Five-thirty-one a.m. The dial of the clock was the only light in the room. He took a moment to let the darkness of the room replace the dark behind his closed eyes. It was early but there was something to look forward to.
Instinctively, he rolled to his side. Across the expanse of the Big White Bed, she was curled next to the edge. One leg dangling outside the covers. Her hair disheveled across the pillow and her hands tucked under her chin. Deep in sleep, he knew she would protest being awakened – but only for a moment. He slid next to her naked body, slowly pulled the sheet from her grasp, and wrapped his hand around her wrist. Her tiny, delicate wrist. He let his fingers rest on her skin for a moment to wait for her response. He saw the slight frown form on her brow as he moved closer so that his breath was on her ear.
She made a pouting sound. “What time is it?” she growled. His fingers still ringed her wrist as the pout turned to a slight smile and she opened one eye. “It better not be before five-thirty.”
“No, it’s getting late. And I’m impatient waiting for you.” She let him drag her wrist under the sheets and onto his erection. He knew the routine, but it never failed to excite him. Her protest turned to delight as she feigned surprise.
“Oh my, what’s this?” He also knew that his morning hardness made her stretch like a cat and come to slow awakeness. She was always so pleased when her nearness made him excited. “Is this for me?”
“All for you.”
She pushed him to his back and crawled into the space between his legs. “It’s a little bit chilly in here. Can I stay warm in this space?”
“Whatever wakes you up.” He watched as she tucked her hair behind her ears and looked ravenously at his cock.
“You know this makes me so proud to know you’ve been thinking of me.” She let the tip of her tongue touch the delta of his shaft. His penis shifted slightly and she stretched again in response to her accomplishment. Her amber eyes connected with his gaze one more time before she placed her full attention on his hardness again. Without asking, she slid the full length of his penis in her wet mouth. His pleasure at her warmth and her pleasure at his power merged into bliss.
She placed her hands on each side of his hips, pinning him in place. With her tongue holding his shaft firmly against her palate, he felt sensations of hard and soft at the same time. He could not help the moans that escaped from his chest, and the sounds made her motions more vigorous.
“I’m going to cum if you keep that up.”
She suddenly stopped and grabbed the base of his shaft. “Not yet.”
+ + +
By the second day of the research in Philadelphia, I was fuming. Magnus Scott was not just a ball of stress: he was a two-faced ignoramus. I had worked with a legion of Account Executives over two decades, but he took the character description to the extremes. In meetings with the team, he was all minute details and anxiety over our apparent lack of preparedness – asking for revision after revision - while skipping over the affirmations that the team members were contributing anything of value. I usually left our phone conferences with a sense of impending doom and questions about my own competence. The copywriter, Evan, and graphic artist, D’arsay, concurred. But then the client arrived, and our world of darkness bloomed into a garden of superlatives. The man who hunched and growled over the drafts now almost danced across the story boards with glowing descriptions of the team and their products. The client was royalty and he was the major domo blowing smoke up her ass.
The rest of us were left just smoking.
“Holy crap, is this guy ever satisfied?” Evan rolled his eyes as he muttered to me in the back room. We were all used to playing imposters, but Magnus was pushing the limits. We pretended we were infinitely knowledgeable about Type 2 Diabetes. We pretended we completely comprehended the client’s objectives. And mostly we pretended we agreed with the client’s observations. But at the same time we walked the fine line of not letting the client make a mistake that would cost the company millions of marketing dollars and lose even more millions in sales. That fine line ultimately determined our continued working relationship and sales revenue for the agency.
As we pretended, we revised. It was not so much that revisions were a problem – that we felt they were not warranted or customary – it was the rapid pace of the decisions. In his newness to the business and his haste to please the client, Magnus had set us on an impossible schedule. Interview after interview with no breaks for 4 hours, with a 30 minute lunch before we started again. There was no time for discussing changes, if there should be changes, what the changes should be, I was sure the interviewer was even more frustrated because communication has digressed to a scribbled note being passed at the door. The interruption happened over and over with little explanation, and without a break I feared the interviewer’s bladder would burst before his brain burned out.
And all the while, Magnus blithely doted on the client. It wasn’t the client’s fault: she was very pleasant and professional. But he affirmed every observation and supported every suggestion she made until his cloying had sucked the air from the room. If all he wanted to do was affirm the instincts of the client, why did he drag us all to Phillie? He only needed to put the interviewer in the room on a catheter and take dictation from the client. Our insights seem to mean nothing as he cut off Evan at every turn, poo-pooed D’arsay, and acted like my volume was on mute completely. The client at least had some interest in the experts she had hired, so we were not completely muzzled. From the outside, the interaction looked pleasant but I knew the team was seething on the inside.
“I should have warned you.” Deborah interjected over lunch. “I think he means well, he’s new to research and he is totally client-focused. It’ll turn out alright but it’s a little bumpy right now.”
“Understatement” added Evan.
“At least Evan and I get to go back to the office and watch on remote. And dash to the bathroom. And sleep in our own beds.” D’arsay was not in love with the travel aspect of the job. “How does the rest of this work out for the two of you?”
Deborah paused. “We have it set up to for the client to be remote as well, so she will be watching both Denver and Ft. Lauderdale. That’s probably the reason Magnus is so conciliatory today: it’s his big chance to make an impression in person. I’m heading off the sunny Florida on Wednesday – sorry-not-sorry, Susanna – and you are heading to chilly Colorado. The question is: where is Magnus going.”
“He doesn’t already know?” I was surprised. And concerned because I wasn’t prepared to travel with a near-stranger.
“He’s considering several aspects.”
“What does that mean?”
“He’s trying to figure out where the client wants him to go. Or if he needs to go at all.”
“Or if he trusts me.”
“I wouldn’t put it that way. It’s just that he knows how I work …”
“And he doesn’t trust me. Yet.”
Deborah gave me a crooked smile. “Don’t take it personally.”
It wasn’t so much about taking it personally as being annoyed that someone was tagging along. I felt perfectly capable alone and was comfortable with being managed from afar. What more could he add by sitting in the backroom with me? But if that was the decision he had made, I had no choice but to comply.
“I just don’t know if I packed the right clothing for entertaining an AE.”
“No worries. It’s dark in the backroom. And the rest of the time you’ll be wearing a coat and boots.” Here Deborah laughed. “While I will be wearing shorts and flip-flops.”
We slogged through the rest of the day and debriefed for an hour. I noticed that immediately after lunch, the conversation between Magnus and the client turned to dinner reservations. Dinner with the client was a love-hate activity: I loved the expense account meals and time for relaxed chat with the client, but the meals often started at 8pm and ended three hours later. There were some that did not start until 9pm and ended about midnight. Not bad if you could sleep in but definitely a problem if you had re-writes to finish or a plane to catch in the morning or indigestion from late meals.
But on this occasion, we were in luck because the client wanted to get home to her children. The interviewer was exhausted (and probably frustrated with us) so also begged off to go to bed. Dinner ended up being a quick bite at the airport hotel bar among the five of us.
We chewed over the work details with our dinner and enjoyed wine and beer on the expense account. Magnus reviewed the objectives of the client and our protocols for being sure her goals were achieved. Timelines, deadlines, deliverables were all covered again as well as any similarities to previous projects. Since I had no previous projects in this subject area, I listened carefully to the wisdom that Deborah, Evan and D’arsay imparted. And I listened carefully for implications about Magnus’ expectations. Despite my earlier assessment that he was a two-faced ignoramus, he actually seemed to be knowledgeable about the treatment area and the nuances of messaging to consumers. Without the client to dazzle, he was relaxed and genuinely interested in input from the team. I realized I might survive the remainder of the project without ruining my chances of ever working in Pharma again. As long as the client stayed home.
As the work conversation died down, Magnus turned his attention to me. “So you go by Susanna, not Susan or Suzie?”
“Yes, I used to be Suzie but I outgrew it. Deborah still knows me as Suzie from back-in-the-day, but after moving to Chicago I dropped it entirely.”
“And do you mind if someone calls you Suzie?”
“Actually yes. I feel that if I say my name is Susanna then that is my name and I did not give permission to change it. Turning it into a diminutive seems … diminishing. It IS diminishing the way I choose to identify myself. Meant to make me feel small and girlish.”
Magnus looked at me intently as he wrinkled his brow in thought. “I forgot you had a PhD in Psychology. I’ll have to be more careful.”
Evan and D’arsay scoffed. “Oh yes, do look out for her. She’s a regular mind-reader.”
I shot them an exaggerated warning glance and then a full-on stink-eye. They laughed at my weak attempt to be controlling.
“Yes, I knew a few Suzie’s as a child. And Debbie’s and Betsy’s and Judy’s and Mary’s.”
“See the pattern? We lucky girls are all stamped with our birthdate by our names. My mother warned me the day would come when all the nursing homes would be full of Meghan’s and Heather’s.” We laughed at the thought of Heather in Senior Arts and Crafts and at the dark humor of growing old. “But tell us about the origins of Magnus? That doesn’t fit the pattern of names from boy babies in our age group.”
He settled back as though he had answered this question a few times before. “My great-grandfather was a Scotsman. We’re not sure if Scott was really his surname or if he assumed it after he immigrated to avoid detection from some heinous crime. We’re also not sure if his given name was Magnus, but that’s what he put on his documents. Plus he was said to be a very large man in both body and spirit. My father revered his grandfather and was determined to pass on his fighting spirit to his only son. Hence after my sisters Mary and Janie, I emerged as Magnus.”
Evan scoffed. “Better than being named after a bottle of Bourbon.”
“Speaking of Bourbon, anyone feel like ending the evening with a nightcap?” asked Magnus.
D’arsay and Evan chimed in “Always.”
Deborah hesitated. “May I beg off? I still have re-writes to complete and emails to return. Plus my flight leaves early.”
I followed her lead. “Me, too.”
“About that flight to Denver. What time does it depart?” Magnus asked.
“Seven a.m. Are you going to the Denver research?” I found it odd that this was the way I would find out.
“What time is the flight to Ft. Lauderdale?” he asked Deborah, instead of answering my question.
“Then I’m going to Denver. Now who wants a nightcap?”
I smiled inauthentically at Magnus as I gathered my belongings to depart with Deborah. “I still need my sleep. Since we don’t need a cab, I’ll meet you at the gate.”
It must be nice to be able to base your decisions on a whim - a luxury I never knew. And it must be nice not to worry about communicating your whimsical decisions to anyone else. But I would have to learn to contend with those decisions because it appeared this was how my new Account-Executive-slash-Baby-Sitter was going to operate.
+ + +