“You ready to go?” Janice popped her head in Christine Howard’s office cubicle.
“Ready as ever.”
“Did you get the reports done for Dan?”
Christine sighed. “Yup, I worked here past midnight last night. I’m sure ready for a drink now.”
Janice shook her head. “He doesn’t cut anyone much slack.”
Dan could be an ogre but as long as he stroked Christine’s ego and told her she did a good job, now and then, Christine was happy. Even if she hadn’t received a promotion or salary increase in years.
Janice, however, resented him. Dan got the department manager position even though she’d been there longer and had been slated for it. She believed they worked for an old-boys network who disapproved of her sexual orientation.
Flurries in the air on this early November night tipped their hats to the upcoming holiday season. However, no hat, scarf or coat could squelch the chill in Christine, despite living in Boston for thirty years.
Laughter and chatter greeted the girls at Scottie’s Pub. It appeared that everyone from the insurance agency accounting department arrived for Dan’s birthday party. Janice headed to the bar to get their first round of drinks and returned with Christine’s Pinot Grigio. She dared not drink a more calorie-laden drink. She had to maintain her figure for her handsome husband, Tom, whom she’d been married for over seven years.
Christine took a deep sip from the soothing elixir and enjoyed a moment’s peace.
“Chris, I – I don’t know how to say this but I think I saw Tom at the bar.”
Christine felt her heart rate accelerate. “Hmm, he works on the north end of town. I wonder …”
Janice put her hand on Christine’s arm. “You may want to brace yourself –.”
“What do you mean?”
“I think he’s had a bit too much to drink.”
Christine downed the rest of her drink and headed to the bar. Janice followed on her heels. Christine would now have to endure the humiliation in front of Janice. Oh, well, she was her best friend.
Sure enough, Christine found her sloshed husband and an equally toasted red head hanging all over him. She, no doubt, could be one of the business associates he’d claimed kept him out late on more occasions than Christine cared to remember.
She’d turned the other cheek to Tom’s wayward behavior for some time. But, now, people at work would know. Maybe she could ask him to leave in order to avoid further embarrassment.
Christine tried as hard as she could to get him to go. Tom blatantly refused. He slurred, “Go back to your own party and leave me to iron out the details on a big deal I have going on.”
The next morning he’d be apologetic, loving and insistent that nothing happened. She’d heard it all before.
Several weeks had passed since Dan’s party. Christine refused to face her marital problems and tried her best to repress her feelings of betrayal. Janice probably suspected that Christine tolerated the unfaithfulness just to keep the marriage. And she’d be right. What could she do? Tom was her rock, her reason for being and the only stability she’d found in her life.
In early December, Janice left the agency for a supervisory job at a firm, only blocks away. True to her word, they’d got together for lunch during the week and drinks on Friday nights.
At least she could rely on someone.
Tom’s took increasing risks with his extra-marital activities. Christine suspected he just wanted her to leave him.
She had nowhere to turn. She had no family and no siblings. Rejection and instability were the common elements of her childhood. She moved from one foster home to another and after she’d finally been adopted, her adoptive parents divorced only a couple years later. The father left town and the mother practically kicked her out after high school. She hadn’t spoken to either of them in years.
Christine hoped she could make things better with her husband during the holidays. She’d gotten off work early on Christmas Eve, shopped for a traditional seven fish dinner and rushed home hoping to enjoy a nice evening with Tom. Naively expecting his welcoming arms, instead she heard guttural sounds of passion emanating from upstairs. Christine followed the sound only to confirm her worst of fears: in their bed, if she could call it that anymore, he gleefully screwed yet another nameless female. Could he have hit her any lower?
Christine left with nothing more than her purse and coat and went to the only place she knew to go.
Janice opened her door and appeared concerned. Christine had to be some sight with her tear and mascara smeared face.
“Let’s get you in from the cold.” Janice led her to the couch near the fireplace roaring with a bristling fire.
“Chris, you’ll see this is the best thing that could have happened. You haven’t been happy, poor dear. You deserve better.”
Janice pulled her into her arms and Christine let it all out. The pain from her unfulfilled marriage, her lonely childhood, and her directionless career.
“My life is over.”
“Oh, stop this feeling sorry for yourself.” Janice gently removed herself from the embrace and offered to make tea.
Christine sipped the Lady Earl that soothed her weary soul. “I have no idea where I’m going to live…”
“Why, you’ll move in with me.” Janice winked. “Plus, I’ve got a great Christmas gift. I’ve been dropping hints about you at Atlas and they’re interested in offering you a senior accountant position at the start of the New Year. There’ll be an opportunity for promotion after twelve months.”
“It’s all too much to absorb.”
“Trust me. Everything is going to work out.”
Christine lie in Janice’s arms and, at last, felt a sense of completeness and peace. So long to the old life and hello to the new.