“Are you still sleeping?”
“No, I was in the middle of my morning devotion, what do you think?” I replied, still slightly groggy.
“I’ll take that as a yes then.” Dare replied with a laugh. “It must be nice having that much free time.”
“It’s called a vacation honey.” I replied sweetly. “What time is it anyway?”
“Oh God! Dare, babe, I love you to death but I’m seriously incapable of holding a conversation before ten. How ‘bout you holla at me later.”
“It’s not your fault. I was going to invite you to lunch at The Tavern, but if you’re not interested…” Dare waited for my response, knowing how much I had wanted to check out the new seafood restaurant.
“Fiiiine. What time?”
“Three-ish. I think I’m going to sneak off work early today, so I’ll meet up with you right after. Sound good?”
“Lovely. Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe you interrupted just as Jay-Z was about to dump Beyonce for me.”
“Eeew, Jay Z? For real?”
“Sharrap. It’s my dream, I’ll have whichever millionaire I want.”
Dare laughed as she hung up the phone, thinking how lovely it would have been to still be curled up in bed. She had started her day bright and early at five thirty, spending the better part of the morning following up on correspondence from business associates overseas. Between that and preparing for upcoming meetings, she’d had barely enough time to fit in breakfast.
Gosh, it was only Tuesday and she was already exhausted. Working for her father was definitely not the easy ride everyone assumed it was. When she had initially joined the company a few years ago, her father had given her an entry level position and worked her harder than everyone else. Half way through the year, he had suddenly demanded she got an MBA while working full time in one of their branches in theUK. By the time she got through with her masters, she was absolutely fed up with working for him and had sent in a resignation letter, preparing to seek employment elsewhere. Unfortunately, she found out the hard way exactly how much influence her father had in the country. Although she was more than qualified for all the positions she applied for, she couldn’t secure so much as an interview for any of them.
Eventually, she had decided that leaving the country was her only solution and was just about to accept an offer in London when her father had done what he considered the ‘decent’ thing and reached out to her. His company was venturing into the world of hospitality and he offered her a position as one of the highest ranking administrators of Lawson Hotels and Resorts. The offer was too tempting to resist and she knew that if she did the job well, it would open up a world of opportunity that would eventually lead to liberation from her father. Besides, it was a bit touching to know that he had enough faith in her abilities to put her in charge of such a big project.
That, of course, had been her mistake- thinking that being given a title translated into her being in charge. If she had thought her father was controlling before, he became even more so with this new project. Her first few months consisted of early mornings and late nights, filled with perpetual conference calls and meetings that dragged on for hours. She didn’t mind the hard work so much; it was the constant berating and comments made to undermine her authority that she truly resented. At times, she wondered if offering her the position had just been a ploy to humiliate her or keep her under his control. Whatever the case was, she was not willing to let him see her fail and had faced every challenge with stoicism.
At least things were getting better now. She had found her own rhythm and a group of loyal workers whom, for the most part, were not bothered by her youth and relative lack of experience. The project was still slow moving, with a different disaster every week, but she was weathering the storm and actually beginning to enjoy the experience.
She was dragged out of her trance-like state by the chirping of the intercom on her desk.
“Yes?” she barked, sounding more inpatient than she had meant too. It was a constant struggle to balance being authoritative with being approachable, and she did not always hit the mark.
“Sorry ma. They just called to say they are waiting for you in the conference room.”
Oh crap! She was late for her nine o’clock meeting. Normally it would not have been such a big deal, except today was when she met with the heads of all the departments involved in getting the project off the ground. That meant a dozen or so middle-aged men who didn’t think she deserved her title and resented the fact that she had any authority over them.
Her anxiety about her tardiness doubled when she saw the unexpected visitor in their midst. Her father was seated at the back of the room, pointedly leaving the chair at the head of table empty for her. The uneasy feeling that had begun as she ran out of her office, developed into full blown nausea at this point.
She took her seat as calmly as she could and smiled apologetically at her team.
“Good morning everyone. Sorry for my lateness; I was on a call with the exporters in Dubai.” She fibbed expertly.
“Good morning dad, I’m so happy you could join us today.” The comment got the desired laugh from the room, except of course from the person it was directed to.
“Don’t worry aboutme.” He responded, scrolling through his blackberry. “I’m just here to watch, not participate.”
“Okay, let’s start then. Mr. Oragbon, would you like to go first?” she said, addressing the highly accomplished architect to her left.
“Sure.” He said, leaning back in his seat, obviously enjoying the attention. “As I reported the last time we met, our goal this month was to…”
Dare knew from experience that this was going to take a while as he had the habit of speaking slowly and enunciating every technical term like he was speaking to a room of imbeciles. At least that would give her enough time to collect her thoughts and recover from the shock of having her father at the meeting.
Mr. Oragbon’s report finally ended and they were just about to move on when the inevitable disruption came from the back of the room.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’m not sure I understand what’s going on here.”
Dare ignored the lump of anxiety and frustration that was forming at the back of her throat and replied as coolly as she could.
“This is a regularly scheduled meeting for all the department heads to update each other on what’s been going on in the past month. It’s a chance for us to all get on the same page.” Her father was likely well aware of all of this as he never walked into a room without knowing exactly what was going to happen. His question had merely been a segue into whatever issue had brought him there in the first place.
“So let me get this straight, each one of you spends about twenty minutes going over minute details of the work you have done. And how long does this exercise take? Two, three hours?” Before she could reply, he carried on.
“Wouldn’t it be just as effective to write a report and have every one read it at their own convenience, instead of wasting valuable time on this self-congratulating mess you call a meeting?”
“We have tried written reports in the past but most people don’t have the time to read them.” She replied, hating the whiny tinge in her voice.
“Oh, but you have time to sit for hours on end, sipping tea and coffee, listening to your colleagues ramble on?” He asked sarcastically.
At this point, everyone in the room had begun to feel more than a little uncomfortable with the way they were being talked down to.
“Well, far be it for me to come here and tell you how to run your meetings.” He said with false casualness, “I just wanted to know how far you had gotten with the acquisition of the permits.”
Silence fell over the room as blood began to drain from the face of the governmental liaison they paid obscene amounts of money to get such things done. He had been dragging his feet for months about the permits and had dismissed Dare’s inquiries like he would a child’s.
It only took one look in his direction for Dare to realize that his report would be unchanged from the last time they met. She also knew from experience that her father would not appreciate what he considered ‘finger pointing’ if she brought up the liaison’s failure to fulfill his duties.
“We haven’t been as successful as we wanted in that regard. But everyone’s working very hard at getting it done.”
The look her father gave her could only be described as disgust. He rose wordlessly from his chair and walked out of the room, leaving the rest of its inhabitants with ice in their veins. Dare took a few minutes to compose herself before quietly adjourning the meeting.
She was the first one out of the room, hastily trying to make it to the bathroom before the tears forming at the back of her eyes could make their way down. She couldn’t risk showing any weakness in front of her colleagues, and certainly not in front of her father.
When she finally got herself together, she made her way to her office, only to find her father at her desk with piles of folders around him. Her assistant was running frenziedly around the room, trying to keep up with her father’s requests to bring so and so documents, while picking up discarded files on the floor. Her office was in complete bedlam and she had to fight the impulse to turn around and run away.
He finally noticed her presence in the room and let loose the tirade he had no doubt been holding in for a while.
“You! I will not let you ruin me. You were in need of a job and I offered you a position in my company. Only to have you repay me with incompetence and absolute disregard for my reputation.” He paused only long enough to take a breath and resumed in an even louder voice. “I don’t care, family or not, I will not let you drag me down. Ask your brothers? Let them tell you what I did to them. You think you are special? You are just as replaceable as anyone here.”
“Now I want you to set up a meeting for me with every single one of those buffoons that were in that room. I want them to tell me what they have been doing for the past eight months and if I am not satisfied with anyone’s work, they will be terminated. And that includes you.”
Dare walked out of the room, avoiding the looks from the crowd of employees that had begun to gather, wondering what the commotion was about. She let out a slow breath, reminding herself that her father’s bark was much worse than his bite. He had already threatened to fire her a dozen times before; at least today he had not called security up to clear her office. The situation would be comical really, if it was not so damn frustrating.
As she took a seat at the desk in her deputy’s office, preparing to type what would no doubt be viewed as a condescending email to her colleagues, she imagined how wonderful it would feel to be typing a resignation letter to her father instead. But she knew she wouldn’t do that. If and when she left, it would be on her own terms, and not because he had scared her away. If nothing else, she would gain his respect from all of this.