“What do you mean you lost your job?” she asked, her eyebrows meeting in the centre of her forehead.
“I got fired, sacked, get it?!”
“Don’t get smart with me, you know what I mean.”
“I’m sorry babe, it’s just that today has been the worst day of my life. I don’t know how to feel, what to think.”
“You still haven’t explained what happened.”
I took her by the arm and led her to the sofa. I hated having to admit to her that I’d failed and foolishly too. I knew how proud she was of me and everything I’d achieved in the 4 years we’ve been together. I opened my mouth to explain how it had happened but the weight of my shame silenced me.
“Go on Alex, talk to me. Your silence is driving me crazy!”
“I’m sorry, I just feel like such an idiot. I made a big mistake that lost the company a multi-million dollar contract. I swear I didn’t know the guy was a conman. I didn’t know!”
“Calm down Alex and start from the beginning,” she said, clasping my hands in hers, her fingers drawing comforting strokes.”
“Remember the deal I told you about? Turns out the guy I contracted to supply the marble tiles was a fraud.”
“How’s that possible? I thought you said you were using Zania? They are the largest importers of marble in Africa!”
“Yeah they are but it turns out the guy doesn’t work for them.”
“Didn’t you check him out? But you said you said he showed you round their warehouse in Matori?”
“Honey, I don’t understand it. I even went to his office in their main building on Adeola Odeku. I don’t know how the guy did it. He gave us an invoice and we paid for the tiles but they didn’t arrive on the day he said they would. When we tried to call him to find out what was going on we got no response so I sent one of my assistants to his office. I was dumbfounded when she came back and said she was told no one by that name worked there. I went there myself and met the MD, he confirmed it. I explained what had happened and he asked to see the contracts and all the paper work. Turns out they were all fake.”
“Oh my God, Alex this is huge!”
“Like that wasn’t bad enough, the client threatened us with legal action if we didn’t produce either the tiles or their money so the company had to pay back the money. It wasn’t my fault Karen, it wasn’t but the losses were too great, someone had to pay for it.”
“I’m so sorry baby, I know it wasn’t your fault.” She cradled my head against her breasts while I sobbed my heart out. Everything I’d worked for was gone in an instant. My reputation was in shreds and I was forced to pay back the $200,000 commission I had received for landing the project. No other design firm in the country would hire me, my MD had made that much clear to me.
“Don’t worry about it baby, things will work out,” she soothed, stroking my head, “you’ll get another job and things will go back to normal soon enough.”
“To be honest Karen, I don’t even know what I want to do with myself anymore. No design firm will hire me now and to be honest, I’m not sure I want them to. I need time to get my head around this and figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. Perhaps this is God’s way of getting me to explore other options.”
“When up say you need time, how long are we talking? A couple of days? A week?”
“A month, maybe two. I don’t know babe. I just need time to get my head round this.”
Her fingers stilled against my head and looked up into her eyes questioningly.
“And how are we supposed to survive while you’re getting your head round this?”
“I know it’s not ideal but we could live on you salary till I sort something out.”
“Ah, I see. I’m supposed to go out to work, while you laze around all day right?!”
“Don’t Karen me! This is how it starts. One month turns to six and before you know it it’s been sixteen years and you’re still trying to get yourself together. If you think I’m going to work my butt off while you live a life of leisure, do yourself a favour and get that fantasy out of your head.”
“Who said anything about living a life of leisure? All I said is I need a little time to figure out where to go from here, is that too much to ask? I know what my responsibilities are as a man, as your husband, and you should know better than to think I’m trying to abdicate them!”
“Story! All I know is you need to find a job and fast too. You want to take a break from your career? Joker! The next thing I know you’ll be spending your days getting drunk in front of the TV and slamming my head against walls. If you thought you’d struck it lucky, you had better think again. I am not my mother.”
“And I Karen, am not your Father.”