Emma’s husband persuades her to stay at home and be a housewife instead of running her father’s company. Just when she’s starting to feel she made the right choice, a stranger threatens her safety.
“Are you sure this is the life you want, Emma?”
Emma frowned at her father. He was sitting up in bed, supported by pillows. His face was ashen and gaunt after months of fighting a terminal illness. He was only just strong enough to hold her baby in his arms.
“It’s true that Brandon wants me to stay home to look after Paul, but I agree with him, Dad,” Emma said. “Especially while Paul’s still young.”
“The business world can be brutal, Emma.” Dad raised a finger and let Paul hold it in his tiny hand. “I understand you want to spend time with Paul, but if you’re out of the game for too long, you might find it difficult to get back in it. Your skills shouldn’t go to waste.”
“It will be okay, Dad.” Emma leaned over to kiss her father’s cheek. “Please, don’t worry about me. Brandon is smart and capable, and takes good care of me. Now, I saw Mrs. James when I arrived and she gave me a jar of preserves for you. Would you like some?”
Dad shrugged. “I have no appetite, but I’ll give them a try.”
Less than a month later, Emma’s father passed away and left Emma his company. That evening, she sat down with her husband, Brandon, to discuss what they should do next.
“It’s obvious.” Brandon grinned at Emma.
“I’ll run the company. After all, a woman shouldn’t concern herself with business and work when she has a family to care for. Your job now is to care for our home.”
“But Dad trained me himself. I know that company inside out,” Emma replied. “They need me now that Dad’s gone.”
“Baby, listen to me.” Brandon put his hand on the back of Emma’s neck. “I want you to have a life of leisure where your only concerns are home and family. I want to take care of you…you aren’t going to deny me the chance to provide for our family, are you?”
Emma looked into Brandon’s eyes and suppressed a sigh. He was so insecure about his masculinity, and Emma knew this conversation would soon become an argument if he didn’t get his way. Besides, she had to trust her husband to make good decisions.
“Okay, honey,” she said. “You can run the company.”
A year passed, and Emma was glad she let Brandon run the company. Caring for a young child was difficult and tiring, despite being fulfilling. However, Emma soon found herself caught up in a dangerous corporate situation. It all started with a phone call.
“Get out of the house now,” Brandon said. “Grab our documents, and Paul, then run. I’ll meet you at the corner of seventeenth and twenty-fifth street.”
“You can’t do that, baby; it’s too dangerous. How can you risk our son’s life like this? I insist you come back immediately.”
“But why, what’s going on?”
“He…he wants revenge,” Brandon shouted. “Now go!”
Emma fetched Paul from his playpen in the sitting room. She needed to go upstairs to retrieve the documents, but a shadow fell through the front door as she entered the hallway.
Emma quickly stepped back into the sitting room. From there, she stared at the broad-shouldered silhouette on her front step. He swayed from side to side and seemed to be trying to look through the figured glass panels in the door.
What now? She’d be seen if she crossed the hallway. The doorbell rang. Paul whimpered, and Emma held him closer to her chest, rocking him to keep the boy quiet.
“Shh, everything is fine.”
She kissed Paul’s forehead.
The front door knob turned a few times. The man was trying to get in! Emma rubbed Paul’s back and surveyed the sitting room. Two windows opened onto the front of the house, where the strange man was trying to gain entrance. A third opened onto the side of the house. It might be her only chance.
“Mrs. Miller, are you there?”
The man was rattling the door now. He could break the glass and force his way in any minute. Her chances of escaping the house were growing slimmer by the second. She tiptoed to the window on the side of the house and eased it open.
Emma climbed through the window and dropped into the flower bed beneath it. She clutched Paul tightly to her chest and ran across the narrow stretch of lawn and straight into her neighbor’s yard. Dogs barked, but Emma focused on nothing else but the path to safety.
“What on earth is going on?” Emma exclaimed when she climbed into Brandon’s car at their meeting spot. She’d walked and ran the entire way to meet him. “There was a man at the house!”
“He’s a disgruntled employee,” Brandon replied. “I fired him, and he threatened to hurt my family. The police are looking for him, but I think it’s best if we hide out for a while. Did you bring the documents?”
“I don’t want to see you again until you deliver a check to cover your debts.”
“There wasn’t time.”
Brandon slammed his fist against the steering wheel. “We can’t leave the country without passports!”
“Go to Dad’s place. I haven’t had a tenant in it for months and the people in the village know me, they’ll look out for us.”
“I suppose it will do for now.” Brandon pulled away from the curb at high speed. Several other motorists honked their horns at him as he wove through traffic, racing for the freeway.
Brandon wrinkled his nose as he entered his late father-in-law’s home. He’d never understood why the man had insisted on staying in this dump when his company made so much money.
“I should tell Mrs. James what’s going on so she can help keep watch for anyone suspicious.” Emma held out Paul so Brandon could take him, but he stepped back.
“No. I’m going to the shop to get us something to eat, and you need to clean this dump. Make sure it looks livable by the time I get back.”
Emma started to say something, but Brandon ignored her. He went to the tiny local supermarket to pick up supplies and soon returned to the house. The moment he opened the door, he knew something was wrong.
His briefcase was open on the kitchen table, and someone had spread his papers across the surface. Icy fear traveled down his spine. He called for Emma, but she never replied. A quick search of the house confirmed she was gone.
“This can’t be happening.”
Brandon took out his phone and tried calling Emma.
Brandon was surprised to hear the call was going through. He glanced again at his papers, scanning the information on them. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. Emma was probably too dumb to understand all the information since she was just a housewife.
“Hi Brandon,” Emma answered. “Sorry if I worried you by leaving, but I need to check on something in your office.”
Brandon gulped. He licked his lips to combat how dry his mouth suddenly was. “You can’t do that, baby; it’s too dangerous. How can you risk our son’s life like this? I insist you come back immediately.”
“I can’t do that.” Emma hung up.
Brandon’s heart was beating so fast it felt like it might burst from his chest. He raced outside, but the car was gone. He was stranded here, and Emma was en route to his office! He had to stop her.
Brandon took off down the street without pausing to lock the house or even shut the front door. There had to be a way he could beat Emma back to the city.
Brandon reached his office too late. Emma was already there with his assistant, Cindy. Papers were piled in front of her, and she was sitting at his desk!
“We’re leaving right now.” Brandon shoved past Cindy and reached to grab Emma’s arm, but she pulled away.
“I’m not going anywhere.” Emma flipped open the folder containing the company’s latest financial report.
“This is why you wanted to run away. Your so-called disgruntled employee, Mr. Donaldson from accounting, told me everything.”
Brandon scoffed. “Like you even understand half of what’s in there. Leave the papers and come, now.”
Emma stood and glared at him. “Accounting might not be my strongest skill, but you seem to have forgotten that I started learning business skills at this very desk when I was still young enough to sit on my father’s lap.”
Emma pulled out an accounting book from the pile on the table. “I found this in your briefcase when I unpacked it. The company isn’t doing well, Brandon, and I found the reason why in your personal expense records.”
“Why did you rent a yacht when you went to that conference in Miami last month? And why would you need to rent a suite at the most expensive hotel in town on a night you told me you were working late?” Emma crossed her arms tightly. She was so angry she felt like she might erupt.
“I can explain everything.” Brandon raised his hands in a placating gesture. “The yacht was to impress potential investors, and the hotel suite…that was for a supplier who arrived in town suddenly.”
Emma shook her head. “I can’t tell if you’re lying or if you’re really so foolish that you think this is a justifiable expense of company funds. You do realize that defrauding your investors is a crime, don’t you Brandon?”
“Woah, I think you’re getting a little carried away there, Emma.”
“No, if anything, I’m understating the seriousness of this situation.” Emma leaned on the desk and looked at the papers piled on the surface.
She remembered her last conversation with Dad and how she’d agreed to let Brandon run the company so she could spare his feelings. What an idiot she’d been.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Brandon continued. “All of those expenses were in the company’s best interest.”
Emma looked at him, and it felt like she was seeing him for the first time. Instead of a robust and capable man, she saw a boy whose only goal was to stroke his ego by making others feel small.
She thought about how she’d bent to his whims and blunted her personality to be more palatable for him. It was time to resurrect the fearless, sharp-witted woman she was before marrying this fool.
“You’ve been partying on the company dime and never once made a payment to cover it. You owe this company fifty-two thousand six hundred and seventy dollars, and I’m giving you three months to pay it back.”
Emma straightened up. “Legal is already drawing up the paperwork. Refuse my deal and I’ll hand you over to the police.”
“You can’t do that! I’m the boss around here, not you.”
“Not anymore, Brandon. Now get out.” She glared at him and pointed to the door. “I don’t want to see you again until you deliver a check to cover your debts.”
That was the last time Emma saw Brandon. When she arrived home that evening, all his clothes and personal possessions were gone. There wasn’t a note. When she tried calling him, the number was disconnected.
Emma decided to pay off Brandon’s debt to the company by selling the house. She moved into her father’s little house in the nearby village and worked from home most days. Under her leadership, the company started to recover from the harm Brandon caused.
As Paul grew up, Emma taught him about business the same way her father taught her. Sitting on her lap in the evenings, she explained to the child how the company was his legacy and that one day it would be his.
What can we learn from this story?
Never make yourself smaller to accommodate another person’s ego. Emma hid her talents and held her tongue so Brandon wouldn’t feel hurt or intimidated by her. Instead, she should’ve let herself shine, and maybe, she would’ve ended up with someone who appreciated her.
Trust the judgment of those you know best. If Emma had paid more attention to her father’s doubts about her lifestyle choices, she might have realized sooner that Brandon was manipulating her.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.