Authors: Colette Cabot
Tags: #Contemporary Romance
Kathy Mae’s mother was laughing hysterically like someone who was high, and she was with a man she did not recognize. She couldn't help but judge this behavior as sinful, the way the woman was carrying on. They frolicked like teenagers, quite publicly, and he was placing his fat hands all over the woman known as her momma. Feeling no sense of care, Kathy Mae just sat quietly back and watched the two laughing and behaving scandalously in the old Volkswagen. There was no need for concern that they would see her, that they would speak to her or embarrass her. Completely selfish and involved in their own sense of pleasure, they would never notice her. Kathy Mae had no feelings for them as well. They were like pimples to her, or a bowel movement, something that though integrally a part of her flesh and blood, they were given no thought. They were certainly things not to be discussed in polite company—the kind of people with which she hoped to be associated in the office where she waited.
Mrs. Lois Wade, still groggy from the previous night’s romp at the race track, sauntered to the door of the Country Real Estate office with keys in hand. She hadn't had as much as usual to drink, knowing she faced an early morning work day, but the late hour, the excitement of the races, and the celebrating with all the guys were enough to make her regret the day ahead of her. Kathy Mae walked right behind her, stood up to the counter, and waited for Mrs. Wade to eventually notice her beyond the fog of her brain. She waited a while. Mrs. Wade shuffled papers, rubbed her aching temples, and finally looked up, shocked to see someone who had actually chosen to get out of bed that morning. It shocked her even more to see it was someone she knew.
“Yes, Kathy Mae,” she forced words from her parched throat, “what are you wanting here?”
“I want to apply for the job—the one for the receptionist advertised in the paper.”
Kathy Mae was holding her breath, hoping that the job had not already been filled and that she had appeared on the scene at the precisely opportune moment to snatch it up. She needed that to happen to bolster her shakily new-found confidence. She needed to feed the flames of her newly developed plan and her recently emerged faith in the advice of a book. This book had to have some truth to it; it had to work for her. Why else would they publish books if they were not true?
“The job?” smirked Mrs. Wade, “Listen here girl, in the first place, you have to have a high-school diploma. Do you have one? Then you have to know how to type? Can you? Then you have to have office attire. Here we dress in business casual. I do not think you even own a blazer Kathy Mae.”
Mrs. Wade felt assured that Kathy Mae would run away fast like a scolded dog with his tail between his legs. Not only was Kathy Mae an unsuitable candidate, but, after all, she wanted her friend Verna to have the job. It would be way more fun working with her race track buddy. Think of the fun lunch dates, and they could cover for each other when one or the other of them was hung over.
“I still would like to apply.” Kathy Mae insisted as she waited for Mrs. Wade to hand her the application. “Isn’t this an equal opportunity employer? I want my equal opportunity.”
“Yes, we certainly are,” Mrs. Wade replied, in a sing-songy voice that said she wasn't really concerned because she wasn't getting the job anyway. “Here's your application,” she smiled forcibly, handing it to her.
Kathy Mae took the paper and went to fill it out in the side office toward which Mrs. Wade's bright red talons directed. She heard the snort, meant to discourage her, but she did not care. The questions were easy for her. It wasn't her first job application, so she was prepared to list her skills and experience. Her only reference was Mrs. Goodall, who didn't seem to like her. But, she didn't like anyone, and the whole town knew that.
The quiet of the office ended when the door opened to admit a blustering Phillip Buggerby, the owner of Country Real Estate and a really upstanding good old boy among the townspeople. He glanced into the side office, and seeing Kathy Mae, smiled before going into his own office at the rear of the building. Kathy Mae finished, stood up, and walked to the counter to hand over her completed forms. Mrs. Wade sat typing, either unaware or unconcerned about receiving the document.
“Mrs. Wade would you show our applicant into my office please?” Phillip Buggerby announced quite audibly from several rooms away. Apparently they didn't have an intercom.
“Phillip, I haven’t even looked at her application for you yet!” she protested. “Don't you want me to screen the applications like I always do?”
“No need,” Mr. Buggerby retorted. “Send her in.”
Kathy Mae walked in the direction of his voice, and then seated herself in a small chair in front of Phillip’s large desk as he indicated for her to do. He reached out his hand to receive her tightly grasped application, and she gave it to him. He read it for a while, then looked up at her and smiled.
“How you doing today?” he asked pleasantly.
“Fine,” she said, thinking, so far, I am.
“How is that aunt of yours?” Phillip said, giving her a big grin.
“She's fine, too,” Kathy Mae answered, becoming very nervous once she realized that he already knew everything about her.
“I need someone who can work starting today,” he said bluntly. “You are the only applicant since last Tuesday. The only problem I see is that you have a job at the library. You would have to quit it. I need every ounce of work you got in you girl. I expect you to be on time, and to learn a lot of new things—quickly. It doesn't bother me a bit that you don't have much experience. I'd rather train you my way from the start. But, you have to be willing to work hard. Sound like you still want to work here?”
“I do,” she said. “I really want to work here—more than anything.”
“Okay, can you start today then?” he said.
Kathy nodded and asked almost as a second thought, “Could I ask what is the pay rate here, sir?”
“Oh, yeah, that little detail,” he joked, “It's $355.00 a week. I hope that works for you, and we have health insurance, dental and eye. But don’t go getting yourself pregnant on that account. You hear?” he joked, offering her a hand to shake.
She took it in shock, standing with her mouth hanging open in amazement. It only closed to make a smile, a sincere smile that came from a happy place deep inside her which hadn't been touched in many years.
She followed Phillip through the small corridor and to another room. Inside she saw a mountain of papers, and a table.
“Sit here,” he said. “I have some paper work that you need to fill out. W-9s and all, then we've got several videos for you to watch—mostly government required stuff on safety. Any questions?”
“Yes sir, may I call my Aunt to tell her that I will not be home for lunch?” Kathy Mae asked, not knowing what to expect—from him or from her aunt.
He showed her the phone which was hidden from view behind the stacks of papers, then he left her to finish attending to the requirements of being newly hired.
“Hello, this is Anna,” she answered gruffly, “Who’s this?”
“Auntie, it's me Kathy Mae,” she said quickly, “I got a new job starting right now, so I won't be home until suppertime. Just calling so’s you don’t worry.”
“A job?” she said with a degree of disbelief, “Did you go to that there gentleman’s club? I thought that's what you did!”
“No, I did not go there,” she answered, wanting to get off the phone, but wanting also to make her choke on those harsh words. “I am now working at Country Realty, in the office.”
“Is that so?” snarled Aunt Anna, “So, now Miss Snippety's got a real job, so you think you're too good to help out around here? And to make dinner or lunch?”
“Sorry, I have to work,” she answered. “Guess you'll have to go get it done by yourself.”
Kathy Mae replaced the receiver without saying good-bye.
It was over. Except it wasn't, not quite yet. She still had to go back there at the end of the day. The sounds of shuffling paper and Mrs. Wade answering the phone were the only reminders that she was not alone in the office. The day moved slowly as she fumbled through training materials, the employee handbook, and a series of informational pamphlets.
Mrs. Wade did her best to ignore her. Kathy Mae did not mind this at all, and in fact, she preferred being ignored to the kind of negative attention she expected based on their earlier exchanges. She spent her alone time imagining how angry her aunt would be when she announced she was going to move out. Perhaps Aunt Anna had already anticipated the inevitability of this happening.
At lunch break Kathy Mae decided she would stay at the office. Without a car, and with the only option being pastries from the Do-nut Dip within reasonable walking distance, there was nothing for her to eat anyway.
Mrs. Wade wanted very much to get away from the office, however, and asked if Kathy Mae would mind sitting at the front desk in case any clients happened to drop by. Kathy Mae's momentary hesitation was interpreted as payback to the rudeness with which she had been treated earlier in the day. To smooth over the friction between herself and the person who had been thrust upon her as a new co-worker, Mrs. Wade nicely offered to bring her back a sandwich from Subway to compensate for her help with manning the desk. Kathy Mae quickly accepted the offer, grasping the situation immediately. Things may work out well between them after all, she thought.
After everyone was gone, Kathy Mae began reading the guidelines on phone etiquette when the bell attached to the entrance door jingled. She didn't look up from her pamphlet until the sound of footsteps stopped at her desk.
Standing before her was a man she had never seen before, and she was puzzled, thinking she knew everyone in town. He was tall, about six feet, with black hair pulled into a ponytail. His features gave him somewhat of a Native American look. His clothing, a flannel shirt over a green tee shirt and jeans with work boots, made him appear to be a man who worked in construction—perhaps with one of the crews that moved through the area working for the railroads or on the freeway. His dark-green eyes stared at her intently. Kathy Mae sat stunned and somewhat mesmerized by his dark good looks and serious demeanor.
Forcing herself to consciousness, and suddenly aware of the expectations of her job, she addressed him non-verbally with her soft brown eyes, feeling an immediate and intense connection between them. It was a look she had never shared with any man before. In only an instant, she knew the feeling of having a man desire her, and that had never happened before. Well, it had, but not in any way with which she had participated. It was a feeling that swept her away.
“Hi there, I’m Mason Wheelwright,” he said, breaking the silence. “I came in to get the final paperwork for my father’s house.”
The warmth continued in spite of the intrusion of words between the unspoken message being transferred between them. Her lips parted to speak, but paused, open, as if inviting a kiss. The words hung on desires that blocked her thinking temporarily.
“Paperwork?” she said, jolting herself alert. “I'm new. Today's my first day, so it might take me a minute to figure out where it is. Can you give me a little more information?” Kathy Mae was fumbling with papers on Mrs. Wade’s desk, not knowing what any of it was. She scanned through several stacks, looking for something that contained the words
“The name is Wheelwright; it should be listed under Steven Wheelwright,” he said, trying to help, seeing her frustration.
“I’m looking,” she assured him, unnecessarily. It was obvious that she was.
Around on the other side of the desk, she found a file cabinet with labeled manila folders, and Wheelwright was the last one in the drawer.
“Here it is, I found it,” she smiled, pleased to accommodate him—her first encounter with a customer, as well as her first encounter with true animal magnetism.
“Thank you, ma'am,” he said, then asked, “What is your name?”
“I’m Kathy Mae Graves, Mr. Wheelwright,” she said, feeling strange about addressing him so formally while fluttering inside with intimate sensations. The tips of her fingers touched his hand as she passed the folder to him.