“S

hifra? Are you okay?” Ari asked, brows knotted.

I felt terrible that we’d just had this great conversation, and here I was, back to work stress. “I’m—” I struggled with the next word.

“What’s wrong?”

I wasn’t sure how to say it, what to say, so I just handed him my phone. “I was just cc’d on this email.”

As he read, his eyes grew predictably wide but his mouth seemed to smile. “Is this a joke?” He asked.

I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”

Ari’s jaw went a slightly slack. “That’s insane.” He paused. “It’s people like her who give PR a bad name — and this Jordan guy was willing to go along with most of it.”

“I know,” I covered my face with my hands and massaged the top of my forehead. “And under my name.”

“Ye,” Ari breathed. “Youch, that’s bad.” If Ari admitted it was bad, then it was very bad.

“I have to fire her. Find out what else she’s done. I’m such an idiot. How could I be so trusting, why didn’t I oversee her more. Why do I keep making these mistakes. Why—”

“Why are you beating yourself up?” Ari interrupted me.

I gave him a “isn’t that self-evident” look. He looked sad, eyes deep, lips thin, but I felt it was more sad for me than with me. Did he really think I was being unnecessarily hard on myself?

“But you don’t know what’s true or not. Don’t you think a little confirmation might help?” His voice took on a pragmatic tone.

I shrugged. “It’s likely as bad or worse than it seems.”

Ari frowned. “Okay, so now what?”

“I fire her. Then see if damage control is feasible.”

“If?”

“Yeah, if she’s done this with too many clients, my entire reputation is done. I’m too small, too new to rehabilitate from this. And I thought she was a wunderkind. No wonder she achieved what she did in so short a time.”

Ari just listened. No advice, no judgment. I continued my stream of consciousness.

“I just had so much on my head. She knows the business, and it was so nice to have free headspace and just be a person for five minutes.”

Ari nodded.

“It’s really hard all this juggling a life and work. I’ve never had to do that before.” I think this was the first time I’d even admitted that to myself.

“I know,” Ari said quietly.

My eyes clouded, and finally the tears came; Ari’s simple acknowledgement of my struggle to find a balance, and not frame it in selfish terms, but just as a learning curve, was too kind and forgiving.

“You’re too good for me,” I said.

Ari looked puzzled. “I don’t know where that came from, but everyone knows I married up.” He paused. “And I thought making my wife cry was a bad thing.”

We both laughed.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 643)