“This is going to be a record year for you, Caden,” Mike Chambers, one of the partners at their firm, said slapping him on the back as he took a seat at the table.
“It seems that way,” Caden said. He’d blown by last year’s earnings last quarter. With most of the month of December to go, he was closing in on the top earner.
“You’ve got the magic touch it seems. Knowing what to buy and when. What’s you’re secret?” Kyle Roberts asked, another partner at the firm. The two men he looked up to the most. The two that took him under their wing when he started.
He knew he was asked here to this dinner with the big guys because he was pulling in major revenue at just thirty-five years old. “Lack of sleep,” he said, grinning.
Mike and Kyle laughed and Caden decided to not tell them it was the truth.
He was working himself into the ground just like he’d done most of his life from the day his mother brought him to a modeling agency. He hadn’t really thought much of it back then even though he knew he was good looking. It wasn’t as if he’d never looked in the mirror.
It hadn’t taken long for him to get signed, and the need to make more money and keep going to be the best filled his blood with adrenaline.
But he’d also been in the running for valedictorian and couldn’t let that slide. Protein, energy drinks, and exercise kept his body in good shape for the modeling, and his brain awake and alert for school.
Bad habits started young and they just carried over into adulthood, only worse. He hadn’t slowed down once.
“Keep up the good work, but don’t burn yourself out,” Mike said. “I’ve seen it happen to one too many.”
Too late, he wanted to say. The waiter came over and poured them all a glass of wine. He hadn’t eaten much more than a protein bar around noon and several cups of coffee that he’d exchanged for those energy drinks years ago. He reached for the glass and took a sip hoping it’d ease the burning he was feeling in his stomach from hunger.
When the wine didn’t work, he went for the water and hoped some bread was brought out soon. The lightheadedness was getting to him too.
“That’s why I do research when I’m working out,” he said. “Live and breathe it.” The TV was always playing tech news and trends when he was home. He never shut it off and never really tried either.
He was still grinning and his two bosses were shaking their heads at him, but continued to smile too. They probably didn’t care too much about his habits if he brought in the clients and kept them all flush.
“As long as you’re still breathing,” Mike said. “I’m starving. I’ve had a big steak on my mind all day.”
Caden picked the menu up. Steak sounded good. Protein always helped him. But when he was looking over the menu, his eyes started to glaze over and his heart was pounding so hard it was almost as if he could hear every beat. Not good at all.
He picked up his ice water and took another sip and realized his hand was shaking.
“Are you all right?” Kyle asked him. “Your face is flush.”
“Just a little warm,” he said. “I haven’t eaten much today.”
Mike lifted his arm and pointed to the breadbasket the waitress was bringing to another table. “Can we get one here too?”
“Sure can,” the waitress said, moving over to grab one and bring it back. She knew she’d get tipped well in a place like this with big spenders. Not only that, Mike and Kyle were regulars.
“Here,” Kyle said. “Get some food in you, then we can talk shop.”
He picked up a piece of bread and took a bite, chewed and swallowed. It tasted good. Almost too good for just bread, telling him he had to stop doing this to himself. There was no reason he couldn’t take fifteen minutes a few times a day to eat a damn meal.
When the bread was gone, he drank some more water. “So, what did you two want to talk to me about?” he asked, hoping for a big promotion.
That’s what all this work was for. He kept telling himself that once he got that corner office he could slow down.
Of course he’d been doing that his whole life. Saying once he’d met his goal he’d cut back. But another goal would pop up and another.
Infinite achiever was a good description of him.
“Let’s get dinner out of the way first,” Kyle said. “We’ve got plenty of time.”
“Sure,” Caden said, resisting the urge to look at his watch. He could be researching stocks right now and reading up on trends. Then he reminded himself this was still work and all part of it.
He picked his water up again, deciding to forgo the wine when his stomach started to burn. Guess the bread didn’t help much and he wished he had his bottle of antacids with him that he went through like candy at his desk like little kids did on Halloween night—only for him it was daily.
By the time the waitress came over, he was ready to order his dinner, but when he opened his mouth, nothing came out and all he saw was blackness.