The Clearfront Balcony Club, Scene 6

Jessica and Drew sit on their balconies while doing more crafts. Drew rolls green paper into a tight cylinder while Jessica cuts red paper into petals. Brisa is standing on her balcony with a cloth tape measurer while Juniper gives her instructions from her balcony.

JUNIPER: Wrap the tape measurer around the fullest part of your chest.

Brisa does as she says and wraps the tape measurer around her chest.

BRISA: Like that?

JUNIPER: No, dear, the tape measurer needs to lie flat, and you have it twisted in the back.

Brisa tries to make the tape measurer flatter.

BRISA: Better?

JUNIPER: Yes. Now, what does it say where the numbers meet in the middle?

BRISA: One twenty. That can’t be right!

JUNIPER: The other side needs to go on top.

Brisa tries flipping it around, but she drops it. She tries wrapping it around herself again, but she sees that it’s twisted again. She groans in frustration.

BRISA: Owen!

Owen comes running out.

OWEN: What’s up?

BRISA: Do my chest!

She dangles the tape measurer from one hand as she holds her arms out so that Owen can measure her. Owen doesn’t see the tape measurer and gets confused.

OWEN: What? Right here? In front of everyone?

Brisa dangles the tape measurer in front of him.

OWEN: (laughs) Oh!

Brisa shakes her head but smiles as he takes the tape measurer.

JUNIPER: You need to wrap it around…

Another loud argument sounds from Carla’s apartment. Everyone stops what they’re doing as they listen to the argument.

BLAKE: (from inside) We can’t afford to waste food!

CARLA: (from inside) I’m sorry! It was an accident!

BLAKE: (from inside) What are you doing?

CARLA: (from inside) You said you didn’t want it if it was burnt!

BLAKE: (from inside) We’re not wasting it! You’re gonna eat it!

CARLA: (from inside) I’m not eating burnt food!

Nedra comes outside and watches Carla’s apartment with a worried expression.

BLAKE: (from inside) Oh, yes you are!

Some loud banging is heard from inside Carla’s apartment.

CARLA: (from inside) Stop it! You’re hurting me!

More crashing is heard from Carla’s apartment.

JESSICA: I’m calling the police!

BLAKE: (from inside) Eat it!

BRISA: We’ve tried that.

CARLA: (from inside) No!

BRISA: She just denies everything and nothing happens.

BLAKE: (from inside) Eat it!

JESSICA: We’ve gotta do something! We can’t just-!

CARLA: (from inside) No!

DREW: I’m calling anyway!

Drew pulls out his phone, but before he calls the police, a small drone flies out of Mendel’s apartment. They all watch as it hovers in front of Carla’s apartment.

BLAKE: (from inside) Eat it!

CARLA: (from inside) No!

BLAKE: (from inside) You stupid bitch!

More crashing is heard from inside of Carla’s apartment.

BLAKE: (from inside) What’s that?

Blake goes outside, and the drone flies out of his reach but still hovers by him. Mendel sticks his head outside.

MENDEL: It’s a drone with an aerial camera! You’re fight is getting live streamed to the police as we speak! Hope that burnt food was worth going to jail for!

Blake’s eyes grow wide, and he runs back into his apartment.

CARLA: (from inside) Blake? Where are you going?

The sound of a door slam is heard. Carla dashes outside and sees Mendel landing the drone.

CARLA: What did you do?

MENDEL: I got footage of your assault and sent it to the police.

CARLA: What? How could you?

MENDEL: How could I not? I hear him hurting you all the time! It’s not right!

CARLA: He’s on probation! Now he’ll go to jail for a long time!

MENDEL: Good!

CARLA:No, that’s not good! This baby is due any day now, and I can’t take care of her by myself! Then when the mall opens up again and I can go back to work, who’s gonna take care of her? Oh god, I’m so screwed! Thanks a lot, jerk! You ruined my life!

Carla runs inside crying. Mendel stands there with a hurt expression.

JESSICA: You did the right thing!

MENDEL: I thought I did! I didn’t think anything was worth going through all that, but…

NEDRA: Don’t worry! There are programs to help people in her situation. If you let that continue, that boy would’ve ended up killing her and her baby!

MENDEL: Yeah, that’s true. I just wish she felt better about it.

DREW: She will, in time. What he was doing was just plain wrong!

OWEN: If it weren’t for social distancing, I’d beat the crap out of him!

MENDEL: I couldn’t stand listening to it anymore! I’m learning to block out all of the noise you guys make while I work, but I can’t ignore that!

BRISA: I don’t blame you! If I had a drone that could film videos like that, I would’ve done the same thing! And we’re sorry for all the noise! We’re just excited because-

MENDEL: You’re getting married. I heard.

JESSICA: Hey, I’ve got an idea! If we promise to keep it down, would you be willing to film the wedding?

MENDEL: (mulls it over for a moment) That sounds fair!

OWEN: Oh, thank you so much! Uh…

MENDEL: Mendel. And don’t tell me, you’re Owen, Brisa, Nedra, Juniper, Drew, and Jessica.

DREW: Wow, I guess we really were loud!

MENDEL: Yes, you were! Well, I need to get back to work. At least it’ll keep my mind off of… (looks upward) everything. I’ll talk to you all later!

BRISA: Bye, Mendel!

JESSICA & DREW: Bye, Mendel!

Mendel waves and goes back inside as does Nedra. Juniper mimes to Owen how to do the tape measurer. Drew gestures to Jessica with a fist tilting up and down by his mouth. Jessica misinterprets what he meant and gives him a quizzical look. Drew shakes his head and his hands to indicate that’s not what he meant. He reaches into the cooler and point to a bottle of beer. Jessica laughs and accepts the beer. She holds it up in a tosst and points to Carla’s apartment. Drew nods, and they point their beers toward her in a silent salite. They continue to craft as Owen uses his hands to indicate Brisa’s measurement size. The lights fade.

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 20

Dressed in a business casual outfit, Stacy trotted towards the front door. Barbara and Frank were eating cereal in the living room, and Frank inquired, “Where are you off to so early?”

“Another interview,” Stacy replied. “This one is at a record store, so I’m really hoping I do well on this one!”

Just then, the phone rang, but they all ignored it. Barbara chimed, “Good luck!”

Before Stacy could reply back, Hadeon’s voice rang out on the answering machine, “Stacy, pick up! We need to talk!” Stacy strolled over to the phone, picked up the receiver, and immediately hung up. She deleted the message and complained, “I’m getting tired of getting his calls!”

“You should tell him that he’s not allowed to contact you, just your lawyer,” Barbara suggested.

“I did, and he won’t stop!” Stacy exasperated.

“We’ll take care of it later,” Frank assured her. “Don’t let him make you late for your interview!”

“You’re right! Bye!” Stacy waved good-bye and left.

After the interview, Stacy dejectedly walked by the downtown park. She saw the bench with Charlie’s memorial on it, and all of the memories of Nick came rushing back. She sat down and caressed the placard. She whispered, “You knew him better than anyone, will he ever forgive me?” She stared at it as if it would give an answer, but she only heard silence. She tried hard to move on, but she missed him immensely! Suddenly, a rock band began to play, and it took her back to the day they met. Tears began to roll down her cheeks, and she ran away from that spot.

When she got home, she still felt pretty melancholy. Both of her parents had left for work, which didn’t bother her because she didn’t want them to know she was still hurting. As she picked up the mail off the floor, she considered having a drink to raise her spirits a bit. She sifted through the mail as she walked towards the table with the answering machine on it. She saw a blinking light indicating that they had a new message, and she sincerely hoped it wasn’t her ex-husband. When she pushed play, to her great dismay, Hadeon’s voice rang out, “Stacy, listen, I’m in-!” She pushed delete and returned her attention to the mail.

She came across a letter that practically made her heart stop- it came from the recording studio in Nashville that she remembered from when she worked with her husband’s firm! She wished that when she opened it that she would see an invitation for an interview, but she didn’t want to get her hopes up. To her delight, the man who ran the company told her that he enjoyed collaborating with her a lot but Hadeon, not so much. She read that he was thrilled to have an excuse to dump him and intended to hire her as the their new marketing executive! She didn’t even need an interview, he already liked her! It took a long time for it to sink in; not only did she get a job, but she got her dream job! When it finally did hit her, she screamed from excitement!

She had to reread it to make sure she got the facts absolutely right, and after she confirmed it to herself, she noticed there was more said after the offer. He had a request, and she frowned trying to figure out how she would do it. As she mulled it over, she noticed the calendar, and once she saw what day it was, she knew exactly what to do. She put the envelope and letter in her purse and ran out of the house.

Stacy somewhat nervously opened the door, and when she didn’t see anyone backstage. She heard some kids talking on stage, so she knew he must have been around there somewhere. She had no idea where, but she saw his truck outside, so she knew for sure he was there somewhere. As she navigated her way around props and equipment, she suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. She thought it had to be him and turned around eagerly. When she saw who it really was, her face went pale as if she had seen a ghost! “Hadeon!”

Hadeon tightened his grip on her shoulder. “No escaping me now! We have to talk!”

Stacy freed herself from his grip and growled, “We have nothing to talk about! I told you, it’s over!”

“We’ll get to that in a minute,” Hadeon responded coldly. “You stole my client!”

“Oh!” It never occurred to her that Hadeon would talk to her about business, but nevertheless, she didn’t let him intimidate her. “He wasn’t happy with you! Besides, I haven’t even told him I accepted the job! Obviously, he meant to dump you whether I took the position or not!”

“You had no right to take my client!” Hadeon shrieked. Some kids that came backstage all stopped what they were doing and stared. “Let’s do this outside.”

“No!” Stacy refused. “I’m not going anywhere with you! You’re not even supposed to be talking to me! If you have something to say, call my lawyer!”

“I didn’t come all this way to talk to a lawyer!” Hadeon grabbed her arm and began to drag her out.

“Stop it!” Stacy shouted while trying to free herself. “You’re hurting me!”

Hadeon ignored her, but well before he could reach the door, someone punched him! When he hit the floor, Stacy saw it was Nick! She felt a spark of joy at his presence, but she saw the hardened look on his face, and as Hadeon stirred and tried to get up, she could tell Nick was ready to attack him again. She put herself in front of Nick’s path and told him, “Don’t! He’s not worth it!”

Anger still bubbled beneath the surface, but Nick acquiesced. At that moment, Frank and another police officer burst into the room. Frank gazed at Hadeon crumpled on the floor and Nick’s infuriated expression, and he declared, “Obviously, this was self defense.” Hadeon groaned knowing that arguing would pointless. Frank and the other police officer picked him up, and while the femal officer cuffed him, Frank confronted Hadeon in an almost euphoric manner, “When we got the BOLO, I was hoping I’d get to be the one to catch you! Hadeon Bancroft, you’re under arrest!”

“For what?” Hadeon sneered. “For hitting her? That’s fine, I can afford the bail!”

The police woman informed him, “Actually, you’re wanted under federal charges.”

“Why?” Hadeon sharply reacted.

“Tax fraud,” Janet revealed. Stacy ogled at her incredulously, and she shrugged. “It was just a hunch.” She turned to Hadeon and educated him, “You’ll be in prison for quite a while, buddy! And since you’re still married, your wife will take custody of all of your assets, including your apartment and your business!”

Hadeon’s face fell completely, and Stacy smirked very pronouncedly. Hadeon pleaded, “No! Not my business! Please, anything but my business!”

Stacy stepped towards him, handed her arms, and gave him an icy look. “Sign the divorce papers with contest, and then I’ll sign over all my rights to your business.”

“Done!” Hadeon promised. Frank read him his Miranda rights as he and the other officer carried him out. He tried to look back but he couldn’t. Stacy watched him leave, and it slowly dawned on her that it was over, Hadeon was out of her life forever!

Stacy turned to Janet and gave her a hug. “Thank you so much! I can’t believe you were willing to help me after…”

Janet didn’t need to hear the end of her sentence to know what she meant. “It was the right thing to do.”

Stacy felt elated at her luck! Her abusive husband would finally give her the divorce she longed for, and she had the job of her dreams now! The only thing that made her heart sing was… She turned to Nick, who watched them sheepishly. She longed for him to come with her, but she figured that was a long shot. Still, she had to talk to him before she called her new boss to accept the job. She requested to Janet, “Look, I know you’re here to see Nick, and I wish you all the happiness in the world, but can you let me say good-bye?”

Janet agreed by nodding, and Stacy gingerly went up to Nick. She forgot how beautiful his eyes were, and he looked so handsome in the outfit he chose for the performance! All Stacy wanted to was leap into his arms, and that really made this process so much more difficult! “I got a job at a record company in Nashville. In my cover letter, I talked about a success I had in developing a talented musician in Makawee. He said he’s interested in auditioning you.” She reached into her purse and pulled out her new work’s business card. Stacy started tearing up, but she went on, “I really do think you’re a talent musician, and now you have a chance to become famous! At the very least, it’s a little money in your pocket. I hope that makes up for what I did! I also hope you can forgive me enough to give it a chance!”

Stacy couldn’t bear to look at him anymore and hung her head. She was about to leave when he gently picked up her chin so that they made eye contact again. He seemed at a loss for words, but she could tell he had a lot of gratitude for her. He finally murmured, “Thank you!”

Stacy smiled knowing he didn’t harbor ill feelings for her anymore, but she saw Janet waiting, and it broke her heart. “Well, have a good life!”

Before she could get far, Janet called out, “Wait!” Stacy wondered what else she could possibly want to tell her, but she guessed it probably was some kind of thank-you for getting him work. To her surprise, she turned to Nick and announced, “I’m breaking up with you!”

“What?” Nick and Stacy said in unison.

“Why?” Nick asked her.

Janet answered, “Because we’ve been together for over seven years, and you’ve never once looked at me like that!”

“Janet, are you sure?” Nick apparently needed verification of her sentiment.

She confirmed, “I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life knowing your heart belongs to someone else! Besides, I want someone to look at me like that! You have the chance to live the exciting life of a rock star, and I have the chance to find someone who wants a boring life in Makawee! You don’t want that, trust me, it’s okay!”

Nick hugged her gratefully. “I’ll have all of my rock star friends do their taxes with you!”

“You better!” Janet somberly laughed. “Bye, Nick!”

Nick and Stacy watched her leave, and suddenly, they knew they were alone together. They looked at each other knowing all of the ties that held them back from being together were now gone, and it took a while for that to absorb. Stacy saw a look of longing on his face, and her heart beat wildly. All of a sudden, he ran to her, and she willingly fell into into his arms! His face met hers, and Stacy could hardly believe he wanted this moment as much as she did! They kissed each other passionately, and it just felt so natural and peaceful that they could hardly believe they waited this long to do this! They took a breath, and, without words, they told one another that they loved each other!

Barbara peeked backstage and hissed, “Psst! Nick! You’re on!”

“Come on!” Nick took her hand and ran to the stage. She started to object because she hardly had any musical talent, but she relented because she trusted him so much. He took her on stage and greeted the crowd more enthusiastically than anyone she had ever seen! She swayed to the music as he played, and the lyrics were simple enough that she could sing along with the chorus. As their faces pressed together while they looked out to an adoring audience, she thought that she could get used to this! After all, this was only the beginning!

The End

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 17

Quick, hide behind the door!” Nick whispered. Stacy didn’t understand why, but she knew he must have had a good reason for having her do it, so she complied. “Take this too!” He handed her his guitar as he picked up his notebook and pretended to study notes.

Seconds later, an old security guard came in and surveyed the scene. “What are you doing?”

“Who? Me?” Nick feigned confusion. “I’m just studying feedback that I got from my team.”

“Who else is here?” the security guard questioned.

“No one,” Nick fibbed. “Oh, you probably hard me on the phone with one of my colleagues. I don’t wanna give away too much about her personal issues, but she’s going through a lot right now.”

Thankfully, the security guard seemed to have bought that explanation. “Well, don’t work too hard now!”

“I won’t!” Nick waved as the security guard left the room. Nick acting like he had to go over his paperwork until the security guard roamed out of earshot. When it seemed as though the coast was clear, Nick got up and double checked down hallway both ways before he motioned for Stacy to follow him. “Come on!”

They quickly and quietly tiptoed down the hallway, and as soon as they exited the building, they exhaled in relief. Stacy’s heart had raced from worry of getting caught, but now that they were safe, her curiosity demanded to understand the situation that had just passed. “What just happened?”

Nick explained, “The boss has random security checks throughout the month to make sure no one misuses the facility. Don’t worry, he rarely comes around, so we’ll be fine.”

“Maybe we should figure out another place to practice, just in case,” Stacy suggested.

“Yeah, we should figure it out soon,” Nick agreed. “He usually only comes around once or twice a month, so we have some time. Maybe by the time he comes around again, I’ll be out booking some gigs!”

“I’ll start looking for a venue for you to perform at too,” Stacy assured him. As they walked to the truck, Stacy told him, “Sorry I didn’t get to tell you much about my story.”

“Actually, your reaction said a lot.” Nick smiled sympathetically, and Stacy returned one back.

On Wednesday, Stacy had the day off from work, so she went back to the library and borrowed the Nashville phone book. She sat down at a table and took her notebook and pen out of her purse just as she did last time, but this time, she opened up the phone book to the record label section. She felt pleased to have found a number of places that she could apply to. She came across one that she recognized as a client of Hadeon’s, and the memory it brought up repulsed her, so, at first, she skipped that one. After a moment, she remembered how nice the man who owned the recording studio had been to her and all of the exciting stories he had about working there, so she decided to include it on her list. She wasn’t sure if she would actually apply there or not, but she felt too guilty not to at least consider it.

When she came home, she saw that her parents were doing the dishes, so she offered, “Can I help?”

“Sure, I could use a break!” Frank handed her a towel and zipped out of the room.

Barbara rolled her eyes and shook her head but didn’t say anything to him. As she handed Stacy a dish to dry, Stacy conversed, “How was your day?”

“It was going fine until the principal put me in charge of the end of the school year show!” Barbara grumped. “It’s so hard coordinating the different grades! And they wanna find an entertainer for the older students. I don’t know what they like!”

“I know a singer who could use a gig…” Stacy brought up.

“Really?” Barbara chirped. “Let me know as soon as possible if he can do it!”

“I’ll let you know as soon as I know!” Stacy promised.

Before she left for her next shift, Stacy stuffed a dozen envelopes with her resume. She went through the list she made the other day and addressed each envelope except for the one. She hesitated on the recording studio that Hadeon had as a client. She figured with her ex-husband taking care of their marketing needs that they wouldn’t have any interest in hiring her in that capacity. She qualified for a secretary or administrative position, but then she worried that she might run into Hadeon on occasion, which would create such an awkward atmosphere! Not to mention potentially danger if he decided to pick a fight with her again! She wondered if there would even have been a favorable opinion of her anymore, especially if her ex-husband revealed his slant on the incident to them. She decided to skip it and only stamped sealed the envelopes of the other leads she found.

At work, Stacy passed by the cash register and saw Gloria talking to a woman with her preteen daughter. After a second glance, she realized she recognized the woman at the register. “Lola?”

“Stacy?” Lola acted incredulously. They shouted excitedly and gave each other a hug.

Gloria inquired, “You guys know each other?”

Lola told her, “Yeah, Mom, we went to high school together!”

“What a small world!” Gloria remarked.

Lola addressed Stacy, “What are you doing here? Last I heard you were married to a successful business man and living fabulously in Nashville!”

“Oh, I left him,” Stacy confessed. “He was a jerk and I’d rather be alone and broke than stay married to him!”

Stacy expected Lola to react sympathetically, but she actually had a look of longing in her eyes. She made sure her daughter didn’t hear her when she said, “You’re so lucky! I wish I could leave!” As she spoke, Stacy noticed a gnarly scratch on Lola’s arm. “It’s hard when a kid is involved. I gotta do what’s best for her. I couldn’t risk her living on the street.” As Lola spoke, Stacy discovered a number of other nicks and bruises throughout her body, and her heart sunk as she realized what that probably meant. “Even if I got a job at a store or something, I wouldn’t make enough to support her. And since my father’s gone now, we took Mom in too. Where would she go?”

Gloria exclaimed, “I told you, don’t worry about me! We’ll figure something out…”

The two of them suddenly grew silent and painted smiles on their faces. Stacy found that odd until she saw a man in a nice suit walk in their direction. She saw an Emporia badge and figured out that he must have been an executive of some sort. He stood in front of her and pompously introduced himself, “Drake Tanith, regional manager. You must be new.”

“Yes,” she responded while trying to hide her nervousness. “I’m Stacy, a recovery agent.”

“Welcome, Stacy!” He turned towards Lola, who greeted him with a kiss. “Darling, I don’t see any clothes. You said Elaine needed clothes!”

“Sorry!” Lola practically trembled as she apologized. “I got caught up talking and-!”

He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her close to him. “Go wait in the car!” He pushed her away rather forcibly. Lola scrambled to get her purse and dashed out of the store. Gloria returned to helping a customer as if none of this bothered her as Drake met up with Pat and began talking about numbers.

Stacy stood in shock of what she just witnessed. She and Lola had such similar lives in high school, but she felt Lola had always been a little ahead of her and she actually envied her. Lola outranked her on the student council and got better grades too. She always attracted the cuter boyfriends and even got into a better college. It was heartbreaking to see how much Lola had been defeated by this man! She wondered how her life had taken such a drastic turn, and she realized that domestic violence could happen to anybody! Suddenly, it occurred to her that this abusive man was now her boss! Once again, she found herself working in the same environment she had just escaped from, and it was simply unacceptable! She marched up to Pat and Drake, threw her badge on the ground, cried out, “I quit!” and stormed out without saying another word!

She had felt so much fury throughout her way home, but that soon turned into panic. She now had no way to pay for her divorce, which she feared could hand her an expensive bill at any moment. She became wrapt with worry, and she knew she knew she had to find another job immediately! When she got inside her house, she saw her list of music industry places to apply to in Nashville and remembered that she hadn’t applied to that last one. She still had a burning rage for violent men, and she felt so furious that she got an ardent motivation to attempt to steal Hadeon’s client and addressed her last envelope to that company!

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 16

Stacy came home from work and immediately took her shoes off. After she released a breath of relief, she called out, “Mom?”

“In here, Sweetie!” Barbara responded from her bedroom.

Stacy walked over to her parents’ bedroom and saw her mother working on the computer. She inquired, “Whatcha doing?”

“Making a quiz for my kids,” Barbara replied.”Sentence diagrams. You wanna try it?”

Stacy peered over her mother’s shoulders and tried to do the test, but she came up blank. “Wow, I don’t remember doing this at all! Did I learn this?”

“Of course you did!” Barbara laughed. “I made sure you aced this subject too! It wouldn’t give me a lot of credibility as a teacher if you failed anything!” Stacy also laughed, and then Barbara conversed, “So, how was work?”

Stacy sat at the foot of her parents’ bed and told her, “They moved me to women’s formal, and girls are already beginning to shop for prom. They try on hundreds of dresses on and don’t hang any of the rejects up, but if I spend too much time in the dressing room, I get yelled at. Then, when I put them back, I couldn’t find the exact spot where the go-backs went, and they got mad because I took too long. I just started finding racks with similar colors to the item I had and just put them there. Close enough! That was my first time in that section; they could get speed or accuracy, not both!”

Barbara remarked “That’s probably why the girls’ dresses were so messy on your first day there.”

“True,” Stacy agreed. “But if someone went back and fixed what I mixed up, I wouldn’t get mad. So, why did I get yelled at?”

“Don’t overthink it,” Barbara advised. “Some people’s actions just aren’t rational and you’ll hurt yourself trying to make them sound reasonable!”

Stacy tittered, and then she yawned. “I’m gonna go take a nap.” As soon as she got up, she saw the mail come through the slot on the door. “Correction, I’m gonna get the mail, and if nothing is for me, then I’m gonna take a nap!”

Stacy stooped down and collected the letters on the floor. She didn’t expect to get anything, but she saw something from the IRS with her name on it. “Oh, I guess my mail forwarding went through. I forgot about my tax return!” She handed her mother the rest of the mail as she opened hers up. When she saw the check, she reacted pleasantly, “Nice!”

“you should treat yourself,” Barbara suggested. “What is something you want but couldn’t get before?”

The next day, Frank escorted Stacy into a divorce lawyer’s office. The waiting room was fairly small, but it had a very nice set of furniture. Stacy and Frank sat on the opposite side of the room from a couple that didn’t talk or make eye contact with each other. The only sound came from the secretary, who had been typing up something on a computer. Stacy softly said to her father, “Thanks for coming with me!”

“No problem!” Frank told her genially. “Thanks for getting me away from my honey-do list!”

“No problem!” Stacy chuckled.

“Miss Alyson?” the secretary summoned. “Mister Dorsey will see you now.” Frank and Stacy got up and went through the door next to the secretary’s window.

Mister Dorsey had a cozy but posh office, and the man himself had a nice suit but a very relaxed demeanor. He looked about her father’s age, Stacy thought, as he read over her file. When he finished, he stated, “I don’t understand.”

“What do you mean?” Stacy inquired.

Mister Dorsey elaborated, “You signed a prenup and could collect a decent settlement from him. You could even argue for alimony, but you want nothing from him?”

Stacy explained, “I want my independence! I don’t want anything in my life that he could take credit for! Anything he gives me would give him a reason to claim ownership over me! I want a clean slate, totally free of any ties to him! I just wanna break free and move on with nothing to remind me of him except for a few bad memories!”

Mister Dorsey seemed a little surprised still, but he accepted her explanation. “Well, this should make the process pretty simple.”

“You would think so!” Stacy muttered. “But my husband doesn’t want me to go. There’s no love for him left in me, but despite that, he still doesn’t want to let go!”

“He’s still in love?” Mister Dorsey asked.

“I don’t think so,” Stacy answered. “Not for me anyways. He’s in love with himself and his ego. He doesn’t want the stigma of a divorce, especially one where he was in the wrong and his wife left him ’cause he messed up!”

Mister Dorsey probed, “If you don’t mind me asking, what did he do that was so horrible?”

Stacy admitted, “He hit me.”

“Wow!” Mister Dorsey reacted. “Then for sure it’s over!” Stacy smiled gratefully knowing that he understood. “Good for you for having the courage to leave after that! I can’t tell you how many women choose to stay and take the abuse!”

“Really?” Stacy replied. “It can’t be that many!”

“Oh, there’s hundreds!” Mister Dorsey informed her. “Across the country, there’s thousands! You’re lucky you got out when you did! So many women who go through it don’t recover.”

“That’s true!” Frank agreed.

Stacy found that incredibly sad. It felt so horrible to think that so many women put up with it to the point of no return! She mulled over different ways that she could help victims of domestic violence, but Mister Dorsey interrupted her train of thought, “Okay, I’m going to send someone to serve him your petition for divorce. He’ll have his lawyers go over it, and they may file objections to it. If that’s the case, we’ll have to go to court. The whole process should take a few months.”

“That’s fine.” Stacy had already figured it would take a while, and she kind of counted on it so she could have more time to save up to pay the funds.

Mister Dorsey slid his card across his desk. “Give me a call if you have any questions. Until then, we’ll keep you informed of any updates.”

“Thank you so much!” Stacy stood up and shook his hand. Frank did the same before they left.

The next day, Stacy met up with Nick at his work again. He brought his guitar and played her the song ‘Motor Run’ again. It had a classic stadium rock type of beat, so she could see it becoming a chart topping hit for sure after hearing it. She tried not to get too turned on by his singing and the possible motivation behind his music, but it became very hard to keep that thought hidden! When he finished playing, she complimented him, “Whew! That’s hot!”

“You really think so?” Nick seemed pleased that she thought highly of his work.

Stacy gave him a half-scolding look. “Have I lied to you yet?”

Nick smiled. “I hope not!”

Stacy smiled back, but then she said seriously, “I was thinking… Maybe your next song could help raise awareness of people in abusive relationships.”

Nick contemplated this notion. “Not a bad idea. Would you mind if I wrote about your experience?”

“That’s fine,” Stacy complied. “I was talking to a divorce lawyer, and he told me how there’s so many women out there who go through the same thing I did. I thought I had gotten myself in into a rare situation, but apparently not! It’s sickeningly common, but if I felt alone in my experience, lots of other women must feel like that too. I wanna do something to help!”

“No one should feel alone, especially on a thing like that! Hmm… something about not being alone…” Nick thought out loud. “It could help people who haven’t gone through it reach out to people who have.”

“Exactly!” Stacy relished how they got on the same wave length about her idea.

Nick pulled out his notepad and readied himself to start writing. “Okay, tell me the story of everything you went through with Hadeon.”

Stacy took a deep breath and thought back to the beginning. She suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion, and tears began to well up. She didn’t understand why, she thought she had gotten past that point and could talk about it. “Hey, it’s alright!” Nick assured her. He stood up and gave her a hug. She found him intensely comforting as she began sobbing onto his shoulders, and, for a moment, everything seemed right in the world…

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 9

Nick’s good looks may have made her nervous, but when it came to marketing, she felt significantly more confident. Hadeon may have been a terrible husband, but he had a genius for his craft. The one good thing about him getting overly obsessed with his job was that he dragged her along for everything, so she learned a lot. She took out a notebook and pen from her purse and already wrote down some notes. ‘You said you had a band in high school. What kind of songs did you do?”

Nick recalled, “We wanted to be the next Rolling Stones, but our songs were a little more age appropriate. We wrote one called ‘Homework Rebellion,’ for example.” Nick laughed at his memories. “Teachers hated us, but the other students thought we were bad asses!” Nick grinned at the nostalgia that came to him right then.

Stacy grinned too, and then she observed, “So, you guys wrote your own music! How much of that did you personally contribute?”

Nick told her, “It was a group effort, but our best stuff came from me and Charlie. He was our drummer and my best friend. We worked on our music a lot more than our schoolwork!” He smiled fondly as he reminisced, but he soon started to frown. “I wish we paid more attention in school! Maybe if we had, we could’ve gotten accepted into college and Charlie would have avoided the draft…” He could tell Stacy wanted to follow up about that, so he elaborated, “After high school, Charlie and I both wanted to move to the city where we could get discovered, but we were both broke. We both took up jobs here at Gilmar’s, and we got through the awful work days by dreaming about what our lives would be like once we made it big. We kept the band going for a while, but eventually, with all of our different work schedules, the band drifted apart, so it was just me and him still working on our music. Charlie and I always thought we would form a band and get famous before we got considered for the draft, but, obviously, that didn’t happen. Charlie got drafted and sent to ‘Nam. I begged them to draft me too, I wanted out of this town so bad! In our letters, we still dreamt about making it big when he got back. But then, one day, Charlie’s mom called me and told me… Charlie wasn’t coming back!” He got choked up at this point, but after a moment, he lamented, “I wish we hadn’t focused on silly dreams so much! If we had a back up plan, maybe Charlie wouldn’t have…”

“It’s not your fault!” Stacy reached across and pat his shoulders comfortingly. “The draft went on ’til seventy-three, so Charlie could have gotten drafted after graduation.”

“That’s true,” Nick acknowledged.

“My mom always said everything happens for a reason,” Stacy narrated. “My ex-husband ran to Canada after high school. He claims he was a conscientious objector, but truthfully, he was just being a coward. But if he didn’t chicken out, he wouldn’t have blown away his trust fund, which forced him to move into his uncle’s garage in Nashville. He started his business there, and ten years later, it’s one of the most successful businesses around! Maybe Charlie had to go to Vietnam ’cause they needed a hero.”

“He was a hero!” Nick remarked. “I still wish he didn’t go! I miss him!” He paused and added, “Do you love him?”

“Charlie?” Stacy puzzled.

“NO,” Nick clarified, “I mean, do you still love your ex-husband?”

“Oh! No.” Stacy searched inwardly to verify her initial reaction. “After what he did, there’s no going back.” She could tell he wanted to ask what he did, so she revealed, “He hit me!”

“No!” It took a while for Nick to absorb this, and when he did, his fists tensed up. “That bastard!” His expression softened when he turned back to Stacy. “How often did he do that?”

“That was the first time. Honestly, in more than five years, he’s never done that!” she told him. “I left ’cause if he did it once, he’ll do it again and I’m not gonna walk on eggshells for the rest of my life just to make sure I don’t make him do it again!”

You don’t make him do it again?” Nick cried out. “You aren’t responsible for his actions! Even if you pissed him off, that’s not an excuse! Unless a woman holds a gun to his f’ing head, there’s no excuse to hit a woman! Ever!”

This visibly moved Stacy. She had her hand on her heart, and she was near tears. His logic flowed with her initial view on the matter, but that manager as well as her own doubts on the situation made her question this. She often wondered if it had been her fault or if she had been wrong in same way on the matter, but Nick was completely right, nothing she had done deserved his abuse! She felt heartened that she had an ally who backed her up on this. “I had an interview at Stereo Hut the other day, and the manager made it seem like it was all my fault!”

Nick immediately commented, “Well, we’re never shopping there again!” Stacy gave him an appreciative smile, and Nick emphasized, “I mean it! I’m not gonna go into a business that thinks that you had a perfectly happy marriage and, for no reason, you decided to destroy it and run away from paradise!”

“It’s true! That was exactly how he acted!” Stacy laughed in the ridiculousness of the topic. “Our marriage wasn’t paradise, thing were getting bad for a while. I thought eventually we’d work through our issues, but I don’t think he thought anything was wrong. I felt miserable for a long time, so eventually, if he hadn’t hit me, I would’ve had enough. At some point, you gotta consider your own needs ’cause your happiness matters!”

“Yeah…” Nick hesitantly agreed.

“Your happiness matters too,” Stacy reminded him.

Nick sighed, “This is different! This is a huge risk!”

“No, it’s not!” Stacy respectfully disagreed. “You’re playing music. If you make it big, you’ll be really happy. If you don’t, you’ll still enjoy the process. It’s not like you’re enrolling in the police academy like my dad did. He risks his life every time he goes on patrol, but he does it ’cause it’s what he loves. If he picked safety, he would be completely depressed his whole life! Imagine him going from graduation to retirement like that! His work is dangerous, but he’s lived his life without regret. The only thing you need to worry about is living your life with regret!”

“Okay, so I’m nos happy working in the factory,” Nick confessed. “But I do have a family to worry about. This isn’t fun for me, but they’re taken care of. What if this music thing ends up hurting them?”

Stacy almost pointed out that it seemed unlikely that this could hurt his family, but then she realized, “Wait a second, this is about Charlie, isn’t it? Last time you set out on this path, you lost someone important to you. You’re pursuing this ‘normal’ life ’cause you’re worried if you take a chance again, you’ll lose someone else!”

Nick mulled it over and came to the conclusion, “Yeah, I guess it’s true. I mean, that’s part of the reason anyways. I spent most of my adult life trying to squash the urge to sing and play to an audience, but I can’t help myself, it always resurfaces. Like earlier in the month, we went to visit her grandparents and I snuck away ’cause I saw a recording studio nearby. I had a great time, but it was selfish. Janet had to take time off work right near tax day ’cause her grandfather’s dying and it was his birthday. I should’ve been there for her more! I mean, her grandfather did throw me out, but still…”

“He threw you out?” Stacy responded. “What do you think you were supposed to do? Just wait outside for hours?”

“She ended up not staying that long,” he remarked. “She went looking for me and couldn’t find me. She talked her grandfather into letting me come back, but when I disappeared, that blew it. I shouldn’t have ran off, but I didn’t think he’d invite me back, the guy hates my guts! I went for a walk to blow off some steam, and I saw the recording studio there, and it was just calling me! I thought that after spending all my time helping other people, I deserved to see it! I work all day, spend all night with her, and help my dad on the weekends, I never get to do anything for myself! So I thought, here’s my chance! It felt great! Well, until she found me and we fought.”

“That’s the argument I had with my husband before we split!” Stacy related. “I was late for something I had to do for this big party, and I was wrong for doing so, but if I got to do what I wanted to do more often, that wouldn’t have happened. I didn’t regret what I did, and I guess he felt like I should live only to please him. I was tired of living like that.”

“You have a point,” Nick admitted. “I may have went about it the wrong way, but it wouldn’t have happened if I just made a little more time for what I love. Music isn’t gonna leave me no matter how hard I try! My family may not understand it, but if I don’t do it and keep spending my life trying to make everyone else happy except for me, I’m gonna lose it! I gotta do this! I keep worrying about something happening to them, but what if I don’t and something happens to me? I hope nothing happens to them, of course, but I’m committed to this!”

“Good!” Stacy nodded in approval.

Nick took a deep breath and released. “Wow, this conversation got real deep!”

“That’s ’cause we’re talking about music, and, for you, that’s your heart and soul!” Stacy affirmed. “I mean, I’m no shrink, but I hope you’re comfortable opening up to me. It’s gonna help me help you develop really meaningful lyrics and melodies. It’s not gonna make your pain go away, but it’ll help it become something beautiful. Like, losing your best friend, that’s a great topic for a song!”

“I did make a song about it,” Nick disclosed. “I took a song we wrote in high school, ‘Pay Attention,’ and I slowed down the tempo, changed it into a ballad, and made it about Charlie. Instead of making fun of teachers, I talked about how we get so distracted in our own lives that we don’t savor the time we have with people who matter most to us. If you don’t pay attention, you could miss out and you may not ever get another chance! Back then, I didn’t know how else to react to his death other than music. I was still in the habit from when he was alive.”

“That song sounds amazing!” Stacy exclaimed, and then she requested, “Can I hear it?”

“That was so long ago!” Nick reacted. “What makes you think I even remember it?”

Stacy gave him a playfully reproachful look. “You heard the song ‘Run to You’ once, and not only did you remember every word but you taught the music to that band! You have an amazing memory! So, let’s hear it!”

Nick relented, “Okay, okay, I’ll do it!” Stacy waited with mounting anticipation as he mentally prepared himself to sing…

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 7

The singer stood before her! As he came closer and closer, her heart beat faster and faster. When he was right next to her, excitement flooded her body so much that she could hardly move. Stacy could hardly move. She could hardly believe it when he opened his mouth to speak. She didn’t know what to expect, but a part of her hoped for a romantic line to sweep her off her feet. Instead, he stuttered, “I…uh…” Stacy felt confused, and it took her a moment to realize he felt nervous to talk to her! She fancied that her presence made him tongue-tied, but she figured that he was probably shy. She wanted to help him out by breaking the ice, but she definitely got too bewitched to speak!

Just when Stacy decided to force herself to say something, Janet popped up and wrapped her arm around him. “Did you find it, honey?”

“Yeah.” He pointed to the phone book.

A surge of disappointment ran through her. The singer hadn’t come to talk to her, he wanted the phone book! She tried to convey a chipper demeanor as she told them, “Oh, go ahead!”

“Oh, we can wait ’til you’re finished,” Janet responded politely.

“I’ll be a while with it,” Stacy pushed the phone book towards them. “I’m looking for places to apply to in Nashville.”

Janet and the singer sat across from her, and the singer nervously suggested, “You should check out their newspaper. It’d be probably be a little easier.”

“True!” Stacy acknowledged. “I’ll probably do that too, but sometimes companies don’t list their vacancies publicly. At least not right away.”

The singer appeared to grow more comfortable talking to her now as he inquired, “What kind of work are you looking for?”

“I don’t know,” she replied truthfully.

The singer grinned. “So, you’re gonna apply to all of the businesses listed in the book?”

“No!” Stacy laughed. “I’m just check out my options so I can narrow it down a bit.”

The singer chuckled, and Stacy couldn’t help but admire his smile. They didn’t expand the conversation further thought because Janet cleared her throat. The singer turned his attention back to her, and she pointed to the phone book. “What do you think? This hotel looks nice, but I bet this one’s cheaper.”

Stacy maintained a level of pleasantness, but inwardly, she couldn’t help but grow incredibly jealous at the idea of them in a hotel together. She very nicely conversed, “Romantic getaway?”

The singer answered, “Oh no! Janet has a convention on memorial day weekend.”

Stacy made a face at the mention of the convention, and when Janet and the singer gave her particular looks, Stacy explained, “I just remembered that my husband…ex husband… loved to go to conventions to get more clients for the business. It always meant a long weekend for me!” She couldn’t believe a memory of him came to her like that! She had put so much focus into finding work that Hadeon didn’t have a chance to haunt her until now. She supposed that it still didn’t feel real to be adapting to a whole new routine and way of life. She apologized, “Sorry! I’m going through a divorce, it’s still pretty fresh!”

“Sorry to hear that!” the singer sympathized. “It’s probably a hard thing to get used to.”

“We used to do everything together,” Stacy felt a little better since the singer seemed to understand what she was going through. “There’s a lot I need to get used to doing on my own!”

“Like your taxes!” Janet interjected. “You’ll file separately this year.” When Stacy looked taken aback by that comment, Janet blushed. “Sorry! I’m a CPA.”

“Oh, that makes sense!” Stacy responded jovially now that she understood why she had made that point. “We always filed separately.”

Janet raised an eyebrow at that. “Why is that?”

Stacy shrugged. “He was pretty protective of his finances. He claimed he didn’t want me to grow greedy from knowing how much the business made, but really, I think the business didn’t make as much as he claimed. He kept everything secret to maintain an image. Ugh, that damn image! Anways, it didn’t bother me that much, one less thing for me to do.”

Janet seemed suspicious about something, but she didn’t elaborate. “How about we write down the number to both hotels and see who might negotiate a better deal.”

“Sounds good!” the singer replied. He turned to Stacy as they left and told her, “Nice to meet you!”

“Likewise!” Stacy waved goodbye, and after they left, she became a little sullen. She wished she had gotten more time to speak to him, or better yet, she wished she could have gotten some time alone with him. She felt supremely curious about his thoughts on the note she gave him. Janet did seem really nice, but she felt thoroughly annoyed that she had her claws sunk in him deep enough where she couldn’t get a chance to get close to the singer. She really had hoped that someone had said his name at least once! She sighed and figured that maybe it was for the best since she needed to concentrate on job hunting. She remembered the memory of Hadeon that their conversation had sparked, and she renewed her vigor to search through the book.

On Monday, while Stacy addressed a few envelopes and stuffed her resumes in them, the phone rang. She answered it, “Hello, Alyson residence.”

The person on the other end talked in a very solemn, business-like tone, “Hello. This is Allen from Stereo Hut. I’m looking for Stacy Alyson.”

“Speaking.” Stacy knew they were calling to schedule an interview, and she felt as though she should be excited, but she just couldn’t bring herself to that level. A part of her felt guilty about not having a better attitude about this potential opportunity. She scheduled an interview for the next day, but she felt depressed about going.

She arrived at the store promptly the next day, and she tried to buoy herself up for the interview. She knew she didn’t want to do retail, but she wanted to get a divorce as fast as possible, and that motivated her to walk through those doors. Despite her ill feelings, she put on a smile as she informed the cashier she had arrived for an interview. A man came out with a dismal expression, which did not bode well for her. She tried to think positive thoughts as she followed him back.

The man sat her down and sharply asked, “Do you have experience in electronics?”

“Well, no,” she answered, “but I’m a fast learner.”

Stacy thought that she gave a great response, but the manager didn’t seem to agree. He candidly said, “After my assistant manager called you yesterday, I had him call your previous employers…” Stacy went completely numb! Her worst fear had come to light! “I spoke to the secretary-.”

“The secretary?” Stacy blurted out. She realized that she interrupted him, so she apologized, “Sorry! I used to be the secretary there, and….” He didn’t seem interested in her explanation, so she stopped. She really wanted to ask him more questions to figure who had replaced her so fast, but she refrained from doing so. She felt a small glimmer of hope because this secretary was new to the company and may not have known the full story of what happened between her and Hadeon.

“She said that you were fired.” He read her application and noted, “You put down ‘voluntarily resigned’ on why you left. Care to explain?”

“I walked off from the job,” Stacy stated. “I consider that quitting.”

“Your application also says you were formally known as Stacy Bancroft. The owner of the company’s name is also Bancroft. Was the owner your father?”

“He was my husband.” Stacy felt like the manager’s questions were getting personal, which made her uncomfortable.

The manager continued, “So, I’m guessing you got into an argument and stormed off.”

“You’re right,” Stacy admitted.

“What could have been so bad that you’d walk off from your job?” the manager questioned. “Did he cheat on you?”

“No.” At this point, Stacy decided she may as well be honest. “He hit me, so I left him.”

“You don’t look hurt to me,” he remarked. “It takes two to fight. If you push a man too much, it’s only natural he may lash out! You could have done more to calm him down. You could have prevented this, seems pretty irresponsible…”

Stacy couldn’t believe what she had just heard! Her father had always taught her that no man should ever hit a woman, and this guy thought it had been her fault! Despite her objections to his outrageous argument, she wondered if he had uttered an element of truth. She had always wondered if she could have done something to prevent Hadeon from doing what he did, and now she felt like a complete failure. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she couldn’t hear anything else that the manager had said. She couldn’t take it anymore and marched out without looking back or saying another word!

Stacy had sobbed during the entire bus ride home, but the patrons on there left her alone. She felt distraught enough that she didn’t care what anyone was thinking about her actions at the moment. She kept going over everything that she might have done wrong and wondered if she was now bearing the punishment of her actions. She wondered if she would have to endure this every time she got an interview, which made her less tempted into accepting another one. When her house came into view, she saw that her father had come home, and she couldn’t wait to receive some reassurance from him. She expected him to detect her distress the moment she walked in, but instead, Frank immediately asked her, “Who’s Nick Rolland?”

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 5

He opened up a desk drawer and pulled out a packet of paper. He clicked a pen and held it up so he could write. “Alright, tell me about yourself.”

Stacy hesitated for a moment. She used to answer that question quite easily because she had very definitive career goals, and now she just needed fast money for a fast divorce. She didn’t want to divulge her personal life if she could help it, and she knew she had to say something, so she came up with, “I grew up in Makawee. Actually, Emporia was my first job…”

“Oh, you worked here before?” he reacted in surprise.

Stacy found that question odd since she made a point of putting that on her application. Clearly, he hadn’t read it, so she knew that he was either so desperate for people that the didn’t care about candidates’ qualifications or he didn’t want to hire anyone and this was just a formality. Either scenario didn’t bode well for her. “Uh, yes. I used to work for Kimmy. How’s she doing?”

He replied, “She got fired three years ago.”

“Oh!” Stacy felt very awkward, and since she didn’t know how to respond, she decided to finish answering his question, “I just moved back here from Nashville. I have a lot of experience in customer service and sales…”

She paused as he took notes in the packet. She waited for him to invite her to continue, but instead he flipped to the next page and instructed her, “Tell me about a time when you had a difficult customer and how you dealt with him.”

“That’s hard, there’s a mix of nice and not so nice customers every day,” Stacy opinionated.

He requested, “Can you be more specific?”

Stacy had to think about it since she hadn’t dealt with customers for a very long time. He seemed to grow a little impatient, so she spouted the first example that she could think of, “Well, there was a woman who got mad at me because she thought we forgot to give her the receipt for her transaction.”

“And how did you handle it?” he inquired.

She replied, “I looked in the bag and it was there, so she was happy and left.” Stacy felt that her lame example didn’t impress him, but it was hard to know for sure because his facial expressions hadn’t changed much since the interview started. She wished she had thought of a more elaborate example, but as she said earlier, difficult customers came by every day and once they left, she didn’t make a point to remember each detail. Actually, she usually forgot about them and moved on with her life. This interview kept going downhill for her, and she really wished it would just end.

He flipped the page again. “What would you consider to be one of your weaknesses?”

She felt irked she had to explain a weakness before she had a chance to explain her strengths, but she tried to hide it by making a joke, “I’m a horrible singer!”

She expected him to laugh or at least crack a smile, but instead his brow furrowed as he scribbled notes. As he turned the page, Stacy confirmed her suspicions- he was reading the questions from the paper! “Tell me where you see yourself in five years.”

Stacy’s heart sunk at this question. The truth was that she had no idea. She hadn’t thought of career aspirations while she so ardently searched for a survival job, and in the back of her mind and bottom of her heart, she didn’t picture herself staying in Emporia! She couldn’t say that though, so she shakily threw out, “Management…”

She felt relieved to see him turn to the last page, which meant this travesty would come to an end soon. He probed, “If I were to call your last supervisor, what would he say about you?”

Her mind went blank, and she truly started to panic. She hadn’t thought about his possibility before, but now that she had, her spirits totally deflated. Her last supervisor was her abusive husband, and if anyone tried to call him, she felt sure he would sabotage her attempts to pay for the divorce on her own by giving her a bad reference. If, by some miracle, he had been honest, prospective employers would still find out she had married and broke up with her former boss. Her chances of getting a new job seemed more impossible now! She held back her tears and told him, “I was a good, hard worker for many years.”

After he finished taking notes, he stapled them to her application and explained, “Alright. I’ll share your answers with the other managers and give you a call.”

“Thank you for your time!” Stacy dashed out as soon as she could.

Everything was a blur as she rushed out of the mall. She didn’t want to break down in front of a bunch of people, and her feet seemed to instinctually know where to take her. She brushed past people on the street, and as the crowd dissipated, she found herself at the park and saw her bench waiting for her. She flung herself onto the bench and let out all of her tears and anguish! Not only did she have an interview go so horribly, but she realized that Hadeon extended his control over her more than she thought he had! At the moment, it was hard for her to comprehend just how she could overcome this hurdle. She assumed that most of her prospective jobs would call her past employers, so she felt so stuck. She refused to relent to the idea that she would have to go back to him as he wanted, but she had no clue what the solution was! She turned to the sky and silently wished for some kind of sign on what to do…

Suddenly, she heard an electric guitar strumming the introduction to a song that instantly mesmerized her. She had heard it once before when one of Hadeon’s clients from Canada gave them a taste of it, and it had totally seduced her, which surprised her at the time since the subject of the song centered around infidelity and she couldn’t fathom doing that to her husband. She didn’t think she would hear it again until it got released in the fall, and yet it played in front of her right here in little Makawee! She got entranced by this notion and simply had to get to the bottom of this mystery!

She stood up and turned around, and as the man began singing, it completely ensnared all of her senses. His voice had a more husky tone than Bryan Adams, but he captured the sould of the song “Run to You” perfectly! Mesmerized, she walked towards the stage in a trance. She already got drawn by his sheer musical talent, and she absolutely had to get a clear image of what he looked like. She felt surprised at the ease at which she got close to the stage; it was almost as if the small crowd that had gathered had left her a pathway there! As she nestled near the center, she couldn’t see his face, but she truly believed that she was witnessing a rock star perform! He wore a plain, fitted tee shirt and jeans, and his dark blonde hair parted neatly in the middle, so her belief really stemmed not from his image but his magnetic aura. She earnestly willed him to turn his head her way so she could get the full picture…

All of a sudden, it happened! Not only did he turn towards her, but they instantly locked eyes! He had blue eyes that ran deep, and his face conveyed the intense emotions of the song. His good looks and passion for his art made him irresistible to her! He maintained his gaze for a long moment, and Stacy longed for him to come closer to her. She could sense a part of him wanted to, but like a true professional, he moved on to other parts of the stage to continue with the show. Stacy knew right then that this man had too much talent to play for free at this park; he needed to become famous!

While he moved to another end of the stage, Stacy pulled out one of her resumes and tore off the part with her contact information on it. She yanked out a pen from her purse and wrote “You’re so talented! Make records!” on the paper. She didn’t know what his ambitions were, but she knew that not a lot of people had big dreams in Makawee, so she couldn’t leave without him getting this encouragement and advice! She waited for him to move back her way, and when he did, she held up the piece of paper high for him. Her heart beat madly as he very smoothly grabbed it from her! She felt a rush of gratitude when she saw him slip it into his jeans because she knew he would keep it and read it. She watched him finish his song with the exhilaration of knowing he had her words in his pocket!

When the music stopped, he spoke avidly into the microphone, “Thank you!” As he passed the guitar to the next person waiting to play, he gave Stacy one last meaningful look. Stacy froze as she watched him walk off stage, and after he had, she cheered like a true fan girl.

As the next group began to play, she left her post by the stage and walked to the side of the complex where no one stood. Her mind just came back to reality, and she couldn’t believe that she had just done that! Her marriage hadn’t technically ended yet, and she gave her phone number to a strange guy! Encouraging his music didn’t seem to logically low with her goals of getting a job, but it gave her a purpose that made her heart feel stronger. In her gut, she felt that this potential adventure would prove key to unlocking the door to exactly where she wanted to go!

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 4

Stacy knew that she didn’t have to dress up just to drop off resumes, but she did so anyways in case she got an on-the-spot interview. Both of her parents were at work, but they left her some change so she could take the bus. She walked to the bus stop sort of excited and a little nervous about her potential job prospects. When she came to the bus stop, she noticed that it didn’t have a bench, but she didn’t mind standing while she waited for a while. After waiting for about twenty minutes, she started to get hot and her feet were getting a little sore already. She peered at the schedule and saw that the bus was late. She had no idea how long it would take to finally arrive, which frustrated her, but her mood lifted when she finally saw the bus arrive.

She didn’t have much room on her seat, and she almost fell into the aisle when the bus made a turn. No one else seemed to move as much as she did, which embarrassed her a little. With an expensive divorce that she had to pay for coming up, she knew she wouldn’t be able to get a car for a while, so she figured that she would have to get used to it just as the others had. She didn’t think she could get used to the odor though, a mix of sweat and fuel that she sincerely hoped didn’t rub off on her. She used to take the bus downtown all the time as a kid, but she didn’t have any memory of the nuisances she endured that day! She tried not to focus on the negative aspects of it so she could keep up a pleasant demeanor as she applied for work.

Stacy felt grateful when they finally arrived at her stop, but as soon as she stepped out, she got met by the sweeping humidity that plagued her earlier. As she walked, she really regretted her choice in shoes. It took extra effort to harness her attention to the scene in front of her, but she felt determined to make a good impression that day!

She had always loved the original architecture that the nineteenth century buildings had, and the streets were always teeming with people exploring mom-and-pop shops and unique restaurants. She didn’t know where in this town the prestigious office buildings of Makawee were located, but if she wanted to find a well paying job in the field she had the most experience in, the odds were in her favor of finding it here. She took a deep breath and hoped for the best as she began her search.

After walking for a while, she finally came across a law office. Feeling optimistic, she steeled herself before she entered. The secretary, who had previously been filing her nails, looked startled when Stacy entered. She greeted her, “Can I help you?”

“I just wanted to drop off my resume!” When she handed it to her, she made a point to smile big.

“Oh. We’re not hiring right now.” The secretary went back to filing her nails.

“Oh. Okay.” Trying not to look disappointed, Stacy walked out.

Later, she found an insurance agency, and a man in a suit told her, “Alright, we’ll keep your resume on file and contact you if anything opens up.”

Quite a bit later, she finally found a small accounting agency, but as the secretary took her resume, she saw the secretary look at her disdainfully. When Stacy glanced down at herself, she realized how sweaty she had gotten and tried not to cringe. The secretary told her, “We’ll call you,” but Stacy didn’t feel confident that she had meant that.

After she had combed pretty much all of downtwon Makawee, her feet were killing her. She stopped to rest at a park bench, and while her body felt relieved, her mind certainly was not. She gazed at the pile of resumes she still had with a surge of disappointment. There weren’t a lot of offices out here, and that’s where she had the most experience. She didn’t want to accept that she would have to find work at the bottom in another industry. Entry level jobs didn’t bother her, but she hoped for something that paid higher so she could break free from Hadeon. She sighed sadly.

At that moment, from a small stage on the other side of the park, a jazzy band began to play a song. Stacy turned to see a small crowd had come to enjoy the music. They were gathered there prior to their performance, so she reasoned that the park must have amateur musicians play there pretty regularly. She found herself swaying her body a bit and tapping her foot, and she surprised herself when she discovered that she was actually enjoying herself! The more she thought about it though, the less shocking it became because music had always had a strong hold over her. It was a nice way to end a hard day, and Stacy supposed that if her next downtown job hunt gave her the same sort of results, she would at least have something to look forward to.

That night, Stacy read through the classifieds, and she saw a posting that interested her, but when she checked the bus route map, she saw that, unfortunately, she didn’t have a way to get there. She saw that a bank was accepting resumes and decided she may as well apply there. The next day, it took her about an hour and a half to get there, but she had hoped to get interviewed right away. Instead, they simply took her application and told her they would call her to schedule an interview. Stacy couldn’t believe she had put in so much work for such a short transaction! She wished that this bank had accepted mailed in resumes, which seemed practical for both the bank and the applicants in her mind. Still, since there was nothing she could do about their hiring process, she turned around and headed home.

On Wednesday, she took the bus downtown again, but she felt more confident this time since she wore much more sensible shoes and clothes. She went through the shops and offered to drop off her resume, but the ones who were hiring didn’t want a resume, just an application form. She found it strange but still willingly filled them out. After filling out enough applications, her hand started to cramp from writing so much. Despite her discomfort, she still felt fairly accomplished after applying to almost half of the places that existed downtown! The other half were at the mall, and that was another day’s work in itself. She had some time before her bus was set to arrive, so she finished the day by sitting at that park bench to listen to the live music playing. They played some country songs, a staple of Nashville and its surrounding areas that gave the locals a feeling of home. She took a moment to savor it before she headed to her actual home.

On Thursday, she took the bus to a popular strip mall on the other side of town. When she cut out the restaurants that were there, she only had a few stores to apply to. The manager of a drug store came out to meet her, but his introduction was very brief and returned to his office pretty quickly. As she left and started to head home, it started pouring down rain, so she ran for the cover of the bus stop awning. She felt relieved until a car zoomed by and splashed her! The rain stopped as soon as the bus came, and she became very annoyed with the timing of it all!

On Friday, she entered the mall along with a bustling crowd of shoppers. She had purposely avoided this place because she worked at this mall before in a department store called Emporia during high school and had a horrendous experience. She visited every store but that one and applied to each store that accepted applications. None of the managers met with her, and she filled out so many applications that she pretty much memorized all of the information from her resume, which made her fill out these forms very quickly. Before she knew it, she had come full circle, and the only store left was Emporia. She still had plenty of time before her bus would leave, so with no excuses left, she felt she had no choice but to apply there again.

She filled out an application at the women’s clothing counter, and when she handed her clipboard to the cashier, she instructed, “Wait right here.” Stacy had been through this so many times that she had no expectations that anything of significance would occur when the cashier returned, but to her surprise, the girl invited her, “Come on back!”

Stacy could hardly believe that she had actually landed an interview! She straightened out her outfit and did her best to concentrate on her relevant skills for this job. She had forgotten how small the manager’s office was, and for a moment, she thought the cashier had walked her to a closet. The manager’s desk took up most of the space, and the desk itself had piles of unfiled papers on it. She didn’t recognize the person who sat there, so she assumed the sweet, bubbly woman that made it tolerable to work there before got promoted out. This skinny, weedy man seemed like he didn’t see sunshine much, and his big, thick glasses concentrated hard on the computer screen in front of him. He had a bald spot, but he didn’t seem very old. He finally looked away from the screen and gave her a smile stiff enough to suggest that he didn’t do it regularly. “Miss All-ee-sown?”

“It’s Alyson,” she corrected him. He looked a little affronted, and she inwardly winced. Less than thirty seconds in and she had already screwed up! She didn’t have a good feeling about the rest of the interview!

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 3

Stacy woke up in a haze, and for a moment, she forgot where she had left Nashville. It all came back to her like a tidal wave of dread, and she felt surprised she had fallen asleep at all! For a moment, she sat on the couch and stared blankly ahead. Normally, she had an agenda set for each day, but everything she had planned vanished when she did. Actually, her entire life had become a blank slate! She had no idea what to do with herself, so she turned on the television. The cartoon that came on didn’t interest her, so she began flipping through the rest of the channels. When she cycled back to the cartoon, she turned off the television and sighed. After a moment, she realized she was still wearing the cocktail dress from last night, and since that disgusted her with the fresh memories it brought, she got up to get dressed.

When she wandered into the kitchen, she saw that her mother had left her a plate of cinnamon rolls for her on the table. It felt awkward to eat alone in silence, so she turned on the radio. She half expected to hear a melancholy tune to match her mood, but instead, she heard a song with a catchy beat. That almost made her more depressed since the story line of the song conveyed a happy tone, which felt hard to relate to at the moment. As she ate, the music did manage to seep through her guard and elevated her attitude a bit.

After she finished breakfast, she became aware of the fact that, once again, she ran out of tasks to fill her time. She saw the Sunday paper by her father’s seat and decided to read it. For a minute, it somewhat interested her, but after a while, she realized she could care less about the going-ons of the people making headlines that day. She flipped through each section until she came across the classifieds. She knew eventually she would need to find work again, so she figured she may as well start searching now.

Frank and Barbara entered the house, and they saw Stacy sitting at the kitchen table. Barbara greeted her, “Oh, hello Stacy! I hope you didn’t mind that we went to church without you. We just thought you’d rather sleep in…”

“It’s okay,” Stacy assured her. “I wouldn’t wanna face the congregation praying for me, I don’t need the attention right now.”

“Oh, today would have been perfect for you to go then!” Frank half joked. “Today is Easter, so their attention laid elsewhere.” He sat down at the table with her while Barbara made coffee. He noticed what she had in front of her, and remarked, “Don’t tell me you’re looking for a job already!”

“What else am I supposed to do every day?” Stacy responded.

Barbara put a cup of coffee in front of Stacy and Frank before sitting down with a cup of her own. She asked Stacy, “Well, what did you do with your free time before?”

Stacy hollowly laughed, “Free time? We didn’t have free time! Our whole life was devoted to growing the business! We developed our team, acquired new clients, trained new people…coordinating it all took up my time! Our only fun was the mandatory happy hours we went to twice a week.” Frank and Barbara didn’t know what to say after that, so they drank their coffee while Stacy searched through the postings. When she came to the end of the job section, she frowned. “That’s it?”

“Makawee is a lot smaller than Nashville,” Barbara pointed out. “But it’s supposed to be growing!”

Stacy groaned, and Frank told her, “You’ll find something you like, I’m sure!”

“Yeah, right…” Stacy tried to hide her disappointment, but she knew that her parents could probably see right through her. She tried to think of a different subject but couldn’t. Luckily for her, the phone rang, so she volunteered, “I’ll get it!” She ran to the living room and picked up the receiver. “Hello, Alyson residence!”

“Stacy! We missed you at the picnic!” To her horror, the person on the other side was Hadeon! She immediately hung up and went back to the kitchen. The phone rang again, but this time, Stacy let it go to the answering machine. Hadeon’s voice rang out, “Stacy, you made your point, now it’s time to come home…Stacy, you can’t avoid me forever! We’re still married, you know!” Stacy inwardly acknowledged that he had a point about one thing, went back to the phone, and picked up the receiver. “There you are! Now, we’re way behind on planning for the week and-.”

“I want a divorce,” she stated firmly.

Hadeon paused for a moment before he responded, “Okay, you’re still mad. I’ll give you a few more days to cool down, but I expect you home by Wednesday!”

“I’m not going back!” Stacy said to him emphatically. “You don’t get it! I’ve been unhappy for a while now, but I put up with it to make you happy. Last night, you did something that I won’t put up with! You crossed the line, and now there’s no going back! I want a divorce!”

“Really?” Hadeon scoffed. “You’re going to give up everything to be all alone?”

“I’d rather be alone than miserable!” Stacy argued. “First thing tomorrow, I’m going to the courthouse and filing for the divorce myself!”

Hadeon laughed sardonically. “No, you’re not.”

“To hell I’m not!” Stacy fumed. “You don’t get to tell me what to do anymore! If I wanna do it, I’ll-!”

Hadeon smugly informed her, “You’ll march down to the courthouse and come home empty handed ’cause divorces aren’t free! Even self filing costs money! Your parents would probably loan you the money for that, except you can’t self file ’cause I’ll fight it in court. That’d cost you at least two grand! That’s minimum. How are you gonna pay for that when you’re broke?”

Stacy’s heart dropped at this revelation. She really thought that she could wipe her hands and be done with him, and now it seemed really impossible! She had no idea that what she wanted would end up costing so much money! She felt a huge weight on her shoulder, and it started to overwhelm her. However, when she noted how arrogant his voice sounded, she grew nettled. He was still trying to control her, and this was his attempt at getting his way and having her still married to him! She refused to buckle, and she expressed this to him, “I’m going to get a job and pay for it myself!”

“Oh really?” He clearly sounded like he didn’t believe her. “You think you can afford to save up while you pay for rent and bills?”

“My parents won’t charge me rent!” she spat.

Hadeon snickered, “You’re thirty two years old and you’re going to live with your parents? Yeah, that’ll show me!”

Stacy reminded him, “Yes, it’ll show you that I’m serious about getting those divorce papers signed!”

“Alright, you go ahead and try that! You’ll see how tedious and low paying jobs outside of BMC are and you’ll come running back to me! Take as long as you want, and when you’re ready to give up, come find me. I’ll be waiting!” He cackled, and Stacy hung up.

Frank and Barbara had expected her to come back to the kitchen and emote, but instead, she circled around as if she were on a hunt. “Where’s your computer?”

“We moved it to the gym, I mean, your old room,” Barbara let her know. When she she marched towards the computer, Barbara and Frank followed her. Barbara asked her, “What are you doing?”

“I’m typing up my resume,” Stacy answered while she got the computer started. “I highly doubt Hadeon would send me my resume even if I wanted to ask that slime ball for a favor! And I wouldn’t wanna wait for it to come in the mail anyways. This way, I can start job hunting right away. It shouldn’t take me long to find something, and then Hadeon will be out of my life forever!”

“You don’t have to do this, Stacy,” Frank remarked. “Your mother and I can take out a second mortgage if we need to.”

“No!” Stacy became aware of how harsh her tone had been, and she felt guilty. “I’m sorry. If I don’t find a job in like a month, then maybe we can look into it. I really wanna do this on my own though. If I have someone else taking care of me, he could use that against me. I just wanna prove that I can make it on my own!”

“Alright, sweetie!” Frank pat her shoulders reassuringly, and her parents left the room to let her work. As Stacy typed out her information, she realized that she had typed out “Stacy Bancroft.” She went back and changed it to “Stacy Alyson.”

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 2

Stacy stormed into their luxury apartment and made a beeline for their bedroom. She grabbed two suitcases and threw them on their queen sized bed. She knew that he would stay at that party for another hour or two, he had always made sure he left last, but she still felt pressured to hurry. If he happened to come home while she was doing it, he would try to talk her out of it. She had already made up her mind, so he would not have been able to sway her, but she didn’t want the delay. Plus, she wouldn’t put it past him to get violent again. It all felt so crazy, she never thought he had been capable of that! She hadn’t been happy for a while, but she had always thought that eventually they would work past their issues. Everything was different now! She needed to escape right away!

As she stuffed her suitcase, she remembered his claim that everything in their home belonged to him, but she didn’t care, she needed clothes! Besides, she thought, what would he do with them? She felt no attachment to anything else in their house. All of it was beautiful, but it had all been picked to convey that image he so desperately clung to, which suddenly seemed so unimportant to her. She took a hair dryer and a couple of things from the bathroom and stuffed them into her already full luggage. She closed it up and marveled at just how much she didn’t need!

Stacy put on a jacket and was about to call a cab when she passed by the master bathroom and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She expected to see blotches from crying, but she didn’t think that she would find a red mark where he slapped her. This sickened her to think she would get this reminder each time she saw her reflection, but she didn’t have time to mull it over much. She didn’t have time to cover it with make up either. She grabbed a silk scarf so she could rush out the door.

She arrived at the bus stop with the scarf wrapped around her head and tied under her chin. She also wore sunglasses even though the sun had already set. She realized how peculiar she looked, but she didn’t want to be recognized by anyone who might know Hadeon. It sounded very paranoid, but Stacy didn’t want anyone to stop her. As she payed the taxi driver, she discovered that she didn’t have much money left. The cab sped away, and as she studied the bus schedule, it dawned on her that in her haste to get away, she hadn’t actually made a plan on where to go! She didn’t have a lot of resources to work with, so for a moment, she wasn’t sure where to go. Suddenly, she saw a time table for Makawee, Tennessee, and it became so obvious on what she needed to do. She told the ticket agent, “One way to Makawee!” It took the rest of her money, even her change, but she didn’t care. She felt more confident now that she had some direction!

She felt grateful that she didn’t have a long wait, but it didn’t feel so short at that moment. Every sign of movement and every slight noise made her sure that he had found her. As she waited by the lane where the bus would pull in, she avidly watched for him, ready to run inside if he pulled up. There weren’t many people taking a charter bus on a Saturday night, but she could only imagine the embarrassment of the scene he would cause if he found her there. The bus pulled in, but she still looked behind her in case he tried to stop her at the last moment. To her immense relief, she was able to board the bus without a fuss! As everyone else got on, she still watched for him, and she felt grateful that her worries did not manifest themselves. It didn’t feel real to her until the bus driver turned his engine on and they started to pull out of the driveway. She continued to look out of the window, half expecting to see him tailing her, but once they got far enough, she didn’t think it was too likely anymore, and a huge weight lifted from her shoulders. She was finally free!

Later on in the evening, a handsome couple in their early sixties cuddled together on a comfortable couch while wrapped in a crocheted blanket as they watched a comedic show. All of a sudden, their phone rang, which roused both of their curiosity. The lady turned on a lamp next to her and requested, “Frank, can you mute the tv?” Frank did so as she walked to the other side of the room where the table with the phone on it stood. She picked up the receiver and hesitantly said, “Hello?”

An automated voice answered her, “Hello! You’ve received a Collect Call from…”

Stacy’s voice filled in, “Can you pick me up from the bus station?”

The automated voice finished with, “Do you accept the charges?” Frank and his wife turned to each other with very grave expressions.

Frank spotted Stacy with two suitcases standing alone under a lamppost while it rained on her. He and his wife ran out to her, and his wife exclaimed, “Stacy! Oh my god, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Mom,” Stacy tried to convey bravery since she knew they were probably already worried sick.

“Let’s get you out of the rain!” Her mother put her her arm around her shoulder and tried to lead her to the car.

“Wait a minute, Barbara!” Frank put an arm out to stop her. He studied Stacy’s scarf closely, and she cringed as he gingerly took it off. When her parents saw the red mark on her face, Barbara gasped and Frank growled, “That son of a bitch! I’ll kill him!”

Frank marched towards the driver’s side of the car, but Barbara grabbed both of his arms to stop him. “Frank! Don’t! Frank, you are a police officer!” Frank relented and braced himself against the car. Barbara pat his back gently and suggested, “Let’s take Stacy home!” Frank nodded and got into the car in a huff. He opened the trunk for Stacy, who quickly tossed her luggage in and got inside the vehicle.

For a while, they drove in silence. Stacy felt more awkward than she ever had in her life. Frank still seemed irate about the fact that Hadeon had hurt her, and Barbara looked as though she had billions of questions that she was repressing until Stacy gave her permission to release them. Barbara couldn’t hold back anymore, and she broke the tension by inquiring, “Are you hungry?”

“No,” Stacy replied truthfully. With everything that had happened that night, she couldn’t fathom desiring food.

Frank then probed, “Did you press charges?”

“No.” Stacy knew eventually she would have to explain herself, but she had trouble digesting it herself, so she felt that divulging a little at a time would make it easier for everyone. “I was too busy trying to get away to even think about calling the police.”

She expected him to get angry that she hadn’t reported Hadeon, but instead, he surmised, “Eh, that son of a bitch probably would’ve bailed himself out and wouldn’t have learned a damn thing anyways!” He paused a moment and added, “Has he done this before?”

“No, he’s never done this before!” Memories flooded through Stacy’s memories. She almost explained how wonderful he was in the beginning of their relationship, but that thought made her heart ache and she started crying. Barbara and Frank took that as a cue to end the questions, and they seemed close to crying themselves as they drove in silence again.

When they got into the living room, Frank set her bags down and Barbara informed her, “We turned your old room into a gym, so you’ll have to sleep on the couch tonight.”

“Okay.” Stacy shrugged. “I probably won’t be able be able to sleep much tonight anyways.”

“Oh, my poor baby!” Barbara tightly squeezed Stacy, and while Stacy appreciated her sentiment, she also felt a little foolish for garnering so much pity, so she stood limply as her mother hugged her. “Welcome home!”

Her mother let go, and Stacy stared at the living room incredulously. She had grown up here, so everything was very familiar, but she had been away long enough that it put her in an almost dream like trance to stand there at that moment. Her mother called it home, which twisted her stomach a bit. Just a few hours ago, home had meant their apartment in Nashville, and while she had no desire to return there, everything still felt too fresh for her to call this place home again. She had put all of her focus into escaping, and now that she got somewhere safe, butterflies ravaged her stomach as she started to think about where the next step would take her.

Almost as though he had read her thoughts, Frank reassured her, “You did the right thing, Kiddo! Just take it one day at a time!”
“You’re right,” Stacy agreed. She didn’t feel too confident yet, but focusing on getting through the night seemed more doable than trying to think of a new path for her whole life!

As Stacy turned to retire to the couch, Barbara asked her, “Did you try calling us again?”

“No.” Stacy turned back around and saw that the answering machine was blinking. Her nerves were rattled at this sight. No one called her parents in the middle of the night, so only one person would call at this time…

Barbara hesitantly pushed play, and Stacy’s fears were confirmed! Hadeon’s voice rang out, “Stacy? Are you there? Staaaaacy! Come on, answer the phone! Don’t be childish, we need to talk like grown ups…” As Hadeon went on, Stacy hypnotically walked over to the answering machine, and for a moment, she considered his claim. However, she soon grew incensed at his nerve. He wasn’t trying to win her back, he insulted her and demanded that return! After all he put her through, he expected her to crawl back to him and apologize to him!

She picked up the answering machine and smacked it against the table several times as if it had betrayed her by playing his evil voice. “Hey, hey, hey!” Barbara put her hands on her to get her to calm down.

Stacy realized how irrational she had been and stopped, but her emotions were still overwhelming her, so she began sobbing again. Frank comforted her, “It’s okay!” He and Barbara each embraced her.

After a while, Barbara asked her, “Are you going to be okay sleeping by yourself?”

“I’ll be fine,” Stacy replied somewhat hollowly. Frank and Barbara each said goodnight to her, and she was vaguely aware of saying goodnight back. She turned off the light, wrapped herself in the quilt, and laid down on the couch with her eyes wide open. The only light in the room came from the faint glow of the moon against the trees outside, which cast shadows throughout the space. Everything felt so strange, and she knew as hard as this day had been, this was only the beginning!