Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 5:  Nightmare

Although I had worked almost every waking hour to learn the business and prepare a monumental presentation in less than two weeks, I was a nervous mess on the day of the presentation. As per Stevie’s counsel, my hair was pulled back into a low and loose chignon. I was dressed in a simple black dress and short-sleeved cream blazer from Banana Republic that I purchased with Stevie’s approval after convincing him, in protection of my credit card balance, that I did not want to invest in a Gucci suit, even if it was the Mercedes Benz of business suits. He consented even though he thought that my purchase was safe and boring, like a Volvo.

I cancelled all my morning meetings to review the presentation but was unable to concentrate due to an exceptionally nervous bladder. When I passed by Sydney’s desk on my seventh trip to the bathroom, she stopped me.

“Where are you going?” she demanded.

“Um…to the bathroom. Is that OK?”

“What? Are you crazy? You can’t leave your desk! You are the holder of the Eye Bible. If Savannah calls for information and you’re not at your desk, you are in deep shit.”

“I can’t pee? What am I supposed to do? Wear a diaper?”

“No, you just don’t drink.” Sydney answered, as if dehydrating myself was the most obvious option in the world.

“What are the chances that Savannah will call me the one minute that I go to the bathroom?”

“I would run if I were you,” Sydney advised.

I paused to consider the warning then ran like the wind to the bathroom. My phone was ringing when I returned, speed walking, to my cubicle. You’re kidding. Panicked, I grabbed for the phone.

“It’s Sydney. Savannah called. They’re running an hour late so they’re going to work through lunch to stay on track. We’re on at noon. Remember, we need to go fifteen minutes early to dress the room.”

“Do you know if Savannah tried calling me?”

“Sorry, I don’t know.”

“Great.” I was now in deep shit for not peeing my pants.

At quarter to noon, I arrived punctually at Syndey’s cubicle with a cart full of items to “dress” with room but she was not there. She wasn’t waiting for me in the boardroom either.

Dressing the room was a two-person fifteen-minute minute ordeal. You had to arrange your products meticulously like shrines to the makeup gods throughout the room. You also had to overkill the room with branding – posters and banners of your portfolio’s most recent advertising around the perimeter of the room. The desired effect was as if the room vomited your brand.

Since Sydney was AWOL, I embarked on the task solo. At around five minutes to noon, as I stood admiring my work, Sydney ran into the room, uncharacteristically frantic.

“Change of room, change of room! We’re in the Mascara Boardroom! Didn’t you get my email?” I had turned off my email alert so that I didn’t get distracted.

Sydney started grabbing products and wildly throwing them into the cart.

“Grab the posters and run!” She bolted out of the room with the cart.

“Wait! Where’s the Mascara boardroom?” I gathered the posters and banners and ran in the same direction as Sydney. The posters were large and cumbersome and made running down the long hall quite challenging.

“Where’s the Mascara boardroom?” I yelled blindly, the posters blocking my eyesight, to the first person I ran into. Unfortunately, it was Caden. Of course, I run into the man of my dreams just when I look like I escaped from an insane asylum, sweating, panting, and hair astray. I was probably foaming at the mouth.

He laughed. “Let me guess? Marketing Review? The room’s just down the hall, to your right. Do you need help?”

“No, I’m fine!” I continued clamoring ungracefully down the hall.

Apparently a combination of humiliation and fear-induced adrenaline gave me the ability to utter a coherent sentence in Caden’s presence. In any case, whatever it was, I’m sure it was extremely unattractive.

I arrived in the Mascara Boardroom, breathless and shaking. I dropped the posters in a heap on the ground.

“Take a deep breath! Calm down, just calm down!” Sydney yelled, frenzied.

She grabbed the posters. Two of them were visibly damaged during my mad dash down the hall.

“Shit, we can’t use these. Stay here. I’ll get some back-up posters. Hurry, hurry, fix the products!”

The products were disrespectfully piled on the boardroom table. The makeup gods would be insulted. I rushed maniacally around the room, throwing products around haphazardly. Sydney ran back in the room in a couple of minutes empty-handed, unable to find back-up posters. We decided unwisely to place the visibly damaged posters in the furthest corners of the room. The room looked like it was dressed by drunken sailors.

Savannah and the designer-suited executives started filing seriously into the room. The designer suits looked like they were angry at the oxygen in the room.

Syndey motioned to me to fix my hair. As the designer suits took their seats, I tried to squeeze my loose hair back into my once sophisticated chignon. Syndey shook her head. I removed the chignon. She widened her eyes and shook her head vigorously.

As I put my hair into a sloppy ponytail, I realized that I forgot the Eye Bible in the other boardroom. I mouthed the word “bible” to Sydney but she didn’t understand. Resorting to charades, I put my hands together in prayer position and looked up at the heavens. At this point, I noticed the designer suits and Savannah now seated and staring at me, unimpressed. I suddenly had the urge to pee again.

“Hi, I’m Veronica.” I greeted them awkwardly with a wave. I only recognized Klaus and Savannah but none of the designer suits bothered to return my introduction. I cleared my throat and moved to the laptop. Sydney had the presentation ready to go. However, it wasn’t going. I clicked the mouse and banged the keyboard increasingly frantically and violently.

“Just a minute,” I filled the tense air with nervous laughter. The silence from their end was palpable.

My audience was not amused. Sydney came to the front of the room with a USB key, inserted it into the laptop and opened the presentation for me. It was not what one would describe as a smooth start. Maybe I should have prayed to the IT gods instead of the makeup gods before the presentation.

I stumbled through the presentation, struggling to read the slides as if I needed glasses. Klaus interrupted me halfway through the presentation. “Why are there so many fucking slides?”

I stood open-mouthed and mute, staring back at him.

“It is so fucking long. Get to the point.”

“Uh…” I looked at Savannah and Syndey for help. They avoided my eyes. “Well…uh…we wanted to make sure that we were prepared for-”

“Bull shit,” he responded. You can say the presentation wasn’t going so well.

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