Excerpt

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     “Good Morning, IHT Global. How may I help you?”

     Good Morning, IHT Global. Can you hold please?”

     Good Morning…” Blake overhears as she steps through the doors of IHT Global, the world’s oldest woman-owned corporation and global management consultancy. With offices on four continents, its consultants can meet the needs of an impressive and demanding clientele from any location, at any time.

     The office is abuzz with new interns—candidates selected before graduating from Visitation Academy who successfully completed gap year and are now returning to receive their initial designations and assignments. Should all go well, their training will continue and the black umbrella they carry emblazoned with IHT’s logo, will become red bearing insignia of a different type. If not, IHT will still have gained new highly competent consultants, and continue its reputation for excellence through them.

     Blake, now dressed in all black office attire except for the red umbrella she carries, departs from her usual hurried pace, and pauses on the way to her office to take in the familiar scene. Gladys, an African-American woman in her mid-twenties, and the handler for last night’s mission, sees her across the lobby standing near one of its marble columns. Taking advantage of Blake’s uncharacteristic lapse in motion, Gladys heads over to her, passing clients seated in the waiting area. Some have spread files over the travertine marble tables, poring over them while on last-minute phone calls. The panoramic view screen, suspended in air against a glass backdrop, has garnered the attention of others—their gaze affixed to world news, market updates, and rotating welcome messages from the leadership at each of IHT Global’s five regional offices. A mosaic marble IHT logo is inlaid into the center of the lobby’s floor. Its beveled letters are of uniform height with the exception of a more prominent ‘H’ atop the canopy of a black umbrella with red interior. And although Gladys has walked across it many times, she never ceases to admire it.

     I always forget how tall you are,” says Gladys, now standing next to Blake. “Feels like yesterday, huh?”

     Exactly. Has it been that long?”

     Nope. Probably longer.” They laugh.

     Gladys nods towards the interns, “I hear several are candidates for the Daughters of Jael.”

     Really?” Delighted, Blake turns to take another look at them as she and Gladys walk. “A new group of defenders for the sisterhood. I hope they’re ready to step into their places.”

     Me, too. We’ve been at this a long time, but there’s still more to do. It’s harder to restore something when no one even realizes it’s lost,” Gladys sighs. “Any way. They reported directly to Society headquarters, just ahead of the delegations arriving for the centennial.”

     That’s right! Another hundred years under the umbrella. It will be amazing to have so many of us in one place. I wonder what the transition will bring.”

     No telling. I just hope it brings us closer to fulfilling Eve’s mandate. And office hours. You know, like everyone else.”

     “Office hours? How boring, but good luck with that,” Blake teases.

     “Keeping hope alive. But, good work last night. As usual. Find anything interesting?”

     Other than he smiles crookedly when he sleeps? No, not a thing.”

     Gladys laughs.

     A woman seated at the head of the table, and several older gentlemen, occupy a conference room to the left. A younger man stands behind the men at the opposite end; a younger female, behind the woman seated at the head. Blake sees a red umbrella bearing insignia on the table in front of the woman and does a double-take. “No, it can’t be…” As she and Gladys pass by, the woman smiles at them then pushes a button, causing the glass to go from crystal clear to an opaque frosted white.

     Did you see her umbrella?!” Blake asks Gladys, more for confirmation than if she saw it.

     No! But was that…?” Gladys asks, then interrupts herself. “Oh! Before I forget, take a breather while you can. Madison is due back shortly. She wants to see you.”

     Blake abruptly stops walking; her face pales.

     Wait, Madison? Entrusted, Madison Sentaire? Why does she want to see me? I completed the assignment exactly as instructed. Nothing went wrong! I mean, of course, I want to meet her. I’m just wondering why she wants to meet me. Who wouldn’t want to meet her? I’m just glad we’re on the same side and I want to keep it that way. Wait—she knows we’re on the same side, right?”

     Gladys laughs heartily. “Nothing like seeing ice melt. I don’t know why she wants to meet you. What I do know is that she likes getting to know sisters, herself. I’d just assume your number randomly came up.”

     Yeah and some of those sisters don’t return. Hey! You weren’t being funny with the ‘number’s up’ comment were you?”

     Gladys laughs. “Of course not. You’ll just have to wait and see,” Gladys pauses. “But if you don’t come back, I’ll know your number really was up.”

     Blake playfully punches Gladys’ arm. They continue their exchange down the corridor, barely avoiding Lucille Hanway, CEO of IHT Global, who is reviewing a file in one hand, periodically twirling her umbrella with the other. Lucille arches her eyebrow and greets them by name without looking up and suspends the umbrella mid-twirl; bringing it to rest upon her shoulder. The umbrella’s color and insignia draws their attention, along with the sunbeam that has broken through the skylight to dance upon it.

     Blood red it was, and an almost unnatural hue at that. The sun bounced off each of the seven bevel gemstones inlaid into a weighted fabric of superior quality. Forming the shape of a cross, they stretch across two heavily embroidered ‘W’s—one cursive, the other in standard type, lain over its middle peak, both threaded in gold. The umbrella had worn well over time, retaining its color; its stitching and ribs intact. Its nose cap, engraved with Lucille’s initials and identification number, and collar with the symbol of an umbrella, surrounded the smoothed curved teak wood handle. The light caressing the umbrella’s various points caused Blake and Gladys feel as if they could touch the Society’s history from their time in the present. Only seven such umbrellas exist within the Society. To carry one meant they were Wyse Women—governing elders of The Red Umbrella Society, sworn protectors of all Eve’s daughters, and except for two that always remain at large, each presiding over an IHT regional office.

     Wyse Women were usually legacies, some by several generations, and thus intimately familiar with the Society’s history. Yet, becoming Wyse is never about succession, but of commitment, loyalty to the Sisterhood, and sacrifice because of it. Once designated Wyse, they become conservators of IHT Global, govern The Red Umbrella Society to address threats against Eve’s daughters, and entrusted with reclaiming a history few know exist. It was the Wyse who elected to call women inside the organization, ‘Daughters’, a cherished position denoting attachment; rather than member, devoid of relationship. Yet, though Daughters, there are limits. Everything must be weighed in light of the Society’s creed; justified by its tenets. Sometimes, for the sake of sisterhood, they might turn a blind eye. Other times, they must pluck it out.

     Good Morning, Ma’am. May you always be wyse.” Gladys and Blake bow from the waist to greet her.

     Lucille reads the file a moment longer before acknowledging them further and removing her glasses. Appearing much younger than her sixty-five years, Lucille has a well-manicured appearance, confident gait, and wears her shoulder length hair classically flipped and parted to the side. The umbrella before Blake now, confirms the one she had seen on the conference room table.

     Good work, Blake. I briefed our clients earlier.” Lucille removes an envelope from the file and hands it to her. “They offer their apologies.”

     Blake peeks inside the envelope and smiles.

     Just then, Madison walks up. She greets Lucille, right hand over her heart and bows from the neck. Blake and Gladys greet Madison in the same manner.

     May you always be wyse, Lucille.”

     Lucille nods. “Well, I am off. I leave the rest in your hands, Madison. You and Blake have much to discuss, no?”

     All three bow as she leaves.

     Madison switches her umbrella to her left hand and faces Blake.

     I am Madison. Walk with me.”

     The color drains from Blake’s face. She dutifully nods and falls instep to Madison’s right. Blake glances back at Gladys. Gladys mouths to her, “Better you than me,” heading back to her office in the opposite direction. But before she gets out of earshot,

     Oh, and Gladys? Tell no one Blake is with me. Understood?”

     Gladys tenses, “Understood.”

     As they walk, Blake wonders again if her number may really be up.

     “Tell me, Blake. What is your understanding of our Society?”

The Red Umbrella Society excerpt

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3 Responses to “Excerpt

  • “So excited to read your book!”

  • “The excerpt is so good!!! You left me hanging!! I can’t wait to read the whole book. That was a real teaser.”

  • This is an exciting writing project with lots of angles of what’s next. Keep writing

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