Brassey Weddings Masthead

Love Your Work: Week Two

Trish Smith

DECEMBER IS HERE, AND WITH IT COMES ALL THE MADNESS OF THE FESTIVE SEASON!

In the midst of all the chaos we hope you will enjoy sneaking away for half an hour or so every Friday as we bring you each new instalment of our Summer Serial – Love Your Work by first-time Canberra author, Trish Smith.

She recommends reading it in a hammock, with a large glass of iced tea nearby and your phone on silent. 

Week One of our Summer Serial introduced our heroine, Abby O’Brien, a recruitment industry executive who is suddenly without a job, but in possession of a rather large pay-out check. But will that money be a bonus, or a burden? That question is answered, and many new ones asked, in the Week Two instalment. Enjoy!

If you missed last week, click here to read Week One.

And if you get to the end and can’t wait to see what happens next, you can download the whole book to your Kindle here.


CHAPTER FOUR

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

Comments:

Mandi on: Good Night and Good Luck

I can’t think of anything more fun that sitting in a cafe in Paris, drinking coffee and playing Angry Birds. Go for it.

Ms. Love on: Good Night and Good Luck

Thanks @Mandi.

Abby posted her fifth blog for the day:

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

ANOTHER DILEMMA

Posted by Ms Love in:

Not Working Girl

– – – – – – – – – – –

 My husband is looking at my big fat cheque as a big fat stimulus package for his business. The whole thing. I feel as though someone just handed me a 1kg block of chocolate but now I have to sit and watch them eat it all by themselves.

• • •

Abby poured herself a large glass of sauvignon blanc and sat outside on the back verandah to wait for Patrick to get home. In the half hour since she had been home the ache in her battered head had subsided a little but she was still being plagued by a very restless stomach.

She felt completely conflicted about what to do with the money. On the one hand, she could see Patrick’s point. Buying the business outright would mean that all the profits would go directly to them, instead of the half-share they were currently receiving, and she too would benefit greatly from this. She and Patrick had talked hypothetically about all the things they would be able to afford to do once the business was all theirs: upgrade their cars, take overseas holidays and build an outdoor kitchen in the backyard, and so on. It was what they both wanted.

But it was also a goal that could be achieved without this unexpected influx of cash. Their five-year plan was to pay off their mortgage and then apply for a business loan to buy out Patrick’s father. They were three-and-a-half years into the plan. Surely it could be fast-tracked and they could apply for the business loan now? Surely she didn’t need to sink her entire payout into the business just to save themselves a few years’ worth of interest payments.

Abby tried to crunch the numbers in her head but she couldn’t focus properly. She took another sip of wine and closed her eyes. She tried to breathe normally. A minute or so later she was jolted awake by the sound of her mobile, ringing from inside her handbag which was hanging by the front door. She ignored it, but when it stopped ringing, the home phone started ringing. She reluctantly got up out of her chair.

“Hello?”

“Abby! I’ve been in a bloody meeting all afternoon. What’s been happening at work?” It was Emma. Abby gave her a brief run-down of her final couple of hours at Avenue Consulting and her half-hearted plans to run away to Paris for a mini-break.

“I can’t believe they tried to negotiate with you like that. What a bunch of amateurs. I’m so proud of you for sticking to your guns. And you got a payout! Already! That’s fantastic.”

“Yes, but I think Patrick wants to use the money to buy out his dad.”

“What, all of it? How much is there?” Only Emma could be so bold as to ask that question. Abby didn’t mind telling her—the two of them had never kept a secret from one another in their entire lives.

“Just shy of a hundred thousand dollars.”

Oh—my—God! Are you kidding me?”

“I earned every cent of that money.”

“No, I’m sure you did. I just didn’t realise it was going to be such a lot of money. And Patrick wants to spend it on the business?”

“Well, looks like Allen’s thinking about selling, finally. So yeah, that’s always been Patrick’s dream.”

“You sound super keen on the idea” said Emma, sarcastically.

“I’m just feeling a bit stunned, really, like I have whiplash or something. Suddenly I have all this money, and in the next instant it’s all gone. And I can totally see how buying the business is the smart decision to make, I really can. This is what we have been working towards. It makes sense. Our accountant is going to be thrilled, so—” Abby let her voice trail off and she took another sip of her wine.

“But you’re not thrilled.”

“No. I suppose not. It’s just that the business has always been Patrick’s thing, you know? He runs it, he makes the financial decisions, he’s the one who decides how much of the annual profit gets ploughed back into it. He has never needed to draw on our mortgage to keep the business afloat. He’s done a really great job of building it up slowly. It’s a very self-sufficient enterprise. But it’s his—it’s his business. And this is my payout. I just don’t know if I want to sink it all into his business.”

“But if you do commit all this money, then you can truly say that the business is partly yours. So, there’s a benefit.”

“Well this is where it gets tricky. The business is partly mine anyway, by virtue of the fact that we’re married and we share everything.”

“But you don’t want to share your money.”

“God, when you say it like that it makes me sound so selfish.”

“I’m just calling it like I see it, Abby.”

“You think I’m being selfish?”

“I think you’re maybe being a bit short-sighted.”

“Really?”

“If you buy the business outright, then all the profits are yours, right? So you’ll immediately start making more money, right? And you’ll have this fantastic asset that is in both of your names but that you will feel more connected to.”

“Yes, that’s all true.”

“You’re just pissed off because you started imagining yourself in Paris.”

Abby laughed. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“So what happens now?”

“I’m just waiting for Patrick to get home. He should be here any minute.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. Maybe see if we can work out a compromise. Maybe we can buy the garage and then fly to Paris to celebrate. Who knows? But for now I’m going to go back inside and top up my glass of wine and see if I can find some roasted cashews in the pantry.”

“That a-girl” said Emma, laughing. “I’ll talk to you soon, OK?”

“OK. Thanks, Em.”

Abby went back inside. She checked her mobile and there was a message from Patrick. He would be home later than expected, so not for another half hour or so. She checked on the quiche defrosting on the counter and went into the living room to see if there was anything interesting on the television.

Abby was dozing on the sofa when Patrick got home. He woke her gently and presented an enormous bunch of flowers.

“Hi darling—for you. I’m sorry I’m such a pain in the neck.” He put the flowers down on the coffee table and leaned in to give her a hug.

“Thanks, they’re beautiful.” Abby stood up and took the bunch into the kitchen, and Patrick followed. “What time is it?” asked Abby. Patrick reached down a vase from one of the kitchen cabinets and started filling it with water.

“Just before eight. I stayed back at the office to go over the numbers with Lauren.” Lauren was Patrick’s business accountant and in recent years had become their personal financial advisor as well. “She reckons that if we take the hundred grand and borrow the rest from the bank, we can have the loan paid off within about two years. Here, let me show you.” Patrick put the vase down and grabbed his notebook computer out of his backpack.

“Patrick, let’s not do this now, OK? I’ve got a splitting headache, my stomach hurts, I’ve had a long day, and I just want to have some dinner and go to bed. Truly, I’m exhausted.” Abby put the flowers straight into the vase, not bothering to remove the cellophane wrapping. The quiche looked thawed out and ready to heat and her stomach grumbled again, but not out of hunger.

“This will just take a second, Abby. And it’s important! This is a huge day for us. We never dreamed that we would be in a position to own the garage—I mean completely own it, so soon anyway. Let me just show you how it’s going to work.”

Abby reluctantly followed him into the dining room and sat next to him so she could see the screen. At the top of the first page was a figure of $140,000, then under that was the full amount of Abby’s payout rounded up to $100,000, then the balance of $40,000.

Patrick talked her through a spreadsheet showing loan repayments over the next twenty-four months. It was very simple. If she handed over her entire payout, they would own the business outright within two years. In theory, she should have been really excited. In reality, she felt like she was going to throw up. She leaned forward and rested her head on her knees.

“Abby, are you OK?”

Abby leapt out of her seat and ran into the toilet. Falling to her knees, she clutched the sides of the bowl, anticipating the inevitable whole-body spasms. She didn’t have to wait long. Patrick caught up with her just as she was sick into the toilet.

“Oh, jeez, Abby! Oh sweetheart, are you OK?” He turned his back and took a few steps away. “I’m sorry, you know I’m no good around vomit. I’ll go and get you a drink of water. I’ll be right back.” He put his hand over his mouth and tried not to throw up himself. Meanwhile, Abby had slumped against the side of the bathtub and was trying to catch her breath.

Her head was spinning as she tried to make sense of this whole, weird day. Maybe Emma was right—maybe she should just invest in the garage and reap the benefits of her windfall that way. Or maybe she should hang onto the money for a while and let it earn some interest. And what about Paris? Half an hour later, Abby was sitting up in bed with a glass of water, some rice crackers and her laptop open to her blog.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

Comments:

Sophie on: Another Dilemma

I don’t think anybody should be denying you access to chocolate after the day you’ve had.

Claire on: Another Dilemma

Just curious – Is anyone planning to ask you what you would like to do with the money?

CHAPTER FIVE

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

Posted by Ms Love in:

Tales from the Hot Seat

– – – – – – – – – – –

 Some time ago I interviewed a candidate for a really interesting job. It was a permanent part-time, job-share kind of arrangement, but also a higher level business development role. It would have been perfect for someone who wanted to return to the workforce part time after having kids, or who was sliding towards retirement but wanted to do it incrementally.

Lots of job-share roles are for lower level administrative staff. It’s not often that a nice, juicy job comes up that can be done for a few days a week and so these jobs are usually fairly hotly contested. You can be pretty well guaranteed, therefore, that you won’t get the job if your answer to the first question—Why do you want to work here?—is this:

“Well, I have my own pyramid scheme thing happening and I’m finding that it just isn’t earning me the big bucks I thought I’d be getting. But this job is perfect because the money is great, I can fit it in around the pyramid scheme, I can negotiate with the other job-sharer about duties so that the workload isn’t going to stifle my pyramid scheme, and basically, yeah, this job is perfect for me right now.”

Notice how this guy didn’t say ONE THING about why he was the best person for the job? All he talked about was why this job was perfect for him—and it wasn’t anything to do with being a good match with his skills and experience. The arrogance of this applicant was breathtaking. He thought we’d give him the job because it suited him. Never mind the three other applicants who outlined their skills and experience in relation to the position.

Never waste your time at an interview if you can’t think of one good reason why the company might hire you. I’ll have to bear this in mind when I find myself looking for a new job when all this drama blows over.

• • •

Patrick stayed out in the living room on the pretense of letting Abby get some rest, but she could hear him on the telephone to his parents. First he spoke to his father. Abby could hear the entire conversation clearly—Patrick was talking about all the plans he had for growing the business even further. The sudden and unexpected windfall would allow him to expand the workshop space, he was saying, to offer a greater range of services, and to employ more mechanics.

Abby found herself getting caught up in his excitement and optimism, but only for a few minutes. Thinking of the money, and Paris, made her stomach start growling again. She wanted Patrick to have the money, but she didn’t want him to have the money. For the first time since they had been married she was regretting their joint bank account, and this made her feel quite unsettled.

She listened as he repeated the whole story to his mother. Then she stuck her earphones in and drowned out the talking with some soothing music. She re-read the comments on her blog and thought about what she would say, if someone did ask her what she might like to do with the money.

Abby had always been envious that Patrick was self-employed. He never came home from work complaining about his boss because he was the boss. She had often wondered what it might be like to have her own small business, though she could never decide what kind of business she would run. But she remembered the old saying, ‘find a job that you love and you’ll never work another day in your life’. She needed to figure out what she loved to do, and turn it into her new career.

“Hey, you awake?” Patrick had suddenly appeared beside Abby and she plucked one earphone from her ear. “I was just telling mum and dad about it. They’re really excited. Mum is over the moon because she’ll finally be able to drag dad along on that cruise to Noumea she’s been talking about for the past decade.” Abby closed the lid on her laptop and put it on the bedside table.

“Yeah? That’s great.” She could barely hide her disinterest. Abby’s mother-in-law, Jean, was sixty years old, and aside from a couple of trips back to Ireland for her parents’ funerals she hadn’t travelled since arriving in Australia. Years ago she had seen a colourful poster in a travel agency for South Pacific Cruises.

She convinced the agent to let her have it, brought it home and stuck it to the inside of her pantry door—just like Shirley Valentine. Every winter, especially on the harshest of cold Canberra days, Jean would gaze longingly at the cruise ship and the palm trees, and sigh loudly to catch Allen’s attention. The running joke was that he would take her when he retired, but that she’d die of old age before that happened.

Patrick sat on the edge of the bed, a huge grin on his face. “I’m so excited, Abby, this is just the best thing that could have happened.”

“Oh, well, thanks honey” said Abby, sarcastically. They still hadn’t had a proper conversation to talk about the events of the day so he had no idea about how incredibly stressful it all had been for her.

“No! I mean, obviously, it’s terrible that you lost your job. But the money has come along at just the right time. It’s perfect.”

Abby slowly wrapped the cord from the earphones around her iPhone. She wished she could be as excited as Patrick but she just wasn’t.

“Abby? Are you alright?”

“Yeah. No. No, not really.” Here we go, she thought. The nausea had passed but her stomach still felt knotted.

“What’s wrong? Are you going to be sick again?”

“No, no, I’m alright. I’ve just been thinking, you know, about all the money.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I’ve been thinking that I’m not sure I want to invest it in the business.” Patrick opened his mouth and drew breath but Abby reached out and put her hand. “Just hear me out, OK? Please, just listen.”

Patrick kicked off his shoes and lay on his side across the end of the bed, propped up on a couple of pillows and facing her.

“The thing is—and this is going to sound really awful because I’ve already discussed it with Emma and she told me I sound really awful—but I can’t help feeling like this money—well—it’s mine because it comes from my job, and I just don’t think I want to use it as some kind of stimulus package for the garage.” Abby paused so Patrick could speak, but he just nodded to indicate she should continue.

“We’ve never had to use any of my salary to finance the garage. It’s never run at a loss, so it’s never been a problem. We had a plan to buy it out sometime in the next few years, after we had paid off the house. And we were both really happy with that plan. Even Lauren liked it! So even though I understand the benefits of buying your dad out, I’m just wondering—you know, just putting it out there—if maybe there is something else we can use this money for? I can’t imagine we’ll ever get another opportunity like this, Patrick, so I don’t think we should rush into making a decision about it. I’d like to just sit on it for a while.”

Patrick sat quietly for a full minute. Abby was also silent, though her heart was beating loudly.

“I’m not really sure what to say to that. I’m actually completely stunned. You’re talking about the garage like it’s not both of ours, but that’s always how I’ve thought of it. Yeah, I’m the one that works there and who runs it and everything, but we both own it. Your name is on all the paperwork. It’s as much yours as it is mine. And yes, we’ve been really lucky that it has always turned a profit. We’ve been incredibly fortunate. The idea, I thought, was that we’d always have the garage, this great asset, and it would allow us to do things like buy a house, go on holidays, whatever. It’s a good investment, darling. And the sooner we don’t have any debt against it, the better off we will be.”

Abby was playing with the stitching on the sheets, unable to look Patrick in the eye. She felt incredibly ashamed of herself. Everything that he had said was true. But something was nagging at her, and she couldn’t articulate it in a way that sounded as reasonable as he just had. She felt like a junior lawyer up against a seasoned barrister.

“I warned you that it was going to sound awful” she said, finally.

“Well, it’s awful on so many levels, Abby. It’s awful that you don’t feel like the business is yours. It’s awful that you can’t see how the business has enabled us to live so comfortably. It’s awful—”

“Hang on a second, Patrick. I’ve worked bloody hard to get to where I am. I’ve been making six figures for the past five years, so don’t tell me that the business is what allows us to live so comfortably!” Patrick had struck a nerve that gave Abby a moment of clarity. “I think you forget that sometimes. You come home covered in grease and it looks like you’ve been working hard all day, and what, I come home in my suit and heels and you think I’ve just been sitting at a desk, filing my nails between the occasional phone call?”

“That’s not what I was saying—”

“All you have done today, since the moment I told you I lost my job, is worry about the impact of this on the business. Your first thought was that if I didn’t have a job, we wouldn’t be able to buy out your dad. Then as soon as you heard about the money, you started thinking about how that might benefit the business. You still haven’t really asked me what happened at work and, incredibly, you haven’t even asked me what I want to do with the money. You just leapt straight to the scenario where I hand it over to you and you fulfil your life-long dream and your mother gets to go on her bloody cruise. You know what? Maybe I’d like to go on a cruise—did you think of that? Don’t you think I’ve earned a holiday?”

Patrick breathed out heavily and looked Abby straight in the eye. “Well, alright then” he challenged, “What do you want to do with the money?” Abby expected him to be annoyed, but she did not expect such sarcasm in his tone.

“I don’t know! I’ve only had it since about six o’clock and all I’ve been thinking about is how I can convince you NOT to put it all into the garage! I want to just sit on it for a few days, Patrick. Let’s not do anything hasty, alright? I need some time to think.”

“How much time?”

“I don’t know. How long’s a piece of string?”

“Were you kidding about going on a cruise?”

“Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know.” Abby had no interest whatsoever in going on a cruise. The thought of spending two weeks at sea with a boat load of newlyweds and pensioners hardly filled her with excitement. But she didn’t want to abandon the idea of some kind of holiday.

“OK, look, Abby, we’re both tired, we’ve both had a pretty emotionally up-and-down kind of a day. Let’s leave it for now. Maybe you can have a chat with Lauren tomorrow. She might be able to help you come up with some ideas for what we—sorry, you—could do with the money. I still want you to consider the option of putting it into the garage, but fine, let’s sleep on it.”

“Thank you. I’ll deposit the cheque in the morning. Let’s sit on it for the rest of the week and we can talk about it over the weekend.”

“OK.” Patrick climbed off the end of the bed. “I’ve got some stuff I want to read in the office. I’ll come to bed later.” He paused. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Thank you, no, I think I’m just going to check my email and then go to sleep.” He left and Abby reached across for her laptop. She opened the lid and waited for it to wake from sleep mode.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

WHAT NEXT?

Posted by Ms Love in:

Not Working Girl

– – – – – – – – – – –

What a day. I’m completely exhausted. Patrick and I had a lively debate about how best to spend my pay-out, but we couldn’t agree so we’re just going to stick it in the bank and watch it earn some interest. The block of chocolate is safe.

I think there’s an opportunity for me here to do something extraordinary. I’ve never much been into intensive navel-gazing and self-reflection, but maybe I should think really carefully about what it is I want to do with my life. Maybe I’ll sign up for a meditation class to clear my head. It’s not like I’ve got anything better to do right now, given that I don’t have to go to work tomorrow. Good night!

• • •

CHAPTER SIX

Abby woke to find a note from Patrick on her pillow, letting her know that he had gone into work early. She lay in bed for half an hour trying to go back to sleep, but her head was spinning with thoughts about what she might do with her life. She reached for her mobile on the bedside table and sent Emma a message to see if she was free to meet for lunch. She resisted the urge to check her blog for new messages.

Instead, she decided to go down to the lake for a run while it was still cool outside. On weekdays she would normally jump on the treadmill in the spare room and cue up an episode of ‘Nurse Jackie’ or ‘House’, but with plenty of time on her hands now she decided to head outdoors. As she was lacing up her shoes her mobile beeped with a new message from Patrick’s mum.

Just wanted to say how excited I am about your plans for the garage! Will have to have you both around for lunch on Sunday to celebrate! – Jean xx

Oh, great, thought Abby. She knew that Jean would have been up all night, searching online for holidays and advice on what to pack for three-week island cruises. And Jean would have called everyone she knew to spread the good news, that Allen was finally going to retire and their garage-free life was about to begin. The thought of being the one to break the bad news to Jean filled Abby with dread.

She reasoned that Patrick would have to be the one to tell her. He was the one who got his mother’s hopes up in the first place, and he was the only one who could deliver the news without being ex-communicated from the family. Abby turned her mobile to silent and tucked it into a bag around her waist with her credit card, some cash and her keys.

The footpath that looped around Lake Burley Griffin, in the centre of Canberra, was a popular running track for office workers and walking circuit for groups of mothers with prams. Abby had never done the lap at this time of day—if she did the lake, it was always around sunrise—and she was surprised at all the traffic.

She lost count of the number of babies and toddlers she saw, and she wondered, very fleetingly, if the universe was trying to tell her something. The thought passed in and out of her head with satisfying ease. She did not want to be a mother—she was quite certain about that.

She changed her course to veer away from pram-central and she headed along the eastern side of the lake. Running had always been about having an hour of thinking about nothing except her breathing and her rhythm. The further she got from Kings Avenue the better she felt.

Exhausted from her first big run in months, Abby arrived early at The Pantry cafe at the southern end of the city and sat at a table outside. While she waiting for Emma, Abby checked her blog from her mobile.

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

Comments:

Sophie on: What Next?

Please don’t do what that writer from New York did and knick off to Italy, India and Indonesia for a year. If you become a self-indulgent whiner I swear I’m going to have to hit the UNSUBSCRIBE button.
Thank you.

Tracey on: What Next?

Yes! Go to Italy! Then blog about it! (For what it’s worth, I didn’t think that she was a self-indulgent whiner. I really liked that book.)

Mandi on: What Next?

I still think Angry Birds in Paris is your best bet.

KateM on: What Next?

I’m glad you aren’t going to rush into any decisions. Take your time. Get some good advice. Have a mani/pedi.

Claire on: What Next?

I don’t think it matters so much where you go. I just want to see you do something a little bit extraordinary. Something rash and irresponsible, perhaps. Go on, I dare you. I double-dare you.

Emma arrived just as Abby was thinking about her next blog post.

“Hey! There’s the cashed-up unemployed girl!” Emma threw her bag onto the table and embraced her friend before taking a step back to admire Abby’s running outfit. “Wow, I haven’t seen you in lycra for a while. It’s good to see you fully embracing the lifestyle. You’re a bit sweaty.”

“I went for a run” said Abby, looking down at her tight running shorts and t-shirt. “And I’m completely out of shape. I was so relieved to get here and sit down.”

“And while you’re sitting down, and your money is earning all that interest, you’re going to buy me lunch. I think it’s only fair, don’t you?”

Abby had to laugh. “Well, when you put it like that, how could I possibly refuse?”

“So, you’re not spending it on the garage?”

“We haven’t decided.”

“What does that mean?”

“We haven’t decided.” The waiter arrived at that moment with menus and a jug of water.

“But I haven’t given you the menus yet” said the waiter, confused.

“That’s OK, we don’t need menus” said Emma. “Can you please bring us a couple of glasses of champagne, and some bread, and then two of the smoked chicken salads? Thanks.” He left and she turned back to Abby. “I’m famished. Now, tell me, what’s this intensive navel-gazing you’re going to indulge in? Are you planning to go to Italy and spend three months eating pizza and not sleeping with cute Italian boys?”

Abby laughed. “You haven’t seen the comments on my blog today, then? That’s what everyone’s saying. That I’m going to go on some kind of Eat Pray Love adventure.”

“Are you?”

“No. But it would be kind of fun, don’t you think?”

“Only the part in Bali where she meets the hot Brazilian guy. Three months of abstinence in Rome sounds like bloody torture, and I have no desire whatsoever to learn how to meditate in Sanskrit.”

“I’m not going overseas. Patrick and I still haven’t decided what to do.”

“Yeah, you said that, but you didn’t tell me what that means exactly.”

“It doesn’t mean anything, Emma. We haven’t talked about it.”

“It means you haven’t told him that you’re not giving him the money. That’s what I reckon.”

The thing about being best friends with somebody since kindergarten is that you develop a knack for reading each other’s minds. And every now and then it’s a curse rather than a useful blessing. This was one of those times. Abby didn’t even bother trying not to blush. The game was up.

“I knew it” said Emma. “You’re not putting it into the garage. Wow. Gutsy move, hon.”

“Gutsy? I don’t feel gutsy, I feel like a total snake.”

“Well, it’s your money.”

“Hold on, that’s not what you were saying yesterday.”

“I know. I’ve changed my mind.”

“What made you change?” Abby was genuinely curious.

“Well, I started thinking about what you’d do with the money if you’d won it in a lottery. But you didn’t win it, you earned it. Except that you didn’t earn it in the sense that you worked longer hours and got paid more—you earned it for being incredibly loyal to that workplace and by being very good at your job. Now, if Patrick was able to pay himself some kind of bonus for having a particularly good year, or for ten years long service, or something, he would see that money as being a reward, not a salary payment. He’d have earned it, but, well—you get my meaning.”

“Yes, I do.” Abby was thrilled that Emma could see the difference, too.

“So in that way it is a bit like winning the lottery, and you’re the one who bought the ticket so, technically, the money is yours. Yes, of course, you should probably share it with your husband because that’s what you’d do with a lottery win, but that would be your choice to make. He shouldn’t expect that you will spend your entire winnings on his business. I think that would be unreasonable of him to ask.”

“I’m so relieved that you see it like that, Em. I was really gutted yesterday when you told me I was being short-sighted.”

“Look, I’m sorry about that. I thought I was doing you a favour by giving you my opinion, but actually I was just butting in and confusing the issue. You’re a responsible adult. You can solve this one by yourself.”

“Thank you. I mean that.” Abby was relieved to have an ally.

“You’re welcome. So, what happens next?”

“Well, obviously I have to tell Patrick. And then he has to tell his mother.”

“Tell her what?”

“He has already told his parents that we are going to buy the business, so now they think Allen can retire and finally take Jean to Noumea on the Pacific Princess or whatever it is.”

“Oh no, seriously? When did he tell them?”

“Last night, right after he got home from work. Emma, you should have seen him. He’d gone around to talk to Lauren—you know, the accountant? And between them they figured out a budget and a payment plan based on using the entire $100,000. He was so excited. He tried to show it to me but—and this will make you laugh—I got so stressed that I threw up.”

“God, you poor thing.”

“Yeah, so I went to bed, feeling like death warmed up, and meanwhile he called his dad to give him the good news.”

“Oh, Abby. What a nightmare. So they really think they’re about to retire.”

“Yep.”

“And now you have to call them and tell them it’ll be another few years?”

“Patrick has to tell them. This is his mess, not mine. They’ve invited us over for Sunday lunch, to celebrate.”

“Aren’t you busy on Sunday?” suggested Emma, smiling.

“Um, yes?”

“You’re having lunch with me. Because I’m having a crisis with my boyfriend and you need to come over and comfort me.”

“Since when do you have a boyfriend?”

“I’m going to meet him at the wine bar on Saturday night, and by Sunday morning I’ll be broken hearted. You’re going to write a whole blog post about it. It’ll be sordid.”

“Fantastic. I need some new stories to write about.”

“So he really hasn’t discovered your blog yet?”

“No.” Abby had been blogging anonymously for almost eight years, and the only thing that scared her more than the thought of her clients finding her out was the chance that Patrick might. She took extraordinary precautions to leave out any details that might identify the blog as being based in Australia, let alone based in Canberra, so much so that she felt confident to use Patrick’s real first name whenever she blogged about him.

When she bought the laptop she had an elaborate, encrypted security program installed to keep anybody else out. She set her web browser not to store any history, and was very careful not to leave her laptop unlocked when she was at home. She even went so far as to orient the desk in her study so that it faced the door, so nobody could ever sneak up behind her or catch a glimpse of what she was working on. In eight years Patrick had never even come close to finding out about Abby’s secret creative outlet.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, I’m absolutely sure.”

“So he has no idea that you’re considering nicking off to Rome to indulge in a bit of—er—pizza?” said Emma, winking conspiratorially.

“I’m not going to Rome.”

“But you’re going to do something, right?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“So you’re considering it!”

“Well, given Jean’s propensity for emotional outbursts I might need to be out of the country for a while.”

“Yeah, you need to be a long way away when that volcano erupts. I actually feel a bit sorry for Patrick, in anticipation of the bollocking he’s going to cop from her. And from his dad, too, I suppose.”

“It won’t be pretty.”

“Yeah.”

“He’s going to hate me, Emma.”

“No he won’t.”

“Yes he will.”

“Well, maybe for a minute or two, but he’ll know it was his fault for jumping the gun. He can’t stay angry forever.”

“Wanna bet? He’s still angry at his best friend from high school who bowled him out for a duck in front of the state selectors. Remember that?”

“Oh, yeah. Well, this is different. You’re his wife.”

“Yeah.”

Abby’s mobile rang from inside her bag. “Abby O’Brien.”

“Hey, it’s me.”

“Hey, where are you calling from? The number’s blocked.”

“I’m in Lauren’s office. Where are you?”

“I’m at the Pantry with Emma. We’ve just ordered lunch. What’s up?”

“Can you come over here? I want to show you something that Lauren and I have been figuring out.”

“What is it?”

“Just some ideas for the business. I don’t want to talk about it on the phone. It’s complicated. So if you can come here that would be great.”

“I’m not really dressed for a business meeting, Patrick. I’ve been out for a run.”

“Oh, please?” he said, sounding like a five-year-old asking for ice cream. “Lauren doesn’t care how you’re dressed, and it won’t take long.”

“Um, alright, sure. I’m going to have my lunch first, if that’s OK. Then it’ll take me about ten minutes to get across town. I don’t have the car.”

“That’s fine, we’ll see you when you get here.”

“OK, bye.” Abby put the phone back in her bag. “Sorry about that. He’s with our accountant. He says he’s got something to show me.”

“What?”

“He didn’t want to talk about it over the phone. He said it was complicated.”

“Intriguing.”

“So much for sitting on it for a few days.”

“He might be coming up with a compromise, you never know.”

“I guess we’ll soon see. But wouldn’t he tell me, if it was something he thought I’d be happy to hear about? I don’t understand why he wouldn’t just say ‘Hey, Abby, guess what, I’ve figured out a way to buy the business so that you don’t have to give me your money!’

“I don’t know, Abby.”

“I do. This is like that time he discovered that he’d ordered the wrong tiles for the ensuite floor when we were renovating. He called me at work in the middle of the day and asked me to come home, but he wouldn’t tell me why over the phone because he knew I’d freak out. And I got home—do you remember this? And they’d already laid the tiles and they were completely wrong. And yeah, I freaked out.”

“Do you really think it’s going to be bad news?”

“Yep. We’ve been married nearly five years, and I’ve known him for eight. This is not good.”

“It might be alright. Don’t worry.”

“How can I not worry? This is the biggest crisis we’ve faced since we argued over whether to get married in Canberra or County Cork. This is one of those issues that can completely divide a couple. What if we can’t resolve it? What’s that going to mean for our marriage?”

“Oh, Abby, don’t get ahead of yourself. You don’t know what he’s going to tell you. You survived the Great Ensuite Floor Tile Disaster, and your Big Fat Irish Wedding was the best fun I ever had as a bridesmaid. I’m sure everything is going to be fine.”

“I wish I shared your optimism, Emma. I really do.”

“Well, call me afterwards, OK? I’m not going to be able to concentrate until you tell me what’s going on.”

CHAPTER SEVEN

Occasionally during Canberra’s warmer months, a hot sunny day would be followed by an afternoon thunderstorm. Abby arrived at Lauren’s office just as rain clouds opened up and drenched the footpaths and roads. She took the lift up to the twelfth floor and asked the receptionist behind the big marble desk to let Lauren know that she was there. A moment later she was buzzed through and Lauren met her half way down the corridor.

Abby ignored Lauren’s expression as she appraised her gym shorts and running shoes. Lauren, as usual, was immaculately dressed. She was wearing a black sleeveless shift dress, with a pair of very high black patent leather stilettos, and what looked like a Hermès scarf tied perfectly around her slender neck. She extended an elegantly manicured hand to Abby, who took some satisfaction in still being three inches taller than Lauren despite the heels.

“Hello Abby! How fabulous to see you!” said Lauren with uncharacteristic cheerfulness. Lauren was a mature, serious woman and over the years that Abby had known her she had rarely cracked a smile let alone expressed delight at having clients visit her in her office. She was professional, business-like and direct, which was exactly what had attracted Patrick and Abby to her in the first place.

Allen’s previous business accountant had been an old friend of his from trade school in Dublin, and their meetings rarely stayed on topic for longer than about ten minutes before the pair of them were off down to the pub for a long lunch. Lauren was a graduate of the University of Sydney Faculty of Economics and Business, with a Master of professional accounting to her name. She didn’t drink. She didn’t do long lunches. And she didn’t say “fabulous” either.

“Come on through. Patrick’s in my office. Can I have Tiffany get you a coffee?”

“No, thanks, I just had one with lunch.” Abby followed Lauren along the drab, grey corridor to the end where her office took up the south-east corner of the floor. Her windows overlooked Lake Burley Griffin towards the Parliamentary Zone and beyond to the Brindabella mountains, from where the thunderstorm had rolled in. Patrick stood up from behind Lauren’s desk when Abby came in.

“Hey, there you are. How was lunch? How’s Emma?”

Abby looked at Patrick, then at Lauren, then at Patrick again. There was something going on, she was certain of it. Abby felt like she was being buttered up, prepared for bad news. Her suspicion at lunch was absolutely spot-on. This was not going to go well.

“It was good, thanks. Emma’s fine. So what did you want to show me?”

“Take a seat” offered Lauren, spinning one of the fancy designer Italian leather chairs around for her. “You sit next to her, Pat.”

Abby had never heard Lauren call Patrick Pat.

“I’m fine standing, thanks” Abby said as she glanced at the papers and spreadsheets covering Lauren’s desk, recognising them as business reports from their file. “I can see better if I’m standing.” Patrick also remained standing, behind Lauren’s desk. Abby wondered if he was hiding back there.

“Alright then, well, let’s just get straight to it” said Lauren. “We’ve been going over the numbers, and we think we’ve come up with a plan for you both to own the business much sooner, as well as pay off the house.”

“How much sooner?”

“In twelve months, instead of two years!” said Patrick excitedly.

“How can that work?” asked Abby, mystified.

“Well” said Lauren, shuffling some papers on the desk, “I’ve come up with a diversified portfolio with some high-risk instruments like managed funds that are invested exclusively in shares, balanced with some investment in property funds and some in cash, then we—”

“Hold on a second.” While Abby had expected something like this, she still felt outraged at what she was hearing. “You’re still considering investing the money? Can I ask what percentage of the $100,000 you were planning to invest?”

“Well, all of it, obviously” answered Lauren, apparently surprised at having to make that distinction. Abby looked across at Patrick, who seemed uncertain about whether to maintain his excitement or show some solidarity with Abby.

“Darling, just hear her out, OK? It’s a really great idea.”

“No, darling, it isn’t, and I won’t.” She looked directly at Lauren. “I’m sorry, Lauren, if my husband has given you the impression that I was ready to hand over my entire payout for you to invest in diversified high-risk property funds or whatever, but I’m absolutely not.” Lauren and Patrick glanced at each other.

“Abby, please just sit down.” Patrick implored, with no success. Abby stayed where she was.

Lauren stepped around from behind the desk and sat on the edge. “Look, Abby, I realise that this is a huge step for you, and you might be uncomfortable at the prospect of investing such a lot of money in the business, but I am very confident in these figures. I can assure you that this is just the best possible scenario for you both at this time.”

Abby could feel her face getting hot. “I beg your pardon, Lauren, but the best possible scenario is one that doesn’t involve inviting me to your office for a meeting and ambushing me with an investment strategy that takes every single dollar I earned and funnels it straight into a bunch of risky investments that will no doubt generate an enormous commission for you. And it’s not about how much money is being invested. I don’t care if it’s a hundred thousand or a million. What bothers me about this whole thing is that Patrick has come to you and asked you how to invest money that is not his. We decided, just last night, that we would put it in the bank and sit on it until the weekend. The fact that he’s here with you now, discussing stock options and property funds, is exactly the opposite of what we agreed to do last night.” Abby looked at Patrick, but his eyes were focused on the papers in front of him.

“I only have the very best interests of the business in mind” said Lauren. “I am just trying to figure out the best way for you both to move forward.”

“We don’t need an accountant for that, Lauren. We need a marriage guidance counsellor.”

“Abby—” Patrick started to walk out from behind the desk but Abby put her hand up to stop him.

“No, don’t bother. It’s clear that the two of you have been thinking only about the interests of the business, and not about me. At all. I cannot believe you would do this to me, Patrick. I was prepared to talk to you about a compromise next week, but the way I feel right now I think I’ll take my money and see how much fun I can have with it in Paris.” Abby spun around and walked straight out the door.

“Wait, Abby, hang on a minute.” Patrick followed her down the corridor. “Can you just hold on a minute?”

“Yes, I can. I can hold on, until the weekend. But you can’t. I really cannot believe you did this! I’m so angry!” They were standing in front of a conference room and Abby could see through the frosted glass that half a dozen people were sitting around a table. She lowered her voice. “You still think that this is going to end with me handing over the money and you just came to Lauren to see if you could figure out a different way to spend it.”

Patrick leaned against the wall and looked down at his feet. “Well, I think it’s the best thing to do.”

“Of course you do, because it’s the best thing to do for your career. But you didn’t even have the decency to wait four or five days, or to talk to me about what I might be able to do with the money, what it might mean for my career.

“It’s not about my career, it’s about the business. I wanted to invest it in the business, because that would benefit us both.”

Abby scoffed. “You still don’t get it, do you?”

“What?”

“It’s all about what you want, and not at all about what I want. I don’t want to invest it in the business. I was happy with the five-year plan that we already had, and so were you. We don’t need to invest my money in the business—the business can take care of itself. But I would quite like to invest this money in me. So why don’t you take a moment to ask me what I want.”

“I asked you that last night, and you said you didn’t know!”

“Well of course I don’t know what I want! I’ve only had half a day to think about the answer to that question!” Abby took a deep breath. She hated the sound of her own voice when she was upset. “Somebody at work kindly pointed out that I had been staying in a job that I haven’t really liked in years. It’s never occurred to me that I had the option to leave. Instead, I just stayed and put up with it. And now all of a sudden I don’t have a job but I’ve got a hundred thousand dollars in my pocket and the world is my bloody oyster. For the first time in my adult life I feel like I have some options, and I have some choices to make, but you and Lauren are trying to make them for me. Try to imagine how that feels.”

One of the grey-suited junior accountants emerged from the conference room and shuffled down the corridor, avoiding eye contact. Abby waited for Patrick to speak.

“Can you just come back and look at the property prospectus? It’s really good. Come on, Abby, don’t be so unreasonable. If your parents were still alive they’d tell you to take another look.”

Abby felt a surge of blood rush to her head. It took every ounce of self control not to fill the drab grey corridor with loud, colourful language. Instead, she took another deep breath, and walked away. As she reached the door she turned back to him and shook her head.

“You really shouldn’t have said that.” She opened the door and walked out.

CHAPTER EIGHT

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

BRAND NEW DAY

Posted by Ms Love in:

Whining and Navel-Gazing

– – – – – – – – – – –

Those of you who have been reading for a while might know that my parents are no longer living. I don’t share biographical information about myself on this blog but I wanted to mention this because some of you are new around here, and you need to know that they’re dead because it’s kind of important to the rest of this post. (They died together in an accident a few years ago and I’m not going to go into any of the details so please don’t ask.)

The other thing you should know about my parents is that my relationship with them was fairly tempestuous. They were both very successful in their careers, and had me when they were in their early 40s. They had high hopes for their only child. They set up an education fund for me when I was born because they were certain that I’d want to study international law at their alma mater and look for a job with a law firm after graduation.

They never asked me what I wanted to do after I graduated from secondary school. It simply wasn’t something they thought they needed to discuss with me because they were so certain I’d be doing what they’d planned. So when I finally confessed that I’d applied to my home town’s comparatively unremarkable university to do a management degree and not to the fancy university they went to, they were pretty upset. Extremely upset, actually.

So for the last few years of their lives they didn’t hold back in expressing their disappointment at my choice of career, my choice of husband, or my decision to stay here rather than travel and study overseas. They never understood how they had managed to produce a daughter who was absolutely nothing like them.

They loved me, I know they did. But we didn’t like each other very much in those final years. Patrick did his best to bridge that divide, and perhaps for a while there we were starting to make some progress. But then they had the accident and it was all over and I’ll never know the feeling of making my parents proud of me. Everyone knows how important it is to earn their parents’ admiration. So, I don’t suppose I need to expand on that much.

Anyway, the point of all this talk about my past is to help you understand why today I think I might have decided to leave my husband.

To cut a long story short, I received a substantial payout when I lost my job this week, and Patrick immediately started working out how he could use the money to buy out the partner who holds a 50% stake in his business.

Then we decided not to rush into anything, and just stick the money in the bank and talk about it next week. But today he met with our accountant—again—and the two of them tried to talk me into investing all of my money in the business (no, neither of them asked me what I wanted to do with the money).

The kicker came when he said that if my parents were still alive they’d be on his side.

Yeah.

So, I’m blogging to you from a quiet corner table in my favourite cafe and to be honest I have no idea what my next move is. Feel free to make some suggestions. As always—thanks for listening.

• • •

CHAPTER NINE

Abby hit ‘publish’ on her blog and waited for the inevitable call from Emma. She finished her coffee and was about to order another one when the phone rang.

“You’re a slow reader.”

“I read it twice. My God, Abby, I can’t believe it.”

“Which bit?”

“Which bit?! The bit about what Patrick said. The bit about you leaving him.”

“I’m not sure if I’m going to leave him, Emma. I just put that in there to fire up some discussion in the comments. I want to see what everyone else thinks.”

“Who is everyone else?”

“You know, the people who read my blog.”

“Are you sure Patrick doesn’t read your blog? Because if he suddenly starts reading today—”

“Yes, I’m certain. I wouldn’t have written it if I thought there was even a remote chance that he would read it. You’re the only person in the world who knows that’s my blog. And I know you wouldn’t tell a soul. And besides, he doesn’t even know what a blog is. He only uses the internet to search for spare parts for the garage. He’s not going to stumble across my blog by Googling ‘carburettors’.

“But he might Google his own name.”

“Well that wouldn’t do any good anyway, since I don’t use his full name. And even if he did—do you have Google open in front of you now? Type in ‘Patrick O’Brien’ and tell me how many hits you get.” There was a pause of silence.

“Twenty-three million. Wow. OK, point well made.”

“Thank you.”

“I can’t believe he went to see Lauren after you’d agreed to put the money in the bank. What was he thinking? Maybe this is going to be worse than the Great Ensuite Floor Tile Disaster after all.”

“Listen, I’m at The Joint House. I’ve had three coffees today and my head is starting to spin a bit. I don’t want to be at home when Patrick finishes work so I was going to race back there now, grab a few things and, if it’s alright, come over to your place?”

“Of course it is. Your old room is made up. It’s yours for as long as you want it.” Emma had bought her apartment after graduating from university and had rented out the second bedroom to Abby to help with the first couple of years of mortgage repayments. It was a great little apartment in Dickson, only a few kilometres north of the city centre and right above the vibrant restaurant precinct.

“Thanks, Emma. You’re a champion.”

“You’re welcome. Hey, are they still expecting you for lunch on Sunday?”

“Oh God, I’d forgotten about that. I’d forgotten about that whole issue, actually. Jean is going to be shattered.”

“That’s not your fault.”

“No, I know it’s not my fault, but she’s going to blame me.”

“She might not. She’s going to be disappointed, obviously, but she can’t actually blame you for it. Patrick shouldn’t have told her.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s not going to matter to her whether or not Patrick was the one to tell her. She’s going to hear that she won’t get the cruise and she’ll be looking to me for an explanation. You know, this is going to be almost as bad as telling my parents that I stuffed the Harvard application package into the back of my cupboard.”

“Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about the Harvard fight.”

“That was one of the bigger arguments we had.” Abby’s parents had been furious. They had always wanted her to study at Harvard, though it wasn’t just about her education. Her father wanted her to spend some time living and studying in America so she could gain a better understanding of his roots.

Abby’s father, Joe Lucas, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, just near Boston. An American history buff, Joe named his daughter after Abigail Adams, also born in Weymouth and the wife of the second President of the USA, John Adams. Joe studied history and law at Harvard. Abby’s mother Ellen grew up in Sydney and studied law at the University of Sydney. She spent a semester at Harvard on exchange, which is where she and Joe met.

“Don’t worry about it, Abby. Jean and your parents couldn’t be more different. I reckon she’ll be calm and philosophical about it.”

“Ha! Are we talking about the same Jean?”

Before hanging up, Emma and Abby made a time to meet back at Emma’s house later that afternoon. Abby sat in the cafe for a few more minutes, watching the two owners charm and flirt their way around the room. She had been coming to this cafe for years. She wondered where her next workplace might be, and whether or not there would be a decent cup of coffee within walking distance of it.

Then Abby refreshed her blog post:

UNRECRUITED LOVE
A blog about the heart-breaking search for your one true job.

Comments:

KateM on: Brand New Day

Oh no, I can’t believe he said that to you, of all the stupid, thoughtless things to say. I hope you’re OK. ((hugs))

Vanessa on: Brand New Day

I didn’t know that about your parents, but I had often wondered why you never mentioned them. In light of that, and your relationship, I’d say that’s about the most insensitive thing he could have said and I can see why you would want to leave him. Or at least threaten to.

Mandi on: Brand New Day

He went to the accountant AGAIN? Are you kidding me? Jeez, I don’t really know what advice to give you but you could certainly be forgiven for doing something crazy. Or shocking.

Sophie on: Brand New Day

This is so much better than Grey’s Anatomy.

Abby drove home and backed the car into the driveway so the boot was close to the front door. She went inside, grabbed one of the larger suitcases and a cabin bag out from under the bed, and started filling the suitcase. She wasn’t really sure how long she’d be away, but she packed enough for at least a few days, including one of her suits in case she had a job interview.

In the bathroom she filled a cosmetic case with the entire contents of her two drawers of makeup and skin care. She put the case into the cabin bag with her laptop and camera, and checked her handbag for her purse, keys, mobile and sunglasses. Abby paused for a moment. The enormity of what she was about to do had started to sink in. Then she heard a key being turned in the front door lock. Oh no, she thought, Patrick’s home early. She wiped her eyes and quickly pushed the bags under the bed and pulled the quilt over the side to hide them.

“Abby? Abby?” It was the unmistakable sound of Jean’s voice. Jean and Allen had a spare set of keys to the house. “Abby, are you home, love?”

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© 2017 Patricia Smith

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

First edition 2017

Author’s Note

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is unintentional or coincidental.

Much of this story is set in the city of Canberra, which is my beloved home town. There are some long-standing institutions that I have used as ‘props’ in my story, but they are unwitting accomplices and the tales I tell about those institutions and the people who work there are completely made up.

Trish Smith

Trish was born and raised in Canberra, and now lives in the inner north with her husband, two daughters and two cavoodles. She is a part-time public servant and is the founder and creative director of Airpocket, an online travel goods business. In her spare time she enjoys walking, reading and staring dumbstruck at the cheese section of the Ainslie IGA. This is Trish’s first novel. More about the Author

  • Helena Twells

    Patrick’s married to the garage business, Abby should definitely “press the eject button” ?