Disclaimer: S. Meyer owns all things Twilight. I just decided it was time to shake things up a bit in her characters' world. And I wanted a bitchy Bella, so here we go!
Oh, and all of the references used in this story in relation to the advertising and marketing company and accounts are only used here for entertainment purposes; no copyright infringement intended.
Enjoy and review (be kind, but honest)!
Chapter One: Time is money honey
"Excuse me. I asked for a hot, black coffee with two Sweet 'n Lows. This is not black and it tastes like it has cream and a pound of sugar in it." Jesus. How fucking hard is it to make a damn cup of coffee? Fuming and out of patience, I pushed the cup back into the coffee shop girl's hand, crossed my arms and began tapping my foot in irritation as she stammered an apology and then disappeared again. If she didn't hurry her ass up, I was going to be late for my weekly progress meeting. And I am never late.
"I'm so sorry ma'am. This is free of charge. Again, I'm s-sorry," she repeated as I grabbed the cup from her and turned on my heel, dismissing her with a wave of my hand over my shoulder. Thankfully (for her), she got it right on the second try, and I happily sipped my brew as I drove downtown. The clock on the dash of my silver Audi A4 read 7:39, and I smiled as I punched the accelerator and wove in and out of the early morning traffic. God I love this car. Six minutes later I was waiting for the gate of the parking garage to open, and I slid into my designated parking space, checking the clock once more. A green and white sign stated that the spot was mine: "Reserved for B. Swan, Swan & Platte." Two minutes later, I was in the elevator and it dinged as I reached the tenth floor of our offices. As I breezed through the double clear-glass doors, the two names etched on the surface at eye level, I tossed my coat and briefcase in the direction of my assistant's desk and continued into my office. With ten minutes to spare, I looked at myself in the full-length mirror on the back of the door, straightened my suit jacket and smoothed my pulled back hair, and strode out again. My assistant Jessica met me in the corridor, scurrying to catch up with me, a pile of files in her arms and a fresh cup of coffee in her other hand.
"Ms. Swan, the Patagonia, UofW, Delta Western and Huppin's accounts are all here for you to look at, and the reps will have updates on all of the other accounts you have requested. Here are your messages, and I also signed for a package you received just before you arrived. Your dry cleaning is hanging in your office closet and you have a lunch meeting with Ms. Platte at one." She stopped to breathe as we reached the conference room, and I took the coffee and the files from her and entered. As usual, I was early and took my seat at the head of the long mahogany table; but today I wasn't alone. Shit. Suck up Mike Newton just had to get here early too. I fucking hate that. I managed a half-smile at him, and he grinned back at me like a kid at Christmas. Ugh. I hate suck ups. As I sat down and arranged my files for the meeting, people began filing in, so it was easy to avoid idle chit-chat with Mike about how my weekend went, and what funny thing his cat did last night. Whatever. My marketing executives – Eric, Tyler, Angela, Mike and Jacob – were some of the best in the business, and aside from the work that my partner, Esme, and I did to make this company one of the largest and most successful firms in Washington, I considered myself fortunate to have a good team. We had worked hard to get here, and I expected perfection from my employees.
"Good morning everyone. Thank you for being prompt," I said, looking down the table at them. "I've got a full schedule again today, so let's just get into our agenda. Who would like to start?" Mike eagerly raised his hand and took a breath, and I fought the urge to roll my eyes as he launched into an update of his accounts. It was a mandatory part of our schedule here for the execs to provide me with status reports. As president and CEO, it was ultimately my responsibility that our clients were kept happy and that their business was flourishing because of our services. Esme, my trusted partner and vice president, preferred mostly to deal with the "softer" business issues at Swan & Platte, and that suited me just fine. I took notes as each person spoke; everyone, it appeared, was making progress and rolling out new ideas and strategies to the clients. I was pleased.
After our meeting was concluded, everyone quickly left the room to get back to work, but Angela stayed behind. I was too busy re-organizing my files and thinking about my next engagement to notice her, until she quietly cleared her throat and said, "Excuse me, Ms. Swan?" Somewhat startled and a little bothered that she hadn't gone back to her desk, I glanced up at her, my browns pulled together. She looked like a deer in headlights. Does she have some sort of social phobia? Got on with it already. "What is it Angela?"
"Ms. Swan, I was, um, wondering, um, whether it would be alright if…if I took the afternoon off." She seemed to shrink down and hide behind the folders she held to her chest, her mouth now obscured from view. I assessed her as I deliberated her request. She was always early to the office, worked hard, and despite her shyness, was quite successful at managing her clients and meeting deadlines. Hardly what I would have expected from a good marketing executive, but I had always appreciated her contribution to the company. But it was Monday, and already she wanted time off? As I was internalizing this, she interrupted my train of thought, seemingly needing to fill the silence with an explanation. "It's my sister. She's getting married, and I promised her I would go with her to look for her wedding dress. And, well…she got an appointment for this afternoon."
"Angela, I'm sorry but I can't simply release you from your duties here because your sister was inconsiderate enough to get an appointment to look for her dress on a Monday afternoon. I'm sure you have plenty of work that needs to be done, and I would be remiss if I allowed our clients to suffer because you want to go shopping." With my denial of her request, her whole body seemed to shrink even more, and she nodded and quickly left. I instantly dismissed the conversation and walked out of the conference room, my mind occupied. On to my next meetings and then lunch with Esme.
The morning went by in a blur, filled with meetings with some of our larger, high-profile clients and phone calls. Before long, Jessica knocked on my door, reminding me of my one o'clock lunch with Esme. I nodded, not bothering to look up, and dismissed her with a wave of my hand. I grabbed my coat and briefcase on my way out the door, and then eased the Audi out of the parking garage and toward our usual lunchtime meeting place. The Chapel was one of my favorite places, and Esme and I made a habit of meeting there for lunch often. I was the first to arrive, of course, and the maitre d seated me right away. I ordered a Pellegrino and was looking at the menu when my partner rushed in, her cheeks flushed.
"Sorry Bella. I got stuck in traffic on my way here," she exclaimed, stooping to kiss me on the cheek before sitting down. "What a morning! And I have the best news to tell you!"
Esme and I had gone to college and then grad school together, and it was there that we hatched our business plan and started a fledgling advertising and marketing agency. If I said it was easy, I'd be lying through my teeth. We fought and toiled for every small local boutique and business we acquired, and she and I took pride in the fact that we had managed to keep almost all of those original clients to this day, ten years later. I liked to think it was because all of our clients loved us; regardless of Swan & Platte's success and the heft of its clientele, we never forgot where we began, and always put as much dedication into our large clients' campaigns as the startups and mom and pops. This was a unique calling card for our firm, and one I hoped would carry this company far beyond Esme's and my time there.
Glancing over to my partner, I watched her unravel her designer lightweight scarf from around her neck, blow her hair away from her eyes and gulp down her glass of water like she was running a marathon. Esme, the scatterbrain. Always a bit rushed and frazzled. She and I were such opposites; that's why our partnership worked so well, I reasoned. Esme was the yin to my yang, the frosting on my otherwise bland cupcake. We just clicked. She saw the big picture and the people that make the machine work; I saw tasks, deadlines and dollars and the gears and the goop that builds up when they're not properly maintained. Needless to say, she was the one who largely dealt with our employees and listened to them about their problems. Our waiter came, took our lunch orders, and Esme's drink order, and left us to continue.
"Umm, Bella, I wanted to mention something that happened this morning at the office," Esme began. I was barely paying attention to her, responding to an email on my Blackberry. She cleared her throat, and I glanced up and looked at her expectantly, urging her to continue. "It's Angela. She came to me very upset and crying, and told me what happened. Why would you say such a thing?" I cocked my head in confusion, and mentally replayed what I remembered of our short conversation.
"What do you mean? She asked me for the afternoon off, and on a Monday, to go shopping with her sister. I hardly saw justification for the indulgence." We can't start poor workplace habits, and I am not going to set a bad precedent. Esme sighed and began again.
"B, it wasn't just a shopping trip; Angela is the maid of honor and it's her sister's wedding. These things are important to most people, and she came to me prepared to give her notice." I scoffed at Esme's statement, incredulous that my simple effort to run a tight ship at the office would lead someone like Angela to quit. Give me a fucking break. If she can't maintain a professional decorum, maybe she should quit. I voiced my thoughts to Esme, and her mouth dropped open. Then I was reminded of another thing from my brief exchange with Angela and I asked Esme another question before she could say a word.
"Esme, she looked at me like she was…scared. Why? Do I frighten people?" She chuckled and shook her head.
"Do you really want to know Bella?" I nodded, adding, "Of course."
"Yes. You do. Angela is frightened by you; everyone is, really. You're a powerful, demanding boss and a hell of a businesswoman, and it's scary. You don't put up with any bullshit. They all want to do the best they can, not let you down, and I think their desire to please you equates to fear – which can be healthy." Fine, so they're scared of me. Fear breeds respect and like Esme said, it's healthy. But her face expressed concern and she continued.
"I think you're missing the big picture here, B," she said kindly. "What happened with Angela is the sort of thing that happens a lot at the office. I can't tell you how many employees I talk down on a regular basis. And it's not just the marketing execs and the ad reps; even our public relations people are scared of you, and they deal with some really difficult people in their day-to-day." She paused to wait for my reaction to this revelation.
"Esme, we've been doing this for ten years. How is it that you've never told me about this," I asked, my voice rising slightly. I was irked that she was bringing this up now, because of a simple choice I had made.
"It wasn't always like this Bella, and that's why I never brought it up," she said. "But you've gotten rougher over the years and it's starting to wear folks thin." Well, I'm so sorry to have been the mean boss lady. If they want to be coddled, though, they're in the wrong business.
"Esme, we're running a business here, not a daycare," I said, indignant. "I refuse to placate my employees, and if they determine my methods are too harsh for their delicate sensibilities, they can find employ elsewhere. Besides, that's what you do so well, isn't it?" It was hitting a bit below the belt, but fuck it, I was angry.
She stared into her glass, and I sensed her defeat; Esme knew she wasn't going to win this battle, and she knew damn well I wasn't going to come back into the office tomorrow and bring puppies and rainbows with me. The waiter arrived then with our lunch, and we settled into conversation about other things, between bites. I suddenly remembered that Esme had news, and inquired as to what she had to share.
"Oh, yes, of course. I had an informal meeting yesterday afternoon with our new advertising and marketing manager…I think," she whispered excitedly. "He's been in the business almost as long as we have, and works at our biggest competitor." She paused for effect and I raised my brow to prompt her. "He's been unhappy there for a while; he told me he doesn't like where the firm is going and that it's getting too corporate and impersonal. Bella, he's more than qualified for Tanya's position, and we've been struggling since she left. I know you've been struggling with the extra workload. I've made him an offer to come and work for us, and he's considering it. I thought we should discuss salary and timeframe. And of course, if you'd like to interview him beforehand, I can schedule that."
Of course, I was thrilled with the concept of filling Tanya's vacated position, and I trusted Esme's judgment entirely. She had adeptly hired all of my best account executives, and was an excellent judge of character. This potential new hire could be our biggest acquisition this year. Esme, as if she was reading my mind, pushed his resume across the table to me. Looking at it, I saw that he was indeed qualified for the position, and possibly a bit more so than necessary. We'll have to make it a very appealing offer. Passing the document back to Esme, I realized we needed to get back to the office, and I hailed the waiter for the check. "Esme, I want to make this happen. Let's discuss an offer tomorrow morning; maybe he'll have decided by then that Swan & Platte is where he should be. And if you don't hear from him by tomorrow morning, we'll get him on a conference call and really pull out all the stops. I'm willing to go the distance on this one. There's no need for me to interview him; time is of the essence here, and I know you've met with him. That's all I need to know."
She and I rose from the table, and as we walked back to our cars, I realized I hadn't even looked at the name at the top of the sheet. The man looks like a dream on paper, and I hadn't even taken a moment to know his name. Bad form, B. "Oh, Esme, what's his name?" She gave me a goodbye kiss on the cheek, said, "See you back at the office," and added before she turned the corner, "Oh, and his name is Edward Cullen."