Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 12

After Nick finished the song, Stacy stared at him in awe. He met her gaze, and for that moment, the whole world stood still. Nick somewhat shyly glanced down, and then he asked her, “So, did you like it?”

“That was amazing!” Stacy answered enthusiastically. He smiled in relief, but he didn’t look like he totally believed how highly she thought of his song. “No, really! That would make the top ten, easily!”

“Thanks!” Nick grinned bashfully.

Stacy stated, “I thought it would take weeks before we developed an angle, but we’ve already struck gold! You should play this in public!”

“How?” Nick responded. “I work all day, and I’m busy all weekend.”

“I don’t mean a full concert,” Stacy explained. “Not yet anyways. You could just play in public, create some buzz. It’s close to Memorial Day, so a tribute to a fallen hero would be perfect! After work, instead of practicing here, we could find a statue or something for you to play in front of.”

Nick told her, “Actually, there is a small plaque for Charlie downtown. How about we go to it on Wednesday?”

“Oh, perfect!” Stacy reacted. “I don’t work ’til Thursday.” Stacy grimaced at the thought of going there.

From her expression, Nick inferred, “Sounds like the claws of Makawee have claimed another victim!”

Stacy chuckled, “I took a job at Emporia. It’s the same job I had in high school, I hated it. I’m already fantasizing about how I’ll quit!”

“Oh man!” Nick laughed. “So, on your days off, you’ll still be flipping through that phone book, huh?”

“Yeah,” Stacy said wistfully. “I’ve already applied to a few places, but I never did narrow it down.”

As Nick played random chords on his guitar, he mused, “Have you thought about going into music?”

Stacy smiled gratefully. “I wish I could, but I have no musical talent whatsoever.”

“I mean something behind the scenes,” Nick clarified. “You obviously love it. I’m surprised you haven’t thought about it before!”

“I always figured you had to have some musical talent to be a part of that world,” Stacy reasoned. “Hmm…I have marketing experience, and some of our clients did hire us ’cause they needed help in that area… maybe there is room for me there!”

“There you go!” Nick agreed.

Stacy offered, “If I make it in the industry first, I’ll help you out if you do the same for me if you make it first.”

“Deal!” Nick said just as the phone rang. He picked it up. “Hello, Janet… No one else calls the factory this time of night… I’ll grab some on the way back. I gotta give the new guy a ride home… Okay, me too. Bye!”

As they both stood up to go, Stacy advised him, “You should consider telling her the truth. She’s gonna figure it out eventually.”

“Maybe… It’s just been nice to be able to do something for myself for once,” Nick responded as they walked down the hallway. “At work, I can’t do anything without permission. Then there’s Janet at night and my dad on the weekend… I don’t get to make any decisions on my own. It’s just been nice to finally do something that I chose to do without being watched.”

As they got into the truck, Stacy pointed out, “I watch you though.”

“You observe,” Nick differed while he drove. “They judge. Maybe it’s for my own good sometimes, but I kind of like that they don’t know about something. It feels like I have options, so keeping it secret feels like I have a little freedom.”

“But with Janet being a C.P.A., won’t she count the amount of overtime you’ve been wracking up lately and wonder why your check is short?” Stacy wondered.

Nick disclosed, “Actually, I used to meet with the team on my own time a lot. She doesn’t care for it ’cause the company kind of cheats me on pay. She makes sure I don’t do too much work for free though, so she’ll call and ask me to pick up some missing ingredient from dinner. It’s good she looks out for me like that.”

Stacy didn’t like to hear him say anything nice about Janet, but she tried to hide her jealousy by playfully questioning, “So, you won’t tell them about your music ’til you’re famous and they see you on T.V.?”

“Or hear me on the radio.” Nick grinned. Stacy still thought he should share his ambitions with his family, but she respected his choice and laughed it off.

When they pulled up in front of Stacy’s house, they were both having so much fun with their conversation that Stacy didn’t want to get out of the truck. She gazed at her house, and when she thought of the banality that awaited her, she sighed. Nick shared her sentiment and also sighed. Stacy told him, “Thanks again for the ride.”

“No problem!” Nick replied.

For a moment, they stared at each other, and Stacy wasn’t sure if she had imagined it, but she felt a spark between them. If they were both single, she would have leaned forward so he could make a move if he wanted to, but she couldn’t let that happen under the current circumstances. She hopped out of the truck, and when she turned back, she smiled warmly and said, “See you Wednesday!”

Nick echoed, “See you Wednesday!”

As she walked up to the front porch, she could sense his eyes following her, which made her blush. She admitted to herself that she had a crush on him, and perhaps her vulnerability from all of her stress had played tricks on her, but she felt as though the attraction may have been mutual. As much as she wanted him, she couldn’t let him cheat on Janet. She supposed that since she had left Hadeon she could start dating if she wanted to, but no one would condone the idea of her dating just weeks after her split with her husband. As she turned to wave goodbye to Nick, she noticed that with both their music and their relationship, it didn’t have to make sense to everyone, it felt right to her.

When she got in the house, she had planned to watch him drive away from the peephole on her front door again, but she saw her parents at the dinner table and abandoned that idea. She greeted them, “Hey!”

Frank replied, “Hey, Stacy! There’s a plate for you on the counter.”

Barbara added, “And there’s a message for you on the machine.”

Stacy pushed play on the answering machine, and she frowned when she heard Pat’s voice ring out, “Hi, Stacy! It’s Pat from Emporia. We were wondering if you could come in tomorrow night. Give us a call back if you can!” Stacy grimaced. She most certainly did not want to work tomorrow, but in actuality, she never wanted to work there at all! She couldn’t think of an excuse not to do it, so she gave in and picked up the phone…

The next day, Stacy went up to the cashier in the kid’s department, a kind-faced, middle-aged woman, and informed her, “Hi, I’m Stacy! I’m here for my first day.”

“You are?” she responded confusedly. “Are you a cashier?”

“No,” Stacy told her, “I’m a recovery agent. They told me to report here.”

The cashier shook her head. “They don’t tell us anything! I’m the only one on the floor, so there’s no recovery agent here to train you, so…”

“Maybe they aren’t going to train me. I did have this job in high school. I worked in the juniors’ department back then, but it’s the same concept. Maybe I should just get started,” Stacy suggested to herself.

“Good idea! Don’t let Ava catch you standing around! Oh, I’m Gloria, by the way.” She reached out for a handshake.

As she shook her hand, Stacy commented, “Nice to meet you.” She headed to the fitting room and thought that if more workers were as nice as Gloria, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad there!

The fitting room was empty, so she walked around the area to familiarize herself with it. In high school, she rarely went to this section, so this felt new to her. She finished her self-guided tour at girls’ formal wear and noticed that it seemed pretty mixed up. She could see patterns and styles that were obviously once grouped together had gotten strewn around onto various racks, so she figured that this would be a good place to start working. In the middle of her project, she nearly dropped the dressed she held when she heard Ava bark, “What are you doing?”

“I was just reorganizing these racks.” Stacy felt as though it was obvious, but she wanted to stay civil.

“That’s not your job!” Ava snapped. “if the fitting rooms are clear, you fold tables and make sure your area’s clean. Ugh, just go fold that table over there. Your trainer will get here soon.” She walked away in a huff.

Stacy didn’t understand her rancor because she was sure organizing the racks was a part of her job. She certainly had done that in the past! She looked to the table that Ava had indicated and saw it was a display of very nicely folded onesies. Stacy exhaled frustratedly and picked up a pile to refold. At that moment, a familiar female’s voice remarked, “Wow, she’s pleasant!”

“Yeah!” Stacy agreed. She didn’t think she would actually run into anyone she knew here, and when she craned her head up to confirm her identity, her eyes widened…

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