The Business Trip, Chapter Five

by: Lady Lucia | Story In Progress | Last updated Apr 2, 2024

Chapter 4
The Business Trip, Chapter Four

Chapter Four

June didn’t really have a plan.

Ever since Elizabeth had been invited to spend the night at her apartment, June had only been motivated by doing whatever it took to inconvenience and embarrass her boss. So far, things had gone well. Better than June had initially expected, as she was now in control of Elizabeth’s wallet and cell phone. And with only a suitcase full of juvenile clothes, Elizabeth probably wouldn’t be showing her face outside their hotel suite.

It wasn’t until June stepped out of the elevator onto the main floor that she realized the possibilities now that she was the only one from their company present for the first evening of the conference. For the next few hours, she could quite literally make herself the face of their department. Initially, this had been all about screwing with Elizabeth’s career. But, what if . . . 

Instead of going with her original idea to apologize for her boss’s absence, and letting slip that Elizabeth had missed her flight due to oversleeping, June could quite literally pretend that she was the one who had been sent for the various pitches that Elizabeth was supposed to be in charge of. Long term, that was so much better than simply dropping comments that made Elizabeth look irresponsible, untrustworthy, etc. 

If she played her cards right, June might actually be able to save her career. Elizabeth wouldn’t be capable of firing her if everyone saw how much business June had personally succeeded in bringing to the company. Or, best of both worlds, they would also see that Elizabeth wasn’t nearly as hardworking as she pretended to be. ‘One step at a time,’ June told herself. That was how everything had worked out well up until this point. Rather than some long term scheme, she would continue focusing on the present and adapting along the way.

Still, June had to think quickly. She couldn’t tell any outright lies that would later be contradicted. The thing about Elizabeth’s flight was fine because June knew she’d be able to sell that as an excuse to her boss later. Of course, she would have left out the oversleeping part of it, leaving Elizabeth to apologize for her delayed arrival while their potential client would know why she missed the flight. Now that she was speaking for herself, however, June had to be careful. She couldn’t just make up some job title for herself, as the people she’d be talking to tonight would eventually be meeting her higher ups. Plus keeping track of lies was such a chore. She’d be better off weaving clever half-truths and letting her expertise speak for herself. After all, June knew the presentation material better than Elizabeth did. 

It turned out that pulling that off was a lot easier than expected. All June really had to do was talk about her experience at the company. How she originally started in more of an admin capacity, but was currently in the process of transitioning to more of a business associate role. It might have been a slight stretch, as no one had officially offered her such a position, but she could always claim that someone must have misheard her if someone back at the office ever called her out on it. Because for the most part, it was true. She started more as an admin/assistant, had recently been looped into a number of important conversations, and was now quite literally being flown halfway across the country to assist with securing a major client. For all intents and purposes, she had a promotion coming, as long as Elizabeth was out of the way. 

Being burdened with most of Elizabeth’s paperwork also ended up giving June an enormous edge as she continued networking throughout the evening. One of their current clients asked about her, and June was quick to clarify what actually was the truth. “Oh, Ms. Harris mostly handles communication. I’m the one responsible for managing most of her accounts. Didn’t I just work on a project that streamlined the way your company does inventory the other month?” June made a point to downplay the memory, while also casually giving herself all the credit. Meanwhile, she aimed to make Elizabeth sound like one of those middle managers who only delegated without actually doing any work herself. That was more or less what Elizabeth was like, anyway. Though Elizabeth contributed at some capacity, June was more than happy to take all the credit for a job that Elizabeth had only done maybe 15% of compared to June’s 85%.

There was also no need for June to abandon her first idea. Whenever she had the chance, she innocently mentioned that Elizabeth overslept and missed her flight. Since tomorrow was a completely different battle, June decided to cover her bases. Ideal world, Elizabeth would be trapped in the hotel suite all weekend. However, June really doubted that her boss would take that lying down. Somehow, someway, she would need to figure out if it was possible to solo the weekend.

Then a crazy idea presented itself to her in the form of the very same potential client she and Elizabeth had been sent there to land. There were a few other meetings with current clients they would be responsible for, but all of those paled in comparison to the business they were charged with bringing in. After purposely avoiding the female CEO for a good hour or so, as she didn’t want to come across as too desperate or eager, June finally found a window to introduce herself when the two of them were ordering a new round of drinks. In reality, it was June’s first actual cocktail, as she had been drinking tonic water thus far in order to stay on her game while appearing as if she was socializing over drinks like everyone else.

All the other conversations had been with people she had either met before or already heard the names of. That’s why it had been so easy to nonchalantly talk herself up while simultaneously putting Elizabeth down. This was different. Taking a completely different approach, June opted to simply be genuine and not play any games. That was where June was nothing at all like Elizabeth. Though June was more than capable of playing the professional role, she was also more down to earth and direct than most people in her department. It was probably why she got noticed, as she simply got to the point with her good ideas, rather than circling for five minutes in corporate speak like she witnessed all the time in various meetings. 

She and Ruth only talked for a few minutes, during which June got the chance to hear about Ruth’s company. It was a good way to both break the ice and to glean a bit of information that might help with their pitch the following day. 

Apparently Ruth’s company was rather family oriented, and put a major focus on work/life balance. It could have been bullshit, considering how countless companies claim such things on the surface while actually taking advantage of their employees left and right. The more Ruth talked, the less that seemed to be the case. To her, after rising through the ranks while also being constantly stressed about juggling family commitments, it only seemed fair to not burden anyone else with such challenges. As long as everyone got their work done in a timely manner, Ruth didn’t mind people leaving halfway through the day to pick up a sick child from school, or working remotely when they had responsibilities at home to tackle as well. In fact, there were often times where individuals would come to work with their kid, provided their presence wasn’t disruptive to everyone else. 

The more June heard, the more the gears in her head started turning. She definitely didn’t want to blindside Ruth at the pitch tomorrow, but also wanted to test the waters in case she could get Elizabeth on board. “That sounds like a really healthy work culture,” June said, “I’m responsible for my niece here and there this weekend, and scheduling has been a nightmare with all the meetings I’m going to be involved with.”

That’s all it took. “You’re more than welcome to bring her tomorrow if it makes things easier for you,” Ruth shrugged, “As long as she’s not a distraction, of course.”

“Thank you for the offer. I’ll keep it in mind,” June said, “And I really appreciate it. Her parents still have to get back to me about a couple details, but I can call ahead and let your office know in advance if I end up deciding to do that. It’ll certainly be easier than dropping her off somewhere, or commuting back and forth across the city all day.”

Ruth went on to explain how that’s exactly why she makes a constant effort to avoid such complications. Instead of wasting time and money on this or that, she’d rather everyone do what’s simplest and easiest whenever possible. 

By the time she shook Ruth’s hand and expressed how she was looking forward to their meeting tomorrow, June was just barely able to focus on the woman before her. Her thoughts were solely on whether or not she would be able to convince Elizabeth to go along with something like that. June was too young to pass a girl Elizabeth’s size as her daughter, but maybe the ‘niece’ concept would work out. The clothes already did wonders to make Elizabeth look younger, especially with the messy braid. If June had thirty minutes to really put in the effort, Elizabeth might actually be able to pass as a tween girl. A more immature outfit than the one Elizabeth had chosen, a clever combo of hair/make-up, rounded off with how dramatic the contrast would be when June towered over her in business attire? It definitely wasn’t the half of a drink that made it sound like a good idea. June was still completely sober, yet pretty convinced she could pull it off. 

There was just the matter of getting Elizabeth on board . . .

Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s time upstairs hadn’t been nearly as productive as June’s.

For nearly thirty minutes, she just sulked. Instead of networking and putting her face to all the projects she had taken full credit for, she was sequestered to her hotel room. Now that June was gone and there was no time pressure, Elizabeth more thoroughly perused the suitcase her assistant had incorrectly grabbed. By the time every single outfit piece was sitting on the bed, Elizabeth was confident that she was wearing the only decent combination available. Most of the tees and tank tops were brighter and girlier than the colors she wore on a daily basis in both her personal and professional life. Huffing in annoyance, she stuffed everything back into the suitcase without any rhyme or reason. She didn’t plan on wearing anything but what she had reluctantly tried on to shut June up. First thing tomorrow, they were going to skip breakfast and go shopping instead. 

As for the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy June mentioned, Elizabeth found that it didn’t actually make any sense. All their materials were in June’s room. Since Elizabeth had already memorized all of her presentations, there was really nothing else to prepare. She had already gone over the information again and again throughout the last week or so. It took all of ten minutes of pacing back and forth and speed talking through the first few meetings for her to verify that she still knew everything backwards and forwards. 

Without a phone or laptop, Elizabeth was bored within the hour. Taking June’s suggestion, as she was quite used to her assistant anticipating her needs at this point, Elizabeth picked up the phone and ordered herself a small feast via room service. She would have spent the funds at the bar this evening anyway, plus she was used to treating herself on the company’s dime. On top of that, June had been the one to make the reservations, which meant it would be June’s company card that was charged for whatever Elizabeth ordered. Showing that her assistant was being irresponsible with her credit card was yet another thing Elizabeth could add to the list in terms of getting the girl fired. 

Elizabeth was a little bit worried about ordering herself wine. Thanks to her size, she was carded quite often, even when dressed more nicely than any college student could afford. If that happened at upscale bars in expensive clothes, she could only imagine what would happen in her current get-up. She was still tempted to change back into her PJs, if only because that’s what her more adult self would wear. However, she decided to stay in the jean shorts and white top on the off chance that June returned early enough that they could head to a nearby store. Things were open later in the city, though Elizabeth’s current lack of technology meant she couldn’t check out the surrounding area. 

As for drinking, that would be fine, since they reserved the room as young adults. Just to be safe, Elizabeth even requested they leave the tray outside the door. She would often do that anyway, as retrieving her food was preferable to dealing with tedious small talk. 

Without any other way to entertain herself, Elizabeth found a decent movie to watch. The overpriced food and wine was helpful in taking the edge off after a frustrating day. Still, it was difficult to relax when she was stuck relying on her assistant even more than usual. Even if the airport had sorted things out with Elizabeth’s purse, June would be the one they called. And at this point, there was a chance June wasn’t paying attention to her phone if she was busy laying the groundwork for their meetings tomorrow. 

June was away until almost 10 PM. She let herself back into their suite and found herself face to face with Elizabeth almost immediately. The more casually dressed girl was lounging on the sofa and was more than halfway done with the nearby bottle of red. “Finally,” Elizabeth huffed, “What took you so long?”

“There were a lot of people to talk to,” June said. Getting right to it, she stepped farther into the living room, “Listen, Elizabeth. We need to talk. I have an idea that will give us an edge against the competition tomorrow, but it’s a little bit unorthodox.”

“I’m listening,” Elizabeth replied. Sitting up slightly, she added on, “And it’s Ms. Harris.”

“We already went over this.” Though she had no intentions of falling back to the more submissive language when they were in a private setting and her boss did not look like a professional woman at all, June split the difference by topping off Elizabeth’s glass. “Let’s worry about titles later. Besides, it won’t make any sense for me to call you that if we decide to commit to what I have in mind.”

“And what do you have in mind, June?”

That was part of why June had been later to return. After one or two more conversations by the bar, she had spent a good hour or so in a more secluded area drafting up an outline for how she might approach this concept that was going to be insulting no matter how she spun it. The goal was simple–to make Elizabeth see that the benefits would outweigh the blow to her pride.

Of course, a little wine couldn’t hurt the equation. She also predicted that leaving Elizabeth alone for longer would ensure that she’d be at least a little tipsy. That was only partially the case, as clearly the petite young woman had been working through the bottle a lot more slowly than the previous evening. So, using the same strategy as she had done back at the apartment, June took it upon herself to refill the glass in a way that ensured Elizabeth would keep drinking. Maybe it was wrong to intentionally lower her inhibitions, but June had been pushed to the point where she would do whatever it took to both protect herself and get a bit of justice/vengeance for Elizabeth’s selfishness and laziness.

Intentionally stalling, June started by talking about Ruth’s company. Acting like she was debriefing Elizabeth on the information she had gleaned downstairs, while really setting the stage for what was to come. All while letting Elizabeth sip more wine along the way.

Most importantly, June emphasized how family was something their soon to be client valued. She was certainly stretching the truth, as it sounded like Ruth’s real goal was keeping her people happy from a mental health and work/life balance standpoint, but Elizabeth didn’t need to know that. Children had been mentioned enough times in the earlier conversation, as that had been Ruth’s personal struggle as both a mother and a business woman. The nuances didn’t matter quite as much when it was just June and Elizabeth, as long as the end result could be achieved. 

“Anyway,” June said, “I would have cleared it with you first, but you lost your phone. Basically, I floated the idea that I might be stuck with my niece for part of the day tomorrow, and the CEO encouraged me to bring her to the meeting if that simplified my schedule.”

“Your niece?” Elizabeth asked, “This is a business trip. Why the fuck would you have to watch your niece at all? That’s not what you’re here for.”

June took a breath, as if she was hesitant to continue.

Taking the bait without realizing it, Elizabeth scoffed. “What? Spit it out, June.”

Pausing for another second to really sell it, June explained, “I think we should say that you’re my niece. Let me give the presentation, and show Ruth that they’ll be working with people that share their family values.”

“Umm, what? That’s ridiculous.” It was one thing to be mistaken as underage at the liquor store. This was something else entirely.

“It’s not ridiculous,” June simply said, “Here, give it a try. Call me ‘Aunt June.’”

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End Chapter 4

The Business Trip, Chapter Five

by: Lady Lucia | Story In Progress | Last updated Apr 2, 2024


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