The second day
The next day began as any other. The woman got up, went to work, and started to do her job. She was excited, because she had to give a big presentation for the president of the company that day and she greatly wanted to impress him. She began to prepare for this when she noticed her presentation was missing. She looked everywhere, but could not find it. She asked her co-workers and they all pleaded ignorance.
But the woman knew who had taken her work. It was another woman, also vying for promotion and giving a presentation that afternoon. But the woman had no proof of this and even if she had, there was little she could do with it. The other woman had worked with the company for a long time and she was great friends with boss and their boss's boss. When the woman had gone to them with complaints of sabotage before they simply told her to stop telling lies to get ahead and "playing the race card" and sent her about her work with a warning.
So the woman despaired, but refusing to give up completely, spent the morning trying to piece together in half a day what had been months of work and preparation. When the others went to lunch she continued to work, and by the time the presentation was to begin, she had cobbled together a sad and ugly version of what her beautiful presentation had been. The woman knew she had no hope, but she would not give up and show up with nothing but excuses. She would soldier on.
The presentation went off as badly as expected. She came off looking horribly stupid and ill-prepared in front of everyone, especially to the president of the company, whom she had barely met before and she knew this was a terrible first impression of her and her work. The president of the company frowned while the other woman and her boss and her boss's boss all looked satisfied and smug.
She tried to explain about her missing presentation that she had left neatly by her desk the night before, but the president of the company was too angry to listen and told her she was foolish to lose something so important and that it spoke badly of her as an employee and she should consider herself on probation until he made a decision as to what to do with her.
The woman returned to her desk, nearly in tears, and began to pack up her things, knowing she would be fired later in the afternoon, while around her the entire office whooped with joy for the other woman and congratulated her, saying the promotion was as good as hers now. The woman had never felt so dejected and alone, and she went into the bathroom for a moment to wipe her eyes and try to hide that she was crying.
Later that afternoon her boss called her. He looked very stern. He brought her to his boss's office where his boss looked very stern. The president of the company was there and he also looked very stern. The woman looked from one man to the other and knew she was going to be fired. The president very gravely asked for her explanation. She again told her story. When he asked her where it could have gone she had no answer. She did not want to accuse anyone innocent, and while she suspected the guilty, she would not want to be the cause of any innocent person's distress. And so she simply said that she didn't know.
When she had no answer the president said he respected that she would not accuse others for her own guilt, but that her boss and her boss's boss had been telling him that her work was subpar and ill prepared and had been for some time now. The president said it was clear she was not prepared, and he couldn't afford dead weight in the company. She could consider herself terminated.
The woman tried not to cry. Despite her coworkers, she had always loved her job and worked diligently and hard. And now she was being fired through no fault of her own. She stood in the office and stared dumbly at the president of the company, wanting to say something, but not knowing what. The president became uncomfortable under her wide, hurt gaze and said, "You can go now."
Just then, the largest and loveliest monarch butterfly flew through an open window (no one could remember opening it, in fact, no one knew before that the windows could be opened) and landed on a poster borad that was tucked away in a corner behind the desk.
Now the president of the company was very fond of butterflies. His mother had been a scientist who studied them and his earliest memory was being where the monarchs wintered in the south and watching them fly about them by hte hundreds and thousands, surrounding him in their black and gold and he looked up and saw a sky so blue between the thousands of wings that it nearly made him cry. But of all the thousands of butterflies he had ever seen, this was the largest and most beautiful and he felt a need to get closer to look at it.
He stood up, awed, and rather than frightening it, the butterfly stayed on the poster board, slowly flapping its wings as though it were preening under the attention. The president of the company was too focused on the butterfly to see it, but the woman's boss and her boss's boss blanched the color of day old oatmeal because they knew the very poster board the butterfly had landed on was the stolen presentation of the woman. They held their breaths and hoped the butterfly would fly away.
But the butterfly did not move. It stayed there, preening under the president's attention, until, in a fit of panic, the boss's boss suddenly launched himself at the butterfly, shouting, and swatting at it.
But the butterfly eluded him, quickly walking to the underside of the poster, the part that faced the wall.
The president got annoyed and told the boss's boss to sit down. It was only a butterfly, and the boss's boss sat because there was nothing more he could do.
The president carefully lifted the poster board to reveal the butterfly and as he did the woman saw her own presentation.
"That's my presentation!" she cried and pointed her finger at it.
"What do you mean?" asked the president, suddenly confounded.
"That's my missing presentation." As if to confirm the accusation, the butterfly flew off the poster board and landed on the woman's outstretched finger.
The president looked down at the poster and saw a thumb drive taped to it with the woman's name on it and knew it truly was her missing presentation. On her finger the butterfly preened once more and then flew up and out of the window, out into the bright sunshine.
"What does this mean?" he asked. And though her boss and her boss's boss stammered and protested ignorance, their guilty faces gave them away. The president now called all the office back into the conference room and told the woman to give her real presentation.
It was the best work anyone had ever seen. The graphics were beautiful, the information thorough, but never boring, and her delivery calm and clear. The president was immediately impressed. He looked around the room at the various pale and sweating faces and knew why the woman's work had suddenly gone missing that morning.
He promoted the woman on the spot and fired her boss's boss. Her boss he demoted down to her former position for being a part of the collusion and sabotage of a fine employee and for lying about her work. From then on the woman's career was as stellar as her work. The company grew and she became vice president and then president after the current president retired. All her employees loved her as the best boss they'd ever had and the president never regretted the day he promoted her, nor forgot that he had nearly fired her because of a wicked plot, except for a butterfly that flew into the room. He filled his garden with milkweed, the food of monarch butterflies, so they would always have a place to fly to.
As for the other woman, without the support and patronage of those higher up than her, her slipshod work was clearly seen. She ended her career in a dead end middle management position, until, on her retirement, it became clear that she had defrauded the company for thousands of dollars. She died in jail.