Everything for the Career Ch. 07byHeavyHeartLaments©
(Thank to all for your patience.
Note that comments are more than welcome. You can comment on this story or send me an email via the link below. As usual, bricks and bouquets are welcome.)
What do I tell Arthur?
This was the singular thought in my mind as we moved from Edwards' room, walking the distance of the long corridor, towards the exit. Arthur was holding me protectively in his arms, and I was huddling up against him, taking support from his spirit. I knew my husband very well. He would know, from the tension in my body, that something had happened. And he would want to know it as soon as we sat in the car, away from the hustle of the hospital. And I needed to think of a response before I sat down with him.
I tried to put back everything behind me, but the vision of Charlene and her two waifs, of Edwards, almost like my father -- who had sacrificed his reputation and business so that *I* could be happy in my marriage -- imploring me to save his bank, what also, at one time, used to be MY bank, to see thousands lose their jobs because I was dedicated to my husband and gave him more importance than the lives of thousands of others... all that kept on coming to my mind as we walked.
What do I do?
I could see Charlene out on the streets, if I did not take up Edwards and participate in this negotiations. Her two children, instead of learning and playing would probably be working part time, and GOD knows whether they would even receive decent meals three times a day.
I could see Edwards, heartbroken, to see his only daughter, refuse to fight for, what was till then, their blood, their sweat, their temple. To see his good deeds and real concern about me NOT being reciprocated. To see his dream, his soul, crumble around his eyes as I could not put in, just 4 days of my life.
I could see. Hundreds of them. Shouting. Screaming. Cursing. Because I was so devoted to my husband that he was more important than saving the livelihood of a thousand employees. That I could not spend 4 days from my life to save any of them. That I sacrificed the betterment of a thousand souls, to save mine.
And frankly, this was scaring me. I was thinking all this and I knew something had to be done. Within moments, scant moments, we would pass the end of the corridor, and into the exit. We would be out directly into the parking space. We would sit in our car and instead of starting the car, Arthur would turn towards me. One hand on the backrest of the seat, his eyes penetrating mine, he would ask me what happened inside back there. And no matter what happened, I knew I would not tell him anything, but the truth. And that's what kept on worrying me. That's what kept on running in my mind.
I could not turn back on Edwards and my bank. Not when there were thousands of careers at stake. And I could not bear to be separated from my Arthur again. This was going to be the biggest decision of my life. And I thought once again as we neared the exit.
What do I tell Arthur? What do I do?
"This is big, is it not?"
A simple question. From my Arthur.
We were sitting in the car. As I had thought, he did not start the car. Instead, he turned around and looked at me. His eyes were unreadable, his demeanor, neutral and voice, very steady. He did not seem overly interested, OR overly unconcerned. Just waiting. Practically.
I barely managed to get that out of my mouth. I was looking down, not at Arthur, thinking and re-thinking in my mind, about what to say.
"It's about the bank. They need you again, don't they?" he asked. Voice -- no emotion.
I could not answer. Not after all that had happened between us. I simply looked up at him with a great effort and tears sprang in my eyes.
"I...see." He said. And for the briefest instance, I thought I saw the sadness return to his eyes.
Then, before I could reach out to him and reassure him, or even speak to him, he took a deep breath and turned away from me. Starting the car smoothly, he pulled it out of the parking lot in one fluid motion, before he forwarded the gear and we sped off into the night.
We did not speak the rest of the way.
The next morning, I awoke earlier than usual.
Arthur was still sleeping. Yesterday night was one of the worst. We spent it entirely in silence. We parked the car in the garage, walked into the house, bathed (actually, Arthur did) and went to sleep. All without uttering a word. I think both of us did not want to be the first to speak. As if that would spoil things. As if that would bring us back from our happiness so far and plunge us into the darkness of despair and reality.
I thanked God profusely for the fact that despite not speaking a word, Arthur and me slept together on the same bed. And I was ready to cry in relief, when my hand accidently touched his -- and he did not pull it back.
So, today morning, I bathed, put on slight makeup, dressed, made breakfast for Arthur, left him a note saying I was at my parents, and then sat in my car and drove to my parents' house. I knew one thing, if anybody, it was my Dada who would judge and decide decisively. And while he would always, as usual, leave the decision to me, his viewpoints often gave me a great deal of clarity, more importantly, they always managed to convince my inner self. A very important thing to do when taking a big decision.
In my note, I had told Arthur about this and also mentioned that I would appreciate if he were not to take anything to mind or heart. At least, to wait for me until I came back and not do anything rash. I hoped he would listen. I also told him anytime he wanted, he could call me, and I would stop my conversation with my parents and rush over to his side. Anytime he wanted.
With hope in my heart and a prayer on my lips, I set out to meet my parents. I hoped somewhere, somehow, before I returned back, I would have the solution, and more importantly, a decision. And I hoped that no matter what, this decision would not see me and Arthur on separate ways. I would just die. I could not live without my Arthur. No way. He was the center of my Universe. And nothing would change that.
"I think what you are planning to do is the epitome of stupidity Jenny. You are going to lose Arthur if you decide to save the bank. You have done enough for the bank. For God's sake, LET IT GO! Its time you owed something to your husband. Just don't go on this trip. Edwards or no Edwards. Arthur is your future. Not FCB. Don't for a moment think otherwise. Arthur will be there when FCB and Edwards and all these so called thousands of employees who are begging you at the moment will be gone. He was always there for you and will be there for you always. Don't betray him. Don't betray his trust in you. Don't betray his love. For once in your life, consider him as the important part of your life. Not FCB!!"
No word bashing, no flowery language, no trying to put it *softly*. No. Straight from the hip, damned if I liked it or not.
That was my Dada. Frank. Outspoken. And somehow, always extremely realistic.
"Dada, around a thousand employees depend on this! If I don't go then..."
"Are you Jesus Christ?" he interrupted me.
"What?" I looked at him goggle eyed.
"I said, is your name Jennifer, or Jesus Christ?" he asked again, his eyes penetrating mine.
"Jennifer." I replied softly. Not really know what he was implying.
"Then why don't you leave all that salvation bit for him?" he asked.
That punch line took my breath away. It felt as if my father had hit me. Why was it so difficult for my father to understand that 4 days of my life meant nothing. But I would always be devoted to Arthur. And he could come WITH me. We would be so much TOGETHER. He would be my emotional and spiritual strength. And so many would benefit!
I thought my Dada would understand. That he would show me a way that satisfied both my husband's needs and I could also save the bank. But instead, he was raging over how immature and wrong it was of me to leave Arthur once again. Just why didn't he understand?
"Mother...?" I turned to her.
"I...don't know Jenny." She said. "But if *I* were in your position, I would have left the bank and its problems to be resolved by someone else, and spent my life with my husband."
"Mother..." I said softly. Not knowing what to say.
"Jenny." She said softly. I looked at her, and was surprised to see steel in her eyes! "Unlike you, MY husband is really more important to me than anything in this world. And I would not be talking to MY parents about this. I would do what I had to do. My husband comes first. Not only in words, in my actions too!"
I stared at her dumbfounded. She had practically accused me of just *talking* about how important Arthur was for me, and not really *doing* enough to show it.
I felt, that this one time, she was correct. I had re-dedicated myself to Arthur. My husband. And nothing was above him.
And yet... the images of Charlene's children... the begging tone in Edward's voice...the people who depended on me for their lives, their careers... just for 4 days in all...
I did not know what to do.I knew that I wanted to save FCB. But not at the cost of losing my husband.
So I decided to talk it out with Arthur, as soon as I got back. Yesterday was too much for both of us, but now since we would have calmed down and had a night's sleep between us, maybe we could look at this thing differently.
What was unnervering me, was that Arthur's face was an expression of... nothing. I could see or feel nothing from his face and body language. His expression and demeanor was... just waiting. Waiting to hear me out. His eyes were not showing any emotion. Not anger, not sadness... not love. No emotion. It was as if I were an object of scientific discovery, to be observed, recorded and filed away with a clinical detachment. He was waiting for me to begin. He had a relaxed stillness that comes from knowing what you want to do... from knowing and understanding and accepting the path you were going to walk on. And I involuntarily shuddered.
At the fact that he had already decided what to do. And more importantly, for the first time in 3 months, for the lack of love in his eyes that I was used to seeing when we had reconciled.
I did not know what Arthur had decided. But I wanted to talk with him first. I prayed silently to God, and I began.
"I need your help honey." Clear. To the point. There was no way I was going to go ahead without his help.
"Is that a Vice President talking, or a wife talking?"
My God! The question completely blanked out my mind!! And thetotal lack of ANY emotion in his voice made me actually miss my line of thought! The question hit me hard. In the gut.
"Arth...honey...I... I wanted to ask your help. There is something come up and...I wanted you to be there for me...it's not easy for me, but in this ...this hard time, I want you to ...to stand BY me, WITH me... because..." I continued, before he interrupted me.
"Oh, I see." He said, in an unwavering, emotionless voice. "A Vice President.Disguised as a wife!"
His last question had already taken the steam out of what I wanted to say. Now, as I looked at him, trying to deal with his statement, an unnamed fear probed into my spine! His face! The look on his face blew an Arctic chill up my whole body!!
His face was devoid of ALL emotions!!!
The questions, mixed with any lack of emotion on his face, coupled with me having forgotten this side of him for 3 months since we reconciled... it was too much for me. I started tearing up again. What could I say? What should I do?
That was all he added. And still, his voice showed no emotion, his eyes were unreadable and his body language, very relaxed. I jerked up my head at that revelation!
"Arthur...I..." I started saying, when he got up. Clearly, the conversation was over. Even before it fully began! "Please try and understand that..." when he interrupted me again.
"No Jenny," he said, looking at me, "I want you to understand. Just one thing. It is your decision. Only yours. And there is no help you are going to get from me. You decide." He added.
I was clearly losing control now. I could feel it. Even though I was still his 'Jenny', I could feel him slipping into his earlier mode. I wanted to hold him, comfort him, tell him that it was HE, always HE who would be important to me, and that this was supposed to have been HIS decision -- if he had said YES, we would have gone, if he had said NO, we would not have gone, simple as that -- HIS decision, but now, he had put that onus, that terrible burden of taking this life altering decision, on ME!
And at this time I could only think of what my Dada had told me in the morning: The biggest conflicts in life are the ones you fight with yourself.
"I know if I refuse, you will not go. And I know if I agree, you will jump on that chance. I don't want to decide for you Jenny. It *HAS* to be your decision. And yours alone." He continued.
What he was saying, in a way, was correct. It did not make a difference what I did to follow his yes or no. What mattered was what *I* thought about it. About the situation. About FCB. About my life. About...my Arthur!
I jerked out of my reverie when I heard the door close softly. Arthur, it seemed has better things to do while I planned out my choice.
Three months. Three months it had been. Blissful. Happy. Idyllic. Three months, when I had forgotten what it was to cry. But in the last 2 days, I had been crying. For Edwards. And today, for my husband. And I wondered at this thing called LIFE, that had finally, brought me a full circle.
As I pondered about that, I realized one thing. This was no crisis. No. Rather, my life was now in the hands of extraordinary circumstances. I knew, extreme conditions require extreme actions. I knew that.
So, I decided to talk to someone whom I did not know would ever talk with me again, or even see me for that matter.
I picked up my phone and dialed Bernie's office.
The man was like another father to me.
And I had cursed him.
Wished him ill-health. Misery. Hurt him and his heart. Spit on his spirit. I had broken all ties with him. And here I was, hoping that he would forgive me. And show me a way. I really had no one to turn to. Just what was I thinking? And what was I doing?
What my father and mother said, made sense. 'Seemed' correct. But it did not give me a good feeling. And I had realized it long ago, tons of mental efforts at reaching a logical conclusion, could not hold a candle to the instantaneous and singular feeling that all is well... or that it is not, that rises from your gut, the moment you take a correct or an incorrect decision. No amount of brain power was going to replace the feelings that told you something was not going well... or that something was.
And the feeling that I got when I thought about deciding to go with what my parents told me was... well, not that good.
But the bad part about the human mind and heart is that they not only tell you when you are making a wrong choice, but they also work for multiple choices. Together.
And so, if I was not feeling 'that' good, thinking about doing what my parents told me, I was getting an 'absolutely not good' feeling when I decided that I would, instead, play the good soul and leave Arthur and save the soon-to-be unemployed workers. Why is it, that my mind and heart, could not realize that I was doing something good? Something that I had been told throughout my life, was the 'righteous' and 'correct' way to live? Why was my heart not willing to accept that sacrificing Arthur for the betterment and the achievement of a bigger, better goal, that was correct, was itself the right thing to do?
If my mind filled with fear when I contemplated walking the path my father and mother described, as I shuddered at the implications of my absence, it filled itself with absolute dread, when I thought about saving the bank, at the cost of losing Arthur.
I did not know. Good, better, worse, worst... choices between good and bad, between a wrong and something even more wrong... things were getting blurred. Clarity was disappearing. And I was not thinking straight any longer. Did not know if I was *capable* of thinking straight any longer.
But I knew one thing. You can lie to the world. You can lie to your loved ones. You can even lie to God.
But, you cannot lie to yourself.
And THAT, that is precisely what was telling me that losing Arthur, was not an option.*Should not* be an option. And that was telling, Arthur was your true life. The way it was meant to be. It told me that whatever action I took, there would be unpleasant consequences. But walking away from Arthur again? THAT would have the MOST UNPLEASANT consequence. EVER! And my heart veered towards Arthur.
But then Edwards came up. Weak, dependent, lying in the hospital, people with tears streaming down their cheeks, pulling my sleeves, asking, BEGGING me to save them, the bank... I was out of control!
So, I decided to get a perspective. A completely different one.
And I knew he would be seething against me. And that was an advantage. He would NOT think twice before hurting me. And THAT is precisely what I wanted. For Bernie to HURT me. Hurt me with his precise words and thinking. His thoughts. I wanted him to cut me with his startling revelations, that only Bernie was capable of producing, I wanted him to peel the skin off my sorrow, my lament, and show me the real action that would, or rather SHOULD, be taken. I wanted him to fire all cylinders. At me. Tell me what to do. For in his anger, I would hope to find salvation from this problem.
So I went to Bernie's.
Not knowing how he would greet me, entertain me, talk to me, guide me, or even standing there, tolerate me.
Me, the woman whom he always considered his daughter. Me, whom he had never given a wrong advice to. Me, whose happiness meant a lot to him. Me, who had left all that and thrown mud on his face to protect her husband. To defend him.
How would he react?
I did not know.
All I know is that Julie nodded at me. And I took a deep breath, turned the door knob on his cabin and without waiting for a reaction from him, walked straight into his cabin, closing the door after me.
I walked into his cabin and found Bernie seated with a frown on his face. That was strange. Normally, in situations like this, when his clients desert him, or bad-mouth him, and then find that there is no real estate agent better than him, when they come back red-faced - Bernie generally has a smirk on his face.
But instead today, he had a frown.
I waited for a sign. That I could talk. About the direction I should take. Of what I should do. But, nothing was forthcoming, except for that neutral features and the frown. I took a deep breath.
"I need your advice." Eyes straight on his.
No response. Just the frown. And the inscrutable expression.
"Bernie... I need your advice."
"Look, if you want to stare me down, do so later. But can you at least..."
I was mid-sentence, before he interrupted.
Before his face turned crimson. Before he erupted.
"Have I hurt you so much Jenny?" he asked. His tone, like fire crackling in the furnace.
"Bernie... what..." I started out, before he interrupted me again. Coldly.
"So much?" he asked, "that you had to wait for so many months to tell me the good news?"
I was puzzled.
"What news Bernie?" I asked.
"That you and Arthur are back. Was I so bad in writing an email? Is this how you will punish me?"
I remained silent.
"Why didn't you tell me that you guys were back again?" he asked.