Teddy sat on the edge of his seat as he waited for Marie, the general manager, to return to her sparsely furnished office. Aside from a desk whose surface was neat and tidy the only other piece of furniture was a narrow bookcase beneath several framed diplomas occupying the wall to his right. The bookcase contained, from what he could see without being too obvious, several first editions of some well known classics. A reader himself his curiosity as to their authenticity was stirred. But that wasn’t why he was here. In his various dealings with Marie she had never struck him as someone willing to strike up a conversation over anything outside of work.
Behind the desk was a window and his eyes were drawn to the storm outside as the sound of the wind battering itself against the wall filled the office with a low roar. He felt a chill as an errant breeze wafted through the office. He’d rather be at home with his feet up, safely encased in his apartment, yet his responsibilities had forced him to be here.
Early in life he had learned there were times when you did what you had to, not what you wanted. A job was a responsibility, a promise, not only to your employer, but to your family. You exchanged a portion of your life for the means to provide for your loved ones. To give them a sense of security. But sometimes the line between your job and your life became blurred, as it had for his mother and father. A pair of workaholics whose greatest contribution to the world was their eagerness to put aside promises made to family to fulfill the needs of their employer.
His childhood had been one of constant disappointment. Family vacations promised yet never taken. His daily needs entrusted to a parade of strangers as both of his parents worked towards their own success. Never once considering that to Teddy their presence in his life would mean more than all the toys in the world.
He never lacked for anything, and always had the latest and the best toys, making his friends jealous. But they had something he would never know. The loving touch of a father’s hand. The comforting caress of a mother’s lips upon his cheek. The feel of her cool hand upon his fevered brow. His parents were always at work when he woke up in the morning, and still away when he went to bed.
When he was twelve the two strangers that were his parents died in an accident and the money they had given up their lives to put back for his future was siphoned off by a succession of semi-relatives who crawled out of the woodwork after their death. From the so-called aunt in Arlington Texas who insisted that he come live with her, to his father’s half brother who didn’t even try to hide the fact that he was pulling one over on Teddy’s dead parents. Each in their turn fed at the trough of a trust fund that was supposed to protect the money. The relative of a friend of a friend who didn’t really know what he was doing had put it together, and the price was right.
That was his parents biggest flaw. When it came to Teddy himself they spared no expense, but in every other aspect of their lives they always went with the lowest bidder.
At Eighteen, broke and alone, he promised himself he would not be like his parents. That he would cherish those closest to him. From this desire he’d developed a simple plan. Spend the first ten years of his working life dedicated to only the job. No personal life, no emotional attachments outside of work, nothing but a worker drone programmed to serve. Save every penny he could with an eye towards an early retirement that would give him the means to build a real family.
As the saying went, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Judy had proven to be the proverbial monkey wrench thrown into his works. They had been together for a little more than a year now, and even though they did everything they could to keep their relationship under wraps, word had leaked to their team mates.
“Sorry about that Ted,” Marie said as she swung open her door and lumbered into her office. He pushed himself to his feet. She was a big woman, nearly six foot tall, thick, big boned, what many would have referred to as farm bred. The sheer weight of her responsibility was etched in the severe lines that creased her face. She handed him a slip of paper that contained fifteen names.
“We need contact information updated today for the people on that list.”
“If anyone else shows up do you want me to send them home?” Teddy said.
“I’ve thought about that, but if they’re already here we might as well get some work out of them. In the future though I’d rather not open the center for such a small group. Just the cost of having the lights on can’t be offset by anything they accomplish. Not to mention the need to reroute a steady flow of work from our other centers.” That was Marie, all business.
“Will you be staying?”
“I’ve got a few reports to finish then I’m going home. My husband will be here to pick me up shortly.”
Teddy was surprised to learn Marie had a husband. There had been speculation as to her sexual preference when she first arrived and she had done little to dispel any of the rumors that had a tendency to circulate in such a situation.
“Then I’ll get with whoever is here to set up for the night.” Teddy said as he turned to leave.
“Not so fast, there’s one final matter we need to discuss.” Marie pulled out her chair and sat down, the chair creaking in protest.
Teddy’s heart sank. He knew what was coming and had been trying to avoid this topic for several days now. But he also knew they’d eventually catch up with him.
“What would that be?” he asked, purposefully playing dumb.
Marie shook her head with a slight smile that seemed so out of place on her face. “Before I took my position here I supervised a team at the Dallas center. Just like you I worked my way up through the ranks and when I first assumed my duties as a supervisor, my boyfriend at the time worked on the same team that I was taking over. I was in the same position you find yourself in right now. It’s no secret you and Judy are an item. But I’m sure you are familiar with the company’s policy on fraternization. It used to be we could transfer her to a different team and it wouldn’t be a problem, but corporate has been cracking down lately and to be perfectly honest I am not going to jeopardize my own career for anyone else.”
“I’ll talk to her today.”
“When I return to work I expect either yours, or her resignation, on my desk. I like you Ted, I feel you’re going to make a great supervisor, but I will replace you with the next in line if you can’t do what needs to be done.”
Until this moment no one he had spoken to, or interviewed with, had been quite this blunt about what needed to be done. Everyone knew about him and Judy, and even though they had tried to keep their relationship under wraps, it had never been a real secret they were together. Even with all that in mind his anger was stirred by Marie’s frank statement.
Of course I understood what has to be done. But would it hurt to give her more of a notice? His response remained unspoken. A part of him wanted to stand up right then and hand that cold bitch the keys to the building and walk out. Instead he nodded his understanding and pushed himself to his feet. Sometimes you did what you had to, instead of what you wanted.
“I know how you feel Ted. I had to go through the same thing.”
Ted simply nodded thinking to himself that she couldn’t possibly know what he was going through right now.
“Will there be anything else?”
“That about covers it.” Marie said, dismissing Teddy by opening the file folder on her desk. He stood over her for a moment more, unacknowledged by Marie who focused on the papers lying in front of her, and then he spun around on his heel and left her office.