Chapter 4 — Winner Takes All

This is the fourth chapter in the novel. I am working furiously on getting this finished and published. I already pre-scheduled chapters 5 and 6. Good news, though. If I publish the book before their scheduled run date, I’ll go ahead and publish them simultaneously so you at least get through chapter 6 on the blog.

Chapter 4 – Fresh Start

Javier took a deep breath, and put on his cool, confidant look. In the past, this was the look that had always worked for him. It had opened Princeton and later Harvard to him. It had made him the man of the hour in New York. It had served him well everywhere he went. Only, he could never maintain it in the shadow of his father — the man who had never seen him as a winner. Josef had always seen Javier as spoiled, not disciplined enough to raise himself up from the gutter and eke out success. Because Javier wanted a different kind of success, his father had viewed it as somehow taking the easy road, the privileged road, not just a different road.

Javier had been determined to prove his father wrong. To return home a success. He’d been doing it. He’d been thisclose. Then everything fell apart, and instead of returning triumphant, he’d come back disgraced. A bad move, one led by the head between his legs, rather than the one on his shoulders, had ended with him being asked to leave the firm. Javier was good at his job. And he should’ve been a rising star. But getting involved with the wrong lady had messed everything up. She’d double crossed him in such a big way: he’d lost an account and his reputation.

He’d interviewed other places, but while the particulars had been shrouded in a confidentiality agreement, rumors that Javier was bad news spread quickly and any place he wanted to be in the city was closed to him. He’d told his mother, who had nothing but kindness in her heart. “You’re a good man, Javier,” she’d told him. “Don’t let the actions of a bad woman ruin you.” She’d told him to come home. There was no shame in that. She might even be able to help.

And she had. She’d gotten him the best he could hope for.  A chance to start fresh — without the baggage of his past mistake — at a pretty decent job. It was technically nepotism, which had the possibility of marring his success. But Tina had been right. People respected respect. He could earn people’s respect at this company. He just had to go in with the right level of confidence. He had to present: “I got this, but I’m not an asshole.” Sometimes, it was hard to pull off, but he’d done it before. He wasn’t an asshole. So, that part of the equation was covered. Conveying that he had it, was the harder part.

He’d feel better if he hadn’t seen his father this morning. Javier had awakened at the crack of dawn and gone for an hour-long run. He’d come in to grab some eggs and bacon for breakfast — high protein was good; to Hell with the artery damage from all the cholesterol. Only, when he’d come in the kitchen, his father had been there. He’d tried to be cheerful, respectful, non-confrontational, all the things he thought he needed to be. His father had managed a couple of pleasantries about the weather. Javier thought all was going well. Then his father had folded his morning newspaper, stood to leave, and said, “I’d be ashamed if my mother had to beg for me a job from my uncle.”

God, he hated his dad. Javier had done the work your way up deal, and it had ended with a bad decision. Wasn’t he allowed to start in the mid-range and try again? If it all went well, he could springboard from Taylor & Thompson to another firm. One that wasn’t tied to his mother. One that he’d gotten to on his own.

Javier was sitting alone in his uncle Ben’s office. The door opened, and Ben walked in, returning from a brief chat with his partner. Ben was a tall, thin man with blond hair and blue eyes. Normally, Ben had fair skin, but today he still looked tan from his vacation. He had an old-world charm, reminiscent of Paul Newman, that tended to make a good impression. He got you with his good looks, then his straight up confidence. He could sell anything. That was, perhaps, why he had done so well in marketing.

Ben smiled as he closed the door to the office and walked over to Javier. He reached out with open arms, and Javier stood and hugged him. “You know, I’m really sorry about what happened in New York,” his uncle said, his silky voice dripping with sincerity. Then with the preface of “But,” he switched gears into complete cheer. “Their loss is our gain. I was so mad when you turned down our offer after you finished school.”

When his uncle released him, Javier tried to look appropriately regretful. “I was concerned it would look like nepotism, so I didn’t want to run in here and have everyone view me as the guy who got the job because his uncle runs the company.”

“Of course,” Ben said, sitting on the edge of his desk. “A little too much of your father in you. Always, ‘be your own man, don’t take handouts, yada yada yada.’ I wish Cathy could’ve convinced him to take a little more when you guys were little. But he needed to be his own man. Well, Santiago’s is still doing well, right? It worked out for him?”

Javier shrugged and sat back down in the chair opposite his uncle. He didn’t want to talk about his father. His father’s restaurants were doing well. There were two. The bigger Santiago’s out in the suburbs, and the original little hole in the wall in Adams Morgan, the one that had burned and been rebuilt. His father had left the running of the Adams Morgan location to Josefina. She was doing well with it, and, more importantly, loving it.

 Ben nodded, perhaps wanting to talk less about Josef Santiago than Javier did. “As you know, my plan right now is to introduce you as the new marketing executive,” Ben said. “You’ll be working on some accounts that our former VP left behind. Additionally, you’ll be expected to generate new accounts.”

Javier raised a brow. “This isn’t the VP position, for sure then? I know you said there was some wiggle room.”

Ben sighed. “The VP position is open, but we’re not ready to fill it, yet. We’re just going to distribute some of the accounts, and in six months to a year, we’ll look at promoting from within for the job.” His uncle offered him a smile. “Do well with the accounts you have, and you could be the frontrunner for it.”

Frontrunner. Javier smiled. Earning a VP slot after six months would be an accomplishment. Though, he wondered if people would simply assume he didn’t earn it properly. “Six months might be a bit soon, Uncle Ben.”

“Just Ben around the office. We’re not going to hide that we’re related, but referring to me as Uncle Ben is bad for two reasons: First because it makes it sound like a rice farmer, and second, it reminds people you’re my sister’s kids. Javier Santiago feels a bit distant from Ben Taylor, right?”

Javier nodded. “Right, Mr. Taylor.”

Ben winked. “I like that even better.”

With this, Ben stood up and motioned for the door. “Everyone should be ready for us in the conference room. Let’s go introduce you as the new employee.”