“You’ve been an outstanding employee until this last year,” Mr. Adams said, raising then lowering his arms. “You tied my hands, guy.”
“I’ve been here for—”
“Ten years. I know, Seth.” Mr. Adams gripped my shoulder like a father comforting a son. “But you’ve been late thirty times in the last six months. And with budget cuts, we have to reduce the force.”
“I was taking care of my dying mother!” I said. Mom told me it was wrong to assume the worst in people without giving them a chance to prove you right. Yet here I was, jumping to conclusions.
“You think this is easy for me?”
“You’re my boss; do something.”
“It’s out of my hands,” Mr. Adams said in a gloomy tone. “I went to bat for you.”
I wanted to trade blows with Adams to lay him on his ass. Besides Francis, this job was the last thing in my life that meant something. After Mom died, I buried myself in work. Now the company fired me for caring for a sick, dying parent? How was I going to tell Francis? Surely not that the company fired me.
“Here, champ.” Mr. Adams handed me a weighted, taped brown moving box.
“What’s this?” I dropped my gaze and scanned a note that listed my name.
“I packed your things.” Mr. Adams gestured.
I blew out my lips and rounded the hallway to the elevator. Each floor down felt like my life swirling a sink drain. The frozen pipes of my love life rehearsed silent applause.
I slid into the car that I envisioned soon repossessed and slapped the steering wheel as though it stole my pride. I exited the packed parking lot and passed stoplights and street signs. The people driving buried in their thoughts gave me a feeling. The ones you love matter most. I’d measured who I was with success at the firm, not the genuine me, though. I can find another job. I wasn’t sure before, but I am sure now. I pulled into the driveway and went over how to break the bad news to Francis. I followed the sidewalk to the front door.
“What’s all this?” I said, scanning the moving boxes.
“We’re moving,” Francis said.
“I don’t think we can afford—”
“Your work paid the expenses.”
“Wait,”—I raked my fingers through my thick, blonde hair—“I lost my….”
“Mr. Adams is in the other room. Go see for yourself, babe.”
I took lumbered steps, baring a neutral glare. I slid the den door open.
“Surprise,” Mr. Adams and coworkers said. A keg had people drinking from plastic cups.
My eyes ballooned, and heat flushed my body. “A party for me losing my job?”
“You lost your job here because you got the promotion to Seattle.”
A smile tugged at the corner of my mouth. “You’re joking.”
“Do I look like a funny guy? You know what, don’t answer that.” The workers laughed.
“My baby got a promotion,” Francis said in a sultry tone. “I always had faith in you.”
“I told you I went to bat for you,” Mr. Adams said, raising his cup to cheers.
(© 2022 AC)