*BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! *
The alarm on his phone sprang to life as he blindly reached across the bed to the nightstand to turn it off. It was Monday morning, and Jeff Black felt as if he skipped past the weekend altogether.
Jeff laid his head back onto his pillow and wiped the crustiness from the corners of his eyes as he felt the soft touch of a hand against his chest.
“Good morning,” the sleepy female voice said.
“Good morning, Lori,” he replied.
Jeff and his wife Lori had been happily married for nearly ten years, and had two beautiful children, Max, and Jenny. Lori was first to get out of bed and head into the bathroom to quickly get ready. Afterward, she walked to the kitchen to start breakfast while Jeff prepared himself for work.
The company that Jeff worked for was a record company called, Lazarus Records. It was owned and operated by Jeff’s long-time friend, David Walker, an award-wining music producer. The name, Lazarus Records was based on the story of Lazarus of Bethany, a man whom Jesus had risen from the dead four days after he passed away. The company faced a similar tragedy when the original studio he had, burned to the ground. David thought all was lost, but an investor who believed in David’s talents loaned him the money to rebuild the company. He successfully brought it from ground zero to one of the most talked about studios in the area in less than a year. Business was booming, and that was when Jeff was asked to join the team.
Jeff worked as a sound engineer for a local radio station and was going nowhere fast. His income barely allowed him to cover their monthly expenses. When David had offered him the job, it was immediately after Lori announced she was pregnant with their first child, Max, so Jeff jumped at the chance. The pay was better, and the hours were steady. It was perfect for him.
As the company continued to grow, Jeff watched as his friend lived the life of luxury. David drove a brand-new Land Rover Sport, ate at the fanciest restaurants, lived in a penthouse condominium apartment on the east side of town, and had his pick of beautiful women. Jeff could not help but feel slightly envious of his friend’s success. He knew that even though his job paid a decent wage, he would never be able to afford that lifestyle.
Each year on the anniversary of the company’s rebirth, Jeff would throw a party and invite his entire staff along with several of his clientele, to celebrate another productive and profitable year. It would be a catered event with free food and drinks for everyone in attendance. Jeff and Lori hired a babysitter and headed downtown to Club Paradiso, one of the hottest clubs in town. Valets waited near the entrance to relieve attendees of the hassle of trying to find a parking space nearby. One of the attendants held the passenger door open for Lori and offered a hand to help her out of the car, while the other handed Jeff a claim check before getting behind the wheel of their Dodge Caravan.
As they opened the doors to the club, they could feel the sound waves bouncing off them from the crowded dance floor further ahead. Lori cupped her hands over her ears to partially silence the heavy bass beats. Jeff, on the other hand, gazed around in amazement. He hadn’t been in a club like this since he and Lori first began dating.
Lori leaned in close and spoke loudly into Jeff’s ear telling him that she needed a drink. Jeff browsed the room in search of the closest bar and spotted it on the back wall. He bulldozed his way through the crown with Lori’s hand held tightly in his own until they broke through on the other side of the room and approached the bartender.
After ordering their drinks, Jeff made eye contact with David who waved them over. He stood with two young ladies dressed in mini dresses and high heels. Each were flirtatiously touching David’s shoulders and chest as they laughed at every word he said. When Jeff and Lori arrived, the two girls gave Lori disapproving looks as if they considered her to be cheaply dressed. They both had their panties in a twist when David asked them to go mingle while he talked to his friends.
David hugged Lori then shook Jeff’s hand before asking them to have a seat. He motioned for the waitress to bring over a replacement bottle of champagne for the one he and his female companions had already emptied, then asked his friends what the thought of the party.
“It is a little on the loud side,” Lori stated innocently. David laughed and told her that he preferred it that way, so he doesn’t have to listen to some of the boring stories that people were trying to tell him.
“I think it’s fantastic, David,” Jeff exclaimed.
David just smiled and said that he was happy they were having a fun time. He also said that there was something important he needed to discuss with Jeff when they returned to work on Monday. Jeff looked to Lori, concerned, but David, seeing the worry in their faces, assured them that it wasn’t anything to be concerned with.
When the party had ended, Lori grabbed the claim check from Jeff’s pocket and led him outside. He was in no condition to drive, so she took the wheel when the valet arrived. It was a quiet drive home other than the loud snoring coming from the passenger side.
When they arrived home, the kids were soundly sleeping in their beds, so Lori helped Jeff to the couch in the living room, then drove the babysitter home. She tried not to be upset with Jeff though, because he rarely had the chance to let loose and have fun anymore. After returning home, she led Jeff to the bedroom and helped get him changed for bed. When his head hit the pillow, the snoring began again. She tried to bear the noise for a while, but eventually brought her pillow and a blanket to the living room where she slept on the couch. It wasn’t the most comfortable sleep, but at least it was quieter.
Monday morning rolled around, and Jeff made his way into work. When he got to his office, there was a voicemail on his machine from David asking him to come upstairs to his office as soon as he arrived.
David’s office was three times the size of any other office in the building. A large mahogany desk sat near a large picture window overlooking the downtown core of the city. David stood by the window looking out as Jeff walked in.
Jeff’s gaze perused the wall to the left as he approached the desk. There were dozens of framed gold and platinum records mounted across the room. Each one, a success story that David had a hand in.
David took a seat on the corner of the desk as Jeff sat in a leatherbound chair to his right. There was an enlightened look upon David’s face, and Jeff was unsure what had happened or was going to happen. He had never seen his friend this way.
David laced his fingers and set his hands upon his lap before beginning his speech.
“Jeff,” he began. “We have been friends for going on around twenty years, right?” Jeff agreed.
“In that time, we had been through a lot together. You were with me when I was struggling, and then through the fire, and have been an integral part of this team since you started working here.”
Jeff sat silently and listened.
“Jeff, I have decided that I need to get away for a while and find myself. Somewhere over the last few years, I seemed to have gotten lost in all the rigmarole that is associated with this business, and I need to take a step back. It is my plan to take a six month leave of absence from the company, and in my stead, I wish to appoint you as a temporary CEO until my return.”
Jeff could not believe what he was hearing. He tried to argue that he had no management experience, but David assured him that the company’s board of directors oversaw all the complicated decisions. All he would need to do is make a few public appearances and answer questions that the clients have.
Jeff looked down at what he was wearing, and he realized that his wardrobe was not up to the standards of someone in that position. David, reading Jeff’s thoughts, offered to have him fitted for a new wardrobe immediately. Every time Jeff tried to make and excuse, David had a solution. Eventually, Jeff agreed to the terms.
Over the next few months that followed, Jeff, Lori and the kids moved into David’s condominium, so Jeff was closer to the office. They were also given the keys to David’s Land Rover and left the minivan hidden away in the underground parking garage.
At the office, Jeff felt uneasy as the other employees began referring to him as Mr. Black instead of Jeff, but in time he adjusted. At a directors meeting, Jeff was given a rundown on the company’s financial statement, stock options, and staff concerns, but had to just nod and smile since he knew nothing about what they meant.
One night, as he sorted through a stack of folders containing potential clients, a woman knocked on the door. He asked her to enter and was taken aback by her stunning beauty. She introduced herself as Wendy and said she was sent there from the secretarial pool to cover for Karen, David’s regular secretary who was off sick that day.
Wendy was scantily dressed in a low-cut blouse and took immense pleasure in knowing that men were ogling her. She purposely leaned over in front of Jeff and offered him her hand to shake. Jeff could not help but stare, even momentarily, then he broke his gaze and thanked Wendy for introducing herself before asking her to return to her desk. Wendy left slowly knowing that Jeff was watching. She turned her head before walking out the door and winked at him. Jeff looked at a photo of his family that sat upon the desk and shook off his carnal feelings.
Throughout that day, Wendy made every excuse to come into Jeff’s office, and each time, she would flirt with him more. Jeff was having a tough time controlling his urges. This woman was offering herself so willingly, and he thought of the multiple times that he witnessed David in positions such as this and wished it were him, but now that his chance had come, he couldn’t do it. He chose to remain faithful to Lori. The next day, David’s secretary returned, and the temptation was gone.
The six-month sabbatical that David was on, was nearing an end and Jeff had not heard anything from David since he had left. He was beginning to wonder if David was returning at all, but on a stormy night after Jeff returned home to the condominium, he received a phone call. It was David saying that he would be arriving back in town in three days and wondered if Jeff could pick him up at the airport. Jeff agreed.
Over the next few days, Jeff and Lori moved their belongings back to their small bungalow on the west side of town. Jeff then drove David’s Land Rover to the airport. The flight came in on time and Jeff waved as his friend entered the airport arrivals lobby. David waved back then turned and draped one of his arms over the shoulder of a woman of average height and average looks. They approached Jeff and David introduced them.
“Jeff, I would like to introduce you to Nadine. She is a veterinarian from North Dakota. That’s where I have been the last six months, just traveling around taking in the sights and history of that State. Nadine works at Dakota Zoo in Bismarck taking care of all the animals they have on site.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Nadine,” Jeff said.
“There is more to tell you, but I was hoping we could go back to your place so I could introduce Nadine to Lori as well.”
“Um, sure, but I better call ahead. She will want to make sure the house…and her are tidied up first,” Jeff stated.
They arrived back at Jeff and Lori’s house and David took care of the introductions. He then asked if they could have a seat to discuss something, so they went into the living room. David held onto Nadine’s hand like he never wanted to let it go. Jeff could see that she was more than a weekend fling to him.
“I’m going to just come out and say it,” David began. “Nadine and I are going to get married.”
Lori and Jeff sat with their jaws hanging open for a moment, but their mouths soon formed smiles as they congratulated David and Nadine. David explained that it was because of the love he saw between Jeff and Lori that made him envious of what they had. He was tired of the life he was leading and wanted to settle down. David then asked Jeff to be his best man at the wedding. Jeff was overjoyed for his friend and told him that he would be proud to be the best man.
David asked Jeff about how things went at the office while he was away. When Jeff finished going over the details, David offered him a partnership in the company. They would equally share in the profits and run things together. Jeff and Lori were overly excited at David’s offer and began to get teary-eyed before accepting the offer.
The green-eyed monster that tried to overtake Jeff and David was now a thing of the past. Both men found a happy medium in their lives and lived the best of both worlds.