I can’t wait to get home.
These boardroom meetings are getting tedious. I have created a team of people that can handle everything without me. Why am I here, then?
“Sir, what are your thoughts on the branch in South Africa?” Mark pulls my attention back to the meeting. I raise my eyes but do not move from resting my chin on my hand.
“What are the current security measures?”
“Minimal, sir.” Mark frowns, and I can see the discomfort in his following words. “They have anti-virus, cameras, guards, barred windows...”
I frown. “So, why the hesitation in your eyes?”
I see a sigh leave his chest as he lowers his gaze. “Have you looked at the stats I’ve emailed over? They have all these measures, but crime is still an ongoing issue. Thefts happen even at the police stations.”
I think for a moment. “Why not use the security protocols from this branch as a blueprint, and duplicate them there? Surely, it’s not rocket science.” I lower my arm as I glare at him.
He doesn’t look convinced.
“But..?” I raise one eyebrow, challenging him.
“It will take months to teach them these systems, and there is no guarantee that it will work.”
I smile. “Do you understand why we started so small there? We look like a little start-up company, but I chose the location carefully. With time, we grow the company accordingly.”
We finish the meeting, and I plan to head to my hotel.
“Sir.” My driver greets me as he opens the door. Sliding in, I know I don’t have to tell him where to go, so I close my eyes and lean against the window.
“I’m coming home, baby,” I whisper to myself as I think of Saskia.
Sitting in my private jet headed for home, I wonder how surprised my wife would be when she sees me returning home early for once.
I travel for work often. Probably four of the seven weekdays. It’s what happens when you are a managing director of a multi-billion dollar corporation.
I can delegate, but I prefer being hands-on with my branches. Besides, it was my hands that started all of this.
My name is Julian Donovan, and I own DonoTech.
What started as my hobby, building automated robots now pays for my lifestyle and that of my wife. We don’t have any children as she didn’t want any. Split households corrupted both our childhoods. Hers more so than mine.
I have few fond memories with my parents and none with my siblings, but that has never held me back. I have always relied on myself, and today, here I stand.
I’m flying back home today from a branch meeting in New Zealand. Running a chain of franchises is not for the faint of heart, but I was built for this. It’s natural to me.
Security is a significant risk with the technology we will manufacture and distribute. The homes have burglar guards, electric fencing, guard dogs, and security company patrols, but it lacks. I would have to ensure Mark implements those advanced systems.
Of course, choosing someone to control these security systems will be another huge undertaking. My thoughts were interrupted by the captain announcing that we would be landing in New York soon. I can’t wait to get back home.
That’s enough stress for now. I am going home to the woman of my dreams. Saskia and I have been married for seven years this Sunday, together for eleven.
She has been with me from the company’s infancy, and I doubt I would be where I am without her support. She held my hand through it all.
Strapping in my seatbelt, I can feel the jet start its descent. I picture myself darting through the plane doors the moment the rubber hits the tarmac, racing through the ridiculous traffic to get home to my beautiful wife.
We’ve stopped at the flower shop, adding to the surprise for Saskia.
“Sir,” Joseph, the doorman, greets. I nod as I head for the elevator and press P for the penthouse. My smile hasn’t left my face. I start fidgeting with my hands, rubbing one over my hair.
As I watch the numbers climb, I get more excited. I have missed her so.
I push a breath against the palm of my hand and check the freshness. I’ve applied lip balm in the car. Saskia will be surprised to have pretty flowers, soft kisses, and an early me.
I don’t often get the opportunity to get home earlier than planned, and as such, the ability to surprise my wife has been limited. I do my best to compensate for the lost time by spending as much time with her as possible.
The elevator dings for the top floor, and I practically sprint through. “Saskia?” I call out, waiting.
“Julian?” I hear her call from the bedroom, surprise evident in her tone.
My smile widens as I see her emerge from the bedroom. I run towards her and envelope her in my arms, picking her up and turning us around. Her laughter rings in my ears as I place her back on her feet.
I gently hold her face as I kiss her lips. When I opened my eyes, I realized she was in a bathrobe and a towel wrapped around her hair.
“What are you doing home?” she asks as she gazes into my eyes.
“I thought I’d surprise you and be early for once.” I realized I had dropped her flowers at the entryway during my run.
“Well, I brought flowers, too,” I laugh. “But I left them by the elevator.”
She doesn’t respond, only smiles. For the first time, I notice that her smile doesn’t reach her eyes. Did I do something wrong? Was she not happy that I was home?
“What is it?” I relent.
She tilts her head to the side, my hands still holding her face. “What do you mean?”
“Are you not happy to see me?” My thundering heart in my chest decided to voice my worries.
“Of course I am!” The pitch of her voice goes higher, meaning she’s lying. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Deciding against ruining this moment, I swallow the bile and smile even though I am hurt. Clearing my throat, I put the smile back on my face. It feels as fake as the one she gave me.
“Are you hungry?” I ask as I lower my hands from her face, holding one of hers. Her other hand adjusts the towel on her head.
“Not really,” She admits. “But I will snack with you.”
If I’m honest with myself, I lost my appetite the moment her eyes didn’t sparkle. Since I was dumb enough to bring it up, I reluctantly moved toward the kitchen.
“I’ll just go change and meet you there?” She says as she pulls back on my hand. I respond with a nod, letting go of her hand.
My short walk to our penthouse kitchen has my mind racing. What could have changed to make her unhappy to see me? It couldn’t have been something I’ve said or haven’t said. I know I try to keep in contact with her in my travels. Phoning her constantly leads me to her voicemail, so I’ve settled on sending texts during my trips.
Realizing now that she does not reciprocate my sweet words and wishes over texts, she only responds with emojis. I never thought anything of it, but my mind is now sprinting full speed into overthinking.
My feet move on their own accord, busying myself in the kitchen. My mind is going to dark places, and I’m starting to hurt my feelings with my negative thoughts.
After making a platter with finger foods, I resolved to attack this issue head-on. I need answers.
Saskia walks into the kitchen with a smile, this one reaching her eyes. “Hey, baby.”
“Hello, my love. Feeling better?” I ask as I pour two glasses of wine and take them to the living room next to the platter.
She nods and follows me, sitting on the floor with her legs crossed. I sat opposite her, resting my back against the couch behind me.
“So,” She starts as she sips her wine. “What or who do I have to thank for giving you to me so early this week?”
I smile as I put a bacon-wrapped cherry toothpick in my mouth. Pulling the stick out and placing it on the side of the platter, I chew and swallow before answering.
“Well, I realized I have built a team of capable minds. They didn’t need me.”
“You weren’t needed, or you needed me?” She asks as she takes a bite of the anchovy cracker.
I put half a smile on my face. “Needing you sounds more accurate.”
She smiles as she bites into a pickle. “And what did you need from me?”
It must be hurt from overthinking, but her words did not affect me as she intended. The lie in her eyes and voice from earlier still stings. Right now, her tone sounded annoyed and not cute.
I halt my racing thoughts and sip my wine for courage. “Well, our anniversary is coming up.”
“Hm?” That was all I got from her.
“I thought we go away. Like a second honeymoon.” I suggested, hopeful. I watch her face as she takes in my words. I don’t know what I expected to find - some excitement, hope, maybe adoration at the idea.
Instead, Saskia’s lips tightened into a thin line. Following that, with a frown on her face, she sighs. “Julian, I can’t.”
There it is.
“Why not?” I ask, trying to keep my voice and face as neutral as possible. I don’t want to look like a child with his favorite toy taken from him.
“Well,” She sighs as she places her wine glass back on the coffee table. “I got recruited for a Vogue shoot.”
This time I couldn’t hide the surprise. “What? When?”
“They called yesterday and told me I will be the main model in their shoot.”
My heart races and my breathing fastens. “Why didn’t you tell me?” My words are laced with hurt.
“I wanted to surprise you when you came home.”
Her words don’t sound sincere. Or am I too hurt to listen objectively?
How can I be objective and supportive when she has only done and said hurtful things to me in the last hour since I arrived home?
I stand up, needing to get away. I just need these overwhelming feelings out of me. I need to deal with this or swallow it.
“Julian,” She tries to get my attention, but my ears are ringing.
“You were going to keep this from me for another two days?”
She sighs. “Please don’t ruin this night.”
I scoff. “You’re asking me not to ruin things right now? You can’t be serious.” I stare at her.
I’m doing my best to reign in my anger. I feel like a wounded animal, ready to lash out with violence.
Violent is not who I am; it has never been, and I refuse to let it out. My ego is growling at the deceit.
“You’re overreacting. You must be tired.”
“Tired?” I ask with a raised voice. “Saskia, I came home with good intentions. I came home to surprise you because I fucking miss you, and you didn’t even look happy to see me!”
“I am happy!” She stands and approaches me. “You just caught me off guard.”
“That’s what surprises do, Saskia! They catch you off guard. But they are supposed to make you happy.”