The door to the reception area crashed open. Karen Reilly raised her head from her computer, her boss, Peter Craig was back from a meeting. He appeared in the doorway to her office, his mobile to his ear and his laptop case clutched in his hand. She smiled at him. Peter Craig was in his late thirties, tall,dark and elegant, a handsome face with striking grey eyes. The third generation of owners of the large biscuit factory, he was dynamic, ambitious and hyperactive, so much so that his wife had coped with his frequent absences and the speed at which he lived for a year before she left him.
"Any messages?" he enquired, finishing his call.
"Several. Mr Parker would like to see you on a personal matter and Nigel Holmes would like you to ring him," she replied.
"What does Parker want? Nigel will have to wait."
"I don't know what Mr Parker wants." She handed him his messages.
"Right. I'm off to that other meeting. I've got an early flight tomorrow. I hope to persuade the hotel chain to serve our biscuits and that new supermarket chain to stock them.Keep in touch on the mobile and forward any e-mails you can't handle." He went into his office to sign the letters she'd left there.
Karen sighed. She was nearly 40, petite with short blonde hair and deep blue eyes. An excellent secretary, even she had difficulties pinning down the whirlwind that was Peter Craig. I'll collect his letters and post them on the way home, she thought. I do hope Donna isn't late home tonight. The association meets at 8pm and I don't want to be late. Managing a 16 year old daughter as a single mother was quite an art, not much different from managing Peter. Having collected the letters, she went down the stairs and across to the factory. John Parker the factory manager was in his office surrounded by computer screens and stacks of paper. He looked up when she tapped on the door and signalled her to come in.
"I'm so sorry John," she started.
"Don't worry Karen. I know how he is. I've known him since he was born. I'll catch him when he comes back. From what you tell me he'll actually be here for a couple of days next week!" he replied
John Parker, close to retirement age, was small, solidly built with a thatch of grey hair and kind blue eyes. He'd worked at the factory since he'd left school, rising through the ranks to the post he now held.Known for his great diplomacy, he always managed to defuse potentially difficult situations. Karen had great respect for him and they got on well.She knew that since his wife had died he spent his weekends walking in the hills and mountains close by. The great loves of his life were his daughter Sue and his 18 year old
granddaughter Bethany. Bethany shared his love of walking and of nature and went with him whenever she could.
"How's the project coming on?" he enquired. John knew of her interest in old worn out horses and ponies and of the association she was a member of. They were collecting funds to renovate the old stable blocks that housed the animals and Karen had put up collecting boxes in John's office as wall as in the factory.
"Not brilliantly. We could do with more help. Ther's a meeting at 8pm tonight so I'm off. Have a nice weekend John. I'll see you on Monday."
John watched her as she crossed the car park to her car. Young Peter is lucky to have her, he thought, she was methodical and organised and she did her best to keep his feet on the ground.
Halfway home Karen remembered Nigel Holmes. She'd better phone him as Peter would either forget or put it off. Nigel was Peter's best friend. They had known each other since their school days. He held a key post in the town hall and he and his wife Lucy had an active social life and did their utmost to include a recalcitrant Peter. Peter always found excuses to which Nigel turned a deaf ear, hoping to pin him down and get him involved in other than the business.
John Parker had a word with the late afternoon shift, locked his office door and headed for home. Tomorrow was Saturday and he had a definite ramble in mind. Early the next morning he took the little train that served the various mountain villages. He got off at one of them, walking through the village and out the far side. After a short while he stopped, sat on a large flat stone by the side of the road and feasted his eyes. In front of him was a meadow. In it were several apple trees, a mulberry tree, wild flowers in profusion, that attracted a myriad of butterflies. Bullrushes indicated a small stream and tucked in the corner of the meadow was a stone cottage. A placard stated "For Sale" with an estate agent's number. John had found this place on last weekend's ramble and had fallen head over heels in love with it. It had everything he had ever dreamt of for his retirement and eventually for Bethany. A phone call to the estate agent had revealed that it had belonged to the same family for generations, the last of the line being a young solicitor who was just starting out in a nearby town. He had no interest in the place and wanted to sell it. The estate agent, sensing an interest in her caller, told him that it was known locally as "The Butterfly Meadow." The price she quoted shook him rigid. It was very high. He had spent the week doing his accounts and had worked out that he could just about afford it if he could work for another five years.That was why he needed to see Peter Craig.
The news reached Karen late on the Sunday evening. Peter Craig was in the ICU after a heart attack. His condition had been stabilised but the prognosis was reserved. She rang John Parker to tell him.They agreed to meet early the next morning. Decisions had to be made while waiting for further news. When they met up Karen looked as shaken as John felt. They had both had sleepless nights.
"I could see it coming if he didn't slacken up a bit" said John.
Karen looked at him and said "Between us we could continue to run the factory. We know all there is to know about the business but we need his approval to do so. In the meantime we carry on."
After 48 hours Peter Craig's condition showed signs of improving. Karen and John went to see him as soon as it was possible and outlined their plan to him.Papers were then drawn up and signed to give them the powers that they needed. Peter Craig looked at them both with admiration. All through his long convalescence they kept in touch with him daily. Karen went to business meetings, made business trips and to her great surprise and Peter's astonisment, secured a big contract that he'd been after for a while. Nigel and Lucy were frequent visitors and helped the heart specialist to convince Peter to radically change his life style.He also had a long time to reflect that his staff, although committed, were human beings with interests, hopes and dreams of their own.
On the day Peter returned to the factory he called John and Karen in to his office. Thanks to them the factory had carried on smoothly with only minor hiccups, and he was full of admiration for all they had done. He promised a bonus to all the workers.
"You two deserve much more. What can I do to thank you for all your efforts?" he asked
Karen took a deep breath and told him about the need for funds for the retirement home for old horses. Peter wrote a large cheque. He turned to John Parker. John told him of his need to work for a further five years and then all about the
Butterfly Meadow.Peter listened attentively, obtained the phone number for the solicitor and rang him. A more reasonable price for the property was discussed in return for Peter's promise of future legal work.
"John, you have been a faithful and loyal employee of this factory for many years, take your retirement when it is due and go and enjoy your beautiful butterfly meadow. You deserve it!"
Peter Craig stood up and shook both their hands warmly.
Copyright Jacqueline Hastings 2010