Chapter 1: A Puddle of Cappuccino

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A tendril of curly brown hair came loose from my ponytail. I pushed the hair out of my eyes, wiped the sweat off of my brow, and stood to view the masterpiece before me. Well, it wasn't really a masterpiece – it was a supermarket end cap. Plain and simple.

"Excellent work, Krys!"

I looked up to see my portly boss, Walter Roberts, walking towards me.

"Thanks, Mr. Roberts," I replied absently. I wiped the dust off of my hands with my apron and scrutinized the display that I had built.

God, I hate planograms.

"Oh, come now. Don't look like that," my boss said, taking note of the obvious irritation that was written all over my face. "I know that you don't like to build displays that are just copied from a diagram."

"I don't like the way the sides stick out into the aisle like this," I complained, pointing to the outsides of the end cap. "The display is okay, considering the fact that it's only a bunch of canned green beans and cream of mushroom soup. It's the racking that bothers me. I think that this upside down pyramid design is a hazard."

"You know that if it were any other day, I would let you run away with your creativity. I just can't allow it today," Mr. Roberts said, vehemently shaking his head. Worry lines spread across his round face. "The potential investors will be here at one o'clock and everything must be perfect. I have to play this by the book, Krys. I'm sorry, but there's too much at stake."

He placed a patient hand on my shoulder for reassurance and I couldn't help but to soften my sour disposition. I really liked Mr. Roberts and I didn't want to give him a hard time, especially considering all the stress he was under.

It was no secret that Wally's Grocery Store was in financial trouble. After the stock market hit bottom a few years back, most of the smaller grocers had to close their doors for good, leaving Duane Reade as the only real competitor. Wally's had managed to stay afloat, but they would need a strong investor if they hoped to stay open much longer. If I wanted a job, I needed to stick to the planograms – at least for today.

"I suppose you're right," I conceded.

"That's better!" he said after seeing my change in demeanor. He gave me a sharp pat on the shoulder. "I knew I could count on you, Krys. You'll be a manager before you know it!"

And with that, he was off to harass the employees in the next department.

I laughed to myself as I cleaned up my work area. Mr. Roberts was always cracking comments about promoting me, even though he was fully aware that I would never take a management job here.

I enjoyed working at Wally's for the most part. My coworkers were great and I got along well with my boss. I had given careful consideration to the numerous management offers that Mr. Roberts had presented to me over the past few months. However, a manager position at Wally's just wasn't for me. And it certainly wasn't going to pay my bills. My college graduation six months ago didn't just mark the beginning of a new future; it was a reminder that my student loan bills would be coming due any day now. Unfortunately, my salary at Wally's wouldn't even begin to put a dent in them.

While the job had suited me well during my college years, it was starting to become monotonous. Build a display, take it down. Build another, take it down – the same repetitive duties, day in and day out. I longed to utilize my degree in marketing, wanting my passion for sales to make an impact in the world of advertising. I wanted a real job – one that gave me satisfaction. And one that gave me a fatter paycheck. I couldn't continue to accept my stepfather's support, but the job opportunities in New York had been slim to none. When the stock market took a tank, it didn't only affect grocery stores. It impacted the entire world of business.

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