Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 19

Stacy stared blankly out her bedroom window at the blue skies and sunshine, and it almost seemed to mock her. She hadn’t gotten out of her pajamas, she just didn’t have the strength, and life seemed to carry on without her. The weather didn’t seem to care about her somber mood, and she thought that, if it did, gray thunder clouds would wreak havoc on Makawee. She would have at least found a little satisfaction knowing she wasn’t the only one stuck at home. Unfortunately for her, she knew that lots of people were outside enjoying the warmth of the season, and it just tortured her to think she had no reason to go out and participate in anything like that. She knew she had a lot of work to do to find a job and pay for her divorce, but she couldn’t muster the willpower to do that lately, and she wondered if she ever word.

Barbara walked in unannounced and sat at the foot of the bed. Stacy knew she intended to make another attempt to draw out what she was feeling, and she didn’t want to indulge her. She knew she messed up and didn’t want to hear what she should or should not have done. She also didn’t want to receive any coddling or sappy attempts to buoy her spirits. She knew that at some point she would have to get up and try to fix her life again, but she felt almost ill right now and wanted to wait until she healed a little more. She didn’t say anything to her mother, and for a few moments, Barbara didn’t say anything either. To Stacy’s surprise, Barbara broke the silence by saying, “Look at that cloud! It looks like a cat stretching after it took a nap!”

Stacy curiously peered out the window and studied the cloud in question. She could sort of see what her mom meant, but she found it difficult to get the same joy from it as her mother did. “yeah, sure, I guess.”

“You know, your father and I went cloud watching in the beginning of our relationship,” Barbara brought up. Stacy didn’t respond, but she still carried on, “June fifth, Nineteen-fifty-nine, your father walked me home after church. We passed through the park, and I pretended that I needed to catch my breath under a shade tree, but really, I just wanted more time alone with him. Our conversation wasn’t too deep, we just had so much fun being with each other! We ended up laying down on the grass and just laughed about the shapes we thought the clouds were. It was a wonderful day that I’ll never forget, and to this day, when I feel stressed, I look at the clouds and it makes me feel better.”

“That’s not gonna make me feel better,” Stacy stated baldly. “And I’ve heard this story a million times! Sorry, Mom, I’m just not in the mood to hear how happy you and Dad were on dates.”

“Actually, it wasn’t an official date,” Barbara informed her. “I didn’t tell you the end of that story where our conversation came to a swift halt when Frank’s girlfriend came barging in!”

Stacy bolted up so fast that she almost fell out of bed. “What? Dad had a girlfriend when you met?”

Barbara smiled spritefully as she revealed, “We don’t like to talk about it ’cause it isn’t really proper, but yes, he was engaged actually when I met him.” Stacy’s mouth hung open, and Barbara clarified, “We didn’t sleep together, for goodness sake! We didn’t kiss or even hold hands until he broke up with Ingrid. Ingrid was another teacher at the school I worked at. She brought him in for career day, and as soon as I saw him, I fell in love! I know, love at first sight is so cliché, but something about his aura and the look in his eyes told me he was special! After that, I made a point of hanging out with Ingrid and her social circle just to get close to him. Eventually, Ingrid found out how close we had gotten, called him a cheater, threw her ring at him, and walked right out of his life.”

“You told me you met him at a malt shop!” Stacy found it astonishing that her parents had not me in the wholesome way that they had said before, and it felt eerie to think how much her story mirrored the way she met Nick!

Barbara explained, “I know, it’s the eighties and no one cares about that sort of scandal anymore, but back in the day, we decided to keep the way we met a secret. Sometimes good stories don’t start so cleanly in the beginning. They’re messy and complicated, but then everything works out in the end.”

“Not everything!” Stacy murmured sadly.

“If something hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end,” Barbara sagely doled out. “This man of yours was pretty special too, wasn’t he?”

“How did you know?” Stacy replied incredulously.

Barbara told her, “Sweetie, music may have changed since I was your age, but love hasn’t! You mentioned a married friend, and just based on your behavior, we knew what happened. I don’t think you would befriend a man you weren’t in love with after what you went through. The fact that you trust him means a lot! You got over Hadeon pretty quickly, and I heard that the best way to get over a man is to get under a new one!”

“Mom!” Stacy felt stunned to hear her mother talk about this topic so casually. “I’ve never heard you talk about sex without showing me charts and graphs!” Barbara shrugged. “And we didn’t sleep together! We didn’t hold hands or kiss either! We weren’t like a couple or anything. So, why do I feel like a terrible person?”

“You’re not a terrible person!” Barbara assured her. “I mean, if you constantly went after someone else’s man, then we would be having a different conversation. I never thought I would’ve gone after someone else’s man either. That wasn’t even part of my plan originally. I wanted to get to him more to get this crush out of my system, but the more I learned about him, the stronger I felt. It made me feel a little guilty, but it’s not like either of us could help it! You don’t get to choose who you fall in love with!”

Stacy got some comfort from knowing that she wasn’t alone in this sort of predicament, but it didn’t take away the glumness that still lurked at the pit of her stomach. “So, now what?”

Barbara advised, “You’re not gonna get any answer pining away in your bedroom. You may not feel like it, but you gotta force yourself to get up and take one step at a time. Even baby steps will still move you forward! Now, come on! Get dressed! Today is Pop-Pop’s birthday and we’re visiting him at the home. And I won’t take no for answer!” Stacy knew she meant it, and even though it pained her to get out of bed, she got up and went to her closet.

In a small living room, an octogenarian man sat in a wheelchair while Frank and Barbara brought a cake up to him and joyfully called out, “Happy birthday, Dad!”

Stacy, who sat morosely on a chair next to the sofa, faked enthusiasm as she chimed in, “Happy birthday, Pop-Pop!”

“Thank you, guys!” Pop-Pop reacted pleasantly. Frank sat on the couch while Barbara went to the small kitchen behind them to cut the cake, and Pop-Pop conversed, “So, how are you all doing?”

Frank replied, “Good! Can’t complain!”

“Yes, I can imagine how carefree a cop’s life can be!” :Pop-Pop joked, and Frank laughed. He observed Stacy and asked her, “What about you, Dear? You’re not usually so quiet. Something wrong?”

Stacy didn’t want to explain her sordid love life, so she came up with something that she hoped would suffice, “”I’m having trouble finding work.”

Pop-Pop related to her, “I understand how that feels! When the Great Depression hit, the factory I worked for over a decade shut down, and I had a hard time finding work. Luckily, we kept food on the table when your grandmother got a job at a school.”

“Yes, I remember hearing about that,” Stacy responded. “She became a teacher because no matter how bad the economy got, they always needed teachers.”

“Actually, that was just a perk of going into that field,” Pop-Pop corrected her. Barbara and Frank began eating cake, but Pop-Pop and Stacy ignored theirs as they talked. “Your mother watched me struggle and vowed she would never go through it, so she became a teacher because of that benefit.”

Barbara added, “I started because of that benefit, but I stayed because I found that I love working with kids!”

“Of course, my dear!” Pop-Pop acknowledged.

Stacy inquired, “Why did Gam-Gam become a teacher?”

“She didn’t become a teacher,” Pop-Pop replied. “She taught music. She loved music, believed that it illustrated the heart and soul of humanity, and she thought it was important to spread people’s gifts far and wide.”

“Really?” Stacy had the same instincts as her grandmother, but she didn’t realize it until now!

“Take a look at that photo album.” Pop-Pop pointed to a bookshelf next to Stacy, and she grabbed it from the bottom. She flipped it open, and one of the first pages, she saw a young woman who looked a lot like her holding an expression of pure glee as she conducted a school band. Pop-Pop noted, “You remind me of her so much!” Stacy had previously thought her love of music was wrong because of its association with her fallout with Nick, but now she realized that it ran deeper than that, it was in her blood! Suddenly, everything became so much clearer to her. She did have a purpose, and just because one way she pursued it didn’t work didn’t mean she should stop trying! Her spirits lifted a little, and she knew that she couldn’t give up on something so important!

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 10

Just when Nick was about to sing, the phone rang. Stacy felt deflated when he answered it. “Hello? Oh, hi honey.” Stacy’s heart sunk when she heard that Janet had called. She had made a real connection with him, and and he had been on the brink of showing her something deeply personal before she butt in. She had no idea what kind of song writer he was, but she had a feeling it would be really amazing. Nick actually sounded pretty disappointed too, “Yeah, I can pick some up on the way home. I’ll wrap up soon… ‘Kay, bye!” He turned to Stacy with a glum face. “I gotta go.”

“It’s okay!” Stacy replied supportively. She secretly wished he blew Janet off and stayed with her, but she realistically couldn’t ask him to do something so drastic.”I understand.”

“I’ll see it for you next time,” Nick promised. “Can you meet me at the same time on Monday?”

“Yeah, absolutely!” Stacy agreed immediately. She felt a lot better since she not would get to see him again but he sounded a lot more enthusiastic about the project now. She liked to think he harbored some excitement at the idea of spending time with her as a person, but she knew that was wishful thinking.

“Great!” He beamed at her, and she tried to keep her composure while she inwardly was melting. As they got up, he told her, “Hey, thanks for making me do this!”

“Happy to help!” she obliged. She nearly fainted when he reached out to give her a hug! She very willingly hugged him back, relishing in the heat generated from his body and the hold of his strong arms. A part of her wanted to stay like that longer, but her practical side pulled herself away at the right moment.

She followed him out, and when they gout outside, he had expected her to go right to where the parking lot stood, but she began to move forward to go across the lawn. He looked at her curiously, so she explained, “I don’t have a car right now, so I gotta take the bus.” They both saw the bus zoom past them, and Stacy frowned at how long it’d take to get home.

“Do you want a ride?” Nick offered.

“Sure!” Stacy accepted. She couldn’t believe her luck! Besides the fact she got to skip a tedious bus ride, but she would get another ten minutes or so with him!

The only vehicle left in the lot was an old truck with faded light blue paint, so Stacy didn’t have to ask which one belonged to him. Nick apologized, “Sorry it’s not pretty!”

“I like it!” Stacy complimented. Nick stared at her skeptically, so she iterated, “No, really! It looks cozy! It reminds me of high school.”

As he opened the passenger door for her, he commented, “Yeah, that’s when my dad got it. He took real good care of it. Came in handy, my old car was a piece of junk!”

As they both buckled up, Stacy inquired, “Did you buy it from him?”

Nick replied, “No, he’s legally blind now. So, where to?”

“oh, I live off of Davis and Portland,” she informed him, and then she conversed, “So, what high school did you go to?”

“Harrison,” he answered while concentrating on driving. “You?”

“Makawee High. I wish I went to Harrison!”

“Why? It wasn’t that special.”

“I heard they had this cool band in the late sixties!”

“Oh!” Nick chuckled. “Were you into that kind of music back then? That’s kind of surprising!”

“Why do you say that?” she questioned.

He remarked, “You just seem like you were one of the popular girls- smart, by the book, prim and proper… I figured maybe you were into The Four Seasons or Neil Diamond. You probably sang it out loud before your student council meetings!” Stacy laughed. “Am I right? You were class president, huh?”

“Treasurer,” she answered. Nick also laughed, but she corrected him, “Don’t get too cocky! You were right on the fact I was the classic overachiever. But, secretly, I was always attracted to the rebels! I loved the Beatles, Three Dog Night…The Rolling Stones…”

“Really?” Nick reacted amusedly. “You were a secret bad girl?”

“I was!” Stacy remembered fondly. “I did all the straight laced stuff to get into college, but honestly, all I wanted to do was be a groupie! There’s just something magical about truly talented musicians, and I wanted to get lost in their world! I went to college in Nashville hoping to make that happen, but I got too wrapped up in my studies to ever get serious about that idea. I saw most of my friends forgetting their careers and just marrying men with money, and I didn’t want that to happen to me. I wanted to make my own money ’cause if I became too dependent on a man and something happened to him, I’d get screwed…” She trailed off realizing she had landed herself in the very situation she worked so hard to avoid.

Nick could sense what ran through her head at that moment, so he said, “You know, I can understand how that music fits your personality now. You’re a real gutsy person!”

“I am?” Stacy had expected him to say something sympathetic, but she didn’t expect to hear anything with a tone of admiration!

“Yeah,” Nick stated firmly. “Most girls wouldn’t have had the courage to walk away like that, but you were willing to start over with nothing! That’s brave!”

“Thanks!” Stacy felt herself blushing furiously. She always felt foolish for landing herself in this situation, so she hadn’t really thought about it like that before. They arrived at the small intersection by her house, so she directed, “Oh, turn left here and then make the first right. I live there on McIntosh.”

“You got it!” Nick turned on his turn signal as he waited for the red light. “Seems like a nice neighborhood.”

“Eh, it’s nothing but houses. It’s pretty boring!” Disappointment rang through her as they turned and she got closer to home. She loved talking to Nick, and it seemed too soon for their conversation to end. Nick looked as though he shared her sentiment as she told him, “My house is that one with the police car on the right.”

After Nick pulled over to the space in front of her house, he dismally commented, “Back to reality, huh?”

“Yeah..” Stacy had to remind herself that it wasn’t a date, and she concluded she had better get out quickly before she tempted herself too much. As she hopped out, she said graciously, “Thanks for the ride!”

“No problem! See you Monday!” Nick smiled warmly though the rest of his body didn’t convey happy feelings. Stacy flashed him a grin and quickly peeled herself from the truck. It wasn’t easy to walk away since he hadn’t drove off yet. She figured he was the type to watch and make sure a woman got to her house safely, a thoughtful value that made her ache for him more. When she got to her front porch, she turned around and waved goodbye to him. He waved back and pulled away as soon as she entered the front door. She watched him drive off through her peephole and when he was out of sight, she sighed.

She realized how obvious she was making herself, and she turned around to offer an explanation, but to her relief, no one had been in the room when she did that. She went into the kitchen to see what her parents had left for dinner, and her mom came out from the hallway with a basket of laundry. Barbara greeted her, “Oh, hi Sweetie! You’re home early!”

“I got a ride home,” Stacy joined her mother in the living room as Barbara sat down on the couch to fold the laundry.

Barbara probed, “From you friend? You didn’t hitch, did you?”

“Of course I didn’t hitch!” Stacy sat down on the chair next to the phone. “Where’s Dad?”

Barbara replied, “He went to go get pizza for dinner. Did you and your friend eat anything while you were out?”

“No, I think his wife was making them dinner.” The thought of that made her sad, so she looked around for something to distract herself. She glanced over to the table next to her and saw some letters addressed to her. “Oh, I have mail!” She opened the first one and thought out loud, “Let’s see, the travel agency said…no. Aw, that could’ve been fun!”

“Maybe.” Barbara shrugged. “People can get so picky with their travel arrangements. You would have to put up with a lot of guff just to get a few discounted vacations.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Stacy opened up the second letter. “Oh, not a job offer or denial. Someone’s trying to sell me car insurance!”

Barbara laughed, “They need to fire whoever is in charge of getting their leads!”

Stacy chuckled, but she saw a letter that sobered her up instantly. “Ugh, Emporia! I really didn’t need a rejection letter after that horrible interview! ‘Course it wasn’t as awful as Stereo Hut!”

“Why? What happened at Stereo Hut?” Barbara inquired. Stacy’s face turned pale when she saw what Emporia had sent her. “What’s wrong, Stacy?”

She couldn’t believe what she just read! It made no sense to her, and it almost sickened her to say it to her mom, “I got the job!”

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 6

Stacy saw her bus in the distance, so she ran to the stop as fast as she could. She ran out of breath pretty quickly, but she thought she could still make it. When she got pretty close, the bus took off without her! Stacy stood on the lawn feeling completely defeated. It took a lot of effort to get to that point, and either the driver didn’t see her or didn’t care. As she caught her breath, the euphoria from that performance had gone away, and she mentally returned herself back to her insipid reality. Part of her wanted to return to the music scene, but she didn’t want to get tempted into missing her bus again, so she parked herself at the stop and prepared for a long wait.

After several minutes, from the park behind her, she heard a couple of people arguing. A woman shouted, “…completely irresponsible!”

With time on her hands and an intrigued curiosity, Stacy turned around to see one of the people arguing was the singer she had just seen! She got excited for a moment, but she saw that he was fighting with a good-looking woman about her age, whom she could only assume was his wife or girlfriend, so she felt a little disappointed. However, her interest in the scene unfolding overpowered any other thought, so thoughts of listening intently took over her attention. The singer reasoned with the woman, “I just covered a song, I didn’t try to pass it off as my own. What’s the big deal?”

“Besides the fact that you weren’t even supposed to be in that recording studio to hear that song,” she yelled, “You covered a song that hasn’t been released yet! You could get in real trouble for that!”

He countered with, “If anything, they’d thank me for getting people interested in the song well before the fall! Now, be honest, Janet, this isn’t about the song, is it?”

Stacy wanted to dislike Janet, and while she had an angry expression, she didn’t look like a mean person. She had a thin, mouse-like visage, so she assumed that this argument would actually be an unusual occurrence for her. She thought they seemed like an odd match, but she remembered that sometimes opposites attract. Janet crossly told him, “Not only did you sneak off while we were visiting my grandparents, but you’re obsessed with a song about infidelity! Who wouldn’t be angry?”

“That’s why I asked the band to let me do that song,” he explained. “I thought it would get it out of my system.”

“Did it?” she probed.

“Well…” He put his hands in his pocket bashfully, and Stacy remembered that he put her note in there. She guessed that Janet hadn’t watched the performance or she would have brought it up. She hoped that she wouldn’t find it because she didn’t want the guilt of starting another argument between them.

“Seriously?” she exclaimed. “You can’t keep taking time off of work for this! We have bills to pay! And you said you were saving for a ring!”

“Excuse me for having a little fun!” he shouted vehemently. “I spent the last six years working hard at a job that takes all my free time, and just once it was nice to take a break and do something for myself!” His words really touched deep with Stacy; she recently said something very similar to Hadeon, so she knew exactly how he felt!

Janet sympathized with him, and she softly commented, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-!”

“Just forget it!” He turned to walk away from her, but he stopped in his tracks when he saw Stacy. He looked pleasantly shocked, and Stacy very much wanted to maintain their gaze, but Janet took note of his shifted focus, so she quickly turned around. The bus arrived at that moment, and Stacy gratefully welcomed the distraction. She sat down and looked back to Janet and the singer. Janet seemed to be apologizing, and while he listened intently, she couldn’t tell if he forgave her or not. A selfish part of her hoped that they planned to break up, but as the two of them grew distant from her view, she reminded herself that her thought wasn’t logical. She hadn’t even been separated from her husband for a week yet and she was actually fantasizing about someone! She tried to focus on what the next step for her job hunt would be, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t help but think of him!

When Stacy got home, she saw her mother in the kitchen reading a magazine while her father cooked in the kitchen. They both looked up as she entered, and Barbara greeted her, “Hello, Sweetie! Oh, it looks like today went well!”

“What? Why do you say that?” Stacy tried to stay casual, but secretly, she worried that she gave off an aura of her romantic imagination. “Did someone call?”

Barbara seemed a little thrown off by her response. “Oh, you just looked less stressed today…”

Frank joked, “Maybe she met a guy!”

Barbara laughed, but Stacy didn’t want them to go down that rabbit hole, so she revealed, “I had an interview today! But, well, it was just Emporia.”

“That’s still progress!” Frank chimed. “Maybe you have a couple more lined up. You got some mail today.”

When Stacy sat down at the table, Barbara handed her three letters. “Wow, that was fast!” They were all fairly thin, so Stacy didn’t have high hopes, but she opened them up anyways. “I’m sorry to inform you that…” She crumpled it up and moved on to the next one.

Frank echoed, “I’m sorry to inform you that…?”

Barbara lightheartedly pointed out, “What do you think it said? I’m sorry to inform you that you’ll now be working here?”

“That’s probably how Emporia words its job offers!” Stacy kidded. “This one is also a no and this last one…” She opened up the last letter. “…Also a no.”

“That’s okay!” Frank assured her. “You’re narrowing it down to the right opportunity!”

“Yeah, I guess,” Stacy glumly remarked. Her optimism from seeing that singer began to vanish. She didn’t have a lot of options in Makawee, and the few opportunities it did have didn’t seem to want her. She didn’t have the heart to tell them how awful her interview at Emporia had gone. As her father served them both dinner, Stacy tried not to think about it too much, dwelling on the subject wouldn’t help, so she changed the topic, “Mmm, pot roast! I haven’t had this in ages!”

As Frank sat down with his plate, Barbara asked Stacy, “What did you guys normally have for dinner?”

“Anything we could microwave,” Stacy answered. “Half the time we ate our desk. Even if the office had a stove, I don’t think either of us would feel like cooking. Actually, I’m not even sure if he knew how! We almost never ate dinner at home, except maybe heated up leftovers from restaurants.” Now that she was on the outside looking in, she realized just how much that business had taken over her life. “I wonder what the others thought when they saw us eating most of our meals there!” Speaking of her former coworkers led her to another thought. “Gosh, I wonder what he told them about why I left!” She could only imagine the lies he told, he probably vilified her pretty badly! That idea made her sad, all of the friends she made there would probably want nothing to do with her now. She sighed.

“Are you missing Nashville already?” Frank inquired.

“It was nice when I felt like I belonged somewhere,” Stacy replied. “I mean, I know I just got here. Maybe after time I’ll make some friends and a decent job and it’ll feel more like home again.”

“What job do you wanna do?” Barbara questioned.

“Like I have a choice!” Stacy said disdainfully. “I gotta do whatever job I can get out here!”

Barbara explained to her, “When you figure out what you wanna do with your life, it’ll make things a lot easier. It’s like when you go treasure hunting- if you dig up the whole island, eventually you’ll find the treasure, but it’s a lot easier if you have a map telling you exactly where to dig. If you know where you want to end up, you’ll be able to create a clear path to get there. Right now, you’re sorta wandering around aimlessly hoping to come across it accidentally. Does that make sense?”

“You’re teaching Treasure Island right now, aren’t you?” Frank grinned, and Barbara nodded.

“I don’t know what I want to do,” Stacy stated. “Nothing in Makawee really stands out to me.”

“Don’t turn down an opportunity just because it’s far away,” Frank advised. “If the Makawee police department didn’t hire me, do you think I would’ve given up? If you figure out what you wanna do and it isn’t in Makawee, we’ll…we’ll figure out a way to make it work.”

Stacy mulled it over a bit and realized he did have a point. “I guess it couldn’t hurt to look at other places…”

The next day, Stacy went up to the librarian behind the counter and requested, “Can I have the phone book for Nashville?” The librarian handed it to her, and she took it to a desk nearby. She sat down and pulled a pen and notepad from her purse. She mentally felt ready to begin, but she stared at it and saw just how big the size of it was! Thousands of businesses were listed there, and she didn’t know just how to narrow it down. She decided that until she figured it out, she would have to read the whole thing from top to bottom. She opened it up to the a’s and began reading.

After studying for a few minutes, something out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. She looked up, and her jaw nearly dropped…

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!