7 months ago

Hard Bargain

Wes I'm in the meeting

Wes I'm in the meeting room with Leon again, and he's not happy. I've lost count of how many times I'm holed up with the guy, but I'm CEO, and it's my job to meet with my senior managers from time to time. I meet with Leon more than anyone else. He’s always complaining about something. There's nothing pleasant about Leon. He's closer to fifty than sixty, but since he found out about his wife Martha having cancer, he's become an old man overnight. His blond hair has grayed at the temples, and every day new wrinkles seem to appear between his brows and around his mouth. They’re not from smiling. It shouldn't happen to a person – you would think that thirty years of marriage would give a man some protection against bad luck, a reward for sticking it out so long. Even one who’s a dick like Leon. The universe is not known for its kindness. "What the fuck were you thinking?” Leon asks. His voice is louder than I like it to be. Again. “Language, please, Leon. We’re in the office.” “I don’t care where the hell I am,” he says. At least he avoided fuck. “If you’re going to bump up a little ditz from the front desk I’m going to say something about it.” And he has. Leon has been “saying something about it” for the last half hour. “Jordan deserves the position, Leon. You’ve seen her résumé. You know how impressive it is.” “Her attitude stinks. She walks around like she’s God’s gift to man and I’m not going to oversee her.” Leon has been a senior manager in my tech department for a long time. He’s good at what he does, and most of the time I trust his judgment. Most of the time. Since Martha became ill, I don’t know if he’s as reliable as he used to be. You can separate your personal life from your business life all you want; if someone close to you is dying, it changes you. “She has an MBA, Leon. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice that.” “Her attitude stinks.”

So does yours, I think, but I don’t say as much. It will only make him angrier, and he’s pissed already. “You can’t shoot her down before we give her a chance. We wanted to hire internally. She’s the best we’ve got.” “Find someone else,” Leon says. I’m getting pissed off now, too. This guy thinks he’s going to tell me how to do my job? “Leon, I appreciate that you’re open with me, but I’m still your superior. You don’t tell me what to do.” Leon makes a face at me that tells me he’s not happy, but he bites his tongue. Smart man. At least this time. Instead, he paces the meeting room. I watch him from my chair at the sixseater table. I can fire him on the spot if I want to. God knows he’s had enough warnings from me to be out of here already, but I don’t want to fire the guy. He’s got chemo to pay for, chemo that might not even work. Losing your job when your life goes up in flames is a different kind of hell. “I don’t like it, Wes,” Leon says. I nod. “I know. And I’m sorry.” Leon narrows his eyes at me. “Sorry for what?” I sigh. “Everything you’re going through.” His face softens and I glimpse the man that already worked here by the time I arrived. Leon used to be the star of RidgeCo, the kind of man that knew exactly what needed to be done to grow a modest San Francisco tech company into something spectacular. He sits down in the chair he vacated when we started talking about Kylie Jordan. He’s calmer now. Sometimes, all it takes is sympathy. “So, we’re looking for someone else, then?” he asks. I shake my head, slowly. I know this is going to blow up in my face, but I’m pulling rank on this one. “I want her as my project manager, Leon,” I say. “We need her knowledge.” Leon blinks at me. It’s the silence before the storm. “I knew it,” he says and jumps up again. There it is. “I knew you were going to fuck me like this.”

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