Orie found her first job working at a preschool not too far from home, a twenty-minute drive one way. Later, she would learn that the twenty minutes was a necessity to keep her sanity. At first she was assigned to work in a room with a teacher in the three-year-old room. They seemed to get along pretty well, but about a month later, her associate told her she would be leaving the school to work for another company. That same day the director called her into the office to tell her she would be a floater from that point forward. Being a floater wasn’t so bad once she got the hang of it. She found a confidant while working as a floater, Sue, the four-year-olds teacher. Sue told Orie all the survival skills necessary to survive at that preschool, to survive the job, information that you just didn’t learn in school, and Orie very much appreciated the information. Once the job sank in and Orie got a handle on her responsibilities, she was able to look at her job critically.
The director would tell her she wasn’t doing her job correctly, not following the lesson plans, she wasn’t doing anything right. Orie quite frankly didn’t know what the director was talking about because there was nothing in the room in the first place, and no lesson plan to follow. So what was there for her to do? She started realizing that the preschool went against everything she had been taught. There was nothing she could do about that though; there was nowhere else for her to go. She always left work tired and frustrated, and used the twenty minute drive listening mindlessly to the radio, returning home barely able to function.
It was December, with Christmas just around the corner. The director of the preschool decided to move Orie into the toddler classroom. Orie found that room even more of a disaster, only using that as a basic description of course. The school wanted to do a Christmas Presentation, and every classroom had to prepare something for the recital, everybody, including the toddler room consisting of one to one and a half year olds. It was explained to her that there were a couple that could talk and would be able to follow along, while the rest, others would have to speak for. She knew she would be able to accomplish that, and didn’t mind doing it, but it was their costumes that gave her a problem, which consisted of a t-shirt decorated with Elmer’s glue and loose glitter. She was warned the night of the concert to be sure that the kids are wearing their shirt because their parents paid for them, not realizing the health hazard the t-shirt possessed due to the loose glitter blowing into their baby’s face. Not having any other choice, she did what she was told to do, promising herself to find something better. That was the last straw. She put in her two-week notice that night after everything was cleaned up and put away.
She found a job working at another preschool, working there for about a year, learning more about her job and finding her niche in the preschool teacher work force. She found that she often did better with the four-year-old crowd, and that was where she liked to be.
There was one child she felt especially close to. His name was John, the youngest brother of two. He was such a happy little guy. She could never resist him, even at that young age, especially when he cried on her shoulder telling her that his mother forgot to get him his lunch. He would come at odd hours, sometimes every day, sometimes not at all, during naptime mostly, and it was then that she saw that face. It was the face that told her he was miserable, and the most likely reason being that he didn’t have anything to eat. Not knowing what else to do, Orie called the director to let her know what was going on in her room. The mother would come to the school angry and frustrated because she was called. Orie tried to talk to the mother, hoping to establish a connection. It was nothing more than a feeling, but every time she attempted to talk to her, the mother’s eyes just didn’t seem to be focused. The mother was never happy, complaining that whatever happened was her ex’s fault, not hers. The director had had about enough of the mother, who just didn’t seem to listen. Orie thought she heard the assistant director say the mother owed money for John’s tuition, not including the lunches, which was another bill entirely. John still attended school so Orie thought the billing issue was solved. Orie didn’t feel any better though, and threw her hands up in the air in aggravation because he still came to school hungry. Orie had the feeling that John was lectured to not say anything anymore.
Often, the director would ask Orie to stay and she would, not wanting to leave the kids unattended. She got tired really fast and she felt like she was losing her sanity. She was in need of a change.
She heard parents talk about a company that had recruiters out in search of new employees. A large company like that, with their own child care/preschool for the employees, usually had a better work force, and meant more money in the long run. Working for a large company intrigued her. She was sure they had a different theory, and maybe had higher qualification standards, yet it interested her. She had been working at her current job for as long as she could, and felt like she wasn’t going anywhere anymore. She visited the preschool during her lunch break to fill out a job application, putting in her two-week notice the following day.
She got a call back for an interview.
Orie was excited about the interview. She knew about dressing properly for the job you were interviewing for. Deciding on a polo shirt and a light pair of slacks, she left the house, going over in her mind the possible questions they would ask for the interview. She remembered where the company was located, about a fifteen-minute drive from her house in a residential district. There were a few companies in that area, though not many. She found a good parking spot, she thought, knowing she could use the walk to work out any visible signs of nervousness. She entered the building, finding none other than Heather Miller at the front desk. Orie really did wonder if Heather was stalking her, first junior high, then high school, and if she really stopped to think about it, college as well. It just seemed too coincidental. It was explained to her that she needed to check in at the front desk, get a visitor’s pass, and then proceed on up to the fourth floor via a special elevator designated for such a purpose.
Orie walked up to the front desk, “Good morning, my name is Orie, Orie MacCreadie. I have an appointment to interview with the childcare director at 10:30.”
“Name please?” Some things just don’t change.
“Oh yeah, there you are. Sign by your name and I’ll get you a thingee.” Heather was chewing gum at that time rather obnoxiously, and it was grating on Orie’s nerves. She also wondered about the “thingee.”
“Here’s your thingee, and look at the elevators for the right one. They’re all labeled, bye byeeee.”
The thingee turned out to be a visitor’s badge with a special magnetic strip on the back. Orie was able to find the appropriate elevator, being the lone elevator on the back wall, pushed the button, and entered. That was when Orie got scared because there were no buttons to push, just a slot. Orie always thought of herself as being able to figure out a solution. Remembering the magnetic strip on the back of her badge, she slid the badge through the slot and the elevator started moving. She mentally clapped for joy for having figured that out.
The doors opened and she immediately exited the elevator, walking up to the front desk to announce herself. She was five minutes early to her appointment, and was willing to wait if need be. The front desk clerk came back to get Orie to take her back to the director’s office.
She felt immediately at ease with the tease. “Oh, look, Cheryl, she figured out how to get up here all by herself. Maybe we should skip the interview and just hire her for being able to use the elevator. It took me having to get a guard and ask him how to use the elevator.” After a slight pause, the woman added, “Welcome to the Children’s Center, my name is Debbie. Tell me about yourself.” The interview progressed from that point on, and two hours later, she left the building feeling confident that she got the job, being confirmed by a phone call later that night.
Orie excitedly told her mother “Hey, Mom, guess what?”
“Guess what, dear?”
“I got the job. I got the job, and I start tomorrow.” Orie did a little happy dance in the kitchen as she washed the dishes.
“That’s nice, dear.”
Let’s not get too excited now, I wouldn’t want you to strain yourself. Orie thought as went to her room to change clothes.
Orie just shook her head back and forth, knowing better than to expect her mother to be excited for her. Mother let her do what she wanted to, but the support wasn’t there, not that it ever was. Orie thought if that she ever ran for President of the United States, her mother still wouldn’t be happy. Orie made a schedule on the computer to put on the refrigerator so if there was any question, all mother had to do was look at her schedule.
The following day mother started first thing in the morning. “Why aren’t you at work right now?”
“Because I don’t start work until 12:30 this afternoon, I posted my schedule up on the refrigerator for you.”
“You didn’t tell me, and don’t use that tone with me, young lady. You know I don’t understand those things.”
“I wasn’t using a tone, and the schedule is in plain and simple English.” It’s too early in the morning for this. It’s only 7:30 in the morning and already an argument.
“Well, when I was working, I would always start first thing in the morning. I don’t know about you. You’re always spending more money on your job and you shouldn’t have to spend a thing. Why are you working anyway? It isn’t to make money.”
Of course, mother, you have never worked a day in your life, mother, you said so yourself, mother, and I work because I like it, mother, and you don’t become a teacher to be rich, mother. Did I miss anything?
It was a strained morning at best. Orie had hoped a shower would wash away the ill feelings, but it didn’t work. After a quick bite to eat, she left for work after getting a lecture from her mother about proper attire. Does anybody need a mother? I have one, and she’s potty trained.
She arrived at the center ready for her first day. During her break or before work started she needed to go to the security office to get her badge. The next item of business: understanding her schedule. Because Orie was a floater, her schedule was decided based on most needed, which would explain the erratic schedule she was given. Cheryl, the assistant director, explained where to go, when to go, and what Orie was supposed to do. Orie was right in guessing the different theory. It was nothing like she had worked with before, but she was always willing to learn something new. At every opportunity she had, she read any information she could during naptime while the children were sleeping. She had a basic idea, but not so in-depth so as to say she completely understood. She would need to ask Cheryl about that later.
It was afternoon snack time, and the school age kids walked in quietly with their teacher, and that was when she saw her, an almost duplicate of Essie, same hair, same eyes, same height, same everything. Could it be? She never bothered to look at the name of the company until now. She looked at the temporary badge she was given and saw ARCADIA, INC. on the badge. The name didn’t mean anything. Could it be a coincidence? Shaking her head back and forth in an effort to shake the thought out of her head, she continued with her day. It was 8:30, and she was ready to call it a day. She felt good, satisfied, and tired, a good kind of tired, something she never felt before now. Cheryl closed the center at night, with Debbie opening the center at 5:30 in the morning. Orie clocked out for the day and walked out to her car, still thinking about the girl. A man had come about mid-afternoon to pick her up, oh well, it was a hope. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.
The following day she got her ID badge done. It was still too early to go to work, so she spent time at a small duck pond right on the side of the building. Orie sat on a log to watch the ducks, not knowing she was being watched from above. The sand feels good underneath my feet. It feels good to be out here, all by myself. Oh, the nice feeling of the ocean breeze against my skin. I could stay here forever. When she was ready to come back, she found a sandwich shop had lunch, and walked over to her car to see a note. “Welcome back, princess,” Orie read in a low voice, not sure what to think about it.
She threw the note away as soon as she entered the building, got into the elevator, and went to work. She would be there late again, but she didn’t mind. She was thinking that the later the night became, the less kids they had, therefore, an opportunity to talk to Cheryl about their theory and if she could take the books home to read. She found out before the school age kids arrived that they were having a seminar about the current theory, and that Orie would be a little ahead of everyone by reading the books. The seminar would be held all day Saturday and half day Sunday.
That girl was still there at 6:30, when most of the children were gone, leaving three kids in total. Orie needed to introduce herself to the girl, “Hi, we didn’t meet yesterday, but I’m Ms. Orie.”
The girl turned in her direction and smiled as she said, “Greetings, Ms. Orie, I know who you are. My mother told me about you. I’m Essie Sapphira.”
“Did you say Essie Sapphira?”
“Yes, ma’am, I did.”
“Hello, Essie Sapphira.” Orie was barely able to squeak out. Could it be? Is it possible? My Essie is here?
It was time to leave for the day, and Cheryl would lock and take Essie Sapphira up to her mother. The next day would be an early day for Orie, she needed to be there at 7 o’clock in the morning. Orie made it to her car and stopped to look at her badge. She worked for a big company if you didn’t ask about the position she held. She heard a noise behind her and looked at the reflection in her windshield. She parked underneath a lamp for safety so she could see the reflection quite clearly. “Oh my God, Essie, is it really you?” she whispered to herself quietly. She glanced up at the reflection again and it was gone. “I knew it was too good to be true.” With a long sigh and her head down, she walked around to her side of the car to be stopped. “What? What happened?” In an attempt to scream, a hand gently covered her mouth as she felt her back being rubbed.
“Now, princess, it is all right. There is no need to scream. It is just me and my daughter,” Essie said in the hopes of relaxing Orie. Instead, Orie gave her the opposite reaction. As soon as Essie let go, Orie backed up right into the light. Quickly recovering, she continued to back up, looking at Essie with fear all over her face. It couldn’t be true. It was her! She wasn’t supposed to be this lucky . . . or was she.
“Princess, please come back. While most of the employees have left, it is still dangerous.” Essie held her arms open for Orie to come back to.
“No, it can’t be, you disappeared, you moved away. I wasn’t supposed to see you ever again.” Orie was terrified and didn’t know what to do.
“Princess, please, you know I would never hurt you.”
“No, you just go away. No, I’ll just keep living my boring life, just back away from my car before I call security.” There was a large, red button on the base of the lights meant to be used to call security in case of an emergency. Orie placed her hand right over the button. Essie thought maybe a later time would be best.
“All right, princess, my intention was not to frighten you, perhaps tomorrow, then.” Essie turned immediately around to walk to her car, which was not far away. She didn’t want Orie to see her cry. As soon as she got in the car, Essie started crying. When she was calm enough to drive, she turned on her radio, Tchaikovsky under these circumstances, and drove home knowing there was a lot more work to be done to win back Orie’s trust.
Orie had a hard time sleeping that night. After all these years, Essie Diamonté Sebastopol had come back, her Essie. She tried to go to sleep, with all of the memories swirling around in her head. There was a possibility.
Waking up early the next morning to get to work, she came ready for her day. The kids helped her to forget what happened the night before. There was a special child. His name was Justin. He never said anything without prompting, veered off direction from the rest of the kids, and was difficult to tell if he understood. His mother always said it was his medication, but Orie didn’t think so. There was just something that was wrong which she couldn’t clearly put her finger on and tell someone that that was what was wrong. She couldn’t do anything more about it other than letting Cheryl know her feelings, and she had already done that. Their hands were tied, and everything they could do for Justin had been done. It was now up to the parents. Justin would often run off by himself when he was in the playground with the rest of kids, or he would tell the teachers that there was a great big dinosaur hiding under the earth. The other kids would take advantage of him and use him as an excuse if they did anything wrong. Justin hit me, Justin threw sand, Justin did this, Justin did that, the problem was that Justin didn’t know how to say I didn’t do anything without being prompted, and that just wouldn’t work. Justin became Orie’s personal project, teaching him anything and everything she could that she knew Justin needed to know.
It was 4 o’clock and time for Orie to go home. Orie had a purpose in life, and she was going to try her hardest to teach Justin. If he could only be able to say thank you on his own by the end of the year, Orie would be thankful to everything holy, and be proud of her Justin.
Orie was about to step out of the building when she was stopped by a security guard, a big, black security guard that could very well substitute a wall without trying. “What is this about? It’s time for me to go home. I work at the Children’s Center on the fourth floor.”
“It’s all right, ma’am; I was just instructed to bring you along with me, that’s all.” The security guard motioned for her to walk ahead of him. He led her to another elevator marked Chief Executive Suite, which was only operational by a special key, not only to open the elevator but to operate it as well, not buttons to push. The elevator reached the floor quickly and the security guard led Orie to their next destination, the only room on the floor. He nodded at the secretary and knocked on the door before opening it. Orie heard a “Thank you, Rosco” before being ushered into the office.
Orie was surprised and shocked to enter a room that big. The entire back wall wasn’t a wall at all, not in the traditional sense; it was made out of glass blocks. Sitting at the desk was Essie, looking at Orie, smiling.
“Princess, I am sorry for using Rosco, but Debbie told me that you would be leaving at 4 o’clock today. I had a video conference with someone at that time. Please make yourself comfortable.” Essie got up from behind her desk and pushed out a chair for Orie.
Orie was just shocked, too shocked to move. It didn’t matter how Essie motioned or what sort of moves she made, Orie just couldn’t comprehend, her brain having stopped working.
The only word she was able to mutter was “Huh?” looking a lot like a lost child.
Essie stood behind Orie to gently push her over to the chair she was pointing to. Orie still looked lost and wondered what Essie was trying to tell her.
“Princess, sit in the chair please, would you?” Essie waited for her words to register, seeing Orie’s sudden drop into the chair. Orie still had her mouth hanging open. “Princess, you would not want those little beasties getting the wrong idea, now, would you?” Seeing no reaction, Essie gently closed Orie’s mouth.
“Essie . . . but . . . I thought . . . but . . . oh, Essie.” Orie rubbed her face hoping it was just a dream and she would wake up. Essie, however, got concerned because it seemed that Orie wouldn’t stop. Holding onto Orie’s hands, Essie leaned against her desk waiting for Orie to continue “When you moved away, I thought it would be forever. I never thought we would actually meet again. I never thought of myself as being that lucky. Just so that I know you are Essie, you told me something one night after a dance. What did you say?”
Essie smiled at the memory. She was very close to telling Orie that she loved her, but it was too soon. Looking directly into Orie’s eyes, cupping her cheek gently, she replied, “My adorable golden princess, I want you to always remember that I am not that far away, because when you look up to the sky and find the brightest star up there, that will be me watching you . . . caring for you. Always remember, Orie, always remember.”
Everything hit Orie all at once. All of the pain, all of the misery, all of the grief that she had held within for so long was finally let out. The pressure cooker burst at last, and it felt so good to finally be able to free herself of all of those emotions. Orie stood up and grabbed a hold of Essie, who held her protectively just as she always had, waiting.
At long last the crying stopped, and attempting to regain her composure again, she said, “Essie, I can’t believe you’re here. I still can’t believe it. I believed you were gone forever. You were the best friend that I ever had, and you left. I saw that girl in the center and she looked just like you. I thought it was too much to hope for. Oh, Essie, I missed you.”
“I know you missed me, princess, I know. I heard your thoughts in your dreams. I communicated with you during that time, but you never responded. I never stopped though, I never stopped.” Essie didn’t let go of Orie, and told her a little bit of her truth in the hope that Orie would understand and wouldn’t run away again.
“I remember those dreams. I thought that’s just what they were, and if you were there in my dreams then you know about daddy.”
“Yes, Orie, I know about your father, and I am truly sorry for his passing. Thank you, my princess, for accepting the truth and not running away again.”
“I can’t run away because you’re here. I can’t explain why I did that, and I am sorry that I did. It doesn’t make up for it, but . . .”
“I know and I understand what you are telling me. The reason I brought you up here, is that I wanted to tell you that my daughter enjoys your company. It is not that I do not trust anyone in the center, but . . . now that I have a choice . . . I would like you to take care of the school age children from this moment forward. I have already spoken with Debbie, and she will be sure that you are instructed in how to take care of them.”
Orie just looked at Essie. “You want me to take care of the school age kids?”
“Yes I do, Orie. I have reviewed your record, as well as doing some investigations of my own. I liked what I saw.”
“I appreciate all your efforts, ma’am but . . .”
Essie was suddenly taken aback by the formality, “Ma’am?”
“I appreciate all you efforts, Ms. Sebastopol, but to be honest, I don’t know if I’m quite there yet. I’ve worked with four-year-olds mostly, but not too much with the school age kids. It’s been my experience that if the kids sense fear they take advantage of that and will run you over at first opportunity.”
“I understand that, and it is Essie. Ms. Sebastopol is only slightly better than ma’am. The assistant director will be sure that everything is all right. You will never be alone, so there will be no worries. There will be no further arguments on this matter. My choice is you, and my order is very clear.”
“But, Essie . . .” Orie’s mouth was suddenly covered with Essie’s hand.
“No but Essie, do you understand?” Orie’s mouth was released.
“All right, I understand. All I can guarantee is that I’ll try.”
“That is all that I ask. How about we go out to eat tonight, as a sort of celebration?”
“I’d like that, but I’m not dressed for it.” The employees at the Children’s Center were given uniforms to wear, a printed polo shirt and the choices of either black, blue, or khaki pants, no jeans allowed. Everyone was given a smock to wear at the center, and while it was the teacher’s responsibility to keep it clean, the smock was the property of the center.
“Then how about if we go to your house, I follow you in my car, and we leave from there. How does that sound?”
The more she talked to Essie, the more excited she became, “That sounds great. I won’t have any time to get cleaned up, but if you don’t mind me stinky . . .”
“You never stink, Orie, you never do.”
“All right, then. We could leave now if you can?” Orie always asked instead of telling, having gotten into that habit as a survival skill. Essie sensed the uncertainty and knew she had a lot of work ahead of her. Mother has been very busy, so it seems.
“We could go now if you can, meaning what exactly?” Essie waited patiently for Orie to answer. Essie had very little patience, as any one of her executives would tell. However, with the right person, she could be as patient as necessary.
“Well, if you’re free, we could go now?” Orie tried again.
“Are you asking me if I am available? Or are you telling me we should go now because the day is now done.”
“I’m asking you if you’re available, and if you are we could go now if you still want.”
Essie realized she would have to work a lot harder to work that uncertainty out. “Then how about if we say, since everyone is done for the day, that we leave now.”
“Okay.” Orie stood up and walked towards the door, not seeing Essie shake her head. It wasn’t that Essie was disgusted with Orie, just that she realized her mother had slowly dwindled every last bit of self confidence out of Orie, leaving her always being uncertain.
Orie naturally wanted to find the staircase, only to be stopped by Essie as she led everyone to the only elevator available. It was a fast trip down to the lobby, and as they exited, Orie walked in the direction of the closest telephone to call her mother, because if she didn’t, it would only be another argument. Essie quietly followed behind Orie.
“Hi, Mom, I was asked out tonight, so I’m going to be late . . . I don’t know, probably around ten . . . yes, I know, I won’t eat too much and I’ll watch my diet . . . okay, mom, bye.”
There are some things that do not change after all. We have a lot of talking to do. “Are you ready to leave now?”
“Oh yeah, I am. Just follow me home and it should only take me about fifteen minutes to get ready. I just have to change my clothes.”
Essie followed Orie to her house, realizing that they had never moved. Essie sat outside her house waiting for her to come out. Essie Sapphira sat in the back seat watching everything, not knowing what to think. It would be something that she would have to ask Maril about.
“Sapphira, do not talk to Maril about this. It would only bring up an old argument. I realize you have questions, and it would be better to ask me instead of Maril.”
“It’s just that, well, she’s a stranger, and you love her. I don’t understand why.”
“She is not a stranger, Sapphira. Orie is a friend from my past. She is my very special friend that I hope will be by my side for another eternity.”
“Yeah, but if what Maril says is true, then you won’t be able to bring her along with you. Can you?”
“Do not believe everything that Maril has told you. I will bring Orie with me when I am able to return. I have not worked this hard only to leave her behind. She will come back with us. And Sapphira . . .”
“Always remember to speak properly. It is best to practice now instead of later. Do you understand?”
“But, Mooommm . . .”
“Do you understand, Sapphira?”
“Yes, Mother, I understand what you are telling me.”
“That is much better. She is approaching now.” Essie started the car, but realized that Orie was getting into her car. She turned off her car to step out quickly before Orie opened her car door.
“I thought you wanted to go out to eat. I’m sorry, I’ll just tell mom my mind changed.”
“That was not why I did what I did. I came over here to take you to my car.”
Orie was still feeling overwhelmed with the current events, “What?”
“Come along with me, my car is over there.” Essie tapped Orie’s palm as a silent signal to follow her then opened Orie’s door for her.
Essie’s car, SUV actually, was a little high off the ground for Orie. Orie looked up to see a handle, grabbed it, and pulled herself inside. Essie made sure that Orie was buckled in and closed the door. Running over to her side, she climbed in and just sat there, thinking.
“Orie, I have been wondering if there was anyone in your life that made you happy, someone that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with for love and support, someone other than me.”
“I thought there was once, but no. It turned out he was using me as an experiment, so we broke it off. I imagine you’re pretty happy though.”
“No, Orie, there is no one in my life other than Sapphira. Maril is still Maril. She believes that I am still that child.”
Not knowing what to say, she just sat there, looking at Essie. Oh, what does it matter anyway, girlfriends kiss. Orie leaned over and kissed Essie on the cheek, earning her a smile in return. Essie started the car and off they went to dinner.
Essie took them to a restaurant located on a pier. It wouldn’t matter which table you sat at you would be able to see the ocean. It had the appearance of a beach house from the outside. As you walked inside, there was rich wood that seemed to cover every surface, making the customers believe they were on a ship. They were shown to a table by a large window. Orie could see the ocean waves crashing upon shore, just like in her own world. She didn’t really care for seafood much, she ate shrimp sporadically, and fish sticks. The more she read the menu, the more she realized they had other choices. The rib eye steak caught her eye. She had visions of the steak and the melting butter in the baked potato, the mixed vegetables, and the taste of the fresh salad. That was her choice. The waiter came by and Orie ordered an iced tea, Essie the same, and with a very strong urging from Essie, Sapphira ordered milk. The waiter returned a few minutes later and took their order. Essie felt the time was appropriate to catch up on old times.
“Orie, tell me what happened after graduation.”
“We went to Florida that summer, because mother insisted enough that she needed to work on her tan and couldn’t do that here. We spent a week there and came back. A couple of weeks after we came back, I took Biscuit for a walk with me to your house. That was when I knew you moved. Nothing seemed to matter to me anymore after that. High school started, and nothing really happened there. I developed a friendship with a rather, well, strange girl. Her name’s Dannie. Dannie was sort of an odd one, the way she dressed, the way she was . . . she was just odd. We had fun together. I was surprised to find out at graduation that she was a member of the honor society with college prep classes, and valedictorian. I told mother you can’t judge a book by its cover, because you just never know, and besides, I liked Dannie. It hurt every time mother told me I was lying to her. I stopped talking to her about Dannie at that point. I got my sweet revenge, though, on mother. I was so happy that night because . . . mother would have never believed me if I just told her. Dannie’s mother is none other than Tatiana Burke, former supermodel and one of top ten children’s book authors. Not only that, but Dannie made a speech that night as valedictorian. Mother didn’t speak to me at all for the rest of the night. But I didn’t mind, because for a change, she was proven wrong. That summer we went to Hawaii. Daddy had business there, and we went along with him. The most fun thing we did was go to the luau. It was amazing. I started attending community college, but a couple months after I started, mother told me daddy was sick. I spent five years of my life taking care of daddy. It may sound wrong, but I always thought I was the only one taking care of daddy. Mother just sat there watching TV whenever we visited. It just didn’t seem right. Everything just became too much for him and he died. I want to believe that daddy wanted to live, that’s why he chose to go for the bone marrow transplant, but he just couldn’t make it. About a month later Biscuit died, I didn’t have anybody left. I was left on my own. I feel like mother’s nursemaid all the time. Be sure the bills are paid, make sure the checkbook is balanced, call the pharmacy, call the insurance company, cook supper, clean the house. In the meanwhile, she isn’t doing anything but sitting down watching TV. She says her body hurts too much for her to do it. Part of me believes it, and part of me doesn’t. She was diagnosed with a form of arthritis, and she blames it on that. I worked at a couple of centers before coming here . . . and that’s it.”
“So far you have mentioned everything to do with your mind, your education, your career, nothing about your heart. What about your heart, Orie?”
Orie had to stop and think about that. Luckily, the food arrived, giving her an excuse to answer later. Orie didn’t know how to answer that question. How do you explain your mother hating you and you hating your mother? How do you explain feeling betrayed? How do you explain feeling alone? How do you explain all of that?
When the meal was done, they sat there in silence. To ease the tension a bit, Essie thought to explain what had happened after graduation. “I need to tell you what happened after graduation. Maril sent me to camp for six weeks. She explained to me that it was a learning experience. For me, though, it was six weeks spent in the metal forgers’ workshop. I had no interest to be there, and begged and pleaded with Maril to take me out. She would not hear me. I was never so happy to leave a place as I was then. There was no challenge for me while I was there. Not only that, but the others saw it as a chance to play pranks. I am not one to participate in such matters, so I ignored them. I remember when someone came to pick me up from the drop off point I cried. I was so happy to be going home. At least that is what I thought we were doing. During camp, Maril had sold the house to move to a new location. From that point forward, we lived in a small town in Maine, of all places, because that was where the new school was located. I was angry, I was very angry with Maril, and I could not find the words adequate enough to express them. I did not speak beyond the required words during my high school years. I spoke to no one, as well as befriending no one. In my mind, it would be pointless. Maril attempted to reason. I would not hear it. I did not want to listen. I left Maril for a time, two years to be exact. I had been accepted at Brigham Young University – Marriot School of Management, and I received my MBA from Marquette University. From there, I bought a small company that was very close to foreclosure. I bought the company and made it better. That was how Arcadia was born. My social life during that time was very lonely. I had no one, though I dated on occasion. I just could not find anyone to be with me. As soon as I left Maril, I sought after another means of receiving the unconditional love that I had missed so much while I was with you.”
“When did you get married?”
Essie paid the bill while they were talking, and were on their way out back to the car. Essie needed to think to answer that question. There was only one way to answer, and it was to be honest.
“Essie Sapphira was created by the magic of modern invention,” Essie stated as everyone slid into the car.
It perplexed Orie. “What?”
Looking directly into Orie’s eye, she stated, “In vitro fertilization.”
Now Orie understood, “Oooohhh. Did your husband approve?”
Essie had not started the car yet. She was leaning against the door in an attempt to be as comfortable as she could while looking directly at Orie. “Princess, there has been no one else in my life other than the both of you. I am very grateful for the birth of my daughter. I am just as grateful for you being my special friend.”
You must think I’m stupid or something. “Well, I’m happy to have met you again. I work later tomorrow.”
“Today your schedule was from seven o’clock to four o’clock, is tomorrow not the same schedule?”
“No, you see, I’m a floater, which basically means that I go where I am needed, to relieve people for breaks or to take over a room when someone leaves for the day. Floaters are scheduled based on need, and with me being at the bottom, so to speak, I get the odd schedule.”
“I understand the concept of your duties; however, would it not be easier on everyone to schedule everyone with a regular schedule rather than varying their schedule from day to day?”
“It would nice if it worked that way, but it doesn’t in preschool. It’s one of the pitfalls of the job.”
“So this irregular schedule is common?”
“It’s not uncommon, you don’t find it often, but it’s not uncommon.”
I need to speak with Debbie about this. How do I approach the subject of your intelligence? “Assuming you had your ideal schedule, what would your ideal schedule look like?”
“My ideal work schedule would be from eight o’clock in the morning to five o’clock at night. It’s not too early not too late. I think it’s a good between-time, ideally that is. I heard, though, that higher ups are thinking of changing the hours to include weekends. I have to wait and see how that turns out.”
“Who are these higher ups that are thinking of changing the hours to include weekends?” Essie had never heard of this, so this came as a complete shock.
“I heard it from Cheryl, and she wasn’t very explicit. If I were to hazard a guess, though, I would say someone from Human Resources, because she talks to them a lot.”
“You believe it to be someone from Human Resources. What sort of authorization would they have to approve this?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t get that far into the conversation. I had to take care of one of my three-year-olds.”
Essie stared straight ahead, thinking about everything she had learned. Everything that had been mentioned she had never approved of or had mentioned. She needed to speak with her Human Resources department first thing in the morning. “What is your schedule tomorrow?”
“I work from nine to six the rest of the week.”
Essie laughed silently at this schedule that her poor Orie had to endure. That would be the other item that she would need to see to. The children’s center is a part of her company, therefore, any employee that works for her company, she needs to be sure that everything and everyone abide by certain policies and procedures.
“What schedule did they give you?”
“Monday and Tuesday 12:30 to 8:30, Wednesday 7 to 4, Thursday and Friday 9 to 6.”
Essie started laughing at the absurdity she had just heard. She could not think of anything else to do. No words came to mind to adequately express how she felt at hearing the screwed-up schedule.
“It’s not that funny.”
Attempting to control herself, she apologized, “I am sorry, princess, I truly am, but you have to understand. It is not good business practice to put someone on that sort of schedule.”
“Well, my schedule is subject to change if the weekend hours go through.”
“They will have you working the weekends as well?”
“Maybe, I don’t know. Cheryl hasn’t told me anything yet, but I’m betting on it because I’m the newest member of the group. You have to also realize that preschools operate on a different set of rules than your typical business.”
“Give me an example.”
“Well, let’s take the interview process for instance. If someone walked into your office wearing a polo shirt, cotton pants, and sneakers, what would you think?”
“They have the wrong building, department, or whatever else, but they certainly do not belong in my office if they chose to wear that attire.”
“That’s funny, because that’s what I wore to my job interview to work at the center here.”
“So we have our differences, then. It is getting late, and while I enjoy these conversations, all good things must come to an end.”
Essie drove Orie back home and everybody said goodnight. Orie walked into her house and carefully walked straight to her room, happy, glad, nervous, scared, and tired, she wasn’t sure which.
The following morning, three things happened. Orie found a mysterious key in her cubby, Cheryl wasn’t there so Debbie instructed Orie to just follow the same routine and if anything changes Cheryl would let her know, and there was a fire drill.
Orie was placing the key in her pocket when Cheryl came back and immediately walked to Debbie’s office. It wasn’t so much the expression on her face, it was manner in which she was walking, and it didn’t look good. Exhaling deeply, Orie began her day as usual.
The first thing that Orie did was give morning breaks to everyone, starting with the teacher who had arrived first thing in the morning. The youngest age they accepted were potty-trained three-year-olds, which happened to be Orie’s first room. It was time for circle time, a group activity that teaches the kids how to cooperate and participate in a group activity. Today’s morning discussion was about ladybugs then The Very Hungry Caterpillar was read. She then introduced the day’s art activities, including finger painting, design a bug, and the sensory table filled with coffee grounds and plastic bugs to add to the other centers, including puzzles, dramatic arts area, and blocks. After Orie finished with circle time, it was time to prepare for finger painting, which Orie would watch over to assist the children as needed.
She was then off to the pre-K room where she would help the children who needed help with their lesson in writing skills. The kindergarten room was the last room, with the children already at different centers in the room. After getting instructions from the teachers in the room before they left on break, she went about as instructed.
After all of that, she enjoyed ten minutes in the break room of looking out the window at a wonderful tree. Then it was back to the three-year-old room to give the teachers their break for lunch. It would be only that room that she would be doing that for, as the rest of them had Cheryl to give them their break. Lunch here was served family style. Counting, taking turns, and passing the food along was reinforced, and the delicacy of the day was pizza bagels, salad, and pineapple. Most of the children in the room finished their lunch, and then proceeded with their normal bedtime routine, all, that is, except Justin. His argument was it wasn’t pizza. Orie did her best to encourage him to at least take one bite, big or small didn’t matter, try one bite. Justin wouldn’t budge. He didn’t eat the salad or the pineapple, either. Without any other options, Justin left the table without eating anything. Orie made a mental note to talk to the teacher in the room about his lunchtime and find out what the teacher wanted her to do.
Orie thought Justin was tired with all of the screaming he was doing. “I don’t want to go potty. I don’t want to take a nap,” he would scream over and over again. Orie used a little tender loving care and encouragement to get Justin to his bed, and he finally started sleeping while Orie rubbed his back. When both teachers returned from their break, Orie left for hers.
She clocked out before leaving for break, noting the time. She had gone over the conversation she had with Justin’s regular teacher, who mentioned that was not unusual, and the mother’s only reaction was a nodding of her head as they left the center. Judging by Justin’s body shape, she didn’t believe Justin ever went hungry, as he was a large four-year-old. Finally, down on the first floor, she followed the signs that led to the cafeteria. It was a nice looking cafeteria, with plenty of tables and large windows looking out to a garden. Orie grabbed a tray while looking at today’s special, which was a Philly Cheese steak, oriental beef, or Salisbury steak. None of them looked good to her, so instead, she went for a roast beef sandwich with an iced tea and a yogurt. She enjoyed watching the outdoors so much so she didn’t hear the lady ask if she could join her.
“Hi, my name is Natalee, would you mind if I joined you?” Natalee was a very petite lady, maybe five feet tall and looked to weigh all of 100 pounds sopping wet, with shoulder length blond hair, and caramel colored eyes. There were signs of maturity on Natalee’s face, Orie noticed.
“Oh sure, I’m sorry, I was enjoying the garden. My name is Orie.”
“Oh, that’s all right. I get lost watching the garden as well. I noticed you work in the Children’s Center on the fourth floor. Do you like working there?”
“I just started working here, and so far I have to say I enjoy it. What department do you work in?”
“Oh, I’m in the Human Resources department, the love ‘em or hate ‘em group. Starting about November, we have notices going up about a Season’s Celebration, the company’s version of a Christmas Party. Would you be interested in something like that?”
“I don’t know, not normally though. I don’t normally attend parties. Have you ever heard of the question: if you were ever invited to a party, would you attend or would you stay home? I would stay home.”
“Oh, I understand that perfectly. I only asked because I think it’s my turn this year to sell the tickets. It gives me an idea of how many people will be attending the party. Do you have a family?”
“No, I don’t. It’s just my mom. I’m not married.”
“Well, I’ve been married now for thirty three years, and I enjoy every minute with that man.” Natalee looked at her watch. “Oh, I didn’t realize the time. Well, it was nice meeting with you. I have to go back to the office, Orie.”
“All right, Natalee, it was good meeting you. Have a good day.” Natalee waved to Orie, who waved back. One last look out the window as Orie cleared her place and off she went back to the center.
She wasn’t sure what they wanted her to do in the afternoon. Seeing Cheryl in the kindergarten room, Orie whispered, “I just returned from break, do you want me to relieve Mary, the three-year-olds teacher, or is there somewhere else you would like me to be.”
“Go ahead and relieve Mary, and I’ll let you know if anything changes. Also, Debbie would like to meet with you, so before you relieve Mary, go see Debbie.”
“All right . . .” I wonder what that’s about. I didn’t do anything, did I? Orie walked over to Debbie’s office and knocked on the door before going in.
Debbie slid a chair close to her own before she started talking. “I have a few things that I want to tell you. First, the center’s business is nobody else’s business but ours. I won’t say anything more than that other than to remember that nobody wants to hear what goes on at the center. The next thing I want to tell you is, from now on you will be with the school age kids. After you come back from your break, you need to be sure that their area is set and ready for them. Some will have homework to do and some will not. It is your responsibility to be sure that everyone has something to do. The last thing is that the center will not be open on the weekends, so you will not have to be working on the weekends. Your hours starting tomorrow will be from eight o’clock to five o’clock. Go ahead and relieve Mary. We’ll find someone to help cover the room until the counts go down.”
“Yes, ma’am . . .”
Orie left the room and relieved Mary as they were finishing snack time. Everybody was ready to go outside, one teacher in the front with the clipboard, one teacher in the back; they left for the elevator to take them downstairs to go out to the playground. Orie noted Justin was gone, as well as taking a count of the number of kids they had. Once on the bottom floor, the group turned right from the elevators to a covered walkway that led to a playground where a jungle gym, sandbox, and bike path made up the yard. Each room was responsible for keeping the yard clean. The breaks in the afternoon were done according to count. If the counts were all right, then the teachers would be able to break themselves. The three-year-olds room had enough kids go home that they could start breaking each other. The other teacher left for her break, leaving Orie outside with the kids. They had another ten minutes outside, so instead of waiting until the last minute, she encouraged the kids to start clean-up procedures before going back inside. Yard cleaned up and ready to head back, the group left the yard to go back to the room. Before leaving the yard, she reminded her kids what they needed to do. Once that was understood, she used a marching song to keep them in line while going on up to the room. She congratulated the kids on a job well done as she confirmed the same count that she had when she left the yard, smiling to herself as well.
The other teacher returned, which meant Orie would be able to go on her break. She once again sat in the break room staring at the same tree for the time she was there, making a pit stop before returning. As soon as she returned, Cheryl motioned for her to go to the school age kids’ room.
There were two male teachers there, David and Emmett, who seemed to have the kids pretty much under control. She noticed they had a group doing their homework, so she took it upon herself to find something for the kids, who didn’t have homework or who had finished. She heard a familiar voice.
“How about if we decorate for Halloween..? David and Emmett said we were going to anyway, so we could do that. There’s a few of us that don’t have any homework, so we could help with that.” Essie Sapphira saw Orie and was happy to see her there.
“Decorate for Halloween, huh? You do realize that Halloween is still about seven weeks away? How about, instead, we build a house. I see a lot of Popsicle sticks and glue in the cupboard. We could build a house, decorate it, and name it if you like.”
“That sounds super! I’ll help get everything together.” Orie and Essie Sapphira gathered all of the supplies to make a house. Orie left it up to the kids to design, build, and decorate it. It would be their project. The project got the attention of the other kids, and Orie found herself taking out any building supply she could find in the cupboard, leaving it up to the kids to figure out how to use them.
It was six o’clock and time for Orie to leave. She took out the bleach bottle and sprayed the tables clean before leaving. The kids that were left were taken to another room, so she had time to figure out what Debbie had told her. The only person that she talked to was Essie. It seemed sort of petty and maybe a little displaced, but since this was Essie’s company, wouldn’t Essie have a right to know what’s going on. Orie just couldn’t understand. Shrugging her shoulders, she clocked out, took a look at the room once again to be sure everything was put away, and she started on her way home, that is, until she bumped into something . . . or was it someone, someone with a white shirt that smelled of sandalwood and cinnamon, and . . . sandalwood and cinnamon?
Looking straight up, she muttered, “Oh, Essie, hi, sorry about that. I wasn’t paying attention. I’m about to head home.”
“Before you do that, wait in my office for me. I will be there in a moment, Orie.”
“Your office . . . how do I get to your office?”
“Remember the key, Orie; you did receive the key, yes?”
Thinking a little bit before answering, she then replied, “Oh, yeah, I received a key. I was wondering what that was for. I’ll be in your office waiting, then.”
Orie had just entered Essie’s office when she heard the door open behind her. Essie motioned for Orie to sit down. “Orie, I have a special dinner that I must attend. I would like for you to come along with me. I know your size, and I have an outfit suitable for tonight. As soon as you are ready, we will leave.”
Huh . . . “Just so that I don’t think I’m going loony, but did you just ask me to supper?”
“Princess, I need for you to come along with me. You are the only one suitable to come along with me.” Essie had been offered to take along this person or that person, but the fact of the matter was that Essie already knew the perfect person to take along with her.
“Me? I don’t know anything about business, though. What good could I do?”
“I am not asking you to talk about business, I am asking you to come along with me, please, Orie. I need my princess with me tonight because you are the only one that I find intelligent and beautiful enough to escort me tonight.”
Double huh . . . “Me? Oh boy . . . well . . . okay, but I have to call mom to let her know. If I don’t, it’ll mean trouble.”
“I have already taken care of that. All you need to do is go into my bathroom, clean yourself up a bit, and dress yourself in the clothes that I left in the bathroom.”
“Okaaay . . .” Orie got up to do as she was told to do, finding the bathroom to be larger than what she expected. She took a quick shower, noticed the bottle of body oil with Orie’s name attached, and saw the dress that she was expected to wear. It was nothing outlandish, quite tasteful in fact, in a vibrant blue, a satiny party dress with intricately beautiful details. The bust fit just right, with a high empire waist and delicate spaghetti straps. There was embroidery on the flowing skirt as it fell just to the knees, with an angled hem, making the dress that much more beautiful. A matching scarf was folded over on the hanger that came with the dress. She truly did feel like a princess.
Orie stepped out of the bathroom noting that Essie had changed as well, looking even more beautiful than she remembered. Orie couldn’t take her eyes off Essie. Essie’s dress was black, with an empire waist as well, and broad straps and the dress fell to the knees. It looked to be silk to Orie. It gave the impression of Essie as a goddess. The high heels Essie was wearing made Essie look like she was, literally, standing on top of the world. “Oh, Essie, you look so beautiful. I like your hair down like that, simply put up I always thought was the best look for you.”
“Thank you, princess, you look just as beautiful as I remember. We must leave now. Maril just picked up Sapphira, so it will be just us tonight.” Essie held out her hand, palm side up, which Orie quickly took, never thinking this night would be possible.
Once in the car, Essie asked, “How did your day go, princess?”
“Oh, about the same, how was yours?”
The short answer alerted Essie that something wasn’t right. In an attempt to find the truth, she inquired, “When you say about the same, what, does that mean?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary, typical day, really . . .”
“Princess, please understand that I am asking not to use you as a spy, because I have my own way of finding out information about the goings on of the center. I am asking because I am sensing that something is bothering you, and I am hoping that I may be able to help you.”
“Well . . . I . . . I . . . I . . . don’t know.”
“Orie, you stopped stuttering in the fifth grade. What is wrong?”
“I could never hide anything from you, could I, you always knew. Well, it’s just that the last time I talked to you about the center, I got a lecture from Debbie today about not telling anyone about the goings on of the center because it’s nobody else’s business. It could be that it was someone that said something, so she just reminded everyone. But I just find it sort of confusing.”
“What about that confuses you?” Essie became even more interested in what Orie was telling her.
“It’s just that, I think you have a right to know because it is your company and all,” Orie finished, feeling relieved that she was able to talk to someone about it, but nervous at the same time because she had said something.
“You are right in that it is my company and I have a right to know what is happening in my own company. Debbie might have said that because it is another company that runs the center. While you do work for the company that owns the center, you at the same time work for me as well. I will research this and give you a better idea of what is going on. I do not appreciate the information Debbie told you, with it being so vague, without much of an explanation.”
“You don’t have to. It was just probably a misunderstanding or something. Debbie was only doing her job.”
“Debbie may have been doing her job, and it may very well be just a misunderstanding. I need for everyone that works within my company to be effective, I especially need effective leaders. I cannot have that if the leader is not willing to explain themselves fully.”
“Thank you, Essie, for listening. Where are we going anyway?” Grumble, grumble.
Essie started laughing as Orie’s stomach made itself known. “We will be there in a few minutes. It is a high-class club. They cater to the elite of society. The people that we will be meeting are business associates. All I need you to do is just be yourself and everything will be fine.”
“What’s it called?”
“It is called Dionysus.”
“Dionysus? We are going to Dionysus? Oh my God, you didn’t tell me! You should have told me before hand! I’m not prepared for this! I wanna go home.”
“Calm down, Orie, just calm down. I would not be taking you anywhere that I felt you would be unprepared for. Just relax and be yourself. You have never disappointed me, and I do not think you will disappoint me now.”
“But, Essie, I . . .”
“Princess, listen to me,” Essie started as she pulled into valet parking. The valet attendant ran around the car to take the keys, giving Essie a ticket in return. They were standing in front of the doors when Essie continued. “Everything will be fine. Relax, enjoy, and most of all, be yourself. Do not let your mother’s words influence your behavior, just be you.”
“Well, if you really think I can do it, I guess I’ll go. You’ll be there, right?” Orie asked, desperately hoping for the right answer.
“Of course I will be there. I cannot leave you by yourself. You would eat all of my plate.” Essie stood there waiting for Orie to start laughing, hoping her teasing to ease the tension worked.
Orie started laughing as she pointed to Essie. “If I remember right, you have a love for seafood. I hate seafood, so I will not be eating your plate. If you had chocolate, on the other hand . . .” and she continued laughing.
Essie took out a gold card, an ID card of sorts, to be let in. It was not your typical club with loud music and tacky costumes. This was a place of elegance, soft music, walls made of gold, romantic lighting, and men in tuxedoes, which caused Orie to think that she was a part of the upper class. They were seated at a table next to the window, and Orie thought that maybe Essie did it on purpose, had made special arrangements for the window side tables. Orie opened the menu and couldn’t believe what she was reading. Not only was everything so expensive, but she wouldn’t know how to pronounce most of the food items. Orie found the lowest priced item on the menu, which happened to be a basic garden salad, and with it being suppertime she didn’t think it would matter. Mother had been telling her that she was getting fat again anyway. Essie had other ideas though. If Essie could help it, Orie would always have a good, satisfying meal.
The rest of the party was seated at the table, an older couple, the man, or husband she assumed, was bald, the wife having gray, puffy hair. Orie started panicking. Oh my God, it’s an older couple! What am I supposed to do now? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. What was it that daddy said, always start at the beginning and work your way to the end, but what’s the beginning? Okay, I can do this, I think . . . I hope.
Essie heard all of what Orie was thinking, and that was why she started rubbing Orie’s leg in comfort, which was greatly appreciated by Orie. “Good evening, Abbott. Let us have something to eat before we begin discussions about business.”
“Hello to you too, Ms. Sebastopol, and who is this lovely young thing sitting next to you?”
“Her name is Orie, and your wife’s name?”
“This is my wife Anna Mae. She just couldn’t wait to see this fancy place.”
Essie and Abbot exchanged small talk during dinner. Essie ordered a dish called beef Wellington for both herself and Orie for dinner, though Orie objected because of the high price. Orie noted that Essie was taking part in the discussions to amuse her guest. It wasn’t anything Essie said, it was Essie’s subtle actions that caught Orie’s attention. Anybody else would not have caught the subtle clues, but Orie knew Essie well enough to notice. Orie thought it was her obligation to talk to Anna Mae. She noticed that Anna Mae ate the vegetable platter and thought that maybe Anna Mae was a vegetarian, talking about cooking and animals, therefore, would be out of the question. The next thing that Orie could talk about would be about shopping.
“Hello Anna Mae, my name is Orie. Have you been to the mall lately?”
“Oh, hi, Orie, and no, I haven’t. I don’t shop at the mall. I shop on Fashion Boulevard.” Fashion Boulevard is so-called because that was where you went to find original, one of a kind, very expensive clothes. Orie had never been to Fashion Boulevard.
Well, one down, let’s see about movies. “Have you seen any good movies lately?” Orie asked, hoping to find something to talk about.
“Well, Orie, the last time I watched a movie was when they first released How to Marry a Millionaire in the movie theater in 1953.”
Orie gulped. She’d watched a few of the old movies, but not many. There was one last try. “What has been going on with your life, anything new?”
“Oh, nothing new, nothing new, I just wish those kinds of people would find another place to live. It is not a Christian way to be, you know. I remember telling Martha that she should be careful before enrolling her grandchildren into public schooling. You just never know nowadays who their teacher is.”
“Anna Mae, if you could tell me what you mean by those kinds of people?”
“Well . . . you know who they are, dear. They dress so strangely and so manly you can tell who they are. My mother used to call them he-shes.”
“He-shes..? What’s that?” Orie was getting a very vague idea what Anna Mae was trying to tell her. Home and work were Orie’s life, and wasn’t aware of all the different groups in society. She knew they existed because of college, but apart from that, she had no idea.
“Well, it’s the gay people of course, dear. I am just so happy that you two ladies are not them or I would tell my husband not to do business with Ms. Sebastopol anymore. It would not be Christian to do business with someone like that.” Anna Mae whispered her reply.
The reaction caused Orie to think. She didn’t think anything about differences in preferences. Everybody is different, so naturally, everyone would have their own preferences in love and relationships, love is love after all, so as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, what difference does it make.
Orie needed a break because she wasn’t sure how to accept what AnnaMae had told her. After getting directions to the ladies room, she found it to be just as opulent as the rest of the building. It was a very large, rich appearing room. She had just exited the stalls when she noticed Essie standing in front of her. How does she do that? “Hi, I wasn’t taking too long, was I? I sorta made a wrong turn.”
“You are fine. I came to see what has shaken you so.” Essie was a little concerned with what she was sensing from Orie.
“I’m fine now. I just needed a break, I think. I wasn’t quite sure how to take in what AnnaMae told me, that’s all.”
“I heard the conversation between the two of you, and I wondered about your reaction. We will speak about this further in the car. The business meeting will not be too much longer. We will move to the lounge for the remainder. Are you finished?”
“Yeah, I just need to wash my hands and then I’ll be there.” Orie turned around towards the sink to wash her hands, and after she finished, she expected to find paper towel dispensers or hot air blowers, but there wasn’t any. Suddenly, a terry towel was held in front of her, and laughed because she would never have thought to look for terry towels.
Upon entering the lounge, Orie was shocked to see it was just as opulent as the rest of the building. Instead of barstools, the seating was done with leather sofas surrounding a small, round table, with light jazz playing in the background. There were waitresses here, but instead of wearing the skimpy outfits that anyone would expect to see, they instead wore a white dress shirt, with black dress pants worn and a red cummerbund. A window seat, as Orie has come to expect, was set for the four of them. Essie ordered a ginger ale for Orie, knowing she didn’t drink any alcohol, and ordered champagne for the rest of them. Orie didn’t know what to talk about next, as her last conversation left Orie feeling out of place. She sat there looking out the window watching the cars pass by. She felt a hand on her arm, bringing her attention to Essie. Her meeting was finished and wanted to leave.
Once in the car, Essie drove around the parking lot to find a quiet, secluded spot in which to stop and talk. Essie took off her seat belt, leaned back against the door, closed her eyes, and just relaxed. With a smile on her face, she said, “Never doubt your abilities, Orie, never doubt them. It is because of you I found out information that I never would have otherwise. Always remember, Orie, there is nothing personal about business, no feelings, no ties, no family, nothing that would resemble any emotion. The information that you provided me is why I am going to buy out Abbott’s company. He would like to pass the company on to his family, but what he does not realize is that his own family goes against his high Christian values. I know you are wondering if I brought you along as my spy, if I was using you. No, princess, I would never do that. Your purpose was to keep me company, as well as keeping me from blowing dear Anna Mae to smithereens. The absurdity of tonight’s meeting.”
“Well, you answered one question for me, but if you don’t like him then why do all of this here and not in the office.”
“I needed neutral territory, and Dionysus is about as neutral as I could find. Besides, it has been awhile since we were able to spend an evening together. It was time.”
“I don’t mean to be a party pooper, but it’s midnight, and I have school tomorrow.”
Essie laughed at Orie, and just said, “Alright, very well. Home it shall be, then.” Essie started the car.
“Essie, do you live at the same house you used to live in?”
“No, Orie, I do not. I do not live very far from you. I live in Camelot Court.”
Camelot Court was an exclusive area with large properties ranging from one acre to several hundred acres, with homes varying in sizes from three thousand square feet to fifteen thousand square feet of living space alone. Real estate moguls, superstars, CEOs, anyone with any sort of wealth, you could find in Camelot Court, which was also surrounded by a large, iron gate that needed a key card to gain entry. There is a security guard posted at the entry gate as well. Once the gate was open, a private driveway led to the houses secluded in the back of the property, behind a large grove of trees, creating the effect of a castle in the forest. To say that Orie was impressed would be an understatement.
“You live in Camelot Court? Oh my, I would never have dreamed of it. I walk by that area when I have the chance, and dream what it would be like to live there, but they’re only dreams.”
“Saturday you will see my house. I would like to spend some time with you, Orie, and I believe that Saturday would be a good day. Tomorrow I will give you instructions on how to enter. I will talk to you later, goodnight, Orie.” Essie escorted Orie to the front door just as she always had in the past. After successfully opening the door, they said goodnight.
The following morning Orie woke up in a good mood. Everything had been perfect last night, the dress, the food, everything, mostly because Essie was happy. That’s all that Orie wanted. Her good mood didn’t last long, though.
“Orie, didn’t you come home late last night?” Mother just couldn’t seem to be happy about anything Orie did.
I don’t get a how was your night last night, where did you go? No, I get attitude, and she calls me insensitive. “Mom, I’m almost thirty years old, which means I am allowed to stay up past ten.”
“Do not take that tone with me, young lady. I am your mother, so that gives me the right to set you straight. A good girl would always be home at ten o’clock, no matter how old she is. I have made an appointment with an eye doctor for you. The information is on the refrigerator door. I want you to have surgery so you don’t have to wear glasses anymore. My daughter doesn’t wear glasses because she is absolutely perfect. Your father is the one to blame for that, and I always tell him that if it wasn’t for him, I would have a perfect daughter.”
Orie took the information down from the fridge and put in her pocket to look at later. After the dishes were done and meat set out to be ready to cook when she got home, she left for the blissful peace and quiet of work.
She arrived a little early to work to fill out a request for time off. She was allowed two weeks per year, with another eleven days that would be considered paid time off. She didn’t think she needed the eleven days, and they didn’t roll over into the next year. Orie filled out the paperwork and gave it to Daisy, the office manager. Daisy promised that she would take care of everything.
She had gotten used to her morning routine, and now, it was lunch, and she needed a walk. She left the building and walked straight to her car to drop off her smock. She heard footsteps behind her, but didn’t pay attention, thinking it was just another employee. She felt a hand on her shoulder and just as she was about to scream, a hand was placed over her mouth. Orie was terrified and didn’t know what to do.
“Shhh, Orie it is all right. I saw you walking outside, and I thought I might join you. I just happen to be free for lunch,” Essie said in a calm tone, hoping to relax Orie, and removing her hand as she did so.
Orie blew out the breath she had been holding, slumping as she did so. She turned around to put her head on Essie. A minute later, she uttered, “I was going to walk over to the sandwich shop. I heard they have great polish sausage sandwiches. Wanna come?”
“I will agree as long as I have a right to choose.” Essie could never acquire the taste for a hot dog or sausage.
“All right, come on.” Orie led the way to the sandwich shop.
Essie noticed Orie’s demeanor, and it caused her to feel slightly uncomfortable, having begun to recognize the signs of her mother’s, she was sure, well meaning way of speaking to Orie, starting in the fourth grade. Lunch was eaten in silence.
Orie left as soon as she finished her lunch, noting that if she left now, she would have time to make a quick pit stop before returning to work. She opened her car, grabbed her smock and ID, and returned to the building.
It was the end of the day, she was tired, and she wanted to go home and just be. Knowing mother, however, that would be impossible, after all, Orie was the nursemaid. She clocked out, left the building, and drove home.
It was chicken tonight. Chicken leg quarters did well in the oven. With a little salt, pepper, and rosemary, she set them in the oven to bake while she prepared the rest. Forty-five minutes later, both Orie and mother were eating. Mother immediately got up from the table to watch TV, leaving Orie to do the clean-up. After she closed the kitchen, she fell on her bed and immediately went to sleep.
To be continued in part 4.
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