Coming From Behind
Chapter 1: Burned Out
Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Slow,
Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1: Burned Out - A burned-out executive quits his job and heads west seeking a new life.
I was sitting in the conference room long after everyone had left. I looked at my watch and saw it was almost eight o'clock. Today had been the culmination of over a year's hard work. The merger of Dollard Corporation and Cumberland Holdings had been the most difficult thirteen months of my life. I couldn't count the number of times I wondered why these two corporations wanted to get together. They had nothing other than their products in common and made it plain they could barely tolerate each other.
That spirit of acrimony made my life more difficult than it needed to be. However, that's why they paid me the big bucks. It was my job to herd these two mid-sized corporations into a union for their common good. Two big North American hardware manufacturers that were about to see their businesses vanish under a tsunami of Chinese product if they weren't careful.
There were days when I went home to my apartment and felt like I'd been beaten with a stick for ten hours. Now that the details had finally been worked out and the two sides had at least agreed to an unarmed truce, I didn't have the energy to celebrate. Whether their new corporation would survive was entirely up to them. My company would collect its fee regardless. A fee based on putting a nearly four-and-one-half billion dollar conglomerate in place to retool and rethink their strategy for the coming ten years.
I didn't do it alone, of course. But I was the point man and, if anything went wrong that destroyed the talks, it would be my responsibility. In the end it was my strategy, worked out with my team, and my neck if we were wrong. In this case, we pulled it out by the skin of our teeth.
I leaned back in the big, padded leather chair, closed my eyes and sighed deeply. It was over but I didn't have any sense of elation or victory, only relief that it was done. What the hell was I going to do now? I had no energy and no will to move on.
I had been doing this for the last ten years when I joined Halverson and Clifton Associates from Wharton. This had been my third sizeable merger where I took the lead. The first two had been "a piece of cake." This one ... well ... I wondered if my bosses hadn't chosen me to find out if I had the stamina and cleverness to succeed. It was never going to be easy but I had no idea how difficult it would turn out to be.
Five years ago I was married with a lovely wife and a nice apartment in Chicago. Today I was divorced and living alone in different apartment. The divorce was amicable. I was married to both Marie and my job and, in her opinion, that was one too many wives. We had met in college and married when I completed my undergraduate degree. When I went for my MBA she supported me while I studied.
The MBA got me a job at HCA and a fast track to a big salary. Unfortunately, it also got me a divorce. Marie was unwilling to spend the occasional weekend with me as our only alone time. We parted as friends, but we parted. I had a sense of failure that I couldn't quite get over and it had hung with me ever since. I couldn't blame her of course. It was all on me. I was the one who neglected her so I was the guilty party.
Now, five years later and at a very young 33, I was wondering if this was what I wanted to do any more. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I had taken less than a dozen days off over the past year when working on the merger. I'd forgotten what it was like to have some time to myself and do what I wanted to do without thinking about that fucking merger. So ... what now?
I pushed myself up out of the chair, closed my briefcase and laptop, slung the bag over my shoulder and headed for the elevators. My stomach was rumbling as I descended the eighteen floors to the lobby. The coffee shop was closed so I walked out onto Michigan Avenue and headed off toward home. It was only a few blocks and if I found a quick place to grab a sandwich along the way I could stop for a few minutes. Nothing was urgent right this minute.
I'd forgotten about Porkchop Pete's, the upscale tavern just a couple of blocks from the office. It took less than a second to decide it was my next destination. It wasn't busy on that Wednesday night. Plenty of booth space available and I chose one not far from the bar and facing the big screen TV. An attractive young lady appeared almost as I was seating myself and took my simple order, a beer and a burger.
There were highlights of some long ago golf game on the TV. I recognized Nicklaus, Player, and Weiskopf and watched as they battled it out in some tournament from the seventies I supposed. The focus was fuzzy and the color washed out but it didn't hide the fact that those guys could play. The game I was watching was probably played before I was born but I knew who the main combatants were.
The beer arrived and the burger followed a couple of minutes later with a side of potato chips. Perfect! I turned my attention back to the TV. It was the Golf Channel and they were obviously marking time until the next tournament started tomorrow. It reminded me that I had a corporate membership at the Beverly Country Club but, when I thought back, I couldn't remember the last time I'd played there. In fact, I couldn't remember the last time I'd played golf anywhere.
Hell of a thing for a guy my age and once the proud possessor of a nine handicap to realize he hadn't played for so long that he wasn't even sure where his clubs were. Fuck that! Something's got to change. I'd been thinking about it for a while now. When I was honest with myself I knew I wasn't enjoying my job. It wasn't just the recent battle but it had been gnawing at me for some time. Is this what I wanted for a career? For my life's work? I know guys who would kill for my job, especially with all the perks and the paycheck.
When Marie left she took nothing in the divorce. Her parents were wealthy and she had a very good job with a nice salary. Nothing like mine of course, but six figures nonetheless. She said she would have felt the money was tainted somehow. It was what had driven us apart and she didn't want any part of it. I shook my head at the notion but didn't argue the point with her.
I remembered when my father got ill and took a leave of absence from his company. They suspended his salary but carried his health insurance even after he had used up all his accumulated holidays and sick days. He had worked for a steel fabrication company and luckily he was able to go back to work before he and Mom had to dip very far into their savings. He took an early retirement as soon as it was offered and they moved to Arizona. His old company doesn't exist any more. I hadn't seen my parents in almost a year-and-a-half. They were suffering the same fate as my ex-wife. I was missing from their lives.
Maybe it was time for me to take a leave of absence. I'd dedicated a good chunk of my working days to this company. I'd just made them a boatload of money. I should be granted some consideration for what I'd gone through. Yeah, maybe that was the solution. Take a leave of absence. Recharge the batteries. Three weeks wasn't going to be enough. Hell, three months wasn't going to be enough the way I was thinking. Why not go for six months ... even a year? Well, I wouldn't know unless I tried.
The waitress took my plate and I agreed to another beer while I was thinking. What the hell would I do if I was off for six months or more? Money wasn't a problem. I'd be getting a mega-bonus from the merger and it was locked in, so no risk there. I hadn't been spending much of my salary and bonuses since my divorce so I could survive at least a year without a paycheck.
So what if they refused my request? Fuck 'em! I'll resign. I can get another job tomorrow with my experience. In fact, maybe I'll use that MBA I've got to get a job where I might be in charge instead of just the go-to guy. Shit, if I sold my apartment I could probably buy a small business if it came to that. Yeah! I wasn't in any rush to jump back into the fire. Wasn't it time to please myself for a change? I wonder what Marie would say if she heard my thoughts. She'd be pissed, I know. I couldn't blame her.
"Terry Monahan to see Brant Gooding, please," I announced to the secretary. She was new and very attractive in a mature way. She didn't know me so I made sure she knew my name.
"Yes, Mr. Monahan, Mr. Gooding's expecting you," she smiled.
Nice, professional. I walked past her to Brant's office, knocked twice on the closed door and then entered.
"Good morning, Terry," Brant said, rising from his desk and extending his hand. "Congratulations on the successful completion of the Cumberland/Dollard merger. That was a fine piece of work and there'll be a big bonus in it for you and your team."
"Thank you, Brant. I'm just glad to see the end of it. It wasn't a particularly pleasant experience."
"Ah well, the key word is experience, Terry. The things you learned in that process will last you your whole career."
"Perhaps so, but right now I'm thinking more about taking a break. I don't have any energy to start another project right now. Actually, I came today to talk about a leave of absence."
I saw the look of surprise on his face. He wasn't expecting this at all. He must have assumed I was all revved up to tackle another merger. He couldn't have been more wrong.
"A leave of absence? What about a vacation? God knows you've earned it. But a leave of absence? How long were you thinking of?" he asked, wary of my possible answer.
"To be honest, I was thinking of six months at a minimum, possibly as long as a year." There, I'd said it. There was no going back now.
"A year! Are you serious?" he said, his face turning red and barely able to contain what I assumed was anger.
"I'm burned out. I gave this merger thirteen months of my time with almost no relief. I don't have the energy to do it again right now. In fact, I'm not sure I want to do it again at all."
"Terry ... get a grip on yourself. Do you realize what you're saying? You were born for this business. You've proved yourself and this last victory is a seminal achievement. Everyone who knew those two companies knew it would be a cat fight from beginning to end. I can understand you're exhausted and need some time off. I don't have a problem with that. Take a month. Get away and do whatever you need to do to be ready to come back to your next challenge.
"But ... I can't grant you six months ... much less a year. That's just not possible, Terry."
I sank back in the chair and tented my hands, wondering just what I was about say. Could I go ahead and throw this job away? I looked at Brant carefully. Was he bluffing? I didn't think so ... but I wasn't sure. Well ... there was only one way to find out.
I reached into my inside pocket and drew out a folded sheet of paper, passing it across the desk to Brant Gooding, senior partner at Halverson and Clifton.
"What's this?" he said, once again showing surprise.
"It's my resignation, Brant. I was pretty sure you wouldn't or couldn't grant a leave, so I was prepared to sacrifice the job for some sanity. It's already cost me my wife so I guess this makes it perfect symmetry, doesn't it?"
"You can't be serious. You have the premier position in this firm. You're next in line for a partnership. Surely you considered that?"
I nodded. "Yes. I have no complaint about compensation or opportunity here, Brant. You've been more than fair and the bonuses have been generous. But ... and it's a big but, I don't think this is what I want to do with the rest of my working life. I'm not sure where I'll end up but I can assure you it won't be with a competitor. I'm thinking along the lines of acquiring my own small business. I'm not even sure what it will be, but whatever it is it won't suck the life out of me like this job does. I'm sorry if I disappoint you but I'm done ... at least for the foreseeable future."
Brant sat in stunned silence, almost unable to grasp what I was telling him. Almost. He kept looking down at my letter then back at me, unable to say anything. At length he began to shake his head slowly back and forth.
"I can't believe it. You're willing to throw all this away?" he said incredulously as he waved his hands around the opulent office. "It doesn't make sense. This is what you were born for. You're as good as anyone I've ever seen. You're part diplomat, part hard ass, part accountant ... God, I can't begin to think of all the talent you've shown. Why? I don't understand? Why?"
"I think I've made it pretty clear, Brant. I said I'm burned out and I'm not kidding. In the ten years I've been here, all I've done is work. I don't have any other life. Why do you think Marie left? She knew she didn't have a chance against the job. I kept proving that to her day after day until she couldn't take it any more. Isn't that enough?"
"I wish you'd reconsider," he said after a lengthy silence.
"Well, I offered you the option of a leave of absence but the truth of it is, Brant, I'm not sure I'd come back when it was up. I guess I'd feel some obligation in those circumstances, but I'm not sure my heart would be in it. I think this is the best way. A clean break."
"God damn, Terry. Isn't there any way I can convince you to stay?"
"How good would I be to H&C with half my heart in it? The team I worked with until yesterday has a couple of up-and-comers that will be happy to fill my shoes. If I'd been hit by a bus this morning you'd have to deal with that the same way. There's always a successor somewhere. I'm not irreplaceable."
Brant sat in silence once more before pushing himself up from his desk walking around to me. I rose and we shook hands. He had resigned himself to losing me and wasn't about to make any last minute deals to try and keep me. I felt better about that.
"Thank you again for the opportunities you gave me, Brant. H&C is a great company to work for and you reward your people more than fairly for their efforts. I have learned a lot and I won't forget who gave me the opportunity."
"Good luck, Terry. Stay in touch, please. I'd like to know what you decide to do whatever it is ... or wherever," he said with a sad smile.
I left the office and headed for the elevator and my office. I had several days work left on the details of the merger and of course I would need to be present at the formal signing of the documents once our legal department had vetted them. I would be gone in a day less than two weeks from today and at that moment I didn't have a single regret.
When I got home that evening I had some mail, among which was a flyer from one of the big real estate firms in Chicago. Was I interested in selling my apartment it asked. A few days earlier the flyer would have gone in the trash unread. Not this time. I left it on the kitchen counter, open to remind myself that it was a question worth answering. Was this the opportunity to make a clean break? It certainly seemed like it.
I'd bought the unit in 2005 for $630,000. I'd put a big down payment up to reduce the mortgage and financed the rest. I used my share of the apartment Marie and I had when we were married. I also used a lot of my cash as well. Right now I owed less than $350,000 on the unit. I was sure I would at least recoup my investment after five years, but just how much it was worth I didn't know.
Mr. Smarmy Real Estate dude, yeah, the one who sent me the flyer, was hot to trot. He'd be over that evening to look the place over. Luckily I didn't have to spend any time cleaning it up. I'd always kept a tidy home, something that had been drummed into me by my parents. I picked up a couple of magazines that were lying open on the sofa and otherwise cleaned up the kitchen counters. It took less than five minutes.
Mr. Smarmy, Martin Koenig by name, turned out to be a fifty-something well dressed gentleman with an annoying habit of sounding like he was talking down to me in a phony affected accent. I decided that I wanted to put a stop to it so I asked him a simple question.
"Why should I list this property with you, Mr. Koenig? Do you have any credentials that would tell me you're experienced in this market?"
He immediately looked offended and answered just as I expected he would.
"Of course. I've been with this firm for seventeen years and I've specialized in condos and apartments in the city for over ten years. I can assure you my credentials are exemplary."
"That's all well and good but I would like a couple of references, please. I don't do business with just anyone." I was pretty sure I had him on the defensive now.
"Ah well, that's an unusual request ... but I suppose I can provide them. Tell me, what do you do for a living?"
"I specialize in mergers and acquisitions for a very large firm. I've just completed a merger of two companies which will bring together more than four billion dollars in combined assets. That big enough for you?"
"I see. Are you looking to find another larger place in this area?"
"No. I'm selling out. I'm leaving Chicago."
"Oh ... so you want to list this unit and sell it. Is there any urgency to the sale?" He had lost his attitude and his fake accent.
"Not particularly, but I won't refuse any reasonable offer. Why don't you look around and then we can talk about what to expect."
He nodded, now happy to be away from my aggressiveness. I'd seen his type before. He wanted to be the king of the hill and I wasn't playing along. He'd get over it, especially if he made the sale.
He must have been pretty thorough in his inspection. He spent nearly fifteen minutes poking and prodding to see what features the unit had, making notes as he went.
"Do you know how many square feet?" he asked as he returned to the living room.
"Twenty-two hundred," I answered promptly.
"And I assume there is a garage?"
"Just over ten thousand last year."
"You seem to have all this information at your fingertips."
"I was expecting you, remember?" I said, stone-faced.
"Well, it's a lovely unit with some great views from the living room and master bedroom. I wouldn't list it for anything less than one million," he said offhandedly.
That caught me by surprise. That seemed like a very big appreciation over five years, but I said nothing.
"If you'll e-mail me your references I'll let you know if I'm going to list it with you," I said, ending the interview.
"I think you'll find that I can get you the best price for this property, Mr. Monahan. You won't regret doing business with me."
"We'll see," I said non-committally, opening the door for him.
I was glad to see the backside of him. I immediately picked up the telephone book and looked up the number of the agency who proclaimed itself to be the largest in the country. If signs on the lawn were any indication, it was probably true. The downtown office was closed so I left a message for a specialist in higher end city condos to call me on my cell phone.
"Mr. Monahan, I'm Felicia Gonzales. You left a message at our office last night about listing a property in the city. I wonder if I can help you?"
I liked the tone of her voice immediately. She was older, polite, and assumed nothing. She had got off on the right foot with me immediately.
"Yes, Ms. Gonzales. I have a condominium I'd like to list. I'm leaving the city so I won't be looking for anything to replace it ... at least not here. Can we arrange a meeting?"
"Of course. What would be convenient for you?"
"I'm at work right now. If it's not too much trouble, anytime after five thirty would be fine."
"Not a problem. If I were there at seven o'clock would that be okay?"
"That would be fine. Let me give you the address and I'll look forward to seeing you this evening."
I closed my phone with a much more positive feeling than I had with Mr. Martin Koenig. This woman sounded like she was a professional.
Felicia Gonzales was indeed in her fifties, a bit stout but very well dressed and coiffed. She handed me her business card and smiled.
"Thank you for inviting me, Mr. Monahan. You have a lovely location here. It's a very desirable area. I'm looking forward to seeing the apartment."
"Follow me," I smiled. This was a much more pleasant experience than the previous one.
We took even more time than Koenig did because Mrs. Gonzales asked a number of pertinent questions that would affect the salability of the place. Pets, noise transmission, storage space, maintenance response, power outages, etc. By the time we had finished the tour I had decided she was the agent I was going to list with.
"So, what do you think, Mrs. Gonzales?"
"I would list it for one million, one hundred thousand."
"That seems high to me. Why do you feel that way?"
"There are a number of intangibles that make this unit very appealing. First of all, it shows well. There is lots of light and no dark corners. It's very neat with no sign of any damage or water problems. I suspect that's due to you," she smiled. I nodded my affirmation.
"The market is quite lively right now, especially with spring weather making people more upbeat and more likely to look for something new. Listing now will allow you to take advantage of that."
I listened and she was making sense. Cold hard winters in Chicago were something to endure and then celebrate their passing. It wasn't quite baseball weather yet, but some warmth and sunshine would begin to lift people's spirits.
"Very well, Ms. Gonzales, I will be happy to list with you for a period of ninety days. Will that suit you?"
"Very acceptable, Mr. Monahan. But please, since we are now business partners of a kind, please call me Felicia."
"Then I'm Terry," I said, holding out my hand. We had a deal.