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Stronger Than Bonds by Devon Michaels (1)

One - Sarah

 

“Let me tell you, Miles, you’re one hell of a genius,” I said, eyeing my all-time favorite employee. He tapped his pen against his notepad, squinted at the overcrowded piece of paper and then looked up at me. That's what I loved about Miles; he was the ultimate computer geek, more-or-less the male version of me, minus the blonde locks. “With this new model, we’ll make all the other ones obsolete! Do you know what this means?”

“If we can launch this software into the market, we’ll have a monopoly over software providers all over the country. his kind of technology is totally unprecedented.” I shot up from my seat and searched their faces. “All thanks to this geeky team of burrito-loving, keyboard-smashing geniuses!” A wave of applause exploded across the meeting room, and I burst into laughter. “But seriously, though, great work guys.”

“Do I get a bonus?” Miles asked, leaning back in his chair and gawking at me like a chubby eagle. I brushed my fingers through my hair and stared up at the ceiling.

“Well, well,” I said, spinning back and forth in my chair. “If you really want a raise, then maybe you should set up that meeting with John Socket.”

“I thought that was Amy’s job?” he asked, staring down the table at our PR professional.

“Sarah! Booking the meeting with John was my gig!” she said, pulling her blazer together and staring at me. I threw my head back and chuckled again.

“Hey I tried, man,” I told Miles. “Looks like you’re not getting that bonus.” The truth was that Miles was our head software developer, and despite his ugly khaki pants and poor social skills, his ideas were basically skyrocketing our company all the way up to the moon. While wiz heads like him worked their magic with numbers, Amy was our ultimate marketing expert, the one responsible for making a new irrigation management system look sexy. I trusted her with hotshot entrepreneurs like John Socket because I knew she would convince them to buy bottled air if she wanted to.

“I want everyone to be on their toes these days. This is a make or break kind of thing, and we really want to make it,” I said. The rest raised their hands up in the air and cheered me on. We had been stuck in that meeting room for hours now, but we were far from being done. “What time is it?” I checked my wristwatch. “Wow, guys. I think we broke a record here. Guess how long we’ve been here?”

“Four hours!” Sandy, an HR professional, swiveled in her chair and said.

“Six,” I declared.

“Oh, come on! Let go of us, boss.”

“Come on, guys, you’re better than this! We’ve got so much to do still,” I teased. No one said anything, but they smiled at me like I was their friend. And I was. I never liked to think of myself as anyone’s boss, and I knew damn well that they didn’t think of me as their boss, either.

“Let’s at least order food,” Miles said, rising to his feet and rubbing his belly in such a way that made me laugh like an idiot.

“Alright, guys, I’m kidding,” I admitted. “I gotta run to a meeting right now.” I looked around and everyone was smiling. It wasn’t easy working at Callaway Tech, and it certainly wasn’t easy working for Frederick Callaway. “Make sure to get a good night’s rest, we’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow,” I said before throwing my handbag over my shoulder and strutting out the door.

“All hail, Sarah!” Miles yelled from inside the meeting room.

“Stop it, Miles. You’re embarrassing me,” I waved, turning around the corner and making my way down the corridor. On the inside, Callaway Tech looked like the future, with all its white lights and marble walls and zesty smelling hallways. I took the elevator to the fourteenth floor and knocked on Mr. Frederick’s glass. He raised his eyebrows at me, got up from his chair and let me in.

“Sarah, I’m so glad you’re here,” he said. “Come inside.”

It was always interesting meeting Frederick. He was an intimidating man with an intense face, and he always wore the same suit to work. I had this theory that he had a hundred identical suits hanging in his closet, one for each day. I imagined his home to be just as minimalistic as his office, and his estate to be just as spotless. Anyway, I stepped into his office and slumped down on my designated seat. “How’s it going?” I asked him.

“You look a bit weary, why is that?” His eyes were darting back and forth like he was studying me. Frederick knew me like he knew his son, Ryan.

“Well, you never call me into your office this late,” I said, staring out the full-length window. The city lights blinked and twinkled, and I fell in love with New York City all over again. In a way, I felt like it loved me in ways that nobody else could. It listened to my footsteps, the clicking of my heels as I hurried to work every morning. It soaked up the coffee I spilled on its pavements, and it forgave me. I loved the city because I knew it loved me back. It wasn’t until I was done daydreaming that I realized Frederick was smiling at me.

“I have news for you,” he said. “CapManager Expert’s a hit.”

“What, are you serious?” I blinked at him. I had helped develop this software, but up until last week I was too busy with Miles and the rest of the team to find out what had happened.

“Our stocks have risen by a full two percent,” he told me. “All thanks to you.”

“Don’t forget my wonderful team,” I said, fluttering my eyelashes at him.

“And Amy, that woman can sell you anything.”

“Anything,” I repeated. For a while we just sat there, staring at the night sky. A jet flew by, and I followed it with my eyes until it disappeared into the horizon. The two of us must’ve sat there for a full thirty minutes, staring at something, not saying a word. My relationship with Mr. Frederick was a strange one, but all in all, he treated me like a daughter.

“So, did you hear about Alex Bannings?” he asked me.

“Oh, he got married to that girl, what was her name?”

“Jasmine. She’s a sweet girl, their wedding was wonderful.”

“I’m happy for him,” I said, averting my eyes to the mountain of contracts on his desk. “I heard a lot of people are happy for him.”

“You know, Alex is like a son to me, and I would hate to see him end up with a woman he doesn’t love.”

There was silence. I fidgeted a little with my phone, and then I nodded. “You’re right, no one deserves that,” I said finally.

“He was strong to make this decision, his father’s a difficult man, a strong one, just like him.”

“Well, I guess it runs in the family,” I shrugged. “I heard he gave up his right to the family fortune?”

“He did, and Carol, his sister runs the company now. She’s the new heir.”

“Wow, and to think that someone would give all of this up for a shot at love,” I said, somewhat disbelieving. “I don’t know, would you do that?”

Mr. Frederick raised an eyebrow at me, then he swiveled around in his chair. I wondered if I had crossed the line. “I’m an old man, I don’t think about that stuff anymore,” he told me. “But what I do know is this; I wish my son would do what Alexander did, I wish he would wake up one day and realize that there’s more to life than money.”

I nodded, and at that moment the door swung open, and Ryan Callaway came waltzing in. “Dad,” he said, not acknowledging my presence. I remember he started mumbling things about stock exchanges, but his voice kind of faded into the background as I stared at his face. He was pretty tall with a pale face, and he was buff. Very buff. Even though he was fun to look at, I couldn’t help but feel turned off by him.

“I’m Ryan, by the way,” he said, reaching his hand out to me.

“We’ve met before,” I replied, smiling weakly. “Several times, actually.”

“This is Sarah, our head software developer,” Frederick said, and at that moment I saw Ryan’s eyes glaze over, almost like he wanted to sleep.

“Nice to meet you, Sarah. Sorry, I’m mentally incapable of keeping track of every employee in this company.” His eyes snapped sideways and I could tell he was throwing shade. He was gesturing around frantically, but I ignored him. “So?”

I muted him again. I thought I had heard something about CapManager Expert, so I tuned back in and blinked at Frederick, who was now staring at me. “I think Sarah here can answer all your questions,” he said.

“Alright, Sarah,” he started, almost as though he was challenging me. “Can you walk me through how the program works? I need to give a presentation about it to a new investor next week, so I have to have some idea.” He just stood there with his arms folded, like a kid waiting for answers.

“You know what, let’s schedule a meeting, you and I,” I said after a moment of silence. My brain was mostly on overdrive because I didn’t know what to say to him. “I’ll walk you through the program, functionalities and all. It’s just hard to explain on the spot.”

“Here’s the thing, Sarah,” Ryan said, sitting down on the desk across from me. “I’m a busy man with a busy schedule. I won’t be able to squeeze you in for at least another two weeks.”

“Well, I won’t be able to squeeze you in right now, either.” I rose to my feet and picked up my iPad off Frederick’s desk. “I have to go home and research some work, if you don’t mind, of course.”

“No, why would I mind?” he said through clenched teeth. I could tell he was annoyed, and for some reason, that satisfied me. Not because I was evil, but because I didn’t appreciate arrogance, especially from people like him who didn’t know what it was like to climb up a ladder. Mr. Frederick was gawking at me, but when I looked at him, he smiled. He smiled because he knew me like a daughter.

“Frederick, I’ll see you in the morning?” I said. He nodded and waved, and then so did I. “It was nice to meet you, too,” I said, shaking his son’s hand and then stepping out into the hallway. I walked a few steps and then stopped where they couldn’t see me.

“You just let her walk all over me like that?” Ryan’s voice was muffled like he was drowning.

“Well, son, you were quite rude yourself,” Frederick said, more like chuckled. At times it felt like he didn’t have time for his employees’ bullshit. Silence ensued, and I resumed walking until I got to the elevator. It was a long way down. I anticipated the moment I would walk out into the cold night air and feel it caress my bones. I loved walking through the city and feeling my dirty heels clicking against the pavement. I looked up and all I could see were skyscrapers, their windows reflecting the glow of the night, and that made me wonder about the lives of people. I wondered what every single person was doing up there, and it made me smile. Some cooking, some fucking, some having mundane arguments about stale dinners. Everyone was doing something, and I was down here marveling at their lives.

At one point I thought about Ryan, but then I dismissed him because, in all honesty, his smug smile had pissed me off.

 

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