Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.
Zeke looked up. I couldn’t quite read his expression. Rather like he’d been ordered to smile while suffering an acute hemorrhoidal attack.
“Abra, losing those papers is a firing offense”. Technically true, though I’d never heard of it happening. “But we’re going to give you another chance”. Hmmm, a rare first person plural.
I was stunned. Wanted to ask what changed his mind. As recently as the day before Chuck had assured me there was to be no reconsideration. I speculated on the surprising absence of Chuck and Tamara. But a prompt exit seemed the best policy. Zeke looked at me, awaiting a response. Still with that dressed-up smile. I tried to look subtly quizzical, as though he’d remarked on how I’d knotted my tie. But I feared the hopeful puppy visage was taking over. “Thanks” I mustered. The meeting was over in two minutes.
Back in our workroom I gradually became a former non-person. Not all at once but everyone could see I wasn’t packing my stuff, nor did I look as tense as before. There was still the question of what I’d be doing next as all the assignments had been previously given out. Around noon Chuck and Tamara finally arrived. Zeke came in to make an announcement. Marcel had gotten a promotion to another organization. Chuck would be taking over our department and Albert, now on crutches, taking Chuck’s old position. And I would be heading to Finland. I was gratified to note that a couple of my colleagues smiled at me.
The next Sunday Tamara invited me for brunch at her place. Now meaning I was to come around noon instead of the previous evening. Very business-like she was and asked, condescendingly?, if I were pleased to be going to Finland. Eventually asked what Zeke had said but busied herself with the cutlery during my reply.
Then we came to the real exit interview. She broke up with me on the grounds that our relationship was untenable. And got quite angry when I suggested that it wasn’t the tenability that had changed. But I didn’t protest much as I agreed. I asked about her and Chuck’s delayed arrival that morning but she dissembled that she was running late and that Chuck just waited for her. I didn’t bother pursuing the point.
I was in the penalty box for the six months I worked for Chuck. Junior assignments which actually made the job a breeze. An employee survey the next year was devastatingly critical of Chuck and ended his assignment. I don’t know if they broke up following Chuck’s return to the U.S. If they didn’t, it was a very open relationship.
I heard through the grapevine that she and Chuck later had an on-again-off-again relationship before finally splitting up. So far as I know, neither of them ever married. I lost track of her when I left the company in the 90s and she has managed to keep herself off the Google grid. I’m embarrassed to say how many times I’ve checked. Marcel and Priscilla married a year after the preceding events. I stayed on in Europe for two and a half more years and worked for Albert after Chuck left. Tamara also stayed on but I kept my distance. And she hers, except for some odd encounters in the week before I left. But that’s another story.