“Tell me my schedule for early next month.”
There was a pause from the receptionist.
“You are busy. Wait. You do not have anything for the first Wednesday and Thursday…”
“Excellent, thank you.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Alphonse switched back to English, but I smiled and interrupted before he could get a word in.
“Fly in that Wednesday, and leave that Thursday. I will make the arrangements to welcome you properly.”
He smiled peacefully. “Ah, yes, of course. Forgive me.”
“Nothing to forgive,” I graciously shook my head.
We rose from our chairs, bowing to each other again.
“Then it is settled?” I asked. “You will meet Kiona, and we’ll all share some time together. If you like what you see, do I have your word that the buyout will proceed?”
I knew, as reverent as Alphonse Megami was, that his word was essentially as good as a private signature between us.
Before he could answer, I bent my head away, covering my face with a pocket square as I fell under a small coughing fit. After a few moments, I cleared my head, shaking it lightly, and turned back to face my host with an apologetic gaze.
“You have my word,” he agreed.
“Thank you, Mr. Megami.”
I turned and began to make my departure. It was a long flight back to the States, and ultimately my trip had been a failure to begin with…but there was chance for a rebound. I could work with this. Well, probably.
“Tell me, Mister Andrews, before you leave,” Alphonse Megami spoke as he watched me from behind his desk. “How much longer do you have now?”
I paused, restraining my disappointment.
If only I had been able to suppress the coughing.
I turned halfway, smiling sadly towards my host. “The disease is accelerating,” I confirmed for him. “It is no longer responding to the treatments. My best doctors have given me about five weeks…or, until the end of next month. If I’m lucky.”
Pity crossed Alphonse’s gaze as he gravely closed his eyes, only to open them again after a deep breath.
“Then, I will pray to the gods and the spirits that a miracle blesses you,” he told me with conviction. “In my many years in this position, you are an anomaly among our kind. You are too young, and you deserve your happily ever after, Mister Andrews…I fervently hope that your doctors are very, very wrong.”
It had been a week, and I was still out of my element.
I’m not entirely sure what Cole was expecting at the time, but humiliating me on stage, and then asking for my hand in marriage? It was a curveball that was a little hard to swallow. The rest of the company seemed to feel the same way – the jubilation of the Quarterly Party dissipated on the spot.
Coppersmith, however, seemed to suddenly be having the time of his life. And why wouldn’t he have been? If the insightful billionaire had bothered to even check with the executive staff, someone would have undoubtedly tipped him off to the changing dynamic.
When I came in late that following Monday afternoon to pick up my things from my desk, a few of my marketing coworkers cautiously updated me on office politics.
Larry went ahead and took that lunch, but it didn’t go too well. The relevant executives kept Cole’s little speech in mind, and they ensured that he shared in my humiliation by failing to catch my duplicity. The resulting shouting match could be heard from outside the Corporate Corridor, tipping a few passersby off to the arrangement in the first place – and now the rumor mill was churning.
On top of his perceived lack of judgment, he didn’t have a replacement successor in mind, and was therefore at a loss for how Marketing would function with him in the oversight role. After all, other departments would fall under his jurisdiction – such as Business Development, and the Programming staff. The hierarchy couldn’t be sustained now, and thus nothing would change.
Coppersmith was still in. In fact, his position was pretty much cemented for the foreseeable future, despite his failure to spot my deceit. He was able to shift the blame back down to Larry, stating something about “expectations of quality control with subordinates in supervisory roles” or something. Even if he didn’t technically have a point, there would be a total collapse in productivity of the marketing department if Larry moved up to take his spot. That wasn’t going to happen any time soon.