Highlights from The Last Chapter

Carol looks at her phone and laughs. She turns to me and relays the latest dirt on her old job as told to her by her old group of girls. I laugh too and and ask, “Aren’t you glad you’re out of there?” She agrees and we move on to the next thing.

It’s bittersweet for the both of us. Carol really enjoyed her job. It was the right fit for her. She would’ve preferred to keep that job if she could but it was never meant to be. To stay there would mean to continue breathing in poison. While Carol is sad to have to lose that job, she is also adamantly against even being in that industry at all. I’ve suggested that she contact the other owner of several restaurants like she mentioned before but she is not at all interested. That may change.

For me, I’m thrilled that she’s out of there. It couldn’t have come soon enough. I’ve been her support the whole way through the last half of the year as she found her voice and strength to put her foot down and make the big decision to leave. But letting herself become so compromised in the first place really limited her options. She could’ve made the right choices to begin with and had leverage. Instead, she became everything she loathed about other people.

Bittersweet, like my marriage. I’m with a woman who is thrilled to be with me. We talk, we laugh, we share, we support, we love, we give ourselves to each other fully. The cost was a pain worse than the loss of a loved one. A betrayal so deep, the wound may never heal.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

I got the woman of my dreams… but the cost may have been too great.

Whether it was or not remains to be seen.

Those last few weeks at Carol’s job were not without drama. The original plan was for Carol to wait until Phil and Janice got back from vacation to put in her notice but when Janice sent out an announcement that Rick was to be included in all future management communications, Carol could wait no longer. She gave them her notice but, being the nice person she is, she gave them close to four weeks notice to ensure they had the full two weeks to fill her position after they got back from vacation.

Sure, it probably would have been better to just hand in her resignation with the standard two weeks notice when they got back from vacation, having her finish on the same day anyway, but emotions were high and she wanted to make it official as soon as possible.

To say Phil and Janice reacted poorly is an understatement. They told Carol that she was ungrateful and took advantage of them. Then they went so far to say if she was leaving because she had an affair with Rick, she should be mature enough to leave her personal issues at home. Gone was the feeling that Rick’s parents were on her side or even cared about her as a person.

Carol asked them to not disclose her resignation to Rick until after they came back from vacation because she was afraid of how he would react, stating that he makes her feel unsafe. She had an emotional breakdown in front of Phil over Rick’s return to work a few months prior. Phil did not tell Janice about that or any of the other constant issues that Carol and other managers have had with Rick, and that is likely the reason only Phil came back to apologize to Carol for his words while Janice has only spoken to Carol when the business required her to do so.

So Phil and Janice went on their vacation and by the looks of things, they honoured Carol’s request to not tell Rick about the resignation. She had to unblock Rick’s number from her work phone to communicate with him while the other two were away. All his communications were work related with a few half-hearted attempts at small talk included.

Carol spent that week ordering around Rick and Jennifer. While she enjoyed that her only interactions were telling them what to do, she was constantly on edge, waiting for something to happen. Rick saw her in person once and began to question her about why no one respects him at work. She replied that he never does what he says he’s going to do and when he pressed for specifics about his parents, she told him she was no longer going to be involved in his issues. During that week Carol secured her new job.

When Phil and Janice came back from vacation, Phil contacted Carol on her day off to meet to talk about her job. Carol declined, stating she was firm in her decision. Very early the next morning, Carol was awoken by a phone call, requesting that someone help with the food delivery at one of the stores, a job that Rick was supposed to do. Carol, no longer willing to go above and beyond for the family, recommended that the person call Jennifer as she should be laying right next to Rick, who was notorious for ignoring calls in the morning. Jennifer was unable to get Rick out of bed, so in a panic, she called Phil.

When Carol arrived to work in the morning, Phil was there, still working on the food delivery. He looked to be in very poor condition. Carol asked him to sit down while she finished the task, but he refused. After doing the work, he sat down and requested that Carol stay for four more weeks to train Jennifer for her job. She declined, notifying Phil that she now had a new job to start immediately following the end of this job. She thought it was laughable that they thought Jennifer could be her replacement and four weeks wouldn’t have been much more help anyway.

Phil said it was unfair that she handed in her resignation just before they went on vacation and they needed more time but they still had the full two weeks from her to work with. During this conversation Carol mentioned that his son can finally learn to step up and do his job but Phil yelled, “I don’t want him here!” in response to that and complained that he needed more time to push him out of the company.

“It’s kind of my fault they were put in this position. I made up my own job and I decided I’d run everything. Now they don’t know how to run their own company because I was doing it,” Carol told me.

“But they are the business owners. It’s their responsibility to oversee everything and know how their business runs. Any business owner who is not incompetent would not see their business go under because of anyone leaving the company, even someone like you. If they decided that, because they had you to take advantage of, they could lay back and not run their business at all, that’s on them. They’re the owners, running the business they own is their responsibility,” I replied.

Phil continued to insist he was fine as he grew paler and clutched at his chest. An ambulance was called and he was hospitalized. It was there that he discovered he needed emergency heart surgery and he would have to be away from the business for at least a few months.

Carol told me she wouldn’t have left if this happened before she handed in her resignation. I can’t imagine her working at that job a few months more out of a sense of obligation.

Now Carol’s resignation had been officially announced. Phil was out of commission and Jennifer was there to be trained by Carol to take over. Rick first texted Carol saying “that’s sad” and “I guess I’ll never see you again”. She did not respond. Next, Rick entered the store and Carol asked why he wasn’t there to handle the delivery. He ignored the question and asked Carol about leaving. She responded that she cannot work with him. He asked if she found a new job and when she said “yes”, he promptly left the store in tears.

Carol saw the tears as a pathetic attempt at gaining her sympathy. Now that she knew the truth, she could see that all of his actions were about control and manipulation. I warned her that he would try to get any kind of attention from her, good or bad, in the coming weeks.

As Jennifer followed Carol around work, she became horrified at how many huge decisions Carol had to make on a regular basis. Carol saw this and was sure that Jennifer was in way over her head. She still believed that Jennifer was a fool and being with Rick made her a stupid person, though that’s really not saying much for Carol.

Later, they questioned Rick about not doing the food delivery to which he flat out denied ever hearing anything about it. When they brought up the conversations and phone calls, catching him in the lie, he simply blamed it on having a bad memory. Carol could see Jennifer did not believe this.

One day, Carol’s car wouldn’t start and instead of doing everything she could to get to work, she simply called in and stayed at home. Anyone who knows Carol knows that this is shockingly out of character for her, but for her, it was the final countdown, she had almost completely checked out at her job, and any excuse she had to be away and shave off one more day, she took.

Carol’s car still wasn’t working the next day so she dropped me off at work and used my car. At the end of the day, she came and picked me up and as I drove us home, she read off the two texts she had received from Jennifer and Rick. She received both of them at around the same time and both had the same general message. They thanked her for all the work she had done and they were sorry they took advantage of her. They wanted her to know that she was giving up a great opportunity but she still had a chance to come back if she talked to Janice right away. They said they always imagined the three of them running the business together when the other two retired. Rick said he’d support whatever decision she made, as her friend. I snorted in laughter at that part. Carol decided to not respond to the texts.

The next day, Jennifer asked Carol about it. She thought she looked sad and regretful while talking to her work friends. Carol said that of course, she’ll miss her friends but she was absolutely certain about leaving. That put an end to the pleas to stay.

In Carol’s final week, she began to see Jennifer differently. She saw that she was a capable worker who could do the job with the right support but with a husband like Rick, she was doomed. Carol really began to understand Jennifer better and see her as a deeper person than what she’d seen (or heard from Rick) over the years. So when Rick called about a work issue and began yelling at Jennifer over the phone, Carol told her that she is doing all the work and doing it well, so her husband has no right to yell at her like that.

After her second day of her last week at work, Carol looked upset. She hadn’t been sleeping well as it was but on this evening she looked more bothered than usual. When we had a free moment, she showed me her phone. There were two lengthy texts from Rick that were nearly unintelligible rants.

Here is my best attempt at translating brain-dead-jackass into English:

“(Unintelligible) mental health! How can you sit there like it’s no big deal? How can you just walk out of my life? (Unintelligible) pretend we’re friends.

You ask how my dad is doing like you care, but you don’t! You take $xxx from us and leave! (Unintelligible) I’m so pissed off right now.”

“Has he always written so poorly?” I asked.

“Yes,” Carol replied. Then she began to cry, “I just want this to be over and him to be out of my life.”

This guy can’t even string a sentence together or spell basic words, how the fuck do you end up having an affair with such an unintelligent, unlikeable, nasty person? I became angry.

“Carol, what the hell did you expect would happen? Of course he’s going to act like this and be mad at you and blame you, he’s an asshole! You knew this. It was fucking obvious from the moment you met him. Why the hell did you decide to get mixed up with this jackass?”

I wasn’t expecting an answer. She still didn’t really know the answer. She reached for me. I held her in my arms.

“It’s alright, honey. You’re almost there. It’s almost over.”

She did not respond to the texts. She told Jennifer to, “tell your husband, I’m not answering his texts!”

The next day, the weather was bad and Carol decided not to go into work again. Although she had stayed home one day the previous week, it was no less shocking that she had done it again. I decided to stay home too. School was cancelled as well, so the whole family spent the day together.

On Carol’s second last day, Rick entered the store and, unaware of Carol’s presence, had his ‘cheery, good guy’ persona dialled up to 11. He strutted in and gave a big, happy ‘hello!’ to all of his employees. Carol turned the corner and offered an equally phoney ‘hello!’ right back at him, causing him to lose his mask and scurry away. Carol found this moment to be quite funny and empowering.

Later, when Rick was back in the store, Carol spoke to another employee quite loudly, “Is he just going to ignore me for the last two days? Because I’m totally okay with that!”

Carol was mostly just serving customers and avoiding managerial work on her last days. If someone came to her with a problem, she told them to go to Jennifer. On the last day however, there was one more managerial task that Carol performed and it was a poetic one: she fired a worker for sexual harassment.

Then, in the afternoon, she said her goodbyes to everyone. Janice did not show up to see her off. Unfortunately, Rick did.

It’s been over a week since that job ended and we’re both adjusting to her new job and our new schedule. It’s not easy to start back at the bottom rung again but Carol is getting used to learning a whole new system one day at a time.

With her new schedule, we see a whole lot more of each other. Hopefully that’s a good thing. As long as we spend some of that time doing our own thing. We shouldn’t have to be right next to each other every moment.

“Whole life have a balance.” – Mr. Miyagi

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