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A Vulnerable Housewife – Chapter one – Business Trip to New Orleans

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Chapter one – Taking care of business David gets laid off I remember that fateful day, when everything changed as if it were yesterday. It was about ten o’clock in the morning on a Friday, nearly two years ago when my David called home. “Connie, I have some bad news.” “What happened?” I asked nervously. “I got laid off. Permanently furloughed is the actual term they used. They let sixty-eight of us go today. Rumors are that there will be more layoffs in other locations next week,” David said. There was a noticeable quiver in his voice indicating that the news had truly shaken him. “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. Come on home and we’ll talk about it,” I replied, searching for the right thing to say. “No, a bunch of us are going to stop off at Legends for a drink before we head home,” David responded before adding, “On the good news side, they did give me three month’s severance pay to tide us over until I get another job.” Legends was a local bar that David and his friends frequented. “Well that’s something at least. David, it’s only ten o’clock. Legends isn’t even open yet. Come on home,” I pleaded. “I have to pack up my desk and sign the legal release to get the severance check. Legends opens at eleven. I couldn’t get there before then no matter what. I’ll have to turn in my company car too. So I’ll need you to pick me up at the bar. I’ll call you when I want you to come get me.” “If you don’t have your company car, how are you getting to Legends?” I asked. “Stewart is driving several of us over there. He said he’d buy the first three rounds.” Stewart was David’s boss and good friend. They had known each other since college. I realized that it must have been hard for Stewart to lay off his good friend. “Okay, call me when you are ready to be picked up.” It was a little after four. I still had not heard from David. I decided I would go check on him. I entered Legends and immediately spotted the raucous group of drunks in the back corner of the bar. David and his buddies had pulled three tables together. There were twelve or fourteen recently laid off drunks loudly complaining about ‘the fuckin’ Saudis fucking America in the ass’ by driving the price of oil so low.” They were drunk, loud, obnoxious and borderline belligerent. It took some persuasion, but I finally convinced David to abandon his friends and come home with me. As I look back over the past two years and reflect upon how my life has changed, I can honestly say that the change really started on that fateful Friday in August, 2014. Setting the stage I am twenty-six and my husband is twenty eight. We have been married six years and live in Lafayette, Louisiana. By any objective standard, I am considered attractive. I have long blonde hair, large green eyes, full lips and an engaging smile. At five foot ten inches tall with long legs, a slender figure, and smallish but perky breasts, I have often been told I should be a model. I will confess, I enjoy these comments as well as the looks of admiration I attract from men and women alike. I never even considered cheating on my husband, but knowing that others found me attractive, perhaps even desirable, did wonders for my self-esteem. I married David, while we were both students at LSU in Baton Rouge. When David graduated in 2011, we moved back to my home town, Lafayette, Louisiana where David accepted a job with an oilfield service company. David was quickly promoted to field engineer. The hours were long, the travel schedule was brutal, but the compensation was excellent. David’s job allowed us to live a very comfortable life. We bought our first home in an upscale neighborhood. Because bahis siteleri of the frequent business travel demanded by David’s job, I only saw my husband during those brief periods when he was not sitting on some well site either offshore in the Gulf of Mexico or on some barge in the snake infested waters of the Louisiana bayous. In short, we were financially secure, and we kept our marriage alive despite the long periods during which we were separated. It was not a perfect existence, but we managed to make it work for us. Then in 2014, the bottom fell out of the energy business. The global price of oil dropped rapidly from over $100 per barrel to less than $35 per barrel. Cutbacks, re-organizations, forced retirements and layoffs were rampant throughout the industry. David and I saw friends and relatives impacted in various ways. So it was not totally unexpected when we were impacted ourselves. I was concerned when David was ‘permanently furloughed’, but the news devastated him. David immediately started looking for another engineering position, however, with the entire industry in a state of disarray due to low oil prices, his prospects were slim to none. There were simply no jobs to be found for a young engineer with my husband’s limited years of experience. David and I both realized that if we were going to keep our house, I needed to find a job, and find one quickly. I was fortunate to land a job working as Tom’s executive secretary. Tom was the President and the primary owner of a company that manufactured specialty chemicals for oil companies throughout south Louisiana and offshore Gulf of Mexico. Tom started the company nearly thirty years ago, and had a small, but loyal client base. Tom was more than just the President and principal owner of his company. Tom was a dear family friend. I had known Tom since I was a little girl. I remember my family attending Tom’s wife’s funeral when she succumbed to ovarian cancer six or seven years ago. If I am really honest, I must admit that my getting this job had more to do with my father’s friendship with Tom than it did with my somewhat limited secretarial skills. Nonetheless, I was determined to work hard, learn the business and make sure Tom never regretted giving me this opportunity. The salary was far less than what David had been making as a field engineer, but it was sufficient to allow us to continue to pay our mortgage as well as our other essential bills if we scrimped and were careful. In the months following getting laid off, I saw David gradually lose hope of finding another engineering position. I watched helplessly as he started to fall into the bottle. He fell into a pattern of starting to drink in the afternoon, and was often ‘tipsy’ by the time I got home at six o’clock. I tried to talk with my husband about his drinking, but he’d become defensive and belligerent claiming he was only drinking beer and that I should ‘cut him some slack’. I understood the reasons for David’s despair. I even empathized with what he was dealing with. However, it was difficult to feel close to him during this period. Our sex life had become non-existent. Although I was distressed as I witnessed my husband wallow in self-pity and depression, I was genuinely enjoying working for Tom. Tom was kind, witty, intelligent and charming. At fifty two years old, he had that distinguished look of an older man of power and influence that some younger women find so very attractive. He also kept himself physically fit. I wondered silently why he never dated. He certainly would be a catch for any woman. We developed a close relationship that balanced canlı bahis siteleri serious work with light banter and harmless flirtation. Because he had known me since my childhood, and was still close friends with my father, I trusted him and felt safe around him, which allowed me to flirt a bit more than I should have. Tom never made any advances or inappropriate remarks, but he certainly let me know that he enjoyed seeing me, and found me attractive and fun. He frequently said, “If I were twenty years younger, your husband wouldn’t have a chance.’” I resisted the urge to tell him, “If you had any idea that my husband hasn’t touched me in months, you’d know that your age is not an issue here.” Tom’s business is threatened: It was the week before Christmas, 2015, when Tom came into the office visibly upset. I followed him into his office and asked, “Do you want to talk about it?” “About what?” he barked back at me. His response was uncharacteristically curt and harsh. Immediately his demeanor changed. “Connie, I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m feeling overwhelmed right now and I’m pissed.” “Who are you pissed at? Hopefully not me?” “No, I’m not mad at you, far from it. You are my one ‘ray of sunshine’ around here.” “So what’s wrong?” “It’s that fucking supply chain manager over Gulf States Energy. He’s demanding a twenty two percent price reduction effective January first. He says it’s needed because of the low oil prices. Connie, there’s no way I can afford to cut prices that much…and I sure can’t afford to lose these sales either. He’s one of our biggest clients. But he’s simply not listening to reason,” Tom complained, talking as much to himself as he was to me. “I’m sorry you are having to deal with this. I guess the entire industry is going through cost cutting efforts,” I responded, trying to be supportive. “I know these guys are under pressure just like the rest of us, but they don’t seem to understand that I can’t sell products at a loss.” “Surely they understand that. I mean no one is going to sell them chemicals at that price, right?” I asked rhetorically. “No, that’s the thing. Someone will simply water down their chemicals and sell them a diluted product. And the supply chain at Gulf States guys won’t give a fuck. They’ll get to claim that they got a huge cost savings. But the chemicals won’t work as well. It will cause the guys running the facilities absolute fits. It’ll be a completely fucked up decision. And on top of that, I’ll be a huge step closer to being out of business.” Tom never used profanity in my presence before which told me that he was frustrated and concerned, perhaps even scared. Additionally, Tom’s last comment shocked me back to reality. If he lost this account, he was going to have to start cutting personnel too, and I would likely lose my job in the process. With David out of work, I needed this job. I needed it badly. “Tom, what can I do to help?” “Nothing, really. I am heading over to New Orleans tomorrow to meet with the technical staff to try to make them understand that cheaper is not necessarily better. I will take the head of supply chain out for dinner and drinks tomorrow night as well. Hopefully I can ‘pull a rabbit out of the hat’ and save this account.” Tom did not sound confident about the likelihood of salvaging this account. “You should take me with you.” “Are you serious? It’s an overnight trip. And honestly, Connie, the meetings in the afternoon with the technical staff will be completely professional , but dinner and drinks tomorrow night might get a bit raunchy. I know this guy. I will probably have to take him to a strip club, or canlı bahis worse.” “Tom, I’m not a vestal virgin. I’ve been to Mardi Gras and I’ve seen plenty of debauchery in the French Quarter. I can handle myself and I think I can be very persuasive when I want to be. And your company and my job hang in the balance, right?” Tom was still not convinced. “What will your husband say?” “Oh, I doubt David would even notice I didn’t come home. He’ll be drinking beer all evening until he falls asleep on the couch.” I replied, more candidly than I intended. “So he’s not doing too well, huh?” “No, and I’m disappointed in him. He seems to be wallowing in self-pity most days.” “Try not to be too hard on him. It’s tough being out of work.” “I know it is, Tom. So let’s make sure you and I are not in the same boat. Let me help you convince these guys that they want to keep their business with us, and they want to allow us to remain profitable.” Tom, ultimately agreed to allow me to accompany him on this business trip. That night, over dinner, I explained the situation to David. I explained that the threat of losing this account was very real, and if we did, I would be out of a job. I was pleased that David not only understood my need to accompany Tom on this trip, he was actually supportive. “Connie, you need to understand that these oilfield guys will expect you to flirt and joke with them. They may say some pretty crude things, pardon the pun. They will understand where the limits are, but you can’t get too offended, and you’ll need to flirt back a bit to keep them interested,” David coached. “I get it. Flirt, but don’t let things get too far out of hand. I think I can handle these guys for one evening.” “I might have some guys over for poker night then,” David said, indicating I really wouldn’t be missed. “Try not to break anything.” The next morning, I met Tom at the office and we headed west on I-10 towards New Orleans around 8:30 a.m. I wore a navy blue business suit, white blouse and blue pumps. “You look very professional, very nice,” Tom complimented me. “Thank you. I did pack something a bit racier for our entertaining this evening, but I felt that I should look professional in their office this afternoon.” “Good plan. What are you wearing tonight?” “You’ll see. I want it to be a surprise, but I think you’ll like it,” I teased. We checked into the Ritz Carlton just a block off Bourbon Street around ten-thirty. Tom and I had adjoining rooms on the eleventh floor. We threw our bags into our rooms and headed down Canal Street for our lunch meeting with the small group of engineers who were responsible for overseeing the application of our chemicals. I did not understand most of the conversation, but I found the dynamics between Tom and these younger, very nerdy engineers quite interesting. For the first time in my life I really understood the old joke, how can you tell if you are in the elevator with an extroverted engineer? Answer: he stares at your shoes instead of his own! These guys were socially awkward, but clearly they knew chemicals. Most of the discussion went right over my head, but Tom clearly held his own, addressing their concerns one by one. I heard terms such as absorption, film life, scale inhibition and emulsion tendencies being bantered back and forth, not really understanding their meaning. I realized I still had a lot to learn about this business. I must confess, I found Tom’s knowledge, confidence, poise and charm very appealing, perhaps even sexy. Suddenly, I realized that he really was an attractive fifty two year old man. I wondered why I never really noticed how handsome he was before. On the ride back to the hotel I was simply gushing my praise. “You were on fire back there. I am so impressed with how you handled those engineers. You really know your stuff.” “Well, Connie, I’ve been doing this a long time.

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