Get to know Alexa Winston

Set in the not-so-distant future, The Morality Plays series examines our relationship with the truth and with each other in a world where honesty has taken a back seat to influence. Join Truth on an intimate journey as she unfolds the tales of the modern-day everymen and women in these stories of love, relationships, heartache, and triumph.

Chapter 4

 Monday, August 19


 I’ve never met a Monday morning that I liked, so much more so when I consider the tasks that lay before me in the workday ahead. This day would feature end-to-end meetings with a side of posturing and pontification. But before I can get to any of that, attention must be paid to my brood.

“When I grow up, I’m going to have a Thompson’s Gazelle as a pet. I’ll call him …Tyrannosaurus Allan.”

In customary form, the wide-eyed wanna-be comedian sitting in the back seat lets his quip hang on the air for a moment. Then comes the laughter he was after.

“Boy, where on earth did you come up with that one?”

I manage to croak through fits of chuckles and wonder. As I look in the rear view at my middle kiddo, my eyes dance with pride and appreciation. Trace Winston was blessed with wit and intelligence, and if we could work on his timing, he might be on to something with this latest foray into stand-up comedy. Trouble was, he was more interested in letting his inner comic shine, so school always seemed to be the butt of the joke. Scholarship aside, a laugh is exactly what I need this morning. I’d awakened feeling withdrawn and subdued. New day. Same routine.

“Damn.” I curse as the school crossing guard stops the line of moms and dads frantically scurrying to drop and dash on their way to work. It seemed the crusty old bitch had it in for me … well, in my mind anyway. Why didn’t she ever stop the guy after me or before me? Why me? Realizing fairly quickly that I was descending into stupidity, I resign myself to waiting as a barrage of children pours into the street and onto the sidewalk to get to school.

“Hey, Mom?” Another, smaller voice interrupts my consideration of current reality. “Mom, Jake wants me to have a sleepover at our house on Friday. What should I tell him?”

“Tell him that the moms will talk and get back to you both. And isn’t it time for you to be invited to sleepover at Jake’s?” I manage. A sleepover on Friday was the last thing I wanted to deal with. One more screaming kid to add to my own trio.  Now, I do love my full house, to be sure. They’ve been my lifeline over the four years since their father walked out. The initial shock that at first left me lonely and heartbroken has long since subsided, replaced now by a peace like I’ve never experienced. After another moment, and not wanting to dash my youngest son’s hopes, I add, “I really don’t have a problem with it, Treat. I’ll be sure to call Sohara later today.”

“Cool. Thanks, Mom. Don’t forget, please.”

I sigh and draw in a cleansing breath as I wheel into the kiss and ride outside of the Regal Woods School. I turn around and manage a smile before sending the boy off.

“I won’t. Now get out, get to class, and have a great day.”

“Yeah, get out, squirt. And don’t do anything stupid today, huh?” Trace could never resist flexing his big-brother muscles when it came to Treat, who sticks out his tongue, punches his brother in the gut, and sprints from the vehicle before the older boy can grab his get-back.

I shake my head and hide my smile as my boy leaps from the truck, disappearing into the sea of little bodies rushing inside the exclusive private elementary. I apprise the scene wistfully, almost longing to enjoy the freedom of being 10 again. Even if just for a moment. What would it be like to be innocent and endlessly hopeful? Fighting back the need to begin deconstructing my life yet again, I drive Trace and Tristan a few miles up to road to Rock Hills Academy before heading back home to get ready for work. I need to find a way to shake the sense of foreboding that’s been niggling at me from the time I crawled out of bed. I just can’t seem to get past the feeling that the day ahead will be filled with the unexpected – and that’s exactly what I don’t want to face today.

 I feel my shoulders tense as I ease into the same spot in the same parking lot of the same building that has come to represent all things evil in the world of PR. It’s just shy of 9 a.m. as I rush from Storey|Fischer|Stone’s underground parking garage into the double-glass doors of the building’s lower-level elevator bay. As I stand waiting to ride up to my 11th floor office, the stark alabaster walls and cold, sterile white marble floors seem to reflect and intensify the whizzing and whirring from within the motorized lift, which seems busier this morning than most. Typically, I’m quite good at harnessing the crazy in the air to fuel my need to push through a meeting or a task. But that wasn’t happening for me today.

I must find my focus, though. I’m dreading my meeting with Wilson Hedgepeth, who has to be the worst client in the history of clients. He’s always so bound and determined to dip, dodge, and down-right lie his way out of the litany of bad acts that he scripts and stars in, despite my good counsel. I know, too, that my boss, Sydell Fischer, will find a way to enforce her will, which is to give the client – especially a client with pockets as deep as Hedge’s – whatever he wishes, even if it means compromising the firm’s reputation and integrity.

Then, there was Mateo. I’d sent over my challenge to him yesterday morning.


Dr. Da Rocha: A sweet soul will take you farther than a silver tongue.

Your power to flatter serves you well in most things. But in matters of the heart, maybe not so much.

You’ll need to divest yourself of your charms for the next week.

Maybe then, you can allow the man whose eyes say what his words don’t to speak his truths.


I feel like a teenager waiting for a call from the boy she likes. He’d acknowledged my challenge with a thumbs up to my text. A stupid thumbs up! But I haven’t heard from him since. I know it’s only been a day, and because we planned to see each other tomorrow or Wednesday, I should keep my cool and wait – but that’s something I’ve never managed to get right.

Lower level. Going up.

Announcing its arrival at last, the elevator pushes back its doors at a deliberate pace, and I absently enter, resigned in the fact that the bright side in this day ahead will remain hidden to me for now. I might not be able to clean up the trail of dung and disregard that Hedge characteristically leaves in his wake. But if I’m honest, I’ll relish the challenge and enjoy the fight along the way. Clinging to that thought, I easily manage a wide, knowing smile as I enter the offices of Storey|Fischer|Stone, storytellers extraordinaire.

Not so long ago, I’d been proud to be named vice president at Storey|Fischer|Stone, one of the largest public affairs firms in metro DC. What I hadn’t counted on was the price I’d pay daily to continue to play in this world of bad manners and even worse individuals. Everything about S|F|S is a contradiction. Its promises. The public reputation that once positioned it at the top of the issues-management universe. Even its people. Integrity was nowhere on the corporate menu, and this place would be top pick if Zagat’s published a guide to PR agencies for people who are stupid AF.

The stark white-on-white, sparsely appointed foyer is carefully ornamented with artwork that mimics priceless watercolor masterpieces and oozes a quiet calm. Monet and Manet prints, more undeniable evidence of intentional design taken to the extreme, telegraph the definitive designer’s signature and span the semi-circular wall surrounding the receptionist’s welcoming station. Firm founders Reynaldo “Dick” Storey, Davis Fischer, and Samson Stone wanted clients to feel a sense of calm and support within their walls. By keeping the mood serene, they reasoned, they were providing shelter of sorts as they shifted the way the media talked about their wayward habitués.

If these souls were paying attention, though, they’d see the illusion inherent here. The rest of the office space stopped making sense once clients began their walks of shame down the various corridors and into the swank offices and conference rooms. Here, the same white walls became home to bold shapes, weird images, and splashes of color on display, blending Picasso’s cubism and a touch of Dada from Dali. Truly, it was a wonder the firm didn’t get sued for sexual assault…mind fucking had to be a crime, right?

Right or wrong, the visual dysrhythmia was an appropriate touch for an operation whose stock-in-trade over the past 10 years had become finding a tolerable if not happy ending for some of the most high-powered power players on the planet. Most days, the faces in the lobby, though willing themselves to appear and remain impassive, fell hapless and sallow, as if they’d sprung a slow leak while awaiting their chance to learn how the high priests and priestesses of PR would save them from too much public scrutiny and a raft of negative consequences. I spy two new sad sacks as I pass through the foyer to get to my morning meeting. They’re undoubtedly DC’s latest perpetrators of fraud, debauchery, and bad judgment. Welcome to the eighth ring, I muse, passing a rapid, weary glance between the worried faces. Abandon hope all ye who enter here. I hide my smile as I make my way past reception and into the main conference room to the morning debrief.

“With the arrival of Ms. Winston, we can finally begin.”

I dismiss Lachlan Storey as I join the war tribunal precisely at 9 a.m. Most days, I try to be in place at least five minutes before we begin, but the drag I’ve been feeling all morning leaves me uninspired. Compounding my apathy is the fact that Lachlan is made of 100 percent bullshit. Though he’s the firm’s executive vice president, his top priority on any given day is to spread his contempt for the work we do like a Tamiflu-resistant strain of the flu. Two years ago, his father, Dick Storey, insisted that he step into a leadership role with the firm or leave the business cold, without help, referral, or trust fund. Not knowing or wanting to know how to get by on his own, he took out his frustrations and rechanneled his insecurities by razing the morale and moral fabric of the respected boutique PR firm that his father had painstakingly built with Sam Stone and Davis Fischer over the past 30 years. It was the best way he knew to mask his lack of clear understanding or caring for the place. Most everyone knew this. And no one did a damned thing to stop him.

As has become my practice, I flash him my brightest PR-girl smile, punctuate it with a quick wink, and watch him cringe in response as I enjoy the deep satisfaction that comes with knowing I’ve raised his ire. Clearly fighting through his vexation, he continues.

“Yes, then, this morning and until further notice, our focus will be on HedgeCo. The strawman in front of you gives you a basic understanding of the big-picture issues. Now, let me cloud that picture all to hell for you.”

HedgeCo’s recklessness created one of the biggest environmental disasters outside of a hurricane or super storm along the east coast – maybe ever. Late last year, the company began an exploration for natural gas about 30 miles away from Virginia’s shoreline. Though the state’s legislature successfully banned oil and gas drilling, exploration in federal waters received a thumbs up during Donald Trump’s administration. Staged six feet beyond that line of demarcation, Hedge’s operation still sat precariously close to the coast. Even as public concern crescendoed, HedgeCo trudged forward, but instead of hitting pay dirt, the company produced the region’s largest ever fish kill, hampering naval operations and further decimating the tourism industry, which was still struggling to recover following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The company needs to explain this away and now. Sierra Club is sounding the goddam alarms,” Lachlan drones on with high drama. “The Virginia League of Conservation Voters has filed a class-action suit against HedgeCo. But Wilson Hedgepeth insists on keeping to business as usual as we get to work to move the bad vibes away and right away. He needs the news channels clear of this snafu in time for earnings week and the start of construction on a series of wind farms that happen to be so close to residential areas in some of the more upscale neighborhoods in Texas that you could take a piss on ’em easy.

“We need to give this construction some special consideration in our planning. These wind farms are big, potentially lucrative deals for a lot of people. I understand it’s a joint venture with some South American energy conglomerate. A few already rich people stand to make even more money, so we can’t have media glomming on to this and kicking Hedge or his deal in the balls. Of course, we want to jump on this crisis now and help our client return to business as usual as quickly as possible. So, Alexa and Trey, you take the lead on how we talk about this little mix of glitches. Make them go away.”

Lachlan mimes a dismissive hand wave to help make his point. I glance across the room and shoot Trey Jackson a knowing look before pushing back from the table. We agree to meet in my office in a half hour, and that’s where I head to consider this very real, very untoward mess ahead of me. Yeah, today was going to suck.

Copyright © 2021 by Kimberly Greer