© Folakemi Emem-Akpan
Joshua straightened his tie and observed his face in the bathroom mirror. Without telling, he knew his face was lined with worry. He tried to paste a smile on his face. He had to appear confident, or Sarah would literarily have his head. And for heavens, it was his first day in his new job, his first day as Mr. Manager. He ought to appear happy, ecstatic even. After a valiant effort, he managed to coax a smile from his frigid lips.
“Hi sweet.” He called to Sarah, his wife of eight years. She was sipping from a large cup of coffee, seated at the dining table. Her hair was pulled into a pony tail and her face was scrubbed clean, free of blemishes and make-up. She appeared fresh, younger than her thirty-five years. He didn’t want to, couldn’t afford to fail her.
She flashed him a smile. “Looking very smart this morning.”
“Thanks. Don’t be late for the doctor’s appointment, okay?” For the first time since they got married, she was pregnant and they were almost out of their minds with the joy of it. He dropped her a kiss and stepped out of the house into the brisk morning air.
As he started the car, a knot of apprehension materialized in his gut. He hadn’t told Sarah the entire truth last month when he’d been handed his sack letter. He’d wanted to be truthful but he couldn’t bear to see the hurt in her eyes. In the eight years they’d been married, he’d gone through ten jobs. His stint at McWells had been the longest. He’d worked there two record years before the whole process started again. First, he started missing important meetings. Then he started getting to work late. By the time the letter came, he was about three months behind in his workload.
He’d told Sarah the company was in dire financial straits, that he was one of fifteen people to be laid off. What he didn’t add was the fact that he’d received several warnings before that time, three queries, and a verbal lashing from the CEO.
Just like each time he’d received a termination letter, he’d considered setting up his own small business. Only that his consideration this time was much more serious. Within days, he’d found a store. Half of Sarah’s savings, on loan to him, had bought enough stock to last a few months. He had employed two young boys to help out. He was now officially in the men’s shoes business.
There was virtually no traffic. He’d set out too quickly and now he was going to be too early at work. He didn’t want to appear too eager, or too nervous. Perhaps he should get a cup of coffee.
He found a cozy coffee shop tucked in between a tailor’s and a salon. Within five minutes, he was seated, nursing a foaming cup of latte, a stack of cookies, and the day’s paper. He sat back, loosened his tie and reveled in the unbelievable sensation of owning his own business.
“Do you want a refill?”
When the waitress brought the third cup, he decided he’d had enough. Feeling magnanimous, he tipped the waitress extra and headed towards the entrance. By the time he eased his car into the road, traffic had built up. The journey that should have taken him ten minutes actually took thirty.
The doors to the new Josh’s Shoes were closed, and the two new employees were sitting on empty barrels in the lot.
“Why aren’t you people doing anything? And why is the door not opened?” He barked as he barreled out of the car.
“Good morning, Mr. Williams. You didn’t leave the key for us.”
“Oh.” He felt his anger deflate like a balloon. “Come on in then. What’s the time by the way?” In his haste, he’d forgotten his wristwatch at home.
“About quarter to ten.”
For the briefest of moments, he imagined Sarah’s face were he to tell her he’d been almost two hours late on his first day at work. Then he decided he wasn’t going to tell her.