Lily was aware that her day would not yield the hoped for results. A brilliant student, a brilliant daughter, a brilliant CEO and a failure in pursuing her true vocation.
Early on, as a young woman she had realised she was no longer interested in romantic love. She felt it required too much self-sacrifice and compromise. She was a free bird... till the company became a substitute for her private life and she no longer had a way of distinguishing between the two.
And now, in the middle of a faltering agreement over a big merger, she felt the futility of it all. It smelled like smoke and tasted like a burnt pie.
She dropped her pen in the icy silence of the committee. All their eyes were glued on her face. Everybody was waiting for her final word, but this time her gaze floated over the room and she could see herself and the others from above, in a trance.
She could sense how frustrated and bitter they were, their inner beasts gnawing at them underneath their ties and immaculate shirts.
She swooned into oblivion, past the oval table, into a speck of consciousness twirling in the early afternoon light. She was a fly, a tiny fly on the window-pane, looking out onto the skyscrapers, the mass of steel, glass and concrete humans call a city: to be focused, self-contained, basking in the sun, refracting the cityscape into a myriad fragments on her own...
Then Will nudged her gently out of her reverie.
They were all waiting for her final response. This time, though, she merely said:
"Let us drop the agreement altogether."
Will's white face contracted: months of work were coming to nothing.
People looked around, uneasy, with vacant eyes.
Lily stood up, turned around and left.
They all remained seated, as if turned to stone, too afraid to make a move, lest the air in the room break like glass.
From the landing a peal of laughter travelled into the room. A child hero was wandering the vertical maze of glass and steel, the temple where businessmen and women performed the rituals and protocols of corporate ethics day in, day out.
Relief swept over the committee. Linda walked up to the window and opened it.
The spell was broken.