Here is a story I wrote recently for a client. It was part of a book of short stories entitled, ‘Husband Alone At Home’. I hope you enjoy it.
“Do you think I am some kind of fool Mattie? I put the document on your desk just five minutes ago. Where could it be?” I looked frantically for the report I had just completed and placed on my supervisor’s desk. “But no one came into to office!” I exclaimed, “Where could it be?”
Mattie sighed. “Did you put it in a folder of some sort?” With one hand she began shifting the papers on her desk, while deftly taking a swig at the cup of coffee with the other. The aroma filled the room, betelling the chocolate flavoured beverage with just a dollop of cream.
“Yes, I placed it in a red folder with a clear plastic cover,” I joined her in shifting, moving and lifting some of the papers and folders that were in disarray. Then I found the prize – “Here it is! I know I wasn’t getting off my rockers.”
“You sure about that? You’ve been moving around like disenfranchised robot. You must have placed it there with the newspaper,” Mattie rested on the side of her mahogany office desk. “When was the last time you went on leave?” she asked me peering over her burgundy -wear. “This is happening far too often now.”
“Look Mattie, I’m fine. I’m just a little jittery. Maybe it’s that time of the month, you know.” I truly hated being caught off guard like this.
“Jitterbug, smitterbug. Time of the month! That’s what you said last week!” Mattie moved now into her plush executive chair and placed the cup on her luxurious desk. “Maybe you need to see a doctor, because it is affecting your job. You didn’t answer me, when was the last time you took some time off, vacation, sick leave, day leave – something?” Now she was looking at me intently over her rims, with pressed lips and her jaw firmly set.
“Well, I took some time off five years ago, and…”
She cut me off, “Five years ago! You’re joking! Five years ago I was just completing my Master’s degree. Five years ago my mother got married to a goat of a man. She’s divorced and remarried since, but now she married to her very own Bugs Bunny. He’s always asking, “What’s up doc?”” She looked at me incredulously. “How much time are you due?”
“I don-n-t,” I stammered, fidgeting uncontrollably.
“How much?” Her voice demanded an immediate answer. She began rummaging through the clutter on her desk again.
“Three months,” I said flatly, wondering how in earth I would manage to remain sane if I was not occupying myself with something.
“Janice, you need to rest. Didn’t you know that that is part of productivity? An employee who does not take the time to rest and enjoy life is not at their highest potential. So,” she finally found what she was looking for and held it up in front of her face to look at it, “I am not going to send you off for three months. With the Conference coming up, I’m going to need you right here to help me prepare for it. So, two weeks now and three weeks after the Conference should be enough time. And Janice, this does not affect what is due to you this year. So, I’m expecting to see an application for leave come in later on in the year, understand?”
“Yes,” my eyes glistened.
Mattie quickly wrote on the paper she found. “I’m gonna send this to HR, with a note that I am putting you on leave that you’ve acquired over the years.”
“Mattie what about the meeting with the investors next week?”
“I’ll worry about that.” She now lifted her head with a sheepish smile on her face. “Don’t think I can manage? I like you Janice – and as your friend and boss, I am saying you need this. You’ll thank me for it when you get back.”
“I guess I don’t have a choice do I?”
“No.” Mattie opened a desk drawer and pulled out her Louis Vuitton hand bag. She handed me a card. “This is the place I stayed on vacation last year. My advice, go alone. You’ll be able to clear your head and get some rest.”
“Thanks,” I slowly examined the card, and raised my eyebrows. This place is expensive. “And I can’t afford this though.”
“No problem. Don’t worry,” she said ignoring my first comment. “I’ll call and make the reservations myself. You pay for nothing. And, I’ll take care of the bill.”
I coughed in unbelief, “You’d do that for me?”
Mattie got up an approached me with her arms spread. “Of course I’d do it for you. For the time I’ve been here – you’ve made me and this company look good and I owe it to you for all the hard work and sacrifices you’ve made.” Mattie hugged me with a little squeeze. “Your leave starts now. And don’t call this office for anything, or I’ll have you back and work you like a horse. I’ll see you in two weeks.”
With that she escorted me out of her office and gently closed the door. I stood there in disbelief. I not only get leave on two separate occasions, but I can apply later on and I also get a paid vacation. I was shocked.
At dinner that night, I announced my good fortune to the family. At first, they just looked – there was silence. And then all of a sudden, everyone spoke at once, offering congratulations and that I should go. The only person who was silent was Robby, my husband. He remained quiet for the rest of the meal, and only spoke as we were getting ready for bed in our room.
“Robby, you haven’t said a thing since I made my announcement.”
“Well duhhhh! Who would give up such an opportunity! I think it’s great. But are you really going alone?”
I looked at him, “What do’ya mean Robby? Of course I am going alone.”
“You’ve never been away. I mean, you could have some tall, dark, good-looking hunk as your companion. Maybe I need to give you a lap dance before you leave.” He walked over to me and gently brushed his finger on my chin.
“Why Robert O’Mally!” I smiled, putting my arms around his neck and snuggling closer to him. “You should probably pack a bag.”
“Well I’m also due for vacation, so why not. I’ll keep you in sight and protect you from men looking to prey on my beautiful snookums. After all I can hardly keep my hands off you.” He held me and looked into my eyes with a playful gaze. He dropped little kisses on my forehead and cheek. The butterflies in my belly fluttered with each tender kiss. “We could both take the time to rest together.”
“I would love you to come with me. But,” I whispered, “Who would we get to stay with the children?” At that he groaned, and threw me down in the bed. “Are you ready to dance?”
The place was very peaceful. I really rested – both my mind and my body. I felt good to have been pampered this way. The cabin had a single bed with warm comforters. The bathroom was simple with hot and cold water in the pipes. The view from the window was great. At first it was hard to relax. My mind was racing at times as I thought of the different responsibilities I had. By about the third day the tension began to ease. I would go for long walks and sometimes jogged in the area of the cabin. This was all too surreal. I often wondered how Robby was managing with the children and work.
I didn’t call Mattie, but I called home occasionally. Once, when I called, I thought I would run back home. Mike, my eldest, told me they hadn’t had a good meal since I left. But I resisted the temptation. I returned home two days before reporting back to work.
“Judy.” I called, “Mike! Cassandra! Is anybody here.” I pushed open the front door to see a quiet and peaceful living room. There was faint laughter. But I was not sure where it was coming from. I called out again, “Is anyone home?”
I went into the kitchen. There I found Mike and Robby in aprons with soot on each other’s face. The kitchen reeked of burnt food. Judy had her head stuck in the oven, while Cassandra sat at the island, earphones plugged in each ear, as she cut some vegetables.
“Oh my God, what’s going on?” I rushed over to Mike as he rubbished something from one of the pots in the garbage bin.
“Mom!” everyone chimed and rushed over to me with hugs and kisses. “Are you just coming? We didn’t hear you.”
Robby gave me a peck on the cheek, then stood back and said, “Didn’t you say you’d be back tomorrow?”
“What happened here?”
“Well, it was all Dad and Mike’s fault,” chimed Cassandra.
“Mom, you’re gonna want to sit down,” insisted Mike.
“Tell me,” I sat reluctantly.
“You’re gonna laugh honey,” Robby also scraped his burnt items into the trash.
“Mom, Mike and Dad decided they were going to surprise you with a four course meal tomorrow. Only they decided that they’d go gourmet. They have spent the last two weeks practicing.”
“Practicing?” I asked, taken aback.
“Yes,” Cassandra piped in. “Everyday for the last two weeks, its been one dish or another.”
“We’ve burnt all the meals this week,” said Mike.
“Charred is more like it,” Judy said sarcastically. “I don’t know what they’ve been doing. They’ve been at it – over and over again.”
“We’ve seen charred beef, charred roasted chicken, charred you name it, they’ve done it! We need to call this kitchen, Charred.”
I laughed so hard that tears began to fall from my eyes.
“It doesn’t stop there,” Robby came in. “We men,” Robby said grabbing Mike by the neck, “well we wanted to know what it was like to walk in your shoes around here. I mean, once you’re here, you’re taking care of everything. So, we did the laundry for starters.”
Everyone started protesting. “No dad you did the laundry!”
“Mom,” Cassandra came up and held me by the shoulders. “Dad,” she stressed, “Dad reduced a number of our sweaters.”
“Our sweaters!” I knew exactly what happened.
“Our clothes have moved,” Cassandra continued, “from their respective sizes to size two. My doll Maggie will be very trendy for the summer.”
“No Cassie,” Judy chirped. “Size one and a half.”
I started bubbling again. “You could have called you know.”
“Nah,” Robby sat now on one of the stools by the island. “Then it would not have been a surprise.”
“So what are we going to wear now that you’ve shrunken our sweaters! Don’t forget that you also burnt my very good pants with the iron!”
“I’ll get you all new clothes,” Robby said coyly, “With my prize money.”
“What prize money!” everyone exclaimed.
“On one of the evenings, I ordered out, and the restaurant I got the food from was having a promotion, called, “Good cooks Bad cooks!” I knew my cooking was mediocre, so I did my best worst and provided them with a sample of our ‘charred chops’. And…I won first prize for the worst tasting meal. I even went on television without the children knowing it. I won five hundred dollars. So you gals will be going shopping .”
We all jumped around Robby, excited for the time of shopping.
“Well,” I said to everyone, “I missed you all so much. It’s really good to be home.”
This can also be found on writeit.shutterfly,com. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.