Time to Repent

by Frankie

    The company has approximately 2500 people and spreads over two more states, Arizona and Florida. One of the benefits of working for the organization was the ability to move, but depending on the position, we wouldn't have a choice. For interns, promotions meant moving whether we wanted to or not. Still, the opportunity seemed too good to pass up, considering I'd enjoyed finance and accounting, and the pay was worth it. So naturally, I concluded I needed to do it for Jaxon and me.     By my second year in the company, I received my first promotion. By the fourth, I had reached my second promotion. In four years, I was equal to some who had been with the company for six years or more. Adding to all the promotion excitement, I met and eventually married my first husband that same year. Horatio and I entered the marriage as single parents but added our own child within ten months; a baby boy named Horatio Jr, weighing 6 lbs. 2oz. I hoped for a girl this time, but a healthy baby was more important.     I never intended to work for the company for more than five years; however, a growing family required me to stay a little longer, mainly since the cost of a graduate degree in psychology needed more time and money. Yet, balancing a career, motherhood, student, and wife was challenging. Horatio's failure to keep his vows increased the pressure, making my role as a wife even more difficult after just two years of marriage.     Rumors surrounding Horatio's infidelity saturated the office halls. Still, it wasn't until I overheard him insulting me to his baby momma that I became enraged. How could he say anything bad about me to someone sleeping with his brothers while trying to sleep with him, too? Making matters worse, a modern-day Olivia came on the scene.     Working for the company through the years brought me many rewarding experiences, but these triumphs also garnered some enemies, one in particular. Norma reminded me a great deal of Olivia, albeit without the reputation and far more intelligent. Despite her intelligence, however, Norma failed to get the promotions she thought she deserved. Hence, the reason she had it out for me. Nonetheless, many others excelled alongside me, so I was confused about why Norma felt threatened by my achievements and not the others. When no logical reason came to mind, I'd assumed she may have liked Horatio, but even that didn't make sense because if she wanted him, she had her chance; Horatio was a man whore.     But then I realized that her jealousy had nothing to do with Horatio; Norma and I both were accounting systems and recording gurus. As a result, my most recent promotion helped earn me the title of a training instructor, irrespective of the fact that it generally takes nine years to attain; I accomplished it in six years, while Norma took eleven. Her title, however, did not come with a promotion. Norma relocated from the Florida office after her affair with a married man went public. Nonetheless, her expertise helped land her a temporary assignment in the Michigan office as an instructor.     As much as we would all like to think adultery is the worst of any sin, a sin is a sin- there's no one sin greater than the other. On the other hand, Norma still deserved a big 'Will Smith' slap for bringing her childlike mindset into a professional setting and expecting to be promoted in the first place. She also needed to realize that her position as an instructor was conditional and that if she hadn't been with the organization for so long, she would never have had the opportunity to teach. Yet, it was evident that none of that mattered to Norma, which also revealed there was more going on inwardly than outwardly, the reason I chose to walk in the opposite direction when I spotted her approaching.     Before too long, Norma began recruiting feeble-minded people to reinforce the lies she continued telling herself. Norma and her minions reminded me of a pack of wolves wrestling over which limb to take; the only difference was that the limbs represented tension generated by their petty complaints, more specifically, their constant complaining about me going to the gym during my lunch break.     When Emma, my direct supervisor, brought this to my attention, I was perplexed why my lunch break mattered when the others took more than an hour. But, on the other hand, I suppose I would find solace if my complacency got challenged. Emma only brought this insignificance to my attention only because she thought if she didn't, it would compromise her lateral promotion to chief of Internal Control; therefore, addressing the complaint while looking unbiased was the goal. Nevertheless, she also knew that the new supervisor would try and influence how I spent my lunch break once she got there.     Even though Evelyn had been with the company for fifteen years, she had not seen a promotion in seven. Let her tell it, however: management passed her over because they were prejudiced, which was untrue. Anytime something went against what Evelyn wanted, she would play the race card but couldn't acknowledge her oppression toward other black people like myself. I suppose my mixed ethnicity may have also influenced her dislike.     Evelyn was a hateful and jealous woman who lacked integrity and the essential characteristics of a leader; this is why her promotions were few and far between. Thus, rather than accepting responsibility for her shortcomings, she adopted the survival strategy of control and manipulation. And although it didn't help her career, it affected those she worried would move ahead of her, which is why Evelyn cared so much about what I did during my lunch break and why she told me I wasn't a team player.     Succeeding Evelyn's on-boarding, she called me into the office and asked, "How come you're the only one who goes straight home after work and doesn't like to bond with the other instructors… you're not a team player?" In my interpretation, I heard: Why don't you hang around like Naomi and her brood, gossiping about everybody? So I'd responded, "I have children at home that need me. And even if I didn't, what about my choices require your approval? There is no requirement to bond with you; I get paid to perform a job that requires professionalism and dedication, and I'm giving you that."     Evelyn's concern for why I didn't stick around to bond as the others did, wasn't about me; it pertained to control. And since all the other instructors followed her every demand, things got complicated for me. Yet, I was well aware that conformity provides us with a feeling of comfort and belonging while limiting our capacity to think freely and hindering emotional development; as a result, I never expected Evelyn to ignore my remark; hence, retribution was unavoidable.     Being ostracized for whatever reason is a sickening feeling. But losing myself to people with no integrity and who would cheat to get ahead wasn't an option for me. So, when Evelyn convinced the others to teach the placement exam to the incoming interns, I was thankful for my ability to stand alone.        After providing all preparatory materials, instructors, including Evelyn, administer a proctored examination to interns to place them in the appropriate position. However, to be assured permanent employment, the intern must score at least an average of 85 percent, and their role becomes determined by their highest score. For example, my higher scores were in accounting, so the company placed me in an accounting position. Hence, Evelyn's decision to teach the test would certainly boost her total percentage as a supervisor and the percentages of the individual instructors. However, to the intern's detriment, if they only scored well because they already knew the answers, interns may be placed in a position for which they did not score high enough. Even worse, the company's criteria for exceptional performance was just 90%, yet the instructors maintained a 96% average. After Evelyn's cheating, they were at 99%, while I remained at 96%, preventing her from reaching 100% overall. There were no concerns about whether Evelyn would retaliate because she knew I would tell management if she did.     And though it would've been rewarding to watch Evelyn get fired, it was more exciting to watch her face when I received a promotion right along with her and Norma. In addition, if I had reported Evelyn for cheating, I would have worked with Norma for an additional two years. Instead, I witnessed her and Evelyn's departures, which resulted in Norma's return to Florida, a location she despised.     Even after my promotion and seeing bidding Norma and Evelyn farewell, the psychological impact I'd endured remained. While most people established lasting friendships, I was ostracized, except when my friend Eva came around. Although everyone loved her, she still understood my plight and was always willing to provide counsel. So when she observed my distraction on her last visit, she urged me to disregard what I could and focus on what made me happy, such as dinner and dancing.     Eva and I proceeded to a nearby club after dinner when I bumped into a guy I'd encountered months before. I didn't know his name, but he piqued my attention each time I saw him. Eva heard me mention him but couldn't figure out who I was talking about until that night. So as we're walking into the club, he's standing there. I quickly turned to Eva and said, "That's him, my little friend." She looked at me and said, "That's Ethan. "Eva knew this since they both worked at the same company. Then she asked if I wanted to talk to him. "No!" I answered. Yet something about her expression told me she'd make sure I would.     After returning from the lady's room, Ethan stood at our table conversing with Eva. I knew she was giving him all the information about me. Honestly, I didn't mind; he was different-- everything about him, from his walk to the sound of his voice, Ethan had swag and tons of charm. We had no choice but to introduce ourselves, and to my surprise, it didn't take long for him to ask me to dance. I had no reluctance in accepting his offer either. However, having several drinks in my system didn't blend well with my deep attraction. Naughty would be the most appropriate word; however, I knew it was more than a salacious emotion. As we danced and talked, I continued to smell his cologne, thinking, 'What am I doing? —I was too attracted to a man I didn't know.     It was only a short time before I could size him up. He was a lady's man but looking for that special lady. He was good-looking, distinguished, very intelligent, charismatic, and animated. Great. I was also animated, which could be the trait that allowed me to stand out more than the others. He didn't strike me as one of those men who put physical beauty over other qualities. Physical beauty likely played a role, but our conversation told me he wasn't a shallow man.     Eva sat apart and waited to hear the juiciness of our conversation. I finally broke my hypnosis to get back to her. She wanted all the details, and I clarified: "I like this guy, the problem is he's married and a bit younger." Eva blurts out, "He's in the process of a divorce, and when did age become a concern … your ex-husband is younger than you." She was right, but Horatio was only five years younger; Ethan was eight. Aside from that, it appeared to be a coincidence that he was also going through a divorce. So that's when I asked Eva, "Do you believe he's going through a divorce or is he just saying that?" Eva replied, "I believe him." I wanted to because he gave me a feeling I hadn't felt in sixteen years.     I figured we'd end the evening there, but that's when Ethan turned and asked, "Is it alright if I contact you?" Then the following evening, I got a phone call that had me giggling like a little schoolgirl, daydreaming about all the wonderful times we would have; I'd never laughed so hard with anybody before. While talking on the phone, it was always difficult to get off, even when we had plans to meet each other just a few hours later. I knew I was about to fall in love, and I did, so much that Horatio saw it. If only I knew that a few months later, I would be devastated at the outcome of what I thought would be a special relationship. Worse was never knowing what happened; Ethan just stopped coming around. I couldn't understand how someone could have such strong feelings and turn them off like that, so imagine my pain thinking the entire time he'd felt something for me as I did for him—or maybe that's what I wanted to believe. Whatever way it was, I'd fallen in love and fell into a slight depression. Whoever said, "fake it until you make it," should be 'Will Smith.' Nevertheless, I used another of the most sought-out methods to mend a broken heart.     Working within the same company acquainted me with Donald. But when our fling materialized, my vulnerability was to blame. Nevertheless, it didn't keep the guilt from setting in shortly after, or even when his wife decided to leave him just a few months later. Per the rumor mill, however, it had nothing to do with me. Donald had numerous transgressions throughout the years, but his continuous romance with one of the employees in the company lasted half of his marriage. That made matters worse because it was someone I would never expect.     Even weeks after our fling, I carried tremendous guilt and dwelled over my mistake— I was usually good about confessing and asking for forgiveness for what God didn't approve of, but this guilt stuck with me. But, on the other hand, there was comfort in knowing what I felt for Ethan was real, and hopefully, one day, I could experience it again.     Meanwhile, new details about Donald's supposed affair emerged. I didn't spend much time listening to office gossip. Still, it was hard to let it go once I started seeing his alleged mistress, for nearly a decade, appear from his office every morning; the expression on her face shared a two-fold story: She was happy to have him but unsure how many other women were emerging from his office.     I knew what it meant to be behind closed doors with Donald, not that anything happened while I was there, but it didn't mean Donald never tried. Nonetheless, who Donald was sleeping with didn't change how I felt; in fact, my depression seemed to worsen, so to combat the pain, I started going to the gym seven days a week; idle time meant time to think about losing Ethan and sleeping with Donald. At any rate, an older gentleman approached me in the gym one afternoon. Believing he was just another guy trying to talk to me, I instantly generated an undesirable attitude. But instead, he says, "God wanted me to tell you everything will be okay." The following week I rededicated my life with this same gentleman after learning he was a pastor in a local church; I'd even got a chance to pray with another pastor, Corey Miller, a retired football player who played for the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings. I didn't know then, but our coffee dates exposed it later.         Spending time sharing what I was going through helped improve things, but my love for Ethan never faded; I learned to live with it. As for Donald, we were able to turn our fling into a friendship, and in doing so, I shared some of my experiences with rededicating my life. He found it fascinating to the point where much of our conversations were about religion and spirituality. Donald didn't attend church as a child, nor did he strike me as the type of person that prayed. So I was happy to introduce it to him; I wasn't the only one needing Jesus.     I spent hours reading and studying the Bible through the months to understand God's word precisely. I didn't want to be another Christian coming to God only with a need but revert to my old ways when He'd answered my prayers. So as my spiritual journey matured, the behaviors and attitudes I grew up with in the church seemed worse than I'd first imagined. Throughout my journey, I stayed in touch with Donald, keeping him abreast of my progress. Several months later, he decided to go on his own quest, and any reasonable Christian would be happy to hear this. However, his decision felt ominous. I often tried to suppress it because who was I to judge Donald's path? But, no matter how much I tried, the feeling in my stomach never went away, and it worsened when Donald informed me he was studying to be an ordained minister.

To be continued....

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