“You don’t have to accept the job,” Barbara pointed out. “Not if it’s giving you this much stress already.”
“Yes, I do,” Stacy contradicted her. “The longer it takes to get this divorce, the more I stay in his clutches! I don’t have a choice.”
Barbara tried to buoy her spirits, “Well, it doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever! You can apply for other jobs on your time off.”
Stacy glumly remarked, “I thought getting a job would mean I’m done with applications and interviews. I guess I gotta say goodbye to all my free time!”
Frank entered through the front door with a box of pizza and greeted them with, “Who’s hungry?” He saw Stacy’s morose face and inquired, “What’s wrong?”
Stacy couldn’t say it out loud, so Barbara told him, “She got a job offer from Emporia.”
Frank furrowed his brow. “I thought job offers were good things!”
“I guess I’m being a little ungrateful,” Stacy commented despondently. “I don’t know, maybe I was just hoping to find something long term so I can have more peace of mind. I mean, after I left Hadeon, I kept asking myself ‘Where is my life going from here?’ And now, I’m working at the same job I had in high school. He said I couldn’t make it on my own, and I still can’t afford my own place on this part time, minimum wage salary. I’m glad I can start putting money away for the divorce, but this job almost feels like a step backward! How am I supposed to move on if I can’t move forward?”
Frank and Barbara turned to each other to wordlessly ask each other how to respond, and Barbara came up with, “It won’t last forever if you don’t let it. Don’t give up!”
“You’re right,” Stacy acknowledged. “Hopefully I won’t have to work at Emporia for very long!”
“You won’t!” Frank assured her. “You have too much potential to waste it at a place like that!” Stacy hadn’t made any parallels between herself and Nick until right then. She enjoyed the similarity, but it also kind of made her sad since she knew she couldn’t have him. Eventually, she realized she must have made a face at that thought because her dad asked, “Something else wrong?”
Stacy fibbed, “I’m just hungry. Let’s eat!” Frank and Barbara seemed mollified by her response, and as they sat down to eat, Stacy tried to convince herself that all was not lost.
The next day, Stacy went into Emporia and knocked on the manager’s door. She waited for an answer, and when she got none, she knocked again. A woman, who looked at least a decade younger than her, approached Stacy and eyed her suspiciously. “Can I help you with something?”
Stacy felt taken aback by her harsh tone, and when she turned to answer her, she saw that she had a badge that read, “Ava- Supervisor.” She wanted to grimace at the rocky start to her time here, but she kept her composure and addressed her, “Oh, I’m Stacy. I just came in to do my new hire paperwork.”
“Did you make an appointment?” Ava probed.
Stacy replied, “Uh, no. The letter I got just said to come in as soon as possible, it didn’t specify a time or say anything about an appointment.”
“So, you just assumed that Pat would be available all day?” Ava criticized her. Stacy didn’t understand why Ava had taken such severe attitude towards her, and she was half tempted to forget it all and go home, but Ava rolled her eyes and relented, “I’ll see if he’s available.” She picked up a walkie-talkie and paged, “Pat, you have a new hire at your office. Are you available to do paperwork?” She waited for his response, and she relayed it to Stacy, “He’s on his way. Just wait right there.”
“Thanks!” Stacy said cordially. Ava gave her a reproachful glance as if Stacy were a misbehaving child prone to wandering off, and then she walked away in a huff. Stacy didn’t understand her mindset at all, but she decided to let it go.
A minute later, the man who interviewed her came over, and in a mock cheerful tone, he regarded her, “Welcome to the Emporia family! Come on in!” Stacy followed him inside his office, which looked just as chaotic as she remembered it. He began searching around his various stacks of files. “Let’s see… Where did I put it? Ah!” He handed her a packet of paperwork. “Did you bring two copies of your I.D.?”
“Yes.” Stacy took them out of her purse and handed it to him.
He took them and explained, “Go ahead and fill these out. I’m going to run upstairs to make a copy of these. I’ll be back shortly, but if you have any questions about the paperwork, feel free to ask Ava.” As Pat left, Stacy hoped that the paperwork didn’t stump her because she absolutely did not want to engage with Ava if she could help it!
Long after she finished filling everything out, she found herself waiting for him for quite a while. She felt tempted to leave her papers on his desk and head home, but Pat still had her driver’s license and social security card. Plus, she figured he would want to go over her schedule, so she continued to wait. She rested her head in her hand and tried not to fall asleep. Finally, Pat came in, and she quickly picked herself up and hoped that he didn’t notice. He handed her I.D.’s back and then directed, “Follow me.”
Stacy found it odd that he gave no explanation about his absence or where they were going, but she trailed behind him anyhow. They went up the escalator and past the lingerie department to what Stacy remembered was the employee break room. It had the exact same tables and chairs as it did when she worked here before. He walked her over to a projector and set up a video. “We have a few things for you to watch, and when we’re finished, I’ll go over your schedule.”
He pushed play and left the room. Stacy found it tedious to have basic rules over-explained like that, and the actors were incredibly cheesy! When the first video finished, she waited for Pat to return and pop the next one in, but she grew impatient after some time. She would never forget how to use a project thanks to Hadeon, so she went ahead and did it herself. She repeated the process two more times. After she put in the last video, she hadn’t realized she fell asleep until Pat came in and commented, “You changed the video?”
Stacy jerked up and hastily answered, “I used to do it at my old job.”
“Oh, okay. I see you’re on the last one. I’ll be back after you’re done.” He left again, and Stacy begrudgingly stayed awake for the rest of the video.
When the last one finally finished, Stacy turned off the projector and turned on the lights. Her stomach growled, and she was glad that this was almost over. She found a newspaper that had been left behind and thumbed through it as she waited for Pat again. She felt relieved when he showed up with a binder that had the word “Schedule” etched on it. He sat across from her and told her, “Can you come in Monday, Thursday, and Friday?”
“I can’t do Monday.” She felt a little guilty saying that. Truthfully, she could have rescheduled with Nick, but her gut told her she needed to get as much practice with him as possible. Pat didn’t look pleased, and a part of her thought she had just blown it with this job, but he crossed off her name from Monday and informed her, “That’s okay, you can just work Thursday and Friday. Thursday is three to nine and Friday is noon to six. That’s all I have for you today. We’re excited to have you on the team, and we hope you’re excited too! See you Thursday!”
“Okay, see you then!” She didn’t want to feign any excitement, but she maintained a level of aloofness until she left the break room. When she was sure he was out of sight, she dashed out of the store to find the nearest place that sold food.
On Monday, as she waited for Nick, she felt a little anxious. She had sacrificed a whole day of pay to come there, which meant it would take a day longer to get her divorce. This project had already costed her money, and a part of her felt saddened to think that maybe she had made a mistake. She decided that she would judge how much time she needed to spend with Nick based on the productivity that happened today.
When everyone had left, Nick emerged from the factory, and her heart fluttered as he flashed her a smile. He walked towards his truck and told her excitedly, “I have a surprise for you!”
“Oh really?” Thoroughly intrigued, she followed him to the back of his truck. When he pulled out an acoustic guitar, she gasped, “You brought it!”
“Yup!” He looked pleased at her reaction. “I figured if I’m gonna sing Charlie’s song I should do it right!” Stacy eagerly followed him to the office they used last time. Stacy sat on a folding chair as Nick sat on the desk and tuned his guitar. She knew that hearing this song would help her make up her mind on whether or not she had done the right thing. She really hoped for the best as he prepared to play.
As soon as he struck the first chord, she got chills! When he sang, he glowed, and his light shined straight inside her and struck her soul. She got just as mesmerized by this song as she did the first time she heard him sing. A beauty emanated from him, and she felt like the luckiest girl in the world just to be able to witness it! As she watched him play with sparkling eyes, any doubt she harbored before had been erased! He had a gift that simply must get shared with the whole world! As he looked into her eyes during a particularly emotional lyric, she suddenly realized this was more than just a shared dream, they had a real connection. All together, there was too much potential to give any of this up!