Dylan was a janitor with a big heart. When he learned that his daughter Anastasia was about to be engaged to his new boss, Kevin, he was happy. But when Kevin insulted Dylan before the staff one day, it changed everything.
"Welcome back to your store. Lovely to see you again!"
Every day for the last 15 years, the owner of the Bernie & Bryce Boutique on 12th Main would stand at the entrance of the prestigious shop and greet visitors with that same unforgettable smile.
But today, it was hard to put on a smile. The customers didn't say anything, but they saw it, too.
Bryce knew most of the people who came to shop because they had been loyal to the store for years. He knew their names and what colors they liked or what style they preferred. Bryce also knew the names of their children, many of whom were all grown up and came in with children of their own.
Bryce knew his loyal customers and their preferences well. | Source: Pexels
He and his wife Bernie had started the store 27 years ago, and it was still one of the most successful local stores in the neighborhood. And though Bernie had passed away a few years ago, there was one unlikely friendship that motivated Bryce to keep showing up at work. That friend was Dylan.
Dylan's was another face you wouldn't forget from the store. He was the one who would guide you through the aisles and help you find the nearest dressing room.
That wasn't his job. He was hired as part of the housekeeping crew, responsible for mopping the aisles, keeping the washrooms clean, and dusting the shelves and mannequins twice every day. Over the years, he had been promoted to supervisor of housekeeping, but he never shied away from performing his initial duties as a cleaner whenever it was needed.
Dylan was a sincere worker who didn't hesitate to step in and help. | Source: Getty Images
And that barely covered what Dylan did for the store. He was enthusiastic and went out of his way to help confused customers make the right choice. Regular customers would often look for his recommendations and get caught in his honest salesmanship charm. Even without it being his job, Dylan was probably the one who brought in the most sales for the store.
It is this enthusiasm that caused Dylan and Bryce to develop a close friendship. That, and a whole list of similar life experiences. Both men had lost their wives, both loved to enjoy a cigarette after lunch, and both had stubborn children.
Bryce had a son named Kevin. Dylan had a daughter named Anastasia. While Anastasia couldn't wait to get rich and travel the world, Kevin couldn't wait to take over the family business and make it his own.
The two would often bump into each other at the store. And it was only a matter of time before their ambitions drew them closer together. After a few months of seeing each other, Anastasia and Kevin moved in together. While their relationship had its ups and downs over the years that followed, Bryce and Dylan's camaraderie only grew stronger.
But something was about to change.
Anastasia and Kevin's relationship grew from dating to moving in together. | Source: Getty Images
Bryce had finally given in to Kevin's incessant demands to turn the store over to him. Kevin believed that the store was out-of-date. What his father saw as 'charming' or 'friendly,' Kevin considered obsolete and unnecessary.
He insisted that if Bernie & Bryce was to survive the ever-growing competition all around, the store had to trim the fat and make a few radical changes. Bryce would've handed things over to his son in a heartbeat, but he was worried about Kevin's vision of making the store an elite, exclusive, and premium brand rather than a store that was open to everyone.
That was why Bryce held on to the store for as long as he could. But a week ago, Kevin pushed him on the decision again. This time, he gave a reason that left Bryce no choice.
"I want to marry Anastasia, dad. And imagine how proud she will be to say yes to the new owner of the most prestigious businesses in town. Being the head of operations is not enough for me. You know how much I've waited for you to feel ready. But I can't anymore.
"I plan to propose to her next month, and I need you to retire at the earliest. Take till the end of this week to wrap things up, and let me take over. That's it, dad. No more than a week."
Kevin had finally put his foot down and asked his father to retire. | Source: Getty Images
It had been exactly a week since that ultimatum. And while every 'welcome' and 'visit again' greeting hurt Bryce a little more that day, he was most worried about telling Dylan. Dylan had no idea that Bryce was retiring, but he had noticed that the light in Bryce's eyes had gone out.
And so, when the two old men took their final smoke break at the store, Dylan asked him, "What's the matter, Bry? What's eating at you?"
Bryce tried to sound as calm as possible. "Today's my last day here, buddy."
"What do you mean? You dying or something?" Dylan made light of Bryce's words and punched his shoulder, thinking he was joking.
"No, it's true. It's happening. I'm handing the business over to my son."
Dylan was taken aback. He knew how much this business meant to Bryce. He also knew that Kevin was going to get the reins someday. "But why now?" Dylan asked.
"Heads up. Kevin is planning to propose to your daughter. He wants to take over as owner before he pops the question. I couldn't possibly keep him from it any longer."
Dylan was overcome with conflicting emotions. Putting the cigarette out, he placed a hand on Bryce's shoulder and simply said, "I can understand."
Dylan knew that handing over the store wasn't an easy decision for Bryce. | Source: Getty Images
The men stood there in silence for the next several minutes. "Man, these children have grown up," Dylan finally said. Bryce nodded his head, both in disbelief and in agreement, and the two friends went back into the store.
Kevin didn't waste time in making a series of dramatic changes to the store. He fired half the staff, got rid of several comfort-driven styles and plus-size aisles, and gave the place a minimalistic, monotone look.
"This is what sells these days," he had told his father time and again. However, much to Kevin's shock, the store overhaul did not come close to being successful. The sales were down, people would often approach the store and walk away in confusion, and all the new marketing techniques barely brought in any footfalls.
Kevin kept spending money on one trick after the other, firing one salesman after the other, without realizing the truth: people weren't coming to the store because it had become like any other new-age store. In the process of apeing other conventionally successful clothing brands, it had lost its approachable charm.
The Bernie & Bryce Boutique seemed to have lost its old charm. | Source: Getty Images
Bryce worried for the business and for his son. The retired businessman felt like Dylan was the only person with whom he could share his woes. Bryce tried to talk to Kevin about it directly, but that only enraged Kevin further. Kevin was under tremendous pressure, as he had decided to propose to Anastasia in less than a week.
On the night of the proposal, Kevin drove up to the store with Anastasia at closing time. He had perfectly planned everything. The entire staff was in on the plan. They had made a beautiful floral arrangement in the wedding dresses section.
He asked Anastasia to wait in the car. Once he had heard the daily sales update from the store manager, the staff would disperse, and he would invite her in.
"Alright. How did we do today?" Kevin sounded in a hurry as he asked the store manager. The store manager and the other employees looked nervous. Kevin was getting impatient.
"For goodness sake, will any of you useless people open your mouths and tell me how we did today?"
Kevin raised his voice at the staff and started demanding answers. | Source: Getty Images
Seeing that everyone was afraid to speak up, Dylan came forward and offered to respond.
"Son, we didn't make any sales today."
Kevin couldn't believe it. "What? How is that possible? I had just started a new paid promotion, hired this new clueless manager, and asked you to change the display…."
"Son, we did exactly as you had asked us. Maybe it's time to bring back some of the things that worked. That will help get our old customers back…."
The softness in Dylan's voice was deafening. "I'm sorry, but who asked you?"
Dylan did not expect the hostility in his future son-in-law's voice. Even before he could start responding, Kevin cut him off again.
"Have you forgotten who you are in this store, Dylan? You are just a janitor! Do you think that you have the right to override your position here just because I date your daughter, or my father thinks you are his friend? You do not. You have no business discussing ideas, strategies, or anything with me. You have one job."
Dylan felt deeply insulted by Kevin's harsh words. | Source: Getty Images
Kevin's anger shot up even higher. He looked like he was about to get violent. He grabbed the nearest flower vase and smashed it onto the floor. The employees were shaken by this sudden aggression and moved away from the mess of scattered chunks of clay, petals, and water.
Dylan froze in disbelief.
"Well, what are you waiting for, old man? Grab the mop and clean this mess up. Right now. That should help you remember your place here."
Dylan felt like someone had pulled the rug from under him. He hung his head, and with tears rolling down his eyes, he began to turn around to get the mop.
"Enough." A voice startled everyone in the room.
It was Anastasia. She had been standing behind him all this while.
"How dare you speak to my father like that?" Kevin struggled to find a defense. He tried to approach her and hold her hand.
"Do not touch me. Do not say a word."
Anastasia did not waste a second before snapping back at Kevin. | Source: Getty Images
"Dad, I'm so sorry you had to hear this. I had no idea this was the ugly truth behind the man I loved. Come on, dad. We're leaving." Anastasia could barely hold herself together. She had to do something to insult Kevin back.
"Oh, sorry, Kevin. I almost forgot. Let me clean up this mess for you. I would've been doing that anyway if I had made the mistake of marrying you."
Saying this, she walked up to the wedding section, completely ignored the floral arrangement, and picked the most expensive dress from the aisle.
To everyone's shock, she threw the gown over the mess and wiped the floor with it.
"There. Sparkling clean! I used the whitest, most expensive wedding dress there was. Because let's be honest, under your failed leadership, nobody was going to come and buy it anyway!"
Saying this, she dropped some cash on the dress, held her father's hand, and stormed off.
Anastasia had wiped the mess with the most expensive wedding gown in the store. | Source: Getty Images
Dylan was heartbroken that Anastasia, who would've been happily engaged that night, had to walk away instead. For a moment, he feared that he would lose his friendship with Bryce. But deep within, he knew that Bryce would understand.
As Anastasia walked with him to the nearest bus stop, Dylan couldn't help but feel a sense of pride toward his daughter.
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