It was a cold winter night. The wind penetrated the bones in their bodies while they slept in the park. They huddled together for warmth. Jonathan, Jeffrey, Chasity, and Chrystal were brothers and sisters, and they were runaway children. They had been living on the streets for the past month with no one noticing. They had no adult supervision, and no one cared. Who would bother wasting time talking to smelly, dirty kids, dressed in rags?
Their story began one stormy day. It started as a sunny morning but had turned overcast, threatening a downpour. Then the rain poured, the wind became gusty, thunder rolled, and lightning flashed.
“Mom, we’re home!” the children yelled as they put their backpacks on the floor. The district forced all the schools to shut down due to the inclement weather. The school bus took the students home early before the storm became severe. The children found their father, James, sitting on the sofa waiting for them. From the way he looked, he had been crying.
“Dad? What’s wrong?” Jonathan asked.
Their father hugged them and cried. Between sobs, he told them their mother passed away early that morning. They lost her to a long battle with cancer. She was only thirty-five. The children knew their mother was sick, but they didn’t think she had cancer. They didn’t know what it meant, but they could have looked it up if they had known about it. Maybe they could have prevented it. Perhaps they could have saved her. Now it was too late, and all they could do was cry.
It devastated James, and he didn’t know what to do. His wife, Martha, had always been the decision maker in the family. James earned the money, but his wife handled the finances, the budgeting, and the children’s school activities and homework without complaint. He depended on her for everything.
A private burial was held for family and close friends only. After the funeral, James and his children drove home quietly. No one spoke a word. When they arrived at the house, Chrystal rushed to her parent’s room, hoping that everything that happened that day was just a dream. She looked around the room and felt a sudden loneliness. She couldn’t believe her mother was really gone.
“Mom!” she cried.
Jonathan, Jeffrey, and Chasity wept and hugged each other. James was sitting in the living room, his face buried in his hands, his shoulders were shaking, and he was crying too. How was he going to face the day without his wife? James ran to his children and they had a good cry.
It took a long time for James and the children to get over Martha’s death and after grieving for a year, James decided it was time to start a new life somewhere else. He and his children—Jonathan, the oldest of the brood was twelve, Jeffrey was ten, Chasity was eight, and Chrystal was six—moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut when Nolan, James’ college roommate, offered him a job there. James was the executive chef at an exclusive country club in Toledo, Ohio, but he needed a fresh start. So, he accepted the position of a supervisor in a textile mill.
Moving was tough for the children. Their apartment was a cramped two-bedroom rental on the second floor of an old building. They had a tiny kitchen with a small dining area, a living room, and only one bathroom. James told the children it was temporary, but the children didn’t like it one bit. The only good thing about their move was they met new friends in the neighborhood.
James was nervous when he entered the building. It was his first day at work. He was eager to make a good impression on his boss, Mr. Arlington. Nolan took him around the office and introduced him to the staff. Everyone welcomed him warmly. James made his rounds at the warehouse and shook hands with everyone, introducing himself as their new supervisor. James spent the rest of the day in training.
In time, James and the kids began to settle into their new life. James had no vices. He had no thirst for a drink or cravings for cigarettes. As soon as the alarm went off signaling their shift was over, James would stop by the grocery store to pick up something for dinner he would prepare for his children. He liked to cook healthy food for them. The children learned to love their simple life in Connecticut and were as happy as could be, and anyone who knew them would say James was a perfect father to his children. He was a role model.
A few months had passed, and James became well-liked by his team because he treated them fairly. If anyone needed time off to take care of a sick child, wife, or parents, he would cover for them. They had such high respect for James. They became happy workers and eventually increased their productivity. But James’ popularity at work became a problem for one coworker. Diego had always been jealous of him and had competed with James since James started working for the company. Diego expected a promotion, but they offered the job to James instead. He had despised him ever since.
One day, the general manager assigned Diego to give a tour of the company to a few investors. Diego was ecstatic. He thought it was his time to shine. Diego did his best to answer all their questions and tried to charm everyone. He explained that they were open to the public every first Wednesday of the month for guided tours. They visited the gift shop for a novelty of the company’s hat, T-shirt, customized socks, a variety of books related to the textile industry, and other keepsakes. The group asked Diego some challenging questions about his qualifications and his job, but Diego allowed himself to become irritated. It had shown. He was not a people person. In explaining some of their issues and concerns, Diego made a few others uncomfortable. It just so happened James was in the warehouse talking to the delivery guys. They were laughing and having quite a conversation. When Diego and the investors entered the area, one of them recognized James. He walked towards him and shook his hand. James introduced himself to the rest of the visitors and welcomed them to the facility. The investors asked him questions, and James answered them with grace, honesty, and politeness. They followed James as he walked around the warehouse explaining the machinery for warping, beaming, and weaving processes. James took them to the team of weavers where they explained the steps involved in the weaving process from loading bobbins, spinning, and weaving to the finishing of woven fabrics.
When everyone left, Diego stood alone in the room and gritted his teeth. He went home early, sulking and angry. Diego was so furious at James and wanted to get even and disgrace him. He concocted an elaborate plan to discredit him publicly, and once he had done that, he was sure they would fire James and promote him in James’ place.
His plan came to fruition at the right time. The company had just landed a multi-million-dollar account from one establishment of the New York Garment District. James was in charge of the details—managing the suppliers, overseeing the deliveries, and making sure he was in contact with their vendors at all times. James assigned each of the workers their duties to ensure everything went smoothly. He assigned Diego to inspect all incoming and outgoing deliveries.
One night, after everyone had left, Diego stayed behind and went to James’ office and accessed his computer. It wasn’t hard to get in because he had observed James for several days and had memorized his password. James was too trusting. He didn’t realize Diego was cunning. Once Diego knew the password, he decided tonight was the night to put his plan into action. He accessed the work order files and canceled five orders scheduled for delivery on Friday, two days away. He turned off the computer and wiped off his fingerprints from the keyboard before leaving. As Diego expected, his plan worked. The delivery did not happen.
Mr. Arlington was fuming. “What happened, James? I left you in charge to make sure everything would go smoothly. Do you know what you’ve done?” he said rather loudly.
James tried to explain that he had spoken with their delivery driver, and he assured him it would arrive on time.
“James, I just spoke with him, and he said we canceled the orders two days ago. How do you explain that?”
“Canceled, sir? I didn’t cancel the orders.”
James quickly went to his office and checked his computer. His boss was right. It showed he canceled five deliveries.
“There must be a glitch in the system, sir. I didn’t do this.”
“We run a test, James, and there was no computer error.”
“Someone is trying to derail me then,” he said. “I am always careful. I don’t make mistakes, especially of this magnitude.”
“Why would anyone do that to you, James?” Mr. Arlington asked. “Instead of accepting responsibility for your mistakes, you are pointing the blame at someone else. This is unacceptable. You cost this company and me a great deal of money because of your stupidity. I want you to pack up your things and leave. You are fired!”
Diego’s lip drew back in a weird, evil smile. His heart rejoiced upon hearing it. He had finally gotten rid of James.
“But, sir,” James tried to reason with his boss.
But he didn’t want to hear any more. “You heard me, James. Now get out before I call security.”
No matter how much James tried to explain himself, his boss didn’t want to hear what he had to say. With his head low, he walked to his office and put all his belongings in a box. He walked out the door, dismayed at how everything turned out. Who would do such a thing? Why would someone sabotage him?
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