It was going to be one of those days, she thought; a day when chocolate would be more than a treat. Chocolate would be a necessity. First of all, she had slept through her alarm clock which wasn’t alarming in the least. It clicked on the radio that told her the news and the weather and offered a song or two. Today those voices had seeped into her dreams, and she had dreamed of a train crashing into a burglar and a state legislator who were having a heated argument while it rained sporadically. Then she had burned her ear with her curling iron, spilled coffee on the cat, and stepped in a puddle walking from her car to Allmart, a store her great-grandfather had started.
He had opened it under the family name, but for reasons still unclear to her, her father had decided to change the store’s name to something more generic and all-encompassing. It was an average store, but it was under her management, and Julia felt a sense of pride over the variety it offered and customer service it provided. Sure, there were larger stores of its kind and smaller ones, too. But this was the one where Julia had learned about business. This was the one for which she was responsible. This was the one she owned. She was satisfied.
Caesar O’Swiffy peeked his head into her office as he knocked lightly on the door.
Seeing him, Julia stood quickly, bumping her knee on a not quite closed desk drawer.
“Mr. O’Swiffy! I didn’t realize you were coming today,” she said, surreptitiously glancing at her desk calendar.
Caesar O’Swiffy softly laughed in his low, reassuring voice.
“Please. Have a seat,” she said as he shook her hand and sat in the chair across from her desk.
He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a Dove caramel milk chocolate, tossing it on her desk. He had remembered she liked chocolate.
“Actually, our meeting was scheduled for next week, but I happened to be in the area and thought I’d see if we might go over the books today.”
He said it in a way that sounded like the most reasonable request in the world.
It was the most reasonable request in the world.
Julia made a quick phone call to her assistant and assured the accountant hired by the newly formed business cooperative she had joined that they could, indeed, move the meeting.
She cleared off a table in the conference room while she made fresh coffee and as the lovely caramel chocolate melted in her mouth.
The meeting had gone smoothly and was over in less time than Julia had anticipated. It would be nice to have a second set of eyes look things over, especially at tax time. Mr. O’Swiffy had quickly gone over the store’s profits and losses and commended her on her management skills.
“One thing, Julia,” he said after they had returned to her office and settled into their respective chairs. “I noticed there isn’t much for the staff.”
“Much . . .?” Julia attempted to follow Mr. O’Swiffy’s train of thought.
“Oh, you know, something to keep them happy in the break room. For instance, do you think a few packages of chocolates every week would perk people up a bit?” He laughed and gestured out the window. “Especially on a day like today!”
Julia followed his gaze. The rain was coming down steadily now. It made her long for the warmth of her living room. She wished her cat was there to jump into her lap like a purring blanket. Chocolate would be wonderful. She had thought so, herself, this very morning.
“I agree it would be a nice addition, Mr. O’Swiffy, but I need to count costs here as you saw from the books. I do bring in cookies every once in a while, and the employees seem to like that,” she offered.
“Oh, Julia. There’s no need to worry about it yourself. I’ll just enter it as a regular delivery from the coop.”
“You can do that?”
Julia’s heart lifted in a way it hadn’t all morning.
“I can do anything and I will. For you, Julia. We want to keep everyone happy,” Mr. O’Swiffy reassured her as he stood.
He started for the door, then turned.
“I nearly forgot. You will need to sign here,” he pointed to a line on a paper he quickly pulled from his briefcase, “to authorize it.”
“Of course,” Julia replied, signing on the line indicated.
As the door closed quietly behind the accountant, Julia sat back in her chair and smiled. Oh yes. Necessary chocolate. Just what the doctor ordered. And the rain began to subside while the sky temporarily cleared, just as the weather forecaster had predicted.
to be continued . . .