Strings of Retaliation – 5a – Office

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In the grey early Monday morning, journalists crowded the front door to snap a shot of me stepping into my father’s shoes. A black and pink carpet led from the sidewalk to the lobby. Had I had a choice, I would have asked the driver to take me to the underground garage.
“Trust me,” had been all Gabriel said after his little soldiers left my house.
“Strengthening his position before the storm,” had been Vexx’s assessment once Gabriel left.
Too much power over my life, I thought again as we parked.
In front of the revolving door a few feet and a flight of stairs away, two people stood to welcome me. I knew the man: Ben Stern, son of the previous Chief Marketing Officer, now keeper of the title. The unidentified woman to his right stood tall in her way-too-perfect-too-be-natural body. She fully enjoyed the perks of working for the biggest tech company in the world.
I took a deep breath, slapped a smile on my face and exited the limo. It took me five minutes to strut, wave and pose my way up the steps.
“May this day be the first of a long and memorable career!” Ben shook my hand and pressed his cheeks on each side of my face to mimic friendly kisses. “What a wonderful face for the company!” He pressed a hand on the small of my back to escort me inside. I stiffened. “Can’t wait to talk to you about the tour!” He continued, unabashed. “I’ll see you in a few hours. Gail will show you around.”
He patted the top of my hand — which he hadn’t released since the shake — three times fast and left.
“Gail Hopkins.” The woman moved in front of me, hand extended. “Head of your personal assistants.”
Chief Secretary, huh? I thought once my head stopped revolving.
“How nice to meet you?” I shook her impeccably manicured hand. Mine matched, since Gabriel’s team made sure I fit my new position to a T; fancy suit, bouncy hair, impeccable make-up and all.
“I worked under Emma Cunningham before she disappeared.”
I casted my eyes down. My father brought Emma as his date at my last birthday dinner. She tried to kill me by the fourth course. I got her first.
Lead secretary/security, then! Whether her job was my security or the company’s had yet to be determined.
“My father was fond of Emma,” I said to hide the reason of my unease.
“Yes.” She frowned. “I’m sure we’ll soon have more in common than grief.” Gail perked up, pressed a hand against my shoulder blade and walked me to the executive elevator.
Anyone here heard about personal space?
“What’s your favourite coffee?” She called the elevator.
“Tanzanian beans, Italian Roast, Dead Eye with a shot of hazelnut syrup.”
Gail cocked an eyebrow and nodded. “The closest we have is Kenyan beans. Will that do until we stock up on Tanzanian?”
I nodded.
“It’ll be ready when we reach your office,” she confirmed. “Should I have one prepared every morning?”
“Yes.”
Gail faced the elevator’s eye scan and pushed the top floor button after the machine’s positive chime. “Only for people you authorize! Did you know that?” She smiled, tipping her head toward me as if we were two confidants exchanging some inside joke.
“No, I didn’t!” I answered. Well, this persona didn’t.
I couldn’t pinpoint if she was trying way too hard in an attempt to manipulate me or because she was scared to lose her job. She reminded me of my friend Naomi — too unidimensional and plastic to have an agenda — but that association may blind me to Gail’s real persona.
“We’re here!”
The elevator cabin burst open like a flower and each petal sank into the floor. I couldn’t help but gape as I stepped onto the hard wood floors and surveyed the circular room around us.
“We had it redecorated for you!”
I was getting really tired of people deciding stuff for me.
“Brazilian rosewood,” Gail answered to the question that never crossed my mind. “So warm and feminine, don’t you think?”
Not feminine: PINK!
“It’s lovely,” I mirrored Gail’s enthusiasm as best as I could. Based on the files I studied before I stormed MerriTech eight months ago, they completely changed the floor plan, but kept an eerie reminder of my father; he preferred dark mahogany.
“Your assistants’ office.” Gail motioned toward a door to our right, the first of four piercing the perimeter.
The room was filled with desks, holograms, people and a second elevator in the back. As we walked in, a dozen men and women rose to greet me. They were all buff and moved with the hard-to-shake rigidity of military training. One of them stepped forward with my coffee in a black and pink wooden cup.
“Ebony and pink ivory for all your trademark accessories,” Gail explained. “Edgy, refined and so you!”
I took a sip to drown my initial reply. They crafted my corporate image to charm journalists. “Out of the darkness of grief, a new, splendid era emerges.” And all in wood, like my father’s.
“Excellent coffee,” I smiled to my ‘assistants’ before following Gail back to the vestibule.
“This is your private loft, should you need to stay overnight.” She led me through the second door, opposite to the office’s large archway. The sheer thought of sleeping here sent a shiver down my spine. “There’s always fresh food and clean clothes, and a chef is on call.”
In other words: “We give you these little attentions and in exchange, you work endless hours.”
Sip of coffee.
“So thoughtful!”
My father’s death — along with his whole board — created a power vacuum; the new, younger board members fought each other for control. Unfortunately, me and my forty percent of the shares were the common enemy.
“They’ll belittle you to avoid the dicey situation of a vote they can’t win if only a couple of them agrees with you,” Gabriel had said during my briefing.
Sip.
“Conference room,” Gail indicated by the third door. “And, of course, your office!”
The decorated arch and double doors looked like a church entrance. A huge marble reception desk — or security outpost — broke the metaphor a bit. It sported Gail’s nameplate: ebony with pink ivory lettering.
My office was laid out in two sections: a gigantic desk and comfy chairs on one end; couches, a mini-bar and a coffee table on the other. Black and pink stands around the room were lit with the same care as the few paintings, even though they only held product demonstrators.
Sip.
I would have to find another way to dike all the comments I couldn’t afford to make or my jitters would undermine my credibility.
“It’s a fortress!” Gail beamed, knocking on the double doors to show their sturdiness. “You like?”
Double doors to lock me in my office, an army between me and the ways out, pinkish brown floors and hot pink accents everywhere…
“Of course!”
“Good!” Gail walked up to the coffee table and opened a wide trademark-coloured box. “Here are your accessories.” Earrings, pendants, brooches, hair clips, watches, fountain pens and whatnots; all ebony and pink ivory. “You should put some on while I refill your coffee. Then, we’ll meet the board!”
She plucked my cup from my hands and walk out with a giggle.

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

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