FICTIONAL SHORT STORIES TO INSPIRE THE SOUL...
Visit www.christinwebb.com for details about her first published novel, Enough Time.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Yesterday was the first day I realized I was starting to lose weight. I’m three weeks into a new diet my co-worker introduced me to, and I’ve already lost eight pounds. I do a lot of online dating and one of the first profile requests the website will make is for you to DESCRIBE YOURSELF. What do they want me to answer exactly I’m not sure, but I find it the norm that people usually describe their physiques and personalities. Every now and then someone will describe their likes and dislikes, but in general, the descriptions read “…I look like this and I act like that”. So, I simply follow the masses and my posting usually reads: “Smart, vibrant, and diverse woman fully capable of adjusting to any situation.” I get a lot of responses from that post. So much can be read into it, but I really just consider it to be the truth.
The downside for me, believe it or not, has been the inability to get the “hunter” to see past my looks. The one thing I have grown to find extremely hard to understand is a person that is so shallow if they slapped you it would feel like a fan blowing hot air in your face. I call it plain “RIDICULOUS”. Last time I checked there were no perfect people. So, if you really want a description of me, I’ll tell you that I’m a 5’7, 184 pound, dark complexion, shoulder length hair, African American woman with the confidence of a giant. Who cares that my sides are made for “extra comfort” and my “back” made for caressing? It’s me and I love me. If it wasn’t for my doctor alluding to my weight creating a health issue for me, I would be just fine at my previous status of 192 pounds. I will say however that I definitely do not promote shortening my life expectancy all because I wouldn’t do a few exercises and change my eating habits.
I was born into a small family in the Southwestern part of the country. Both my parents were present and raised myself and younger sister, Rachel. She was always deemed the “pretty” daughter. She was bound to marry the richest, most handsome, insurance salesman she could find. I laugh at the thought of how I was jealous of her back then. Insane I tell ‘ya. It’s amazing how a person can create distorted images of self due to perceptions others have of them. The consequences or actions that follow those self-imposed distorted images can be life altering, halting, and easily have a person on a long term “lay over”; simply at a stagnant point in life. Early on, I learned to accept all that God gave me. Being patient enough to wait on a mature and perfect mate for me has always been the discouraging part.
By the time I was seventeen, I was convinced I needed to indulge myself in education and building a bright future for myself. This seemed much less intimidating and discouraging than hoping a guy would look my way. While Rachel seemed to have a different “beau” every six months, I never dated in high school. I didn’t have a date to my senior prom and no one special to celebrate my graduation; high school or college. I’d also convinced myself that I may be alone for the rest of my life. I felt accepting that point was better than realizing that I just hadn’t yet met “my match”.
My past had become my present. I was all that I dreamt to become. Standing in the mirror, and realizing my weight loss made me feel so empowered. I felt a trip down to the local Beignet Shop sounded like a good treat in recognition of my progress. As I grabbed my jacket and keys, I remembered a coupon I could use. It was “buy one, get one free”. Life was good, but cost savings always fit into my lifestyle. I walked to the corner where the Beignet Shop sat about four blocks away from my condo. When I initially pulled on the restaurant’s door, it didn’t open. I looked inside the window and saw customers sitting down, but the door wouldn’t open. Unsure of what was going on, I turned away and started back towards my place.
“Mam! Mam! We’re open!” a muscular, broad shouldered, heavenly attractive man yelled to me. He was wearing the company’s shirt, a pair of navy khakis and loafers shined perfectly. I turned around and smiled as I walked back his direction. He held the door for me and smiled back as I entered into the shop. “Sorry we had the doors locked for a minute. How dare we have you standing outside and waiting? Your meal is on me today.”
“It’s ok,” I responded, “I am glad you flagged me down. I just love your beignets! I walked a good little distance. And let’s just say I don’t usually do a lot of walking,” I said continuing to smile. I felt a little blush surfacing my face and enjoyed the feeling.
“Well, I’m glad you did, ‘mam! I’m glad you did,” he smiled even harder in response. “I’m James. I’ll be your waiter. All I ask of you today is that you only let me be the person to cater to you. Can you do that, ‘mam?” he asked as he grabbed my hand running his finger in circles in my palm. I wasn’t sure if he was flirting or trying to ensure a good tip, but I think today may be the day I may become a beignet addict…
Thursday, February 21, 2013
“Apparently I didn't get the memo from the president about the meeting we had earlier today. Had I received it, I would have been better prepared. How did they expect me to answer questions that hadn't had an opportunity to review? They attacked me like a vicious dog protecting their owner’s property. I didn't deserve that. Tomorrow I've got to let Mr. Hughberger know how I feel,” I said venting on the phone to Julia, my best friend of twenty years. It was the end of the day and I was at my wits end. I knew she must’ve thought I was rambling, but what I had to say was important to me. Every word that came from my mouth was followed by some tapping of my pencil against my desk or banging of my computer keyboard. I was out done.
“Try calming down a bit, Sola. You don’t want to do anything you’ll regret,” Julia replied. She didn't raise her voice or inflect her tone. It was helping me to calm down, but frustrating at the same time. I wanted her to be pissed off right along with me. And I wanted her response to show that she was.
“Too late for that. I let the president have it.” I was slightly ashamed in admitting my harsh response to the president, but it just turned out the way it did.
“You did what?!” Julia inquired in a raised tone.
“I told him that it was completely out of line to have me in a meeting I was completely unprepared for and for them to attack me was even worse. It was bull, Julia.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“You wish I was. I just didn't get it,” I said peeping through the crack in my door. While I was upset, I didn't really want Mr. Hughberger to hear me.
“Maybe you’re not supposed to get it, Sola. You’re a VP now. Things are going to be different. Maybe they aren't going to be so nice on the executive floor. Maybe they are going to have unrealistic expectations from you.”
“What would you have done, Julia, huh?”
“I don’t know. I wasn't in that situation, but I don’t think I would've reacted that way.”
“Not only did I storm out of the room, but I also used some very choice words for each and every one of them. I mean who did they think they were to come at me like that?”
“Your bosses, Sola. You said it was the President and Board of Commissioners. Did you forget that?”
“It doesn't matter. I didn't appreciate the approach. Had Mr. Hughberger just notified me yesterday about the meeting today, I could’ve been better prepared.”
“Did something just happen over night?”
“Did he say he forgot?”
“I don’t remember. He may have. It was all a blur to be honest. After I went on my spill about the miscommunication, I sort of forgot everything else.”
“Did you listen for his logic?”
“No,” I replied crossing my arms as I sat back in my chair. “What’s your point though? You know it was wrong.”
“I guess my point is that even if the protocol was a little out of order, Sola, your reaction wasn’t any better. This isn’t the first time you’ve allowed your feelings to get in the way of something.” I sort of understood what she meant. She had some legitimacy to what she was saying. Ten years previously I found myself out of a job because I flew off the handle to my supervisor. I literally cursed him out and threw all of his paperwork from his desk in the garbage. “You’re not twenty or even thirty anymore, Sola. You’ve got a husband, children, and even more people that depend on you. Do you want to go home and have to explain why you aren’t VP anymore? You got to do things a little differently don’t you think?”
“Maybe,” I said shrugging my shoulders and sitting further back in my seat. “You’ve always said ‘don’t let your feelings get in the way of your freedom’.” A smirk sort of appeared on my face because she was making sense.
“Basically. Your freedom being your life, Sola. You know I love you, but what you did today could cost you a lot. Even if you don’t lose your job like the last time, you’re losing some respect that you’re going to need around that office. If your bosses don’t respect you, how can you get respect from your employees?”
“Aren’t you the first female vice president for the firm?”
“Do you want to be the last?”
“I don’t. I guess this is bigger than me. You’re right, Julia. As much as I hate to say it, you are,” I said rolling my eyes.
Laughing in reply, “Aren’t I always, Sola? Twenty years in and I haven’t steered you wrong yet. Get used to it.”
“I know you’ve got my back girl. And I guess I’ve got something I need to go do, huh?”
“Uhhhh… yeah… You’ve been on the phone too long with me. You should’ve been doing it a few hours ago. Let me get back to work so you can take care of your business. I need my little ole job.”
“Bye girl,” I replied hanging up the phone. I turned towards my computer and took a deep breath. I wasn’t good at admitting my mistakes, but I knew I’d made one that I had to go fix. Pushing myself away from the desk, I got up to head towards Mr. Hughberger’s office.
As I walked out of my office and two offices down, I could feel my heart rate picking up. Apologizing was still a rather new concept for me. My hands were a bit sweaty and my hairline began to feel wet. The skin around my spine tensed up and I almost tripped over my shoe just as I got to Mr. Hughberger secretary’s desk. Talk about nervous.
I wiped my forehead just as his secretary, Ms. Tipton, asked, “How are you today, Ms. Ragsdale? Are you here to see Mr. Hughberger?”
“I am,” I replied.
She reached for the telephone and replied, “One second ‘hun, he’s been waiting on you all day.” All day? Should I have come to him earlier? I thought about what Julia had just told me. Maybe I really had messed up this time. “He says to come on in,” she said hanging up the phone with him.
I nodded my head, attempting to look as confident as possible as I walked passed Ms. Tipton’s desk. I pushed Mr. Hughberger’s door open slowly.
“Come on in, Ms. Ragsdale,” he said in a demanding voice. He didn’t sound too pleased that I was entering, but I guess I couldn’t expect him to. “Have a seat at the conference table.” He pointed to the specific chair for me to sit in. It faced his desk where he sat with his arms perched.
“Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Hughberger,” I replied.
“I admit I expected you to come earlier. You know you were very unruly earlier today,” he said with a raised eyebrow. Taking a deep breath, he continued, “The Board was very displeased with your actions, disgusted I’d say even.”
“I can understand why they may feel that way.”
“What do you have to say for yourself?” He began fidgeting with a letter sized yellow envelope that read ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ as he questioned me.
“I can say that I may have been caught up in my emotions. I felt a little cheated in being able to respond.”
“Cheated how, Ms. Ragsdale?”
“You all were asking me questions that I couldn’t have been able to answer without being given due time to prepare. You didn’t tell me the meeting was even going to take place. I didn’t know what the meeting was about when I walked in. There I was sitting in front of you and Board looking like a buck-eye nitwit. You can’t know what that feels like.” I looked at him square in the eyes. I wanted to be honest, but didn’t want to put my shoe any further in my mouth. He stared back. I didn’t think I had anything else to say.
“Go on. That couldn’t be all. Not with the display you put on today. I thought I’d hear you say more than just that.”
“Well it is,” I sat to the edge of my chair. “I wasn’t able to answer the questions about budget without reviewing the weekly report. I wasn’t able to answer questions about performance without getting with my managers the day before. You all left me speechless.”
“Let’s stop there, Ms. Ragsdale. Your display didn’t equal being unable to answer questions. Are you sure there isn’t something else?”
“I’m surprised,” he said pushing himself back from his desk. “Do you know how many meetings I’ve been in and not had all the answers or all the information I needed to give the right feedback?” He stood up from his chair and walked towards me with the envelope in his hand.
“My first week on the job as vice president of human resources, I was asked to stand before the Board and tell them what my five year plan was for the organization,” he sat on the front edge of his desk. “I hadn’t had time to even think about what my plan for the month was, let alone five years.”
“What did you do?”
“Not what you did. I didn’t curse out the Board. I didn’t even shutter at the question,” he looked down at the envelope. “I just asked that they consider the fact that I was just hired within the last week as vice president and requested I be able to present that information the following week.”
“Did they give you that extension?”
“Not at all, but they didn’t lose respect for me or my position either.” He extended the yellow envelope to me. “Open that please.” I accepted the letter and began to open it as he instructed. I didn’t want to, but I did as told. My heart rate began to speed up as I tore back the glued part. I began reading the letter a bit shocked that it was a request for my resignation from the Board. “Do you understand what impression you left on the Board this morning?”
The nervousness I felt before I walked into his office couldn’t compare to what I felt as I continued to read the letter. I guess the Board had seen enough of me and my emotions. “Is there anything I can do to reverse this recommendation, Mr. Hughberger? I didn’t want this to happen. And yes, maybe I did overreact, but a forced resignation can’t be the fair result, can it?”
“That was my point when I met with them this afternoon, Ms. Ragsdale.”
“And what did they say?”
He walked over to the conference table and had a seat next to me. “They weren’t on my team, but I fought hard for you. I know what I saw in you when I hired you for the VP position. I saw strength. I saw confidence. I saw competence. I saw hardworking and a good person that could manage the finances of this company,” he said pausing. “What I didn’t see was an emotional, irrational person that couldn’t handle a little pressure. What you did today was unacceptable and inexcusable.”
“But, Mr. Hughberger…”
“I’m not finished. They decided not to force this letter through once I was spoke my peace.”
I blew out a breath of relief, “Thank you so much, Mr. Hughberger.”
“You’re not out of the woods yet, Ms. Ragsdale,” I shook my head in agreement. “You’ve got a lot to prove now. I think the respect was there before, but it has definitely diminished now. I don’t want to scare you, but you’re on eggshells with the Board now.”
“I understand, Mr. Hughberger.”
“No one ever said this job would be easy. No one expects you to know everything, but we do expect you to know how to best respond with the information you do have. Emotions have no place in this position. They will get you out the door easily. You can go ahead and tear that letter up,” he continued before pausing. “But then again, I’d recommend you keep it as a reminder.”
“Yes sir. Thank you. I will be sure to take heed to your words.”
“You’re excused now and can head back to your office.”
I stood up from my seat and walked out the door. As I closed the door, I was finally able to release my nerves. I stood against the opposite side of the door with my head against it. I held the letter against my chest and took it all in. I wasn’t going to let my feelings get in my way, ever again.