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I did not have time for bullshit.
I sat at my dining table, staring at my sister-in-law, just as I had been for the past fourty-five minutes. She was pushing her untouched oatmeal around with a spoon. Her other hand clutched her sunken face, her dark-rimmed eyes watching with absolute lifelessness as the oats seperated and then congeeled back together.
I was tired, exhausted, and not sleeping well. And it was all her fault. She cried nightly and had been for the past six months. After my brother died unexpectedly from complications of colon cancer, she’d been inconsolable after he’d drawn his last breath.
I was too. He was my brother after all, and my best friend. But at some point we needed to go forward. I understood we would never fully move on. Blake left a hole no one else would ever be able to fill. But it had been six months. Blake wouldn’t want us sitting around unable to function and that was the only thought that had kept me going about my daily routines for the past six months. That and avoiding sitting here staring at his wife. When I’d offered her to stay with me I thought that perhaps we would be a little less lonely, that absorbing Blake’s death would be a little less hard. And after a couple of months I had expected Jennifer to be looking for her own place and getting her life back together, not moping around my place, feeling sorry for herself. And I was ready to push her out of the nest. I just hadn’t quite been able to work up the nerve. She was a grieving widow. How could I determine how long was long enough for her to mourn the loss of her husband?
I excused myself, not bothering to actually say the words. Instead, I slipped out while she continued to stare at the oatmeal in front of her. I knew it would be still sitting on the table uneaten when I returned home. I needed to shower and get to work. I didn’t think she’d noticed me anyway.
Once I got to my office, I was a completely different person. They didn’t call me a bulldog for nothing.
I headed up to the fifteenth floor and straight to my office. I ignored Pete’s office door, just down the hall, the way I always did when I got to work. My heart still clenched each time I caught sight of him, or when he popped into my thoughts, but I ignored the feelings. We had dated once a while ago and broke up for reasons I couldn’t remember. Reasons I didn’t want to think about. We still had to see each other at work every day, and I kept it professional. My work life was all I really had going for me. It was hard, but I moved on.
Just like with Blake.
The minute I sat on my cush chair, Hannah walked in wearing a bright yellow bodysuit that was probably inappropriate for work, but somehow, she pulled it off.
“Hey,” she said, shutting the door behind her. It always amazed me how put together she was. Her nails always matched her outfits, her accessories were spot on. Bright red lipstick wouldn’t work for everyone but it sure as hell worked for her. Her lips were pursed into a worrisome line. “You know Mr. Valmores and the rest of the developmental team is waiting to hear your pitch, right?”
I blinked and my heart started to pound in my chest. “Wait,” I said, my hands frozen in midair, poised above the desk. “What?”
I never used that word. I never had to ask what because I always knew what was happening. I had three planners for different reasons. I was never late to anything. I was always prepared for meetings. And I was never taken by surprise at all. I had my shit together, and I was rewarded greatly for it. I had a good job, excellent pay and benefits, and a coveted leadership position in a successful marketing company. I had a corner office, a view, and a reserved parking spot.
This was the first time I had ever been thrown off. And by Hannah no less. I tried desperately to reign in the panic that I went to great lengths to avoid.
“You have a pitch for the latest client, right?” she said slowly, perking her brows. “They’re literally in the boardroom, sitting down, right now, waiting for you. You better have something.” She glanced out my window, through the blinds, as if to check if anyone overheard her. She turned back and held up her hands, as if that would stop the feeling of impending doom washing over me. “Don’t worry, Kate. I can distract them for five minutes. That’s going to have to be enough time.”
“Did this get moved up?” I asked, my body finally going into action as I scoured through my three different planners, trying to see if I had somehow overlooked it.
“Kate,” Hannah said, her voice sharp and to the point. “You’re focusing on the wrong thing. Don’t worry about whether or not this thing has been scheduled in the first place. Worry about what the hell you’re going to say in the next five minutes. You know they’re not going to accept anything less than perfection from you. Hermès is a new upcoming sports line that already sponsors a handful of soccer teams throughout the US. They’re huge overseas, especially in Spain. Our firm really needs their business. This could be the thing that boosts you from the fifteenth floor to the twentieth.”
I didn’t need Hannah to tell me that. I already knew the amount of pressure the firm was putting on me to create one of my perfect pitches in order to inspire Hermes to want to do business with us.
“I have nothing.” Words I never thought I would admit, let alone out loud. My wide eyes found Hannah. “Hannah, I have nothing! What am I supposed to do? I thought I had weeks before this pitch. I haven’t even done research on Hermès and what we can offer them. I haven’t put anything together. What the hell am I supposed to do?”
I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t want to look like an ass in front of Pete, either. Yes, making an ass of myself in front of Mr. Valmores and the whole developmental team would fucking suck. But to do it front of all of those people on top of an ex-boyfriend I happened to still work with and begrudgingly have feelings for?
That would be the worst.
Maybe this was karma for being so insensitive to Jennifer.
“Kate, you’re amazing,” Hannah said with a soft reassuring voice, but there was genuine worry in her eyes. Worry and pity, two emotions I detested more than I thought I could hate actual feelings. I hated it when everyone I knew looked at me that way after Blake died and I hated it now. “You can do this. You can do… something. But honestly, you’re going to have to figure it out ASAP, Kate, because you know Valmores does not tolerate tardiness.”
“And he shouldn’t,” I said, defending his strict policy. “I agree with it. I just…” I dropped my face in my hands, trying not to lose it in front of Hannah. “I’ve never gone into a pitch unprepared. I have no idea how to bullshit because I’ve never been forced to bullshit before. I have no idea what to do.”
“I get it, Kate,” Hannah said. “Talk about what you know. You’re an expert after all. You know what you’re talking about.”
“Yeah, but I know nothing about the brand.” I shook my head and forced myself to stand up. “How much time do I have?”
Hannah glanced at her thin silver watch on her dainty wrist. “I can give you ten minutes tops. But you better hurry the hell up, Kate. My coffee and donuts routine gets stale more quickly than the bagels from the coffee cart.”
I nodded. Hannah was right. I needed to get it together if I wanted to succeed. I would look at this like a challenge. I could do this. I just had to apply myself and maybe bullshit just a little bit.
I rolled my shoulders back and tilted my chin up. I felt much more confident than I really was. But that was okay.
I could do this.
After spending five minutes raking Hermes’s website I walked out of my office with every intention to give the development team one of the best pitches I could under the circumstances.
I ended up giving the worst pitch the office had ever seen.