Trying to build a new life on the farm has never been so sweet.

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In Sweet Company Cover
About the Book
"This book is “a fish out of water” but with much more... A little romance, a lot of bees and some chickens make this a really fun read."
Business wunderkind, Abigail, has her life planned and organized. Abigail has a thriving business, a loving family and a supporting fiancé. But when her business takes a series of blows, Abigail must make some life changing decisions that John cannot go along with. After losing everything, Abigail wants a new life. With nothing to fall back on, Abigail decides to move out West to start again. Learning how to live off the land it's not an easy task. But with the help of some new friends and her landlord Evan, Abigail learns how to follow her heart.
Women's Romance Fiction
Women's Empowerment Fiction
Read Time:
114 pages
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What Readers
Are Saying
"Interesting mix of characters and stories."
-Kathleen M Burke
"This book is a reminder that we really don’t know what’s happening in people’s mind and even the friends that we have do not share everything. Interesting read."
"Thoughtful novella from a promising new writer."
" I really enjoyed these very relatable characters and appreciated the tension that the author keeps up all the way through the book."
-Helen Reynolds
"...the story grabs my attention. Can't wait to read more."
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About the Author
Susie Whittenberger
Revolutionary and philosopher Jose Marti once said "to find peace and serenity, every man should have a child, plant a tree and write a book." 
Two items down, one book to go.
 My husband has this to say about me: Susie Whittenberger is a full time dreamer, part time obsesser and a couple a times a week, she's a writer. Besides (daydreaming about) writing fiction, her other passions include seamstressing, woodworking, enjoying a nice glass of wine (whilst ignoring her daughter) or a cup of coffee.
 She lives in Fort Lauderdale with her husband, daughter, dog and a few chickens.

Chapter 1

Search Engine Optimization is a fairly new offering of advertising agencies. Essentially, what SEO is meant to do is to improve the ranking of a particular website, within search engines. That was Abigail’s specialization. Abigail was so good at it that she was building a small, but very successful firm based on mostly her instincts. Her office was in a building downtown, where Abigail had a small loyal staff that trusted her and believed in her vision. She was relatively young to have such business, but she had worked hard and had always kept her head on the game. College and graduate school had been a breeze academically for her. Mostly because she steered cleared of any social events, spending most of her weekends either studying or at home with her family. Besides some events for only her closest friends, Abigail thought of socialization as a distraction. She thought that at some point, she would have a social life and deep meaningful relationships. But for the time being, Abigail focused on working, acquiring contacts and growing her business

   Being the sole owner, she always tried to make a good example. Abigail always made it a point to be the first one at the office. Most evening she would also be one of the lasts ones there. She didn’t mind, really. Abigail loved her job, and between keeping clients happy and trying to acquire new ones, she didn’t leave enough time or room in her life for anything else. During college Abigail had acquired a few good clients, with the help of her father. Slowly and carefully she began building her business. Abigail designed and developed an online presence for her clients, while improving their sales and advertising revenues. Her clients that had been with her since the early days trusted her, and word of mouth about her skills and knowledge got around. 

   Walter, her father saw the business potential early on and had invested a sizable amount to help Abigail grow. The trust that Walter had in his daughter was based primarily on integrity and dedication, but Walter loved his daughter. Having nothing but respect for her father, Abigail wasted no time. She knew that her father was very proud of her, and she would’ve died before disappointing him. She began hiring a small staff from her apartment, while her clients kept growing. Soon, she found herself needing an actual office and before she knew it, five years had passed. Walter was a normal fixture at the office. Technically he was a silent partner, but Abigail welcomed it. He was a great counselor and confidant. A successful business man himself, Walter was full of useful knowledge and experience. 

   Today Abigail had a budget meeting with her accountant and the sales associate. Abigail and the sales associate wanted to invest in a new web development software company to increase and expand the business. Walter had stayed quiet on this subject, because he didn’t really have a favorite side. 

   “A smart person always knows when to stay quiet,” he said when Abigail and Jeff, the accountant asked for his opinion. Jeff was hesitant. The price tag was to high, with virtually no guarantees, and they would have to take a loan out and put half her assets up for collateral. They had been going back and forth for about two months. 

   “Jeff, we can afford the loan payment, and after the first year, the projected sales will pay for the loan,” Scott, the sales associate had argued. 

   “Scott, I get all that. But if the projections are wrong, we lose half the company. We would have to start again,” Jeff argued

   “The projections aren’t wrong, they’re solid! And a little bit on the conservative side, Abigail what do you think?” Scott asked. Abigail had been sitting listening quietly. Walter was also in the meeting. 

   “Can we please sleep on it one more night?” Abigail asked.

   “We need to make a decision, other wise they’re going with Stanford and Huang,” Scott said. 

   “Well it sounds like they’re trying to rush us and I don’t like it, Abigail,” Jeff said.    “They need the cash, that’s why they’re rushing us,” Abigail said.

   “And they’re going to get their cash. If it’s not us, it’s Stanford and Huang. And we miss out on the deal,” Scott finished. After the discussion, they decided to invest. They were acquiring a three man firm, that besides software development, they specialized in targeted ads for social network platforms. Abigail was happy about the deal. 

   “This was only a good decision if you learn from it. Good or bad,” her father said. Abigail worked with her accountant, staying extra late each night for a week on the proposal and the contracts. By the time they were done, every word had been looked over at least twice. But everyone was satisfied with the final product.

   At the end of each day, Abigail went home to her fiancé, John. It was almost ten a clock at night before Abigail got to her apartment, where he always greeted her with a kiss and a glass of wine and food, in the event that she was hungry. 

   John and Abigail had been living in the same building for over a year, without noticing each other. But the property manager decided to organize a social meet and greet for the tenants. The idea was to at least introduce the neighbors so they would know each other by sight. Abigail’s sister, Wendy, had practically force her to go. That had been a little over three years ago.

   At that point in her life, the was no room for anything besides her business. Abigail wasn’t looking for anything serious, because her business was her main priority. But John had been so charismatic, making Abigail laugh, so she had noticed him and liked him. 

   “Hi, I’m John, and at the risk of sounding redundant I still must ask, do you live here? Because I’ve never seen you,” John introduced himself.

   “I do. But I work a lot, so I’m never home,” Abigail said

   “So if you ever see anybody in or around her apartment, call the cops, because more than likely, it’s not her and she’s being robbed,” Wendy joked.

   “This is Wendy, my sister. She forced me to come,” Abigail said

   “And what’s your name?” John asked

   “Yeah! Sorry. I’m Abigail,” she answered.

   They exchanged numbers. And according to Abigail, it was only because they both lived in the same building and it had been convenient, that she agreed to do even that. A few flirty texts throughout the next few weeks and they decided to go out for dinner, late and close to were Abigail worked. John understood right away that Abigail’s first priority was her firm. That was her baby and it seems that John liked the idea of a strong, successful partner.  

   John was a nice guy from a nice family. He had finished college, had a really good job, and wanted to start Graduate school. No past problems that Abigail might need to be concerned with, and with no major issues that she could see right away, it didn’t take long before he had moved in. Almost without even asking. It started with John filling up her fridge and pantry and continued when he started picking up her dry cleaning.

   Abigail didn’t mind, in fact she really appreciated it. John didn’t work the long hours that she did, and what slowly began as him just buying groceries, escalated to planning and cooking the dinners. He also took care of the apartment and her social calendar, while giving her all the room she needed for her work. Abigail liked having someone to come home to who was also so accommodating and found it very convenient. It didn’t take long before Abigail brought him home and her parents approved of him.

   As soon as Abigail had a proper boyfriend, her mother laid off a little bit about meeting someone or her working too hard. John didn’t have much to say about how much Abigail was working or how much time they spent together. He never complained and was always happy to see her. (Editors test. Please delete when found.) Abigail always apologized and always promised to make it up to him at some point in the future. That was their dynamic, and it worked for them. 

   In three years, they had never gone on a vacation, and only during their birthdays would Abigail even consider taking the weekend off. John was always supportive and never combative. Between their two year anniversary and their third, John had propose for them to get married, and Abigail accepted. 

   “Are you sure you want to do this?” John asked as Abigail put on her ring.

   “Yes, I’m sure. It’s the right time for us. We have been together for a long time and it’s time I make an honest man out of you,” Abigail answered. It hadn’t occurred to her to say no, after all this time and all the work that he had put into their relationship. All of his friends loved them together, and including Layla, Abigail’s best friend. But, while they had gotten engaged, Abigail had wanted to put off the wedding for as long as possible.

   “How long do you think we need to wait?” John asked. 

   “I don’t know. I’m sorry, love, but our main client just expanded and they’re counting on our full support for the next year,” Abigail said.

   Abigail told John this, and he agreed to push it back for as long as she needed. 

   “But please keep in mind that at some point I would like to have a family. You are not aging in any way, shape or form, but us mere mortals have to fight with time. I don’t want to get too old,” John said. It was the middle of the night and they had just finished having their scheduled weekly intimate evening. That was what John had nicknamed it.

   In the mean time, while they waited for Abigail to be ready, John wanted to go back to Grad school. John wanted to complete his maters’ but working on a masters, having a full time job and managing Abigail’s life outside of work would be to much for him to handle. 

   “Also, in the distant future when we have children, I think it would be better if we both have a higher education,” John said one night as Abigail took a shower, “It’s not like we travel or spend any money on anything extravagant. This would allow for me to persue my interests while giving me the freedom, space and schedule to take care of you, before we get married and have to make some serious sacrifices about the amount of time we spend working,” John said. To Abigail, he made a very compelling argument. 

   John always talked about how proud he was to have such a strong woman to call his own. Gender norms be damned, he enjoyed cooking for his partner. John always talked about how happy he was to take care of her. Their life as a whole was actually pretty quiet. They weren’t into socializing, parties or night life. They both had learned each other’s ways, without really discussing to much of their ultimate life goals. Or without really digging to deep into each other either. They never argued. They also never talked about anything real. They were both happy to support each other, since neither of them had to give up a whole lot to be with each other. There had been no real compromises or sacrifices. Abigail’s best friend, Layla, had really liked John and thought he was perfect for Abigail. Someone so laid back and unthreatened by her success was perfect for her. 

   “The fact that he’s very easy on the eyes is just the icing on the cake,” Layla said the night that she met John. Layla had been Abigail’s best friend since high school, but mostly by default. Nobody else ever tried as hard as Layla to spend time with Abigial. 

   “That’s the only reason you two are still friends. Because she still calls you every other weekend,” Wendy had said. Most Sundays, Abigail made it a point to at least stop by her parents’ home and say hi. Wendy still lived at home, even thought she had a good job. Wendy didn’t want to pay rent and her parents didn’t mind at all. Wendy wasn’t a party girl, and the company was nice. 

   After the social required period of time, three years almost on the dot, John popped the question. He asked Layla for her help and input on the ring. 

   “Abigail doesn’t really wear any jewelry, and I would really appreciate your help and company,” John said. He had called Layla at work. 

   “Of course I would love too. When would you like to meet?” she asked. 

   “How about Thursday at 3pm? We can meet at the jewelry place,” John said.

   “I look forward to it,” Layla answered before hanging up.

   They met at the store where they picked a modest but classy engagement ring. It had a small princess cut diamond. After that, John and Layla went for lunch. 

   “What’s your plan?” Layla asked.

   “I’m going to wait until she get’s home and open a bottle of champagne. Get on one knee and you know...” John answered with a wink and a smile.

   “You should take her out, to a fancy dinner, and have the waiter bring it in a piece of cake, or you could have her office help and have them all call out sick and you can be there waiting, or-” Layla was saying when John interrupted her

   “She knows it’s coming. We’ve talked about it. And I don’t think she would enjoy a whole lot of fuss,” John said.

   “I see,” Layla said disapointed

   “Listen, if I thought for a second that Abigail would appreciate a big hoopla about it, I would love to do something. But I think that just dinner out would tip her off,” John said. Layla still insisted that a nice place would be more fitting. 

   John and Abigail went out to dinner at a semi fancy restaurant, which did tip off Abigail right away. But the moment John pulled the box out of his jacket, Abigail couldn’t help herself. John got down on one knee as the restaurant around them gently came to a stop to watch them. Abigail smiled, tilted her head and said “yes”.

   They did have the understanding that they would wait for a while until everything settled with the business and his school.

   “I like that you are officially my fiancé, and not just my girlfriend,” John said.

   Later that week, Walter noticed her ring at the office. 

   “Is there something you forgot to tell me?” Walter asked pointing at the ring on her finger. 

   “Sorry Dad. We wanted to tell you and Mom this weekend! I didn’t know you were coming in today,” Abigail apologized, and Walter laughed. 

   “I don’t know what you are referring to,” Walter said.

   That weekend, John and Abigail went to dinner to her parents’ house. 

   “Well, we have some news,” John said. Every one was sitting at the table, having just finished eating dinner. 

   “We are officially engaged!” Abigail said. 

   “Congratulations!” said her mother. Everyone cheered and congratulated them. Afterward, Abigail followed Walter to his den, where he sat her down at his desk, just as he had done when she was younger. He lit one of his cigars,

   “Are you sure about this?” he asked 

   “In what way, Dad?” she asked 

   “In any way. If you’re not sure about this in any way, maybe it’s not the right thing,” Walter said

   “What are you trying to tell me Dad?” Abigail asked.

   “I think John is a nice young man. He’s takes care of you, and it does seem as if he loves you,” Walter said

   “but,” Abigail added

   “But you’ve never dated anybody else. You’ve never gone out dating, you barely knew your college friends and you’re to ethical to have done anything with any of your team members,” Walter said

   “Besides pointing out my lack of social skills, what’s your point, Dad?” she asked

   “Perhaps you haven’t really explored... other options,” Walter said and Abigail laughed at the implications.

   “Are you telling me to go and sow my wild oats before settling down?” Abigail asked.

   Her father laughed with her but then shook his head no. 

   “I want you to see if there isn’t anything... else. Different. Stronger,” Walter said

   “I appreciate your input, Dad. But I’m sure about this one,” Abigail said

   “Ok, if this is what you want,” he said. 

   “Was that it?” Abigail asked getting up from her chair. Walter nodded yes.

   “I better go check on my fiancé,” Abigail said walking to the door.

   “Make sure that you also Love this one. That is also important,” Walter said stopping Abigail in her tracks. She turned around.

   “I do love him. But don’t worry Dad. We are not planning for anything any time soon, so there might be time for me to change my mind,” she said with a wink. Walter just watched as she closed the door behind her with the same care she did as a teenager. 

   The months passed, and John and Abigail still hadn’t planned anything for their big day. Abigail had her business, and John began focusing on school and nothing but his research. It wasn’t until a few months after the original proposal, that Layla offered to throw an engagement party. After Layla helped John pick the ring, the two of them had also become friends and had coffee or lunch on a regular basis. Sometimes, they would bring lunch to Abigail at the office, if she was working on a Saturday. 

   “An official engagement party will most definitely put them in the mood to plan their wedding,” Layla said to Wendy and her mother as she recruited them to help her plan and finance the actual party. But even that party ended up being a very small affair, at her parents’ home. Layla had agreed to do it at the parents’ house, mainly so she wouldn’t have to pay for a venue, but the guest list had barely twenty people on it. John’s family lived far away enough that they wouldn’t be able to join all the celebrations. So, in the end, it really didn’t make any sense to have it anywhere else and Walter simply hired a cleaning crew so they wouldn’t have to clean up. After the party, or more like fancy dinner, Abigail and John went home, and life went back to normal with Abigail working close to one hundred hours a week. John went back to his school, books and research. Neither of them mentioned the wedding. 

   Now, Abigail was about to make her first acquisition and had no room for a wedding. 


Chapter 2

            After Abigail had reviewed the contract a thousand times over, she was finally tired enough with everything that she decided to send Jeff home and go home herself. As usual, when she got home, John was sitting at the table playing with his phone. 

            “Hey Sweetheart,” he said and put his phone away, getting up to greet her.  

            “Hey,” she answered. “What are you doing still up?” she asked. On the table there was a plate covered with Saran wrap, a wine glass and a bottle of wine. 

            “Just playing a silly game to clear my mind and wind down,” he said as she sat across from him

            “How was your day?” Abigail asked as she began pouring some wine

            “Actually, really good. I think I’m a leg up for an internship as part of my research!” he said.

            “That sounds great! I’m so happy for you.” she said. Abigail was picking on the food on the plate, distracted.

            “Are you hungry?” he asked getting up.

            “Yes. I’m starving...” she said.

            “Sit down and I’ll heat something up for you. How was your day?” he asked.

            “Can I ask you a hypothetical question?” she said.

            “Shoot,” he said.

            “I invested in a small company, and if this back fires, could you cover our expenses for a while?” Abigail asked. John stopped in his tracks, turning to face her. His face had contorted to something Abigail couldn’t recognize.

            After John and Abigail got engaged, they had agreed that while Abigail would have to dive head first into work, John would quit his job so he could focus on graduate school and his research. Abigail financially supported John, including cash for books and materials. While she was out bringing home the bacon and killing it as a CEO and sole owner of her business, John would take care of all the domestic every day things to do that might come up along with being a house-partner of sorts. John had made a point to emphasize how much easier Abigail’s life would be if she didn’t have to worry about anything other than her business. Meanwhile, he, John, would be able to focus without feeling like he was neglecting her. In addition, both of them would still get to work for their individual goals while being in a loving and supportive relationship. 

            “Abigail, I still have one more year of classroom work, and two more years for a fellowship. I don’t think I could focus on a job and my work, so I can’t promise you that. We talked about this before I quit my job. We had an agreement.” John said.

             He hadn’t raised his voice, but the string of unabashed thoughts that had spilled from John was enough to shock her to her very core. Abigail stopped him before he could go on any further. 

            “Hey, it was just a hypothetical question. I’m not gambling with my business. You can relax love,” she said. But it was only to avoid an argument. It was to late and Abigail was to tired to know how to process what John had just said. In the entire time together, Abigail had never seen that type of reaction out of him. 

            “Oh. I see. I just thought you were being unfair with that question. It was awkward for me,” John said, as he placed a plate of something steaming in front of her. Abigail looked up.

            “Thank you. This looks good,” she said.

            “Enjoy. If you’ll excuse me, I’m tired and I prefer not to fall asleep upset. Good night,” John said, before kissing her on the forehead and leaving the room. 

            That night after they went to bed, Abigail couldn’t sleep. She was rattled by how quick John had been to respond in such a negative manner. The look of blame in his eyes, along with the accusatory tone had been enough. Abigail had no idea what he meant or how to ask him to explain his statement. Not that she hadn’t understood exactly what he had meant, but there was a part of her that was hoping that he had just said that out of a place of fear and disappointment, not of anger. That conversation with John had not gone as she had planned and now Abigail was hurt, confused and scared. 

            They had actually agreed for him to quit his job to go back to Grad School. But the only way he would be able to do that was if she supported them while doing so. Abigail had agreed because she wanted him to follow his dreams and if going back to grad school was the path to reach those dreams, then by all means. At the end of the day she did love him and had wanted him to succeed. 

            But what if she couldn’t afford for him to go to grad school? What were his expectations? Was she meant to work for him to go to school regardless of anything else? And what if her idea failed? What if this project didn’t work? All of a sudden, Abigail felt like she had jumped out of a plane, thinking that she had a secured parachute strapped on, only to find out that the parachute will only stay strapped if she paid for his grad school. 

            The questions still ran circles in Abigail’s head: he wouldn’t put a pause on his school for a reasonable amount of time until she got back on her feet? How had that question been unfair to him? And how was that putting him in an awkward position?

            A few weeks after they met, John and Abigail began spending more and more nights together. That’s when he began talking about how much he didn’t like his job. John talked about going back for his graduate degree but couldn’t afford to do so now, because he wouldn’t be able to really focus with a day job. They talked about how silly it was to have two apartments in the same building when they were spending all their free time together. Abigail thought that she spent all her time in her office, but loved having him home. Most of their time together was late at night while she ate whatever left overs John would reheat for her. 

            After he moved in, she began taking care of most of the expenses and John began to save his cash for school. A year after that, he was ready to start grad school with his savings and some student loans, if Abigail could support him for the next two years. Abigail agreed. They were in love after all, and they weren’t going anywhere. They talked about spending their future together, but not really what that would look like. 

            “At some point, we will have time and the resources to go out, travel, taste exotic foods. But right now we could both focus on our careers,” John said

            “I guess you’re right. We don’t need to go on vacations now, and it’s not like we want to. We both want to focus on our things,” Abigail had agreed. But now, now that she might need him to deviate from the plans just for a while, it was fast becoming clear, that Abigail was on her own. 

            The next day, Abigail went to work with very little rest. After three cups of coffee at the apartment and an energy drink on her way to work, Abigail was still tired. Also, she was grumpy. Abigail was having a hard time shaking off the discussion she had had the night before, and couldn’t afford to spend any more time thinking about it. Abigail had a lot of work to do and needed to focus. I will let it go. My business will be fine. I made the right choice. Abigail thought to herself. 

            As much as she tried not to, that night after she got home, she opened the conversation with John again. This time she was prepared to have an adult conversation and hash out exactly what they both meant. Abigail was a strong, independent woman who knew how to have conversations with other adults even if they were difficult, confrontational, or straight up argumentative. There was no clear reason to not have this discussion with the man who wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. 

            Abigail got home earlier than usual, and when she walked in the door, she could hear John on the phone laughing. He was in the kitchen. (Editors test. Please delete when found.) Abigail couldn’t make out what he was saying so she walked all the way to the kitchen, glad that he was in a good mood. 

            A soon as John saw her, his eyes widened. 

            “Hey!” he said. 

            “Hey,” she answered back. 

            “Abigail is home, so I’ll talk to you later,” he said immediately on the phone, hung up and put his phone in his pocket. John took a step towards Abigail and kissed her on the cheek. 

            “Hey honey! You’re home early. Dinner is not even ready” he said. Abigail was confused by the interaction. 

            “Who were you on the phone with?” she asked. In almost four years, Abigail had never heard him laughing like that, and never over the phone. 

            “Oh, just a class mate. How was work?” he quickly changed the subject. 

            “I see. Listen, I came home early because I thought we should talk about last night. Can we sit down and have a glass of wine?” she said. 

            “I’m a little confused, but sure,” said John. He turned off the stove and moved to grab a bottle from the fridge while Abigail reached for the glasses.

            “Ok, what’s on your mind?” John asked as they sat down on the stools of the kitchen island. Abigail smiled a little. 

            “First of all, please know that I love you and that I’m so appreciative of everything you do for me,” she said. 

            “Oh sweetheart, I love you. And thank you for saying that,” John said in return.

            “I need you to know that I’m about to embark in a somewhat risky investment at work,” she said

            “I know that’s why you’ve been working so hard. And eating my meals mostly cold,” John interjected. A little reminder for her of him cooking dinner every night while she worked and a little poke at her neglecting him.

             “I know. Thank you. I promise I will make up every night you felt neglected. But in the unlikely event, that this doesn’t work, I’m confused and I feel like I’m in the dark. I want to know, I need to know what your thoughts are. Can I count on you to help out?” Abigail asked point blank. She didn’t want to beat around the bush, and she felt confident that John would have a better reaction today, since the question hadn’t been late at night and completely out of the blue. He would have had time to think about this. 

            “Abigail, if you know that you are making a risky decision, why are you doing it?” John asked, his face distorted. Abigail took a deep breath. 

            “John, it’s a calculated risk. It’s a business risk worth taking,” Abigail said. 

            “Not if I have to quit school,” John argued back, in a petulant way that made Abigail very uncomfortable.

            “John, believe me, I’m not trying to make my business fail. I’m trying to make it grow-” Abigail said.   

            “At what cost? Are you were willing to gamble with my future?” he asked. John was agitated, and Abigail could tell. He had gone from laughing on the phone to not even letting Abigail finish her sentences. John got down from the stool and went back to the stove with a huff.

            “I promise, that I will do everything I have to, to make sure the business doesn’t suffer and that you don’t have to quit school,” Abigail tried reassuring him. But he was mad. In a way that Abigail had never seen him mad.

            “After all this time, don’t you know how important this is to me? How hard I’ve worked and how much I’ve poured into this?” John asked from the stove. “I have cooked all your meals, picked up all your dry cleaning and taken care of everything including making your private appointments!” John said. 

            “John, I get it. I’ve been working very hard as well-” Abigail tried to connect with him in any level.

            “Oh, I know how hard you’ve been working! Everyone knows how hard Abigail works and nobody has anyproblem reminding me! But nobody seems to remember that I’m the one running your errands, cleaning the apartment, and waiting up for you to have someone to talk to every night! How could you even consider being reckless with our lifeline?!” John screamed from the stove.             

            “John, this is my business! MY baby! Everything that I had, everything that I have ever learned, I have poured into this. I’ve been working so hard for so many years, I’m not about to throw it all away on purpose!” Abigail said. She was out of breath. Abigail got up from her stool, walked over to John and placed her hand on his shoulder. 

            “John, I just needed to know that you had my back. I needed to hear that I could count on you,” Abigail said, with a much quieter voice.

            “I’ve been having your back for years now Abigail. I’ve always been supportive of your ambition,” John fired back. He wasn’t letting up. John seemed as angry as the night before, and Abigail was having a hard time really understanding why. Why couldn’t he just say that he had her back. Even if it was just to please her.  

            Abigail walked away and went to wash up while John set the table for them to have dinner. By the time she got back, John was serving the salad. 

            “Well, the last time we had dinner together was at our engagement party,” John quipped. Abigail looked at him. 

            “Sorry about that,” she said. 

            “We really didn’t thank Layla enough for getting us to eat a meal together,” John said. Abigail stayed quiet. Clearly he was very angry. Angrier than she had ever seen him. Angrier than she though possible of him. If she even tried to say anything, it would probably back fire and she didn’t want to get him more upset. 

            That night she got up in the middle of the night unable to sleep, again. Abigail went to the kitchen and poured a glass of wine and sat at the table with her laptop. Leaving her office early didn’t give her enough time to check last minute emails. But it was hard to concentrate on work when her thoughts kept going back to John. What if he was right? What if she was looking at this the wrong way? What if she had made a huge mistake that might cost them both their futures? She should have listened to Jeff. But it was a good investment. She was getting three new developers hungry to create new and innovative products. She had made the right choice for her business. She just had to many balls in the air, and couldn’t focus on any particular one. Not long after she was being consumed in her thoughts, John came in behind her.              “What are you doing up?” John asked. Abigail jumped startled.

            “Hey... did I wake you up?” Abigail asked

            “No, I felt you get up. When you didn’t come back right away, I came to check on you,” John said

            “I’m sorry,” Abigail said

            “I’m sorry, too,” John said

            “It’s been a lot lately. I’m trying to make decisions for my business while keeping in mind how many lives depend on this going well. It’s definitely stressing me out and causing all kinds of anxiety. I’ve been projecting on you,” Abigail said.

            “I understand,” John said, “I’m going to ask that since your stress can manifest, and has, in an argumentative form, please try to keep it in check. I also have a lot of things on my mind,” John said. 

            Abigail hadn’t expected an apology, but she had not expected that comment either. This was new, and something that they would have to learn how to deal together, but right now wasn’t the time. They both had a lot on their minds. 

            “I know that we had agreed on a plan. I plan to hold up my end. I’m here for you John. I love you,” she said. Abigail was trying to at least bait him into saying that he was here for her. It didn’t happen.

   “I appreciate that,” John said. He got up. “Good night, it’s late and I have an early class.”

   The next morning Abigail went to work to begin the process of acquiring the smaller company. The three developers would be telecommuting at first, to save on having to get a bigger office. For the next few months, Abigail only worked. Every waking moment she had was spent on her business. After that night, Abigail knew to a certain level, that no way was John going to quit school to support her. Regardless of whatever happened to the business. 

Chapter 3      

            After Abigail acquired the small company, her working hours more than doubled. Everyone was working on the ad campaigns with only the client services manager focusing on the clients. Then the ad campaign was launched. Originally, it was meant to attract more viewership but right from the get go it wasn’t performing as well as they had hoped. By the end of the first week, Abigail’s accountant wanted her to back off. Abigail argued that it was too soon to make those decisions. After the end of the second week, the priority became to have more exposure for the clients they had. 

            “If we have to take a hit, we can afford it,” she said.

            “We could afford it before, based on the original plan,” Jeff said

            “How about with this plan? The clients are seeing an increase in their exposure,” Abigail said.

            “Increased exposure isn’t translating into revenue. Not for them and definitely not for us,” Jeff said.

            “How much longer can we go?” Abigail asked.

            “How long do you think we can afford it for?” Jeff asked.

            “Do you have any other suggestions?” Abigail asked. 

            “I want to put a halt on this now,” Jeff said.

            “I’ll cut the hours of the designers and pick up the slack myself,” Abigail said. 

            “I don’t like this at all, Abigail. We need the designers and you’re busy with all the other campaigns,” Jeff said. 

            “I’ll thing of something, Jeff. I can’t just put a stop to it,” Abigail said and went back to work. It was almost 10pm. Jeff watched her walk to her desk. 

            “Do you want me to order something for you to eat before I leave?” Jeff asked. Abigail shook her head no. She didn’t want to look up, for fear that Jeff would notice the tears building up and ready to spill all over her keyboard.   

            But by the end of the first month, it was clear that Abigail couldn’t keep burning the candles at both ends, and the ad campaign had to be put on hold. Abigail held a staff meeting with the new developers.

            “Unfortunately, we are underperforming by a larger margin that I would prefer. Or as Jeff puts it, we are officially bleeding money,” Abigail said, and an audible collective gasp was heard. Abigail continued.

            “As of midnight tonight, all the campaigns will stop, the developers will be placed on hold, for now and-” Abigail was saying before getting interrupted

            “Are we going to get laid off?” somebody asked. Abigail looked at Walter, who was also in the room, and then at Jeff.

            “I don’t know,” she said, “Make sure your resume is up to date. If you have anymore questions, please email me and Jeff,” Abigail said and walked out.

            In the meantime, it felt like John was growing distant. But it was hard for Abigail to tell. Their time together had diminished to almost nothing and only randomly during Sunday.

            “Is everything ok? You seemed distracted,” Abigail asked. They had been sitting at the table, both of them working silently on their own thing. When he didn’t answer, Abigail waved her hand in front of him and snapped her fingers to get his attention.

            “Hey, are we ok?” she asked

            “I’m dealing with my own problems with school and I need to focus on my research,” John said without even looking at her, and then just continued with his reading.  Abigail took it at face value, and not wanting to argue with him, she chalked it up to both of them being stressed. Their interactions had become short statements of fact, mostly to answer mundane questions when they were both in the apartment. 

            After a few months, Abigail began to breath a little bit easier after the major loss on the ad campaigns. They had a loss, but thanks to Jeff they would be able to stay in business without having to lay anybody off. Abigail, Jeff and Walter where actually taking it as a win. She was still working crazy hours, but she was able to pull back and get the designers back to full time. John kept his focus on his research. The first night that she went home before 9pm, Abigail was actually very excited to go home and have a conversation with John. 

            “You’re home early,” John said from the table, where his books where spread out.

            “Hey! Yes. I made it home before midnight,” Abigail exclaimed with a hint of a smile.

            “Cool. There’s left overs in the microwave,” John said. Abigail walked over to him and resigned herself to giving him a quick peck on top of his head when he still wouldn’t look up at her. She walked to the microwave and began heating the food. 

            “How was your day?” she asked.

            “Fine mostly working,” he answered. “Yours?” 

            “Well, as of today, we are not going to have to lay anybody off,” Abigail said, but there was no answer. She looked back at John, who was still hunched over his work.

            “Did you hear me?” Abigail asked John. 

            “What?” he asked

            “I said we’re not letting anybody go. It’s looking more and more like we’re going to be ok,” she said.

            “That’s great. But I really need to focus here,” John said and went back to his work. Abigail took a deep breath, and reminded herself that she wasn’t the only one working hard, and that John had been nothing but patient and understanding with her whenever and every time she had to focus on work. She knew she needed to be just as supportive. It was hard, because she was home and wanted to have at least ten minutes with her fiancé that she hadn’t seen in months. But John was busy. 

            About a week later Abigail got really bad news. Their biggest and oldest client, Instituting Logistics, would not be renewing their contract. Something that everybody at the firm depended on. Since the beginning, IL had been the bread and butter for Abigail, and it had never occurred to her that they wouldn’t be renewing. Their CEO had personally come to see Abigail to give her the news. 

            “We are ready to grow and I want to restructure the organization,” Gavin Rossen said. 

            “What does that mean?” Abigail asked.

            “We want to incorporate internationally,” Gavin said.

            “Ok, how are you doing that?” Abigail asked. 

            “There are several ways to do this, but for us, the option that makes the most financial sense is to join forces with a small company from a different country,” Gavin said. Abigail closed her eyes. She understood exactly what that meant. 

            “You’re not renewing my contract,” Abigail said. 

            “Abigail, you’ve done nothing but a wonderful job. From the beginning. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about you and your work. But we’re merging with a small agency in Ireland. I’ll stay as CEO, and their owner will become CTO,” Gavin said.

            “I know that I’m supposed to say congratulations. But I have to say, Gavin, this is not the best time to tell me this.” 

            “There was never going to be a good time for this,” Gavin said and got up.

            “Thank you for coming to tell me yourself,” Abigail said standing up with him.

            “After all the years of your hard work, it was the only thing to do,” Gavin finished and then left. 

            Abigail couldn’t believe it. She slumped in her chair, and Jeff walked in. She was at a loss for words and sat in silence for a few seconds. 

            “Based on your look, he didn’t have good news, did he?” Jeff asked.

            “Their dropping us,” Abigail said all in one word. Abigail looked at Jeff who was now sitting across her desk.

            “How bad is this?” she asked. 

            “Half the staff will have to get laid off,” Jeff said. 

            “And the other half?” she asked, “how long will they last?” 

            “I don’t know,” he said. 

            Abigail called the project manager and her sales associate into her office.

            “What’s up?” asked the project manager. Jeff was standing next to Abigail.

            “Gavin just informed that Instituting Logistics will not be renewing the contract,” Abigail said. They were both in shock. 

            “Abigail, I shouldn’t have insisted on the acquisition. I’m so sorry...” the sales associate began apologizing for what had happened with the small firm they had purchased.      

            “Hey, even if you hadn’t insisted. I would’ve done it anyways,” Abigail reassured him. “The decision had ultimately been mine, and it was a good idea.”

            “What’s going to happen? Are we losing our jobs?” the project manager finally asked.

            “Well, all the support staff will be laid off. As for the rest of the staff, any overlapping positions will be eliminated,” Jeff said.

            “I have to keep at least one designer and you guys,” Abigail added.

            “Are there any other options?” the sales associate asked.

            “The other option would be to sell off what’s left of the business,” Jeff said. Abigail looked at him dumbfounded.

            “What do you mean?” she asked. 

            “Well, we could probably find someone to buy what’s left of the business. You could come out with a nice chunk of change,” Jeff said 

            “What about every one else?” Abigail asked. 

            “I would have to do some math, but it could be enough for maybe a month’s pay for each of us. Enough for us to find another job,” Jeff added.

            “That doesn’t sound like the worst idea,” the sales associate said.

            “Would you sign recommendation letters?” the project manager asked.

            “Of course you guys would get what you need,” Jeff said.

            “What do you think, Abigail?” Jeff asked.

            “I need a minute,” she said and everyone walked out of the office. When the door opened, Abigail noticed that the rest of the staff, all six of them, had stop working and were being very quiet on purpose. As soon as Jeff walked out, he was rushed with questions, that he wasn’t ready to answer.

            Abigail thought about it for a few seconds and then called her father, Walter.

            “What should I do, Dad?” she asked

            “I have always loved that you come to me for advice, weetheart. But you need to make this decision.”

            “What would you do?” she insisted.

            “I’ve always loved a fresh start. But you knew that already,” he said.

            “I know. Thank you,” Abigail said.

            “Good luck, I love you,” Walter said and hung up. 

            Within seconds after the conversation, Abigail walked out to make her announcement. No need to draw out the inevitable. As her door opened, every one fell silent.

            “Ok. Before I say anything, this is just one option that we have. As far as Jeff and I are concerned, it’s the best option we have, so far. So, after I’m done, if anyone has any other thought, this is the moment to tell me.” When all she got was blank faces staring at her, Abigail continued. “We lost IL, and it seems that the better course of action to take is to sell the remaining part of the business.” Abigail stopped as the whispers grew into a loud enough humming. 

            “Jeff and I will focus on finding a buyer, but in the meantime, the clerical staff would be dismissed by the end of next week with a recommendation letter, and in both cases, with calls to any potential employers that you might have, from me,” Abigail said, quieting some of the voices.

            “The final amount will determine a modest benefits package, based on rank, and we wont know that until we transition over,” Abigail continued.

            “Thank you everyone. Please return to work. If you would prefer to be dismissed now, I understand,” Abigail finished and walked back into her office.

            Jeff already knew who he wanted to call to begin the selling process. Bigger agencies were always interested in swallowing the small ones. Especially if the small firms had good buildable clients. Jeff even started a bidding war for the remaining small clients and the remainder of employees. (Editors test. Please delete when found.) That day, for the first time, Abigail was the first one to leave the office. She didn’t want to lose her mind in front of anyone. Abigail got home before John was home from school. She was sitting at the island having a stiff drink. Abigail had cried the entire way home and had sat there for an hour, also crying. John walked all the way in, talking on the phone, before realizing Abigail had been sitting in the dark.

            John jumped as soon as he turned on the lights in the kitchen and saw her there. 

            “Oh my god!” he screamed. 

            “What are you doing here? In the dark?” he asked, but hadn’t noticed Abigail’s tears and he hung up without saying good bye. Abigail took a sip of her drink, 

            “Did you just hang up on someone?” she asked

            “It’ll be fine,” John said

            “Who were you talking to?” she asked, 

            “Just a classmate,” John answered, putting the phone on the island. Abigail had heard what could only be a woman’s voice. 

            “Are you ok?” he finally asked when he heard Abigail’s voice.           

            “I’m loosing my business” she said. John had been holding a grocery bag and he placed it down on the counter. 

            “You’re losing your business. What do you mean?” he asked.

            “I lost my biggest client today and I have to sell off the rest,” she answered.

            “Well, that’s not losing, that’s just selling,” John said and began pulling the groceries from the bag.

            “I don’t want to sell it, so it feels like I’m losing it,” Abigail said.        

            “You’re selling the rest. For how much?” John asked. 

            “I don’t know. Jeff is taking care of it,” she answered. 

            “Maybe you should let go of Jeff, and make the deal your self,” John said. Abigail looked up at him. 

            “Did you hear what I just told you?” she asked. 

            “Yes, but we still have bills to pay and a wedding to plan,” John said. 

            “We’re going to need to postpone the wedding, John,” Abigail said. 

            “What about school?” he asked, raising his voice in anger. Abigail stood up, grabbed her glass and swung it across the room, making it crash against a wall. Completely smashing it into a million little pieces. John was in shock.

            “What the fuck, Abigail?!” he said, just staring at the wall with his mouth opened.

            “You want to know what’s going to happen with your school?” she asked, but continued without waiting for an answer. 

            “You’re going to stop now, get a job and help me pay all the bills,” Abigail said    “Aren’t you getting a job? You’re going to make money from the sale. I can use that to finish,” John argued. 

            “No. No you are not. That’s the failure of my hard work, and the only thing that I’m going to do with it is start something new,” Abigail said

            “I can’t do this,” John said. 

            “You can’t help me until I get back on my feet?” Abigail asked. 

            “No. I can’t live a lie anymore. I’m not in love with you” John said. “I’ve been under a lot of pressure to marry you, and I didn’t know how to tell you because you were so stressed out with work. But now that the wedding needs to be postponed and I don’t have your support with my dreams after giving up everything without a second thought. After everything I’ve done for you, I don’t think I can live a lie anymore,” John said.

            “Is this really the moment you picked to break up with me?” Abigail asked. “As long as I was paying for everything and stayed out of your way you were fine with living a lie?” Abigail said but John didn’t have an answer. “I want you to move out. Leave tonight. You can come get your stuff later,” Abigail said. She walked back to the island, were his phone had been vibrating. When Abigail looked at the caller ID, she saw that it was Layla. Without thinking about it, Abigail answered it, and said hey, but Layla hadn’t heard her, because she answered with “Hey babe, I think we got cut off. So how late is Abigail working tonight? Do I have time to come over?” Abigail heard her say.

            Abigail was looking at John as she heard Layla. His face had gone pale, his mouth was opened, and beads of sweat began accumulating on his temple. The extent of the lies were finally dawning on Abigail.          

            “Actually, Layla I’m already home. But don’t worry. I’m sure John’s on his way over,” Abigail said and hung up. John looked down. 

            ““I’m sorry,” he said, “Can I have my phone back?” He asked extending his hand without really thinking about it.    

            “Your Phone?” Abigail asked. “I paid for this phone and I pay the monthly bill. Get out of my apartment,” she said. 

“Abigail, there’s no reason to be shitty to each other,” John said.

            “You’re right” Abigail said. “Get the fuck out of my apartment you lying, lazy, cheating, money hungry son of a bitch!” she screamed at him. John walked to the door.

            “I’m sorry, ok? You were gone all the time, I got lonely...when can I come get my stuff?” he asked.

   “You can come back this weekend,” Abigail said. After John left, Abigail poured another drink, went to the closet and grabbed all of his clothes and proceeded to throw them out the window. So, by the time John reached the sidewalk, half of his belonging were sitting on the street. The other half fell on his head as he stood there looking at his clothes in disbelief. And he didn’t even have a phone to call for help.  

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