There was a time when her grandmother wouldn’t have even been allowed to enter a building such as this, and she was aware of that whenever she pushed the door of Goldman & Parks Associates. It was a humbling, but encouraging thought that hovered over her daily, forcing her to achieve more than many her age and, just as importantly, her color, had ever accomplished.
At twenty seven, Kimberley Walsh had gathered more accolades and awards than many of the older associates. Some were friendly, others carried visible chips on their shoulders, but that was not important at this point in time. Making partner at the next available opportunity was the most pressing thing on her priority list and she was keeping tunnel vision until she hit the mark.
“An opportunity lost can never be regained,” said her granny, and she also held firm to those words of wisdom. She wanted to be ready; to be prepared to step into the higher levels of her career with all the grace of a wise woman’s wisdom.
Kimberly knew she was being watched because the false smiles of her coworkers seemed wider and more plastic than before. Her work load was suspiciously increasing and more work meant a greater risk of messing up. She rushed to finish, but not wishing to fuel her naysayer’s fire, everything was scoured with a fine tooth comb.
Suddenly dumped with the cast off cases of those who were constantly pulling rank, she always seemed submerged in work that, yes, increased her billable hours, but was forever steeped in complication. As she worked on the third such case for the week, she sighed and closed her eyes, rubbing her temple, seeking some form of ease.
The knock on the glass door was unwelcome and before she could grant the intruder entry, solid footsteps clacked across the hardwood floor and only came to an end when they landed on the carpet in front of her desk.
Cracking her eyes open, she caught a glance of oxblood colored loafers indicating she was in the presence of Mr. Finnegan. He was never the bearer of good news, and the way his left foot posed in front of the chair, she knew it would be particularly bad. Glancing up, she smiled and greeted him, patiently waiting to receive the new boulder she would be carrying.
“Ms. Walsh… taking a nap are we? Mustn’t do that in times like these. You never know who may be about these hallways and I hear Mr. Parks is especially grumpy these days. We wouldn’t want any of these nosy associates to think you are shirking and get the wrong message would we?”
By ‘nosy associates’ he meant himself, as he was secretly referred to as the ‘message carrier’ by all who observed his snake like qualities. He was carrying a folder and stuck it out towards Kimberly after dropping his tale on work ethics.
“I have been told you are the best person for this job.”
“Have you, Mr. Finnegan? I thought all of us here were equally qualified and worthy of any case in the company’s portfolio.”
Her smile was sweetly laced with malice and he coiled back after picking up the sarcasm in her voice.
“I am just the messenger Kimberly; there is no need to attack me. This is an established client of ours, but we don’t have the time to babysit as the Manson case will be going to trial soon. The details are inside and you will meet with the client at his convenience. Everything else you are working on must take a back seat to this one, so get on it… please.”
He softened his tone as he added the plea and Kimberly stared back, stone cold. Taking it from his hand, she nodded and smiled and he walked backward, issuing his customary parting words, “Don’t screw it up Kimberly.”
She quite often resisted committing serious bodily harm to many people in this firm because she saw firsthand as a lawyer how horrid the legal system could be, and she just didn’t have the stamina for a prison stay.
Clearing a space on the cluttered desk, she sighed yet again, and yanked open the folder cover to dig into the pile of shit another rich client had gotten himself into.
Sometimes rich people could be overbearing, and no matter how much prestige a lawyer had, the elite always tried to keep them under thumb. Lawyers were fixers, protectors, and representatives, but no matter what challenges they overcame, or transgressions they hid on behalf of their clients, they still got the shitty end of the stick and clients never learned their lesson.
The person in this case was just that; trouble and more trouble. This was the fourth time he was being investigated for fraud and the only thing the law firm wouldn’t have to clean would be his underwear. The situation was a mess and would get messier by the day. As she started to jot down details of her plan of attack, the door pushed again and another invasion began. This time it was Wanda, Mr. Parks’s secretary. She was holding a stack of papers larger than her torso and staggering under their weight.
As Wanda offloaded them in the client chair, she began to issue edicts and commands in her boss’s stead. Kimberly zoned out, and a switch seemed to flick on in her subconscious.
The days of this kind of labor are over. There will be no life left in me by the time this firm is done.
Kimberly tried to listen, but the harder she focused, the more she heard nothing but muffled sound. An internal voice commanded her to stand up and she obeyed. As the voice continued, Wanda stared at her in shock. Kimberly had walked over to her small coffee table and retrieved her coat and purse.
Nodding in agreement with the secretary’s still inaudible words, she walked toward the door, Wanda snapped.
“Where exactly do you think you are going Kimberly?”
“I am going home Wanda and guess what? I won’t be back tomorrow, so tell your boss to shove his workload UP-HIS-ASS!”
Whistling as she walked to the elevator, Kim paused to say goodbye to the janitor polishing the marble counter in the reception area. Stepping onto the elevators and seeing the doors close was as welcome as a cold drink on a hot summer day. As it descended, she counted backward with the light above the door and when it hit ‘one’, she took off like a sprinter hearing the starting pistol. Thirsty for the deeper, more fulfilling things, she needed to keep running toward the glorious destination labeled; freedom.
The conversation with his father today was unusual, but Richard knew his father would keep his confidence. Dislike for ‘yes’ people was one of his peeves, but unfortunately when one had money, ‘yes’ people were in abundance. It always amazed him that as ones dollar value increased, so did the fakers who liked to ride coat tails and ass kiss.
The sun streamed down and the coconut trees swayed in the background as a well retired Robert Damask lounged on the patio of his beach villa in the Bahamas. Imparting sage advice to his son Robert through the magic of technology, he still marveled at his discovery of Skype. It made him always available to Robert who had been burdened with the task of inheriting his father’s billion dollar company.
Today though, their conversation was not about the stock market or company profits, it was about one of the oldest mysteries in time; women.
“Dad, I’m getting lonely and it’s killing me. I am finding it so hard to trust anyone and I certainly refuse to attend any more blind dates set up by John! That woman he arranged for me to meet was so strange and I swear she smelled of garlic. I guess that’s what happens when you go on a date with a gothic chef!” They laughed at the quip and Robert responded.
“Well son, you just hop on the private jet and come on down here… let me tell you, there are some fine specimens on this island with figures like coke bottles and skin like caramel. I’m having a grand time dipping my fingers in chocolate fudge like you wouldn’t imagine.”
“Dad, there are some things you don’t share with a son and that was definitely too much information for me. I am still hung up on Barbara and the fact that she has moved on so quickly. I can’t find the motivation to go out and find anyone. The women are like hounds after me, but I’m sure it’s just for the money. No one is genuine anymore.”
“Richard, the only thing I can tell you is to open your view a little more. Maybe you are looking in the same places all the time and that’s your primary issue. You eat at the Golf club, in there, it’s either the stuck up Barbie princesses whose daddy have spoiled them rotten, or the waitress who will screw you for a quick hundred. Your circles are all the same; the gym, the school for Jasmine… all the same spheres of people, it’s time for a change son.”
“This conversation is supposed to be helpful dad, not a lecture on what I already know. The challenge is how to change it.”
“Well my boy, I have no other wisdom to share at this point. Keep trying and the right bed warmer will come along. Speaking of which; I have an important date with some rum punch and a particularly tasty caramel morsel from the casino. We will have to chat later.”
“Thank you father, for giving me too much information yet again, I did not need to know that…”
The screen had already faded to a familiar blue, indicating he had disappeared in pursuit of pleasure, leaving Richard alone to ponder his fate.
Never visiting the office more than twice a week had its advantages; it allowed him time to write the novel he had pondered over for years, and dote over the apple of his eye; Jasmine. Alternately, the disadvantages included resolving the many company issues that would arise in the boss’s absence.
Today was no exception, and as he thought about his father and his senior escapades, the door knocked announcing the most pressing challenge of the day. The Human Resources Manager had something to discuss with him as a matter of urgency and he couldn’t delay it any longer.
As he entered the office and took his place in the vacant chair, Richard could tell he would be in for a difficult one.
“Good morning Richard. You know I wouldn’t usually bother you if I could help it, but with the unsteady climate in the marketplace I thought it best we handle this matter as soon as possible.
“Go on Alvin, I’m listening.”
“The company lawyer, Travis Swindley… he has been missing for a few days now, and then a messenger arrived this morning with a letter of resignation. It appears he feels overwhelmed with this last lawsuit, and is no longer interested in being a member of Tabletop Industries. He specifically asked that we arrange his separation package before Friday. He’s also asking that we don’t call him, as he has no desire to engage in discuss
ions about retaining his position.”
“Please tell me you are joking! This is the worse time he could possibly choose to pull this act! As the internal lawyer, he was the only one dealing with this shit… this can’t be happening.”
“I totally agree with you and I always think it best to have a contingency plan for situations like this one so, anticipating the backlash, I’ve already gone ahead and placed an advertisement for suitably qualified corporate lawyers. The emails began coming in from this morning, and I should have a short list by tomorrow. I can start to interview Wednesday and once we find the right one, they can start on Monday… that is, if it’s fine with you.”
“Fix it Alvin, do whatever needs to be done to get us back on track.”
As the door clicked close, Richard’s head felt as though it would combust and that was never a good thing. The plush carpet and intricate carvings that decorated his office brought no solace in times like these.
The cool water from the faucet helped him wash away the frustration of being lonely, and the sting of what he considered to be insubordination from the lawyer. At twenty nine years old, Richard was certain he could see bags under his eyes, and everyday he searched for grays in his silken black mane.
Of course, none were ever there, but inside, Richard felt fatigued from his failed marriage and the burden of managing this company. He forced a smile, and his reflection in the mirror complied. Richard was kind to the eyes, the old secretary in the sales department had said. Too old to be flirting, but still young enough to notice, Marge chided him on his handsomeness every chance she could.
If old Marge could see it, where were all the women who should be knocking down his door? It seemed that after ‘The Richest’ magazine published his net worth, every single woman in America wanted him, but after hearing about how his marriage died due to neglect, they all fell into the background and he was once again very alone.
He liked designer clothes, but never dressed up; an oxymoron to say the least, but it was Richard plain and simple. The shirts were all button down and the slacks looked like they could be rolled up for a surfing expedition any moment. His haircut was sleek, but allowed enough length for him to look mysterious; something he enjoyed.
Barbara had said his sad brown eyes were what attracted her to him, but when they became cold, she could no longer stay. It wasn’t his fault; he simply couldn’t handle the weight of managing his business and a family at the same time. Ultimately, his family life died a slow and painful death.
He came home to an empty house, and no dinner one evening two years ago; things had never been the same since. Barbara was never nasty during the divorce and never fought him when he petitioned for joint custody of Jasmine. It was a pity the marriage could never be mended, but his daughter was the torchlight in the darkness of their union, and she was the primary reason he, and his ex-wife were friends today.
Jasmine was learning dance and they often practiced together after school. A natural artist, just like her father who had designed many of the products for what was now his furniture company, she excelled in most artistic things she did.
It was in the weeks that Barbra took Jasmine that he was especially bored and lonely. It was getting to be overbearing and burdensome to watch TV alone, sipping expensive wine.
Walking back to his desk and plopping down on the sofa, Richard pondered a prolific statement running through his head, ‘money can’t buy love.’
Kimberly was thinking that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to cuss out the secretary and leave her well paying job, but there was no time to lament over the past now. She was relishing in the liberty of waking up and doing nothing, and doing it all the way until bedtime.
As a woman who spared no time for fun and adventure before, she now found herself in the awkward position of not having many friends or extracurricular activities to participate in. She had already been to the spa for two facials, and her nails were just fine as well; what was a girl to do now?
The yoga class she passed in the park looked inviting; it was the only new activity she committed to, and she was glad she did. Who knew the grass was this green or that birds chirped so loudly when you were caged in an office all day? Granted, it was a nice office and all of that, but with so many people acting like commanding soldiers, she could no longer force herself to continue working there.
Yoga poses looked easier than they actually were to perform, and as Kimberly recuperated from the deceptive exercise, sipping her water bottle, she wondered how she ever lived without enjoying nature’s gifts. Ruining the moment, a sneaky gust of wind swept by in a flurry of plastic cups and newspapers, discarded by people who obviously had no care for the environment.
Detangling a particularly dirty blanket of paper from her feet, she did her duty as a good citizen, and balled up the mess in her fist, heading for the nearest trash can. As she deposited the once strewn refuse into the bin, she saw the words ‘lawyer wanted’ on another sheet that had already made its way into the can.
Swapping one handful of paper for the other, she read carefully. The vacancy for a lawyer needed to be filled urgently and the qualifications required all spelled her name. There was only a two day window for application and she felt moved to apply.
Picking up a tip for a vacancy in a garbage can wasn’t exactly the norm for Kimberly, but sometimes the most valuable things were found in the oddest of places. Tearing along the frame of the ad, she removed it and jogged to her apartment to try her luck with the treasure of the trash bin.
The building was shinier than the law office Kimberly had worked at, and for some reason, she didn’t associate it with a furniture company. As she approached the reception area, she reminded herself that this wasn’t the industrial age, and that main offices and factories no longer had to share the same quarters.
She was definitely confused as to the type of furniture this company made because the lobby was beautifully decorated with pieces that looked antique, contrary to the plastic Lego like contraptions she thought it produced.
The response to her application was almost immediate. Sending off her particulars before washing away the sweat from yoga and her rummage in the bin, Kimberly remained optimistic that things may go in her favor. Seconds after emerging from the bathroom, her laptop alerted her to new mail. The interview would be at three in the afternoon to be precise and rushing to make it across the city prevented her from doing in depth research on her prospective employer.
Alvin Petterkin was the man who would determine her fate with this company, and even though she had no idea of the salary scale or what exactly they were offering, she had a positive feeling about her possible success.
Kimberly declined the coffee the secretary had prepared and sat, staring at the hallway in anticipation of getting the matter over with. A naturally confident woman, she still got butterflies when answering questions from strangers while they jotted notes on yellow legal pads.
A short African American man sauntered up to the receptionist and whispered in private tones, while a slender man of Hispanic decent walked past with his head dropped in disappointment. She could only assume he was unsuccessful.
Motioning in Kimberly’s direction, he summoned her to his side and the two shook hands vigorously as introductions were exchanged. Walking to the office in silence, Kimberly peeked through several open doors at employees who seemed content.
The office they entered looked a lot like the others and in courtesy, she was invited to have a seat in one of the chairs adjacent Mr. Peterkin while he assumed his position.Typical interview questions were wielded in her direction, and she was honest in her responses about ambition and career goals. Personally, admitting at twenty seven that she was childless and unattached to any man, was somewhat of a sore point for many reasons that were inappropriate to discuss in a business setting such as this.
Mr. Peterkin was asking about her time management skills and her strategy for managing stress. Considering the working conditions at Goldman & Parks, as well as her dramatic exit, she answered with a confident half truth.
Painting a story of a woman who was able to carry the entire legal load of a company with finesse and accuracy, Kimberly hoped her explanation was convincing enough.
As Kimberly finished her sentence, the heavy oak door, she had entered through cracked open, and footsteps silently moved in their direction. Not wanting to interrupt, a voice said, “Please continue Alvin, I am just here to observe.” And so they did.
Resisting the urge to look around at the visitor, Kimberly responded to the most recent question about her availability, stating jokingly, that she could move into her office immediately.
The deep voice behind her chuckled, and curiosity overtook her train of thought as she finally twisted in the chair to meet the deep blue eyes and bow tie mouth laughing at her comedic attempt. He sauntered forward to the Manager’s desk and authoritatively picked up her file.
Reading for what seemed like an eternity; the man nodded and made pensive sounds before he spoke again. There was something interesting about this person and she sensed he was higher ranked in the company than the man conducting the interview.
“Kimberly Walsh… that’s you, am I right? You seem pretty accomplished for a lady your age and I can see you are headed for greatness. I hope Alvin here doesn’t feel too horribly that I intruded on his interview, but I would like to offer you the position. If you like, we can go straight to your new office and I can brief you on the details. I trust you’ve been told of our generous remuneration package?”
Unintentionally foregoing professionalism by nodding her head, she communicated that she had been briefed on what the company had to offer but his eyes trapped her and she was rendered speechless. The Human Resources Manager cleared his throat and her head jerked around.
“Ms. Walsh? Do you want to accept the position? It seems it is yours after all!”
“Yes… yes… I would be more than pleased to accept your offer, thank you.”
The visitor, who was yet to introduce himself, shook her hand with vigor, welcoming her to the family of Tabletop Industries, and she grinned in circles while still contemplating what about this man was so magnetic.
Following his lead to the office in the corner, she reminded herself that it probably wasn’t best to view your new boss in an attractive light, and switched back to a business persona by the time they reached the door.
Was he staring? Richard wondered this as he watched her lower half fill out the chair and taper into a neat waist. He didn’t mean to interject, but her smooth voice left him no option. He never conducted interviews, but in this instance, he felt drawn to interrupt Alvin’s process.
Why would he offer a job to a woman they didn’t even do a background check on? It was too late to consider these things now as he had already spoken out of turn and the company would have to live with any possible consequences.
Her palms were smooth as Richard closed his fingers around hers in a congratulatory handshake and he thought he saw the tiniest flame of interest in her eyes as she accepted her new position.
What was it about her? Her hair was in a neat braid behind her head and though he was no expert, she didn’t seem to wear much make up. Her round face and full lips were pretty without any alteration and he secretly approved of this.
Kimberly’s dress was a bit more flamboyant than the other female employees usually wore, and he was intrigued by the prospect of adding a splash of color to the pale landscape of Tabletop Industries. It wouldn’t be appropriate for a new boss to stare at new employees’ breasts so he chose to focus on her sparkling brown eyes, keeping the pert globes in his peripheral vision.
Casing open the door of the recently cleaned and dusted office, Richard stepped aside, allowing her to admire the envied view of the skyline, while he enjoyed looking at her without interruption. She was speaking and he had to put his carnal thoughts in his pocket to focus on her conversation.
“Thank you so much for the opportunity sir. I assure you; you made a good decision in hiring me. You never told me your name though.”
“We are glad to have you here Ms. Walsh, my name is Richard and I’m the CEO.”
Another slow handshake followed as boss and employee assessed each other, both keeping thoughts that had nothing to do with business to themselves.
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