Ryan sat alone in the residence chapel, a Bible in hand. After more than a week, he still couldn't forget how he'd left Annie, half-naked and in Fred’s arms, alone by themselves in her house. She
badly wanted him inside of her, but he’d chosen not to betray his vocation. What if he’d blown up a chance at happiness with a woman who unconditionally loved him for a vocation he wasn’t sure of?
No, he’d done the right thing—preferring the love of God above human love. His older brothers sacrificed a lot more than him, who’d only given up a fling for sex, yet here he was, thinking he’d
done God a favor.
Oh, God! In his mind, Annie ran to Fred, planted a wet kiss on his lips, which he returned before brushing his face across her boobs, then carried her back inside. How humiliating for him to just
stand there. His cheeks warmed. Did she mean it in her text when she said they’d try the entire night to make a baby? He couldn't think so. But another voice came out stronger—in anger, people were
capable of doing stupid stuff and Annie wasn’t an exception.
Damn it! Why did he even care what she did with her life?
He opened the Bible to 1 Corinthians 7:32 and ran a fingertip across the text as he read.
An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of the world—how he can please his wife, and his interests
He put the good book aside and rested his head on the front pew. The devil was a liar. He’d chosen the right thing—to forfeit marriage and please God with his whole being.
For the period he'd been banned from work, he’d been ardent in making things right with God. He spent most of this time visiting the sick at the National Referral Hospital, particularly the dying.
They reminded him of the afterlife and to forget about the fleeting allures of life—including the date he’d agreed to with Olivia during her birthday party. Thank God she didn’t follow it up. No
more repeat of Annie’s story.
“Thank you, Lord, it’s just a matter of hours and I’m reinstated.” Ryan muttered, calling to mind the letter he’d received from Philippa the prior evening. She'd summoned him to her office for a
two o’clock meeting.
He pulled out his cell phone.
R we still on for lunch at 1?
Anthony’s reply was brief. He must have been so busy, given he’d been assigned Ryan’s duties too.
At lunch, the two brothers talked over mouthfuls of Thai food at the university cafeteria.
“So, how d’you like taking the cheques to Vincent every morning?” Ryan pulled his plate closer. “I think I was wrong about everything.”
“Man, this guy’s a brute and the worst pretender. Told’ya he’s either bipolar or suffers from some serious psychological disorder.”
“Why’s that? I mean, of course, I know the guy, but… Anything in particular he’s done?”
Anthony sipped pineapple juice through a straw. “I’m looking for another job. He might think I’m still desperate, but not anymore.”
“I’ve never attended a single class since you left. The bugger always comes up with what he says is urgent work just when I’m about to go to class.”
Ryan tapped a straw through the lid over his juice. "Umph! I've been a victim of that, and used to really misjudge him, thinking he was up to no good.”
"Wait. What? You don't think so anymore?"
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m just wondering, what if we’re to blame too? Or rather, suppose we’ve always misunderstood Vincent?”
Ryan leaned back to allow the waitress to clear the table. “Think about it. He’s sacrificed a lot for us.”
“I mean the whole of the finance department. He’s never been able to attend classes himself, never completed his CPA, and doesn’t even have a degree.”
‘’How’s that a sacrifice, if not stupidity?’’
‘’He forfeited classes and devoted his entire time to ensure the department is functioning. Were it not for him, we prolly wouldn’t have gotten these jobs.’’
“Tell you what, he’s just a retard. How come Eric, Anthony, and all them other brothers of ours have completed their studies and run their departments even better?”
“I see your point, but as you correctly put it, maybe he has a psychological problem, and we should empathize with him.”
“Look, all I care for now is for him to give you back your job. I can’t pretend he’s a good guy. He’s not.”
“Ah, don’t worry about that. I’m positive it’s a done deal. I suspect he wanted to tell me something at the recollection but I think he just didn’t want to talk about professional matters in the
Anthony turned around and pointed with his head. “See who’s here.”
“Man, I feel awful just looking at him.” Ryan looked at Vincent sitting in a far corner. “The guy works himself like a donkey and people hardly notice.”
Anthony sipped the last of his juice. “Crap. Say whatever you may, but take it from me, Vincent’s not sincere.”
“Well, at the end of the day, he’s our bro, man.” Ryan swallowed. “Besides, resentment only hurts you, not him.”
Anthony shook his head. “Funny you say that. One day, I’ll hold you to your own words.”
Ryan looked at his watch. "Oh, shit. I've got ten minutes to get to Philippa's office.
Anthony accompanied him to the office, then patted him on the shoulder. "All the best, man."
“Thanks. Just in case I don’t pass by the office, tell the guys I’ll officially be with them on Monday.”
Ryan knocked on the door and waited. A chill ran up his spine. It swung open and Philippa stuck her head out. “Hey, Ryan, come on in, you’re right on time.”
After they’d settled down, Philippa’s lips pinched into a tight line as she rummaged through the papers on her desk. Then she straightened and stared at him. “Well, the investigation is over and
I’m sorry things didn’t turn in your favor.”
Ryan just stopped himself from bolting to his feet. “What? But I didn’t steal the money. I swear.”
“No one’s saying you stole the cash.” Philippa held out a letter and pointed to some paragraph. “Read here, the report is clear and exonerates you from any direct involvement in the loss of the
Ryan heaved a deep sigh. “I was worried. I thought you said things didn’t work out in my favor.”
She hung her head for a second before looking up again. “Look, Ryan, after considering all the facts, the auditors found you reckless in the way you handled the cash.”
“How d’you mean?”
“You knew how risky carrying cash was, yet, instead of bringing it directly from the bank, before running any other errand, you went with it to the Audit firm.” She tapped a finger on the desk.
“Leaving the cash exposed in the dashboard as you went to the Partner’s office. You should’ve at least hidden it somewhere safe, say, under the seat.”
Ryan’s mouth fell open. “Was this a setup?”
“What do you mean?”
“I vividly remember what happened that day. I put the cheques for signing at Vincent’s desk at eight in the morning, but he didn’t sign till three o’clock. The bank closes at four--”
“You should’ve gone to the bank the next morning.”
“Tell me about it. I specifically mentioned to Vincent how it was tricky for me to make it to the bank on time and requested I go the next day.”
“And what did Vincent say?”
“He made things even more difficult for me. On top of insisting I had to make it to the bank.” He leaned forward. “He gave me a parcel to deliver to the Audit Partner, with strict instructions that
I do this before going to the bank.”
“Are you serious?”
“Dead serious. What was I to do? I decided to rush to the bank first, then went to the audit partner.”
“Are you sure of what you’re saying?”
"Call Vincent! I’ll repeat what I’m telling you right in front of him.”
“No, I can’t do that, but... Um, how would you describe your working relationship with him?”
Ryan thought for a moment. “At this point, I dunno how to put it. I thought I was wrong but I guess I was mistaken. Anthony was… sorry, forget it.”
“What about Anthony?”
“Nothing, I’m not thinking straight right now.”
“Well, you mentioned something about a setup. Why do you think Vincent would do that?”
“That’s the most disturbing thing for me. Why would he do that to me? I’ve never done anything wrong to him.”
“I think you have a valid point which I doubt the investigators considered.” Philippa tucked her hair behind her ear. “You still can appeal to the Disciplinary Committee to personally present your
side of the story.”
“Thanks, but I don’t think I wanna go that route. Everyone can see Vincent framed me and he’s above the law. He can do anything he wants in this organization. If tomorrow he decides to fire you,
trust me, you won’t survive.”
“Think about it, Ryan. I can understand your anger, but don’t make any hasty decision.”
“I’m done. How can the auditors conclude their investigation without interviewing me? What’s their recommendation? I should be fired?”
Philippa dropped her gaze and swallowed.
“I mean, it’s not your fault. I know you’re just trying to do your job, but you must know this is just a game Vincent’s playing.”
She sighed, placing a hand over her chest. “I’m so sorry, but thanks for understanding.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
“Is there anything else you want me to know?”
“Well, think about it this way. Other companies, knowing the risks involved with transporting cash, hire security firms to do that.” He sneered. “Have you seen how cash here is usually
Philippa half-smiled. “Yes.”
“Police officers always have their guns cocked and fingers on the trigger.” He crossed his arms. “Makes me wonder, why was I put on the firing line? I’m just glad I’m still alive. God will give me
another job. It could’ve been worse.”
He maintained his composure until he left Philippa's office. He ran into the lavatory, locked the door, and sobbed for some time. He then moved to the sink, washed his face, then left. Once outside
the gate, he texted Anthony.
U were right about Vincent. He fired me.
A minute later, his phone rang. His head aching, and not particularly keen for anyone's pity, he considered not answering. Then decided to take the call.
"It's not Anthony." The voice was quietly feminine.
"Olivia! Oh, shit. Sorry. I was expecting... Sorry."
“It’s okay. I’m very sorry about what happened.”
“Um, the text you sent me. You were fired?"
"Oh. Um. Yeah, that wasn't meant... Just... forget it."
“Where are you now?”
“Just outside the university.”
"Okay. I can be there in a moment. Will you wait?"
“Or do you mind coming over to phase two? I’ll meet you at the entrance.”
“It’s okay. Lemme come.”
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