An Accidental Romance

Chapter 11

Monday, June 17 — Monday, July 1

Don was prompt. I was there by 11:30, and he was ready to go. I thought that very considerate. Many executives tend to keep people waiting beyond their appointment time. To me, that seems like they’re trying to show their importance. If they’re going to be busy at the time of the appointment, why not set the time later?

Conversely, I’ve always esteemed executives who kept to their schedules. Showed they knew how to be efficient and that they respected the people they met. I’d liked Don when I’d met him at his house. It appeared he was as skillful doing his job at work as he was at home.

He took me to his club for lunch. We were seated promptly in an elegant dining room. They had a maitre d’, tablecloths, spaced-out tables for privacy, thick carpeting—the whole nine yards.

“Will you have a cocktail?” Don asked.

“I really don’t drink much, Don, but you can go ahead. Or would you be more comfortable if I called you Mr. Pierce at work?”

He laughed. “No, first names are fine. We’re a fairly large bank, but our CEO thinks people do better in informal settings and using first names is part of that. We’re laid back and incisive at the same time. You’ll see if you come to work for us. It’s a great place to work, and the CFO you’d be reporting to is a good friend of mine as well as a great guy to work for. Financial analysis can be a very intense job. Many in that position work 60-hour weeks. That won’t be the case here. The work will be demanding, as most financial jobs are, but Jim—your prospective boss—says too many people burn out working long hours, and he wants a person in that position that’ll be there awhile so he’s not breaking in new employees all the time. He also believes if the work takes more than forty hours in five days, he hired the wrong person to do it.

“The schedule changes, of course, in budgeting and closing periods, but that goes with the territory, as you certainly understand. The difference here is that people having to work extra hours during crunch times get compensatory time off for those extra hours they’ve put in.”

Don paused to take a sip of his water, and I jumped in. “That’s refreshing to hear. I was thinking when I heard of the opening it’d be a job that wouldn’t give me much time to spend with Jordan. I was working long hours for the past year building my own business, and he got short-changed. He’s so shy, it’s good if he has an anchor at home, one he can count on being there when he should be—and every day, not now and then.”

Don nodded. “You’d have that with us. I’m in a position, senior loan officer, that usually requires long hours as well, yet I’m home before dinner every day. It’s just how we work; I suppose you could call it company policy. It’s certainly our company’s culture.”

“Everything I’m hearing is sounding good,” I said.

The waiter came and took our orders. Then Don asked what I was sure would come up.

“I don’t want to pry, Matthew, and I won’t. Marriages these days break up. It’s simply a fact. However, I do have to ask one question. She’s divorcing you, as I understand from Jordan, and for cause. I don’t want to know the cause, only that it isn’t for any reason that, if known, would bring the bank negative publicity. Bank’s don’t like negative publicity.” He grinned when he said it and didn’t harden his eyes. He was still being friendly.

I liked the way he’d asked. He could have asked for a whole lot more. He didn’t. I considered telling him what had caused the divorce, but the setting seemed wrong. An elegant dining room, lunch being served by jacketed waiters, and I’d be talking about porn and a homophobia? No, this wasn’t the place. If I was asked directly, well, yes, I’d say what it was and try not to sound defensive. But not here, not now. And I hadn’t been asked.

“No, nothing will come out in the divorce judgment that should embarrass the bank. Maybe twenty years ago. Not now.”

He nodded. “Good, that’s behind us. Now, let’s talk about our boys.”

And he did. He was very proud of David, as much so as I was of Jordan. He told me how David was devoted to his other son, Jeff. “How many fifteen-year-olds even tolerate a four-year-younger brother? David does, includes him in what he’s doing whenever he can and doesn’t let anyone bully him. Too, David does well in school, is on the soccer team, is polite, helps around the house without too much encouragement, and is honest as the day is long; he’s simply a great kid.”

He gathered a forkful of salad but held it ready as he resumed speaking. “David has always been happy, but Jordan seems to have had an effect on him. Before this, I don’t know; it’s more a feeling than something I can put in words. If I can wax lyrical for a moment, David seemed to me to be something like a jigsaw puzzle that might have been missing a piece or two, making putting it together very difficult. Since Jordan’s been here, those pieces don’t seem missing any longer. David seems to have found his footing. He’s more centered, somehow. But all this is a little vague, and I might be a mile off base in saying it. Boys that age are changing, are unsure of themselves, and are difficult to understand at times, and maybe that’s all I’ve been seeing. I just think the two boys are great together. We’re glad to have Jordan here.”

It was very tempting to suggest what I knew was going on, or beginning to go on, but I wasn’t going to break Jordan’s confidence and certainly not suggest to Don that his son was gay. I did tell Jim how it was a two-way street, though, that Jordan’s acute shyness wasn’t so evident now that he was hanging with David and Mike, which was perhaps more David’s doing than Mike’s. However, I did tell him that I hadn’t seen Jordan interacting with any strangers yet, so perhaps I was being presumptuous.

I told him about how shy Jordan had been for the past few years and how he seemed more sure of himself here. I thanked Don for putting him up while the problems back home were being ironed out.

Don had done a good job of getting me over my nervousness with the upcoming interview. He glanced at his watch and said, “Time’s passing, and I wanted to do more than just get to know you. I wanted to prepare you for the interview. It’ll be pretty thorough, but not unfriendly. He’ll want to look into your experience, your qualifications. He’ll ask things like: which cost centers—or departments if your company called them that—did you support as a financial analyst? Did you work with Operations directly or only through Cost Accounting? What was your role in your annual budgeting process? Did you do financial modeling, and if so, can you provide an example of a model you constructed and how effective it was? Did your analyses help the company grow or increase performance or efficiency, and if so, can you quantify you answer? Are you comfortable using Excel? Did you use, or are you familiar with, Pivot Tables to allow you to quickly analyze large quantities of data? Do you have any experience with SAP or Oracle or HFM? Did you receive any promotions or raises while in that position?”

I think my mouth dropped open. He looked at me and laughed, then quickly sobered and even looked a bit worried. “I hope none of those are beyond you or what you’ve done.”

I shook my head. “No, I’m just amazed you could rattle all that off without notes! That’s the language and knowledge that someone in finance is comfortable with, but you’re a loan officer. Completely different world. How were you able to say all that and do so basically off the cuff?”

He looked a bit embarrassed. “Yeah, I’m a loan officer, but I’m also interested in moving into top management at the bank, so I spend time with each department head, picking his brain, learning the stuff I don’t know but should if I want to move up. It’s amazing how much goes into all the various disciplines we have. I’ve spent a lot of time with the finance people. I even have learned what I just said, what it means, what it is. I guess it’s fair to ask, is any of that over your head?”

“Not at all.” I grinned at him. “You were talking my language. I’m glad you gave me a heads up, though. Had they started in shooting those rapid-fire at me, one after another, I might have been a little intimidated and felt the job might be more intense than I’d like. You’ve reassured me that pressure isn’t what you guys are all about. Now, I won’t be worried. I’ll be happy I’m talking to a professional who knows his stuff, someone I can relate to.”


I’d been given a great lunch and then was taken back to the bank and turned over to the CFO. He was a tall, thin man with gray, almost white hair, a long, cleanly shaven face and an expensive haircut. I’d have thought on meeting him he’d be fastidious in a costly suit with a buttoned vest and fashionable tie, but he wasn’t. His suit coat was hanging on the back of his door, his tie was loosened and the top button of his white shirt open, and his sleeves were rolled up to just below his elbows. He gave me a friendly smile and motioned me to a seat.

His office was impressive. It had a separate sitting area set apart from his desk, but it didn’t have the look of a show office that was meant to impress. It looked very much like a working office. We sat together, not with him behind his desk but next to me in the sitting area, and he asked me about my family and what the village where I lived was like, how I liked to spend my time outside work, and what my favorite book was! I’d never had a job interview begin like this before, treating me as a person he wanted to get a feel for, not just an applicant.

Eventually he did ask the questions and more that Don had said he would. But he didn’t ask them like Don had suggested. He worked them into the conversation in a way that showed he expected me to know all about these things and wanted to know the context in which I’d been involved with them and how successful I’d been. Taking it for granted I knew those facets of financial analysis gave me the chance to say that something or other wasn’t familiar to me without too much embarrassment, but luckily, it never came to that. It was easy to answer everything, and my only problem was keeping what I said from sounding boastful or arrogant.

The afternoon seemed much more like a friendly chat than a upper-level job interview. I met and liked Kevin, the CEO, very much. He appeared on the surface to be someone it would be easy to work with, and that was just how he put it, working with, not for.

He told me he’d kick this around with the CFO, but that he was very impressed with me, the CFO had already given me the thumbs up, and he thought it very likely I’d be hearing from them soon with an offer.


Vicky had told me when I was leaving for my lunch with Don that she and Don were happy to have me staying there with them and I didn’t need to go looking for a motel till after the interviewing was over and not even then unless I was uncomfortable where I was. She also said she’d be rounding up other interviews for me during the day and to come back when I was done at the bank to see what she had lined up.

I went back to the house feeling elated. I went to where I’d left my suitcase in Jeff’s room and changed out of my suit into casual clothes, then went looking for the boys. I found them in the pool.

Jordan spotted me. “How was the interview, Dad?”

“Seemed great to me, but you never know. They said they’d let me know soon.”

Just then Vicky stepped out onto the patio. “Matthew, can you come inside?”

“Sure.” We walked back to her office and she waved me to a chair.

“The bank was on the phone just now. The CFO and the CEO spoke and they decided to make you an offer. They want you to come back and talk about details, like salary and benefits. They’d be happy to do that today, or at your convenience as long as it’s soon. Just so you know, I’ve also lined up three other interviews for you. You might want to see what the bank has to offer and get salary ranges from them so you'd know whether their offer is in line with what you might get elsewhere and so have some leverage. Making them get a little restless isn’t always a bad strategy.”

I thought for a moment, then said, “Vicky, you’re in the perfect position to answer this. Is Don really happy working for these people? It’s important to me that I’m working in a friendly atmosphere. One of the main reasons I left my last job was that my boss was a martinet, and I eventually just couldn’t work for him any longer. I don’t do well in that sort of atmosphere. I really need to know what it’s like working at that bank, and you’re the one who can answer that.”

She looked me in the eye. “Matthew, Don’s really happy working there. They’re good people who care about their employees. He says the working atmosphere is great, the bank is very stable, and they recognize hard work and achievement but also want their people to have a good life outside work. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’d find it there.”

“Then I’ll go in and talk to them. No reason to waste time. I’ll go now.”

It was late afternoon by then. This time I met with both the CEO and CFO, Kevin and Jim. We met in the former’s office, which wasn’t that much grander than Jim’s. Kevin had an outgoing personality, but he also commanded respect just by his presence. He wasn’t intimidating—he smiled too often for that—but easily could have been.

We talked awhile, and then he said they’d like me to come aboard but had to insist on a probationary period of two months. He named a salary that was above what I expected, comfortably above, and benefits including a very low, employee discounted loan offer if and when I wanted to buy a house. The entire package was much better than I expected.

I took the job. I also asked for a few days before starting as I needed to find a place to live. I also said I’d need to have a little time off for my divorce settlement hearing when that eventuated.

They were happy to oblige.

I walked out of the bank feeling like I was floating. I had a job!


Jordan was over the roof with joy. He’d been dreading going back to the village, living with his mother, missing David. He went with me looking for apartments. He asked me, why not a house?

“I’m on probation for two months. They can let me go without cause during that period. That means the job is tentative at this point. I have to convince them I fit with their management team and I can do the job. I can; it’s what I did for years. Except here I think I’ll enjoy it because I won’t have someone criticizing everything I do. The only pressure there will be to do a good job, and I know I can do that. But until then, I don’t want to be talking ownership of a house and all that entails.

“Also, if I buy a house before the divorce goes through, that very well could be an asset to be divided with your mother in a settlement. I’m a little worried that I now have a job, the judge will think about alimony, but I’ll talk to my lawyer about that. Maybe I shouldn’t sign the job contract till after the judgment hearing. She can advise me. But, in the meantime, an apartment that I’m renting monthly will be seen as nothing out of the ordinary for someone in my financial circumstances.”

So we started apartment hunting. Jordan’s only desire, and he was adamant about it, was that we find a place that was in the school district that David and Mike were in. An apartment close to David’s house was what he meant. Both for the school and so he could be at David’s house more than the apartment, I was sure. Well, I wasn’t expecting to find a place that had a pool available or a fancy furnished basement. Or that had a hot tub that could be used au naturel if used late at night and they were quiet. I could think of other reasons Jordan would want to spend time at David’s. And I didn’t begrudge him any of them. I could imagine lots and lots of sleepovers.

We looked around and on Wednesday found a place that was fine. My thinking was I’d only be in it a few months. Meanwhile, I’d start looking for a house right away.


The divorce judgment hearing was scheduled for the first Monday the next month, and I was there with my lawyer when our case was called. Jordan was with me because judge’s decisions would profoundly affect his life. Cynthia was there, too, with her lawyer. I didn’t like his looks. Reminded me of a sewer rat blinking in the unaccustomed daylight.

The judge had spoken to both my kids privately and both Cynthia and me individually a few weeks ago. This wasn’t a hearing for a discussion of gripes and annoyances; it was the presentation of the judge’s determinations.

The judge looked at both Cynthia and me and asked if either of us had had a change of heart before he handed down his decision. I stood and said no, and Cynthia said she was not going to continuing living in the same house with and exposing her kids to a reprobate.

It didn’t take long. The judge said it was a no-fault divorce with neither side having done anything to precipitate it. That being the case, the joint assets of the marriage were to be equally divided. No alimony would be assigned. The house and furnishings were to be sold and the money divided equally.

Custody was decided. Jordan would be allowed to choose his custodial parent. Gail would remain in Cynthia’s custody. Visitation rights were more complicated, but basically either parent could visit either child with 24-hour notice in advance.

The judge slammed his gavel down at the same time Jordan’s face broke into his signature grin. And then he was hugging me for all he was worth.

Cynthia’s face showed her outrage. The ground under her feet had abruptly fallen away. She’d been expecting at the very least to obtain the house. She stormed out of the courtroom with her rat-like lawyer scurrying after her.