Starting our own business seemed like a good idea at the kitchen table with my best friend after a couple of beers on a Friday night.
We both worked at the local paper selling advertising, and an opportunity had come up to buy a small business in town. We were pretty sick and tired of being the ones begging for money by offering the latest ad campaign. The idea of people coming in to our store and needing us was intoxicating. The beer was forgotten and we scratched out a business plan on a yellow notepad, immediately feeling better about ourselves and our futures.
I watched as my friend wrote everything down, and wondered if this would finally be the idea that would bring me financial success. I had tried pretty much everything else, and at 45, with a husband and two kids, I was feeling like my options were rapidly diminishing with each passing year. I had never owned a business, but I had worked for lots of people doing everything for them, so I felt like I could handle whatever came my way.
My friend looked up and I caught her eye and she pointed the pen straight at me
“It’ll be great, just wait. It can’t be any worse than being at the paper, right?”
I nodded and smiled as she bent her head again to the notepad.
I grabbed our empty beer bottles and put them in the bin and leaned against the kitchen sink staring out at my backyard. My husband and I had bought this property 10 years ago and in that time we had accomplished a lot together. Raising two kids, mine and his, is a story in itself, and keeping the flame alive while working full time and trying to keep ahead of the bills was also a bit of a challenge at times.
But that’s how we did things, we jumped in with both feet with a blind faith and a gut feeling that everything was going to be okay.
I turned from the sink and crossed my arms, “But how can we both leave at the same time? I mean, we are the sales department. Without us, they’ve got jack shit. The whole paper will fold.”
“So what! We put in so much extra and get nothing back. All those idiots we deal with will be coming to us for a change, needing us. Doesn’t that sound amazing?”
My friend was 14 years younger, and had a different approach to most things than I did. She could swear like a trucker, and would never back down from a confrontation. She had big brown eyes and dimples in her cheeks and a rack that put my long lean figure to shame. Together we were a great team, with parallel working backgrounds, the same work ethic and quick-minded ability to grasp new concepts, and complementary personalities. Her wit was quick and her tongue sharp. I was the tactful manipulator, so between us, we could convince most anyone that what we were selling was what they needed to buy. Now we wanted to do that for ourselves, at the top of the pyramid rather than all our hard-earned efforts being paid up so our publisher and his shareholders got fat off revenue we generated, one lousy commission cheque at a time.
So now we had to figure out how we were going to acquire this business, leave our jobs, and make a shitload of money and become incredibly successful. What could possibly go wrong?
Kim rolled over and slapped the snooze button for the 3rd time. She could smell coffee brewing downstairs, and knew there were no more slaps allowed this morning. She wasn’t late; she kept her clock 30 minutes fast. This was a trick that kept her from feeling rushed. Being able to slap her clock gave her a feeling of power. Starting the day this way gave her the boost she always needed during the winter.
After a quick shower she rolled her hair in a towel and went downstairs to pour a coffee and check last night’s scores. Kim belonged to seven fantasy pools in football, hockey and basketball, and this season she had kept pace and earned a tidy sum.She had no particular love of sports, but she knew that in the world of men’s fantasy leagues, she could rake it in. Her math degree came in handy on certain occasions; this being the most lucrative. Her phone beeped and she picked it up to see a text from her coworker: “G on warpath…wear red dress.
Gerald was the publisher at her office, and when he was having a bad day, everyone kept their distance. Kim knew that her red dress would both provoke and subdue him at the same time. Red would provoke the raging bull, and the plunging neckline would subdue his male ego.
So Kim bolted upstairs, dressed, brushed out her hair and applied her trademark winged eyeliner then red lipstick to match her dress, and with her patent heels in hand she locked her apartment and rode the elevator to the underground parking. As she slid behind the wheel of her two-seater black sports car, she looked in the rearview mirror, gave her hair a toss and peeled out of the spot and gunned it up the ramp. The short drive to the office was streamlined by the early hour, and she was parked and walking in the front door before her coffee was cold.
“Hey Marion, how was your weekend?” she inquired of the receptionist as she checked her mail slot.
“Not bad. The kids both had games, so we shuffled between the soccer field and the baseball diamond. And you?”
Kim took a swig of coffee, then replied “Uneventful, as usual”. She kept her private life to herself; nobody at work, except her coworker in the sales department, really knew her.
“Gerald is in his office and wants to see you right away”, Marion whispered, rolling her eyes skyward and jutting her chin to the left, indicating the publisher’s corner office.
“Okay, thanks” Kim retrieved her mail from the slot, smiled at Marion and walked into Gerald’s office and sat down. She crossed her legs, stilettos now on her feet, and said to her boss “Hey G, what’s up?”
Marion replaced the receiver in its cradle and stared at the notes she had just written. She placed her hands on her keyboard, but they remained still.
She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly, like she had learned at her yoga class. Composed, she tore the sheet from the pad and swiveled her chair to see Gerald’s office. He was talking to Kim. Gerald had said he didn’t want to be disturbed, but this could not wait. With the caller’s voice still fresh in her mind, she got up, walked over to Gerald’s closed door, and wrapped her knuckles lightly, as if to soften the news she was about to break to her boss.
“What!” he barked through the closed door. At 58, he had been in this business longer than anyone in the office. He planned to retire at 60, and only had himself and the owner of the paper to impress. But his gruffness was a front, they all knew he was a pussy cat.f
Marion opened the door. The look on her face must have been enough, because he said, “Kim, let’s take a break. I’ll get back to you on this” and he motioned for Marion to take Kim’s chair.
Once the door was closed, he looked at Marion, but didn’t say anything. She handed him the piece of paper she was holding, and he scanned it and then crumpled it and tossed it into his recycling bin.
“Do you want me to email John?” Marion’s voice broke the silence, startling Gerald from whatever thoughts he was struggling with.
“Um, no. I mean, uh, ya, thanks, but give it an hour. Let me make some calls.” And with that, Marion was dismissed as Gerald turned his chair toward his phone and picked up the receiver.
“And Marion”, she looked at him as she was halfway out the door, “Keep this to yourself.”
She nodded and left his office, shutting the door behind her and returning to her desk.
After I texted Kim to hightail it to work, I busied myself with sorting through my inbox and reviewing this week’s features. I had already finished my coffee, but could smell a new pot brewing, and was about to get up and grab a refill, when my phone rang. During the call, I heard Kim arrive and speak to Marion and then heard Gerald’s door close. I was replacing the receiver when Kim came in and put her coat on the rack. I looked over the top of my screen and she offered “Are you ready for a doozy?”. She switched on her own monitor and grabbed her mug.
I looked over my shoulder at the sliding window separating us from the Sandy’s office. It was closed, keeping our conversation private.
“I’ll get it, I need a refill anyhow.”
I left the sales office and walked down the hall to the kitchen. The coffee machine was still burbling, so I leaned against the counter to wait. The kitchen was next to the production office, and I could hear Sandy’s voice through the open door. I heard “Its true!” and then a sound like a champagne cork hitting the wall brought my attention back to the coffee machine. Brown liquid was spilling over the carafe and onto the counter. I ripped off a handful of paper towels and slopped up the mess into the sink.
By the time I had cleaned up the mess and poured the coffee, I no longer heard Sandy’s phone conversation, so I returned to the sales office and handed Kim her mug.
Kim knew that I meant Gerald’s news, and replied “He wanted to know if I was interested in being the publisher! He said his wife isn’t well, and John agreed to give him a leave of absence. He said I could think about it for a day or two, but he needed to know by Friday at the latest.”
I had swigged my coffee and had to choke it down before replying, “Really? I can’t believe it! But what about our plan?”
“I know. The first thing I thought was that we would have to hold off. But that place is a gold mine, and they want a quick sale. Gawwwwd! Why did he have to offer this to me NOW?!?”
I waved my hand to shush her and walked over and sat on the edge of her desk.
“Listen, this might work. You wait a couple days to talk to Gerald, and in the meantime, we come up with a plan. It’s not like we both have to be there to make this work. You might be able to stay here and I could do the daily stuff over there.”
Kim took a sip of coffee, held the cup to her chest, and pondered my suggestion.
“Hmmm, I don’t know. Pretty risky.”
“But that’s the whole point! We only thought of this to get out of selling these stupid ads. If you were the publisher, then that covers you, and if I’m over there, then I am out too!”
My desk phone rang so I jumped off Kim’s desk and ran over to answer it. I picked up the receiver and as I was getting settled, I noticed the sliding window. It was now open a crack, which meant only one thing.
Sandy knew our plan.