The deafening noise of Mr. Wilson's riding lawnmower at 7 a.m. awakened Sydney Sheraton. Rising out of bed, she stretched her arms behind her back and looked out the window, yawning. She opened her mini-blinds. There he was, just mowing away. Mr. Wilson has been retired for the past year and his new passion seemed to be his yard. He stopped his mower to pick up a large piece of Styrofoam from his house party a few days ago. She wondered why he doesn't hire a landscaper. He made his success as a developer, owning about a third of the office buildings in downtown Atlanta which used to be urban housing developments for low-income families. The logic behind forcing good-working people out of their homes for financial gain bothered Sydney. The fruits of his labor included his three-level Victorian house, two Mercedes (a black one for him and an apple red one for his strikingly young second wife), and a vacation home in Miami, Florida. Sydney closed the blinds and walked towards the bathroom.
Sydney did not have all the advantages that she deserved. Her high school ACT score of 30 got her a full academic scholarship to Vanderguild University where she majored in Finance and Business Administration. As a 29-year-old who works for the most prestigious investment firm in Atlanta, F.C. McGhee Investments, Sydney is enjoying the luxury of a six-figure salary while living in a two-story Victorian home with a three car garage all alone.
After getting out of the shower, she wiped the fog off of her mirror to blow dry her dark brown hair. What a day this is going to be......, she thought. October is the quarterly board of directors meeting at FCM which pretty much decides where the company comes and goes, given that the company as a whole did not gain the normal amount of new accounts this past quarter. Even F.C. McGhee himself is always uneasy at board meetings.
"I always thought Frank had all of the power to make any decisions he wanted to," Sydney told Carlotta, Mr. McGhee's executive assistant during her first week at FCM.
"You've got it all wrong, the board of directors gives him direction, he's just the name of the firm," Carlotta whispered. "He's stinking rich but that's just because of the money generated from the board's ideas. When he planted all of his money into building this firm when he was younger, he was advised that his company would thrive that way."
"Good grief," Sydney said. "No wonder he's nervous about these meetings, they could determine his destiny or someone else's."
"Pretty much so," Carlotta said. "Keep your integrity valuable around here and you'll be just fine."
When she started at FCM as an account representative, Sydney brought in ten new accounts per month, beating out the other five representatives and Mr. McGhee praised her for it on a regular basis. Now, two years later, she has a staff of two under her and has a new title of senior account manager.
Sydney was dressed in her burgundy pin-striped suit with a cream shell from Ralph Lauren and her small pearl necklace and cream pumps. Her makeup glided flawlessly on her face. Her straight hair shined as if she just finished the shoot of a shampoo commercial. She stepped into her black SUV and mentally prepares for her unpredictable day at work.
"Good morning, Ms. Sheraton," said John, the head security guard at FCM.
"Morning John," Sydney answered. "How's it going this morning?"
"Pretty calm so far," John said. "But it's still early."
"You're right," Sydney chuckled. "Have a good day John."
Sydney pressed the up button on the elevator. When it opened, she walked inside and tried to ignore the clouded smell of strong men's cologne by looking at her cell phone. She figured that someone from the board has arrived since the smell was rare.
"Hold that please!" shouted a female voice. Sydney quickly pressed the door-open button.
"Whoa, thanks a lot," gasped the woman. "I can't stand to wait too long, you know?"
"I totally understand. What floor?" Sydney asked. She couldn't help but to see how stunning the woman looked in her cream suit with purse and shoes to match.
"Seven please," the blonde-haired woman answered. "I have a meeting at FCM today."
"Oh, that's where I'm going," Sydney said. "Are you here with the board of directors?"
"Well, you could say that," said the woman, fixing her hair from her reflection in the elevator. She extended her hand to Sydney. "I'm Linda Price, and you are?"
"Sydney Sheraton," Sydney answered. "I'm senior account manager."
Linda Price slanted her head smiled at Sydney while not blinking her eyes. She immediately began to look down at her shoes.
"Well, it is nice to meet you Sydney." Linda said. The elevator buzzed.
As Sydney walked towards her office, Linda walked swiftly towards Mr. McGhee's office. Right away, Sydney thought that Linda was Mr. McGhee's new flame. He dates a different woman every month, but this one was little older and more professional-looking than the younger types he sees.
"Morning, Sydney. You've got a message from McGhee," her assistant Anna handed her a note. "He wants to see you at the board meeting at nine."
Sydney took a deep breath and rubbed the back of her neck. "Okay, thanks Anna."
Sydney looked at the clock on her phone that read 8:37 am. She had about 20 minutes to figure out why she of all people should be in this board meeting. She stared at her three "Outstanding Quarterly Sales" awards on her credenza. As she checked her e-mail messages, she heard a crowd of people talking outside of her office. She could not hear everything since she only left her door cracked. She turned the volume down on her radio to listen in. One of the voices sounded like Linda's, but Sydney wasn't sure.
"It will be splendid, I promise you, and I thank you in advance," the voice said.
Thanks in advance? Suddenly Sydney felt the urge that she needed to walk to the bathroom area to see what was going on. She opened her office door to witness Linda shaking hands with five members of the board as they walked out of the office suite. Linda looked at Sydney, slanted her head again and walked back into Mr. McGhee's office.
Sydney went back to her office and just sat in her chair looking at her desk calendar. She thought for sure that the board meeting was an all day event. She didn't hear any more voices and her 20-minute wait suddenly turned into 5 minutes.
"Sydney, come on in whenever you're ready," buzzed Mr. McGhee on her intercom.
"I'll be right in, thanks!" said Sydney. She was concerned about why Carlotta didn't buzz for him instead. Her pumping heart was about to burst through her undershirt.
F.C. McGhee's office was massive. It had a cherry-colored couch and matching loveseat, an oriental rug and a modern black desk that stretched from one side of the room to the other. He was sitting on the couch with Linda and he motioned for Sydney to sit in the loveseat. Sydney introduced herself to Linda Price again as if they didn't meet in the elevator. Sydney followed Linda's custom etiquette and slanted her head. F.C. McGhee turned toward Sydney.
"Sydney, I have exciting news," Mr. McGhee said. He took a quick glance at Linda and leaned forward on his couch. He began to scratch the back of his neck. "FCM is certainly moving forward."
"Oh?" Sydney asked. "What's the good news?"
"Sydney, we are re-organizing our structure," he said. "The board would like a direct report for the new accounts division during their visits and they feel that Linda Price here is their best candidate for the job. Her talented background with Federal Cargo speaks greatly and we need the extra consulting. After all, our accounts are what keep us in business."
The lining in Sydney's suit began to stick to her underarms and thighs. "What does this require of me?" she asked.
Mr. McGhee began to wipe his brow with his handkerchief.
"Linda here will be responsible for managing the sales division as director of accounts. All of your staff, including yourself will report to Linda now. Sydney this is necessary to provide accurate feedback to the board, rather than hearing secondhand information from me. Hell, I rarely get to talk to clients myself," He laughed.
He was the only one who laughed.
"But Mr. McGhee, are you aware that I've successfully kept new accounts going for almost two years?" Sydney asked. "I would have had the pleasure of making the report to the board."
"Sydney, the board voted on Linda, not me," Mr. McGhee said. "They make the final decisions on these matters." He got up and walked to his window. He waved at the window washer on the floor below him.
Sydney turned her body towards him.
"Well, did you at least mention to the board how qualified I was to do this?"
Mr. McGhee loosened his neck tie and wiped his brow again. "Sydney, there was nothing I could do."
Sydney was pretty much convinced that he never even mentioned her name to the board. She recalled back to what Carlotta told her. She had a vision of her neighbor Mr. Wilson and felt like one of the tenants he forced out of an apartment. She quickly wiped her wet cheek.
"Sydney, I really do look forward to working with you," Linda said.
"I cannot say that the feeling is mutual!" Sydney shouted to her. "I see now that working hard doesn't pay off around here!"
"Sydney, there's no need to shout," Mr. McGhee said, still staring out of his window. "You're a very talented woman and we all value that. That's why I know you won't let us down. You do good work kid. So don't do anything you'll regret."
Sydney began to rise from her seat; Linda got up as well and extended her hand again. Sydney folded her arms, took a deep breath, then swallowed. The pit of her stomach began to burn. Her face began to flush.
"Okay, I will respectfully announce that both of you can go to hell." Sydney walked out of Mr. McGhee's office and shut the door. The door never opened after her.
When Sydney got to her office, she took a long, deep breath and picked up her purse. She took her personal things and put them in her tote bag. She pressed the down button on the elevator and never looked back. She saw John sitting at his post, writing into his log book. He looked up with a concerned frown and began to stand.
"Early lunch today Ms. Sheraton?" John asked.
"I'm afraid so John," Sydney said. "I just closed a life-changing account. You have a fine day"
"You do the same, Ms. Sheraton. You do the same."