It was later than Kyle realised, when he finally shut down the computer for the day. Stepping out of the office, he was surprised to see Cory still in the shop.
"I didn't realise that you were still here."
"I left, but I came back... I need to talk to you privately."
There was a catch in Cory's voice, that made Kyle uneasy. Not that he hadn't seen this coming... or, at least, he'd seen something coming. He just wasn't sure what. He gestured Cory into the office. "What is it?"
"I... I'm sorry, but I can't work here any more. I'm resigning."
"I'm sorry... I just... I can't do it any more. I... you know something's been wrong with me lately. Rose said you'd talked to her about it. I don't know... I think I'm tired... it's been over a year since I've even had any time off, and I - "
"If - if you need time off, that's fine," Kyle stammered, trying to push aside the initial shock and formulate some constructive response. "You have plenty of vacation leave owing; use it."
"It's more than that, Kyle. I think I'm just burned out with being here. I need a clean break."
'Do you have another job to go to?"
"No... I mean, not yet... but I'll find one... "
Kyle turned away. How the hell do you respond to something like this? If it were just an employee giving notice, fine... but Cory wasn't just an employee. He was Kyle's cousin. And his son-in-law. And the person who'd been responsible for ensuring he'd even had a shop to come back to, after his long absence the previous year.
He took a deep breath and turned back. "I can't accept your resignation.""What do you mean?"
"What I said. I can't accept your resignation. I can't just let you quit without any idea of what - "
"You can't force me to work here."
"No, I can't. But I can make you an alternate offer."
"Meaning... meaning you'll take a leave of absence. Three months, say. I'll pay you out the vacation time I owe you, and when that runs out, you'll continue on a proportion of your usual salary. When the time's up, we'll talk. If you still want to resign, fine. But if you change your mind, you still have a job to come back to."
"But... you can't... I mean, I can't... I - "
"Cory, listen to me. I don't know what's going on with you, but I'm guessing it's something bigger than just being burned out with the job, right?" He paused, but Cory didn't reply.
"Ok, you don't need to answer... but just remember, I have a stake in this. You're married to my daughter, you're the father of my grandchildren. You do need to do whatever it takes to sort yourself out."
Cory nodded. "I know."
"That's good, then." They stared at each other awkwardly. "Does Rose know you're doing this?" Kyle asked.
"No, not yet."
"Probably, you should go home and tell her then."
"Yeah, I probably should." He started towards the door, then turned back. "Um, Kyle? Thanks... for... um... I appreciate it."
Kyle shrugged. "I think I owe you this, at least."
Cory nodded as he closed the office door behind him. Kyle took a deep breath. Then, hearing the shop door snap shut, he turned and ran after him.
"Cory, wait!" he called. "I - if you do need to talk... "
"You wouldn't understand." Cory said, without looking back.
"You don't know that."
"Yeah," he replied, as he walked away. "I do know."