I reached the place five minutes before I was supposed to have been there. I was nervous, I wasn’t sure if I was up to the task. Looking around me, I started into void. True, the commotion around me was perpetual, but I was unaffected by it all.
“Your the best negotiator we have Jim!”, my boss guffawed at a toast a few months ago.
“Those buggers didn’t know what hit them. You left them thinking that they struck the best deal and yet you ran circles around them”
I blushed appropriately. I didn’t deserve all this praise, I thought to myself. I’ve been negotiating with people ever since I can remember. When I was young, my dad used to tell me “If you have to choose between keeping your money in your pocket or someone elses, which would you choose? That’s what you need to remember”
At first, I would do the ‘base talks’ – let the party know we were interested, get to understand his structure, tweak the areas of debate and generally lower it to the point where I would set it up for my dad. He would just walk in, speak crisply for some time and very soon the guy at the other end would be either weeping or grinning like an idiot – which he probably was.
One day, my dad thought that I was at my aunt’s, he set up a meeting of our key suppliers from Korea at our home. He was through half the discussion, when I returned. He didn’t notice me, so I managed to watch what was happening from a hole in the kitchen. I watched my dad play them with ease and he was reaching a point where he was about to strike the winning blow.
I threw the door open and shouted “This is unacceptable”. Everyone turned to look at me. I rattled out what I knew of what was happening, and told them that their offer made no sense to me, and I didn’t see any reason why my dad would even consider taking it.
There was a silence in the room. Silence that you could cut and serve on plate to a room that was starved for words. Finally, someone did something.
It was a Korean. He got up, looked me straight in the eye, walked to my dad, handed him a piece of paper, whispered something into his ear and the entire team walked out.
I stood dumbstruck. My dad gave me the most stern look I have known him to possess. He looked at the paper and told me. “Never, never again”, he started sternly, as he handed me the paper, “Never, never again leave my side”. He burst out laughing.
The Koreans had reduced the supply rates by half.
I was delirious. Soon, my dad did the base talks, I simply jumped in and hit the ball out of the park. When this new negotiating specialist firm opened in Washington, dad said I should give it a shot.
“He’s done what no one else can and no one else will.”, my boss continued. “Our clients are happy, our management is happy, I’m happy. You’ll have to wake up very early in the day to beat our man Jim”
He was happy and also very drunk! I slipped out, grabbed a couple of beers and slept on the couch. I was alone. Never had much luck with girls. What was their line? You take us apart with your words. Never managed to sustain a conversation with them for more than a few minutes.
But I loved my life. I did what I enjoyed. Got paid silly to do it (Mom would have blushed if he saw my pay cheque and the gifts the clients sent me). Things were good.
A wry smile teased my lips as I thought about the times of the past. Those sure were good days. My job responsibilities had increased. I was handling bigger and bigger clients. When one day, the biggest job I had ever seen landed on my table. My eyes bulged out. The commission we would earn from this job alone, would cover an entire financial quarter’s earning.
Here I was then standing in this place. Waiting to meet the people who would create a golden bullet point in my resume. I had spent the past three months gathering everything I could about our ‘target’ company and our client. I pored over every number, investigated every decimal and wrecked havoc on our coffee machine. The people at office were placing bets whether the caffeine would kill me first or the nicotine.
Neither did, as I stood at the pavement ready to figuratively throw my briefcase at the target party. ‘Relax, you’ve done this a million times before. Just swoop in and swoop out’.
I didn’t notice a black Merc gliding to a smooth halt in front of me. When the driver pressed the brakes, the noise stopped my senseless ramblings in a hurry.
What happened next was a series of events, not events spread apart, but events that were milliseconds away, which my eye and mind captured like snapshots in flashes.
A driver got down and ran to the rear, paused a bit at the door.
A sleek, heeled leg pushed out. I stared at it in disbelief. Heels.. women? The target company was sending women!?
Soon I realized that the leg would have to be attached to something – and she stepped out. She was wearing shades. The dark shades set off her milky face, so that it presented a picture of perfect contrast.
As I took in detail by detail, I realised that she was not wearing any make up. Which made her more stunning that I could ever imagine possible.
Her fingers were caressing her phone which was a sleek model that you see the ads these days. Only, they looked so much better in hers. I noticed her lips were moving as well. My ears sprang to life from sensual shock and what it tuned into was poetry, melodic and heavenly. Her diction was perfect. Her words were impressive. The effect, stunning.
Another hand ran over her dress, she was wearing a nice white shirt, covered by a silky cream coat, that almost seemed to pass the baton of perfection to a smooth, black skirt that swished mischievously as she walked towards me.
She gave the driver a nod and he bowed low and he got into the car. I got the feeling that if could bow any lower than he would.
In all the time that I had spent noticing her, I realised that she was still had not realised that I was present. I walked up, surprised that my legs were slow to start, and pushed myself up to a decent distance, when my nose, which had been complaining of being left out of all the action in front me, went into ecstasy – Perfume. Intoxicating.
As she walked towards me, she brushed her long silky hair away from the face, and for a moment I lost track of what I was supposed to do; look at her face, admire her hair or simply drool.
I was put out of the misery of answering that question, when she stopped in front of me and raised a well trimmed eyebrow. It slowly dawned on my overloaded brain that it was my turn to speak.
“I’m Jim. Jim Burke. From Dela Associates. I .. er.. have been sent,er.. will represent the interests of ..”
“Donna Rose, pleasure!”
She got back on the phone. She was British. She was talking into her phone again. I had never felt like a bigger fool all my life.
She was sophisticated, sounded intelligent and looked hubba-hubba. I found myself admiring her all over again. When could I hear that voice again? As if on cue, she suddenly turned towards me. “Are we going to talk here or do you have a better place in mind?”
“Er.. right this way ..”, I said sheepishly. I led her to the conference room close by. I held the door open for her. She slid in without so much as an appreciatory glance.
She sat down on one side of the table, crossed her legs, put her hair in place and stared at me.
“Jim, this thing is not going to work for us”
Okay, I was used to this. Hard ball upfront, I should have countered with “Then I don’t see why we’re here“. But I found my mouth saying “What seems to be the problem?”
One part of my brain was saying “She said your first name, score! score!”
Another part worried, “She’s so pretty. She’ll cry if you run a hard deal. Go easy on her”
A third part was saying, “Are you guys serious? We have a deal to cinch here. Get with it!”
The third part was found murdered very mysteriously.
The rest of the meeting went as per plan.
Her plan that is. All my tactics faded into nothingness. She would say the most simplest of things, and my counter would take a vacation.
At one point, I managed to pull in enough courage to make a good point. One look at her deep blue eyes, I was afraid she’d break down and cry.
She smiled. She said “Really?”, and then changed the topic.
The whole thing lasted 3 hours in my head. I knew. I was counting her eye-blinks. In reality, it lasted just 15 minutes.
She got up. She held her hand out. “Pleasure doing business with you, Jim”. She smiled. My hands were sweaty.
I walked her out, or rather she walked out and I followed her, my memory conjuring, for some strange reason, images of sheep!
As she reached her waiting Merc, she turned around sharply on her heel. Her heel.
“Good day, Mr. Burke”
She left. At least most of her did. I was clinging to all the whiffs I could get off her perfume, till there was no more.
And then, I collapsed. It dawned on me that I may not have an office to go to tomorrow. I may not have a job to attend tomorrow. I may not be as happy as I was a couple of months back when nothing could go wrong.
And definitely, not as happy as the man who was strangely brimming with joy next to Ms. Rose in the Merc.
Definitely not as happy as the Korean.
I’ve seen guys, the best of them ,get intimidated by suave ladies. It’s something that Darwin wanted to write about, but then chose to talk about birds and bees instead. This story was fictional. It was thought up because I was under extreme pressure to deliver in a month end. Doesn’t make sense. Sure sonny, nothing does!
This is my first short story. Tell me what you think. Post in the comments
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