Carl took the printed paper from his desk, and read each paragraph written below ‘RESIGNATION LETTER’. He folded the paper, cleared his throat, and said “Mr. Lawrance, I am thankful for the last two years experience serving you. Surely I cannot find an equal employer like you, who hired me when I was unskilled, trained me, and gave me advance when I needed it. Now, I have found a job with better pay and compensation, which will give more stability to my family income as well as to repay my loan to you.” It will be alright, he said to himself.
Last night, when he was rehearsing his lines, he saw his sleeping wife’s cheek was getting thinner, having overworked herself for extra income. He had stretched himself to get additional income by taking a part-time job in a food caterer. He knew that he needed a stable income for Sandy’s first school, their one-year-old boy.
If it was not because of Joe’s offer to replace a newly vacant sales position in his office, he would be still ruminating on how to improve his family’s welfare.
“Are you interested to take that job? We’re selling household cleaning agent products. With your experience in the business before, it would be a good starting point for this job. Don’t worry, it’s not a door-to-door salesman. You will talk to companies or retailers,” said Joe at his house while his wife and mine were preparing for the dinner. “It’s worth to try, considering that the compensation may be double or triple your basic salary. That depends on your achievement, of course.”
His mobile rang.
“Hi, Joe. Yes, I will come to your office on Friday. Maybe around 8 AM? Oh, right. 9 AM is also good for me. As agreed, I will commence working in your place on Monday. Let’s get the paperwork done first.”
He looked at his phone’s calendar, D. Lawrence: Dinner at 7 PM. He put his paper in an envelope, kept it in his small messenger bag, and walked into his car. He called his wife, Felice, and put the connection on speakerphone.
“Hi Hon. I’m going to meet Lawrence tonight. Don’t wait for me for dinner. Please go home quickly after picking up Sandy in Mom’s house. You need to rest more. I can’t afford to see my nurse wife taking bed rest.”
He heard his wife giggled. “Will do, my man. Are you sure about your decision with Mr. Lawrence?”
“Yeah,” Carl lied. “I think it’s better for my career and our income. I have to leave my comfort zone for advancement. I am not going to let my wife struggle with two jobs and letting Sandy’s missed his first school.”
“We’re so proud of you. Whatever you decide, I have your back.”
His heart settled at last. “Thanks, Hon. You never knew how much it meant for me. Love you.”
Carl parked his car at the most front row of Allmart. Besides the availability of the nearest parking slot to the store, shopping at off-peak hours allowed him to get things quickly and less waiting time to queue in the cashier. In less than thirty minutes, he returned to his car with 2 paper bags full of groceries.
Mr. Lawrence would welcome Mr. Fudge for dinner, a friendly one after few months apart from their last meet up. Mr. Lawrence was very strict about the dinner arrangement, he did not entertain any business meeting to take place in his house after 9 PM. It was different for a friendly rendezvous, Mr. Lawrence was lax about it. The recent one, Mr. Fudge stayed just five minutes before 10.30 PM. So, Carl was contemplating to wait until the dinner was over or talk to his boss before the dinner.
His car followed along yet quieter road until he reached to a white tall gate which opened automatically after he waved at the surveillance camera. He was welcomed by a pond with a water fountain at the center, surrounded by mixed of blue-white-purple Hydrangea and Larkspur. He pulled over his car, leaving three parking lots in between his car and parked black BMW and grey pearl Lexus. He took the paper bags, his messenger bag and took up the stairs to the door.
As the front door opened and a hall with stairs appeared, Carl turned to the right side of the room, following the hallway that showed him a sliding stained glass door framed in white wood about seven feet tall. In the middle of the hallway, he went inside to a locker room, dropped his paper bags on the bench, and opened the cabinet which labeled ‘CARL JOHNSON’. In the next five minutes, he was already in a long-sleeve black chef coat with the same color pants, covered with white bib apron, mouth mask, and white cap.
“There you are, Chef Carl. What’s in our menu for tonight?” said Emily, the young maid who assists him in the kitchen in the dining time, while at other times, she would clean up, and touch up the looks of every piece in the house.
“Hi Emily! We’ll have Mr. Fudge for dinner’s guest, so we’ll have Smoked Salmon for starter, Roast Chicken Caesar Salad and Fillet Steak Flambé for main, and Carrot Cake for dessert. Remember, no white flour used, Mr. Lawrence had gluten intolerance.”
“Copy that,” said Emily while transferring the paper bags to the kitchen table.
“So, how do you know Mr. Lawrence?” asked the old woman in her first five minutes meeting Carl. She covered her white hair under the white hat, and chef coat in the same color. She showed up in the kitchen a week after Carl was hired as a chef.
“I was introduced by a friend to Mr. Lawrence who took me on as his private chef.” Carl was not accustomed to Mrs. Fields’ approach right after she mentioned her name. People are not obliged to be friendly, hence he played along with the senior standing in front of him.
“Connection, then?” she concluded. “What’s your specialty?”
“I’m a generalist, Mrs. Fields. I need to learn every type of dish from you and serve it especially according to Mr. Lawrence’s preference. ”
“Whip-smart guy. Mr. Lawrence had pitied on your cooking skill, that he asked me to teach you to justify your hiring. I don’t know what’s your arrangement with him to be considered as a private chef without any cooking ability. You must thank your lucky star that he was patient enough to eat your daily cooking meal, despite he paid you professionally. Don’t feel entitled to your connection that brought you to his door. It won’t bring you far unless you work your fingers to the bone.” She tied her red apron and said, “Don’t waste my time with your daydreaming, Lucky Boy.”
In the next two weeks, Carl had to keep reminding himself that he needed all but pride to build his cooking skill through Mrs. Fields’ tutorial enriched with torture and terror. What Mrs. Fields said was not entirely wrong, so Carl kept his head down. It was his first time working for someone else, and as a cook. He was overwhelmed with his first working day as a chef, following piece-of-cake rated recipe he found on the internet.
Carl took for almost three hours to prepare his first dishes for Mr. Lawrence; Chicken Butter, Meatball over Spaghetti, and Beef Lasagne. Thanks to his oblivion on his boss gluten intolerance, his boss tasted the chicken and the meatball only. He apologized after Mr. Lawrence shared his food restriction, and even offered him to pay back the grocery bill hoping to undo his first day’s bad impression. Concerning his initiative, Mr. Lawrence replied, “I’m expecting for delectable dishes. Grant my wish, will you?” With the second chance given by Mr. Lawrence, Carl was determined to learn cooking seriously to meet his boss’ standard.
When Mr. Lawrence wanted a company for dinner, he asked Carl to join him. Although Mr. Lawrence had shared a little about his personal life, he was always interested in Carl’s life. They talked about Carl’s failing investment that made him closing his laundry store to pay for the debt, his dream to start a business again, and their weekend activities. Once, he invited the Johnson’s for a Saturday lunch. He even prepared a small space in his house that Felice could use to lull and feed Sandy.
“Mr. Lawrence, we are so thankful for your hospitality and the lunch invite in your beautiful house. I hope that we do not make too much noise for you,” said Felice before they excused themselves.
“This house is too big for me. I like the lively atmosphere that you and the baby bring. You should come more often,” he said in the friendliest tone Carl ever heard from his boss.
“Is everything prepared?” asked Mr. Lawrence by the dining room’s door. Mr. Lawrence was in his blue checkered shirt, with the same color pants.
Carl had just arranged the utensils on the dining table. “It’s all set.”
“Great, I will wait for Charles in my study room,” he referred to Mr. Fudge who should be arriving in the next ten minutes.
“Can I have a minute with you?” Carl decided it was the time, which Mr. Lawrence answered with his tilted head.
Mr. Lawrence sat behind his desk. Carl took out the envelope from his pocket and put it on his boss’ desk.
“I found another job with better pay. So I…”
“Why did you not ask me?” his boss asked without opening the envelope.
The question hit Carl, something he never think of. “To increase my pay? I still owe you money. I think it’s just too much to ask you for that,” said Carl.
“Who do you think I am?”
“You are a very generous and kind employer… ”
“Have you seen me inviting anyone who works for me on a dinner table? Have you seen me talking to people in this house about their personal life? Even allowing their family to visit my house?”
“Carl. I don’t easily trust people, including those who work for me. But I see you as a friend in need from the beginning.”
“That’s an honor for me. I’m sorry for taking your kindness for granted,” said Carl before a knock on the door cut his sentence. Emily announced, “Mr. Fudge is here.”
“Think of what you’re going to ask from me. I’ll talk to you again tomorrow.” Mr. Lawrence disappeared from the room.
That night, while serving Mr. Lawrance and Mr. Fudge for dinner, Carl tried his best figuring out if now he was still employed, or he was given another chance to continue his work.
The next morning, Carl saw an unexpected guest through his peeping hole. He was bewildered by the arrival of Mr. Lawrance at his front door. He whispered to Felice, asking her who was feeding Sandy on the dining table move to the bedroom quietly.
“Good morning, Mr. Lawrance,” greeted Carl who was still holding his door. He was reluctant to welcome his guest into his messy house.
“Daniel. You can call me Daniel,” said Mr. Lawrance. “Apologize for my sudden appearance. Can you accompany me to have breakfast in that corner?”
“Yeah, sure.” He was relieved that Daniel did not need to hear Sandy’s crying in the background for long. He followed Daniel in his navy blue suit to his black BMW. The man in his mid of forty nodded to his driver, who closed the passenger door once Daniel and Carl went in. The car moved away from Carl’s house.
“Have you thought about what you want from me?”
“Certainly I need to get a better salary for my family. With the current work, I won’t be able to get a significant additional income even if I take a part-time job. I don’t know what can you help me with, but I appreciate your gesture.”
The car stopped in front of Rise Up Cafe, and the gentlemen went inside. The cafe had a modern rustic design painted in white, woody, and black color. They were served with a menu book by a waiter, who took the order of two Egg Benedicts, Black Coffee for Daniel, and Cappuccino for Carl. The half of the room was filled with customers.
“You are right. I may not be able to pay you too much as my private chef,” said Daniel. “But I can help you with something else.”
Carl leaned his body on the table. “Please go on.”
“I just bought this cafe. As an investor, I saw this cafe has a big potential to grow, as I saw in you two years ago. Now I have a friend, who is a responsible and resilient chef who has been working hard to meet his former boss’ standard. I want to ask this friend to partner with me. I, as an investor, and him, as a head chef of this cafe. Carl, you won’t get any salary from me anymore. As a head chef, assuming you agreed, you have a share for the profit of this cafe. There’s no limit to your income. It’s not going to be easy, but I trust that you can do it.”
Carl cleared his throat. “Are you serious?”
“The current chef has a retirement plan after developing all my restaurant portfolio in different sites. You can talk to her directly,” Daniel smiled at someone behind Carl’s back.
“Mrs. Fields!” shouted Carl.
“Don’t be too happy, Lucky Boy! I’m always be your responsibility and resilience test.” Mrs. Fields in her red apron winked at Daniel.
That morning, Carl met his fierce tutor turned into a mentor; a former boss turned into a friend, and had his door to be an entrepreneur re-opened.