TTT Stories    To Sacrifice a Marriage for Your Career

To Sacrifice a Marriage for Your Career

Follow your heart where you can find happiness; Follow your soul as you do not want to be an empty shell; Follow the numbers where career makes a successful you.

It all started a month ago where I found complexity in life. Life was easy before but I had finally gone through a stage where I am lost in my own misery. I always had to choose one out of two things even though both are just as good. I always wondered why I can’t have both at the same time. However, I noticed what was best for me. I thought I knew best but I was wrong.

I was back to work once again. MONDAYS!!!! It is not that I hated my job. I love it as much as I love myself, but Mondays are just not my day. Bad things always happen on Mondays. Last Monday, I wore a white dress to work and someone accidentally spilt coffee on my dress before I reach my working place. The previous Monday, I did all my accounts in my office computer. Later in the day, my computer caught virus and all my data was deleted. The Monday before that, I brought my lunch to work. I opened my lunchbox and a lizard appeared under my table. I literally jumped from my seat and set my lunchbox flying. There goes my lunch. It has been three consecutive Mondays. I wished today would be a better day.

“Good morning! Looking good today, Courtney,” said Miss Winston, the receptionist at ‘Thompson & Son Company’. “Good morning to you too,” I replied with a smile. I entered my office, a sign on my door read, Miss Courtney Cheng, Accountant of T&S Co. I set my handbag down and decided to make myself a mug of coffee. There was a knock on my door. “Miss Cheng, there’s a letter for you,” said Eva, my personal assistant. “Come in,” I said, sounding a little too nervous. “Miss Cheng, your letter. You okay?” she continued. “I’m okay. It’s just another Monday,” I shrugged. Eva left and she closed the door behind her.

I stared at the white envelope with wide eyes. It was an envelope of our own company, Thompson & Son. Why would I receive an official letter from my own company? Normally, any notice regarding the company would be on email. Official letters were only sent when the issue or occasion are really important. I myself had never received any of the official letters so far. Over the years, I’ve seen my colleagues received a number of official letters. Mostly warning letters and two of them were promotions. I had only been here for four years, so it could not be a promotion. “So, it’s a warning letter?” I said under my breath. My hands began to tremble under my black blazer. I was nervous and cold at the same time. I buttoned up my blazer and continue working on the envelope. I open the letter with care, too worried that I might destroy the official letter inside. I pulled out the letter slowly. My forehead was beading sweat and my palms were cold and sweaty. I began to read the letter.

Hoping it was addressed to the wrong person. However, it was addressed to me. Stated clearly at the top was my name, Miss Courtney Cheng. I took a deep breath, my heart pounding so hard beneath my chest that my chest could have possibly exploded. I began to read the title of the letter. I was dumbstruck. I stood there staring at the title, reading it over and over again. I didn’t know how to react.

It read, ‘Promotion to Thompson & Son Co. (London branch) as a senior accountant’. My heart skipped a beat. How is that even possible? I have been here for only four years as an accountant. Some of my colleagues had been here for almost ten years without any promotion. I was confused and happy at the same moment. I guessed it was a good Monday after all. I walked to the coffee maker, and Eva was there. “Miss Cheng, what was the letter all about? I saw it was an official letter from the company,” said Eva, full of curiosity. I gave a smile and flipped my blond hair, “I am promoted to London as a senior accountant,” I pretended to sound bossy. “You are leaving for London? You’ve made your decision? That was incredible,” she squealed. I shushed her and said softly, “Who said I’ve made my decision? I need to talk about it to my family, and not to forget my hubby, Antonio,” my voice full of disappointment.

When I thought about it, it was indeed a good Monday. After a second thought, it might not be one. It might have been good news but this situation had set me in a dilemma. Now I had to choose my career or my family, to be more specific, my husband. I wanted to be a senior accountant so badly but I wanted my family by my sides as well. Leaving Antonio behind would be a bad idea. We just got married last summer and he just started his own business last month. I really can’t afford to lose him but I really wanted to venture to London, to make my career real and successful. It was like a dream came true for me. Now I’m caught between two stools. To choose my family over my career seemed heart-breaking, but to choose my career over my family seemed heartless. Opportunity doesn’t strike twice, if I don’t take up this promotion, I might never get the promotion back. This decision was harder than any other.

It took me days to open up to my family, especially Antonio. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. I wanted a happy family and also a successful career. I wanted both. I didn’t want to choose but I had no choice. I am to give my answer the month after whether I would take up the promotion or not. I approached my parents first. I was worried. “Mom, Dad, I have something really important to say,” I said when I visited them after work on Thursday. “What is it honey? You looked really bad. Is it about your financial state or Antonio’s business?” asked mom, a worried expression crossed her face. Before I could answer, dad interrupted, “I hope you are not telling us you are getting divorce.” I laughed a little, “No dad! Antonio and I are fine. Okay, back to the topic. I was actually promoted to London as a senior accountant,” sounded a bit too nervous. “That’s really good!” said mom with full enthusiasm. “Our daughter is promoted to London as a senior accountant? That’s good news isn’t it? What is it that is bothering you?” asked dad. I continued, “Its Antonio. I haven’t told him about it yet. I’m worried if he doesn’t support me. You know he was just in a midst of getting his business ready and we are a newly married couple and…” Dad interrupted, “But he needs to know someday. Whether he supports you or not, it is not for you to worry about. He needs to understand that an opportunity like this don’t come all the time. If he is a gentleman, he will support you even if you have to leave him behind.” Dad never really liked Antonio but he is trying his best to tolerate. Somehow, there was a hidden message behind my dad’s words. Mom shrugged from behind and gave me a reassuring nod. “I understand. I will talk to him tonight,” I said.

It was half past six when I reached home. I parked my Toyota Camry at the porch and sat a little longer in the car before I got off. I took a deep breath and enter the house. Antonio was sitting in the living room, a stack of colourful file piling up next to him on the plush sofa. His auburn hair messy and his tie slightly loosened. He was busy but he managed to say, “Hey honey! Glad you’re home. I’m starving to death.” I answered, “Dinner will be ready by half past seven.” I walked into the kitchen, put my handbag down and slumped onto the dining chair. I was just so tired of thinking. Maybe a nap might help. I took a nap at the dining table, hoping that I would wake up with amnesia. After a ten minutes nap, I woke up and found myself still not knowing how to open up to him. I was deep in thoughts while preparing dinner. Dinner today somehow looked not very right. The fish was slightly burnt, the garlic on the vegetables still raw and I’ve forgotten whether I put salt into my soup.

Antonio noticed it as well. He asked, “Why is the fish looking slightly burnt? Or is that some kind of new style cooking?” he joked a little. He noticed my annoyance and he started to eat his dinner. “I’m sure you put a bag of salt into the soup. It tasted as salty as salted fish,” he said while eyeing on me. I showed no expression and continued eating my dinner. He sensed that something was not right.

“So, what is these all about? You looked depressed. Is there anything that I can help?” he asked in a soft voice. I looked at the floor, not ready to tell him. He lifted my chin with his index finger and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Now, my eyes are staring straight into his eyes. I swallowed hard, “You know I’m doing fine in my job these days and…,” I trailed off. Suddenly, I felt a lump built up in my throat. “I know that,” nod Antonio. “I… I… I…,” I stammered. Antonio just stood there staring at me with wide eyes, waiting for an explanation. I finally gave up, “Nothing, I just wanted to take a day off.” “I don’t think that was what you wanted to tell me,” he said. I was quiet and continue staring at the floor. At the moment, I might consider to give up on that promotion. “It’s okay,” I said, suddenly my eyes went watery. I tried to blink my tears away but ended sending it streaming down my cheeks. Antonio wiped my tears with his thumb, his big thumb brushing lightly on my wet cheeks. “Tell me. I swear I would support you no matter what,” he continued. In a split second, I didn’t know what I was doing. I remembered running into our bedroom and locked the door behind me. I was sobbing even harder now.

Antonio ran after me but it was too late. I slammed the door shut right at his face. “Courtney! Courtney! Please! What’s wrong?” he was knocking on the door so hard I bet his knuckles hurt. “Leave me alone,” I yelled in return. “You don’t expect me sleeping in the living room, do you?” he tried to trick me into opening the door. “The guest room is always available. I cleaned it last week,” I said in between my sobs.

It was probably three hours that I didn’t hear from Antonio. Probably he was fast asleep. I was thinking hard in these three hours. I should just give up on the promotion. I sigh. I was just about to call mom to tell her that I change my mind, hoping she could persuade dad not to be angry at me or Antonio. My phone still in my handbag, my official letter too. I looked for my handbag but it was not in my room. Oh dear! I left it on the dining chair when I was preparing dinner.

I ran out into the dining room, in search of my handbag. I left my letter out there. How could I been so stupid. Antonio might have notice. When I reached the dining room, I saw Antonio clutching the letter so tightly in his hand that his knuckles turned white. He was sitting on the floor, staring at me. His eyes filled with sadness. “Why didn’t you tell me? It was good news isn’t it?” he asked, his voice raw. He swallowed, “Congratulations. I think you’ll be leaving in two weeks’ time,” he said. I was dumbstruck once again. My jaws dropped when I heard him said those words. It must be awful for him to find out. He must be heartbroken. I tried to explain but Antonio walked out of the house. “I’m not going,” I finally yelled at Antonio before he closes the door behind him.

He was drunk when he got home. It was around three in the morning. He smelled of beer and perfume? I couldn’t get it wrong, the smell of perfume. Antonio don’t use perfumes, the smell of this perfume is definitely ladies’ perfume. I took off his shirt with the terrible stench of alcohol. Something red caught my eyes at his white collar. It took me awhile to realize it was smeared lipstick. Am I going insane or him? He couldn’t be hanging out with another girl this late. He was never an alcoholic person. He was the most honest and nice man I’ve ever met. I wouldn’t believe a single thing I saw tonight. Maybe it was just a dream.

Everything would be back in place when I wake up.

When I was awake, Antonio was out again. I didn’t know where he went. He left his mobile at home, so there’s no way I could contact him. For fourteen consecutive days, he had been out early in the morning, as early as seven in the morning, and return home earliest by midnight. I’ve tried asking his friends and his family but no one seemed to know what was going on. I was getting worried now. I was awakened by the smell of beer every night. He came home drunk and sweaty. I had no idea what he was doing out all day.

On a Saturday morning, I pretended to be asleep, trying to see where he’s going. He drove his Proton Saga and I followed him. His car stopped at Perkins Park. This is getting suspicious.

As far as I am concerned, he hated parks. He hated the green plants and the smell of grass. He even refused to place his foot near our house’s garden, which is why we replaced our garden with a cement floor. He parked his car near the park and got out. He walked in between trees and disappeared into the nature of trees. I tried to keep up with him but his pace was too fast. I searched the whole park but he was nowhere in sight.

After that morning, he didn’t come home. He’s been out all day and night. It’s Sunday night, still no news from him. I wanted to make a police report if he isn’t back by midnight. The police probably wouldn’t entertain me. He’s only left house less than forty-eight hours. It might be normal for a normal person to disappear for forty-eight hours but not him. He would always inform me about his whereabouts, and what time he’ll be home. It was always this way. Now, not anymore, he changed. He came home before midnight. I was already in bed. I expected a note of apology the next morning but there was none. Instead, he left his gold wedding ring on the dresser. I looked at my ring which was identical to it. Why would he take off his ring? It was something so precious to both of us. I was about to look for him to asked what was happening, but he was not at home again.

I was disappointed, my heart felt as if it shattered into pieces. I don’t understand all these. Can things really change in just a few weeks? What has all these meant? End of our relationship or it was simply coincidence? I tried to stay optimistic. Forget about the lipstick mark, the perfume and the wedding ring. I believe he’s a good guy, too good to do any harm to me. He’s just been out for serious jobs. I bet he took out his ring because he needed to deal with dirt, not wanting to dirty the ring. Yes, it had to be.

At eleven o’clock, the grandfather’s clock standing in my living room strike eleven times. Besides that, I heard the sound of engine of Antonio’s Proton Saga. I jumped to feet, and opened the door. It was indeed Antonio. His came out of his car, his face serious. He was holding onto a brown file when he entered the house. “Antonio! Where have you been?” I asked with a stern face. “I’ve got something to show you. I hope you understand,” he said. He pulled out two similar documents in the brown file. The outlook of the documents looks like in was something really important. When I got a nearer look at the document, I had a shock. Tears started rolling down my cheeks again.

“It’s for the best, Courtney,” he said, trying to sound reassuring. I’m not sure what I have done. Not sure why. Not sure what to say or what to do. I was just so shocked. Every part of me is falling apart. I felt my legs getting numb; it couldn’t stand my weight any longer. I felt my head spinning, my vision blurred. I fell to the floor, didn’t want to accept the truth. “I didn’t do this simply because I hate you. You have been a good wife. It’s just that, this might be the best solution,” he explained, handing me the divorce paper. “Why? What had I done wrong?” I pleaded, more tears came rolling down. “It’s not what you did. I guess we changed. Our feelings changed,” he explained. He didn’t even sound like he is disappointed at all. “NO!!! I didn’t. Probably you did,” I was yelling on the top of my lungs at this point. “I saw the smeared lipstick on your collar and the smell of women’s perfume. What do you have to explain?” my voice rising with anger.

He kept quiet. “I trust and believed in you all these while. So, you think I’m a nincompoop? I wouldn’t figure out that you cheated on me. Probably for a woman you met at the bar?” I’m starting to lose control of myself. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I think you are being crazy,” he said sheepishly. “You say I’m crazy, cause you don’t think I know what you’ve done, and when you call me ‘baby’, I know I’m not the only one,” I sang a line from ‘I’m Not The Only One’ by Sam Smith.

I snatched the divorce paper from him. I signed it without further explanation. “I am going to London,” I announced loudly. “I’m going to have a good life without you. Don’t worry about me because I’m getting paid thrice of my current salary. I’m going to stay in a gazebo by the sea sides,” I said with pride. He stood there quietly, his head drooping, probably too guilty to admit his mistakes.

I walked to my room, packed all my belongings and left my wedding ring on the dresser next to his. I took off the necklace with a heart shaped pendant which was his first gift to me, and placed it next to the wedding ring. What else? My house keys of course. No! Not anymore. Officially his house keys, not mine. It was a hard goodbye but I pretended not to care.

It was a week since I arrived in London, England. This place is cold but awesome. Skyscrapers everywhere and the Big Ben itself was my favourite. Everyone on the streets seemed so polite. Even my new colleagues are very friendly and helpful. Being a senior accountant is simply amazing; a new ranking and a new start to a new beginning. Forgetting Antonio is never easy. I can still imagine his face in my head, his auburn hair, big eyes, his big hands and high nose. I could still hear him humming my favourite song, teasing about my nerdy outfit, laughing at my nonsensical jokes and snoring like a pig when he’s too tired. Everything happened so fast, in less than a month, a great couple turned into strangers. It was as if it’s been a drama, a very dramatic one. Just one document, changes the life of two individuals.

I haven’t fully unpacked my luggage yet, clothes are all over the place. I was looking for my red knitted scarf but it was nowhere to be found. If it’s not in my closet, it must definitely be in the luggage. When I am rummaging my clothes inside the luggage, I come across a piece of handwritten note. It’s a familiar handwriting, its Antonio’s. Blotches every few words, as if he is unsure what he’s going to write next. It said,

Dear Courtney,

You will probably find this after our divorce. You will probably hate me now. I just wanted to wish you a big congratulation on your promotion. I didn’t cheat on you or my feelings change. I was still the same me and I will always love you. Probably we met at the wrong timing. ‘Met the correct person at the wrong timing’, is that the phrase? I knew that you would give up on your career if I didn’t lie to you. You would stay with me because you can’t afford to lose me. Am I right? Now, it’s the best of both worlds. Don’t come back and look for me. I’ll be away for a while. I hope we will meet again in future. Goodbye!

Love, Antonio

P.S. I saw your car at the park the other day. It was really disgusting, walking on grass and the smell of grass. Gross! But I did it for you.

Tears streamed down my cheeks. So, it was all a lie after all? Why would he be so stupid? Or was I the one being stupid. Either way, I was the dumbest wife in the whole world. Why hadn’t I notice he was pretending to be bad so that I can leave peacefully? He sacrificed his own feelings into making my career real. He sacrificed our marriage into making my dream successful. I was being an idiot all this while, not understanding his actions. He was a man that understood how others felt, he was a man that was always honest, he was the man that was always very supportive and he was indeed the best of the whole wide world. I regret for not thinking properly, to make my decision so fast without considering. It was entirely my fault. I should be the one thanking him, for my successful career. He is the one who really supported me, even though I need to leave him behind. He is a true gentleman. Antonio will always be in my heart. I’ve learnt that what you see might not be the reality while what you don’t see might be true love.

I tried to call him but it went to voicemail. I left him a voicemail saying, “Thank you honey, for everything. I love you too!”

By Stephanie Cheng E-Laine from Malaysia