This time it was different. This time everything would change. Robert held his head high as he walked into his boss's office. In a way, he was right. He walked out like a dog with its tail between its legs. The watchwords his friend had beat into him - "confidence is key"; "demand, don't ask"; "you're worth it" - echoed in his head as he slunk back to his desk, all while trying to ignore the stares of his colleagues.
He'd asked for a raise. His boss opted to conclude their relationship. This had been unexpected and Robert had stared at his boss as if hearing an alien who'd teleported to the office. Reality raced back to him, however, and he nearly moonwalked out of the office, dragging his feet and walking backward.
The rest of the afternoon was lightning strike after lightning strike of embarrassment. Fragmented memories that would stay in his brain; cleaning his cubicle, turning in his badge, having to be let out of the parking garage.
Eventually Robert returned home to Tammy, devoted housewife, mother, and PTA board member. At first she'd been excited her husband and breadwinner was home early. Then she saw his expression. She pulled him into a big embrace and held him.
After a while the news poured out. Then came the worries. Mortgage, bills, tuition. All the while Tammy held the broken man. After a long while and many emotions, Tammy pushed both toward the future and toward levity with a simple quip about selling the house and moving to Robert's parents' basement.
The absurdity made Robert smile for the first time that day.