*Features adult language and themes.*
“Simone, it’s great to see you.” Her bosses grasped her hand and shook it lightly. “I hope you enjoyed your time off.”
Simone sighed. “Not particularly. You know me, my mind is always on the job.”
“Yes, quite.” He clapped his hands together making the other two men jump in their seats. “Well, like I said, it’s good to see you. Please take a seat.”
Simone sat. She was alone again on one side of the massive boardroom table facing her three bosses. Exactly where they had all sat the day she had been suspended.
“Well, first of all I want to say thank you for bearing with us for the last few weeks while we’ve looked into your activities concerning the Wilkinson claim. Under no circumstances were we trying to accuse you of wrong-doing. That was why you were given time off fully paid. I just want to make that clear.”
“We’ve had a panel of people look into the claim and… er… well, it turns out that they agree with your assessment.”
“You don’t seem surprised?”
“Why should I? I made my decision based on the same information the panel had available.”
The man sitting on the left ruffled through a file of papers. “That’s not quite correct. It seems we have some documentation that was received during your break that confirmed everything for us. It proves that Mr. Wilkinson’s death was an accident. A locum doctor over prescribed his medication, gave him a stronger dosage.”
Simone nodded. “Yes, I spotted that in my last meeting with Mrs. Wilkinson. She brought in a few of her husbands past prescription slips. I noticed the discrepancy and approved the payment, then sent for final confirmation from the GP’s surgery.”
“Why on earth didn’t you explain this to us at the time?”
“I tried. If you recall you said that ‘the widows word isn’t good enough in this case.’ I felt it was a prudent course of action for you to discover the truth in your own time rather than risk my own credibility.”
“Well… yes, I suppose we might have been a little hasty.”
The man on the right took out a stapled set of forms from another file and slid it to the middle of the table. “As a show of faith in your abilities we’d like to offer you this improved contract and an executive position.” He smiled as he said it.
Simone took the papers and read over the main points. It was an impressive offer.
The price of my soul?
“Gentlemen. If the prescription mixup hadn’t of surfaced, do you think there were grounds to pay out on the Wilkinson case?”
The man on the left leafed through a few more pieces of paper. “The investigation said without the prescription evidence the case was borderline. In all probability we would have cancelled the policy and declined payment. There would have been minimal risk for further legal action due to the family’s lack of resources.”
It was the answer Simone had expected. The Wilkinson family would have been left without a penny and in no position to fight a battle that could be won. “Lucky for them the prescription mixup came to light.”
“I thank you for your offer, gentlemen, but I will have to decline.”
All three of the men on the other side of the table looked confused. “Decline?”
“Yes. The truth is I would have approved the payment without the proof of a medication mixup. I felt the family had valid grounds to make a claim and would have paid out for no better reason than it was the right thing to do.”
“I don’t understand. Are you threatening to quit?”
Simone looked at each of the men in turn. “Actually I was rather hoping that you’d fire me.”
* * *
After struggling with knitting for a few days without much success Simone went back to look at the Kurt Sampson articles to find that the newest one had appeared. She read his thoughts on money and dreams and it struck a chord.
She realised that in all the years she had been working she had never fixed anything in her mind to work towards. Her entire career had been based upon the accumulation of wealth. Her only hobby, until she took up knitting, had been collecting money. Even though the money afforded her an excellent lifestyle and a comfortable place to live it still wasn’t an end. There was nothing to achieve. Money in itself wasn’t a good enough reason to work anymore. Once you have a certain level of wealth anything on top of it is meaningless.
Simone needed a new challenge.
In the three weeks it took for her employers to get back in touch with her, Simone managed to knit 3 scarves, 1 bobble hat and a very dodgy pair of socks. While she sat in her apartment, clicking the needles together and watching as her rows of wool combined and meshed into long patches of material, an idea began to form and grow in her mind. It was as though her brain was knitting it together as she wove the stitches on her needles.
I’ve made work my life but all the while been beholden to someone else. If work is my life I need to take control of it, make it personal. I need to make my work mean something. I want to help people but before I can help anyone else I need to help myself.
The longer the scarves got the more intricate the plan became. She managed to mess up the socks she was knitting in her excitement to put her plan into action but once she’d saved them, to a certain point, she was ready to begin.
She started by compiling her client list, making a profile on each one to outline their needs in the short and long term and assess if they would be likely to jump ship with her. She also looked into becoming an accredited underwriter and also researched her list of contacts for underwriters that might be able to help her in the short term.
By the time she got the phone call from her employers she had a good plan of action to start her own business, all that was left to do was secure the start up capital.
* * *
“Fire you? Why on earth would we do that. You’re one of our best employees.”
“Yes, I am. But it’s time for me to go.”
The three men on the other side of the boardroom table looked perplexed. The one in the middle eventually voiced their confusion. “So you’re quitting?”
Simone leaned back in her chair and swivelled it to the side so she could cross her long slender legs. She exuded an air of relaxed calm. “You can fire me, I can quit…” She held up her hands. “In the end the result is the same. I’ll be leaving. The only unknown is the terms on which I leave.” She looked away from the men to let her words sink in.
One of the men gave a nervous cough. “If you quit you wouldn’t be entitled to a severance package.”
Simone quickly turned in her chair and leaned forward over the table pointing at the man that had spoken. “A severance package. An excellent suggestion.”
The man on the left piped up. “Ms. Saunders your behaviour is a little erratic. I’m not sure if I quite grasp what you’re driving at.”
Simone clapped hard and rubbed he hands together. “OK then gents, to business. I’m leaving your company. A company I’ve worked at for over twenty years. Now, you’re experienced men, you’ve been in this industry for a very long time. We all know that every big company has a few dark, little secrets. With me being part of this company for so long… how do I put this?” Simone struck a mock, thoughtful pose. “You don’t play in the mud for as long as I have without collecting a bit of dirt.”
The man on the right slapped the table with his hand. “What precisely are you accusing us of?”
Simone pulled a confused face. “Why nothing. All I’m proposing is that we part company on excellent terms by making an agreement that protects all of our interests.” Simone got up from the table. “I’ll just step outside, shall I? Give you a little time to discuss my proposal.” She strode confidently from the room shutting the doors behind her and sat on one of the chairs immediately outside.
* * *
According to the settlement they had proposed when they called Simone back into the boardroom, the company had a lot more to hide than she was aware of. They asked her to sign a non-disclosure agreement and wrote a very large cheque.
Simone left the men in the boardroom, they were suspiciously quiet and forced themselves to be pleasant even though it was clear to all involved Simone had just exhorted a large sum of money from them.
No matter how bad my crime is, it’s obvious that their’s is orders of magnitude worse.
She immediately went to her old office and emptied it of all her personal possessions, a poultry amount for the time she had spent there, before leaving the building. She was escorted every step of the way by a member of security. Simone had no doubts that the company would let everyone know that she had been fired for a reason that would never surface.
Her first stop was at the bank to cash the cheque as quickly as possible then she took a drive over to visit her Dad.
As she pulled up to the care home dusk was drawing in. The sky had turned a pleasing purple colour making the clouds a dark blue against it. There were no other visitors and she found her father sitting in his chair with the jigsaw puzzle in front of him. “Hello, Dad.”
“Who are you?”
“Simone? Oh I didn’t recognise you for a moment there. Did you have a good day at school?”
She went over and gave him a hug. “Yes it was an excellent day.”
“Good, what did you learn today?”
“I’ve finally decided what I want to do when I grow up.”
“Oh, and what’s that?”
“I want to help people.”
“That’s a good idea.”
“I think so.”
“I’m having trouble with this puzzle. People keep doing bits while I’m asleep and I keep forgetting where I got to.”
“That’s all right. Looks like it’s nearly done anyway, maybe we can finish it together?” Simone took out the socks she’d knitted. “I’ve made you a present.”
Her Dad looked at the socks, they were a horrible combination of colours and strangely misshapen. “Well, aren’t they nice. I think I’ll put them on now, they look comfy.”
Simone helped him on with them. They were a little too big and the heel didn’t quite fit in the right place but her Dad smiled down at them as though they were the best present he’d ever been given. Simone drew up a chair and started filling in the last pieces of the puzzle. “We always leave the background to last.”
“It’s all sky isn’t it. It’s the hard bit. It’s easier to leave it to last so there’s less pieces to choose from.”
“I don’t know. I like getting the hard bits out of the way first. Means you can enjoy the rest of it.”
Simone’s Dad made a little noise to himself as though he thought it was a good idea that hadn’t occurred to him before. Then he turned to look at his daughter. “When did you get so clever?”
It took them another hour or so but they finally got towards the end of the puzzle. Simone slotted in the last piece from the box, but found that there were two pieces missing. “Oh, did you lose a piece? She said.”
“Two by the looks of things.”
Simone reached into her bag and produced one of the missing pieces. “I took this one so I could put the last bit in.”
Her Dad laughed. “Your mother used to do that, you know.” Simone went over to the bedside table and spotted another piece that he had set aside for himself. “We both used to pinch a few pieces so we could be the one to finish the puzzle off.
Simone passed him the last piece. “Looks like you were up to your old tricks again. Here it is, you’d hidden it over there.” He took the piece from her and inspected it.
“So I did.” Then he smiled and completed the picture.
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