Sunday, August 24, 2008

Asian Spice by Dana Littlejohn

Taniea drove her car frantically along the downtown streets of small town Anna, Ohio. Screeching to a stop in front of the Chase One building, she stomped across the lobby and tapped her foot while she waited for the elevator. She reached her floor and stomped down the hall, walking right up to the cowering secretary who sat frozen watching her approach.

“Where is DeMarcus?” she demanded.

“He’s, he’s in a meeting, Ms. Onyx, but—”

She turned on her heel and headed down the hall as the rest of the secretary’s words faded behind her. Taniea listened at the different conference room doors as she walked by them, and when she heard voices she pushed the door open with a hard slam.

“DeMarcus Green, who do you think you are?” she yelled.

The stunned men at the table with DeMarcus turned to her and then back to him as he jumped to his feet.

“Taniea, what are you doing here? I’m in a meeting.”

“Yes, I can see that you’re in a meeting.” She looked across the table at the men and scoffed. “This isn’t a meeting, this is you and your boys trying to figure out where to go for lunch,” she said with a roll of her eyes.

He smiled. “It’s still a meeting, Taniea, and you’re interrupting it.”

She waved her hand to dismiss what he said. “Who do you think you are? You leave a message on my voice mail dumping me? What kind of punk does that?” she asked with her hands on her hips.

DeMarcus looked at the men then back to Taniea. “Can we discuss this later, Taniea?” he asked in a low voice.

“No, if I wanted to discuss it later, I would have come later. I want to discuss it now.”

He sent them another look and spoke calmly. “Well, I didn’t want this type of confrontation, Taniea. That’s why I left the message.”

“You didn’t want a confrontation? You didn’t think that message would lead to a confrontation? What kind of crap is that?”

He chuckled softly and shook his head. “Okay, you know what, gentlemen, will you excuse me? It seems I have some pressing business to handle before we can continue with our meeting in peace. Go ahead to lunch; I’ll catch up with you.”

The men nodded and left as Taniea tapped her foot watching them leave, then turned back to him. “So what’s your real problem, DeMarcus? Now that you don’t have people to front in front of you can tell me the real deal.”

He smiled. “Okay, Taniea, I will. I heard you were up for that expansion project leader position at Honda,” he said and sat back down. “Is that true?”

She sat on the table and shrugged. “Yes, it’s true. It’s between me and Robert Jackson actually, but it’s all unofficial. So what.”

“I have no doubt that you will get it, Jackson isn’t a people person like you are.”

She wrapped her arms around her chest. “What’s your point, DeMarcus?”

“My point is if you get that job your income will take a major jump going north on the dollar scale. I don’t want to be in a relationship with a woman that makes more money than I do.”

She dropped her arms and her mouth fell open. “You’re not serious, are you?” she asked with a disbelieving chuckle.

“Oh, yes, I’m very serious. I have noticed in my experiences that no man wants a woman whose income is greater than his. A man should always make more money than his woman because he is the man and should be able to handle everything. If your woman makes more than you, she’ll think she’s wearing the pants in the relationship, and that’s not a relationship I would care to be in.”

She stared at him for a moment than shook her head and that disbelieving chuckle escaped her again. “Okay, let me get this straight. You dumped me because I’m up for a position that could possibly bring me more money than what you make? Is that about right?”

He nodded. “That and you are just too demanding. I simply don’t have time to give you what you want from me.”

She rubbed her temple. “So, my wanting you to date one woman at a time and spend some quality time with me so our relationship can grow was demanding? It was asking too much from you?”

He thought for a moment. “Yes, that about sums it up.” He laughed at the confused look on her face.

“So what are you saying, you thought I would stay at my current position forever? You knew I wanted more when we hooked up. Why did you pursue me in the first place if you knew I would eventually seek more money and a better position? Did you think I was so demanding then?”

“Because you’re fine, that’s why. You have a pretty face and a banging body. Every man wants a fine woman on his arm when they’re out and about, so his boys can give him props. Look, I realize you’re probably devastated over loosing me, but the bottom line is I don’t want you anymore. The ends and outs are irrelevant and so is whether you agree or disagree.”

She was stunned. “What?”

He continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “But I will give you some helpful advice because I think you’ll need it. Back down a little, you’re entirely too aggressive for a woman. No man wants a woman on the same lines as he is. Even in bed. You’re just too damn aggressive. You women say you want to be equal, but you don’t, you want your man to dominate over you. Stop trying to be the man and back it down a little.” He looked into her shocked expression and continued. “If you backed down, as fine as you are with that fine-ass body of yours, you can have any man you want. I may even consider taking you back.” He picked up the phone.

“Security, yes, can you send someone up to the main conference room on the eleventh floor? I have an unwelcome guest.” He hung up and leaned back in his chair smiling at her. “So, as you can see I’m a very busy man and I don’t have time for drama. Security will be here shortly to escort you out to the pavement.” He chuckled as he picked up his glass.

She hopped off the table and tapped the bottom of his glass before it touched his lips dumping the contents into his lap.

“Nobody wants a punk ass man who’s afraid of a strong, independent woman, anyway,” she said crisply and stomped out of the room.

Angry and confused she drove back to the Honda plant, stopped at the bathroom to freshen her tear streaked make up and drop some Visine into her eyes before going to her office with her best smile in place.

“Hi, Taniea, Mr. Barkley called to speak with you.”

She groaned. “Really? What did he want?”

He didn’t say, but he did ask that you call him when you returned from lunch.”

“That’s just great, thanks, Betty. Can you get him on the phone then transfer it to me?”

“Sure thing.”

She closed the door and sat heavily in her chair with a sputter. “Who needs him? He couldn’t kiss, anyway...slobbering and what not all over my face.”

“Taniea, Mr. Barkley is on line one,” Betty’s voice said over the speakerphone.

“Thanks, Betty.” She took a deep breath and picked up the receiver. “Hello, Mr. Barkley. How are you today?” she asked pleasantly then paused. “That’s good, I’m fine, too. So, Betty said you wanted me to give you a call.” She paused again. “Of course, I can. I’ll be there shortly.” She put the phone back in its cradle and sat back.

“Okay, let’s see if this day can be recovered or if it goes down in history as my worst work day ever,” she muttered as she left her office. “Betty, I’m going upstairs to have an impromptu with Mr. Bradley. I don’t know how long it will take so just hold the fort until I return. If it goes badly you’ll see me sailing past the window at ninety miles per hour. I’m having one of those days.”

Betty chuckled nodding as her boss left. Taniea took the elevator to the third floor. The employees called it Suit Row because all executives had their offices on the third floor. As she went down the hall to Mr. Bradley’s office, she saw Robert Johnson coming toward her.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Taniea Onyx...the competition,” he said with the biggest grin she’d ever seen.

She stopped in front of him and gave him her best practiced smile. “Hello, Robert, how are you? Did you have a meeting with Mr. Bradley, too?”

“As a matter of fact I did. It went very well, too. It seems he’s found the man for the position as manager over the expansion project that he wanted.”

She kept her gaze steady concentrating on keeping her smile in place and not letting her jaw drop, then she realized he was waiting for her to say something and forced the corners of her mouth higher.

“Oh, well, that’s great, Robert, congratulations.”

His smile seemed to widen too. “Yes, well, thank you, Taniea. I guess the best man won after all. So, you’re about to have a meeting with Mr. Bradley, huh?” He watched her nod blankly and wrapped his arms around his chest. “What do you think your meeting will be about?”

Her smile faded and she twisted her lips, but took a deep breath before answering him. “I don’t know, Robert. Why not get out of my way so I can find out.”

“Of course, of course, but you be sure to let me know when you find out,” he said with a flip of his hand and continued down the hall laughing.

Taniea rolled her eyes. “Jerk.” She continued down the hall shaking off Robert’s comments before knocking on Mr. Bradley’s door.

“Yes, come in!”

Mr. Bradley was an older man, large and intimidating in appearance. He was at his desk with his glasses low on his nose going over a folder when Taniea poked her head in.

“Hi, Mr. Bradley, it’s Taniea.”

He smiled. “Yes, yes, please come in, Taniea.”

She closed the door behind her and sat in the chair in front of his desk. “So, what’s this little meeting about, Mr. Bradley?”

He removed his glasses and closed the folder. “Taniea, I’ll come right to the point. You probably have heard the rumors that you and Johnson were the lead candidates for the supervisor position on the expansion project.”

“Yes, sir, I heard about that,” she replied shifting in her chair.

“Yes and I’m guessing from your demeanor that you passed Johnson in the hall and he couldn’t wait to tell you that I offered that position to him. Am I right?”

She shifted again. “Yes sir, he did mention that bit of information. So what is this, my official let me down easy session? Sorry you weren’t chosen, but we picked the better man for the job or a man for the job?” she said with a snappy edge to her voice.

Mr. Bradley smiled. “Absolutely not. The reason I gave that job to Johnson is because I didn’t think he could handle the job I’m about to offer you.”

She stopped avoiding his gaze and her head swung back to him. “Excuse me?”

He chuckled. “Honda has chosen to open a new plant in Greenburg, Indiana. It was announced just recently. This plant has been asked to supply them with a competent person to help open the new site, get the training started and eventually assist the lead trainer train all other employees.”

She listened to him explain the job to her and though she had questions for him, her brain and her mouth seemed to have lost their connection.

“We’re not the only plant supplying personnel, of course. Other plants will be asking their staff if they’d like to relocate, too. Someone from the main plant in China will be relocating over here as well to work at the plant as the other trainer. That’s the position I want you to take, Taniea, trainer. You and the person from China will be doing the training for all of the employees together. This way we have someone representing both countries running the plant. You will have to go to China and train for two weeks, at Honda’s expense, of course.”

With minimal connection returning to her brain she could only nod as he spoke.

He chuckled and continued. “With this new position you would be required to relocate to Indiana directly after the training in China is over. Do you understand?”

The partial connection gained potential as what he was saying to her started to sink in, but all she could manage to get out was, “Uh-huh.”

“It would mean a promotion to Plant Trainer and a considerable raise, of course. In fact, it pays more money than the expansion supervisor position does because of the relocation,” he added with a wink.

Suddenly full cooperation was restored to the connection between her mouth and brain and she sat straight up in her chair.

“Wait a minute. Let me see if I understand what you’re asking of me. This position would mean I leave Anna and live in Indiana?” She watched him nod. “Okay, but before I do all that I first have to go to China for two weeks to train and they pay for all that?”

“Yes, but acceptance of this position would also mean several other trips to China during the year, at least four, to keep the plant employees updated on any changes that they may have in their policies.”

She eased back in her chair. “Hmm...”

“I’m aware that taking this position would be a life altering decision. I can give you some time to think---“

“I’ll take it.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ll take it. I accept your offer.”

“Taniea, wait, maybe you should take a little time to think it over. Why not sleep on it or perhaps discuss it with your family, significant other or—”

She laughed. “Mr. Bradley, there is no significant other and the only family I have is my parents, and they’re in Florida. Flying to them from Indiana won’t be any different than flying to them from Ohio.”

He chuckled. “Well, that is true.”

“Besides Mr. Bradley, I’ve been here all my life and even though I like my job this is the chance to go for something new and believe me, I’m due for a change.”

“Excellent!” He opened his top draw and pulled out a folder sliding it across the desk to her. “Here is some information you will need about the job, some other stuff you will need to know once you’re in China and also some information for you to help you to relocate more quickly. Since you agreed so quickly, I can call them and have the training set up to start next week. You leave in three days.”

“Three days?”

He smiled. “Yes, I was going to give you those three days to think it over, but you sound like you’re ready to start a new life. Three days is enough time for you to get your affairs in order, isn’t it?”

She flipped through the folder and smiled. “Three days is plenty of time.” She stood and extended her hand as her smile expanded. “Thank you, Mr. Bradley, for everything.”

“You’re very welcome, Taniea, and good luck. My secretary will contact you at week’s end with everything you’ll need to leave.”

Taniea floated back to her office to give Betty the good news and get her to work on relocating her. She sat in her chair heavily for the second time in one day, but this time her mood was the opposite as she spun around in circles laughing.