h4. Story 1: A Christmas gift
Tears flooded in and blurred her sight. Ruth was laid off today. It happened all the time especially when the economy was not doing very well. However as a girl without much saving, qualification, and a sick mother to look after, Ruth couldn’t afford losing the job. The openings were running short and the competition for new vacancies was keen. Ruth had no idea how she was able to manage her life and her mother’s.
Ruth knew it was her fault but was it that serious to get fired? Before she was about to leave the office yesterday, Mr. Anderson, her boss who kept a poker face all the time, rushed out of his room asking her to send an urgent email to a client email@example.com. ‘Be careful, Ruth! It's confidential!’ warned Mr. Anderson. Maybe she was overwhelmed by loads of work that day or maybe it was the flu she had been fighting for weeks, she missed that tiny ‘-s’ in the middle of the address that the email ended up reaching a wrong mailbox. This morning Mr Anderson’s face showed colours. He spoke to her with rage in his eyes.
With tears still rolling in eyes, Ruth packed up all her stuff quietly and went into the chilly wind outside. The streets were nicely decorated with glittering ornaments. Christmas was drawing near. Some Christmas songs were played noisily but they sounded from a great distance. Ruth had been thinking about what gift she had to buy for her poor mother. She had been ill for years, falling victim to an unknown disease. She just spent all her day in bed staring at an old yellowish photo without really seeing it. In the photo stood Ruth’s mother and a man with deep blue eyes and a charming smile. Ruth had never known her father. She was told he died long before she was born.
With her mind still on gift and mother Ruth hardly noticed her phone buzzed and vibrated vehemently in the pocket.
‘Hello, is that Ruth? Ruth Mayson?’ came a very strange voice, tense and dry.
‘Yes, this is Ruth speaking. Who is it?’ replied Ruth, thinking about those annoying advertising phone calls.
‘Could we, ur…would you….um…manage to join me for a cup of coffee today?’ requested the voice.
‘Come on,’ thought Ruth, ‘not the calls again!’ She cut the line as quickly as possible as if the voice had been a sword that would penetrate her head.
Ruth knew she was young and good-looking. Since school days she had never been short of ‘admirers’. They would ask her out, buy her treats, invite her to parties or do anything to please her. Most of the time Ruth found them bothersome.
The phone rang again shortly. It was the same voice.
‘Please, Ruth, don’t hang up, please. Could you spare a couple of minutes?’ the voice sounded so desperate that Ruth hesitated what she was supposed to do.
‘Look, I cannot talk like this on phone. Could we just meet for half an hour? That would mean a lot to me.’
They met at Tiffany, the small but cosy café which Ruth visited frequently. The voice belonged to a man in his early 50’s. The wrinkles and tanned complexion hinted he had a rich but tough life. It was only his pair of deep blue eyes that gave away the secret he had once been handsome.
‘I am so glad that you come,’ the man greeted her with a charming smile, looking quite familiar. Ruth felt puzzled.
‘Please sit down. This is my name card,’ said the man.
Ruth took the card and instantly her eyes sparkled. She knew what gift she would bring her mother this Christmas.
On the card printed Prof. Richard Mayson.