Do you ever want things just to be simple, but not boring?
Ever since Dad gave me this business to run, I’d had my reservations. Could I actually maintain his expectations and also keep up with my newfound purpose?
Sheba and I had a wonderful trip to D.C. last month. She was just so proud of the award her husband had received. He had meant so much to both the young and older soldiers. Our visiting tour of the Dark Sparks stores stateside was eye-opening. I had no idea how hard the virus hit them. In the four locations we visited, two were doing orders through a doorway, and the other two were only taking online orders. At the home office in D.C., many of their employees were working from home. Their numbers had taken a nosedive because many places were closed due to state regulations. I sat there listening to them try to put an upbeat swing to the business slump. I clenched my jaw at this feeling of a lost victory.
Sheba told them of our many implementations and how we had seen an upswing in our numbers. She spoke of how we were using technology to get the coffee to the people. “What you have in the packets before you is a complete plan on how to save this portion of the company. As you see on page six, we have outlined a plan to allow your people to work safer and smarter. Every employee is important to us, and we want to keep them safe. We understand the cost of remodeling to accommodate these safety protocols, and we are here with the money to see that these things happen. Every location worldwide will receive this upgrade to make our coffeehouses the best and safest. We already serve the world’s best coffee and tea; now it’s time to show the world that we care about them, too.”
The Zoom meeting was nationwide so that all the employees could see what we had planned.
Sheba spoke with confidence, and she knew what I wanted for the company to be a success.
I watched as everyone paid close attention to every word she said, but it was hard to read most of them because they were all wearing their masks.
I felt a twitch in my chest. I looked over at Sheba, and she smiled at me. “You’re doing great,” I said out loud.
She must have needed a show of support at that moment because I saw her relax a bit. She spoke for about an hour before we broke for lunch. The catered meal was nothing extravagant. Sheba had made all the arrangements with the director of our U.S. branch, and they had prepared the meals in to-go boxes: BBQ ribs or chicken, corn on the cob, potato salad, and root beer. That was what I thought of when I came to the States, and it was so good.
After lunch, we toured a few of the locations and walked around some of downtown. We bid them farewell, and then we were on our way back home.
On the flight home, Sheba talked about her son and how he joined her. “It was the strangest thing. He got an email from the commander, saying he was to report to his mother’s side at the award ceremony immediately. He said he had never received orders like this before. That’s why he seemed out of breath when he sat with us.”
“You are a very lucky lady.”
“Even the president seemed surprised to see him sitting with me.”
“I’m glad your son made it,” I replied, trying not to let on that I asked the general to get her son there.
Sheba looked at her phone, scrolling through the pictures she had taken. She told me about the soldiers that had been there and how happy they were to meet her. It made me feel great to see that she got a Victory in knowing that her husband’s sacrifice was not in vain. Okay, I’ll say it. I felt very proud of her and how she handled the whole affair.
She was a professional. She understood the needs of others, and she wasn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves to get the work done. And she did it in three-inch heels.
We arrived back in Greece, and I felt the urge to stretch my wings. I had my things sent to the OA building, where Francisco would pick them up. Sheba gave me a big hug and thanked me for all I had done for her. I hugged her back. Saying goodbye, I took to the air. A good night flight is what I needed to relieve the cramping from being on the airplane.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how many people were suffering through this virus. So many had lost their jobs. I needed to do something to bring Victories back to them. I had the beginning of an idea, but I needed to flesh it out more.
“There you are,” a voice called out to me in the air.
Startled, I looked up and saw my brother Zelus. “Oh, hey.”
“You weren’t answering your phone, so Kratos sent me to find you.”
“Oh, I think I sent it with my bags.”
“Nike, you know what Kratos said,” Zelus said, a note of disapproval in his voice.
“I know, I just forgot.”
“Well, I found you just like old times. Race you!” he shouted as he zipped through the sky.
“Oh no, you don’t!” We raced home. I loved that he challenged me, and it kept my mind from being too far in my head. “I win!” I screeched as we raced upstairs.
“You…cheated,” he panted as we got to our floor.
“Not me,” I gasped. “That’s all you, Brother.”
We were laughing as we walked into the apartment. Kratos and Bia welcomed me home and had news of their own. Father may need one or both of them, and it possible they might not be here for New Year.
“Nike, we want to have dinner tomorrow night,” Bia said in our minds.
“That’s fine. I have to go into the office to see about things before the holidays get going for my mortals.”
Francisco had made a light dinner for us before he left. As we ate, I told them about the things I saw in the states and how bad things had gotten with the virus.
“You are doing much better than I thought you would,” Kratos said, pride filling his voice.
“Well, you’ve done nothing like this before, but you are handling this wonderfully, little one.”
“Really, Nike, we have a bet as to how long it will take you to give up,” Zelus interjected while taking a bite of his steak.
“Hey, I don’t give up or quit.”
“We know, sweetheart, we just never thought of you being in an office,”
Zelus said with a grin.
“Me either, but Father said it would be good for me, and I’m learning new things about the mortals daily.”
“That is good. Father does want us to be closer to the mortals,” Zelus stated as he drank his wine.
“Glad you have that job, Nike,” Kratos snorted at me. “It’s keeping you busy, that’s for sure.” He mimed me flying and wobbling, and even I had to laugh.
In the morning, as I walked around the mostly empty offices on the sixtieth floor, I noticed that there were a lot of rooms that were more like storage spaces. There was an entire room filled with boxes of samples and coffee beans. I saw how much space we used and how much we didn’t need. I called Sheba and Hank into my office.
“Lady Nike, is something wrong?” Hank got right to it.
“Yes, Hank, there is.”
Hank was one of my department managers. He was about five feet nine inches tall, one hundred sixty-five pounds, with brown hair and a beard.
Both of them looked at me like kids in the principal’s office. “As you both know, I promised my father that I would make this company close to a billion dollars within one year of me taking over. He will understand that the virus has put a damper on that promise, but if you know me, you know I do not like to disappoint my father.”
Both Hank and Sheba sat up straighter. Hank wiped at his face, and Sheba did that thing she does, putting her left hand under her chin. I knew they were nervous.
“I’m not firing you, so please relax. What I am thinking is that we downsize our space. That way, everyone still keeps their jobs, and we work more efficiently. If one thing this virus and work from home has taught us is that WFH works…well, to some extent. I know we have created quite a few innovative ways to get coffee and our other treats to our customers. The only way I see that we can cut our cost and keep our people is to save money on our office spaces.”
“Lady Nike, but where will we move to?” Sheba asked.
“How will we move?” Hank said.
“What about the cost of that?”
“Those are all good questions.” I got up and looked out the window, motioning to them to look with me. “What do you see?”
They both looked. “I see the roof of the building next door and the park,” Hank answered.
Sheba spoke next. “I see those things as well, but I see very few people outside and hardly any cars.”
“You are both correct. There is next to no one around these days. I have hired a construction crew, and they will build our new space over the next six weeks.”
“But what about those of us that need to be in the office?” Sheba said.
“You won’t be here.”
“Lady Nike, I need to be here if you are here,” Sheba protested.
“No, you don’t, because you both are going to work from home for a while. I don’t want you to be away from your families or to get this virus.”
“Lady Nike, we are essential to the business.”
“I know you both are. That is why I am going to put my foot down. Go home and be with your families while the work crews move and work things out.”
“But where are you moving us?”
“Not far, just to the 16th floor.”
“But that’s where you live.”
“Not entirely. Our floors are the size of two football fields. My siblings and I barely use half of that. So I spoke to my sister Hebe, and she helped me find the right folks for the job.”
“But, my lady…” Hank started to say.
“Don’t you think this is a good idea?”
“I mean, sure it is, but we should be here to help,” he replied.
“I don’t think you should be here alone. I mean, you haven’t worked here long. You don’t know what we need to have…” Sheba spoke her mind.
My eyebrow raised at the protest from Sheba.
“Forgive me, Lady Nike. I meant no disrespect. I only meant…”
“I know what you meant, which brings me to my other reason for calling you both here. I want to promote you, Sheba. I have no idea what we will call the position, but it will be like being me, but not me. You know the most about this business, and you are an excellent teacher. I want you to train some other executive to know what you know. I want you to find the best of the best in every aspect of this company, and I want to see an army of people working to build this into the biggest global brand of coffee the world has ever seen. We have five months to show my family that the little sister can… Sorry, I need this to happen. What do you think about that, Sheba?”
She stepped back from the window and looked at me with wide eyes. “I-I-I am surprised, Lady Nike. I had no idea you…”
“Yes, I’ve watched you closely. You impressed me at the meeting in the states. They were hanging on your every word.”
“I only said that which I knew you would have said,” Sheba replied, sitting down.
“And as for you, Hank, you will now be her assistant. You will learn the names of all the people in this office and help her build this into the workhorse I need it to be. Do you accept?”
He stepped away from the window and sat next to Sheba. They exchanged glances, then looked at me. “Lady Nike, it would be my exceptional honor to serve you any way I can.” Hank leaned forward on my desk to shake my hand.
“I know you will do a fine job, Hank. You may go. I need to talk to Sheba.”
“Thank you, thank you, Lady Nike. You have made my day.”
I nodded. “You are welcome.”
He rushed from the office, pulling out his phone as he left.
I looked up at Sheba, and the look on her face was of puzzlement. “Lady Nike, I don’t understand why? Why this, why now?”
“Why? Because you are amazing, and you want to help people, right?”
“Yes, but this is a really big promotion.”
“Yes, it is, and there is no one…” I got up and sat on the corner of my desk. “No one that could do it better. I have a lot of trust in you, my friend.”
She stood and went to shake my hand, but put her arms around me instead, saying “Thank you” quietly.
Releasing her hug, I said, “Do you not want the job? Did I upset you?”
“No, nothing like that. I’ve never had one boss in my life who has ever said I was equal to them or that they trusted me to do the job to my best. Lady Nike, you are truly the Goddess of Victory,” she said as she wiped the tear from her cheek. “You know, Hank really needed that promotion. His brother and his sister-in-law have lost their jobs, and she is expecting. Hank is the only one able to work, and his entire family now lives in the same house. Ten people in a four bedroom flat.”
I knew all this, but I didn’t want anyone to know. “Hank is a hard worker, and I see that. I’m glad that this will help him and his family. Now, I need to leave here soon. What I would like you and Hank to do is to mark all the stuff we keep with an “X.” That way, they know what’s moving. Does that work for you? Also, send out an email to the staff. If they have anything they want to keep, they need to make an appointment and come get it from their workspaces.”
“That is a wonderful Idea. Okay, we will get right on that. Thank you again, Lady Nike,” she said as she rushed out.
I looked around the office I had been in for six months. I noticed I still hadn’t finished unpacking everything. I saw the box my sister gave me on my first day. Picking it up, I filled it with all the personal things in my office. Looking around, I nodded. I knew right then this was going to be one hell of a first year.