Nikki arrived to work the next day a little later than usual. She sat in her chair and groaned at the messages piled up.
There was a knock on the door, which was followed by a cheery voice. “Morning, Nikki, how are you?” asked an over-happy Brooke.
Nikki ignored her for a few seconds in order to gain some composure, and then she looked up with a barely noticeable smirk. “Fine, Brooke, thank you. And how are you?”
Brooke’s face was lit up with a big smile. “Good as well, but I can’t seem to find your coffee mug…”
Nikki’s eyes bugged out for a second. “Oh, yeah. I broke it. Look, how about you forget my coffee. Could you go down to the production room and find out why our clients haven’t received our products? We are overdue on some of them. Look at all these messages! Please find out, because if I go down there…well, you know,” she said, getting worked up.
“Ok,” Brooke responded, still smiling.
Nikki left her office to get her coffee. She walked down the corridor a little way, looking confused. Brooke spotted her and chuckled to herself.
“Umm, Nikki? The coffee room is in the other direction.”
Nikki laughed. “Oh yeah.”
“Don’t forget your 11:00 A.M. appointment with…”
Nikki nodded and cut her off with a wave.
Little over an hour later, Brooke returned to Nikki’s office and found two people waiting.
“Oh, Ms. Wilson is not in?”
The older gentleman nodded and growled, “We are not happy to be kept waiting. Our appointment was for 11am. It is now a quarter after that.”
“Yeah, okay, I’ll just go and get her,” she stumbled.
Brooke looked in a couple of offices where she thought Nikki might be, before she heard laughter coming from the coffee room. She pushed through the small crowd and looked in disbelief. In the middle was Nikki telling stories about her father, having everyone in stitches.
Brooke interrupted. “Ms. Wilson…your appointment…they are waiting,” she said, tapping her watch.
Nikki looked at her own watch. She drew a deep breath, “Okay, everyone. Back to work.”
They walked together down the corridor and Brooke spoke up, “What were you doing in there? You were in there for over an hour.”
Nikki shrugged. When they arrived at her office, she invited all her potential clients in and they all sat down. Brooke handed out presentation manuals, and the gentleman spoke his mind.
“We came here because of your reputation for professionalism and we don’t appreciate being kept waiting. We may need to rethink your company for marketing our law firm.”
Brooke swallowed nervously. This was going to be the loss of another account, and now, of all people, Nikki had messed it up.
“Yes…well…” Brooke started but Nikki held up her hand.
“I must apologize, Mr. Grant. It has been one of those mornings. I have already had to decline three clients thanks to our workload. I can assure you that we are a very professional company and it is our reputation which allows us to choose which companies we market for. Now, if you would like to take these documents away with you and get back to me…say in two weeks I will endeavor to fit you in.”
The two business people looked at each other puzzled.
“Brooke, could you reschedule a time when we can fit Mr. Grant and Ms. Dennis back in?”
“Ummm, I…” Brooke stammered, confused at Nikki’s behaviour.
“Well, I know the rest of my week is booked solid,” continued Nikki.
Brooke flicked through Nikki’s diary containing empty appointments. “Um…okay, Wednesday, two weeks from now. But I will confirm that with you.”
Ms. Dennis spoke up urgently. “Can we deal with this now, rather than later?”
Nikki looked at Brooke and nods. “Well, certainly if you would accompany Brooke back to her office, she will see to it. I have other matters to attend to.”
“Thank you, Ms. Wilson,” the two stood and shook hands, then followed Brooke.
After lunch, Brooke was in Nikki’s office.
“I don’t know how you pulled that off. I was sure they were going to walk off,” Brooke said, astounded.
Nikki shrugged and signed off on the contract. “Sometimes you have to have them believe that they need you more than you need them. They go with our reputation.”
“Your reputation?” Brooke asked, shaking her head. “No, it’s you who delivers,” she said, proudly.
“Well, I can’t at the moment if my production team doesn’t start towing the line. What the hell is going on down there?” she growled.
Brooke leaned against the edge of Nikki’s desk right next to her.
“Well, the staff is making some mistakes, incorrect orders, orders not signed off, clients changing minds, and oh yeah, the production manager and staff hate each other. It’s a real pressure cooker.”
Nikki rolled her eyes. “So, what do I have to do? Go down and sort it out, Wilson style?” she groaned.
Brooke giggled. “No, I don’t think that would help…in fact, it might get you a mutiny on your hands.”
Nikki stood up and stroked Brooke’s face, then stole a kiss.
Brooke gently pushed Nikki back. “Hey, we agreed to none of this here.”
Nikki groaned and Brooke chuckled at her suffering lover. “Hey look on the bright side. Your father is going away for a week, you won’t have to hear NICOLE GET IN HERE!” she said, in her best impression.
Nikki’s face turned pale as she looked at the doorway behind Brooke.
“Oh, no…is he?” Brooke asked, starting to get short of breath. She turned only to find no one in the doorway. She looked back at Nikki and sneered. “That was just cruel.”
Nikki laughed. “Yeah, but hilarious.”
It was halfway into Mr. Wilson’s leave, and Nikki was chairing the company meetings in his stead.
She tapped her pen on the table and looked at her managers.
“People this will not do…we are losing clients. Our reputation is what gets our clients. Unhappy clients lose us potential clients. You guys in production are the engine room of the company. What is going wrong?”
“Deadlines are too short. We don’t have the time to meet with all the high standards that are expected. Plus, the clients are too fussy and change their mind,” whined one of the managers.
Nikki had a hard look on her face. “Well, welcome to the advertising business. Of course they are fussy and demanding. That is what makes us so good. We deliver regardless. Stop with the excuses and start making it happen.”
Nikki began to sense everyone’s tension. She wasn’t getting anywhere.
“I know we are all under a lot of stress, and believe me, I appreciate the effort you put in. So, this Friday night being the last before my father is back at the helm, we will hold staff functions, drinks, light nibbles, no work, just a casual get-together. It’s a way of saying “Thanks.” Okay, that’s it. Back to work,” she finished.
That night, in Nikki’s apartment they took a bath together. Brooke lay on top of Nikki while Nikki stroked her stomach and kissed her cheek.
Brooke turned to face Nikki. “That was a nice gesture you made today.”
“Uh-huh. Well sometimes you have to stop getting your ass kissed and start kissing some to get results.”
“Wow. How profound,” replied Brooke, teasing.
“Yeah, well, you do what it takes,” Nikki said, putting a washcloth over her face. “I hate HR issues.”
Brooke removed the cloth. “Can I ask you something personal?”
Nikki pushed at Brooke’s buttocks so she moved up for a kiss. “Hmmm, that depends.”
“Okay…what went wrong with you and your ex-girlfriend?”
Nikki said nothing at first, shocked.
Brooke noticed Nikki struggling. “Its okay…you don’t have to…”
Nikki smiled. “No, it’s okay. Her name was Tracey; we met when I was 19. I had just started working at the company making coffees, basic secretary work while I was going through college. She was 25, a photographer, and gorgeous. We started out as friends, and quickly became more than that. I was so in love, and I did everything I could to keep it a secret from my father. She would take photos of us together, sometimes quite risqué,” Nikki blushed and squirmed at the thought of those photographs.
“Really? Have you still got them,” Brooke asked, getting excited.
“No, I burnt them, shh. I eventually moved into her apartment on the bad side of town. I didn’t care though, I loved her so much. I couldn’t see anything but her, my studies were slipping. Dad then interfered, and bought me this apartment, to convince me to move out. It didn’t matter; I still slept at her place. After about four years, it all fell apart when my father found some rather embarrassing photos of us. My father fires Tracey on the spot. I begged him not to, told him that it wouldn’t happen again, but he said to succeed in this business you have to make personal sacrifices, and it was time I made mine. He told me that I had to set an example for the company, and my lifestyle was inappropriate for our image.”
Brooke noticed the strain on Nikki’s face. “Oh, no. That’s terrible. What happened to Tracey?”
Nikki’s voice quivered so she cleared her throat. “She got another job and packed her bags. She begged me to go with her. She told me if I stayed under my father’s control, I would never be happy. I sacrificed her for success and it turned out she was right. I was never happy. Just became bitter and lonely.”
“Did you ever see her again?”
“Yeah, a few years back. We did some advertising for an art gallery. I was invited to attend the opening and she was one of the key photographers. She still looked as gorgeous as ever, but her girlfriend was the gallery manager and one of our clients.”
“I’m so sorry,” Brooke said, resting her head on Nikki’s shoulder. “That will never happen to us.”
Nikki closed her eyes; she didn’t share Brooke’s confidence.