He is fearless. He’s a magnificent warrior; a God of the night. He brushes non-existent fluff from the sleeve of his three thousand pound suit and raises – not his head, merely his eyes – to watch the others as they walk into the boardroom. Sliding his eyes sideways, he checks his profile in the smoked glass windows of the office block and with a deft movement, strokes back a piece of dark blond hair which has fallen from its place. One side of his mouth curls playfully but it’s not embarrassment from the preening; it’s because Jessica Metcalfe has just pulled out a chrome-framed chair opposite his and is easing her perfectly sculptured body into it.
He can feel the tension deepen as the five members of the group wait for his permission to begin. Dave Slater at the far right raises his eyebrows in query and so he nods approval. He may begin. Heads bow as glossy blue folders are passed from person to person until he also has one before him. But his folder remains closed. He already knows what’s inside. It’s why they’re all here.
Benjamin Pharaoh explains that his children have always enjoyed a private education, an education he’d been deprived of himself, and the reason for such indulgence. He cannot accept having to deny his children the continuation of this important structure; they would not last one term in the state school system. His wife would also leave him.
Nell Stapleton’s mother is a recovering alcoholic. Everyone knows this; she is very free with her personal details. It seems to endear herself to her colleagues. She is otherwise such a ghost; pale skin, pale hair, insipid eyes. It’s fortunate she colours her lips otherwise she would simply be a wisp of a voice. Her mother is currently residing in an expensive rehabilitation centre and the shock of relieving her of this luxury would, Nell insists, be her undoing.
Kim Ng has been sending three quarters of her pay cheque to her extended family overseas to keep their heads above the poverty line. Her sisters, brothers and cousins are no longer forced to work nineteen hour shifts at the factory, turning material into high street fashion for the western world, and to go back to such conditions would destroy not only them but also her, their saviour.
Dave Slater, he already knows, has recently bought his daughter and son-in-law their first house and they’re expecting his second grandchild. He’s suppered with the Slaters on a number of occasions and likes their company. They have limited resources and have remortgaged their own house twice in order that their children may enjoy as much financial freedom as they can while their parents are still alive to see them do this.
Some folders are closed again. Some heads are bowed. Some are raised to the false ceiling and the pinpricks of lights which are embedded into it. As if there might be an answer to their prayers in the grey Perspex above. One head, however, is erect. Amber eyes stare straight ahead. Into his own. He can’t look away. There is power in her dilated pupils and each blink merely serves to reinforce this strength. Jessica Metcalfe is the only one who hasn’t spoken. He takes her silence as acceptance; she has no story for him; nothing with which she deems useful leverage in the situation they all find themselves.
He thinks back to this morning when he held back a curtain of her hair as she leant over the toilet bowl for the third day running. They haven’t spoken of it; both know what it means. Tonight when they get home they’ll start working out due dates and names for the child she’s carrying. Their child.
He stands. He clears his throat. He taps the blue folder on the table in front of him with the spread fingers of one hand and tells them he’s made his decision.
He will work the statutory four week notice period and then recommend Dave Slater as his successor. His salary alone – quite apart from the myriad other benefits – will mean that enough corporate funds will be released in order that the company can keep running for at least the next eighteen months. Which gives them enough time to make further decisions; to perhaps downsize their own lives. These are tough times he nods, seeing Jessica turn the white gold ring around on her engagement finger. She smiles, more at the jewel, than at his words.
The room is hushed with indebted acceptance as makes his exit. He leaves, taking a heightened sense of fearlessness with him.
Written for the CreativeWritingInk photo prompt challenge 7/02/2017