Entering Dad’s office, I was struck with the elegance of his new furnishings and desk. Moxie, the head of Olympus Marketing, sat on the left side of his desk. Dad was looking out the window. Hebe closed the door after giving me a slight push into the room. I felt a slight chill as I stood there.
Now some of you might not know this, but my dad and I are like best friends. Maybe because I know too much. Our relationship is rock solid. But somehow, today feels different. I haven’t seen him since he woke up from his coma really, nor have I spoken to him.
Dad usually lights up when I enter a room, but today, he seems distant and…well, different. I looked over at Moxie to see if she could shed some light on what I was seeing.
“Hello, Nike,” she said with a smile. “Come in, sweetheart.” She stood up, glancing at our father, then back to me as she walked toward me. Extending her arms for a hug, she embraced me, kissed my cheek, and bid me to sit in the chair in front of Dad’s desk. He didn’t turn around to face me.
“Z?” Moxie called out to him.
He seemed lost in thought. “Nike, why were you late to the board meeting?” he asked, still looking out the window.
“I was bringing in Jackson. The spy that was aiding…” I hesitated to say their names… “He was the one feeding information to Coeus, who in turn was working for Kronos.” I sat up straight in my chair as I gave him the full report.
“You knew I wanted everyone here for that meeting?” Dad continued.
“Yes, sir. I came as soon as I had him locked up.”
“Hmm, but everyone saw you arrive late.”
“I’m sorry, Dad.” I lowered my head, thinking Hermes was right about Dad being mad at me.
“Z!” I heard Moxie call out to Dad. “Nike, you have never disobeyed Father before. We know you were performing your duty.”
Nodding, I glanced back at my dad, but he still hadn’t looked at me.
“Nike, are you feeling better?” she said.
“Better?” I asked, puzzled.
Moxie and I exchanged a look. Moxie knew I hadn’t been sleeping well since my encounter with Coeus, and all the other things that had happened since the Titans were released. A shiver went down my back. “I’m fine,” I whispered. My voice cracked. I looked up at Dad. He had turned his head slightly, looking over his right shoulder at me. I sat up straighter and rolled my shoulders back. “I’m fine, Moxie.”
“Hmmm,” was all he said.
We all sat there in silence. My mind began to wander. What is happening here? Why hasn’t my father said very much to me? I wanted to rush up to him, like I had done when I was a small child. I wanted him to hug me and tell me it was all going to be okay, but he just stood there. He had his back to me…to me?! I mean, he was the one that wanted to see me. Was he going to toss me…was this that moment? I swished my mouth, trying not to think the worst…trying not to think of all the things I had thought about over the last few weeks. I just…
“Nike, why don’t you show us the report you brought for Dark Sparks?” Moxie said, snapping me out of the dark space in my head. She cleared her throat, intent on getting Dad’s attention.
I looked at Moxie as she motioned towards my bag. I reached down and brought it to my lap, then pulled out the folders. “I had thought there might be others here, so we planned ahead,” I explained, showing her the folders.
“That was smart.” Moxie stood as I handed her one of the folders.
“Dad…” I stood, holding out the blue one with the labels like Carra had suggested.
“Z, Nike is ready to give you her presentation. Won’t you turn and look at her?”
“Umm…yes, Nike,” Dad said as he cleared his throat and rubbed his hand over his face. As he turned and sat down across from me, I tried to read him. I knew something wasn’t right with him. He was blank and pale, and he still hadn’t looked at me.
“Here you go, Daddy,” I said, thinking my term of endearment might get him to smile at me.
He took the folder and opened it without even saying thank you.
I pulled out the laptop and crossed over to the center table to set up the laptop as Carra had shown me.
“Nike, dear, why don’t you just show us on your laptop, seeing how it’s just us,” Moxie suggested.
“Oh, right. That would be easier.” I smiled at her. Moving back to Dad’s half-circle glass desk and placing my laptop there, I started my PowerPoint presentation. “Dark Sparks is an Olympus holding we’ve had for over thirty years, a rich and thriving coffee business. The coffee industry has been booming. What used to be only a drink with your morning breakfast has become something that is drunk 24/7. Dark Sparks has grown. By the end of last year, their fourth-quarter earnings beat out the competition by $500,000. That is an increase of almost 20%.”
“Nike, are you saying that since you stepped in to help run the shop on Olympus Boulevard, you brought in a half a million-dollar increase to the company?”
“Yes, I guess. I only worked for Starbucks for two months, then I was needed here. That was when the general manager of Dark Sparks ran off with $40,000,000 and left the country. I was only a barista. But once I got into Dark Sparks, the team was amazing. They all helped me learn what they knew. They were so kind. They didn’t know who I was, so that made it a lot easier. I learned how the business was run, took suggestions from the workers, and decided to just try them. We changed our hours and offered more convenient foods to go, all as a test. I even learned about the roasting processes and who would be a superb partner to help grow the company into a better brand. Oh, and before I forget to tell you, I couldn’t have done this without Carra.”
“Carra?” Dad looked at Moxie, who shrugged.
“Yes, she’s the delivery girl for Dark Sparks.”
“Delivery girl?” Dad looked confused.
Moxie motioned with her hands in front of her, indicating a large, bouncing chest.
“Ooooh,” Dad smirked.
“Daddy!” I giggled.
“Hey, I’m married, not dead…” he trailed off. The stoic look returned.
I glanced at Moxie, unsure what to say.
“Nike, this is a very good presentation. Z, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes, it is. I will ask you the same question I asked everyone else: how much is this going to cost the OA?”
Scooting closer to the desk, I flipped the pages in the folder I had given him. “I put it right here on page 45. See, right here. We have the business projected to do at least 8.05 billion combined worldwide. And it seems to be self-sustaining.”
“How has it fared since the start of the pandemic?”
“It was difficult at first.” I stopped because I didn’t want my father to know how the virus and the Titan stuff all happened at the same time. “We did experience some loss in profit, but I quickly came up with some ideas. We found some old trucks and campers, then went out to the neighborhoods and brought the coffee to the people. We gave Dark Sparks wings.” I smiled when I heard my father make a positive noise.
“Nike, that was clever thinking!” Moxie exclaimed. “And this logo here, is this the one you used?” She pointed to the cover of the folder. It was a drawing of a coffee cup with wings in the background, and a tagline that read “Dark Sparks…get that lift.”
“We partnered with Lyft and Uber drivers to bring our customers a free cup. One of our vans even used drones to deliver our new carriers to people in the high rises, and it worked out well.”
“Nike,” Moxie said, with warmth and pride in her voice. Her voice was often light and wistful, but today, it was full of delight with all that I had brought. I was beaming from the joy my sister was showing me.
Zeus sat there without saying much. He pulled out a ledger, wrote down some numbers, and put a check mark next to a box. “Well done, Nike.”
I looked at my father with wide eyes and a half-smile. It was the second friendliest words he had said to me in the two last hours. I tried to keep the mood light. “The way I figure it, if the virus continues or ends, Dark Sparks has put itself in a very unique position to provide more jobs and become the coffeehouse of the world. And if you look at the last pages, I put down all the contacts I’ve made. Whoever you put in charge of the company in the future would be a fool not to keep the one person who has helped implement many of these ideas. Daddy, Carra is the one you should promote. She’s hardworking, and she’s almost finished with college, where she is a business major. She is a wiz with numbers and has a ton of fresh ideas.”
Zeus closed the folder, took another one out of his desk drawer, and placed it on top of mine. He folded his hands and looked at me.
Oh, crap, no. He didn’t like any of my ideas. I have stood beside and behind my father many times when he had to make hard decisions or let someone go. He would fold his hands just like that. But this time, I was on the other side of the desk. Lucky Kratos, Bia, or Zelus aren’t here to throw me out the window if Dad so ordered. Okay, I’m freaking out.
“Nike, I’m glad you brought that up.”
“What did I bring up?” My heart started racing just a little.
“You mentioned hiring someone to run the company.”
“Nike, what I believe Z is trying to say is you did an excellent job here today with your presentation,” Moxie interjected.
“Yes, you did,” he agreed. “I wish the others had given as much thought as you had in planning this.” He held up my folder along with his.
“Nike, do you like working there?” Moxie asked.
“Ah, I mean, sure. It gives me something to do, but I’d much rather be near…I mean, I would not want to not be here to fulfill my…I mean…I…I…” I started to panic and looked at Moxie.
“Easy, Nike, just breathe,” she replied. She moved her chair closer to mine, then placed her hand on top of my hand and squeezed. Trembling, I put my other hand on top of hers and looked at Dad. Why is he asking me this?