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Overseas(2)
Beatriz Williams

I eased into the empty chair at her right and summoned my still-reeling wits. “I think you and Charlie discussed the revenue figures Friday night? Before you left for the weekend?” I lifted the end of each sentence to make it sound like a question. You don’t do confrontational with Alicia, not if you don’t want to land a pension fund in International Falls, Minnesota, for your next assignment.

She raised her eyes and glared at me anyway. She had a round babylike face, so completely at odds with her personality it might have been a private joke between her and God. Pretty, in its way, particularly the arresting blue of her heavy-lidded eyes, but her current haircut—short and wispy, aiming presumably for a pixie effect—made that plump florid face look like Tinkerbell undergoing a severe allergic reaction.

Not that my opinion counted for anything. According to Charlie, she was sleeping with Paul Banner, head of Capital Markets and my current boss.

“Hmm. Did you forget your makeup today, Kate?” she asked.

On any other morning, this kind of comment—so typically Alicia, tossing her petty kindling atop the impotent inner rage of her subordinates—would have infuriated me. Today, I could hardly be bothered to shrug. “Your e-mail said to hurry in. And Charlie and I were up late last night, finishing the presentation.”

She tried again. “Do you have, like, some powder in your purse? I could loan you some mascara. This is kind of an important pitch, you know.” She tapped the stack of presentations. “Southfield Associates is a twenty-billion-dollar fund. A lead steer.”

“I’ve got lip gloss.”

“Good. You’re not going to find yourself in a room with Julian Laurence again anytime soon. You want to give the right impression.”

“Yeah, well, back to the revenue numbers. I had some questions about them myself last night, but Charlie said…”

“Charlie is full of shit. You should know that. Year five revenue growth shouldn’t be less than twenty-three, twenty-four. ChemoDerma is a growth company, Kate. Do you know how much skin serum they sold last year?”

I knew to the last dollar, but the question was obviously rhetorical. “A lot,” I said, “but the patent expires…”

“Fuck the patent. I want you to redo the spreadsheet with a revenue growth number of twenty-five percent in years four and five. Print out a dozen copies and replace the page in all the books.” She rose from her chair.

“But it’s not just that page. A couple of charts refer to these projections…”

“Replace them all.”

I glanced at the clock on the wall. “Um, isn’t Southfield supposed to be here by eleven? And Banner has us pre-meeting at ten forty-five.”

She ran her tongue along the ridge of her upper lip. “Come on, Kate. Where’s that can-do spirit we hired you for? Just find an intern.”

She picked up her latte and left the room.

“THANKS FOR SHOWING UP,” I growled at Charlie, as he staggered through the conference room door two hours later. I was leaning over my laptop, flipping through the last few slides of the presentation and hoping I hadn’t missed any references to the new revenue projections.

“Sorry, dude. My BlackBerry fell under the bed. Did you get them all done?” He nodded at the plasma screen on the wall, which was hooked up to my computer.

“Barely.” I clicked back to the title slide and straightened. My back and neck were stiff with tension; I lifted one hand to rub the hardened muscle at the top of my spine.

“You rock.” He set two cups on the table. “Peace offering. Peppermint mocha, extra hot, right?”

I looked at the cup. “Thanks,” I said, and picked it up, bathing my nose in delicate mint-chocolate steam. The tension eased fractionally. “So where’s Banner?”

“He’s not here yet?”

“Of course not.” The door opened and the intern wobbled in under a stack of presentations. I jumped up and snatched one, flipping to the pages I’d changed. All there. “Thanks, buddy,” I said.

“No problem. Just mention me to Banner.”

“Yep, sure.” I thumped the books on the table, dismissing him, but he didn’t leave immediately. He hesitated, hovering between the table and the door; I glanced back just in time to see him turn away with a shaming shake of his head.

I called after him. “Wait. I’m so sorry. What was your name again?”

“Doyle. David Doyle.”

“I’ll rave, I promise,” I told him, flashing a smile.

“Yo, that was awesome,” Charlie said, laughing, as David Doyle bolted out the door. “You slayed him.”

“Hardly. So where did Banner go?” I repeated. “It’s ten minutes to eleven.”

“Oh, probably doing the meet-and-greet with Alicia. No way Banner’s going to give up any face time with Julian fucking Laurence.”

“Yeah, well, he should be more worried about the actual presentation.”

Charlie crashed confidently into a chair and began to swivel. “Kate, nobody around here has even met Laurence. Never takes sales calls. Never reads Street research.”

“Just the usual jerk, probably. You know these hedge-fund guys.” I got up and went to the monitor on the wall, adjusting the display.

“Kate, Laurence is not just some hedgie. He’s the hedgie. Grew Southfield from zero to twenty in, like, seven years. The dude has mythic fucking alpha. The real deal.”

I heard the rhythmic squeak of Charlie’s office chair, swiveling back and forth, and smiled into the TV monitor. He was a good-looking guy, Charlie. Not that I really noticed anymore, having seen him just about every day of my life for the past two and a half years, often for twenty-four hours straight, sometimes sloppy drunk, and once with horrifyingly explosive stomach flu (his, not mine). Good-looking in a bland way, with regular preppy features and straight thick brown hair, which he wore slicked back like some kind of Gordon Gekko mini-me.

“So what does that make him?” I turned around just in time to catch Charlie checking out my pencil-skirted derrière. “Not just any old jerk, but the jerk?”

“Come on, Kate.” He pulled a stress ball out of his pocket and began squeezing it with his left hand. “He’s a living legend. Timed the post-nine-eleven bounce-back to fucking perfection, made some leveraged bets on financial stocks. Risky shit, but it paid off. They unloaded all of it right at the top. Right at the top, dude. Nerves of fucking steel. The guy’s a billionaire now.” Charlie shook his head. His eyes shone with awe. “Not even thirty-five, and he’s cleared the wall. The whole fucking ballpark.”

“Impressive.”

“Oh, come on. Look at you, all stressing out. Strap on a pair of balls, for once.” He switched the ball to his right hand and rolled it around his palm, grinning slyly. “You’re a smart girl.”

“Thanks.” I clicked again to the first of the revised slides and frowned. Twenty-five percent. We were going to get slaughtered.

“No, seriously. Plus you have a major advantage over the rest of us.”

“What’s that?”

“Your looks, Kate.” He tossed the ball up in the air and caught it with a deft flick of his hand. “You’re the first thing these guys notice when we walk into the room. You should work it.”

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