Malcom Newbury sat behind the great mahogany desk, waiting for the others to arrive for the meeting. The intern, Rachel Buxton, sat at Newbury’s right, pounding away at the keyboard as she answered the vast majority of emails that made it into Newbury’s inbox.

Buxton had been an intern at Newbury Industries for six months, but her ties to Malcom went back much further. Buxton’s parents had both been longtime domestic employees of Newbury.

Diana Buxton had been in charge of the inside of Newbury’s home. Among her chores were the cooking, cleaning, and trips to the grocery store. Where Diana’s realm ended, Thomas Buxton’s began. Thomas maintained the grounds, kept the two horses fed and exercised, fixed anything that broke, and served as chauffeur or butler when the occasion called for it.

When Rachel was fourteen, tragedy struck. Her parents were driving home from a rare night on the town when their car hit a patch of ice, slid off the road, and slammed into a tree. Diana and Thomas were killed instantly.

Diana and Thomas Buxton had no living family, so it was no great surprise that their wills dictated that Malcom Newbury be appointed as Rachel’s legal guardian. This was not a responsibility Malcom looked forward to. His own children had long since flown the coop, and he had no desire to raise another teenager.

Rachel was equally uncomfortable with the arrangement. However, she realized that remaining under the roof of Malcom Newbury was immeasurably better than landing on the streets, and she made every effort to ease the burden on him.

Over the years, Rachel had assisted her mother on many of the tasks around the house, and she quickly slipped into the role her mother had filled for Malcom – ensuring that the house was clean and that dinner was always ready on time. Malcom had hired a man to maintain the grounds, but Rachel took charge of the horses.  The fact that Rachel Buxton was able to maintain excellent grades with a grueling work schedule was a testament to the fortitude of the young woman.

Two years later, Malcom had suffered a heart attack while eating dinner. His trusty servant Rachel had immediately performed CPR and called 911. At the hospital, she maintained a vigil in his room, sleeping for only fifteen or twenty minutes at a time before resuming her watch.

It was during his convalescence that Newbury realized that he had taken the loyalty of Rachel and her parents for granted. This sixteen year old girl stood by him every step on his recovery, serving as his coach and urging him on. At the same time, not a single member of Malcom’s own family could be bothered to call or write.

Malcom decided that Rachel would have the opportunity to go to college, despite the fact that her parents had died nearly penniless. On her eighteenth birthday, Malcolm surprised her with the gift of a college education, completely paid for.

Three years into a stellar college career, it had been time for Rachel to embark upon an internship. She had initially balked at the prospect of an internship with Newbury Industries, insisting that she wanted to gain an opportunity on her own merits. Malcom had suggested that she analyze her resume more closely – her merits certainly qualified her for this opportunity.

For six months, she had been Malcom Newbury’s personal assistant. She had learned about the company from the founder himself. She was a natural, and was soon handling the majority of correspondence with minimal involvement from Newbury – allowing only the most complex issues to arrive at his desk. She was far and away the best assistant Newbury had ever had the pleasure of working with.

Rachel ceased her typing when the five vice presidents of Newbury Industries entered the office and took their seats. She sat with anticipation, waiting for the meeting of the power brokers to begin.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” began Malcom Newbury, “as you know, this young woman is Rachel Buxton, the intern. She has been doing an excellent job, and I would like to announce her promotion.”

Rachel broke into a broad smile at the unexpected news. Being promoted to a permanent position would be a great relief – no more running around trying to land a job before she graduated in May.

“As of this moment, Rachel will assume the title of vice president. Upon my retirement or eventual demise, she will become president of the company.”

Rachel sat in stunned silence. She noticed that she was the only one registering any shock – it was clear that this meeting was for her benefit.

Malcom turned and spoke directly to Rachel. “Over the years, I treated your parents very poorly. They put their very heart and soul into making me happy, and I rewarded them only with their wages. They gave me the great honor of raising their daughter, and this I also held in low regard. In my old age, I have come to realize that you are far more family that my own flesh and blood. I have enjoyed watching your successes over the years, and it is with great pride that I look forward to turning my life’s work over to you.”

When he finished speaking, Rachel saw a single teardrop land on his cheek. She stood to embrace him, the only living person that she could consider to be family. Their relationship had been forged by hardships – and as a result, was as strong as steel.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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