This story is mine. I've published it on Wattpad under the penname shneay_kid. I've decided to bring it to the chamber for a more mature audience and less censorship. Happy reading!
Meet the gang.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Kennel Corp - Conference Room A
The sound of applause always did pump Jayden's ego. There, in a large conference room of Kennel Corps, she felt mighty proud of herself as she clasped her hands together and executed a small curtsy. Quietly, she closed her laptop along with the PowerPoint and made her way back to her seat. She slid into the large, black leather seat and reclined a bit, enjoying the soft cushion and the molding sensation.
"Excellent presentation, Ms. McDaniel! Wouldn't you say gentlemen?" There were soft murmurs of agreement.
Jayden offered a warm smile to whomever she could make eye contact with. That's what this was all about: playing the game. She'd come in that morning, the perfect picture of success. With her golden dusted locks piled high above her head, she wore her pearl set atop a form fitting black dress with reached her knees. Naturally, the dress was covered with an off white cardigan from J. Crew. Because she'd spent so much money on it, she only wore it for special occasions such as this. Her shoes were the most risque her ensemble had gotten; they were Steve Madden pumps, all black with cream colored lining and a bow at the back of her heel. All business with a dash of sexy, she'd thought. Not that any of those stuffy white men would notice anyhow.
"We've been reviewing your project for quite some time now, Ms. McDaniel and were preparing to give you an offer. Your presentation today just reassured us, all the more, that our investment in the Lumiere will be a great asset to Kennel Corp." The thin white man with the booming voice was none other than Jonathan Kennel himself, the founder and CEO of Kennel Corporations. Well into his late sixties, the man had aged well. He stood at 6'2, fit with crystal blue eyes and a full head of silvery white hair. He reminded Jayden of a taller, older version of Anderson Cooper. She was impressed. Her previous meetings at Kennel Corp had been with various VPs within the business. Jonathan had attended the last meeting via telephone conference and that's when she'd first heard his voice.
"Thank you, sir."
"No, thank you. Now let's make this official. I have the paper work right in front of me. All it takes is a couple of signatures and we can issue you a fifty thousand dollar check for starters." That was more than enough. Jayden beamed on the inside.
"Now come up here and stand beside me."
A man in a dark t-shirt and jeans moved to stand near the front of the room. Jayden, caught up in the moment of her presentation, had not noticed the man's attire sticking out like a sore thumb. Well not really, the black t-shirt had helped a lot. Around his neck dangled a large camera which he hoisted to his face, at the ready. As she moved to stand beside Jonathan, he held out an expensive looking ball point pen that he'd taken from the breast pocket of his suit. Click.
"Here you are, my dear." Jayden bent over to sign.
"Now, I'll have you gentleman know that this fine young woman is not only a graduate of Princeton University, but of the prestigious Jefferson School, my alma mater." More murmurs of approval. "I'm sure she was a far better student than I was." He let out a hearty laugh and touched Jayden's shoulder lightly as she stood upright. Click. "She went to school with Dean - my boy." He took the pen from Jayden's hand and quickly signed in his designated areas. Jayden frowned a little. Dean. She remembered his son alright. He'd been a real douche bag in high school.
Jayden quickly dismissed the thought, opting for a blank mind and wide smile. Her cheeks were beginning to hurt.
"Ahh, now that that's done. Let's have a toast shall we?" On cue, a secretary whisked into the conference room with a tray full of sparkling flukes of champagne. Click. The pretty blonde balanced the tray on one hand with the grace of a waitress. The secretary reached Jayden and offered her a glass, but she held up a small hand politely feigning modesty, "No, no thank you. I shouldn't." In truth, Jayden could drink like a fish, but this was business. "Business Jayden" didn't drink on the job. She was focused.
"Course you should! Don't be shy!" Jonathan bellowed behind her. "Unless you don't drink, of course."
"I do, it's just that..."
"Come on!" Other suits joined in the encouragement.
Jayden "gave in" and smiled brightly, gushing "aw, what the heck?" She grabbed a fluke and the men in the conference room cheered. Click, Click, Click.
Why did she feel like she was at a bar, after work, during happy hour? She chuckled to herself. Judging by the comfortable way Jonathan Kennel moved around his employees, she decided that she liked him even more. After everyone had finished their glass or two of champagne, it was assumed that the meeting turned office party was over. Men began to excuse themselves from the room, shaking Jayden's hand firmly on their way out. She liked that. Respect. As the last male, the camera man, in fact, exited the glass doors to the conference room, Jayden returned to her seat and began to gather her things.
"Thank you again, Mr. Kennel. On behalf of my partner, Marisol Fuerte we give you our heartfelt thanks."
"Call me, Jonathan and it was my pleasure. We need to support more programs like yours. Besides, I'm always happy to help fellow alum. It's a shame you didn't get to see Dean today. The boy's always running late for something. But you will see him soon. In fact, I'm assigning him to oversee the new changes we discussed for the program." Oversee? Jayden cringed inside.
"Oh? I wasn't aware that we'd need a... supervisor." He laughed in waves again, sapphire eyes crinkling.
"No, no, nothing like that. It's standard procedure in the beginnings of any partnership with a new organization or company. We send one of our guys in who'll send back extensive reports which we'll put on record."
"How long will he...Dean...be around...overseeing?" Jayden tried to mask the wariness in her voice. She wasn't sure how well she did.
"Three months minimal, but it all depends on what the reports say. Is there a problem?" Jonathan straightened up. His hands made smooth lines over the front of his suit.
"No problem. I was just wondering. Thanks." Jayden went over to shake his hand. He startled her by pulling her into a light hug.
"Good luck young lady. It's so good to see a Jeff doing so well." Jeffs, that's what Jefferson students were called. Boy, he must have loved the Jefferson School. She smiled as she pulled away and began to walk out through the glass doors.
Her smile dimmed at the thought of the Jefferson school. Despite what her classmates had thought of Jayden's experience, her stint at the predominantly white boarding school had been far from ideal. She cringed as several memories accosted her. She shook her head, rounding the corner and walking down the corridor towards the secretary's kiosk. She'd done her job. She'd played the part and accordingly, she'd gotten money for her kids. She should be happy.
Kennel Corp - Office Hallway
Crap. He was late again. His father was going to kill him this time. He could feel it, for sure. He rushed into the elevator, which was thankfully vacant. He stared at his reflection in the stainless steel doors, smoothed over his wind tossed hair and fixed his tie. As soon as the doors opened, he flew past the secretary's kiosk, barely saying hello to...Barbara? Was that her name? Whatever. He thought he'd nearly knocked over a woman coming down the hall, but she seemed un-phased. Dean muttered a "sorry" but he doubted she'd heard it.
His brief jog came to an abrupt end as he rounded the corner for he knew that he would soon encounter the glass doors to the conference rooms. He didn't want anyone to see him so flustered. Instead, he entered a slow, casual gait. He strolled up to the double glass doors with Conference Rm. A etched on the side in small white letters and saw that his father's back was turned. He was staring out onto the city from the great expanse of a window. His father was waiting for him.
Shit. That meant that the meeting was over. Dean's heart fell. Taking a deep breath, he opened the doors and walked through. With an uneasy smiling playing on his lips, Dean asked, "Am I early?"
His father didn't turn. Instead he continued to stare out of the window in silence. Dean had learned from history that he shouldn't say a word. He'd wait it out.
"Son." He didn't turn, but he spoke solemnly.
His tone struck a chord with Dean, so much that he simply had to plead his case even though he knew the best course of action was to simply let his father say his entire piece.
"Dad...I know...I'm sor.."
"Don't apologize!" Jonathan said sharply. He was immobile except for the twitch at his strong jaw. He continued, " I don't need to tell you how embarrassing it is for my own son to be late for a company meeting...a company that he's supposed to be running in a couple of years."
"Dad...you've still got at least a good ten years in you, old chap." Dean's feeble attempt at a familiar, affectionate nick name failed. His father turned. His eyes, hardened ice, bore into Dean's nervous brown eyes. His mother's eyes.
"Do you think that this is a joke?"Jonathan's brows furrowed, making his eyes squint.
"No, Dad. I don't," Dean half whined the statement. He felt himself regressing in age. His father continued to stare him down.
"Well?" His father waited.
"I'm going to be better about this, Dad. It's just that with classes and all I. I don't know. I haven't been motivated, you know." As his father continued to stare at him signaling that he'd heard all Dean's excuses. Dean decided that it was now or never. He'd have to let his father know the truth. Well, a watered down version. The truth was that Dean had no real desire in running the company. But instead he said, "Dad, I'm intimidated."
His father's stare softened a bit at the new admission. For dramatic effect, Dean sat in one of the stuffy leather seats and ran his hand through his lazy brown curls. His eyes on the mahogany table. "No, I'm scared, Dad. You've done a phenomenal job with this company and I don't want to be the one to run it to the ground. What if I'm not good enough? I think about it every day when I get up and get dressed for work. There have been people who've been here working for you that could probably do this job with their eyes closed. What if I'm not good enough?" Dean's eyes were still on the desk but he heard his father's slow steps coming towards him. Massive hands gripped his shoulders lightly. There was a gentle squeeze.
"Son, you could never be a disappointment to me." He sighed. "I wish I had known this earlier, I wouldn't have pressured you so much. I'm sorry about that, son."
"No, Dad. It's not your fault." Dean admitted, milking it.
"No, no. Listen. With some more training, a few extra business classes, you will get it. I promise. I've been talking to Carl. He's been here for a long time and a VP for quite a number of years. He knows a lot and is willing to sit down with you whenever you need to go over the overall structure of the business, among other things. You know that." Dean dreaded the idea of taking more classes but remained silent. His father's grip became a light patting. Dean was thinking of another way out.
"You know it's my dream that you take over the business when I'm gone. Nothing would make me happier." He spoke softly. Just like that, Jonathan had the advantage. He had flipped the switch. His father knew how much his son adored him.
"Yeah, I know Dad. I'll try and make you proud."
"I know you will. Now, come on. Give your old man a hug." Dean, a bit disoriented, rose from the comfort of the swiveling seat to give his father a bear hug and few thuds to the back.
"I'm glad you forgive me, Dad."
"Of course, my boy. I love you. But you sure missed a heck of a presentation."
"Oh yeah? Debrief me."
"Certainly. We're now official sponsors of what will become Lumiere Charter School in downtown Jersey City. It started off as an up and coming educational program for at risk teens there. It was meant to supplement the education many of the students lack, which has lead to them repeat grades, etc. Now we're going to help making it into a school. And here's the kicker:"
Dean loved how excited his father became when about to reveal something he thought to be particularly interesting.
"The founders of the program both went to Jefferson, two lovely young women. I believe that they were in your class."
Jonathan clasped his hands together, pleased with himself. "Isn't that fantastic!?"
Dean smiled but he had no idea which females in his class his father was referring to. Surely, he would have heard of one of his female friends going to Jersey City and starting a program. In fact, none of his female friends lived in Jersey. A light bulb went off in his head. It must have been someone who did an alternative teaching program like Teach For America and decided to stay and try and make a difference.
"That's great, Dad. What are their names?"
"Jayden McDaniel and Marisol Fuerte. Ring any bells? Jayden seemed to remember you."
Dean pondered for a moment. No, no bells...Wait, ah...Yes! Jayden McDaniel, Miss Jefferson. Dean remembered her clearly now. He had never really talked to her, but he did know that she was one of the most proactive females in the school. A young, black female powerhouse. Everyone seemed to love her. The other female, Marisol, Dean could not remember her face. The name did begin to sound familiar though.
"Yes, yes. Jayden. She was quite the well rounded student at Jefferson. I'm not surprised she's successfully launched her own program. Marisol was a lot quieter and low key."
The truth was that at Jefferson, Jayden and Marisol occupied a different social sphere, one that primarily included minorities. Dean on the other hand had been an athlete and spent most of his time with his lacrosse mates. Any friend of color he had he met on the field and there were very few men of color out their in the lacrosse world.
"Good, I'm glad you remember because I've assigned you to be the company liaison while Lumiere, with its new funding, undergoes some critical changes. We want to make sure our money is being put to good use."
"Okay, I can do that. How long does that usually take?"
"Three months at the least. You'll go there, observe, take notes and compile a detailed report of your observations, which will be sent in at the end of each month." His father walked back to the head of the conference room table and grabbed a red folder stuffed with papers.
"In here is everything you need. It's a copy of Ms. McDaniel's PowerPoint, contracts, comprehensive breakdown of the Lumiere and tentative timeline we drafted together regarding the necessary changes."
Dean grabbed the thick, red folder from his father's hand and flipped through the colored sheets of papers. He then looked back at his father.
"Is that all?"
"That's it, my boy."
"Okay, cool. I'm on it." Dean closed the folder and tucked it underneath his arm, in the crook of his armpit. Relieved that everything was back to normal, Dean unbuttoned his suit jacket and headed towards the door. He paused and turned back quickly to watch his father tidy the room. Dean knew that once he left, his father would retreat to his office to make several important phone calls, answer some e-mails, and then order a car to take him home.
"I'll see you for dinner and drinks, Friday night."
"Sure thing. Be safe, son."
"You too, Dad. Give mom a kiss for me, will you?"
"I always do." His father grinned.
Heading towards the elevator, a bit dismayed that he still had the weight of Kennel Corps on his shoulders, he saw her. The woman he'd nearly knocked over. Now there, he thought. I can properly apologize for my rude behavior. About five feet away from her, he heard the loud bing signaling the arrival of the elevator. The light flashed above her and the doors opened. She stepped inside. Dean broke into a sprint in order to catch the elevator doors as they closed. He managed to get a foot in which caused the elevator doors to retract. The woman didn't look up. Her phone was to her ear waiting for someone on the other end to pick up.
"Hello?" He heard a lethargic female voice answer.
"Hi, Mari babe. Just finished the meeting."
"Yeah? That's wonderful, honey. How do you think it went?" The woman's voice on the phone held a thick Spanish accent.
"I rocked it. Mari, they gave us fifty g's just to start off! Just to start, honey! Now we can put down on the building that we want to rent." The woman, Mari, squealed in delight.
"I'm not surprised, babe. I knew you'd seal the deal. I mean you left the office looking like a million bucks and besides everybody loves you. You just light up a room, so chara-"
"Okay! Cut it, Mari! I know what you're going to say. I get it."
"You never take compliments well."
Jayden chuckled, "I don't need your compliments. I just need you to be happy."
Dean kept his head straight occasionally ruffling his red tie. At one point, he checked his blackberry and after glancing at the messages he decided listening in on this conversation was much more fun.
"I am happy, boo! So happy. Let's go out for drinks tonight and celebrate."
"Oh, you know I am down. Gotta get out of these wack clothes though," Jayden sighed slipping out of her cardigan.
"Haha. But you look so good in those "wack" clothes." The elevator sounded again indicating that it had reached the lobby. Dean waited for the doors to open.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm just glad the game's over. Look I'm 'bout to get off the elevator and get in the car. I'll call you as soon as I get into JC. Muah, bye!" The doors opened and Dean stepped out the elevator before the woman, walking slowly. She easily passed him, her high heels clicking across the marble floor of the lobby. He watched her exit through the spinning doors. Her form fitting black dress molded to her body and hugged her curves.
The conversation brought several pieces together. She was Jayden. The woman he had been standing with inside the elevator was Jayden McDaniel! She looked so different since they'd graduated, much hotter. Or had she always been that hot? And judging by the conversation this Marisol had to be her lover.
Rock Plaza - Outside of Kennel Corp
"What did you mean by "the game's over?"
Jayden stiffened and slowed her purposeful stride; She looked over her shoulder at the man she'd barely noticed in the elevator.
"Excuse me?" She stopped once she had reached her car and turned around to stare at him. After a moment, she squinted her eyes. The impish grin, the messy sun-kissed curls falling across his face, those warm, brown eyes were still the same. It was impossible not to know it was Dean. He still had the same youthful swagger he had in high school.
She sighed in recognition and stated, "Eavesdropping is rude."
Dean, noticing her recognition of him, relaxed by leaning an arm on the side of her car.
"Well it's hard not to when you're like a foot from one another in an elevator. If you don't want people to hear your conversation, maybe you shouldn't talk on an elevator." His smile was teasing. Jayden could also see that he was still the same cocky ass he was in high school.
"You're awfully comfortable on the side of my car. I'm sensitive to marks, scratches and the sort on her." Dean blinked, not comprehending Jayden's implications. She cleared her throat and poised a hand on her hip. She looked towards the car and then back to Dean waiting.
"OH!" Dean jerked from the side of the car.
"It's good to see you again, Dean," she responded dryly. Who did he think he was traipsing up to her in such a fashion, leaning against her car without any introductions? He was lucky she figured out who he was when she looked up or else...
"You know I could have maced you coming up to me like that."
Dean looked at her confused and then laughed out loud. "You carry mace?"
"I live in Jersey City," she stated bluntly, a blank expression on her face, "and you better be glad that's all I carry."
Dean loosened his tie.
"Hmm. Well sorry about the whole leaning business. My car's my pride and joy as well." He responded, giving her car a once over. It was a silver Nissan Altima Coupe, probably nothing compared to what Dean might have, Jayden thought. She opened the back door and tossed her cardigan in. She removed some flat sandals from the back seat. Removing her pumps one by one, she placed a delicate foot into each flip flop. She noticed Dean staring at her.
"Yes, well...is there something I can help you with?" She cocked an eyebrow at him. Dean seemed to snap out of his trance and clear his throat.
"Oh, when I noticed it was you on the elevator I wanted to make sure I apologized for not attending today's meeting. My fat-Mr. Kennel said you did a phenomenal job. I want to formally congratulate you."
"Thank you, Dean. I appreciate it. You were sorely missed at the meeting today as well." Sarcasm. Dean raised an eyebrow. Jayden realized that she probably shouldn't be so rude to the CEO's son. But, I already have the check, she thought. Dangerous thinking. Rein it in.
"Truly. I was looking forward to seeing a familiar face."
"That's nice. Well, you'll be seeing me a lot more often," Oh joy! She wanted to roll her eyes so badly.
"I'm sure Mr. Kennel told you that I've been assigned to act as a liaison between Lumiere and Kennel Corp for a couple months while you get the new building off the ground."
"Yes, Mr. Kennel did mention it. We'll be glad to have you aboard. Now, if you'll excuse me I have to get going. It's a bit of drive out of the city with so much traffic."
"Yeah, well let me get the door for you."
"No, I can ma- "
"Thanks." Jayden slipped into her car and watched as he closed the door. Even when she started the engine he was still there waiting. She began to pull off and he waved. She waved back and took off towards the George Washington Bridge.
Hard Grove Cafe - Jersey City
"Hola, chica! Check you out! Struttin' in here with the big bucks, huh?" Marisol, a Dominican beauty, stood a 5'4 with long curly hair cascading down her back. She wore a sheer light pink camisole with a tank top underneath, black tights and knee length boots. She moved from the bar and walked towards Jayden with arms wide open. Jayden grinned widely. Seeing her best friend was like a breath of fresh air.
"You know it, mama! Come here." They bear hugged a while until Marisol broke off and grabbed Jayden by the hand. She led Jayden to the leather bound bar stools and watched her friend take a seat.
"Look what I have lined up for you. Shots of patron!"
"You know me so well," Jayden cooed happily.
"Mira, Carlito! Bring us two Long Island ice teas and then after that, surprise us! But keep the drinks coming. We're celebrating tonight." Carlito, Marisol's cousin had been working at the Hard Grove for years. It was very convenient because he always gave us discounts on our drinks.
Carlito smirked, "Oh yeah? What cha'll celebratin'?"
"We got big money for Lumiere tonight."
"Good stuff. In that case, drinks on me tonight ladies. Just for you two though. Not your hoodrat friends," he laughed. Both Jayden and Marisol gave him an annoyed look.
"The gang's on their way over here. I've told them the good news and they're all super excited." Marisol explained.
"Great. Now let's get to these shots!"
"Vamos!" The two women faced the mirrors behind the bar, grabbed their respective shot glasses and raised them high while Mari shouted, "Pa' arriba, pa' bajo, pa' centro, pa' dentro!" They downed the shots of patron and settled down on their stools.
Jayden wiped her mouth and spoke, "Whew! So smooth!" Jayden let the tangy taste sit in her mouth before she poke again. "So let me tell you who I saw today."
"Girl, who?" Mari's eyes widened in anticipation. Carlito sat two glistening glasses of Long Island iced tea on coasters next to the women.
Mari's face fell. She scrunched her nose in confusion. "Dean Kennel? Who's that?"
"From Jefferson, girl. Lax bro. He was the crazy white boy that always danced so hard at parties...super cute?" Jayden took a sip of her long island iced tea.
"You know I don't remember anyone from that damn school. I try hard to forget it. But I believe you when you say he exists. So what about him?"
"Well, his father owns the company hence the last name and he works for his father too. Since we've gotten the grant the company will send over a liaison to monitor the program to see how we put the funds to use, etc. Guess who our liaison is?"
"Wow. Small world. I see why you continued to visit Jefferson after we graduated. Those connections come in handy."
"Yeah, they come in handy from a far by way of a recommendation or a donation or something. But I can't handle someone like Dean coming into the program. He'll just breath down our necks about something he doesn't understand."
"Yeah, I feel you. It's probably all about the publicity. These big companies find themselves so called wanting to give back to the community and what not. They don't really care about what's actually going on."
Jayden nodded her head in agreement. She nearly finished her drink. "Exactly. We lucked out on Kennel Corps because at least he's checking on us and making sure we're actually about something. I've actually had a decent conversation with the man about the project. He told me how his family used to live in Jersey City way back in the day, too! Back when a movie was like ten cents. Isn't that wild?"
"So wild." Marisol agreed starting her second drink.
"I did some research on Jonathan Kennel and his company has a reputation for reaching out to struggling organizations, particularly in Jersey City, as well as other philanthropic endeavors. His son on the other hand...I googled him and nothing substantial came up. Brother man is still poppin' up on Facebook with the drunk bro pics. It's ridiculous."
"Ugh. Life's one big party to them prep school kids for real. They get a degree, don't do squat with it and still rolling around in a Benz. It makes me sick."
This topic was nothing new to the two friends. In college the two friends had been heavily involved with issues around cultural identity and representation on their respective campuses. They found a voice to explain their frustrations having attended a predominantly white secondary school and the passion this discovery evoked led the two friends back together in their adult lives to start a program for at risk teens.
"Preach, sistah," Jayden heartily encouraged.
"I mean, but it's whatever, he's just gonna be around for a little while. He's harmless. Probably won't even notice he's there," Marisol ended with a shrug of her shoulders.
"Yeah, well I hope so. He just needs to do whatever he needs to do to make daddy happy and stay out of our way."
Jayden felt small hands at her shoulders and she stopped before launching off into another tirade. The cavalry had arrived. Rodney, Casey, Lynette, and Marissa, workers at Lumiere, had all made it out tonight to celebrate. Marisol, already tipsy, was beside herself.
"Guys! Finally, you're here!" Marisol and Jayden rose from the seats and began hugging and kissing their coworkers on the cheek.
Rodney was the first to speak.
"Yeah, I had to pick up Lynette's lazy self." He gave her sideways glance and reiterated, "Don't think I'ma be your chauffeur or something." We all laughed as Lynette rolled her eyes and placed her purse on the bar preparing to order a drink. Jayden turned towards Rodney.
"Speaking of chauffeur, you know I'ma need you drive me home tonight right?" Rodney was the only one of the coworkers that didn't drink. He said he never liked the taste of alcohol. In high school, he was a tri-varsity athlete. He always had to keep his body in check so he didn't mess with any drugs, alcohol or other substances. After while, he got immune to the stuff. Or so he said. Rodney sighed.
Lynette snickered and muttered under her breath, "Oh, so you huffin' and puffin about giving me a ride, but as soooon as Jayden want a ride you get all docile and what not talking.... 'sure'" She mimicked. He ignored her. Everyone suspected that Rodney had always had a thing for Jayden since he began working at Lumiere. Jayden pretended to be oblivious.
Mari interrupted, "Guys, guys, guys. Mira! Why you keep talking? Let's drink!" She raised her glass with a huge grin, her cheeks a bit flushed. No one could deny a smile that bright. With that, the rest of the coworkers gathered around the bar, while Rodney ordered a ginger ale, to celebrate the night away.
What is Lumiere?