Ann: A Love Story Ch. 66

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“You have GOT to be kidding me,” I said to myself as my brain finally recognized that the sound that was rattling inside it was from my alarm.

My weary hand snuck out from under the covers, hitting the snooze. I was about to close my eyes again, ready to take advantage of the 4-minute interval that I’d get until it went off the next time. But there was a knock, followed by a quiet, familiar voice.

“Neil…it’s time to get up, honey,” my Mom said softly through the door of my room.

“The alarm just went off,” I said back to her, slightly annoyed, knowing there was no going back to sleep now. Not for four minutes, or any multiple of four that I was suddenly wishing I had available to me.

“That’s the fourth time it’s gone off, Neil. You slept through the first three.”

I looked at the clock, and realized she was right. I must have been hitting the snooze all along, not even realizing I’d done it the first few times.

“Okay…I’m up,” I said to her, although I wasn’t really moving.

“Can I open the door, honey?” she asked.

Doing a quick check to make sure my naked body was totally covered, I said, “Uh…yeah. Come on in.”

Mom opened the door slowly, walking in next to my bed. She set down a cup of coffee on the nightstand next to my clock, and turned around to walk out. “There’s your first cup, Neil. I’ll have another one ready for you when you get out of the shower and get dressed.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I said with a little laugh.

It wasn’t the same room service I’d gotten the day before, when Ann and I had ordered our midday breakfast in bed. Sure, I was in bed, and I was just as naked as I’d been that time. But I had gotten out of bed and wrapped a damp towel around my waist to answer the door when the guy from room service brought the cart just inside the door. And, I had a hot, horny babe waiting for me once I climbed back in bed.

I had a wry smile on my face as I threw the covers off and put my feet on the floor. Digging my toes into the carpet to help me wake up, I took that first glorious sip of morning brew and thanked my lucky stars once again that I had a Mother that was not only a morning person, but she was one that always had my back. Then I thought of Ann again, and what she probably looked like at the moment…sleeping peacefully, with her angelic face and her cute little snore. I let out a sigh and took another sip, before getting to my feet.

Five minutes later, I was shaving my lower abdomen, the hot water of the shower hitting me in the back. That first cup of coffee was doing the trick already, and between that running through my system, and the steamy spray I was standing in, I was actually feeling somewhat alive.

But my second cup of coffee was really hitting the spot. It was like a jolt to my system, and as I sat at the kitchen table with it and a morning bagel, I felt relatively normal. That was, until my Mom started talking.

“Your Dad wanted to talk to you last night, but he couldn’t wait up for you to get home after dropping Ann off.”

“I didn’t drop her off, Mom. I followed her home.”

She rolled her eyes and said, “Same thing, Neil. You know what I meant.”

I laughed. “Yeah…you’re right. What did he want to talk to me about?”

“Work.”

“Yeah…what about it?” I said as I took another bite.

“He wanted to tell you who you’re going to be training today…and kind of what to expect when you get there.” I almost choked as what she said sank in. I had to fight to swallow the bite of bagel I’d taken, and then I washed that down with a quick gulp of coffee. “Are you okay?” she said in her concerned Mom voice.

“Yeah…yeah, I’m fine. That didn’t sound good at all.”

“Oh…I don’t think it will be that bad. But your Dad did say that Howard didn’t take it well. At least, not at first.”

Howard was my assistant, and I knew he was going to get passed over for my job. In his mind, he would have been not only the obvious choice…he would have been the ONLY choice to be promoted to my position. But I’d made it clear to my boss, and my Dad, that he wasn’t qualified. The job needed someone that could talk to customers professionally, and that just wasn’t Howard’s forte. He was more at home dealing with machinery. Dealing with people wasn’t even close to his strong suit.

I knew when I left that my father was going to spearhead the search for my replacement. Dad was so disillusioned with the way Dan, my boss, had treated me upon learning that I was leaving the company, he intervened…using his VP status to pull rank on Dan and set him straight. Dad not only ripped into him, he told him that the raise he’d foolishly promised me in an attempt to keep me on would be coming out of his pocket for the three weeks I had left with the company.

When I thought about returning from the most amazing vacation of my life, and having to deal with Dan for two weeks and how the forced pay cut he was taking was going to go over, I cringed. But I put that casino siteleri out of my mind for the moment. What I needed to know, more than anything, was who was going to be sitting at my desk, waiting to be trained when I got there.

I swallowed hard, and said, “Do you know who Dad hired?”

“I don’t remember his name off hand. Something like Kenneth. I think he was on second shift.”

“Do you mean Kevin O’Brien?”

“Yeah…that’s it. Do you know him?”

“I’ve worked at Beck for seven years, Mom. I know everybody that works there. I don’t know Kevin very well, obviously, since he’s on the other shift. But I know him.”

“Well, your father told me to tell you not to worry about anything until he gets there. He’ll explain everything that’s gone on while you were on vacation.”

“He won’t be in until like 8:30 Mom. What am I supposed to do ’til then? Hide?”

“Can’t you hear? He’s in the shower now, Neil. He’s been going in earlier the last few days. He’s got a lot more on his plate right now.”

“Really…why?”

“Relax, Neil. You’ll find out soon enough. He wants you to just go into your office, and wait. He’ll be there about 15 minutes behind you,” she said with a reassuring smile.

~*~*~*~*~*~

As I made the short five minute drive to the plant, I couldn’t help but think of what Mom had just told me, and wonder what it all meant. The way she’d said Dad had a lot on his plate sounded almost cryptic. And what was with him going in early all of a sudden? He’d been on his laid back schedule for years, coming in a little late, and leaving a little early. It wasn’t like he still didn’t bust his ass…Dad got more done in a 6-hour day than anyone else on the Upper Management team of Beck Manufacturing got done in twelve. But this was suddenly out of character, at least from what I was used to.

And what did she mean about Howard not taking getting passed over for promotion well ‘at first’? I knew he’d blow a gasket, and it wasn’t something I’d figured he’d get over in a less than a week. He’d been my assistant almost from the inception of the department. It was only natural that he’d assume he was in prime position for the job. Knowing him as I did, I knew he’d never see that he wasn’t really qualified; that his skill set wasn’t what the job title required.

And it wasn’t like he would have just been blown up the first day I was gone. I was sure he would have at least been interviewed for the job. Which meant Howard wouldn’t have known he wasn’t getting it until something like Wednesday or Thursday. Maybe even Friday, if they waited until the end of the week to make their selection, which was very likely. So how could he have possibly gotten over it that fast?

In a way, I blamed myself for not having Howard ready. After all, he was my second in command. And as the leader of the department, I should have taken steps to make sure he was trained to replace me, not just short term, but on a more permanent basis. But the truth was, Howard didn’t have the people skills required, and that really wasn’t something that was trainable. You either have that gift, or you don’t. Not everyone can do everything…and while he wasn’t at his best dealing with people, he did have an area that he excelled at.

Howard was one of the best machine operators I’d ever met, and he had a knack for getting the most production out of the equipment. That’s one of the reasons the department was so successful…because he could get things moving, with the high quality our customers not only expected, but demanded.

Still, it gnawed at me that I hadn’t at least tried to bring Howard along. Or at the very least, let him know where his shortcomings were, and work with him to attempt to improve them. But as my father had told me the day I’d quit my job, the responsibility for making sure I had a suitable replacement for my position fell squarely on the shoulders of my boss, Dan.

Dad’s reasoning was that Dan hadn’t seen fit to make me a salaried Manager, even though I was in charge of the department. And Dad had a point. Because I wasn’t an ‘official’ department head, like all of my counterparts, I wasn’t even allowed to give performance evaluations. Dan did those. Which meant that in the eyes of the employees of my department, and according to the organization chart that was posted on the wall going into the lunchroom, Dan was ultimately their boss…not me.

Of course, what galled me about that is that Dan barely stepped foot in my department. That was great most of the time, because it allowed me to run it my way, with very little interference. All I had to do was make him look good. But I always thought doing that it would also make me look good in the process, which would ultimately lead to my being promoted.

Dan knew so little about my department, and my people, that he had me write their evaluations. He just sat down and gave them to the employees. Of course, they didn’t know that, but that didn’t stop the burning angst I canlı casino had in my gut whenever Dan would pretend the words coming out of his mouth were based on his thoughts, when they were really mine. And since I wasn’t in the room when he gave the evaluations, who knew how he was really presenting them.

But it wasn’t like Dan was all bad. Like I said, he did leave me alone, and that allowed me to grow as a manager. I learned on the fly, taking calculated chances and making some mistakes, which I always learned from. I felt I flourished under that kind of free reign…and I was convinced I’d become a better manager because of it. And Dan had been amazingly supportive during my divorce, understanding that I was going through a really difficult time in my life. That was a tremendously thoughtful gesture on his part.

Still, those good things didn’t outweigh the things that bothered me, especially the events that happened on my last day before my vacation. He’d practically taken credit for all my hard work in getting a new customer to sign a big three-year contact. And it was only then that he’d seen fit to promote me…only to try to renege on it when I gave him my resignation.

Sure, first he tried to match the offer of my new company in a hasty attempt to salvage face. Dan knew that he didn’t know what I knew when it came to what my department really did, and he also knew there was no one ready to take my place. And that fact would have made him look bad in the Management Team’s eyes. So he panicked and tried, in effect, to bribe me with a matching compensation package to keep me on.

Then, when it became clear to Dan that I was leaving anyway, he said he wasn’t going to promote me after all. And he got nailed on it; my Dad was eavesdropping in the hallway and overheard the entire conversation. That really wasn’t like my Dad…and I wondered for the first time what made him do something so out of character. Regardless, it happened. And now, I was going to be dealing with a boss who was paying my new, higher salary, out of his own paycheck. I could only hope he’d leave me alone during my last two weeks like he normally did, instead of suddenly meddling in my department because I was going to be training a replacement.

And that thought brought me to my replacement. I didn’t know a lot about Kevin, other than he was one of the working leads on second shift. The plant ran a skeleton crew that started in the afternoon. There was only one manager on second shift, and he had three working leads that reported to him. They were in charge of a part of the production process, and Kevin’s responsibilities were pretty much contained to manufacturing. I had no clue what kind of personal interaction skills he had. But, I knew he was funny and personable whenever I’d talked to him. I could only trust that the search committee that Dad had to hastily put together felt he was the right man for the job.

Pulling into the parking lot, I was a little surprised to see it was pretty much full. I actually had to look for a spot to park, my usual spot having already been taken. When I glanced at the clock on my dashboard, I freaked. Looking at my watch, I confirmed what it said, and I realized I was late. Not the way I wanted to start on my first day back from vacation. I was usually at least 10 minutes early when I drove into the parking lot. But I’d left late from the house, and I’d been so lost in thought about all the things that would be awaiting me once I walked through the big employee entrance door, I’d lost track of time as well.

I scrambled out of the car, heading across the pavement as quickly as I could. I wasn’t running, but it was a pretty brisk walk. Opening the door, I headed to the big metal partition that held the punch cards for the time clocks. Fortunately, mine was on the side nearest the wall, which meant that I was hidden from the rest of the plant. There was a second time clock on the other side of the partition, which had the other half of the punch cards. The two clocks made it easier for people to clock in and out, relieving some of the congestion that could happen close to the hour.

Being late, I was alone on my side, and I searched for my card. Oddly, it wasn’t in its normal spot…where it always was, and had been for years. I scanned up and down the vertical row…not finding it, and I began thinking it had been misplaced when the new timecards were put out for the beginning of the week. It had happened before, but never when I was running late, or actually late, like I was at the moment. I scanned a couple more columns, but couldn’t find it. I was starting to panic, but at that point, there was little I could do.

Well, there was something I could do…I just had to go do it. I walked from around the time clock, past the partition, and headed down the little aisle that led to my office. It was only about 50 feet away, but it seemed like a mile as I tried to navigate my way without being seen. Fortunately, the employees in my department were kaçak casino good, and they were already hard at work. I was able to open my door and slide through unnoticed.

I let out a little sigh, and walked around my desk, which was surprisingly tidy. I’d expected a mountain of paperwork to have to deal with. And while there was a lot of stuff, it was all organized into neat little piles, which made it was pretty obvious that Howard hadn’t been dealing with them. He had a tendency to use the ‘dump on the desk’ method when it came to handling paperwork. This was anything but that.

I sat down and picked up the phone, knowing I had to call the person in charge of payroll to confess that I was not only late, I couldn’t find my timecard to punch in. Hitting zero, I stewed a little while the phone rang.

“Front desk, this is Nancy.”

“Hi Nancy…it’s Neil.”

“OH…MY GOD! Neil…how ARE you?”

“I good. A little tired, but it was an amazing week.”

She responded with a sexy little laugh and said, “I bet it was. How’s Ann? Is she able to walk?”

“What?” I said, surprised by the randomness of her question.

“She just spent an entire week with that big cock of yours stuffed between her legs, Neil. I figure she’ll be laid up in bed for a couple of days.”

“Very funny, Nancy. Trust me…I’m the one that should be in bed. Ann damn near fucked it off!”

“Hmm…I had a feeling about that. That’s what makes you two such a perfect couple. Well, that and about a million other things…you really are a good match for each other, Neil. I’m so happy for you two.”

“Aw…thanks Nancy. That means a lot.”

“You’re welcome, sweetie. So, did you just call to say hello, or did you need something?”

“Uh, actually…yeah. I’m afraid I do. I still can’t believe it, but I was late this morning. And to top THAT off, I can’t find my time card. I looked for it in the other columns, but…anyway, I was here just a couple of minutes after seven. But there’s not going to be a record of it.”

Nancy let out a laugh, and I could practically hear her smiling through the phone. “Neil, you weren’t late,” she said between giggles.

“Sure I was…two minutes. Maybe three.”

“No…you weren’t.”

“Nancy, I’m telling you…”

“Neil?” she said, trying to get my attention.

“What?”

“You weren’t late…you’re on salary now. That’s why there’s no time card for you. You don’t have to punch in anymore.” I was silent, trying to grasp what Nancy had just said to me. After several very quiet moments of just me breathing, Nancy said, “Neil…are you okay?”

“Huh? Oh…yeah. That just feels so weird. I still feel like I was late, Nancy.”

“That’s because you have integrity. You’ve always wanted to be here before your employees are…and you feel guilty when you’re not. But that’s the way salary is, Neil. If you have to be late, you can be. Lord knows there are going to be times you may have to stay late. Well, maybe not YOU, since you’re leaving in a couple of weeks. But you will in your next job, I’m sure.”

“Wow, Nancy…this is a little surreal,” I said with a little chuckle.

“You’re going to get a lot of that today, Neil,” she answered. But before I could ask what she meant, she said, “The phones ringing, Neil…I gotta go. I’m glad you and Ann are home safe.”

I hung up the phone, and sighed again. It was a strange start to my day, and it was about to get just a little stranger. My Dad walked through the door to my office with two cups of coffee and a brown bag. He was at least an hour and fifteen minutes earlier than I could remember seeing him in the plant in years. The man just didn’t do 7:15…which was what the clock on the wall in front of me said.

He set the drink tray on my desk and plopped down in the chair. “Bagel or pastry,” he said matter of factly. I really wasn’t hungry, since I’d had a bagel at the house. Not to mention the two cups of coffee I’d had to wake me up. But I didn’t want to seem ungrateful.

I grabbed one of the coffees and said, “I’ll take the bagel, Dad.”

He grinned and asked, “Are you sure?”

“Yeah…thanks.”

“No problem. I’m sure you’re tired,” he said as he fished the bagel out of the bag, along with the packet of crème cheese, handing them to me. When he pulled out the pastry, he grinned. “You know…they have a much better selection around 7 than they do an hour later.”

“I’m sure they do,” I laughed. “What are you doing here so early, anyway? Mom said you’ve been doing this since last week.”

Dad nodded as he opened the sugar packet for his coffee with his teeth. “Uh huh…it was an interesting week, Neil. You really opened a few eyes around here when you resigned, including mine.”

“How’s that?”

“Let’s just say that the members of the Management Team finally came to realize just what a hidden gem they had in you, and how unappreciated you’ve been. They also realized how gracious you had been biding your time, quietly making something special out of this department.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“Well, once you resigned, a lot of questions started getting asked that should have been asked a long time ago.”

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