Monthly Archives: August 2015

By Design – Chapter 33

Gracie had thought about it a long time. It had been on her mind for almost the entire week since her run-in with Mei Chen.  Finally, she decided it had to be done. There wasn’t any other option.

She left her office early and headed straight for Walk on Design’s office building. She knew Eli would still be at work. He had been working a lot lately. That had been part of what had made her come to this conclusion in the end. The sun was almost completely set below the horizon before she got there. This time of year, nobody should be stuck at work past dark, Gracie thought as she let herself into the office.

Just as Gracie had suspected, Eli was hard at work behind his desk. His assistant, Ken, as well as Russ Walker were also with Eli in his office. All three of them looked over at her, astonished and confused, when the door opened and she walked in. All three of them seemed extremely surprised to see her.

Ken was the first to recover from the shock. He stood up from his chair. “How did you get in here?” he asked.

“It’s really easy to just walk in when there is no one at the front desk to stop you,” Gracie said.

Ken went red at her words, realizing that it was he who had neglected his responsibilities and allowed someone to walk straight into his boss’ office.

“Gracie, do you need something?” It was Eli speaking to her now. “We’re really busy.”

Gracie took a deep breath. “Actually, that is what I came here to talk to you about.” Why was she so nervous? She had gone over this a thousand times in her mind. She knew this was the right thing for her to be doing. She just had to get it out and hope he understood. “I can’t stand you being here all hours of the night, so stressed out, no time for anything else,” she told Eli, though she was well aware that she had the attention of all three men in the room. “I don’t want to just sit around and put up with it anymore.”

Eli narrowed his eyes as he stared at her. “So what are you suggesting?” he asked.

Here it was. The big moment. “I want to help,” Gracie said.

“Help with what?” Eli asked.

“With everything,” Gracie said. “I’ve been thinking about it. A lot. Isn’t part of being in a relationship about helping each other deal with their problems in life? I know you have a lot of stuff you are trying to deal with right now, and maybe you have Ken and Russ helping you with it, but you never talk about these kinds of things to me. You always just tell me not to worry about it, that you’ll get it worked out.”

“How do you know Russ?” Eli asked.

“But I can’t not worry about it,” Gracie said, ignoring Eli’s question as she remembered he still didn’t know about her and Russ meeting the week before. “I care about you and as a result I care about the things you are dealing with. And I want to help you deal with them.”

Ken and Russ looked from Gracie to Eli, waiting to see what his reaction to her confession would be.

Eli simply sighed. “I don’t know if there is anything that can be done to help,” he said. “By you or anyone else.”

“So, solving the world’s problems isn’t going so well?” Gracie asked, though she had already figured as much.

Eli snorted. “Forget the world’s problems. I’m just trying to deal with my own problems.”

“Well in that case, I think I might have a plan,” Gracie said with a sly, little smile.

The three men perked up at her words. Considering they were clean out of ideas, they were very interested in hearing what she had to offer.

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By Design – Chapter 32

Eli sat back in his office chair, staring at the ceiling. He felt like his life was falling apart around him. Everything was just going so badly, and he couldn’t quite figure out how it had gotten to this point.

Six months ago everything had been different. Six months ago he had felt on top of the world. He had everything going in his favor. Sure there was that pesky complaint that had been brought against Walk on Design, but he had been assured it would be taken care of cleanly and quickly.

However, six months later it was still here. Not only that, but it was growing worse. The threat to his business over this stupid lawsuit had suddenly become very real the moment Ken had placed the data on his desk. If they lost this case, Eli was also going to lose his business. And if Eli lost his business, his dreams for his career would go up in smoke and his father would have the right to gloat with an unending “I told you so” for the rest of his life.

The thing that he still couldn’t quite grasp was that it was really beginning to look like they were going to lose this case when Eli was one hundred percent sure that they hadn’t actually done anything wrong (except perhaps, now that he thought back on it , hire the wrong lawyer).

But it wasn’t just his business that was facing a threat right now. There was also his family, Russ in particular. Russ had been doing his best to bite his tongue and just go along with what their father asked of him, especially since he had become aware of everything else Eli was dealing with outside of trying to protect his little brother’s future.

Then, of course, there was the whole situation with Gracie and Mei. Gracie had told him about being confronted by Mei the week before. Gracie had seemed shaken by the whole thing, but also seemed resolute, determined not to back down to her. Mei, on the other hand, was like a steel wall: impenetrable.  He didn’t know how he would ever be able to convince her that no meant no when she had already decided it meant yes. She had only shown up at his office one time this week, but he was constantly aware of the uncomfortable feeling that she was always watching, just waiting for her chance to strike. The thought of her made Eli shiver.

Eli brought his gaze back down to see Russ and Ken sitting on the other side of his desk watching him closely. The three of them had been tossing around ideas for the last half hour, trying to come up with a game plan to fight back against the lawsuit, save Walk on Design, and free Eli and Russ from the grasp of their father’s business all in a neat and tidy manner. So far they had come up with nothing.

“Any other ideas?” Eli asked them.

They both dropped their gaze indicating that their idea pools were just as empty as his.

Eli sighed. This was useless, he realized. There was no way they could fight any one of these things from this mindset, let alone all of them. They were just going to have to wait and see how everything played out. There was still hope that one of these problems would work out in their favor. As for the others… Well, hopefully the damage they caused would at least be manageable.

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By Design – Chapter 31

Gracie was barely halfway back to her office after meeting with Russ Walker before she was unexpectedly approached by a woman in a red skirt and jacket with matching heels.

“Can I help you?” Gracie asked when the woman stopped in front of her with the obvious intent of blocking her way.  She wasn’t a tall woman, not much taller than Gracie, really, but her presence definitely demanded attention.  She was beautiful, with long black hair and brown eyes, soft in color but hard as they looked Gracie up and down. They made Gracie feel like she was a child being scrutinized by a parent who already knew exactly what she had done wrong and was testing her to see if she was going to be honest about it.

The woman’s smile was not reassuring. This woman was someone confident, borderline cocky. Gracie didn’t feel good about the fact she had taken an interest in her.

The woman held out her hand. “My name is Mei Chen,” she said, her cold smile firmly in place.

Hesitantly, Gracie reached out and took her hand. “Gracie Parker.”

“I must be honest, Ms. Parker, you are not what I was expecting,” Mei said, amused.

Now Gracie really was concerned. Did she know this woman from somewhere? Mei certainly seemed to know her, or at least to know about her, which might be even worse.

It wasn’t difficult for Gracie to play dumb in this situation considering she sincerely felt she had no clue what was going on. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Have we met before?”

Mei’s smile broadened, her face becoming colder in the process, if that was even possible. “We have not,” she told Gracie. “I am actually only interested in you tangentially. See, you seem to be a road block in my way of achieving something I am after.”

Gracie studied Mei, suspicious and a bit confused. “I think you might have me mistaken with someone else,” she said. “Considering we’re just meeting for the first time today, I am quite confident I am not standing in your way of anything.” As if to emphasize this point, Gracie stepped to the side and gestured to the open sidewalk in front of Mei.

Mei laughed. Her laugh was annoying, even colder and cockier than her smile. “You misunderstand,” she said. Obviously. “What I am interested in is Eli Walker.”

Gracie felt herself stiffen at the mention of Eli. Russ had been right! This woman was quick and scary. How had she tracked Gracie down so quickly?

“I don’t know how much you know about Eli and his family,” Mei continued. “But the truth is, they are very important people, big business owners with lots of money. There are expectations on Eli, including that he stay within his own social circle when it comes to relationships.”

Gracie couldn’t be certain, but it sounded like Mei was calling her low class. “Look,” she said. “I don’t know how things are done where you come from, but in my social circles, a grown man has the right to date whoever he damn well pleases. Besides, Eli has his own business now. He doesn’t have to play by his family’s rules.”

Mei’s expression only hardened at Gracie’s words. “If only it were that simple,” she said with a sneer. “Well, don’t say you haven’t been warned.” She pushed past Gracie and continued along the sidewalk as if she hadn’t just threatened Gracie and her relationship.

Gracie stared after her for a moment. Was this chick serious? One thing Russ had gotten right, she was intimidating. Mei Chen was definitely someone who was used to getting her way. There was a part of Gracie that wondered if she was really any threat against a woman that confident and determined.

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By Design – Chapter 30

Gracie had been more than a little surprised when she had gotten a call from Russ Walker. She knew Eli had a younger brother, but she couldn’t imagine a reason why he would have thought he needed to get in contact with her directly. She had always assumed she would meet Russ whenever Eli was ready to introduce them. But Russ had made it sound urgent when he asked if they could meet for lunch sometime that week. She had considered telling Eli about this sudden meeting, but Russ begged her not to say anything to his older brother, so she had kept it to herself.

When she arrived at the café where Russ had asked her to meet him, it wasn’t hard to pick him out of the crowd. He looked almost exactly like Eli, only significantly younger. Eli had said that Russ was still a student at the university, and he looked very much like a typical university student, from his dress to his hairstyle to his overall demeanor.

Gracie took a seat at the table where Russ was waiting for her. He looked her up and down, his arms folded across his chest. “So you’re Gracie Parker,” he said. “You’re not exactly what I was expecting. Then again, I never know what to expect when it comes to Eli and women, but you are definitely not what I’m used to seeing him with.”

Already he was making her uncomfortable. “What was it you wanted to talk about?” she asked, trying to move the conversation away from this comparison of her to Eli’s ex-girlfriends.

Russ frowned. It was a worried frown, full of concern and uncertainty. “Did you know Eli has been under a lot of stress recently?” he asked.

“I know he has had a lot going on,” Gracie said. Eli had been in meetings for weeks regarding the copyright lawsuit his company was involved in, a lawsuit she had promised not to mention to anyone she knew at the magazine, but one that Eli knew would eventually hit the media anyway.

“I don’t know how much he has told you. It’s probably not a lot. Eli doesn’t like to burden others with his problems, but there are some things I think you should be aware of. And I think it would be better for you to hear them outright than to have them sneak up on you. See, our father is really strict. He had always hoped for Eli to inherit his business. When Eli went into business for himself, our father was furious. He was ready to disown Eli, and would have if our mother hadn’t stepped in. To get back at Eli, our father has decided that I should inherit the business instead, even though everyone knows I don’t want it. Father is trying to use me to get Eli to change his mind.”

“Is that really going to work?” Gracie asked. She knew Eli as someone who stood firm once he had made up his mind about something; it seemed unlikely he would fall for such a trick.

“It has gotten his attention, at least,” Russ admitted. “Eli has been working really hard to find a way short of giving into my father that will get me my life back. However, when my father saw that Eli was trying to find a way to work around him, he decided to take the game to the next level.”

“What do you mean?”

“I recently found out that my father has been working on an arranged marriage for Eli that will tie him to the family’s business permanently. “

Gracie narrowed her eyes, suspicious. “That sounds unlikely,” she said. “Nobody really does that kind of thing.”

“I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s really not so uncommon in certain circles. It’s a way of securing business deals, making sure no one has the opportunity to back out. Anyway, I wouldn’t have been too concerned about it, but then I found out who the girl is that Father wants Eli to marry.”

“What about her?” Gracie asked.

“She’s fierce,” Russ told her. “We knew each other when we were younger, and from what I’ve been able to find on the internet, she had grown into a ruthless business woman.”

“Why are you telling me all of this?” Gracie asked him.

Russ hesitated before answering, as if he was trying to figure out how exactly to explain his reasoning. “Because my brother likes you,” he said after a while. “He seems happy with you. And after everything he has fought for, everything he has done to help me, I want to see him happy. He always tells me that no matter what I cannot back down to our father if I want to have my own life. I’m afraid that with everything he is struggling with recently, he will forget that advice if he doesn’t have someone to stand behind him and keep him focused on his own goals.”

Gracie sat silent for a moment. Was it really possible that she had to be worried about losing Eli to another woman—or about Eli losing his business in the process of trying to hold his act together—as his father pressured him from all angles, trying to shape his life? She stared hard at Russ, trying to decide if he was someone she could trust. He seemed to sincerely want to help his brother, and she couldn’t come up with a reason why he would have made this up to tell her.

“What do you want me to do for him?” she asked.

“Just make sure he knows you are not willing to give up on him, regardless of who tries to make you,” Russ told her. “Let him know you want to see him succeed. Do you think you can do that?”

Gracie nodded. “I will do my best,” she said.

“That’s all I ask,” Russ said with a smile. He pulled his phone from his pocket to check the time and frowned. “Unfortunately, it looks like I have to head out if I want to make my next class on time,” he said. “I’m glad I got to meet you, Gracie. Maybe one day soon Eli will think to have the two of us meet officially.”

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Brave New World

Yesterday I finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This was actually my first time reading this novel. I teach introduction to literature at the university where I work, but I was not a literature major in college, so I managed to miss many of the classics. I have slowly been working to fix this problem, especially now that I am being asked to teach more literature courses.

Brave New World looks at a future society that runs on efficiency. Under the guidance of the government, the entirety of the population is organized in a caste system, where humans are engineered to fit into a specific caste by insuring their physical and mental ability through conditioning, starting before birth and continuing throughout their lives.

Everybody in this world is happy. Or at least everyone in this world is supposed to pretend to be happy, and whenever they come across something disquieting, they are expected to take a drug, soma, to help them forget about it and regain their happy feeling.

Written in 1931, this novel seems to understand some of the dangers the human race was to face in the near future. Like most English distopian literature, it focuses on the dangers of societal living which neglect the importance of the individual. This novel offers a suggestion regarding how an emphasis on consumerism and bliss can wreck an individual’s spirit to make something of his/her life.

As we learn throughout the novel, the appearance of happiness is only that, an appearance. Many of the characters are not happy but also are unable to express their discontent, so they go on pretending. Only one character, the Savage, knows how to express his emotions regarding this new world he finds himself in. And though he is not a member of civilized society, I think he is a character that many people could sympathize with, as (I believe) they are supposed to.

Is everything about this new society bad? No. Of course not. There are many good things about it. But I am not sure it is somewhere I would want to live. There seems to be something missing from this civilized society that makes it feel empty to the reader, or at least to me as a reader.

This is a book for thinking. This is a book to make you ask, “What if…” It is a book to make you realized that all emotions are human emotions, and make you wonder if trying to live without any of them somehow make us less human.

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By Design – Chapter 29

Eli left Walk On Design almost immediately after Mei did. He caught a cab outside the building and made his way straight for his father’s office building.

His father’s secretary stood up at her desk when she saw him enter. “Eli! I didn’t expect to see you here today.” It was evident from her expression and tone that she could tell his visit was not a happy one.

“I have some important matters to discuss with my father,” Eli said curtly.

“Unfortunately, I’m not sure he is available right now. Office time requires an appointment. You know that.”

Madeline had been his father’s secretary since Eli had been in high school. It was frustrating the way she still spoke to him like he was a child, telling him he needed to be fit into the schedule before he could see his father. He was old enough to know better than to bend to his father’s ridiculous rules by now.

“I’m sure he will find it in his heart to make time for me,” Eli informed her.  He moved past her, amid her protests and let himself into his father’s office.

Russell Walker was sitting behind his desk, document in hand. When he looked up and saw Eli standing in the doorway, he didn’t seem at all surprised.

“What do you want?” he asked his son.

“How dare you arrange my marriage without even mentioning it to me!” Eli burst out before he could stop himself.

Russell put down the document he was holding and folded his hands on his desk. “And what would you have done differently if I had discussed this matter with you beforehand?” he asked.

“I would have said no,” Eli admitted. “I’m still saying no.”

Russell seemed content with this response. “Then there was no reason to involve you in the decision, if the outcome was going to be the same either way.”

Eli stared at his father. “So that is it. I say no and the matter is over with?” It seemed too easy.

“Oh no, the matter is surely not over with,” Russell informed him. “I suggest you spend some time with Ms. Chen and learn to accept the fact that she is going to be a part of your future, which is exactly what I would have said if we had had this conversation earlier.”

As much as his father was business minded, Eli couldn’t believe he would be this crass toward such an important aspect of Eli’s life. Surely he had to understand that Eli was something more than a bargaining chip for business gain. “And if I refuse?”

“You won’t,” his father said. “You will resist. That is expected. It is how you have always been. But you have known from the time you were very young that your life would be determined by the state of this company. I never hid that from you or from your brother. For all your complaining, you have both been well aware of the situation since you were old enough to understand it.  So go ahead, get your complaining and resistance out of your system. And once you have come to terms with this, we will begin to discuss the detail of the marriage with Ms. Chen and her father.”

Eli felt his rage boiling inside of him. He pointed a finger accusingly at his father. “I won’t let you win this,” he declared. “This is something too important to let you take control of.” He turned and stormed out of the office, past Madeline at her desk and toward the elevator before any of them could stop him.

When the elevator door opened, Eli was surprised to see Russ staring back at him. His younger brother stepped out of the elevator and looked him over, obviously sensing Eli’s agitation.

“What’s going on?” Russ asked.

Eli snorted his contempt. “It looks like yours isn’t the only life our father is out to ruin,” he said. “But believe me, we are going to fight this.” He stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for the ground floor before Russ could ask him any other questions. It really wasn’t something he felt like talking about right now. He needed to put together a plan first.

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