The Redemption of Sarah Jane Bartlett
Anyone who has read a book or watched a movie knows the story of the gentle widowed man and his ten-year old daughter. The man is dating a woman with a cold heart who is determined on getting married and sending the daughter to boarding school in France. But she gets dumped for the pretty sweet girl who runs the flower shop. Sound familiar. Hollywood has told that story a thousand times. What happens next to the cold-hearted woman? Will her heart ever soften? The Redemption of Sarah Jane Bartlett is a heart-warming story for all of us who dare to dream about changing our lives and making it better.
December 6, 2013, Friday
9:47 a.m., Eastern Time Zone
Suite 9740, McGraw-Hill Building
1221 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, New York
“So that’s how you play?”
“I play fair,” Sarah replied.
“You play hard.”
“I play to win.”
“That’s obvious,” replied Rupert Taylor. He was nervous. That didn’t happen often. The skills he had acquired over a lifetime of work on the farm had given him the confidence to manage almost any circumstance to his advantage. His confidence did not include sitting in a sterile conference room at the law offices of J.L. Harlow and Associates. Nor did his business suit, that failed to wrap around his barrel chest, add to his comfort level. To make matters worse, Sarah, silent as she searched a file, worried him. She appeared confident in her skills. He imagined she could change any negotiation to her advantage. Her appearance also gave her a distinct edge.
Sarah Jane Bartlett was an attractive, petite, thirty-two-two old attorney who wore only designer suits and never stopped moving. She had chosen a demanding career rather than marriage, which was a distraction and often a failure. Her classic French twist hairstyle was always immaculate.
Seven years of experience negotiating acquisitions and mergers had given her a toughness that surprised the attorneys on the other side of the bargaining table. They discovered she was intense and combative in representing her client and fought hard to defeat their counter offers.
Equally so, Sarah demanded only success from her support staff. Errors were unacceptable. Her staff worked long hard hours and many weekends to ensure it didn’t happen. She was well-aware there would be casualties in the process. Staff who did not meet her expectations were replaced. Others left because they couldn’t spend the time necessary to meet her requirements.
She made her position clear. “You will make the commitment I expect of you or you will find other employment.” The alpha and omega of her world was work. Her cat was alone most of the time.
“Would I offend you Ms. Bartlett—”
“Sarah, may I loosen my tie? The damn thing is killing me.”
“Of course,” Sarah said with a soft laugh.
Rupert attempted to loosen his tie around his thick muscled neck. It wasn’t easy. His gnarled calloused hands struggled to loosen the Windsor knot. What he really wanted to do was tug on it until the knot disintegrated and stuff the damn thing in his coat pocket. Finally, with the tie safely tucked away, he unbuttoned the top button of his shirt and took a deep breath. A sigh came next
“You’re laughing,” he said.
“You remind me so much of my father.”
“Is that bad?” he asked with some concern.
“No,” it’s good,” Sarah said with a smile. “My mother helps dad with his tie. He can fabricate a building but a tie escapes him.”
“What does your father do?”
“Dad owns a steel fabrication plant. They make metal storage buildings. Mom wants him to stay in the office. He wants to be in the machine shop.”
“Sounds like a good man.”
“A very good man.” Sarah needed to move on. They weren’t sitting in the conference to discuss her father. There was work on the table and it needed to be finished.
“Rupert, I need to play hardball.”
“Knew it was coming.”
“You have three hundred acres that I intend to buy.”
“And I don’t want to sell it.”
“I’m not going to give you a choice. Before you leave this conference room today, you will sign the contract on the table in front of you.”
“You can’t make me sign the contract.”
“No, I can’t. But I can make you want to sign it.”
“Well, lady…Sarah…let’s just see how good of an attorney you are.”
“I’m very good, Rupert,” Sarah said with confidence. “As I said earlier, I play to win, but I also play fair. Let me recap where we’re at and why I think you will sign the contract. We represent the Werth-Chamberland Development Corporation. They would like to purchase your farmland for a regional shopping center and housing developments near Cooperstown. Your property is the last parcel needed for their development. We have offered you above market value for the property. You have refused to sell. That about sum it up?”
“Why so damn much acreage. You don’t need my property.”
“We do need your property. The development calls for an adjacent resort and golf course. May I continue?”
“The farmland has been in your family for three generations. That’s over a hundred years. You’re two sons and daughter have their own professional careers. They’re not coming back home to be farmers.”
“You don’t know that,” Rupert said, with a tone of indignation.
“Rupert, I do know that, Sarah replied pointedly. “It’s part of my job to know these things.” You asked if the two of us could sit down alone and work out something. No other attorneys or accountants. Just the two of us. You probably want to convince me to just go away and leave you alone.”
“Let me tell you something. My mother and I have the same problem with dad that I bet your family has with you.”
“My grandfather started the plant. It’s been in our family for over seventy years. We almost never see dad. He’s always at the plant. And I know it’s killing him that neither my brother or I want to be involved in the business. We have our own careers. We’re begging him to sell. My brother and I want our dad back. And Mom wants to remember why she married him. Let me ask you, how many grandchildren do you have?”
“How many of their birthdays have you missed because you had to leave and take care of a problem? How many family functions have you missed or cut short because the weather was turning bad and you had to get a crop in? What is your wife’s favorite place that she’s always wanted to visit? How long has it been since you’ve taken her there? Have you ever taken her there? When was the last time you took a vacation? How many meals have you skipped because a combine or tractor broke down? Rupert, your family loves you. They want you back while you’re still in good health to enjoy them.”
“You’re getting personal, young lady.”
“I’m telling the truth and you know it.”
Rupert said nothing.
“We have purchased options on two of your agricultural loans. If we buy the loans, I’ll demand immediate payment. You don’t have the money to pay them. You’ll lose everything and we still get the land. I’ll play that way if I have to.”
“You’d do that? Take everything? Leave me with nothing to show for a lifetime of work?”
“Yes, I can and I will. But I want something different.”
“I want you to sign the contract, and I want you to keep your dignity. Be happy because you’re going home to the family that loves you. And Rupert, I want you to be free from a lifetime of work. Take your wife wherever she wants to go for as long as she wants to stay. Enjoy your family dinners without having to worry about finishing chores before sundown. Sign it.”
“I’ve been farming since I was six. That’s sixty-one years.
“Long time, Rupert. But nothing is forever. Your wife is sitting in the foyer. She wants to hear you’re coming home.”
Rupert signed the contract.
“Sarah, can I say something personal?”
“I like you. You’re tough but fair. You remind me of when I was a young buck and wanted to farm different than my father.”
“One last thing.”
“You need to practice what you preach. I can tell you’ve worked hard on this deal. You need to go home and spend some time with your husband.”
“Too bad. Marriage makes us all human.”