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"You are uselesstotally and completely useless. I cannot imagine why I ever thought you were up to the demands of this job. You claim to have a degree, and an MBA, and yet you cannot do the simplest thing you are told."
On and on went the harsh, critical voice of her Lebanese employer, while Sadie dutifully bowed her head beneath the weight of the venom being directed towards her, all too aware that if she looked directly at Madame al Sawar now the other woman would see all too clearly the angry hostility in her own eyes. And Sadie could not afford to give madame the opportunity to threaten, as she had done many times already in the two months that Sadie had worked there, to withhold the wages still owing to her.
To be accused so unfairly and so vindictively was bad enough, but to have to standhere and be berated in a voice loud enough to carry to the rest of the al Sawar household a traditional Arab household, where loss of face was something to be dreaded and avoided at all costsmade it even worse. It was typical of her employer, Sadie recognised, that she should choose to accost and accuse her while she was enjoying her legitimate lunch-break in the peace of the pretty courtyard garden of the al Sawars traditional Moorish-style Zuran home. Sadie knew perfectly well that, although she could not see them, most of household staff would be lingering in the shadows of the building, listening to their employer hectoring her assistant.
Not that they could avoid hearing what was going on, with madame screaming and shouting so loudly. The whole street could probably hear, Sadie reflected miserably. She wasn't the only recipientof her employer's vile temper. Scarcely a day went by without madame losing her temper with someone.
Sadie could have defended herself against her employer's unfair accusations, of course, and told her that she did indeed possess both a First Class Honours degree and an MBA. And she could have told her, too, that as muchas Madame al Sawar regretted employing her it couldn't come close to her own regret at having taken the job. But the truth was that she simply couldn't afford to lose this jobnot with madame having consistently refused to pay her since she came here.
"I have no use for such a deadweight as you in my business. You are dismissed."
"You can't do that!" Sadie burst out, panicked out of her determination not to be forced into a verbal battle.
"You think not? I assure you that I can. And don't think that you can walk out of here and get another job," madame screeched. "Because you can't. The Zurani authorities impose very harsh measures on illegals who try to take work from the locals."
Illegals! Now Sadie had to stand up for herself. "I am not an illegal," she protested. "You know that. You assured me yourself when I took this job that all the necessary formalities would be completed on my behalf. I remember signing the necessary forms," Sadie was beginning to feel slightly sick with panic now, as well as from the heat burning down on her exposed head. She was being made to wait and listen to madame ranting inthe full burn of the sunlight, whereas madame herself remained in the shade.
Sadie could see a smug look of satisfaction in the older woman's eyes as she affected nonchalance with a dismissive shrug.
"I do not remember saying any such thing. And if you try to claim as much now, it will be the worse for you."
Sadie could hardly believe what she was hearing. She had thought her situation bad enough, but that was nothing to what she was facing now.
With no job, no money, and no legal status here in Zuran her situation was dire indeed.And it had all seemed so promising at the time.
Six months into her first job as an MBA graduate with one of London's premier hedge funds, she had been made redundant to make way for the son of a very senior member of the bank's latest lover. Or that was what she had been told via the office grapevine. It had certainly been easier to swallow that explanation than it had been to accept the jeering comment from one particularly unpleasant male colleague that she was being dumped because she couldn't hack the testosterone-loaded male environment in which she worked.
A top-flight, good, money-earning job in the financial sectorone which would make her completely financially independenthad been her goal all the way through university, and she had initially been devastated by this unwelcome setback to her career plans.
Her parents had divorced when she was in her early teens. Her mother had then married againa very wealthy man, with children of his own from his first marriage, and with whom she now had a second and younger family. When her mother had first become involved with the man who would become Sadie's stepfather he had lavished time and attention on Sadie, forever telling her now much he wanted her as a daughter. But as soon as her mother had married him he had changed completely towards Sadie, instilling in her the belief that male love, both sexual and paternal, was something that some men could assume to suit themselves.
After her mother's marriage to him Sadie had grown up enduring her stepfather's unkind comments about her father's inability to provide for her as well as he provided for his new children. She had been torn between anger against her parents for divorcing and aprotective love for her father, who had remarried as well, and had a young wife and a very young family, and had looked far older and more careworn than his age the last time she had seen him. Unlike her stepfather, her father was not a wealthy man.
It had been pride that had made her refuse to ask for financial help from her stepfather to get through university, and that pride had left her weighed down with a very large student loan. The loss of her first job had meant that she would have to crawl back to her stepfather and ask for his helphelp which he had given willingly to his own sons, both of whom had been given a car and an apartment apiece when they had started workand that was the last thing she had wanted to do.
She could still remember how he had sneered at her when she had announced that she was going to study for her MBA, suggesting that she'd be better off looking for a rich husband to support her instead.
"After all," had been his comment, "it isn't as though you haven't got the looksand the body."
Yes, she had those. But Sadie had sworn when she had seen the way her obviouslyhighly-sexed stepfather behaved towards her mother, making it plain that he expected her to repay his financial support in bed, that she would never, ever let any man think he had the power to demand her sexual compliance just because he paid the bills. Either inside marriage or outside it. And she had stuck to that voweven though its by-product had been an unexpected and unlooked-for celibacy that had left her partnerless. For Sadie, her financial and sexual independence were strongly interlinked. Thirteen was a very vulnerable age for a girl to witness the kind of relationship Sadie had witnessed between her mother and her stepfather.
When she had seen her current job advertised, in the columns of a national broadsheet newspaper, she had been so excited that she had had to warn herself that there would be hundreds of applicants and that she probably wouldn't stand a chance.
But then, when Monika al Sawar had interviewed her and told her that she specifically wanted to employ a female MBA"Because my husband is very much the Arab male, and will not tolerate me working one to one with another manâ€™her hopes had started to rise.
The job Monika had described to her had sounded perfectchallenging and exciting, with plenty of room to grow. Monika's business, she had told Sadie, involved advising new residents to Zuran in the wake of the tourist boom on investment, the buying of Zurani property, and arranging finances for property purchases. Monika had further told Sadie that she wanted a keen young assistant she could train up to work as a financial adviser in her own right.