(Continued from The Age Factor)
Elizabeth leans on her desk. She feels dizzy. After a few minutes, she slowly moves back to her desk and shuts down her computer. Then she packs her things and moves out of the office, closing the door behind her. She walks slowly to the parking lot. Everything has become a blur.
Her white Toyota Demio is parked next to Richard’s silver Toyota Fielder. Next to them is a black Range Rover Vogue she has not seen before. She assumes it belongs to Silvia. The parking lot is otherwise empty. All the employees have already gone home.
Is it time for her to quit?
She enters her car but instead of driving through the main gate, she decides to pass through the farm and use the rear gate. She rolls down the window and smells the fresh soil. She can almost feel it on her fingers. The crops are thriving: Irish potatoes, onions, carrots, beans, sweet potatoes, arrow roots, and cassava. On the far side are the greenhouses where tomatoes are growing, shielded from the elements of weather. After the drought, she set aside one part of the farm for fruit trees and has planted mangoes and avocadoes, which she thinks might survive short term drought and flooding. Next year she intends to diversity and try poultry farming, and later, dairy farming. She has even convinced Richard to purchase the neighboring land for that purpose.
Suddenly she is filled with wrath. She has poured her soul into this farm. She is now a part owner, not just an employee. That means that unlike before, she now has the power to protect her beloved farm from Silvia. Her COO position is not just cosmetic like Silvia’s was: she wields real power. She approves all the farm’s routine expenditure. She is even a joint signatory in all the farm’s accounts. Richard concerns himself only with finding market for the products.
He can overrule her of course. She only holds 30% stake in the farm. He holds 40% but by practice, he controls his mother’s 30% which gives him an overwhelming 70%. His father held 70% but fully controlled the farm because his wife, Richard’s mother, hardly concerned herself with the farm. It is this 70% that Richard inherited and from which Elizabeth bought her 30%.
By the time Elizabeth gets home, she has forgotten about her broken heart. Instead, a steely determination is growing in that heart. Richard can destroy himself with that woman if he wants. But she will not allow them to destroy the farm.
Silvia is a beautiful woman. Her body is carefully curved, crafted at the Master’s finest hour. And she has been a good steward: she is fussy about what she eats and goes to the gym on a daily basis. Her face is captivating. Pretty in a soft, innocent way. Her large eyes look on mournfully even as her full lips part in a smile, revealing a perfect set of teeth. Once she looks at a man, she is certain to disarm him.
At 52, she is giving 20-year-old girls a run for their money. And not just because her body is as good as theirs, even though it is. But unlike most smitten 20-year-olds, Silvia is a highly intelligent and effective manipulator. And she has decades of experience behind her.
She is wealthy. And she has expensive tastes. Some men fund her lifestyle, others have been responsible for building her impressive wealth portfolio. Some do both. For the years she was married to Richard, he paid for her vacations and expensive habits. But she had affairs with a string of other men who bought her real estate and made huge deposits in her accounts.
When Richard went broke, she had been having an affair with Timothy, the flamboyant owner of a chain of restaurants and supermarkets. He had been pestering her to leave Richard for months, but she had been reluctant. In spite of all her affairs, she realized that she actually loved Richard. In a twisted way.
But there were complications. First, Richard was broke. Timothy could afford to continue funding her lifestyle, but if she allowed him to it would arouse Richard’s suspicions. She has had affairs with at least ten men in their thirty years of marriage, and poor Richard did not have the slightest idea. She preferred it that way. She could play the dutiful wife while drawing benefits on the side.
But now she had three options: persevere the poverty, risk getting caught cheating by allowing Timothy to pay for her trips or walk out of the marriage. She opted to leave even though in a twisted way it broke her heart. It helped that they do not have children. Silvia refused to have children because childbirth would destroy her figure. Richard has a son and a daughter from a previous relationship so he did not press her.
Unlike Richard, though, Timothy proved to be controlling. True, he lavished her with money. But he closely monitored her movements. She could not go on vacations alone. She was chauffeured everywhere. He almost had that chauffer-spy follow her to the toilet. It was suffocating.
And it also meant that she could not have an affair.
So when she heard that Richard was back on his feet, she knew that was her cue to leave. She was smart enough not to have formally married Timothy. She had simply moved in with him. So she simply rented an apartment one day and moved out of Timothy’s house. From that apartment, she could plot her come back to Richard’s life.
When Elizabeth steps into her office in the morning, the first thing she sees on her desk is a memo from Richard.
Kindly but urgently organize for the refurbishment and furnishing of an office on the second floor for Silvia. I have appointed her as the Chief Financial Officer effective immediately. That means that Leonard and the finance people will be reporting to her from now henceforth. Your other duties remain as before. More details in a meeting I will convene later in the week.
Of course. Silvia would only be interested in the Finance docket. But what does that mean? Will she now be approving expenditure or will that still be Elizabeth’s role? Elizabeth doesn’t want to find out.
She quickly types another memo:
Request denied. The CFO is a senior executive and can only be appointed by the Board. No board meeting has been convened and therefore the appointment of a CFO is invalid.
She prints and signs it and tells her secretary to deliver it to Richard’s office. The battle lines have been drawn. She knows she has a very small fighting chance: Richard’s mother. The eighty-year-old woman is still as sharp as ever, and still running her school.
She loves her son to bits and will do anything for him. She hates Silvia but tolerated her for the simple reason that her son loved her. Elizabeth knows that her only chance of winning Margret to her corner is by convincing her that it is for the good of Richard.
She needs to make her move before Richard and Silvia make theirs, so she steps out of the office without a word to her secretary and drives off to Margaret’s School.
Will she be able to convince the old woman that keeping the farm away from the grasp of Silvia is to Richard’s advantage or will she be blinded by her love for her son and side with him? Besides, Margaret has not involved herself with the affairs of the farm since her late husband established it fifty years ago. Will she be interested in stepping in now?
(To be continued)