“You don’t want a supportive man who will take care of the children while you go out and bring home the bacon?” Chris asks me. I stare back incredulously and ask him if he intends to be jobless and unoccupied for the rest of his life.
“You make it sound like I have no money,” he snaps. “For your information, I have enough investments to carry us through the rough times.”
“It’s not about that,” I sigh. “Chris, I need you to be constructively engaged otherwise-,”
“Otherwise what? You will leave me? Then perhaps we should call it quits right now.” We have arrived at my house and we are now parked in the parking lot. Chris shows no sign of exiting the car to come out with me. I sit there awkwardly for a few seconds.
“Well, all I am saying is, think about what I have just said. Goodnight,” I say, and then I open the car door and leave, choking on the lump in my throat and trying to keep the tears away. Once I lock my front door and close the world out, I allow myself a long, deep, painful sigh; however, I must acknowledge that I still have to work with Chris – and this time, even closer than I did before – and this means that I have to bring my best, professional A-game rather than the hurt little girl I feel I am right now. And so I take a deep breath and clench my jaw; I will be an adult tomorrow, and Chris won’t even recognise the ‘me’ that he will work with.
While I anticipate a sleepless night, I fall asleep very quickly and wake up in good time to complete my morning ablutions with ease. I choose a charcoal grey pant suit for this, my first day as MD in training, and put on a ‘face of armour’ – which is to say that my facebeat is so perfect that I even take a few selfies to remind myself that once upon a time, I achieved this.
I stop by the nearby coffee shop on my way to work to pick up a cappuccino then I walk into the office relaxed, easy, coffee in one hand and laptop bag in the other, feeling like the boss lady that I am.
“Good morning,” says Ciru as I walk into my office. She gets up from her desk and follows me as I walk into mine, and I brace myself for more of her daily foolery. But today she is proper professional. “Chris says he will be here in about half an hour to start you on your day. Congratulations, by the way, on your appointment.” I nod.
“Also,” she continues, “Louise is returning from her maternity leave next week. I don’t know where you would like me deployed after that but… I would very much like to continue in my position – even though I know you and her are very close.” Then she looks at her toes sheepishly; we both know how much she has tried to sabotage me in the past and with Bertha back on the scene, I trust her even less. But this is my chance to play benevolent leader, and so I do.
“I have noted your preference,” I tell her. “I’ll consider it when the time comes. Meanwhile, why don’t you let me know the minute Chris arrives so we can get to work?”
“Yes, of course,” she smiles… only I know how much evil lurks behind that smile. As soon as she is out of earshot, I call Louise.
“How are you?” I ask her.
“Oh, I am doing much better now,” she says. “The depression has really lifted since Jo got me in touch with her therapist. And I am feeling ready to get back to work next week.” I note the upbeat tone of her voice.
“Well, there are new developments,” I tell her. Then I tell her, briefly, about Chris resigning and me taking up his position in an acting capacity.
“Do you think this means you’ll get the position permanently?!” she asks.
I laugh. “Well, I suppose it means I will be best placed to do so. Whether that actually happens is another question altogether.” And then I ask her how Steve is.
“Well… I mean… Maybe we should have a coffee this week and talk about that,” she hedges. Sounds like there might be drama in paradise – and we all know how much I live for drama!
“Done,” I tell her. And then I hang up and wait for Chris to arrive to see how the rest of the day will unfold.