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King of Wall Street

By:Louise Bay

ping the waxed-paper parcel in front of her.

“Yeah, yeah, never take your customers for granted.” Joey headed back behind the counter. “You know what always shuts him up?” he asked over his shoulder.

Donna laughed. “When you tell him to come back after his business has lasted three generations and is still going?”

Joey pointed at Donna. “You got it.”

“So Max has been coming here a long time, huh?” I asked as Joey turned back to the counter to tend to the line of people that had built up since we’d arrived.

“Since I’ve been working for him. And that’s nearly seven years.”

“A creature of habit. I get that.” There wasn’t much spontaneous about Max from what I’d seen.

Donna cocked her head. “More a huge sense of loyalty. As this area built up and lunch places opened up on every corner, Joey’s business took a bit of a hit. Max has never gone anywhere else. He’s even brought clients here.”

Donna’s description jarred with the cold egomaniac I encountered in the office. I bit into my sandwich.

“He can be challenging and demanding and a pain in the ass, but that’s a big part of what’s made him successful.”

I wanted to be successful but still a decent human being. Was I naïve to think that was possible on Wall Street?

Donna pressed the top layer of bread down onto the turkey with her fingertips, pushing the layers together. “He’s not as bad as you think he is. I mean, if he’d said your report was good to go, what would you have learned?” She picked up her sandwich. “You can’t expect to get it all right your first time. And the stuff about the typos—was he wrong?” She took a bite, and waited for me to answer.

“No.” I bit the inside of my lip. “But you have to admit, his delivery sucks.” I pulled out a piece of my turkey from under the sourdough and put it in my mouth. I’d worked so hard; I’d expected some kind of recognition for that.

“Sometimes. Until you’ve proved yourself. But once you have, he’ll back you completely. He gave me this job knowing I was a single mother, and he’s made sure I’ve never missed a game, event, or PTA meeting.” She cracked open a can of soda. “When my daughter got chicken pox just after I started working here, I came into the office anyway. I’ve never seen him so mad. When he spotted me, he marched me out of the building and sent me home. I mean, my mom was looking after her, she was fine, but he insisted I stay home until she was back in school.”

I swallowed. That didn’t sound like the Max I knew.

“He’s a really good guy. He’s just focused and driven. And he takes his responsibility to his employees seriously—especially if they have potential.”

“I don’t see him taking his responsibility to not be a condescending asshole very seriously.”

Donna chuckled. “You’re there to learn, to get better. And he’s going to teach you, but just saying you did a good job isn’t going to help you.”

I grabbed a napkin from the old-fashioned dispenser at the edge of the table and wiped the corner of my mouth. How had today helped me other than wrecking my confidence completely?

“If you had known how today’s meeting would play out, what would you have done differently?” Donna asked.

I shrugged. I’d done good work, but he’d refused to acknowledge it.

“Come on. You can’t tell me you’d do things exactly the same.”

“Okay, no. I would have printed out the sources and brought them into the meeting.”

Donna nodded. “Good. What else?” She took another bite of her sandwich.

“I would have probably tried Max’s contact at the WTO a few more times—maybe emailed him. I could have tried harder to pin him down. And I could have sent the whole thing to proofreading.” We had an overnight service, but because I’d worked late on it, I’d missed the deadline to send it. I should have made sure it was ready in time.

I glanced up from picking apart my sandwich. “I’m not saying I didn’t learn anything. I just thought he’d be nicer. I’ve wanted to work with him a long time. I just didn’t imagine I’d fantasize about punching him in the face quite so often.”

Donna laughed. “That, Harper, is what having a boss means.”

Okay, I could accept that Max was nice to Donna, and Joey, by the looks of things. But he wasn’t nice to me. Which only made everything worse. What had I ever done to him? Was I being singled out for special treatment? Yes, my report could be improved, but despite what Donna said, I hadn’t deserved the reaction I got. He could have thrown me a bone.

Now that my expectations of working with Max were well and truly shattered, I had to concentrate on getting what I could from the experience and moving on. I’d go through my report and make it perfect. I’d take everything I could from working for King & Associates, make a ton of contacts, and then after two years I’d be well placed to set up on my own, or go and work directly for a bank.

* * * * *

How I’d talked my best friend, Grace, into moving me into my new apartment, I had no idea. Growing up on Park Avenue, she wasn’t raised for manual labor.

“What’s in here, a dead body?” she asked, a sheen of sweat on her forehead catching the light in the elevator.

“Yeah, my last best friend.” I tipped my head toward the old pine blanket box at our feet and the last thing in the truck. “There’s room for another.” I laughed.

“There’d better be wine in the refrigerator.” Grace fanned her face. “I’m not used to being this physical with my clothes on.”

“You see, then you should be grateful. I’m expanding your horizons,” I replied with a grin. “Showing you how us ordinary gals live.”

I’d been staying with Grace since I got to New York from Berkeley almost three months ago. She’d been fantastically understanding when my mother shipped all my things to her apartment in Brooklyn, but now that I was making her help me move everything into my new place, her patience was running out. “And I’m too poor for a refrigerator. And wine.” The rent on my studio was horrific. But it was