Duff-Bloom allowed herself a brief reverie, her mind fanning a quarter century of career snapshots that ended here in this sumptuous suite, in this stately Executive cloister, in this grand Legacy complex. Click, another snap, this of her nearby new home in boring-but-pricey Plano.
A booming prairie suburb, Plano was bordered on the north by the prime corporate park where JCPenney, EDS, Frito-Lay, and other major companies were relocating. To the south were upscale merchants and restaurateurs whose establishments buffered Plano's core of expensive residential subdivisionssome of which were simply separated from shopping strips by tall, thick brick walls and elaborate landscaping. The houses , on surprisingly small lots, were mainly variations on the Texas Gothic McMansion theme, largely distinct from one another only in scale. These choice properties were filling up all of the remaining suitable land and were mostly celebrated by their new owners "choice," of course, being a relative term . Compared to Connecticut or the Coast, the new Plano palaces could be had for a song. Therefore, after decades of painful commutes to and from mortgage manors, most high-ranking Penney people considered the move to Texas engineered by W. R. Howellan unexpectedly wonderful fillip to their careers.
Duff-Bloom certainly did. She owned a beautifully decorated 5,000-square- foot house with a patio, pool, pool house, and planting fit for a movie star. And there was, in the end, a lot more to being a very successful Penney person. In seven years she would enter into a retirement that would be the envy of older male counterparts all across executive America. Meanwhile she wanted for nothing, there was no help or favor she couldn't reasonably dispense, and no person in business or government she couldn't reach, including the White House.
Not bad, she thought, for a small-town Florida girl who had started adult life so humbly. She was now one of the most powerful women in the retail industry, and before retirement she would be profiled in a work entitled "The 50 Most Important Women in the U.S."
Duff-Bloom smiled to herself and looked across the deck to the far end of the Golden Crescent. There, with an expanse of glass double that of the other commodious executive suites, the chairman's windows were aglow in the sunrise . In a few hours, she thought, W. R. would deliver her baby at Pebble Beach. She felt proud and smart and accomplished because of this. (Privately, she considered herself one of the most effective executives in the company.) Some day her title might actually approach a reflection of her skills. Naturally, there would always be a man or two ahead of her. But a designation approaching her ability wasn't bad, not bad at all.