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Authors: B.L. Mooney

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BOOK: Coming Home
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That surprised me. “Why would they care? I’m of no importance
there.”

Matt started shaking his head. “If that’s what they have you
believing, then shame on them.” Matt cleared his throat. “I’ve been watching
that company for a long time. It may be small now, but it’s coming up quickly—a
little too quickly if you ask me. I’ve been losing business to them more and
more recently. I wanted to know what they had that I didn’t. Apparently, that
was you.”

“Me?” I sat up straighter. “I don’t understand.”

“Every award that was won or design that was mentioned
consistently had one common factor.” He sat and waited for my reaction. “Maybe
I should say one person.”

I waved him off. “I just worked on the graphics. I was told what
to do and I did it.”

“Yes, apparently you did it very well. I’m tipping my hand here,
but I really want you on my team. If I flew you out to Dallas, they would
suspect something. I couldn’t take the chance that they’d give you an offer
that you couldn’t refuse.”

I sat there dumbfounded. I’d never been in demand before. I just showed
up, did my job, and collected my paycheck. There was nothing in my daily work that
told me my employer would’ve fought for me, but I couldn’t deny Matt’s
explanation seemed reasonable. I’d always thought the awards were more about
the ideas than the graphics.

He picked up the menu again. “I can’t believe nothing has
changed. Do you come here often?”

“No. I guess I’m with your wife and prefer not to indulge in this
too much.” I picked up the menu and tried to find something a little less
unhealthy.

Matt put the menu down again. “You’re not even thirty yet and
you’ve given up the good stuff already? Yes, you and my wife will get along
just fine. Maybe we should just get the interview over and we’ll discuss
breakfast later.”

“Okay.”

“I want you for my advertising department. Your designs are
excellent. Even if the ideas aren’t your own, your execution of them is really
terrific.”

“Thank you.”

“In order to work for Carlisle Designs, you would need to move to
Dallas. Is that a possibility?”

“Yes.” I started to get nervous the second he started the
interview. I needed to pull it together and stop giving short answers.

“Good. What questions do you have for me?”

“Well . . . Wait, that’s it?”

“I’ve seen your work. All I needed to know was if you were
willing to move. Please, ask me anything you want to know. This interview is
more for you than me.”

“Oh. Well, I was wondering why your previous graphic artist
left.”

“Great question.” Matt took a moment to order coffee before
responding. “It wasn’t anything job-related, nor did we fire her. We were sad
to lose that talent, but I know you’ll be just as great as she was. Your work
speaks for itself.”

I was pleased to hear she left for her own reasons and not
because of the job. I didn’t want to turn my life upside down just to hate my
job. I could’ve stayed home to do that. “All I’ve done is the graphic work. I
didn’t come up with any of the logos. I just followed ideas from other people.
What will you expect from me?”

“Just the same as you’re doing now. If you have an idea, I’d love
to hear it, but don’t feel pressure to do that. We have a team for the idea
side of it. Don’t worry.”

I breathed a sigh of relief and we both laughed. “I don’t have
any more questions right now.”

“Good. Let’s just sit and get to know each other. See if we would
be a good fit to work together. It’s a big adjustment to move that far away
from home. You should make sure it’s right for you.”

We talked through the breakfast service, and before we knew it,
it was time for lunch. Matt was eyeing the plates as they came out of the
kitchen and were being served to everyone around us. I handed him the menu.

“Eat your heart out . . . literally.”

He had the biggest grin on his face and took the menu. “If you
insist.” He looked for a few seconds and then lowered the menu to look at me.
“Why aren’t you looking at the menu?”

“I don’t really want anything, but that shouldn’t stop you.” I
hoped I didn’t offend him. We’d been having a great discussion, and I felt
really confident the job was mine, but I just didn’t think I could eat at this
place.

Joan came over and still looked as happy as she did that morning,
even though she’d been working for hours. “We have a nice fruit salad if you
want that. I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation. Frank doesn’t want it
on the menu, but it’s good and fresh.”

Grateful she saved me from an awkward moment, I nodded my head.
“Yes, that sounds perfect. Thank you.”

We both looked at Matt, who was studying the menu as though it
were five minutes before finals, and he finally looked up at us. “What? This is
probably my last time here, and I don’t want to get it wrong.”

“I’ll take care of you, hon.” Joan patted him on the shoulder and
winked at me.

“I wish I could have brought my daughter Ashley with me. She
would love this place.” Matt leaned across the booth a little. “But she would
have told my wife.” He sat back with that kind smile in place.

It was hard to hear a father talk about his daughter. I love my
father very much, but seeing a birth father gush about his daughter was hard
for me. Even so, I wanted this job and needed to pull it together. “How old is
she?”

“She’s fifteen going on thirty. Every father says that when
children get to this age, though. I want to keep her a little girl forever, but
you wake up one day and all of a sudden it’s discussions about boys and dating.”

“I didn’t date until I was seventeen.”

“Your father’s a lucky man. My wife is on Ashley’s side. I’ve got
less than a year before my girl starts dating.”

“What does your wife do?”

“Well, she’s not only the other half of me but she’s also the
other half of Carlisle Designs. She’s taking some time off right now, though.”

~*~

I couldn’t believe I’d spent most of the day just
sitting and talking to Matt. It was difficult at first, but I loved hearing
about his family. It was obvious he still loved his wife even after twenty-seven
years of marriage. It was good to hear people were still crazy about each other
after all that time. Not too many people stay together that long anymore and
are still in love with each other. My parents are another exception.

I was heading over to my parents, and I wasn’t going to make them
happy that night. I took the job and would be moving to Dallas in three weeks.
I knew my mom would be upset the most. We were best friends, so it was going to
hit her hard. She was very active in the community and very well-liked, so it
wasn’t as if she couldn’t have made friends if she wanted to. It was just that
small-town gossip wasn’t her thing and Anson is definitely a small town.

Anson is only a few hours away from Dallas, and I could drive
back on the weekends, but I knew she’d act as though it were in another
country. I pulled into the driveway and sighed, not quite ready to break her
heart, but knowing I had to get it over with.

I didn’t even make it to the door before she swung it open and came
out to great me. Already the signs of her stress were staring me in the face.
Her light brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she had her apron on.
She was baking. At least she wasn’t covered in flour. That was a good sign that
she still had a little control of her emotions.

She was a little more excited than I thought she would be. Her
big smile seemed genuine and reached her brown eyes, making the lines around
them appear more prominent. “You got the job!” She grabbed me as I walked up
the last step to the porch and hugged me tight.

“Yes, I got the job.” I hugged her back and prepared for the
tears that I thought were coming.

“I knew you could do it! Now, come in and tell me all about it.”
She pushed me through the door and shut it behind us. I turned and just looked
at her, wondering what she’d done with my mother. “What? Can’t a mother be
happy for her child?”

“Yes, but I didn’t think you would be.” Her face fell and I felt
really guilty. I didn’t mean it as it sounded. “You do know I have to move to
Dallas now.”

I was grateful she recovered and put her arm around my shoulders
as she walked me to the kitchen. “Yes, I’m fully aware that you’re leaving me,
but I’ll survive. It’s just a few hours away, and we can meet in the middle
occasionally for dinner.”

I knew my mouth was hanging open, but I just couldn’t believe it.
Hillary Shultz—the mother that volunteered for every school function so she
didn’t let me out of her sight—was actually okay with me moving away. “What’s
going on here?”

“What do you mean?” She started mixing whatever she was making in
the bowl. I finally looked around the kitchen and saw that every surface was
covered with some type of baked good. “There’s a bake sale and I said I’d
help.”

“Help or cater it?” I started to move a pie to sit on the
barstool at the island, but quickly put it back as there was no other place to
put it. I leaned over and covered her hand to stop the mixer. “You’re upset. It
is okay to be upset with me.”

She put the mixer and bowl behind her and leaned on the island,
taking my hands again. “I’m not upset with you.” I looked around the bakery-filled
kitchen. “Okay. I’m upset, but not with you. I’ll just miss you. I barely see
you now and you live twenty minutes away. What’s going to happen when you live
across the state?”

“Mom, I promise I’ll visit. I’ll want to come home to you because
I’ll miss you like crazy, too.”

“Oh, now, I don’t really believe that at all. I know how it is to
get away from the parents. Once you’re out there and making a life for yourself,
you’ll forget all about us back here.” She reached behind her and picked up the
bowl and mixer again. “That’s how it should be. I’ll be okay. So when do you
start?”

“I go in three weeks.”

“Three weeks!” She slammed the mixer and bowl down. “That’s not
much time to move and find an apartment. What’s he thinking only giving you
three weeks?”

I was actually given two months, but I didn’t want to wait that
long. I wasn’t about to tell her the truth about that, either. I only needed to
give a two-week notice to my current employer, and I could live out of my car
until I found a place if needed. I wanted to get started on my search as
quickly as possible.

“Three weeks will be plenty of time. I can search for a place
online, and then maybe we can drive there one weekend to check out the better-looking
ones.” She beamed when I said we could go looking. I really did want her help. After
all she is my mom.

“I would love to help you find a place. It’s got to be safe. I
will only allow you to move into a safe building, and if we need to help you
with the rent, you let us know. I need my baby safe.”

“Mom, it’ll be fine. Let me help you pack some of these up. You
really need to open your own bakery. It’ll give you something to do, and you
could make a killing at it.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

I should have taken Matt’s offer for a little longer
than three weeks. It had sounded like plenty of time, but I was exhausted from
moving so quickly. Walking in through the doors for the first time was a little
intimidating. It was a busier place than I thought it would be. The way Matt
described his company was a little ma-and-pa-style office, but what I walked
into was way more than just ma and pa—it looked as if the distant relatives
moved in.

I had to thank mom again when I called her to tell her how the
first day went. I couldn’t believe the help she was organizing the move and
making the trips to see the apartments with me. I thought she was going to
break down several times when she was helping me unpack this weekend, but she
held it together pretty well. I was the one that was crying like a baby when
she left.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to ask for as I walked up to the
receptionist’s desk. I was glad she was on the phone so I had more time to come
up with something to say. Did I just say who I was and expect her to know me,
or did I ask for Matt?

I heard loud footsteps to my left. A young blond woman carrying a
box of office supplies walked up to the desk and set them down. She entered
into some sort of stare down with the receptionist. The contrast between the
two women gave me a good indication as to why there was hostility in the air.

The receptionist had a small frame, but held herself solidly as
if she played some sort of contact sport. Her appearance reminded me of my high
school librarian with every button properly in place. I couldn’t see under the
desk, but I’m sure the rest of her was just as prim. I couldn’t tell if the
lines on her face were from age or if it had to do with the scowl she was
giving the younger woman. It was her short black hair sprinkled with gray that
hinted she was several years older than the woman in front of her.

That woman was fit and trim; the outfit she wore showed it off.
Her legs were bare in her short skirt, and her chest was almost as bare, the
cleavage pushing out of her top. Everything about her screamed sex appeal from
the perfect beach wave curls to the shoes that announced her arrival. They were
the kind of high heels that told a man exactly what she wanted him to do to
her. I wasn’t sure if that was the reason she wore the shoes or if it was to
make up for what she lacked in height. Either way, the point was made.

The young woman finally stopped the staring match and nodded her
head. “Gladys. I’ve got this.” She turned to me. “Hi. You must be Rebecca.”

“Yes, I’m Rebecca.”

“I heard you like to be early. I was just taking these things to
your office.” She held her hand out to me. “My name is Stacy Albright. I’m part
of the idea team you’ll be on, and we’ll be working on layouts together. For
now though, I’ll be helping you get settled.”

BOOK: Coming Home
12.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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