The Job Offer – a short story

Jennifer and her daughter sat on the coffee house terrace under a flowering crêpe myrtle tree. Jennifer was still trembling. Her daughter lent across the table and patted her hand, a gesture which Jennifer accepted as loving support. She smiled weakly, enjoying this moment of closeness, although she wasn’t yet ready for confidences. She looked out over the terrace hoping to see their waiter,

“I could use that cup of tea.”

“I’m sure they won’t be long.” Her daughter also scanned the terrace and soothingly continued, “Meanwhile, Mom, lean back, breathe deeply, and take in the sweet smell of crêpe myrtle blossom.”

Jennifer obeyed, and as she relaxed she heard the sounds of the city, the muffled whirr of traffic, the voices of other patrons talking to each other, and the intrusive sound of grackles squawking. These ordinary reminders of everyday life, combined with the presence of her daughter, calmed and reassured her.

By the time that their tea arrived, Jennifer had regained her self-control. She took the pot and poured. The tea was served unusually hot for America, and so they both added milk to cool it down. Instead of holding her cup by its handle, as was her norm, Jennifer cradled it in her hands as though the warmth could give her additional comfort. She sipped slowly enjoying the distinctive flavor of Rooibos with its earthy herbal aroma.

“I think that the interview went well. They are going to offer me a partnership.”

“That’s great Mom. So, why are you nervous and edgy? Didn’t you always aspire to become a principal somewhere?” She paused and stared at her mother and then continued, “But there’s something else isn’t there?”

Jennifer looked at her daughter and wondered how one so young could be so perceptive. She didn’t answer the question; instead, she evaded with additional information about the prospects.

“A partnership. Yes, you are right; I’ve always wanted to be a firm leader – it’s just marvelous! I wish that my father were still alive for this would have made him so proud!”

“So you should be elated Mom; but you’re not are you?”

A Grackle alighted on the back of a chair at an adjacent table. His feathers gleamed black/blue in the sunlight. He fanned his tail and looked at their table with his tiny eyes. Jennifer’s daughter clapped her hands, and he flew away. Jennifer took another sip of tea and dunked a cookie before continuing,

“The money is fantastic. If you include the expected annual profit distribution in conjunction with the salary, it will be double what I make now. That’s more than our family needs, but it would be nice.”

“So much money, they must think a lot of you Mom.”

“Yes, I think they do. Up until now, I have excelled at my job. I’ve always loved what I do and know that I am good at it. The problem is, they want me to go into operations, and I’m not sure that this is my forte. I might not be able to deliver what they want.”

“Oh come on Mom, aren’t you underestimating yourself?”

“Maybe…… If it were straightforward it might be okay, but I have a premonition that their corporate culture doesn’t align with mine. It seems to me that the upper management, of which I would be a part, is too remote from the rest of the staff. It’s as though the fantastic money is accomplished through shortchanging everyone else.”

“But Mom, won’t that be the challenge. Won’t that be how you will be able to help?”

“I’d like to think so, but I suspect otherwise. I’ll be the outside newcomer, thrust between a bunch of old boys who have been together for years and who love their perks and profits. In fact, they bring me in order to increase profits, and I doubt that they will see this as being accomplished by investing in higher salaries, new computers, and state-of the-art software.”

“If their corporate culture is manipulative, or you feel it to be unprofessional, then maybe you should turn down their offer.”

“Yes, I should.’ Jennifer gazed at the Grackle who had returned to the adjacent table; she sighed, “The other argument against taking the position is that it will require a weekly 200 mile commute and two residences until your father can join me. The distance apart is going to be hard. I keep wondering if the prestige and money justify it.”

Jennifer threw the Grackle a piece of cookie and watched it eat before continuing, “To put it bluntly,” she glanced around to make sure that no-one was within earshot, “if there was a devil, I’d say that he concocted this offer. It is sugarcoated in money. I know that it appeals to my greed and pride. Perhaps I am being asked to sell my soul.”

“If you feel like that Mom, DON’T DO IT!” Jennifer’s daughter clapped her hands again, and the Grackle flew off. She repeated, “Don’t do it Mom, trust your instincts!”

They finished their tea, hugged and parted. Jennifer’s daughter left to return to her classes at the University while Jennifer went to her car for her 200 mile drive home. She slipped in a Book on Tape into the player “The Picture of Dorian Grey” by Oscar Wilde. She listened to the narration and settled into an aura of peace as she watched the road peel away. At the end of the first chapter, the tape gave a hiccup and stopped. This had happened before, Jennifer knew that this time it had quit for good.

When she stopped for gas, a black raven flew down and sat on the gas pump. It cocked its head and eyed Jennifer. She spoke to it

“You can see that I need a new car,” she said, “I need that good pay in that new position to enable me to get one. It isn’t immoral for principals to take disproportionately high compensation out of a firm. Principals guide firms; they earn it. If I have to commute 200 miles a week, I’ll need a spiffy new car. That’s not greed that’s practicality! Is it prideful to want to succeed? No, it is a logical conclusion, a reward for hard work.”

The raven nodded its head in apparent agreement. When Jennifer reached home, she met her husband with a kiss and the words,

“They offered, and I’m going to accept.”

The devil laughed as he watched Jennifer head for several years of acute unhappiness.



A SIN FOR A SON – Chapter 1 – The Proposal part 4 of 4

This is the final installment of the first chapter of “A SIN FOR A SON”. It is available in hard copy and Kindle on Amazon. I hope that I have not bored you with this printing of the first chapter. I am now back in the US and hope to be blogging again in force. See you, and thank you for your interest!

She closed the door, letting her hand linger on the cold metal handle as she tried to coax it to latch without a sound, allowing her to slip, unnoticed, upstairs. But it wasn’t quiet and gave its usual clank when the latch engaged. As she turned, she noticed a golden tulip petal which had fallen to the floor. She bent down and picked it up. It was soft and smooth, so gentle, that as she rose she held it to her cheek to fully enjoy its sweet softness against her skin. While she was lingering nostalgically, her father, who had been watching, came into the hall from his library. In his haste to catch her, his foot caught on a Persian rug at the transition from carpet to stone to carpet. He wobbled and regained his balance. He held a slender wartime British daily newspaper in his right hand and tapped it on his left. His kindly face looked anxious and expectant while his presence seemed to fill the large hall. Walter’s hasty departure could mean only one thing, and yet her pensive pose with the tulip petal at her cheek seemed to convey something else.
“Well, Luisa, that was fast. So, do you have some good news for us?” He spoke kindly in his expectant response to her stance.

She sized up his tweeds and worn sweater and looked into his face. “No, Father, no ‘good news’, as you put it. I’m sorry. I can’t marry Walter. I’ve got to wait for the right man.”

The old frustration with his pretty daughter came back to Thomas; he even wondered why she should have been so well endowed when she didn’t seem to want to share herself with anyone. He raised his voice, “Wait, how could you say that, Luisa? You have waited long enough.” He looked at the newspaper in his hand. The date, April 15, 1942, reminded him that she was thirty-two today and still unmarried.

“Thirty-two is too old, much too old, for a young woman to be unmarried. And love, Luisa, at your age, my girl, love is a moot point. You listen to me; I know about men and I know that this one is a good man.” He beat the paper into his broad open hand, remembering the top story which featured the new plane touted to be a harbinger of victory. “He is a war hero who will be flying one of those new Lancaster heavy bombers. After the war he will be a good provider. He is constant and he adores you. What more could you ask?”

“Well, I was hoping for love on my part.” Luisa fidgeted slightly and dropped the petal on the table next to the vase of flowers. She dusted her fingertips over it almost as though this action symbolized her rejection of Walter.

He noticed that she spoke more meekly than usual and responded by stopping banging the paper on his hand. He tried to make his voice persuasive.

“You could learn to love him.”

“I’ve tried to, Father, but it is not something you just turn on.” Her voice was resolute as she went on. “I like him, I like him a lot. I like him as a friend, and that is where it ends.”

“I repeat, he is a good man. Married to him, you would learn to love him. If you tried you could learn. If you don’t get some sense you are going to end as a barren, bitter, bickering old biddy like your great aunt Bertha.” By now Thomas was pounding his newspaper into his cupped hand in time with his words. His face reddened.

Luisa knew his patter so well that she hardly listened to his tirade. Her right hand trailed on the hall table, touching the vase of yellow tulips. They were Walter’s tulips, their spring beauty harbingering a new year, while their stark color reminded her of his blond hair. For a moment, she might have swept them onto the floor; instead, she faced her father.

“I know, Father. Yes, I know that he is a good man and he will make a good husband and father, but how many times do I have to say it? He is not the right man for me. It wouldn’t be fair to him if I married him.”

“Not ‘fair to him’? Oh, really, Luisa, did you ask him? I bet he’d risk it. Love would follow, you know.” Thomas was pleased with himself. He thought that he might have found a chink in her armor. He watched her clench her hands as she dropped them to her side. She turned her head slightly to adjust her view of him.

“Yes, Father, love might follow, but, no, no, no. I am not about to commit myself based on that nebulous assumption.” As she spoke, her emotion made her raise her voice. In a crescendo she shouted her response. The word “assumption, -tion, -tion” echoed off the high ceiling of the hall.

Luisa brushed past him and rushed dramatically away. She vaulted the stairs two at a time and slammed her bedroom door behind her to make sure that no one attempted to follow. Thomas watched her go. He marveled at her speed and agility which seemed spirited and youthful and quite inappropriate for a thirty-two-year-old spinster. As the sounds of her departure dissipated he grunted, turned, and gave the Persian rug a hefty kick. Then he walked back into his library to finish reading his newspaper.

© Copyright, Jane Stansfeld, February 2014
‘A SIN FOR A SON’ is available on Amazon:

A SIN FOR A SON – chapter 1 – The Proposal part 2 of 4

Walter took off his coat, and Thomas draped it on one of the carved Chippendale hall chairs. Then, while the women retired to the kitchen – Luisa to put the flowers in water, and her mother to brew a pot of tea – the two men withdrew into the drawing room. It was a large, well-furnished room, a little too elegant for comfort, so without sitting, Walter turned to face the man he wished to have as a father-in-law. As he looked at Thomas he saw much of himself, the same strong figure, the same fair complexion, but in Thomas he saw graying light brown hair and creases of old age around the eyes. Thomas was wearing old tweed trousers and a navy blue sweater almost the same color as Walter’s suit. Walter knew from Thomas’s look that he didn’t need to explain his mission, but, out of courtesy, according to age-old protocol, he spoke.

“Mr. Chapman, I’ve come to ask for Luisa’s hand in marriage.” He fumbled with the contents of his pocket. Thomas winced at the sound, remembering how much Luisa hated this habit. He wanted to advise Walter to desist, but good manners prohibited such a personal comment, even to his daughter’s suitor.

Instead he gave a sad smile and said, “Mr. Radcliffe, Walter, my dear fellow, you have Mrs. Chapman’s and my full blessing. We couldn’t ask for a better son-in-law.” He looked into Walter’s anxious face and nodded as he reached out his hand to shake Walter’s. Walter let go of the change and they shook as Thomas went on.

“The trouble is that she is headstrong. I still don’t think that she is ready. You have been so patient. How Mrs. Chapman and I wish that she would come around. We’ve tried to influence her, but since she became a nurse she hasn’t listened to our counsel.”

Walter‘s disappointment showed in the slump of his pose as he dropped his hand and said, “It has to be her decision, doesn’t it? That’s the only way for a happy union.” He looked wistfully unconvinced as he turned toward the window to conceal his emotion and went on with a sigh, “So wish me luck.”

Thomas moved beside him and the two men stood side by side, looking out of the window over the low white garden wall to the expansive village green beyond. They indulged themselves in musing. Thomas thought about his difficult daughter, wondering if there was something, anything, which he or Isabelle could do or say to sway her decision. Walter thought about Thomas’s reminder that Luisa had a headstrong character and allowed himself to fantasize about what it would be like to be married to this vibrant woman. He admired her spunk and the very fact that she resisted his advances. Somehow her rejections and passionate independence made her more desirable. He thought of her on the stage acting Lady Macbeth, and fondly recalled her rendition of Lady Macbeth’s words as though they were directed to him personally.

…….Hie thee hither,

That I may pour my spirits in thine ear

And chastise with the valor of my tongue,

All that impedes thee from ……..

He thought fondly about how her sprits would be an inspiration to his architecture, how she would be able to goad him to heights of creativity which he might not otherwise attain. He categorized her depiction of the evil aspects of Lady Macbeth as magnificent acting. His contact with her to date had convinced him that, unlike Lady Macbeth, she had the right mix of courage and independence without a lust for power. The right ingredients needed to be able to maintain high principles and morals.

Their mutual silence was becoming onerous, but just as Thomas was about to speak again he heard the women coming across the hall. Isabelle entered first, her graceful figure clad in a pale mauve dress with high collar and long sleeves. She glanced quickly at her husband, immediately understanding his almost imperceptible nod and gave him one in acknowledgment. Then she turned and gave Walter one of her radiant smiles as she motioned to everyone to sit so that she could serve tea. She poured the precious beverage from a silver teapot into bone china cups decorated with pink roses and yellow daisies. The cups clinked as they were set onto their matching saucers. The four exchanged pleasantries about the weather and the latest war news as they savored the warmth and flavor of their tea. Walter was impatient and unable to focus and soon suggested that Luisa show him the rose garden.

© Copyright, Jane Stansfeld, February 2014

‘A SIN FOR A SON’ is available on Amazon: