip, what he did was extremely kind and all I did was give him stick for it. Guilt raises in my stomach and I realise how ungrateful I was. "Thank you," I say eventually. "I never thanked you for it."
"It's okay," he smiles at me. "I know it was a lot to grasp at the time."
"I suppose it's hard to see it from the other perspective,"
Weston looks at me for a brief moment before shaking his head at me. "I think all your prejudgments about me are wrong Micah,"
"Are they?" I question, my voice raising in confusion.
"You think I was raised in wealth?" The corner of Weston's lip quirks up, like he has said this more than once.
"I don't know," I admit. "Maybe."
He swipes his thumb over his lip and inhales, his head shaking again. "Everyone loves to make assumptions about me," he states. "Yet never wants to understand how I got to where I am."
I felt like I was drawn into his words, like he wanted me to probe him. Maybe he feels like no one wants to try and get to know the real him. For a split second I start to feel bad but realistically he's my boss, is it professional to start talking about personal lives? I never thought he was one for sharing.
"I didn't know it was something you should or could even ask," I say honestly. "You're my boss, I never want to be nosy."
"I am a human Micah," he replies instantly.
"I know," I agree. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make assumptions. Maybe I've just stereotyped all CEO's."
"Just like society has," he shrugs.
"So-so how did you come to founding Neptune & Co?" I question and Weston glances up at me from the floor.
"Do you really want to know, or are you just being polite?" He questions, playfulness evident in his voice.
"I want to know," I tell him as I lean forward in my chair, closer to him. "It interests me a lot."
"Well it didn't come easy to me," he sighs as he pulls his ankle up to rest on the edge of his knee. "I was homeless when I was sixteen, my mum left my dad and then my dad turned to drugs. We lost the house, we lost everything. My dad ended up in some rehab centre and they attempted to place me at a foster home."
I don't even realise that my mouth has opened slightly, leaning on the table with my elbow to balance myself. His expression was calm yet confident, I could tell that he has built himself up to talk about these difficult times. They don't phase him now, not at all.
"By the time I was eighteen they let me go from the foster home and I had nothing, absolutely nothing. They let me out into the big wide world expecting me to just survive. So I ended up homeless again, I went to multiple charities to try and get myself a place to stay. I had heard about these courses they do to help those who are homeless, to try and get a job." Weston pauses to take a sip from his cup.
My eyes keep focused on him, gripping onto his every last word. "I managed to secure a month stay at a hostel, I started applying for jobs with the resources the charities had provided for us. I ended up getting a job at a cafe which lead me to pay for my own rent eventually. I was literally just working to pay for a roof over my head, until I found the money to start saving."
"Decided that I wanted to go to university, I enjoyed computing when I was younger and knew I was good at maths. Software has always interested me, so I started looking at university courses." Weston explains, occasionally using a hand gesture to accentuate his most important points.
"Got accepted into Greenwich to study computer systems engineering and software, graduated with a first. Started out at another software company and hated the idea of working for someone else, so I took a gamble and started my own software company. Collected some of the best engineers and software creators in London and we started the company." He takes his final breath and all I can do is stare back at him.
The silence between us echoes in my mind, taking me a few moment to process what he just said. "Weston, that sounds incredible."
"Incredible?" He repeats, amusement settling on his lips.
"That is an incredible story, all of that you went through to come out the other end." I nod towards him enthusiastically.
"Hard work and persistence pays off,"
"I had no idea," I say in disbelief, my heart still hammering away in my chest.
"Not everyone inherits their wealth and success, some work all day and all night because they want the best for themselves. I'm proud to tell people my journey." Weston says as he lightly folds his arms over his chest and relaxes into his chair.
"Yeah," I nod. "I get that now. It's wrong of me to accuse everyone of being in the same boat, when they're really not."
"I felt the same," he tells me softly. "When I was homeless, watching as people gave me dirty looks as I begged on the streets. It was humiliating and I hated anyone who had the tiniest bit of wealth. But as I've got older, I've realised we shouldn't be hating each other, we should be hating society. Society is the one who fucked us over, time and time again."
My fingers begin to fumble, swaying gently in my chair. He was right, it was society who has fucked over our lives. It's fucked over my mum, it's fucked over my childhood and my livelihood. It's ruined every aspect of my life. And I hated it.
"You've opened my eyes," I disclose. "I've never thought of it that way."
Weston's smile captivates me for a second, his expression completely opening up to me. His phone lights up, notification on his Home Screen. "Food is here," he grins as he pushes his chair out from underneath him and exits the boardroom swiftly.
I sit back in my chair, staring at the door he just left. A strange feeling washes over my body at the story he told me, my blood felt like it was rushing and my head felt somewhat clearer. Realising that judging people before knowing them isn't right. Understanding them comes first.