‘So, how did the meeting go?’
I beam at Rachel.
‘They accepted the deal.’
She squeals, giving me a tight hug. I feel a bit embarrassed, not being used to all this attention. Since last Christmas, when my boss, Daniel was fired for being a douchebag and an unqualified manager, I took his place. At first, I didn’t want to, but now I know it was a great idea.
Not just because of the generous salary increase I received, but because of the fact that I have more power now or you can say it power of greed. When I was his assistant, all my ideas went unnoticed. But now, I am the boss, and everybody listens to me. Rachel clears her throat and I look up from my papers, not even realizing I was in work mode again.
‘What’s wrong, Rachel?’
She looks away, shuffling her feet on the floor.
‘Nothing, it’s just…’
She lets out a sigh, and I know I am about to receive one of her usual lectures. Ever since the Christmas party that we ended up having at the homeless shelter, her and I have been close friends. Although I’m technically her boss now, it didn’t change the fact that we bonded over the injustice that Daniel brought to the company.
I still think about it to this day while having intoxication of power of greed. Daniel thought he had the right to do whatever he wanted. Because of his position within the company, he thought he owned the people, too. Rachel coughs and I clear my vision again with an apologetic hug, blaming it on the tiring meeting I’ve just had. She nods in understanding, but then her features are clouded by frustration.
‘Well, that’s just it, Emily. You work way too hard. Since your promotion, you have been here 24/7. Are you struggling for money?’
Her question takes me off guard and I shake my head.
‘No. Of course not. I just love my job, that’s all.’
She sighs again, and this time it’s her turn to shake her head.
‘Look, Emily, I know I’m nobody to you, so I don’t have the right to say what I’m about to say, but…’
I raise an eyebrow, folding my arms in front of my chest in defence, leaning back in my chair.
‘But? Please go on.’
And, just like that, I switch. She is not my friend right this moment, so things are different. I am a professional now, so I need to listen if one of my employees wants to tell me something. Especially if they work in Human Resources, like Rachel does. She clears her throat again, as if afraid of my reaction.
‘Emily, when was the last time you had a full night’s sleep?’
I become even more defensive.
‘Rachel, what’s with all the personal questions? First the money situation, and now whether I sleep enough. Are you going to ask about my boyfriend next?’
She is probably tempted to ask whether I have one or not, but I do believe she should keep her curiosity to herself. She isn’t acting professionally, and because of that, I am losing it as well. To my surprise, she walks up to the door, looking back at me over her shoulder when she says:
‘I’m just trying to say that you need to look after yourself a bit more. Well, a lot more, if you ask me. But never mind, it’s your choice. Now, if you want to stay professional, that’s fine. There is someone here to meet you. He has been waiting for a long time. I am not your secretary, but I could let him in for you. That is, if it’s in my contract.’
I roll my eyes at her.
‘I’m sorry for snapping at you, okay? I just don’t appreciate the Spanish inquisition. Who is the guy you are talking about?’
She looks at me with an unreadable expression.
‘He didn’t tell me his name.’
And with that, she walks out the door. A few seconds pass before I exhale sharply. Why was I so nasty to her? The truth hurts, I know, but this much? I chew her questions for a second, wondering what my answer would be. How could I possibly tell her (or admit it to myself) that the last night I slept well was just before Christmas. The night when we went to the homeless shelter that I had found the exact same day.
I look at the time. It’s almost time to go home. The meeting was supposed to finish an hour ago, but it didn’t. The results were great, but it drained all my energy. And now I have to meet some other stranger who probably wants to discuss their business.
I let out a sigh, allowing myself a few minutes rest. Just until they arrive. I need to get ready for the torture anyway. I close my eyes and remember that day. It’s as if it happened only yesterday, yet it was almost six months ago. In moments like these I feel guilty. I promised to myself that I would go back there, that I would help those people.
I promised that it wouldn’t be a coincidence, that it was meant to change my life for the better. And, in a way, it did. But, in another way, it made it worse. Those people were genuinely nice. And I was supposed to help them. I failed at this, just as I failed at many other things in my life. I couldn’t even keep one promise…
I sigh again, opening my eyes. This isn’t working. Normally, the memory is sweet and pleasant, but not today. Today, all I can focus on is the negative. Maybe I am just too tired and I should try to find a way to relax. There is a knock on the door and a shiver runs through me. I might be going down with something, too. Wouldn’t be surprised. I can even hear Rachel saying that she told me so.
I try to shout, but my voice is barely a whisper. I doubt the person on the other side of the door heard me, so I get up to open the door. I feel a bit dizzy, but decide to brush it off for now. I can sleep later. Now, I have to work. I open the door with a fake and professional smile, only for it to freeze on my lips.
‘Um, hello, Emily.’
I blink, and then I blink once more. I recognize the man in front of me, and yet I don’t. Where have I seen him before? It wouldn’t be professional to ask, so I just usher him in.
‘Hi, it’s nice to see you again.’
I reply, holding out a hand, and he looks at it, tilting his head sideways. Then a sad smile appears on his lips and my heart sinks. Who the hell is he?
‘You have no idea who I am, do you?’
I blush, embarrassed, my mind working overtime to figure out who he is. I look at his chocolate brown eyes, his dark hair, his suit, and nothing. As if sensing what I’m trying to do, he looks into my eyes.
‘I’m afraid you have to look a bit deeper than that. Otherwise you won’t recognize me.’
He looks like he is about to add something else, but then he simply shrugs, as if he was cool either way. I scrunch my nose, thinking hard. I go through the alphabet in my mind, as I was taught a long time ago, but no name comes to mind. I let out a sigh, walking back behind my desk. I don’t have time to waste on games of ‘guess who’. I have an important meeting tomorrow, and I still have a few hours left of today, so I should make the most of it.
‘I’m sorry, but I don’t recall ever meeting you. I do apologize. But I would appreciate it if you could schedule an appointment with my secretary next time. My calendar is quite full, and my time is very precious.’ That’s the things which we can called power of greed or i don’t know what but i was much exhausted.
His eyes go wide for a moment in shock, then he sighs, shaking his head. Placing his hands in his pockets, he leans against the door, assessing me with a look I don’t appreciate. Is he looking down on me?
‘Yes, your time is precious, but I think you are wasting it on the wrong thing. Emily, money isn’t going to buy you happiness nor the power of greed will lead you anywhere. I would know.’
For a moment, anger flares up in me. How dare he lecture me? A stranger I probably haven’t even met before. He could be an actor that Rachel hired to talk some sense into me, pretending to be a long-lost friend. But then something ticks deep inside. Something he said, the way he said it. All that sadness…
I gasp, jumping up from my seat, thus making him jump, too. I want to tell him that I remember, that I know who he is, but I stop the last second, feeling embarrassed once more. Partly because I didn’t recall his face, even though the memory we shared was a part of my daily routine. But I also feel embarrassed for not knowing his name.
He helped me out so much back then, and I poured my heart out to him, yet I forgot to ask for his name. Just shows how selfish I was. Or am I still intoxicated with power of greed? I clear my throat, motioning for him to sit in the chair opposite mine, and he does so, smoothing down his tie.
‘I’m really sorry for not remembering. But… You’ve changed.’
He nods, his eyes as cold and hard now as a bag of coal.
‘I’m not the only one.’
He is giving me that assessing look again and I blush some more. He isn’t assessing me like a woman, no. He is doing it, because he is trying to decide whether I am a good person or not. And, judging by his expression, he probably thinks the latter. After what feels like an eternity, I manage to ask:
‘Would you like a cup of tea?’
He shakes his head again and I sink back into my seat.
‘I’m fine, thanks. But you look like you need one yourself. Or coffee. Or something stronger. Emily, what happened to you?’
His question triggers something again, but I refuse to open up this time. As much as I want to tell him my life story again, he is no stranger anymore. How funny that this changes everything. Yes, I feel embarrassed for telling him stuff. And when realization hits me that this is why I never went back to the shelter, it makes me shiver. I have changed and hit with some sort of power of greed. Because I don’t answer, he sighs and continues, looking away.
‘Okay, how about I tell you my story first? Although you didn’t ask, but I guess you are interested, judging by the way you measured up my new attire.’
I blush again, wondering if that will be a constant thing with him. I guess I deserve to feel guilty, embarrassed and ashamed.
‘Well, we all had a great time at Christmas, and your donations and gifts went a long way. But somehow, deep down, I knew you wouldn’t come back. Once people taste power, they want more in it and indulged with power of greed. And I knew you were dedicated to your job even before the promotion, so I assumed you would be here all the time.’
I look away, rubbing my arm. Even if I did want to tell him everything, what would it be? I could only give the same answer as I would give to Rachel. My life has been nothing but work for the past six months.
‘But anyway, I was smart about it. We invested the money, and started buying shares in estate agencies. It took us six months, but we managed to provide housing for all those people you saw back in December. Even little Roxy, the girl you sat next to during the Christmas Carol. She keeps asking me when you would visit her.’
I don’t even feel the first tear trickling down my face. But I feel the sadness that envelopes my heart. That little girl brightened up my day that time, but I didn’t realize I had an effect on her, too.
‘I’m so sorry. I should have gone back… I’m a terrible person…’
I sob, but he shakes his head, smiling gently now.
‘Emily, I didn’t come here to make you feel bad. Okay, fine, maybe just a little. I wanted to ask whether you wanted to help me set up my charity, so together we can help even more people.’
‘You want to work with me? Why?’
He sighs again.
‘Because I saw the potential in you that day. You are a good person deep down, but you never give yourself any credit. Nobody gave you credit, until your promotion. Part of me was afraid that you would change, and you have, to a certain point, but it’s reversible as the power of greed is something reversible. If you want it to be.’
I look into his eyes, but I can’t see him anymore. I’m back at the shelter, surrounded by all the happiness and laughter.
‘I’ve been missing you. All of you.’
He smiles, taking my hand.
‘So, come back to us.’
I nod slowly, because he made me realize that I have wasted the last six months of my life in power of greed. I was greedy, wanting to work more, so I could earn more money, but I ended up burning myself out. And I didn’t have any time to spend the money I earned anyway. His story, the way he became a successful businessman after living on the streets for so long should be an inspiration to me. And it is. He got the chance to become greedy himself, but he chose to stay loyal to his morals and to be a victim of power of greed.
He has been helping others and deep down, I always knew that was what I wanted to do. I have no more time to waste, because, as I said, my time is precious. Just not in a way that I thought. With a bright smile on my face I ask:
‘When can I start?’
He smiles back at me and it’s Christmas again in my heart.