She was an invaluable member of the team, or so they claimed. The promised wine flowed, and Rachael basked in the admiration of her fellow co-workers. The bigwigs remained silent simply nodding their agreement here and there, raising their glasses in unison as if mannequins attached to the same string, gifting the occasional smile.
We partied for several hours, ate well, drank better, then readied for home. Rachael was the last to leave having the hands of all to shake before departing. I’d waited, being her only friend in the office, on the prior promise to walk her to her front door; the city was never safe at night.
It wasn’t until we were outside alone and well down the high street that she started to cry. Inconsolable, she drenched her handkerchief, then sleeve, then my shoulder.
I didn’t know what to say or do, I’d never been good with such things. Instead, I held her until she was ready to speak. What on earth had upset her so was beyond me? She was new to the company yet had risen fast. Yes, she might not have been popular because of it, but that wasn’t her fault. Three months into her stint, she’d gained the promotion to Staff Manager that several of us had coveted, yet failed to gain.
Eventually, she ceased her tears.
“Better?” I asked.
She shook her head and passed me a small envelope bearing the company seal: a ferocious tiger ripping out a deer’s throat with ruthless determination.
I poured the contents into my hand and read as follows.
Dear Miss R. Smith,
you have become invaluable to our organisation and are hereby promoted to Staff Manager. Many congratulations!
Your first task is to fire the office staff. They are now surplus to requirements.
“They said I was invaluable,” she whispered. “But how can I be when I’ve now nothing to be invaluable for?”
“Business is business,” I’d replied, as she passed me the note with my final salary.