I inched a little closer to the door. My mothers’ parade of boyfriends in my life had taught me that an angry man was something to be avoided at all costs. When I was nervous I tended to babble.
“Yeah. I can’t believe it’s been that long. Lenny was so experienced. I swear he taught me more about life than the last twenty years of living it has.” I probably would have kept on talking to cover the fact that he made me nervous, but he cut in.
“You’re just a child!” The wrath in his voice frightened me at first then anger kicked in at his rudeness. I didn’t know this man well enough for him to yell at me and I certainly wasn’t a child. I was doing him the favor by agreeing to talk.
“It’s impolite to scream at people you don’t know. Age has little to do with manners. If that’s how you treat people you can let me out of this car.” I didn’t mean to come unhinged at his comment but I was tired of people thinking they could walk all over me. My mother had done that enough before she decided to abandon me.
“I didn’t mean to be offensive.” His tone calmed and I felt my face flush.
“Sorry. I’m afraid things haven’t been very easy lately. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.” The truth was I didn’t want to be that bitter, angry person my mother had turned into. This man wasn’t at fault for my problems and I felt guilty for adding more burdens on top of the loss he’d already suffered.
“I think I can help you with that.” There was a tick in his jaw even as he attempted a smile.
“Forget I said anything.” Talk about being embarrassed. I didn’t need his help and this conversation wasn’t why I got in the car with him. “I really appreciate that you want to honor your dad’s wishes, but he doesn’t owe me anything.”
“He obviously felt he did. What would it take to get you to a comfortable place Miss Burns?” A stony look fell over his face and I was baffled by his mood swings.
Babbling again, I launched into a quick outline of my goals. “All I want to do is save up for college and make a new life for myself. I’m working on that now so you can rest easy. Lenny gave me the courage to know I could reach that goal. There’s really nothing else I need.”
“Then allow me to pay for your education and expenses to live that dream.” His smile didn’t reach his eyes and my own widened at his generosity.
“I couldn’t do that! I really appreciate the offer but I’m working to pay off some debt and I’ll hopefully start next fall.” If I was anything like my mom I’d jump at his offer, but I had a different set of values. “I really appreciate the thought though.”
“My father obviously cared for you a great deal. It’s the least I can do.” He didn’t sound happy about offering and I knew it was just out of respect for Lenny that he spoke the words.
“Thank you, but I have everything figured out. Your dad gave me more than enough by encouraging me to make goals for myself.” He didn’t need to know I was drowning in debt and doubted my own ability to make that goal a reality. The offer was tempting but I wasn’t a freeloader.
“I’m trying to help you. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t assure myself that my father’s final words were honored.”
I couldn’t believe that Lenny had even thought of me in his last moments. Yes we were friends, but I’d just assumed his life was full of people that he felt appreciated him. I was just some girl in a coffee shop and we’d never met anywhere else.
“I don’t know how to say this nicely but I wouldn’t feel right taking money from you.” I hoped I was explaining this right.
“So if you won’t take money, what about a position in my company?” Was he gritting his teeth? I understood he wanted to fulfill Lenny’s promises but what I didn’t get was why he seemed so infuriated about it. I was offering him a way out.
“Um, I’ve only worked at the coffee shop. I’m sure I don’t have the experience to work for you.” I knew that Lenny was involved with something that bought and sold companies. I really didn’t understand how that worked.
“We have positions that you can train in while you work. Of course you’d be making a better salary than the one you currently have. If you won’t let me pay for your education, the ‘least’ I can do is offer you a chance to obtain your goals faster.”
I didn’t know what to say. A job making more money would help me out and if he was willing to let me start at the bottom should I refuse? The man didn’t seem like he knew how to take no for answer. “I guess that would be okay.” He seemed determined to do something and this wasn’t really a handout, was it? I mean I would be working.
I watched as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He offered me a business card. “I’m sure we can make this situation work out for both of us.”
Taking the card, I slid it into the pocket on my uniform shirt. “Are you sure this is something you want to do? You really don’t know enough about me to offer a job.”
“Trust me Miss Burns, this will be beneficial for both of us.” The smirk on his face confused me. “Come to my office Monday morning at eight and we’ll take care of all the paperwork.”
“I’ll need to give the coffee shop notice.” I hoped this wasn’t a bad idea. Making more money would help me out, but working for a man not knowing what was involved with the job description was daunting.
“Understandable. I believe your shop opens at ten, so you should still be able to get the paperwork started Monday?”
“Um. Okay.” I looked down at the card again and noted the address for the company was downtown. I had Monday off so the time wasn’t a problem. “I guess we can talk about everything then.” He’d relaxed and I got the feeling he was the type of man accustomed to getting what he wanted.
He rolled down the driver’s window and gave instructions to return to the mall. We didn’t speak on the way back and the entire ride left me feeling very uncomfortable. I thanked him as we pulled back in the parking lot. With a brief nod of his head, he pulled away and left me walking towards the bus stop.
The house was being sold. I don’t know why I was shocked. My mother seemed determined to ruin my life. Not a phone call or even a letter from her, instead I get a call from the bank telling me I have less than a month to vacate the premises. How could life get much worse?
Two thousand dollars is what I had saved up to start college next year. Now that money would be used on a new apartment. I had no credit line yet so getting a decent place to rent wasn’t going to be easy. Shaking my head I thought about the wedding invitation I’d received in the mail. Amazing how she could send out an invite for that but not a warning I was about to be out in the streets.
For her it was all about appearances. She was moving on to husband number five. While she would enjoy her new life and all the perks that came with it until she bankrupted the new man, I was once again left to deal with what she left behind. It wasn’t like I was a stranger to any of this. I’d been nothing but an afterthought after she destroyed my father, the first man she’d married.
Fighting back tears, I refused to cry over her treachery again instead I took a deep breath. All I wanted was to put her and the insane past behind me for good. If only every time I attempted to do that my feet weren’t kicked out from under me I might have a shot at normalcy.
Positives. That’s what I kept telling myself to look toward. I was going to work with Ross Industries. After the offer I’d researched the company and was amazed at the legacy Lenny had left behind. A fortune 500 company worth billions. Obviously the driver Mr. Ross employed was not working for a rental company.
I hadn’t heard from him since I visited the human resources department for his company last week. I’d finished all the necessary paperwork and pre-employment screenings that day and worried the entire time that I was in over my head. The building was huge and if it hadn’t been for the personal escort by one of the staff I’d have easily gotten lost.
Discovering I would be working as his personal assistant almost made me reconsider taking the job. I couldn’t imagine working in that building at all much less in a position that I assumed was sought after. I was a server at a coffee shop, and felt I didn’t have the experience that working for him required.
If I wanted a way out from the mess my life was becoming, his offer was the best chance I could get. The salary listed on my paperwork was mind blowing. Three times the minimum wage I was earning at the coffee shop. It didn’t matter that I had no idea how to be a personal assistant, for the wages he was paying I’d learn.
I was meeting him today to go over my duties and then I’d start looking for a new place to live. I could only pray this would be the positive change I needed to get my life headed in the right direction. Staring back at my reflection in the mirror, I hoped the church dress I was wearing was appropriate for the position.