Date to be Published: 01-31-2024
Publisher: Pen It Publications
This touching Christian Romance follows Elizabeth’s journey to rediscover her connection with God and to unlock the true power of love
When El’s prestigious position in the company she helped to build is eliminated, she loses both her boyfriend and her place to live. Facing an uncertain future, she agrees to return home to settle her deceased aunt’s estate. But her trip down memory lane comes with a few surprises.
Her high school sweetheart turned pastor is officiating the funeral. Her antisocial aunt regularly hosted a rowdy church youth group. And mysteries hide not just in letters stashed away in a safe deposit box but also in the very pages of her aunt’s novels.
As the secrets and lies unravel, El must confront the ghosts of her past relationships, the distance between her and God, and the truth about real love. But will she give any type of love a chance?
In Love or Lies, El takes an emotional journey of self-discovery and faith to make sense of her past and look beyond the lies she’s been told. This touching Christian Romance explores what it means to rediscover a connection with God and to unlock the true power of love.
With hands clenched so tight my fingers might break, I scowl at Josh as he holds up his hand, stopping me in mid-sentence … again. “El, stop. Don’t get all emotional about this. I’ve heard your opinion and have made my decision. It’s 2002, and the dot-com world is expanding quicker than anyone expected. We need to strike now or risk being passed by. Just because it’s not your idea doesn’t mean it’s not good for the company. You refuse to consider the full potential of this.” He sighs as he picks up a red folder with black trim from his desk. These are his ‘For his eyes only’ folders. “I need—”
There’s a knock at his open door, and Poppy, the young, perky intern, bounces into the office. All that’s missing is her cheerleader outfit, although her normal attire is far from suitable for any professional office. Why is she still here this late?
“Excuse me, J … uh, Mr. Baker, it’s the call you’ve been waiting for. Mr. Abernathy is on line one.”
Josh smiles at her. “Thank you, Poppy, and thanks for staying late. You’re free to leave and take care of that other task we discussed.” He drops the folder on his desk while picking up his phone.
Did his gaze linger as she pranced out? Her tight dress leaves little to the imagination. How can she even sit down in it? I shake my head and concentrate on Josh. The name of his caller is familiar from the many discussions we’ve had. “Is this about the IPO?”
“We’re done here. I’m not discussing this anymore.” He waves toward the door and pushes the phone button as he turns his back to me. “Jack, thanks for returning my call. How are you doing tonight?” Knowing he’s dismissed me outright, I storm out, with the clack of my Jimmy Choo high heels on the tile floor echoing along the hallway. I grab my bottle of Pellegrino off the desk and collapse into my desk chair, staring out at nothing. My cherished view of the San Francisco skyline doesn’t help calm me as I rehash this latest altercation with Josh.
He’s my boss and has been my significant other for several years. I was here when he started this company, and we worked together over the years to make it the success it is.
Ever since he got this idea about an IPO, our work relationship has become rocky. The outside-of-work relationship is less ideal than I want, but what relationship is ever perfect? There’s never time for walks in the city, a night out on the town for dinner, or visiting a favorite nightspot. No more Sunday brunches, Saturday afternoon picnics, attending concerts in the park, or the other events I so enjoyed where we could relax and be a couple.
My office door opens, breaking my stupor, and Josh walks in. It’s later than normal, as tonight’s not the usual Friday evening for us. I’m Josh’s ride to the airport to catch the red-eye to DC. Is he here to apologize or just to get a ride? But something is off as he strides to the window without even making eye contact with me. He stares stone-faced out the window as he holds the same red and black folder out in my direction. These are for his private use. Why is he bringing it to me?
“What is it, Josh?” His hand seems to tremble while holding the folder out, but he still won’t glance in my direction. I take a sip of my Pellegrino while glancing at the old pendulum clock on my wall. I found it in a little secondhand shop right after I graduated. When I moved in with Josh, it didn’t fit the décor of his apartment, so I brought it here. The swinging pendulum and steady tick tick have always calmed me in the past, but they aren’t helping now. I stand and step toward him, forcing my fingers not to quiver as I take the folder.
He’s still avoiding my gaze. “Is this about the IPO?”
He continues to peer out the window with only the sound of the clock reverberating through the room like it’s counting down to an inevitable tragedy. Josh’s heavy sigh interrupts this. “El, my team needs to support me and my ideas. It’s important for everyone to back the decisions I make with enthusiasm. We need to be a cohesive, solid group, putting the company’s needs first.”
That’s not the tone of voice I was expecting. He’s using one he reserves for delivering practiced speeches. I remove the sheets of paper from the folder. The subject line on the first page jumps out at me.
Termination of employment.
My knees go weak, and I struggle to keep my balance as I read the letter. This can’t be happening. When we first met, our visions were on parallel tracks—the same hopes, dreams, and ideas—but now we differ more than we agree. He’s always appreciated my input from a female viewpoint, knowing it’s based on solid business perspectives. But this … I finally find my voice. “You’re firing me? Are you serious?”
Still staring out the window, he shakes his head. “It’s not a firing. With the reorganization of the company, your position is no longer viable or sustainable. We can outsource the work for considerable savings. It’s nothing personal.”
“Nothing personal!” I slam the empty folder down on my desk. “Even with all your double-talk, it sounds like a firing to me, and how is it not personal?” No. I’m not losing it over this. I take a deep breath. “Is this because I don’t agree with the IPO?”
“Here you go again. You need to set your opinion aside and quit letting your emotions blind you to the logic of my decisions. You refuse to understand the big picture. This is the perfect time for an IPO. The expansion will put us in place with the big tech companies.”
I shake my head, glaring at him. “No, Josh. It’s not a mere opinion. I stand by my position. An IPO is too risky. You don’t have the financial backing you’ll need, and you could lose control of the company.” I hold out the letter, shaking it. “Is this why you’re firing me? You don’t like what I’m telling you because it doesn’t fit your grand vision?”
He moves from the window, now inspecting the items on my wall, still not facing me. “Again, it’s not a firing. You’ve done such a fantastic job setting up our financial foundation that everything is working great. Because of this, eliminating your position is one change we’re able to make.”
With one hand on my hip, I grimace while waving the letter in my other hand at him. “That’s absurd. You’re saying I no longer have a job because I was so good at my job? Even for you, that’s quite a stretch, Josh. If I’m so good, why won’t you listen to me? Let me make it clear. You don’t have the finances for an IPO.” I huff in disgust and toss the pages on my desk.
He moves to my credenza and picks up the framed picture of the two of us with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. He waves his other hand in my direction. “I’m giving you two weeks’ notice, but I’d like you to use this weekend to clear out your office. It will be less disruptive if you don’t return on Monday. You know, make a clean break. It’ll be best all the way around.”
I struggle to keep my dignity intact. He’d want nothing more than me throwing a fit. This would justify all his comments. I take several deep breaths as I frown at him with crossed arms. “Best for the company or for you?”
He sets the picture down and picks up the one of us at the bottom of Lombard Street. “For all. It will give you time to decide what you want for your future. You can make plans and research your options. You’ll get the two weeks’ pay and credit for any accrued vacation time as noted, plus the full severance package detailed in your contract. I’m not shorting you anything in this separation.”
Wait? What? He doesn’t mean more than the job? He can’t be. I take a step back with my head to one side and scrutinize him. “We’re still talking about the job, correct? How do I want to move forward regarding a job?”
He sets the picture down and gives a quick glance my way. “There’s also a letter of reference. You’re good at what you do, El. One of the best I know, but it’s no longer workable or conducive to this company.”
He’s still avoiding eye contact, a sure sign there’s something else going on. After all the meetings we’ve attended, I know him well. “You didn’t answer my question.” While staring daggers at him, I shift my stance. “Is this only concerning the job or something more?”
With another sigh, he steps away from the credenza and stops in front of my desk, straightening my nameplate. “Let’s be honest. Things outside of work aren’t going well for us either. It’s like we want different things. We’re no longer on the same track, and this decision will complicate things even more.” He glances at the Rolex I gave him on his last birthday. “This is the perfect time for us to make a clean break. The timing couldn’t be better. You can use the two weeks I’m in DC to pack and find your own place.” In disbelief, I slam my fists on the desk, bouncing my nameplate. With another deep breath to control my anger, I lean toward him. “You’re telling me this now? Right now? As we need to leave for the airport. You’re firing and dumping me?”
He takes a quick step back and shakes his head while holding his hands up. “I’m not dumping or firing you. It’s more us parting ways.” He gives another slight wave. “Plus, I’m taking my car to the airport, so you don’t need to bother.” Still, without ever making eye contact for long, he steps toward the door to leave.
“Josh, wait. That’s it? Thank you for your service, and it’s been fun, but time to move on. Are you kidding me?”
He stops and, with another heavy sigh, glances back my way. “Don’t get all emotional and make a big scene over this. This is nothing but a business decision. I’m sure you sensed it coming as much as I did. We’re not the same people we were when we met. I’ve grown, and so have my ideas and plans for this company. This is the time to expand.
Two weeks should be enough time to pack your things and find another place. You can still use the car during this time and park it in the garage at the end.”
The end. Is this really happening? “You’re taking away my job, my car, and my home? All on a Friday night as you fly off for two weeks?”
His gaze lowers to the floor. “El, it’s not me. I’m not taking anything away. It’s for the corporation. The position is being cut, and the company leases the car. As for the other … I’m not sure you could call it a home, more like a place to live. Believe me, this is best for both of us. Once you get past your emotions, you’ll see that.”
His expression is as familiar as his tone of voice. He wants to appear reluctant and disappointed in the decision he’s forced to make, but in reality, he isn’t. How long has he been planning this?
“Best for the corporation, huh? Don’t try that on me. You’re getting ahead of yourself. There is no corporation or corporate board yet. I’m the one who helped set up this company. There’s only the company. Guess I should be glad you made the ultimate sacrifice and told me in person. Couldn’t bring yourself to do it in an email? ‘El, it’s over. Move out.’” My laser-focused eyes could cut him in half, but he never raises his gaze. “I appreciate the personal touch.”
“Like I said, I’m sorry it’s come to this. My decision to do an IPO makes sense, and I know you don’t agree. My team must be behind this one hundred percent, and you’ve made it clear you can’t support my decision. Division in the company is not helpful as we make the announcement. It’s a sign of weakness.” His phone beeps, and he checks it before putting it back in his coat pocket. “I’m sorry, I need to go. Leave the keys to the car and the apartment on the kitchen counter once you’ve finished moving.” He turns and opens the door to leave.
“Josh, wait. You’re walking out after telling me this like it’s nothing more than a minor disagreement?”
He stops in the doorway, finally glancing back at me. “No, I know it’s not a minor thing, but I’ve made my decision, and I don’t have time to discuss it further. By the time I return, I’m sure you’ll have thought it through and will agree. It’s for the best.” He gives me a slight smile. “You take care.”
The sound of the door closing underscores my feelings of anger and frustration. I’m in disbelief. Did this happen for real? My gaze finds the pages of the letter spread across my desk. It’s true. It happened. I should run after him and make him talk this through. But I can’t move. After seven years working with Josh to build this company and almost six years as a couple, the last three of which we lived together, I’m out. I’m thirty-two years old with no job, no car, no home, and I’m alone. Almost halfway through, and 2002 is not going how I thought it would. Where did things go off the rails?
About the Author
Born in Muncie, IN, Craig is as typical middle-America as they come. He was young when his parents divorced and his grandmother came to live with him, his mother, and two sisters. Seeing his grandmother’s faith in God on a regular basis led him to accept and know everything is okay, God’s in charge.
Craig served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and followed this as a DoD contractor where he had multiple tours overseas and around the U.S. While there were events in his life that tested his faith in God, nothing compared to when his first son was born with major medical issues. As a twenty-one-year-old father with a young devastated wife, his faith had never been tested more. After enduring several surgeries, some considered experimental, his son passed away at six months and two weeks. But even in his brief life, he had a tremendous impact on Craig and others.
Since then, God has blessed Craig with two more sons and has been a constant guidance in his life. Craig’s time in the military and as a contractor afterward included over 20 years overseas, where he was part of local mission churches. On their last return to the states, God led him and his wife to Oklahoma, where he teaches Bible studies and serves in a local church.
The memory of what God did to help him through his parent’s divorce, his son’s illness and death, and many other events in his life, has led him to want to share what impact God had and has with him.
Nowhere are we promised a life without tragedies, setbacks, problems, or devastating events we have no control over, but God’s word does promise, ‘It’s okay, God’s in charge.’
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