Don Marshall was a fifty-year-old recently divorced man who carried bitterness around like a shovel and he regularly brandished it to beat others with. He had become an unpleasant man eaten up by anger and acidity until long-suffering associates viewed being in his presence as a duty to be dispensed with as quickly as possible always leaving with a shake of their head and a look of frustration and pity aimed at Wilma. Their show of respect was an effort of courtesy since Don spat it back at them with venom.

Wilma Farris was his assistant having started off as his secretary and had been with the company for twenty years. She’d signed on when the company was in its infancy and knew both the man and the business intimately. They’d shared the ups and downs of the company from the start and she’d played a significant part in the business’s success since Don had been open to suggestions, listened intently and weighed her input thoughtfully and they’d talk for hours about which direction to take the company and why. As a result, she’d become his assistant and they’d hired more office staff. Wilma held a degree in business but because she was a fledgling, hadn’t found a job until she’d signed on with Don as his secretary. Over time, she’d used her ability to assist in expanding his enterprise and he’d always been grateful.

In the beginning, he’d been full of excitement, brilliance, enthusiasm and one of the more forward thinkers in the business, thoughtfully, carefully taking educated risks to improve his company, and he’d been appealing in his dedication to his staff and his business.

He was not the reclusive man he’d recently become, so filled with resentment and spite he was nearly unrecognizable. His attitude and spin into self-depreciation until he was a shell of his former self rankled because he was so much more than this and he was better than this. He’d buried his goodness, his joy for life, deep inside all because, in essence, he couldn’t stop beating himself up for marrying the woman that broke his heart.

He’d loved Samantha with a delightful passion, giving her everything a man could give. Every waking moment not spent at work was spent with her, hiking, jogging, swimming, vacationing in exotic locations and they’d been charmingly happy.

As time passed though, Wilma heard an occasional disagreement over the phone, that with the passage of time became continual arguments resulting in Don spending more time at work, staying later, working feverishly while spending less time at home. Then out of the blue he announced he was divorced and that his ex-wife wasn’t allowed on the property and if she showed up, Wilma was to call the cops.

That was the moment he’d deteriorated into his current state and he’d remained there for the last year and a half. She’d offered gentle nudges and great support during the upheaval that followed his divorce but the time had come for stronger tactics. Time to beard the lion in his den and give him a shake-up. Not only for his own betterment but for the company and the staff who were growing more and more tense, living on the edge of their seat awaiting another blow-out over something inconsequential.

Wilma sent everyone home early suggesting that since it was the beginning of a long weekend, they should get started. They’d obviously agreed wholeheartedly and left with a smile and fond wave. It was then that she grabbed a bottle of scotch from the bottom drawer of her desk along with two glasses (not that she enjoyed scotch) but she knew Don did and walked through his office door, watching his head raised and the look of surprise reflected in his eyes as he spotted what she was carrying and it brought a quick grin. “Surprise! Long weekend!”

He sighed, “Yeah, what of it?”

“Well, I’d say a little celebration is in order. One because it’s a long weekend and because I think we deserve it. We’ve worked out asses off for the past year and I think it’s time.” He sniffed in response and went back to typing.

“Don, I’m serious!” Her tone brooked attention and he gave it.

Settling back in his chair, he said, “Ok, what’s up?” before taking a sip of his drink.

Eyeing him closely, Wilma began, “I’ve known you for what, twenty years?”

“Yeah!” Don remarked with a curious light in his eyes as he wondered where this was going.

“I’d say we’ve been through a good many ups and downs, weathered a lot of change together. And I’m assuming we’re by way of colleagues as well as friends.”

“Absolutely, one of my closest in fact,” he agreed with a nod.

“Then I hope you’ll take what I’m about to say as friendly advice and done with concern and love.”

“I know the past year and a half or probably more has been difficult and unsettling. I also know how much you cared for Emily and how deeply the divorce has upset you. No one can tell you how long to grieve, it’s simply different for everyone. Having said that, I think you need to be aware of how your grieving and how it’s affecting both you and those around you.”

“We’ve all been deeply concerned and walking on egg-shells because we didn’t want to add salt to the wound and also give you time and space to deal. However, you seem to have allowed yourself to fall into a state of being that concerns us all, and admittedly is affecting us all. Your not the same positive robust man you were. You’ve become surly and everyone is afraid to confront you because you might snap their head off, or come up with an acidic reply that slices and dices.”

She paused to give him time to assimilate what she had said. “It’s time, frankly, to pull your head out of your butt and get on with life. This isn’t you. You don’t allow anything to stop you from moving forward. When an obstacle stands in your way, you find a positive way to deal with it. This situation is no different, Don. Your life has changed and although not in the direction you would have liked, it’s different now and it’s time you resolved that issue before it destroys you.”

He dropped his head and stared at his feet. After some quiet reflection, he lifted his head, looked her dead in the eye and said, “Yeah, I guess your right. I’ve been a horse’s ass.” Another thoughtful pause followed, “I didn’t realize it had become a way of life.”

“Sorry to say, it has, Don. Your dragging your butt through the day, day in and day out. Your attitude toward everyone around you has become tainted. You look for the negative instead of the positive and that’s not you.”

“I realize you may not want to talk to any of us about what’s going on, but do yourself and us a favour, reach out, talk to someone about this.”

“She decided she didn’t want kids.” He dropped his head as his eyes glazed over with unshed tears. “Said it would ruin her body and she wasn’t the mothering type. We discussed this before we got engaged. It was my understanding that after a couple of years, we’d go ahead and start a family. Then one excuse led to another and finally when I said straight out I wanted a family, she walked. Said not for me or anyone would she consider having a kid.”

Wilma sighed. She knew he’d wanted a family, he’d often talked about leaving his business to a son or daughter if they were interested and that had been part of the joy of making something of the business. An inheritance for them.

“I’m truly sorry, Don. Having said that, with the right woman, you still have plenty of time. Nothing says you can’t adopt either.” Following a quick pause, she added, “Hell, get a dog, they’re damn close to having a kid.” She laughed and that laughter seemed to break the spell and everything poured out. He spoke about their differences, about the gradual separation between them as a result of the lie as he saw it. Although it didn’t seem possible, three hours had elapsed and they’d barely sipped their scotch. He’d opened up his soul akin to how they’d been before Emily. “Hey, why don’t we go have dinner together. It’s been too long,” he said with a smile. “It’ll be like old times, only better.”

They locked up and headed out in separate vehicles arriving at a favourite restaurant during which they discussed family friends the business and at the end, a promise from Don that he’d handle the situation and take a fresh look at himself and what he wanted and where he was headed. Before parting, he opened his arms wide and wrapped them tightly around her, “Thanks, Wilma, I deserved that and more. Thanks for caring.”

She responded with, “That’s what friends are for.” She waved as she drove off and knowing Don, could count on his taking action. That was the Don she’d always known that he was back and taking charge of his life. Time would tell.

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