Dirty Daddies

Page 77

“Yeah, well they changed their mind. We’re forty percent down.”
That’s fucking ridiculous. That office is strapped enough for investment as it is. We’ve talked it through plenty of times. Mike’s even considered giving up some of his retirement fund to help out a little.
But this. This is something else.
“They’re letting George and Diane go at the end of this week.”
“And what about their workload?”
“Client funding is down from a six-month plan to two. Fortnightly instead of weekly. We’ll have to take on the backlog between the few of us left.”
“What do they expect of you? You’d have to be a miracle worker to get anywhere in that kind of window. You won’t even be able to liaise with the agencies, the conversation chain will be over before you’ve even had a chance to action the paperwork, you’ll be starting afresh each time.”
He sighs. “I know.”
Of course he knows. I feel like a jerk for pointing out the obvious.
Carrie looks worried for him. She’s dithery as she flits about the kitchen, making up a fresh pot of coffee as we talk.
I smile to see the mud stains on the knees of her jeans. They suit her.
“What you gonna do?” I ask Mike, and he shakes his head.
“I don’t know,” he says. “What can I do?”
“You can quit,” I tell him. “Find something to do where you don’t have your hands tied with crappy budgets and tick boxes.”
He holds up the job page. “That’s exactly what I’m doing, but there’s not much out there where I’ll be genuinely able to make a difference for a living. In fact, there’s fuck all.”
Another job’s not quite what I mean, but he carries on scanning the ads obliviously.
I watch Carrie as she pours the coffee, noticing the way she glows after a good day of work on the land.
She’s nothing like the hissing little bitch I walked in on just a few weeks ago. She’s nothing that any of her previous carers would recognise.
And that’s not from Jack’s little sessions with her every week, talking her through her options in a stuffy little office.
It’s this place, it suits her. We suit her. And as much as I’d like to think it’s a good hard fucking that brings her in line, that has little to do with it.
Trust, responsibility, hard work and a little bit of freedom along with a healthy amount of discipline. Those things have everything to do with it.
And love.
That has the most to do with it of all.
Love and respect.
I have an idea exactly what Michael can do with the rest of his career, but I don’t blurt it out right then and there.
It’s going to take some careful thinking about first.
“You’ll sort something out,” I tell him and he smiles sadly.
“I’ll have to, I can’t work under those conditions, and I won’t.”
I nod.
He closes the newspaper as our beautiful girl brings us coffee, and the topic is officially closed.Chapter Twenty-FiveCarrieI hate seeing Michael so sad. I don’t understand all of it, but I know it’s bad, and I know it’s about work.
I also know how hard he tried to work with me when I was sitting across his desk every week. He’s good with people. He cares.
Even if that place is stuffy and snooty and no good for people like me.
I don’t think now’s the time to tell him that, so I keep my mouth shut and do what I can do, which is mainly make coffee.
He closes his newspaper and pulls me tight against him as I dish out the drinks, and it’s nice to feel him smile against my cheek.
“I’m sorry,” he says, “I don’t mean to seem miserable. I’ve been looking forward to seeing you.”
I nod. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing you, too.” I look over at Jack. “Both of you.”
I love how Michael’s arm feels around my waist. I love the smell of him in his suit.
He’s wearing the tie I bought him and it makes me feel proud.
“Did they say anything?” I ask. “About me, I mean? Did you get into trouble for helping me?”
“No, it’s all good,” he says and I’m relieved.
I’m glad I’m not going to cost him the job he loves, not yet anyway. But from the gist of their conversation, it seems as though it’s on the rocks regardless.
I’m sure I’m the only one in this room who wouldn’t think it a tragedy if he couldn’t do it anymore, but they don’t see what I see.
They don’t see the snooty looks as you walk through reception, or the way you’re so aware the clock is ticking every time you try to talk through something.
Being here, on this land, holds more value to anyone than that office ever will, but I don’t think Michael will see that right now.
“You came straight back,” I say to him. “Does that mean you’re staying for good now?”