David typed furiously on his laptop. Palio was empty except for an old man reading a book near the entrance. As usual, David sat in the back. He didn't notice Andrew walk up behind him until he whispered into David's ear in a terribly cockney Blackadder impression: "Don't be mistaken about this appointment. I've always despised you."
David jumped a bit and turned around and smiled.
"What was so important that it couldn't wait until the weekend? You know I have a day job now, right?"
"Not for long you don't," said David excitedly. "I did it."
"Did what?" asked Andrew.
David hit return and triumphantly grinned at Andrew from his chair.
"There, it's launched. Cryptobit Email is now released. In a few hours, I'll finish inviting about three hundred thousand new people into the system."
"Holy shit. Won't that crash the signup process?" Andrew grabbed David's laptop and sat down in the open seat next to him. "Damn. That's a good-looking new website, too. Since when can you afford a designer?"
"I've hired a few people and bought a few more servers with the money I got from selling the Jellyfish website."
"You can't afford that much money. Shouldn't you be using it to pay off the credit cards anyway? It's not like new money—it's money you're borrowing on credit."
"I won't need to."
"What are you talking about?"
"I landed an investment. From venture capitalists."
Andrew pushed the computer away from himself.
Andrew stood up, raised his arms, and gestured with his hands to have David stand up too. David stood up and Andrew bear-hugged him.
"I'm so happy for you. I knew you could do it," said Andrew as he put David down. "This is amazing. I'm at the best job of my life, I found the love of my life, and now my best friend isn't going to be homeless anymore. David, we have to remember this moment. We need to take a picture and hang it up on a wall to remind us that things can work out for the best, even when they seem their worst. Let me buy you a coffee. What are you having?"
Andrew went over to the counter and ordered a few drinks. David pulled out some paperwork from his bag and looked it over. Andrew came back and put a steaming hot black coffee in front of his friend and smiled. David didn't smile back.
"There is just one catch," said David. "The venture capitalists want you to come back to Cryptobit before they give me the money."
"What do they want with me? You're the evil genius behind it all anyhow. I just pushed you into committing."
"They liked what they saw of you on Pitch Deck. You are more talented than you give yourself credit for. And...it's their policy not to invest in companies with a single founder. They don't want me to partner up with a random MBA out of college who I've never worked with before."
"David, buddy. I want to help you out, I really do. But my startup days are behind me. Don't get me wrong, it's amazing what you've done with Cryptobit and I applaud your courage to stick to it when things got rough. But frankly, I was glad when you sent me packing. I was thrilled actually. The biggest thing I learned with Cryptobit was that I don't have what it takes to do startups. I am happy at MochaToca. Very happy. They treat me great, I get a paycheck every other week, and I have health insurance. I finally got my tooth filled. See?" Andrew pulled back his cheek and David saw a piece of silvery metal near the back.
"I didn't realize how much I would enjoy hanging out with Jeni all day. I have never been this happy at a job, ever. I don't want this to come across the wrong way, so don't take it personally, but there is no way in hell I would give up what I have going right now. Life is too good. Opportunities like this don't come along every day for someone like me."
David stared at the paperwork. He looked up at Andrew slowly.
"This is not a nice thing to have," said David with a long pause. "It's a requirement. I have the papers here. I need you to sign and say you are coming back full time or this whole thing falls apart. The venture capitalists made it clear that this is non-negotiable. It's the last thing I need to do to close funding."
"I'm sorry, David. I really want to help, but I can't."
"You got me into all this, and now you won't help me get out of it?"
"You fired me, David. You. Fired. Me. Forget it." Andrew stood up and grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair. He whispered under his voice: "I shouldn't have come. Jeni said it was a bad idea."
"Jeni? What has Jeni been telling you?"
"Forget it. This isn't her decision, it's mine. But for the record, Jeni thinks you are a dreamer, and I am starting to wonder if she is right."
"That I'm a dreamer? You don't seem like the same Andrew I know anymore. That girl is changing you, and I don't recognize you."
"Jeni is the best thing that has happened to me and you had better get your head on straight. If you talk about her like that one more time, it will be the last time we speak. Maybe if you'd spent half as much time working on your relationship with Megan as you did on all your crazy startup dreams, you would know what I'm talking about."
Andrew stormed out of the café. David watched him leave, then started banging away at his keyboard again.
YOU ARE READING
The Term Sheet | Wattys 2016 WinnerMystery / Thriller
2016 WATTY AWARD WINNER - HQ LOVE THE TERM SHEET is a fast-paced technothriller about entrepreneurship, startups, encryption, and the delicate balance between national security and individual privacy. Its complex characters explore thought-provoking...