Chapter 25: Ulterior Motives
Jeanie wanted Mark to make a good impression, and he could be very sociable, but sometimes when he drank too much; he could be hostile and aggressive.
So, Jeanie was not taking any chances and made him promise not to drink any alcohol.
Mark had never met Janus before, so if the chemistry was wrong Jeanie could have a real problem on her hands.
Mark had become more possessive since marriage; not less. And when he became jealous or threatened Mark would use alcohol as an excuse to justify his own unruly behavior.
There were few men as good-looking as Mark, but he never cared about his looks, or anyone else’s except Jeanie’s.
Mark could even get crazy if he felt threatened enough, one time in college one of Jeanie’s friends invited Jeanie to a party and her and Mark showed up as a couple.
They were already married by this time, and she always wore her ring. But one of the bigger men on the football team made a play for Jeanie, just like back in Highschool, and it didn’t matter to him if she was married or not. For the rest of the night he would follow her around from spot to spot, bragging and showing her his medals, and pins on his letterman jacket.
When Mark noticed, he never left her side, but he kept drinking far more than he should have. Finally, towards the end of the evening Mark became so aggravated with the other man that he finally got in-between the two of them when he asked Jeanie to dance, and pulled down his shorts, exposing his manhood in front of everyone shaking its length in front of him and screaming,
“Here motherfucker, you want to fuck my wife, see you if you measure up to this first,
Everybody in the party stopped what they were doing and looked to see what was going on. The other man whose name was Brandon, suddenly put on the spot, embarrassed, slunk away, as Mark followed him with his pants still pulled down, and taunting, “Yea, that’s what I thought mother-fucker.”
Jeanie was so embarrassed she pulled up his shorts from behind him and grabbed the bottle he was drinking from right out of his hand and emptied it on the grass.
Then she threw it into the nearby plastic blue trashcan and told him him that they were leaving. The crowd that had formed around them parted like the red sea. Jeanie would not talk to him all the way back to the car, but when they were alone she let him have it.
“Mark Antonio Winters give me the keys to the car, I’m driving. He handed the keys to her meekly.
She snatched the keys in a huff, I have never been so embarrassed in all my life, rambling on and on and not caring if anybody heard them fighting.
Jeanie was so upset that she didn’t say good-bye to a single person, not even the host and she cried all the way home.
She knew Mark was not stupid enough to ever do that again, but his behavior could become unpredictable when he was drinking and that made Jeanie fearful. If Mark did feel threatened enough, when he drank he might become rude, aggressive or insulting and he didn’t care who it was. Even her boss, Oh, he was going to watch his mouth at his company function, but he may not be so careful with hers, as he was the bread-winner now.
The luncheon was a casual event, but Mark and Jeanie overdressed appropriately enough, Mark had on a pair of pleated khaki pants, and a button-down shirt with a blazer. Jeanie wore a very attractive summer dress that was light but nonrevealing, and professional if not colorful. Mark wanted her to change saying that it exposed to much of her in front, but Jeanie refused to change, and warned him not to start up with her.
When they arrived, Mark expected the luncheon to be a little more formal, and from what he observed, he seemed the most formally dress guy there. In fact, some of the guys even wore jeans and polo shirts. After a while Mark felt uncomfortable, his blazer made him feel older than he was, so he hung it over the chair in front of the reserved table that had a place holder which read: Mark and Jeanie Winters.
Well at least they spelled the names right, Mark thought to himself.
The meeting was mandatory, and all work staff were supposed to be there. And that included support staff like billing reps, telemarketers, sales, advertising, & management most of which looked like a bunch of post-graduate hipsters who had just landed their first real job. Some of them even had pony-tails and tattoo’s, but they were warned to wear long sleeve shirts to cover them if they had them on their arms.
The women, more varied in age, were younger, most attractive and appeared less conservative than chicer, most wore shorter mini-skirts, with expensive heels, heavy make-up, and plunging neck lines which showcased their cleavage.
There was an open bar, but not much of a selection, but Mark promised Jeanie that he would not drink, so he just ordered a coke for himself and a diet coke for Jeanie. Mark wanted a least one beer, just something to help him take the edge off with his social jitters, but if he asked Jeanie to reconsider her promise, she would have a fit.
Truth be told Mark did like social events, he was likable enough in high school, but now he was just another guy struggling to make a ends meet as an adult in the real world.
When he was in school he couldn’t wait to be an adult, and now that he was one, he wished he was back in school again.
Jeanie really tried to help him by introducing Mark to all her friends and they seemed genuinely friendly and personable.
Everyone came up to Jeanie to say hello and meet Mark her husband.
Very few people there were married, or work-couples, a few had brought the boyfriend or girlfriend, but it had a very loose college vibe mixer to it.
After about ten minutes of idle chit-chat Mark realized that the attention in the room was concentrating towards the entrance. Apparently, somebody important had walked in because suddenly all the attention in the room shifted in that direction.
It was Janus, he had arrived on time, but just on time, everybody else had arrived early. The buzz in the room grew louder, and Mark struggled to catch a glance thru the crowd as Jonah walked towards the small podium that had been set up on a make-shift platform with a microphone.
When Mark finally saw him, Janus was exactly what Mark had expected: thin, handsome, and chic. Janus was dressed mainly in black, but he had on a pale light grey dress shirt underneath, and there were decorations of gold strands sewn into the material as well.
He wasn’t wearing a tie, but that was on purpose. He looked like he had just stepped off a private plane after closing a new deal for another resort on the Cayman Islands.
Janus could have been a poster-boy that epitomized today’s modern elite. Tech-Savvy, Financial Stable, and Self-made Successful.
So, your Mr. Z, Mark thought to himself.
His mood and body language seemed very casual, but his looks contrasted his movements. Mark always felt more than a little awkward whenever he met somebody more important than he was.
It was like trying to act casual while having dinner with the President at the White House for the first time.
Janus may not have been the President, but Mark felt that he was someone very important, and he did have a presence about him.
Mark took another swallow of his Coke, wishing again that it had alcohol, as Jonah was making his way around the room and closing in on them.
“Hello, everyone thanks you for coming especially on a Sunday. I know it’s an inconvenience, but I do appreciate it, Janus said.”
“Please everyone, take your seats or wherever your assigned so we can get can eat and then get the hell out of here as quickly as possible.”
The room laughed lightly.
After everyone sat down Janus read casually from a clipboard with his Itinerary; a list of Objectives that they hope to achieve this coming year. Then at the end he would take a few questions and then they had the caterers bring out the food. For a luncheon it was impressive, Janus even put on an apron himself, lit the flambe’ and helped carve the Roast Beef himself.
While people were in line he made jokes, small talk, and thanked everyone who showed up for coming. The perfect host.
As Mark got closer he noticed one thing that was sort of peculiar about Jonah and that was his hair, it seemed unnaturally black, jet-black, like he dyed it, but Mark didn’t think he did, because he was greying around his temples. Jeanie stood in line in front of Mark, so she could make his introduction.
Mark whispered to Jeannie, “Wow, he is different, I expected someone older, but despite his intensity he seems cool.”
“Yea, his personality is nothing like you’d expect looking at him from first glance, Jeannie shrugged her shoulders, mainly filling her plate with appetizers like cottage cheese and pickles. Mark couldn’t help but notice the odd mixture Jeanie had on her plate. Jeanie was saying something to him, but he was distracted by what she chooses to eat, and he was going to comment on it when suddenly Mark was in front of the line and eye to eye with Janus himself.
“Hello,” Janus said, holding up a very large carving knife, but not pointed directly at him.”
“Hi, Mark said staring at the knife.”
“So, your Jeanie’s husband, Janus said impressed nodding his head.”
“I am, Mark answered with a nervous smile.”
“How many slices would you like, Janus asked?”
“Two please, Mark said.”
Janus used that knife the way a doctor would us a scalpel.
Jeanie was waiting by Mark, near his side.
“Were all so proud of Jeanie, nobody works harder, Janus said.”
Mark looked at Jeanie, “Thank you, I’m proud of her as well, he said.”
“And what a handsome couple you make, Janus complimented.”
Now both Mark and Jeanie laughed nervously.
Your children are going to be beautiful.
As the two of them walked to their assigned table Jeanie asked, “Well what do you think?”
“I don’t know, quiet and charismatic, Mark said frowning.”
Jeanie knew that she had to play defense, “Janice hasn’t flirted with one female in the office yet, and theirs a rumor going around that he might be gay.”
Mark looked at Jeanie knowingly, “Your good baby, I’ll give you that.”
Jeanie laughed guiltily, “It’s true, she said.”
“You know just what to say, don’t you, Mark said.”
She smiled guiltily, “Promise you’ll be nice, Jeanie begged?”
“Yes of course, and that rumor’s believable, he certainly is “pretty” enough, Mark said.”
Jeanie hugged him for being a good sport.
After a little while when most people had finished with dinner, Janus went around and personally thanked everyone who showed up for coming, when he got to Mark and Jeanie, he looked at Mark and asked him permission to sit down.
Mark nodded and smiled, “Yes, of course.”
“I’m so glad the both of you could make it, Janus started, I really wanted to meet you Mark?”
“Okay, Mark said a little embarrassed, why’s that.”
“Well Jeanie speaks so highly of you, I was really curious to meet the man she married.”
She doesn’t’ have any pictures of me on her desk, he asked?”
Her desk, the wall behind her, even on the window we share, Janus replied.
Janus that is not true, Jeanie laughed.
It is I told her to them down and she got mad at me he laughed.
Jeanie take him to your desk upstairs before you leave and show him yourself.
Everyone laughed, No, she said guiltily.
She takes them down when I’m gone but put’s them back up again when I leave.
That’s sound just like Jeanie Mark agreed.
“Me and Jeanie have been together a long time, Mark said.”
“She told me that you two were high-school sweet-hearts, Janus said.”
“Yea, I never think of us like that, one-day Jeanie was there, and it was like she always belonged, the missing peice of the puzzle, like she always belonged, I can’t explain it any other way, Mark said.”
“I don’t like the way past memories catch up with us in uneven measures, Janus said, sometimes it feels like yesterday and I was just graduating high school; that was almost thirty years ago, and other times it feels like a million bc.
“I read a little-bit about your company on the web-site, and your mission statement is very impressive, Mark concluded.”
“Thank-You, Janus said, and realistic to some degree I hope.”
“Do you use the products yourself, Mark asked.”
“Some of the supplements, but I haven’t tried everything, I have to admit on some of the claims even I’m a little skeptical, but we have a rating system that customers can comment on after they have tried the products, similar to “Amazon,” and that’s what we go by, Customer Reviews, and not the advertisements by the manufacturer, if something gets too many bad reviews we stop selling it, Janus concluded.”
“Wow, I guess you do take your products serious, Mark said.”
“Reputation is everything in business, Janus replied.”
“Have you been in Marketing your entire career?”
Janus felt that Mark already knew the answer to that question.
“No, not directly, I have been in related businesses, sales, promotion, finance, acquisitions, but I try to bring the past experiences from my other fields to this job if appropriate, Janus replied.”
“How did you find your way here, Mark asked?”
“A friend of mine offered me the job because he thought the company needed someone who was less traditional and more innovative. Someone who could think outside the box, so after some consideration I accepted.”
“Was it a difficult decision, Mark asked.” Jeanie cleared her throat warning Mark that maybe he was asking too many personal questions.
“Well, yes and no, I had to consider the circumstances, I always try and put myself where I feel I can do the most good, anything less would be a waste, and for me unhealthy.”
“It’s curious you used the word “consideration” may I ask what the deciding factor was?”
“No, honey, Jeanie interceded, you may not, and she smiled at him to keep his mouth shut.”
Jeanie felt Mark was starting to compete and getting too personal.
“It’s okay Jeanie, I don’t mind talking about myself.”
“I just find the man fascinating, Mark said honestly.”
Jeanie glared at her husband, your embarrassing me.
“They offered me a percentage of the company, Janus said.”
“Now, that is impressive, Mark looked at him smiling.”
“But not the controlling interest, Janus said, with a straight face.”
“Mark and Jeanie broke into laughter, which helped break the tension.”
“You do sound like an excellent salesman, Mark said sincerely.”
“Thank You, Janus replied, I just wanted the underlying tone of our company to be one of honesty. You can’t convince people of a lie, they can feel the truth.
Cannot be understated, Reputation is the most important thing in business. If you don’t have a person’s trust they will never do business with you. So, I put myself in their shoe’s and ask, “Would I use this service or product myself, if not I could never sell it, Janus replied.”
“That’s a great motto, Mark agreed.”
“I don’t believe that people sell products, I believe that products sell products, when you walk into a grocery store you don’t need someone to convince you to buy a gallon of milk.
If two gallons of milk are equal in quality the ones that cheaper that week will get bought more because it’s on sale, Janus said.”
“I won’t argue that, but there are somethings that I won’t do without despite the price, Mark countered.”
“Can you give me an example, Janus asked?”
“Heinz ketchup, it’s my favorite, I buy it even thou I know it’s the most expensive and rarely if ever, does goes on sale, but I’ll pay the premium because I like them the best, Mark said.”
“What about mustard, Janus asked joking?”
There was a pause, then Janus smiled wryly, and Mark and Jeanie laughed.
Very clever, Mark thought.
Hienz makes mustard too Janus, Mark whispered to him, trying for a comback.
Yea, that’s Heinz Variety 48.
What Numbers the Ketchup.
43, he said in a dead pan voice.
Everybody laughted again.
Mark was impressed, I love this guy.
How about Grey Poupon???
Janus shook his head, “Never.”
That’s an elitist mustard, everybody knows that.
“Now, Mark and Jeanie burst out laughing.”
Can we take him home with us Jeanie, Mark asked.
Jeanie and Mark laughed and she turned beet red, Janus didn’t laugh but he did smile and his face turned red as well and then he asked, Where would I sleep, asked???”
When the laughter settled down, Mark excused himself, “I’ll be right back, Mark said to Jeanie, and then he turned to Janus, would you excuse me please, Mark said getting up?”
But of course, Janus nodded still smiling.
Mark made the excuse to exit on purpose. He felt that Janus was waiting to ask Jeanie something, and he was waiting for the right time to ask her, and Mark left to give Janice his opportunity, otherwise he might be with them all afternoon. When Mark was gone Jeanie said, “Janus, you’ll have to excuse my husband he hasn’t been out in a long time, his manners are very rusty, Jeanie said.”
“No, it’s okay Jeanie, and Mark’s right to be curious, he’s just looking out for you.”
“I just don’t want you to feel like you have to explain yourself, Jeanie said.”
“No, I don’t mind, maybe it will even help clear up a few things. I don’t want to appear so stuffy, everybody thinks I’m so unapproachable, and I want to change that, I’m far from perfect, I barely got to the luncheon on time, that I was hosting, Janus said.”
I tried calling you, but you didn’t answer.
I know, he replied.
“A woman, Jeanie asked, she knew better, but she couldn’t help herself.”
“No, not this time, an old friend thou, Janus said, smiling.”
“It must be really hard to settle down when you have to travel so much, Jeanie said?”
“Just the opposite, I travel because I don’t want to settle down, Janus replied.”
“Forgive me Janus, but that sounds like a very lonely life, Jeanie said.”
“When I was in college I met a girl, and fell in love, I was very young, her name was September, she got pregnant, and we got married, we didn’t have a wedding, but we did go to the courthouse to take our vows, so we were legally married.
But during her last trimester, there were complications, and they had to perform an emergency C-section, I don’t know what the odds are for the umbilical cord getting wrapped around the baby’s neck but the doctor on duty was inexperienced, and both the baby and my wife died in childbirth. I don’t know what happened to her regular ob-gyn of if it could have made a difference, but it was the worst of everything coming together at the same time. The perfect storm.
Jeanie put her hand to her mouth and started crying. Maybe it also had to do with the fact that she was pregnant.
After that, I guess I couldn’t stay there any longer, not in that city, not in that state, so I moved, the problem is I kept moving until it became a habit. Maybe by choosing this line of work I deliberately made it hard to find somebody else, to protect myself from falling in love again, when you have no roots, you have no ties.
“Oh Janus, and that was your first love, I’m so sorry…”
“I guess it would be difficult for a person to understand the toll of moving from one place to another, but for me I had to…”
I just keep putting one foot in front of the other until I can find whatever it is I’m looking for, Janus said with a haunted look in his eyes.”
Jeanie was stunned, this man had revealed more of himself in this one conversation than he had in the previous six weeks she had known him.
“Oh Janus, I had no idea, that’s a horrible thing to have happened to you, but I do understand, being uprooted and displaced and I have been since I was a child, I was an Army Brat, Jeanie said crying.”
“I’m telling you this because you seem like good decent people, it can be hard for me to make friends because I have trust issues. And being a private person and the boss in a new town automatically puts you on the outs with most, I know I have to make allowances, but I just want you to know that I’m a human being too, and no matter what appearances people put on, no one is immune from pain, suffering, and loneliness so I hope you and your husband can make some allowances for me as well, Janus finished.”
“Yes Janus, of course, just give people time, they will come to see the real you, Jeanie said wiping away her tears?”
“Well, that’s hopeful. I don’t want to build walls, that destroys communications. It leads to misunderstandings, I need to work on being more personable because were all human beings and were all just trying to do the best we can in life, and all we have in this world is each other, Janus said.”
And the girls thought you were just a pretty face, Jeanie said trying to lighten the mood.”
Maybe you can help me, Janus asked?
Help you do what?
Help me communicate whatever gets lost in translation Jeanie, lost in the words.
Speaking is a real artform, and its advise cannot be underestimated, in the old days a mature but wise woman, called an Elder Spirit, no matter what her phsical age actually was, would give advise to the Chief.
Elder Spirit, Jeanie repeated, she had never heard that before. Suddenly Jeanie felt uneasy again.
You’re doing fine Janus, my advice, just get to the point, keep it short. Now she was looking for Mark.
“Jeanie its getting late, but I wanted to ask your husbands permission on one last thing before I go…”
When Mark returned, Janus was gone, and Jeanie looked like she had been crying.
“Is everything okay, Mark asked?”
“Yes, she said smiling, Janus gave us a wonderful compliment, but she didn’t say what it was.”
“Tears of Joy, Mark asked?”
Jeanie laughed, “I’ll tell you in the car.”
On the ride home Jeanie told him, “I have to work late next week, she said.”
“Late, how come, Mark asked.”
“Remember when I started I told you that there may be times when I have to work nights, she asked?”
“Yes, Mark replied.”
“Well this is one of them, Jeanie said.”
“When did you find out, Mark asked?”
“When you left, Jeanie said.”
Fucking knew it, Mark thought to himself.
“Will you be at the office, Mark asked?”
“No, I’ll be out on assignment, Jeanie answered trying to sound very casual.”
“Do you know where your assignment will be, Mark asked?”
“There’s an assignment downtown, and he’s trying to tie that story into an article for the magazine, Jeanie replied.”
“So, who’s the Journalist, Mark asked?”
“No, it’s with Janus, Jeanie remarked.”
“I don’t remember Janus telling us he was a journalist, Mark asked?”
“Janus, said the reason he was almost late for his own luncheon was because an old friend came in from out of town, and Janus is doing this is as a favor for him personally.
“And you must go because you’re his personal assistant, Mark confirmed?
“Administrative Assistant, Jeanie replied smiling, but Mark was in no mood to be humored.
“What kind of show, Mark asked?”
“Stage Magician, I think, Jeanie said.”
“Hypnosis, this is getting creepier and creepier, he thought.”
“Can you get out of it, Mark asked?”
“No, I can’t get out of it, I am work-obligated, and this is mandatary, Jeanie was starting to get annoyed.”
“How does a stage magician tie in with a magazine that sells herbs, Mark asked?”
“Not herbs Mark, Alternative Medicines, Janus wants to know the effectiveness of hypnosis on treating disorders, like anxiety, anorexia, obsessive-compulsive, and whether or not its effective or just a hoax.”
“As far as your concerned it’s a hoax, I didn’t want to say anything, but I was on the fence about that guy, now there is no doubt.”
What are you talking about?
He’s bringing you along to be hypnotized, Mark said shaking his head.
“Hold on Mark, Jonah asked me to invite you you along as well, because he didn’t want this to be awkward for us.”
“That’s big of him, Mark replied, relieved but ungrateful.”
“He doesn’t want to cause us any friction at home, especially since I just started, and he doesn’t want you to get the wrong idea.”
“If we go I want you to make it crystal clear that you are not to be volunteered by either Janus of his friend, do you understand me, Mark warned?”
“I already told him that, and that is when he asked me to invite you as well. I’m the one taking the notes remember, how can do that if I’m part of the act.
Mark started to relax.
“I’m sorry Jeanie, I just freaked when I heard that bullshit, Mark said.”
“Mark your just being jealous and paranoid again, Jeanie said.”
I know, but haven’t you had enough bad experiences with men not to be suspicious, Mark asked?”
“Maybe I just don’t want to see the bad in everyone, that would make me just like them Jeanie said.”
“I’m sorry, I was just trying to protect you, Mark said trying to diffuse the situation as fast as possible.”
“He didn’t have to invite you, Jeanie said.”
“He didn’t have to invite you either, Mark replied.”
“Somehow, I got the feeling no matter what he did, you were never going to like him, Jeanie said.”
“Your mad at me because I’m jealous of your boss who looks like Brat Pitt???
“Yes, I am when that man knows has a loving devoted wife whose crazy about him?”
“Unlike you Jeanie, I’m only human, Mark said.”
“Whatever, Jeanie replied.”
“I don’t know why you get mad every time I get jealous anyway, Mark said.”
“Because you embarrass me, Jeanie replied.”
“But you know I don’t mean too, Mark replied, can’t you understand an insecure jealous man who’s in love with a beautiful woman.
You never were before she said?
I always was before, I just hid it better, he answered.
He went to grab her knee, but she pulled away pretending to still be man, but he could see her trying not to smile in the window’s reflection.