1. unmoved by persuasion, pity, or tender feelings; stubborn; unyielding.
  2. stubbornly resistant to moral influence; persistently impenitent: an obdurate sinner.

Everyone was tense. It was the final day of presentation week. All proposals were in and now it was the moment Meredith Williams would respond to the projects that had been present and cast vision for the upcoming year.

It seemed like it should be a calm and normal affair, but Meredith was anything but calm or normal. Yes, this was a routine practice at the company–Meredith had instituted it more than a decade ago–but it still sent chills down the spines of her employees, freezing the creative atmosphere around them.

She was the founder and CEO, their queen of sorts. They, her loyal subjects.

Meredith rose to speak, commanding everyone’s attention at the front of the room. It seemed as if everyone collectively held their breath, awaiting her words. She smiled kindly, tilting her head slightly as if pondering her next words, purposely holding everyone in suspense. Her smile was sweet, it even looked genuine, but everyone knew that behind it was venom that could spewed at any moment on anyone.

Pressing the tips of her fingers together, she surveyed the room. Her expression morphed from sweet to disapproving.

“This week has been full of surprises,” she said dryly, running one hand over her flat abdomen, smoothing nonexistent wrinkles in her formfitting plum shift dress. “But not good ones…”

She titled her head again, her red hair falling over her shoulder. A lot could be said about Meredith, but the word, lazy, would never be used. She was rumored to be in her fifties, but looked about 20 years younger.

She was as cold and calculating as she was breathtakingly beautiful.

There were whispers that she kept her youth by sucking the life out of her young employees. About half of her employees believed this tale, whispering words like “ice queen,” or “ruthlessly vindictive” in the cafeteria when they thought no one could hear them.

Meredith looked to the employees on her right and pointed a long black nail at each of them.

“You, you, you, you, and you, stand up for me.”

The five employees–the newest to her team–stood with hesitation, fear and uncertainty splashed across their faces.

“Your presentations were lackluster, poorly prepared, and a waste of our time this week…”

Faces fell. Some started to cry. The beginning of a smile crept across Meredith’s face.

“Time is money and I no longer desire for you to waste such precious resources, draining us when we could be doing so much more, pushing toward greatness instead of–”

“But Meredith, we only had a week to–”

A silent glare ended Pablo’s words. He was new, but everyone knew Meredith never accepted excuses, even if they were solidly founded in fact.

“Out,” she seethed quietly, her steely gaze narrowed on Pablo. “All five of you.”

Her obdurate display sent another wave of fear throughout the room, like a chilly Northeast wind. It felt like the tundra. A few employees struggled to maintain their composure, trembling nervously.

It was then that Malchus determined in his mind that something had to be done about the Queen. No, he wasn’t planning an insurrection or a complete annihilation, but a simple adjustment–a course correction of sorts.  He was the newest employee from the last round of hires and based on what Meredith had just said, the only employee remaining from his group.

He surveyed the room as Meredith took her seat at the head of the table, calmly opening her dossier. Around him employees were still shaking, fidgeting nervously with papers, and blinking back tears.

A single glance at Meredith and the calm smile on her face and Malchus found himself subconsciously vowing to end the tyranny of fear. He didn’t know how or what he could possibly do, but he knew it wasn’t right for her to rule them and manipulate their emotions in this way.

“Malchus,” Meredith said sweetly, turning her attention to him for the first time that day. “You gave an exceptional presentation this week. Are you ready to move forward on your project this week?”

Malchus smiled genuinely, feeling completely calm.

“Yes Meredith, I am.”




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