It was a bleak Monday morning in January and Saffia cringed at the thought of going to work. The weight on her shoulders was as heavy as the doors one had to push to enter Brady Industries. She eventually found the courage, took a deep breath and arrived at her usual time of 7:30 am. She hesitated for a brief moment before parking her Honda CRV in her reserved spot. How long would she be able to park in that designated area?
As Saffia walked to the entrance of the building that she called work, and home away from home, she thought to herself that this was too much for her to handle. She waited until the lobby area was clear before attempting to take the elevator to her office four floors up. She was trying to avoid the prying eyes and the whispers that she knew was definitely about her and the ongoing high drama in her personal and professional life.
Saff, as she was affectionately called by her peers and beloved husband had grown accustomed to hearing gossip circulate in the office, but what she was not accustomed to was her name being the centre of the rumour mill.
She looked through the thick glass windows that surrounded her office and brought her the view of busy Downtown Kingston streets and for a moment thought of happier days. These were the days when she and Michael would create the best strategies and programmes that would take Brady Industries to the next level; days when employees admired and spoke of them as a royal couple in the office. Those days had slowly vanished and were now replaced with talks of an inevitable divorce.
Chief Financial Officer was the role that Saffia Lyn-Brady held at Brady Industries for the past ten years. She also held the post of wife to Michael Brady and mother to his only daughter Alison. A simple girl by nature, but an overachiever by profession, Saffia’s hard work and contribution to one of the most successful liquor companies could not go unnoticed.
While her life as a Brady afforded her the luxury of high fashion, Saffia wore very little make up and jewellery. She hid much of her neatly curved body under the conservative dark shaded pants suits she wore to work each day. She had unusually long black hair which her mother forced her to perm as early as the sixth grade. She would cry to have it combed and it was just too much hair for her mother to bother with. She had worn her hair the same way for years and at age thirty three she feared it would not suit her any other way.
Saffia was quite the introvert, but she was good at her job, she was a good wife and mother. Her father in law Michael Brady senior also called Bill or Father B was very welcoming and fond of Saffia. He looked beyond her socio economic background and described her as a rare kind of woman and a subtle soul when compared to his tyrant of a wife, Elizabeth the ostentatious matriarch of the Brady house.
Three months earlier, Mr. Brady gave up the daily running of the business due to ill health. He named Michael CEO of the entire group of companies and his brother David worked as the general manager of the sister company Longmore in Miami.
With this new post, Michael had the power to shuffle all the departments as well as fire or transfer Saffia without his father’s approval to satisfy his newest conquest.
Saffia and Michael’s history went beyond their decade long marriage. Their relationship started in college four years earlier while they were pursuing their undergraduate degrees in Business. Michael majored in Operations while Marketing was Saffia’s major. They were from different sides of the fence and their world wind romance encountered much scrutiny.
Michael Brady was a dapper playboy on campus with striking good looks and the wealth to compliment it. He was a heart throb who required little or no effort to woo over the young women. They would literally ‘look’ him. Although he was in a relationship with Saffia, he would occasionally, come home to the flat that he and his brother shared to find girls of every colour, class, size or shape awaiting him. More often than seldom, he would be much obliging. At times, he would have to invite his brother David to share in the abundance of female joy.
It was her brilliance that caught Michael’s eyes in university and then there were her curves. Saffia had the admiration of quite a few of the young men in her group but her interest was fixated on Michael from the moment he asked her to attend the Freshers’ party in first year. She was intoxicated with his good looks and nonchalant personality. Their relationship started from that night and throughout their college years, they could barely keep their hands off each other.
Michael and Saffia would find the most unusual places on campus to ‘make out’. While they spent their college years together, Saffia was fully aware of the type of young man she was dating. He was quite the philanderer and his aristocratic background did not make her college life much easier. There were constant whispers all around the halls that there was no way Michael Brady could have chosen this rural girl to date when he had a pool of more ‘suitable’ and available women. She was accepting of the criticisms because she loved Michael. Despite his wandering eye, he was very loving to his ‘rural’ girlfriend. He would shower her with designer bags and watches purchased from his father’s gold card.
It took him over a year before he broke the news of their relationship to his parents. Father Brady was accepting but Liz Brady would be the constant critique and would hurl questions and comments at her with utter and complete disdain.
“So, Saffia how does your mother afford university on a nurse’s salary?” she would ask. Saffia had received a full scholarship to university so that was an easy answer, but then she would ask the sixty four million dollar question:
“Saffia, how far do you think Michael will go with you?”
“You know he is young and no young man wants to be tied down.”
Saffia was never able to answer whether Michael would marry her or not.
Graduation came in 2002 and so did the revelation that Saffia was going to be a mother. Michael surprised her when he asked her to marry him a week after she gave him the news.
It was the Brady tradition to have a marriage proposal prior to the arrival of a baby so despite Elizabeth’s disapproval of Saffia, a wedding was compulsory.
Saffia only had fifteen persons on the guest list of one hundred and fifty persons including her mother and sister. It was quite the Brady affair which comprised of Brady business associates and friends from Liz Brady’s social circle.
The young couple moved into a newly renovated four bedroom section of the Brady mansion which was a gift from Father B. The marriage was not perfect but Saffia did her best to please Michael at home. Her bedroom skills were less than impressive but they made love as often as a young couple would. Saffia was not the most domesticated wife as her elder sister Annie was the cook back home. May, the housekeeper took care of all the home duties and tended to baby Ali when Saffia accepted the job as Chief Finance Officer.
Her father-in-law hired her right after she completed her Masters’ degree. She joined the company as the youngest manager but she quickly became invaluable to Michael Brady senior. Father B had always valued her opinion for what it was and he trusted her more than anyone else on his senior management team.
But all of that was before the arrival of Lisa Bonher.
Lisa slammed into the company like a Category 5 hurricane. She tore down everything Saffia had worked so hard to build and left a trail of destruction in her wake. She was employed as an Accounts Manager and immediately had two clerks fired.
Michael had fallen in love with her all over again, or did he ever stop loving her? Lisa and Michael had been together in high school until she opted to attend university in Miami. The local tabloids had suggested that Michael had only married Saffia because of the baby bump and that his heart had always been with his long time sweetheart. Lisa was a “browning” and she came from an equally high profile family with a flair for the spotlight. Her hazel eyes and black curly hair were elements of her Syrian ancestry. Liz Brady had always favoured Lisa as the perfect wife for Michael; in her mind Lisa had the right look and background to compliment him.
During the latter years of their marriage, rumours had swirled that Michael and Lisa’s affair never ended. Michael had often taken weekend trips disguised as business meetings to see Lisa in Miami. Saffia was always suspicious of the trips and the long distance phone calls that he had to take in the study with the door tightly closed.
Lisa’s mother died six months earlier and upon her return to Jamaica, Michael offered her a job where she reported to him directly.
It did not matter that Saffia had acquired her MBA that specialized in finance and was better suited for the job or that she had given Michael and Brady Industries the last ten years of her life.
When Lisa winked, complimented him, and chatted up Elizabeth Brady, the rest was history.
In secret, Lisa demanded that Andrew revoke Saffia’s position as chief financial officer and that she be transferred her to another department. In addition, she had an even bigger demand which was to become the next Mrs. Michael Brady.
Saffia sat at her desk and ran her fingers over the 11 X 7 family portrait of her, Michael and Ali that represented the perfect family. Today, that perfect picture had no certainty of continuance and she was afraid to face the reality of the situation.
“Mrs. Brady, they are ready for the meeting, they are in the conference room.”
Saffia was awakened from her deep thoughts. “Thank you Rosie.”
“Should I take your coffee there?” Rosie was the loyal assistant even though she had heard all the Brady drama in the office.
She nodded mutely, “No Rosie, I’m fine. No coffee for me this morning”
This was not going to end well, and she knew it.
“Come in Saff, how are you?” Arthur James, the family attorney was gifted with the art of pleasantry even when he was delivering a dose of bitter medicine. Saffia had known him all too well over the years. He ushered her to a seat at the large mahogany desk where Saffia had presented at so many board meetings.
She felt like she had entered a court of law. Liz Brady, Michael and his two brothers David and Phillip were all there.
“Michael, must we have this discussion at the office? I am sure the house would have been a more suitable setting”
“Saffia, I’m sorry if you find this unprofessional but both the personal and professional matters we are discussing affect the business; the setting is ideal, Arthur will walk you through the details.”
“Saff, the board thinks you have done a great job in Finance over the years, but you have been doing it so long and they think you should do something different…… and so the decision has been taken that there will be a lateral move to the marketing unit. There is a plan for redesigning and it is the belief that you will do an excellent job in spearheading this new venture.”
He just went on and on until Saffia had broke in.
“Marketing!?” Saffia looked at everyone in the room in disbelief. “What would I do in marketing?”
“I have no experience there.”
“Michael, what’s wrong with you? This is bull shit!”
“Quit the drama Saff, I know you did most of your studies in finance and your experience lies there, however your Bachelor major was in marketing….surely all that knowledge can be put to good use in the business.” “The decision is final; you have the option to leave if you don’t want the job.”
“In addition, you know that we will be going through a divorce soon and Arthur will go through the details of what I am prepared to offer.”
The basics do include:
“You will still get to keep your job here at Brady
You will naturally relocate your residence from Brady Manor
There is an apartment in Constant Spring valued at over 6 mil which you will receive furnished
A monetary settlement that would be quite fitting based on our prenuptial agreement
And we share custody of Ali.”
He could not look her in the eye while he unveiled her parting gifts. Her naivety had made her sign that prenup when they got married. She was so in love with Michael and she wanted him to believe that she loved him wholeheartedly and not for his money.
There it was in a nutshell, ten years severance pay. Not in the words of Arthur James QC but her very own husband. He had stated exactly what he wanted. He didn’t want her anymore or did he ever want her?
“So you humiliate me in front of your family, I’m sure you all had a discussion of what I should and should not receive.”
Liz Brady interrupted with her usual sympathy tainted with hypocrisy “Saff, darling we are all family, we are bonded by Ali and of course you know we would have to pass the divorce settlement proposal through Arthur…listen, I have here a card for Dr. Russell, and she’s good at helping divorcees….”
Saffia scoffed at her “Helping divorcees! Elizabeth, what do you take me for? Don’t sing me a sympathy ballad, you’ve been against me since day 1 and Phillip I thought you were my friend in this family, what do you have to say about this?”
It was very hard for Saffia to keep from screaming at the unfairness of it all.
Phillip looked at Saffia’s disappointed face
“Saff, this decision has nothing to do with me and I think you both need to discuss this at home, I really don’t think we need to be an audience to this and neither do you Mummy.”
Phillip and his wife Donna had been genuine friends to Saff; he was a doctor and really did not care much about the family business. He sat on the board by virtue of being a Brady so he had to appear at most of the meetings. David was the complete opposite; Liz Brady’s DNA was immersed in him. He looked like her, he spoke like her and he acted just like her. Image was everything for David and he had always believed that Michael married outside of his realm by choosing Saffia for a wife. While he never said it out aloud, his disapproval was proven when he never showed up at the dinner parties that Saff hosted. He never came to her budget presentations or charity events and he only spoke to her in public when the media was present. He ran Longmore which was a smaller He ran Longmore which was a smaller distribution company in Miami and spent heavily, often times overrunning the budget. He wanted to introduce activities at Brady that would be require heavy spending. Saffia thought the activities were too costly and they never materialized under her wise financial expertise; that was one more strike he had always held against her. With Saffia’s pending transfer, David was ecstatic.
The meeting ended after Arthur handed Saffia a bunch of new documents to look at which outlined her new role and expectations.
Saffia wanted to ask why, she wanted to reach across the table to her husband and shake some sense into him, she wanted to cry but she would not allow herself to shed a tear in public.
The day ended with Saffia being thrown into a new role. An internal email was sent to the staff informing them of the new organizational changes. Lisa had been promoted to the role of Chief Finance Officer and Saffia would be the new Marketing Manager for Brady Wines and Spirits. These changes were slated to take effect March 1st. That was two weeks away. She had not officially agreed to the new changes but it was clear that she really had no say in the matter.