Exquisite Designs, a commercial architectural firm owned by longtime friends James Buchanan Barnes and Steven Grant Rogers, boasted some of New York’s wealthiest clients. For over 17 years, the firm built
some of the most elegant office buildings dotting the skyline in New York City.
Their number one client is Stark and Wilson Land Development. The firm was currently working on the Howard and Maria Stark wing of Mt. Sinai hospital" It was a 24-7 project with big deadlines, big pressure,
and big payoff. This project held a special place in Bucky’s heart. His wife, Lillian, died from a brain aneurysm, leaving behind an adorable daughter with rich brown hair like her father and hypnotic amber eyes
identical to her late mother.
Her frail body lay in the lovely king size sleigh bed. Different hues of blues dotted the sheets, comforter and blanket. Blue is her favorite color. James Buchanan Barnes, held his wife Lillian’s dainty hand. He knew
her time on Earth was drawing to an end. Sunken eyes turned towards her husband whispering, “Please promise me, you’ll live for Jess.”
“Don’t know how to do that without you, Doll.” Bucky wiped the steady stream of tears from his face.
With a faint smile on her face, Lillian Marie Barnes closed her eyes. Shoulders shaking, Bucky sobbed openly, kissing her hand. “I love you, Lillian. I’ll do my best for Jess.”
Steve heard his best friend crying. He then realized, his “Lillie Bug” was gone. Trying to explain to a 3 year old that her mommy was gone, Steve put it this way. “Munchkin’, ya remember when your daddy told ya
that mommy would go to sleep forever?”
Jess nodded ‘yes.’ “Daddy said mommy was Sleeping Beauty, but the Prince couldn’t wake her up. So, she’ll be in Heaven watching out for us. Is she an Angel now, Uncle Stevie?”
“Yeah, Lillie Bug is an Angel.” Jess crawled in her uncle’s lap, “I’m sad.”
“Me too, sweetheart.” Burying her face in Steve’s massive chest, Jess cried herself to sleep.
Following Lillian’s memorial service, Bucky spiralled into deep depression. No longer able to care for her, Jess mourned the loss of her mommy and daddy. Signing temporary control of Exquisite Designs to his
best friend, Bucky sought the nurturing spirit of Lillian’s parents, Raymond and Bethany. They agreed to keep their granddaughter as long as needed. Unable to understand why she wasn’t with her daddy, Jess
often cried, becoming clingy.
Three months later, Steve kicked his friend in the ass, explaining Jess longed for her daddy. Losing her mother had taken a toll on her young life, now she needed him to get it together.
Realizing Steve was right, Bucky planned a father/daughter vacation to Maui. As you would imagine, Jessica was delighted. Boarding his private jet, the duo made their way to crystal clear water, sugar white
sandy beaches, for a chance to reconnect with his daughter. Tucked away in his luggage were photo albums, holding page after page of heartwarming memories.
Sitting in Bucky’s lap, Jess wiped the tears cascading down Bucky’s face. “Daddy, don’t be sad. Mommy is in Heaven. She can see us, just look up.”
Turning her gaze towards a cloudless sky, Jess baby girl smiled and whispered,“Mommy told me to take care of you.”
“Thank you Jess. I Iove you so much. Please forgive me for not spending time with you. Your momma was my world. Following her death, life just wasn’t the same. I neglected the one person who needed me the
“Daddy, it’s okay.” Her face was sincere and her words showed the goodness deep within.
“No baby, it’s not. From now on, I’ll take more time off.”
Her face lit up like a carnival in the night. “Really?? Yippee!”
Upon returning home, Bucky thought of a wonderful way to honor his wife’s memory. He approached Steve about plans for “The Lillian Marie Barnes Child Care Center.” A free center for all employees of the f
irm. Parents could be there at the beginning, middle, and end of the day and didn’t have to worry about their little ones while at work. The age limits were: infants 6 months - 1 years old and children 2- 4
years old. Employees, as you could imagine, were ecstatic.
Since “The Howard and Maria Stark Children’s Wing” was on schedule, Peter Parker, Director of Marketing, pitched an idea to Bucky.
Gathered around the spacious cherrywood table were upper management and their executive assistants. Facilitating the meeting, Peter laid out his plans for “Kids Takeover the Firm Day.” “I thought it would be
fun to take a day off and let the kids run the company. We’ve worked extremely hard to meet all our deadlines and it’s been accomplished.” Everyone listened attentively.
“Have you decided on a date?” Bucky leaned on the table.
“How about this Saturday? The phone lines won’t be operational just in case one of the kids decides to call out, and our answering service would alert us if they received calls that weren’t caught by one of us.”
Bucky added, “You might be onto something Peter. I’m sure they would love to dress up and play Junior Executives for a day.”
Nat and Clint’s twins, Mason and Jason, would serve as Jr. Executive Assistants to the Jr. CEO.
Steve agreed, “Jessica should serve as Jr. CEO.”
Bucky couldn’t believe his ears. “Are you sure? I don’t want any favoritism.”
“She’d make a great Junior CEO!” Wanda’s eyes sparkled.
With this in mind, Bucky suggested taking the remainder of the day off. “Alright, let’s get the ball rolling. I have a little CEO to shop for.”
Bucky made his way to Jessica’s preschool class. She immediately sprinted to his arms.“Hi sweetheart. How’s my girl?”
“I’m fine daddy. We learned our ABC’s and numbers!” Jess’ smile mimicked that of her mommy’s.
“What? My goodness you’re smart!” Bucky kissed her cheek, nose and forehead before dropping the big news on her.
“Guess what? On Saturday, all the kids of the moms and dads that work for Daddy and Uncle Steve’s company get to be in charge for the day. Uncle Steve has promoted you to Junior Chief Executive Officer - the
Big Boss.”You’ve been deemed Jr. CEO.”
Unable to contain her enthusiasm, Jess sprung up on her toes. Pumping her fists in the air, she
jumped around declaring, “I’M THE BOSS...I’M THE BOSS!!!”
“Peanut, there’s more to being CEO than just saying you’re the boss. Remember that it’s important to always treat your employees with respect.”
“Okay daddy. I’ll be good.”
“How about a shopping trip? You’ll need new clothes, a briefcase, and shoes!” There wasn’t much his girl loved more than going shopping. She was all in now.
TIME FOR WORK
At 8:00 on the dot, decked out in her navy blue “suit” and carrying her briefcase and phone, Jessica Marie Barnes, Jr. CEO, reported for work.
Natasha’s twins Mason and Jason, donned brown two-piece suits, cream shirts, and brown striped ties. Malachi Rogers sported a gray 3 piece suit, powder blue shirt, and solid tie. Wanda, Scott and Sam’s kids
also looked razor sharp, in pastel dress shirts, dark pants, and black patent leather shoes.
Parents and kids gathered in the small conference room. The kids couldn’t sit still, they were hyped to get the show on the road.
“I must admit, this is the best dressed staff in all of New York.” Bucky beamed, “Jessica, you have the floor.”
“Thank you Mr. Barnes. Good morning. My name is Jessica Barnes but you can call me Jess. It’s time for our morning meeting. Follow me to the small room.”
Their parents laughed quietly and smiled as they filed out of the room. How much trouble could 3 and 4 year olds get into? Yikes!
Parents applauded as Jess led her friends to another conference room set-up with breakfast sandwiches, fruit, pastry and juice boxes.
Munching on a sausage and biscuit, Malachi announced, “Okay, folks. We have a lot of work to do. There’s a meeting with people who want something built.”
One little lady asked, “Mr. Grant, who?”
Malachi replied, “I dunno let’s make something up.”
One factor forgotten, in the midst of their excitement of the day, the cuteness of the kids, s omeone forgot what could happen if kids consume copious amounts of S.U.G.A.R.
Jess, Malachi, Mason and Jason wandered away from the others and ended up in one of the copy rooms. Mason, with wide-eyed wonder, suggested making copies of their faces. How they turned the machine on
is one of life’s biggest mysteries. They took turns copying faces, arms and legs. Jason, however, took it one step further. He sat on the machine and took a picture of his bottom.
Next, a group of 3-year-olds snuck into a few offices with sticky hands, pressing on the keyboards. Yep, they made a mess.
Not to be left out, Jessica and her gang visited the employee break room. The refrigerator and lower cabinets were raided. They devoured chips, Christmas candy, and cookies leftover from an office meeting.
Smeared on the pristine white walls were tiny chocolate handprints, water and orange juice got spilled onto the floor, and a few kids ate too much. The room was an absolute MESS.
Mason and Jason tried to clean up the spilled juice throwing paper towels on the floor. Malachi retrieved a mop, attempting to clean up.
Instead, he slipped, face first, soiling his new suit. Jessica, completely flustered, plopped on the floor in tears.
Leave it to the Moms in the room to hear what wasn’t being said. Natasha and Wanda suddenly looked at each other and sprinted out of the room towards the suddenly-silent children. They knew that quiet
kids equaled disaster and were nauseous at the thought of what they might find. All the parents ran and converged on the breakroom, stopped cold by what they found. As they surveyed the damage. Bucky
murmured, “What the hell happened in here?”
While he shook his head, most of the parents pulled out their phones to capture the moment.
The state of the room was nothing compared to the tired, messy children who were in varying stages of sugar crashes. Bucky looked at Steve, “We’re going to have to give the cleaning company a major bonus
after this weekend. They’re going to think we left a zoo loose in here!”
Understanding the need for parents, as well as kids to recuperate, Steve suggested everyone take an extended weekend. Everyone accepted the gracious offer.
“Kids Takeover the Firm Day” was a complete success. Jessica Barnes’ reign as CEO had come to an end. Sleeping soundly on her daddy’s black leather office sofa, Jess was visibly exhausted. Kissing her chubby cheek, Bucky moved a strand of hair from her forehead. In that moment, he felt Lillian’s presence. Wiping a wayward tear from his face, Bucky knew his wife would live on through Jessica Marie Barnes, Junior CEO.