“Rise and shine! You’ve got to work some time do you not?” she said with her eyebrows raised in question.
I grunted and responded with eyes squinted, “Five more minutes...”
Her face seemed to become a bright, glowing, shade of red as she exclaimed, “Not this time! You told me last night the company bosses are coming today and we need you to impress them so you can better provide for your daughter and me!”
Staying calm as to not escalate the situation I simply said, “I am sorry babe. You know how much joy the sight of you and that beautiful blue-eyed daughter of ours gives me. It is hard sometimes to work for long hours but I will do my best to impress the higher-ups today.”
“I love you too Cadmar and I wish I could help us financially but I am still recovering from giving birth. I am sorry I put so much pressure on you, I just want the best for Lydia. How about we pray to God about it?” her face returned to its normal color as she spoke.
I accepted her apology, we prayed, I showered, ate the three eggs Persefoni had prepared, then I left for work. I parked my car in the F3 parking slot in the five-story parking garage built by the company I work for. I noticed a man leaning against a wall as I pulled in, who was dressed in a tattered black zip-up jacket which appeared to have many stains and a gray pair of sweatpants that had several small holes all over. He was pushing a shopping cart full of what looked like food and clothes. He was watching me as I got out of my car. I payed no further attention and walked to my work place.
I ran to my station and immediately began working for the CEO, as I had expected, was already there waiting to begin his yearly assessment of how our division did and if we maximized profits for the year. The clock was just three minutes past three o’clock when he was walking towards my cubicle. When I had noticed this, small droplets of water began forming on the top of my brow while my hands had become clammy and warm. When he finally made it to my work space while he called me by my first name, “Cadmar Jukka, interesting name considering what I am going to need you for, I need you to come with me, and no I do not care about the work you are currently working on because what we need to discuss I can guarantee will be more important to you than tracking bank transactions for the last month.”
I turned my monitor off, stood up, and followed Mr. Bahurai. He sat me down in my bosses office and asked me, “Mr. Jukka, you just had a daughter recently right and you were married in the summer to Mrs. Jukka correct”
“Yes sir,” I uttered wondering what my family had to do with this.
“Then where do you see yourself in a year when your daughter has began talking, walking, and eating habits begin to develop? Do you want to be making just three dollars above everyone else working some accounting job or do you want to be making a six eventually seven figure income someday?” he said as he smiled at my puzzled face.
“What I am asking is how hard are you willing to work to get what you want and at the same time take care of your family so well you will never have to worry about putting food on the table, paying bills, birthday parties, paying college? Because if you are willing to go the extra mile like you have been since the day you walked in here then I am willing to reward you with this very desk and the pay that comes with it. Your boss has not told anyone but he is retiring. I would not allow him to tell any of you because I did not want his resignation to affect work ethic from anyone. I do not like to lose money Cadmar. I know you would do well by me and honor being the head manager of this entire building and maximize profits. That is why I am offering this job to you. But it comes at the price of time with your family...”
I was awestruck. How was I supposed to respond to such an offer? One day I was just a hardworking office worker and the next I was being presented with the opportunity to become one of the higher-ups. But I couldn’t be there for my daughter or Persefoni. I collected my thoughts and began to speak, “I am sorry Mr. Bahuri, but the time I spend with my family is more precious to me than any money or position that would be offered to me.”
“Mr. Jukka, I respect you. I would ask you to reconsider but your words have provided me with what I need. Take the rest of the day and tomorrow off to spend with your family. I think you’ve earned it,” he said as he shook my hand and dismissed me home to take time with my family.
I was about to get in my car when I had seen the stranger from the morning. He was laying in the shadows and appeared to be sleeping. I called out to him and asked him if he was okay but all he had for me was a warning. He shouted out to me, “Be careful where you go, this town can be pretty dangerous this time of year!”
I had seen a sign which stated, THE END IS NEAR, which led me to believe he was a doomsday prepper or one of those people who think the end of days is upon us. I chuckled to myself and drove off.
Persefoni greeted me with a concerned looked on her face, “I’m glad you are home so early but why are you home so early?”
I cleared my mind of the trivial warning and filled my face with an ear to ear smile while I exclaimed, “ Mr. Bahurai gave me the rest of the day and tomorrow off!”
Puzzled by this, she questioned, “Well why would he do that?”
My smile faded and my eyes began to water, “Babe, I was offered the head manager position today, however, I turned it down because I would not see you two except on Christmas.”
Her face brightened and a tear fell from her cheek, “Cadmar, I love you!”
“Your not mad?” I asked truly confused.
“Of course not, you value family over money. Come on let’s go eat somewhere!”
We were leaving the two-story, highly recommended, affordable restaurant when I spotted that same ominous character from the day before, asleep in the middle of a dark alleyway across the street from the restaurant.
“You see that man there?” I asked Persefoni reassuring that she saw him too.
“Yes, what about him?” she responded with a puzzled look on her face.
“Stay here for a second would you?” I asked.
As I approached the stranger he spoke, “I warned you about where to go yet here you are.”
Startled I responded, “Why are you following me?”
“Nobody leaves that place early. No matter how hard you worked Mr. Bahuri never treated his workers kindly,” he stated with a resentment in his voice.
“I’m sorry to hear that but what has that got to do with me?” I questioned.
Looking up at me he began to stand and said, “I am freeing your family from that cursed place!”
Persefoni was running up to me with Lydia when I realized what the stranger was hiding in his pocket. It was an old six shooter with two bullets. He began to raise it in her direction when I leapt at him and I felt it; the bullet pierced my chest. As I fell to my knees, I grabbed the gun and shot him.
Looking at Persefoni, I said with my final breath, “I’m sorry Persefoni I failed you and Lydia...”
She was at my side now, sobbing and yelling words I could not make out. I prayed that if God existed to take away her sorrows after I’m gone and everything went quiet, filled with darkness, my pains went away. I was suddenly in a pasture when an oddly homey voice that said to me, “You are home, my son.”