Authors: Nikki Woods
Easier Said Than Done
By Nikki Woods
Houston, Texas * Washington, D.C.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living, dead, or somewhere in between, is entirely coincidental
Easier Said Than Done
Â© 2014 by Nikki Woods
Brown Girls Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means including electronic, mechanical or photocopying or stored in a retrieval system without permission in writing from the publisher except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages to be included in a review.
First Brown Girls Publishing LLC trade printing
Cover designed by:
Jessica Wright Tilles
Manufactured and Printed in the United States of America
If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It is reported as “unsold and destroyed to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped” book.
For Mama Mae.
I send abounding love to my mother, my father, my sister and my two amazing sons â Tyler and Willis. You make everything worth it.
Many thanks to Victoria Christopher Murray, ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Lissa Woodson for the gift of a second chance.
It would be impossible to name everyone but I am surrounded by a group of strong, talented, prayerful women who alternate as teachers, supporters and drinking buddies â not necessarily in that order. The lessons I have learned are priceless.
A special fist-bump to Mary Boyce â who constantly has her head down on my behalf.
I am grateful.
Nothing would be the same again. That I knew for sure, though the uncertainty of what exactly that meant sloshed inside of me as I unlocked the door to my office and quietly asked my mother for guidance.
Instantaneously, a peace settled in my soul, just as I knew it would; but the question marks still pricked at my brain.
Three hours later, my secretary alerted me via the intercom that I had a phone call and the feelings of unrest surged again. I pushed the Talk button.
“Kingston speaking,” I said.
“Job well done, Kingston.” The booming voice filled the room, seeping like honey from the gray and black state-of-the-art speakerphone. It slowly spread to each corner in my small office and coated the dreary olive-green walls with its rich bass.
“Thanks, Mr. Mansini.” I relaxed, picking up the receiver to welcome the good news from my boss. Adjusting my nylon-clad leg, I leaned further over my solid oak desk. I didn't want to miss a word. The phone cord didn't stretch enough to allow me to sit comfortably in the chair and still be heard above the rumble of the twenty-year-old furnace. That, combined with the squeaky whirl of the ceiling fan, was causing me to come dangerously close to losing my mind.
So, I jotted a note for the receptionist, Jonetta, to write up yet another work order for the maintenance man/janitor, Mr. Carter, to replace the current phone cord with a longer one and apply some WD-40 to the fan. Of course, the chances of this request not joining the ten previous
requestsâ crumpled and forgotten in the round metal garbage can within minutes of receiptâwere slim to none.
Since he was inherited when the building lease was signed, I had resigned myself to working with CarterââJust Carter, Ma'am; no Mister,' as he had reminded me more than onceâand all that came with him no matter how many times I had to re-clean the office the next morning. But, Carter always managed to show up on time. Drudging through the door at five o'clock on the dot, pushing an ancient wooden broom with matted bristles, his torn knit cap pulled down low on his furrowed forehead, a wad of tobacco shoved messily into the side of his mouth, and a perpetual smirk slashed across an otherwise handsome face.
I looked longingly at my misplaced Shrimp Caesar salad with garlic croutons. One didn't make the head of the company one worked for leave a message, so I pushed my half-empty plate and Diet Coke to the less-cluttered side of my desk and settled in to hear what he had to say.
“I couldn't have landed a better deal myself,” Mr. Mansini continued, not needing much input from me. He was what my grandfather would have called an inflated windbag. He didn't have conversations, just dialoguesâblowing out enough hot air to send any size balloon floating across the Pacific and back.
But at this point, dialogue was just fine because though I may have appeared calm and composed, I was giddy, my insides twirling around like a five-year-old girlâarms outstretched, frantically trying to capture the sun.
“Apparently this rapper person, Scooby, had several offers on the table that his team was considering, but you were able to charm him over to our side. I'm impressed, Kingston. You've proven yourself to be extremely sharp and a savvy negotiator. Even though, I'm quite sure the fact that you're a beautiful woman didn't hurt our case at all.” He chuckled before clearing his throat.
“We're just waiting for his lawyers to approve the contract and send it back. We put together a nice financial package so I'm anticipating receiving it any minute now. When they sign on the dotted line, you'll be able to say you've locked in your first major recording artist. And he'll be the first rap star to come under the urban division umbrella of this record label.
That's quite an accomplishment for a newcomer and precedent-setting for the Mansini Music Group.”
The reference to the lily-white company Mr. Mansini founded more than forty years ago made me smile. After a year-long, hair-pulling fight, the board of directors of the heritage Rock n' Roll station finally had to acknowledge the huge revenues that could flow from African-American pockets into theirs. One PowerPoint presentation, three project-management breakdowns, and six positive-cash-flow projections laterâthe board could no longer argue with the obvious. Hip-Hop had proven itself to be a cash cow.
“You're going to help us make quite a splash in the urban music arena. Other record label heads are starting to sit up and take notice, too. Bad Boy, Cash Money, Roc Nationâthey're going to be calling, trying to get you on their team. I'm not mentioning this to imply that I question your loyalty, Kingston. I don't. I gave you a chance when they wouldn't and I know you won't forget that. We're going to make big money on this one. Sweetheart, you're going to be my golden girl.”
I looked out the small window as snowflakes fell. Ironic how white and innocent they appeared, until they hit the ground and turned into nasty gray slush. The scenario reminded me of Mr. Mansini.
His voice took on a more personal tone. “I would really like to celebrate to seal the deal. Maybe fly you up to New York for an evening of dinner and dancing so I can show you why I love this town so much.” The rest went without saying. He'd already made it clear the other things he'd also like to show meâthings that definitely didn't include the Statue of Liberty.
I could see him pacing the length of his palatial office suiteâspoiled, balding, and fat, an earpiece shoved in his ear, and spittle flying from his too-wide mouth. A shiver tripped up and down my spine. Mr. Mansini was a dirty old white manâreminiscent of the plantation owner tipping past the cornfields to the slave quarters under the cloak of darkness while the Mistress sleeps in the Big House.
A night of dinner and dancing with the master would not be happening. Mr. Mansini glossed right over my murmured excuseâsomething about my impossible schedule. Why let something like a little “no” stand in your way?
“I'll have my secretary check my schedule and call you to arrange something.” He cleared his throat again then transitioned back to business. “We'll talk soon though. I want to get this project underway as soon as possible. We also need to get Scooby some media exposure while he's recording his album. So draft a proposal as to how you'd like it to go, your timeline, budget, etcetera's, and we'll get things going. I want you to take the ball and run with it, subject only to approval from me. You won't have to worry about the board of directors on this one.”
Mr. Mansini paused for effect. Papers rumpled and a voice came in the background. Looking at my calendar, I thankfully realized today was the bi-weekly board meeting. “I have some other matters that I must attend to, plus I have to give the board the good news and I'm sure you're trying to get things wrapped up for the day. You're much too pretty to be cooped up. Go out and have yourself a good time.”
The rumbling in the background got louder. The natives were getting restless. Mr. Mansini covered the microphone and mumbled something I couldn't make out before signing off.
“Congratulations again, Kingston.”
I pushed the off button on my receiver and settled more comfortably into my overstuffed chair. Tapping my pencil gently on the armrest, I basked in the glory of my shining moment until I couldn't sit anymore. My butt was wriggling with joy.
So even though my door was open and Jonetta could see and hear everything in my office, I kicked off my red patent leather pumps, flexed my toes, and started doing a furious victory shimmy dance that hiked my short A-line skirt all the way up my thighs. Tina Turner be damned.
Only nine months had passed since I quit my job as a sales and marking executive at a local radio station and pitched the proposal of a lifetime to the Mansini Music Group, or MMG for short. Early on a Monday morning, I had sashayed in there and laid it out like an Easter Sunday dinner spread. Not only did they need to start an urban music division, but they needed me to head it and operate it from Chicago, my hometown. One week later, Mr. Mansini called and said we had a deal.
A month later, I moved into a suite on South Michigan Avenue in Downtown Chicago. In contrast to Mr. Mansini's luxury eleventh-floor accommodations, my office was just four rooms, including the reception area and the bathroom. Nowhere near Park Avenue, but it could be worse. I could still be working for the man at the man's radio station. With this new job title, at least I had carved out a piece of the pie for myself.
Jonetta rapped on the door before poking her afroed-head in the room. I fell back in the chair, my heart racing, and motioned her in, but she still hovered near the doorjamb. Her
posturing indicative of our relationshipânot wanting the lines of employer and employee to be blurredâshe was determined to stay on a strictly professional level.
Despite my frequent invitations, there would be no male bashing over mugs of coffee; no lamenting about the extra pinch of fat discovered in inappropriate places while putting on pantyhose; no family horror stories shared while deciding what to order for lunch; no conversations tossed between office and reception area, and certainly no laughter. Just business.