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 18

As soon as Nick met up with Stacy outside of the factory, she excitedly announced, “I found a gig for you!”

“Really?” Nick seemed stunned to hear this.

“Yes!” Stacy confirmed. “My mom is putting on an end of the year show at her school, and they’re looking for an entertainer to finish off the last ten minutes or so. Are you interested?”

When they got to the office that they usually practiced in, Nick sat down to mull it over. “Hmm… I don’t know if any of my songs are really child friendly…”

“Didn’t you use to perform at a school?” Stacy reminded him.

“For my high school, yeah,” Nick remembered. “It’s been so long since I performed any of those songs!”

“But you still could, you know you could!” Stacy urged him.

“It would mean taking a day off work…” Nick contemplated. “I can always call in sick if I need to. It would be fun to perform before a live audience again, something to add to my musical resume… Okay, I’ll do it!”

“Great!” Stacy beamed. “I promised my mom I’d let her know as soon as I found out. Can I use this phone?”

“Sure.” Nick stepped aside so she could make the call.

She feverishly dialed to their home phone and waited for her mother to answer. “Oh, hi Mom! Yes, he’ll do it. Okay, I’ll let you talk to him.”

Nick went over to the phone and picked up the receiver. “Hi, Missus Alyson. Okay, I can be there then. The school is paying me for this gig? Wow! No, it’s totally enough! It’s my first paid music job, so I’m excited! Okay, sounds good. Do you wanna talk to her again? Alright, thank you so much! Thanks!”

Nick hung up and sat there in a sort of daze. Stacy told him, “Congratulations! You’re officially a paid musician!”

“This is amazing! I couldn’t have done it without you!” Nick thanked her.

“It’s only the beginning!” Stacy claimed. “The gigs will get bigger and bigger!”

Nick was at a loss for words. “I… you… it’s…” He showed his appreciation by giving her a hug, and she savored the moment as she hugged him back.

Suddenly, a chill went down their spines as they heard glass fall to the floor! They turned their heads to the door only to see Janet standing there with a stunned look on her face! She had apparently brought some dinner and had dropped it on the floor out of shock. Nick immediately stepped towards her and said firmly, “Babe, it’s not what you think!”

“You lied to me!” Janet shrieked. “Again! This whole time I thought you were working, but you were spending time with her!”

“I was spending time with my music!” Nick argued. “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think you would approve.”

Janet didn’t seem to buy his story. “Oh, you’re working on your music? Is she a musician too?”

“She’s helping me get gigs,” Nick informed her. “I have my first paid gig coming up on…” Janet scoffed, which incensed him. “See, this is why I didn’t tell you! You never understood why this is so important to me!”

“I never said you couldn’t have a hobby! I just said it shouldn’t get in the way of making actual money!” Janet corrected him.

Nick challenged, “So, you wouldn’t love me if I was a broke musician?”

Janet replied, “I want a future! I wanna buy a house and pay for a wedding! We’re in our thirties for god’s sake! We’re too old to go chasing far off dreams! You don’t wanna grow up, do you? If you did, you wouldn’t keep lying to me!”

“You keep talking about what you want, what about me?” Nick yelled. “You don’t care about me, do you? You want a husband, you don’t want me!”

Before Janet could respond, the security guard walked in! He saw the food on the floor and the three of them standing there and sadly shook his head. He picked up his walkie-talkie and spoke into it, “Sir, we have a problem here!”

“What? No! Please!” Nick beseeched.

The security guard coldly replied, “You know the rules. I’m gonna have to ask you all to leave. Please don’t come back!”

The security guard walked them out of the building and slammed the door behind him. Nick turned to Janet and assured her, “I’ll get another job right away…!” Janet ignored him and stormed off to her car. Nick stood in silence, perfectly still as he tried to absorb all that just happened. Stacy completely emphasized with him. In a matter of minutes, he lost his job and his girlfriend, and, just like that, the life he knew for several years had slipped through his fingers. She went through that herself not that long ago! She put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, and to her astonishment, he immediately chucked it off! “Don’t give me your pity! This is all your fault!”

His harshness really stung Stacy. “My fault? How is it my fault?”

“I told you I didn’t wanna get back into the music business again!” Nick bellowed. “You sold me on pursuing it, and look what happened!”

“If I didn’t encourage your music, it still would have come out just like it did when you snuck away from her grandparents to see that recording studio in Canada!” Stacy defended herself. “Besides, it was your idea to keep practicing in the factory! And to keep it secret from Janet! I never told you to do that!”

Nick fumed, “I had a decent life until you came along! I’m homeless and jobless ’cause of you! Why couldn’t you have left me alone? Why didn’t you just let my music go?”

“It made you happy!” Stacy spat. “I’m the only one who seemed to care about your happiness!”

“Oh yeah, I’m real happy now!” Nick scornfully shouted. “My family always said dreams don’t pay the bills. They were right all along!”

Stacy disliked his attitude towards her right now, but she realized that he had the right to get upset. She didn’t remember much from after she walked out on Hadeon, but she could imagine she probably wasn’t too friendly. She tried to encourage him, “If you want a regular nine to five job, you have plenty of experience from working at Gilmar’s, so it shouldn’t take you long to get hired somewhere else! And Janet’s mad, but she hasn’t broke up with you yet. There’s still time to make things okay again!”

“I’m not taking your advice anymore!” Nick barked. “I listened to you before, got my hopes up, and look where it got me!”

“I’m sorry!” Stacy wailed. “Really, I just wanted to help! I’m still here for anything you need! How can I help you make this right?”

Nick didn’t say anything for a moment. He looked as though he were stiffling back his tears. Stacy really hoped his emotions would simmer down so they could maintain their friendship, but instead he sighed, “Just leave me alone!” He marched over to his truck without looking back at her.

“Nick, wait! Please!” Stacy implored him, but it was to no avail. He closed the doors, and she watched helplessly as he pulled out of the parking lot and sped away.

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she stood alone on the lawn. She found such comfort in spending time with Nick, and encouraging his music made her feel like she had a purpose here, but now it looked as though she lost that. As she walked to the bus stop, she realized that she now had no job and no other projects to work on. The only activity she had to do out here was looking for jobs, but now she had no idea what kind of work to search for. Nick had made her feel like she belonged in the music world, but this fallout made her reconsider. This felt like a sign of how things would go if she dared to try. She didn’t want to mess up anyone else’s life! As the bus arrived, she speculated that if she wasn’t meant for that world, then she had no idea where she belonged! She didn’t notice how the bus driver reacted to her crying, and she didn’t care. She sat down and gazed forlornly at the town as the bus rolled by. She didn’t last in Nashville, and she couldn’t make it in Makawee, so she wondered where to go from here…

When she got home, she saw that her parents had gone out. She figured they must have went to get food, which she had no interest in right now. She felt grateful that she didn’t have to explain herself at the moment. She picked up the mail from the ground and tossed it on the table next to the phone. She noticed that they had a new message, and she pushed play on the answering machine. Hadeon’s voice rang out, “Stacy, it’s your husband! I-!” She deleted it before he could finish talking. She didn’t know what he could possibly want from her right now, but she didn’t care. Dealing with him was the last thing she needed right now! She went into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of wine. It calmed her nerves a bit, but she still felt empty inside. She kept sipping on it as she considered what she was going to do now…

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 15

Stacy went up to the door and rang the bell. She felt a little nervous to meet his father, especially since Nick described him as grouchy. She also felt pretty sore from working the last two days, and she took note that under normal circumstances, two days of work would have been an easy week! The time at Emporia seemed to last longer, and she was grateful she had a couple of days to recover from it. Except, she had volunteered herself to do more hard work somewhere else! It certainly would have been easier to go to the library and jot down the name of every record company in Nashville, but she motivated herself to push through the pain because she was dying to see what Nick said about her in his new song!

Nick answered the door and gave her a dashing smile. Stacy tried not to swoon after seeing him in his jeans and a tight tee shirt! He looked good in his work uniform too, but this definitely suited him more. Evidently, he had been checking out her outfit too because he questioned, “Are you okay with getting these clothes dirty?”

“Oh, my ex gave me these,” Stacy told him. “I’m not sure why I brought them to Makawee at all! I’d love an excuse to throw them away and replace them!”

Nick chuckled and invited her inside. Stacy saw an older man whom she could only assume was Nick’s father watching television. She remembered that Nick had mentioned that he was legally blind, so she figured he listened to the television like a radio show instead of actually watching it, but his head still craned in that direction as if he were watching like normal. Nick introduced her, “Dad, this is Stacy.”

“How are you, sir?” She took his hand so he could shake it.

“Sir?” he echoed. “It’s been a long time since anyone called me sir!”

“I could call you Mister Rolland if you prefer,” Stacy offered.

Mister Rolland laughed heartily. “I like this one! What happened to Janet? Did she run off with some millionaire?”

Nick had a pronounced frown at that comment. “She’s at home. She’s fine.”

Even though Stacy secretly enjoyed the fact that his dad didn’t seem to like Janet, but she didn’t like the tension between Nick and his dad, so she cleared her throat and asked, “So, what are we working on today?”

“We’re going to work in the backyard first. Come on.” Nick motioned for her to follow him outside.

Stacy addressed Mister Rolland, “It was nice to meet you, sir!” before she followed him out.

The backyard mostly had overgrown grass in it, but she also saw dandelions sprinkled around the area as well as an old riding lawn mower parked under a shade tree. Nick explained, “Before we mow the lawn, we gotta fix the mower.”

“Okay,” Stacy complied. “What’s wrong with it?”

Nick replied, “It just needs a tune up.” He went to a cabinet by the door and pulled out a toolbox. He then went to the riding lawn mower and popped open the hood. He handed her a flashlight and requested, “Can you shine this where I work?”

“Sounds easy enough,” Stacy responded.

Nick grinned. “Don’t think your whole day will be a cake walk like this!” Stacy laughed, and then Nick began to work. As he began repairing the mower, he brought up, “You know, this reminds me of the song I wrote.”

Stacy felt thrilled that he decided to divulge this information, but she was confused as to what any of this had to do with a song about a girl. “Why is that?”

“It’s called Motor Run,” Nick reported. “Do you wanna hear it?”

“Of course!” Stacy eagerly anticipated this, though she didn’t totally understand how ‘Motor Run’ could describe anything romantic.

When Nick started singing, it all became very clear! The song described a car that thought it worked fine until a woman came along and juiced it up so it ran like a racing machine. She could easily see the symbolism of a man who thought he had a good life until someone came along to add excitement and ignited his passions. She had expected to hear something with that kind of a theme, but she got a jolt of surprise at the sexual innuendos interlaced throughout the lyrics! Combining that with his sheer talent for music created quite the spell on her!

When he finished, he turned to her and inquired, “So, what do you think?”

Stacy couldn’t speak because of how much the song had seduced her! Just looking into his eyes, she got the sense she hadn’t imagined an attraction between them after all! The temptation to wrap her arms around him overwhelmed her, and she was nearly shaking just trying to hold herself back. Just inches from him, she momentarily forgot why she hesitated at all, but suddenly, Janet’s face flashed in front of her and she couldn’t do it. She pulled herself away and sighed happily, “Wow!”

“You liked it?” Nick sought confirmation from her.

Stacy couldn’t possibly say how she actually felt about his song! She felt ninety percent sure he wanted her romantically as well as physically, but until he said it out loud, she didn’t want to voice her own feelings and embarrass herself. Plus, he still had a commitment to Janet, and she couldn’t live with herself if she became the other woman. She began to doubt her theory a little more since he always went home to her. If he had deep feelings for her, Stacy thought, she wondered why he didn’t break up with Janet. In her opinion, she was a much better match for him than her, but it didn’t seem like he had any intent on leaving Janet. That sobered her up enough to give him a more elaborate account on his song, “You have another hit on your hands! It’s catchy, another chart topper for sure! Though, I don’t think you could pair it with Charlie’s song!”

Nick joked, “So, it’s good I didn’t sing it the other day in front of his memorial?”

“Uh, yes!” Stacy agreed. “I love it though! When you play in front of an audience, people will really eat it up!”

“Where do you think I should play this time?” Nick pondered.

“I’ll have to think.” Stacy didn’t want to admit that his song made it hard for her to think in a wonderful way!

Nick closed the hood on the riding lawn mower. “Do you wanna take the reins?”

“I’ve never used one of these! Maybe you can teach me when there isn’t a bunch more chores to do. I can get started on something else while you mow the lawn,” Stacy suggested.

“Okay, could you get started in the bathroom then?” Nick requested.

“Sure! I bet I’ll get it done before you finish the lawn!” Stacy dared him.

“Challenge accepted!” Nick competitively hopped onto the riding lawn mower while she ran in the house.

Stacy found the bathroom, which already appeared fairly clean to her. She stared at it for a while as if it would somehow tell her how to begin, but she didn’t have any clue what to do until she noticed a puff of cat fur. She asked Mister Rolland, “Excuse me, where do you keep your broom?”

“It’s in the kitchen closet,” he answered. “Wait, are you gonna sweep the bathroom?”

“Well, yeah…” She had found the broom and felt pretty confident about her plan until he said that.

“You gotta clean the tub, toilet, and sink before you sweep and mop,” Mister Rolland advised her, “Unless you wanna end up doing it twice!”

“Oh, sorry!” Stacy apologized. “For the last five years, my ex-husband had a maid come in once a month to do all this. I didn’t realize just how long it’s been since I cleaned anything for myself! I guess I kind of forgot how!”

“Let me help.” He got off the couch, and she scampered over to the bathroom. He directed, “Reach into the cabinet under the sink and look for the powdered cleanser.” Mister Rolland continued to give her instructions throughout the process. Stacy didn’t mind because she needed the help. Mister Rolland seemed to enjoy himself too. While she was scrubbing the toilet, Nick came inside and peered at them curiously. Mister Rolland addressed him, “We got this under control. Why don’t you get lunch ready?”

“Sure!” Nick seemed a little surprised at his father’s demeanor but he didn’t question it.

Stacy commented, “Thanks for this cleaning tutorial!”

Mister Rolland responded, “No, thank you for the help! Besides, it’s nice to feel useful.”

“I know how that feels!” Stacy related. She understood why he may have been grumpy previously. It’s not easy to ask for help after living independently for so long! She struggled with that herself, actually. She didn’t want to get too personal with someone she hardly knew though, so she changed the subject, “So, did you grow up in Makawee?”

As Mister Rolland talked about where he grew up, she kept cleaning as she listened. She could tell his mood had totally gotten elevated by this, and when she glanced over to Nick, she saw him smiling appreciatively. She knew at that point that while she didn’t get a chance to look for a new job or earn money to pay for her divorce, she had found something meaningful that made her feel really good about herself, a feeling she hadn’t had in a very long time!

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 14

No way!” Stacy exclaimed as they made their way towards Charlie’s memorial. They were heading towards the bench she sat on to listen to the live music that comforted her when she needed it, and it seemed like an incredible coincidence to find Charlie’s memorial plaque on it! She ran up to it, and saw that the golden letters read: “In memory of Private First Class Charles D. Morgan.” Stacy told Nick, “I’ve sat here so often, and I had no idea that…”

Stacy had trailed off, but Nick seemed to understand where she was going with that thought. This bench made it possible for Stacy to have heard Nick perform that day, and so, in a way, Charlie had brought the two of them together! Of course, Stacy had no idea where their relationship was heading, but she thought that this memorial bore a good sign of things yet to come. Nick smiled bashfully, and then he suggested, “We should get started.”

Nick took his guitar out of the case, and Stacy used it to prop up the sign she made. Nick stood on the bench as if it were a stage, and people began to take notice. As Nick began to play, people stopped in their tracks. The longer it went, the bigger that this crowd grew. Stacy felt pleased that they all seemed to enjoy as deeply as she did. A couple of people were even brought to tears! When he finished, his audience clapped and even whistled. Many people put money into his guitar case, and a few even came to voice their appreciation for his music. Nick looked elated, and Stacy beamed with pride.

When Nick hopped off the bench, the two of them celebrated their victory. Nick cried out, “That was incredible!”

“You did great!” Stacy complimented. “I think they would’ve stuck around for another song if you had one!”

“Actually, I have been working on another song,” Nick revealed.

“Really?” Stacy reacted incredulously.

“Yeah,” Nick confirmed. “It’s been over a decade since I’ve felt compelled to write one, so when the old instincts kicked in, I had to do it!”

“What’s the song about?” Stacy inquired with immense curiosity.

Nick hesitated, and his face twisted as if he were debating how to phrase his answer. He came up with, “It’s totally different than Charlie’s song. This one is more fun. It talks about how a guy feels about this woman he met.”

Stacy tried not to blush upon hearing that. She supposed he could have wrote something about Janet, but she hadn’t inspired him to write anything in seven years. Stacy came along and encouraged him to purse his passion, so it seemed logical that she stirred up his creative side and became the focus of her song! He didn’t say it had any kind of romantic tone to it, but based on how he said it, she inferred that it had an amorous theme to it. If he wrote something negative about anyone, she felt certain he would have told her that more plainly. She knew though she could only speculate so far and would have to hear the song to know for sure. “When can I hear it?”

“How about Friday?” Nick inquired.

“Ugh, no,” Stacy replied dismally. “I have to work the next two days. Are you free at all this weekend?”

Nick regretfully informed her, “I gotta do all of the odds and ends around the house that his nurse won’t do doing the week, like taking care of the yard or doing repairs around the house, stuff that usually takes all day. I guess we’ll have to wait ’til Monday.”

Stacy piped up, “Do you want some help this weekend?”

Nick looked stunned that she would even consider that notion. “It’s a lot of hard work, and Dad is usually pretty grumpy. Janet won’t even come over to help anymore.”

“I gotta deal with grumpy customers at Emporia all day,” Stacy assured him. “I can handle one more. Maybe if you had some help, you can actually finish quicker and have some free time this weekend!”

“Wow, that would be great!” Nick looked touched at her offer. “Yeah, that’d be great! Thanks!”

“No problem! I’m happy to help!” She grinned at him, and he very gratefully gave her a hug. Stacy relished this moment as she had the last time he embraced her, but neither of them lingered for very long. When they broke apart, they headed back towards his truck. “It might not be such a chore. Sometimes these things are fun if you work with someone who makes it more entertaining.”

“That’s true!” Nick acknowledged. He and Stacy happily chatted as they got into his truck. At some point, Stacy noted that she had planned to search for jobs that had more of a future than Emporia that weekend, and now she may not have time. She remembered the last time she had doubts about her time with Nick and quickly vanquished that thought. Besides, she absolutely had to hear his new song!

The next day, right after Stacy clocked in, she ran into Gloria in the break room. Stacy greeted her, “Heading home?”

As she clocked out, Gloria responded, “Yeah, I gotta babysit my granddaughter. So, in other words, I’m leaving work to do more work.”

Stacy commented, “Wow, you’re a grandmother? No way!”

“I get that a lot!” Gloria chuckled. “I had my kids young and so did my daughter.”

At that moment, Ava popped her head in and growled, “What are you doing? If you clocked in, you can’t hang out in the break room!”

“She was going over the proper clock in procedure,” Stacy fibbed. “Apparently, I did it wrong the other day, and I thought it was important information to learn.”

Ava glared at her as if she knew Stacy had made that story up, but she couldn’t prove it, so she dashed out of the room without saying another word. Stacy and Gloria walked out too, and Gloria asked her, “You’re closing tonight?” Stacy nodded. “Good luck!” Gloria parted ways with her at that point, which left Stacy with so many questions. From her tone, she knew it couldn’t be an indication of anything good, so she sighed and headed towards the sales floor.

Later, at the end of the evening, Stacy folded a stack of tee shirts in a zombie-like trance. Ava came by and sharply probed, “Weren’t you working on that display two hours ago?”

“Nope,” Stacy replied sarcastically. “We were so busy today that I’ve only had time to work on this table once!” Ava eyed her suspiciously, but before she could say anything else, Stacy’s watch beeped. “Ah, saved by the bell. See you tomorrow!”

Stacy began to head to the break room, but Ava stopped her. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“Uh, home…” Stacy didn’t understand Ava’s motive for asking her that, but she knew it couldn’t have been good.

Ava corrected her, “When you close, you don’t get to leave until you’re dismissed. Every department has to be clean before you can clock out.”

Stacy felt shocked at this new policy. They certainly didn’t implement this rule when she worked here before, but maybe it had something to do with her being a minor at the time. Her parents certainly wouldn’t have let her work too late when she was in high school! She became indignant that a workplace could keep their employees past their scheduled time, but she couldn’t argue because she needed this job to pay for her divorce. She did think of one issue though, which she voiced to Ava, “It won’t take too long, will it? I only ask because I take the bus, and the last bus of the day leaves at nine-thirty…”

“It’ll take as long as it’s gonna take!” Ava spat. “If you wanna catch your bus, you better clean up fast! Go to the shoe department, they need help.”

Stacy anguished from losing the feeling of getting to go home, and the pain got worse when she stepped off the escalator and saw the state of the shoe department- it was in total disarray! Shoes and boxes littered the floor, and many items looked like they were mismatched or missing. Stacy groaned. She had done a lot of standing around since there weren’t many customers that day, so her legs were very sore. Plus, once again, she didn’t have time to finish her lunch. Her stomach panged for food, and while she began putting shoes in boxes, she inwardly griped about how small of a lunch break she got. Suddenly, that gave her an idea…

Shortly before nine-thirty, Stacy made sure to pass Ava on her way out. Ava raged, “Hey, you can’t leave! I haven’t dismissed anyone yet!”

Stacy pointed out, “I didn’t have a lunch, so I have to leave before I hit the six and a half hour mark or else you guys will get penalized, right?”

Ava grew positively livid, but instead of yelling, she talked in a very menancing tone, “Okay, you can go, but next time you close, you better take a lunch!” Stacy swiftly turned away from her without promising her anything. She thought of the sheer audacity of her getting angry over Stacy breaking a rule she knew nothing about, but she didn’t stay on that thought too long because she was fighting the clock to catch her bus. All she could think about was getting out of there as fast as she could!

She raced outside, but before she could get close to the bus stop, she saw it take off without her! She felt very defeated, and she sadly dragged herself over to a pay phone so she could call her parents. She put in a dime, but when she tried to dial, nothing happened. She had the machine return her coin and tried again. When the same thing happened, she couldn’t understand why it was acting like that and after such a long day, the last thing she needed was a broken pay phone and no money to catch a cab. She took a deep breath to calm down, which made her finally notice the sticker that indicated that it costed a quarter to make a call now, and she cried out in frustration.

After she found a quarter and made the call, she got a hold of her mother. “Hey, Mom! They made me work late, so I missed my bus. Can you pick me up?…Thanks! See you soon!” Stacy sat down on a nearby bench to wait for her parents and tried to decompress. She heard some music blasting from a nearby restaurant, and its catchy tune made her cheer up a little. She then thought that maybe Nick was right, maybe it she should go for a career in music!

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 13

Oh hi, Janet!” Stacy chirped. Outwardly, she did everything she could to convey friendliness, but inwardly, she was writhing. Despite Nick’s claim of her nice personality, she couldn’t help but dislike her. She felt as though she controlled him and kept him from pursuing his dream of music, something he had a deep passion for. Plus, she obviously had romantic feelings for Nick and envied the fact that Janet had him. Suddenly, it occurred to her what section they were in, and she worried about why Janet would need to shop for baby…”What are you doing here?”

Janet explained, “Oh, we’re having a baby shower at work, so I’m using my lunch break to shop for it.”

“Oh, won’t you be hungry?” Stacy hardly noticed what she had said to Janet; in her head, she had taken a huge sigh of relief.

Janet shrugged. “I’ll just eat my desk. Oh, just so you know, I think you did a great job on those dresses! Usually, the racks are a total mess and you can’t find anything. I don’t know why she’s complaining.”

“Maybe because she would have to start putting things back in the right spot instead of wherever she feels like,” Stacy half-joked.

Janet laughed, “Probably! People hate it when the new guy comes in and makes them look bad.” She paused and told her seriously, “Don’t let people like that push you around too much. If you’re following the rules and still get yelled at, there’s something wrong with them, not you. Don’t let them take advantage of you.”

“That’s, uh… thanks! That’s good advice.” Stacy secretly hated to admit that. She didn’t want to see evidence of Janet being a good person, but she had been very thoughtful and kind to her. She actually seemed like the kind of person she could become friends with, but she didn’t want to do that, not while she was Nick.

Janet picked up a blue onesie from the pile Stacy had worked on. “This’ll work. Would a rattle be in the toy section or the baby stuff?”

“No idea!” Stacy replied. “Apparently, they don’t tell you anything around here.”

“Not until you’ve already messed up! Well, I’m sure I’ll find it before my lunch break is over. Good luck!” Janet waved as she headed towards the infant section.

“Thanks!” Stacy watched her disappear among the racks. Janet did seem very empathetic, and she seemed to have a flair for making people feel good about themselves, so she felt puzzled as to why she would hold Nick back from his musical ambitions…

Her thought train got interrupted by a tall and very slender young man with an Emporia badge. “Hey! I’m Claude. I’m supposed to train you.” He saw her progress on refolding the onesie table and got confused. “Are you new?”

“Oh, I worked here back in sixty-nine,” Stacy clarified.

Claude remarked, “Oh, wow! I was two years old in sixty-nine!”

“Wonderful!” Stacy suddenly felt old, and it just really cemented how much time had passed between now and then. And yet, she still ended up in the same spot!

“Well, I’m gonna start folding at the other end,” he informed her. “Just find me when you’re ready to go on your fifteen.”

“Fifteen?” Stacy questioned. “I thought we got thirty minutes for lunch.”

“Nope,” Claude listlessly replied. “You have to work six and a half hours to get a lunch break.” He shuffled over to the other end of the children’s section, and Stacy groaned at the long day she faced.

Barbara and Frank watched television on the couch when Stacy burst into the house. She immediately removed her dress flats and moaned from relief. “I don’t know how I did it in high school! I wore the same kind of shoe back then, and I don’t remember it hurting so much back then!”

“Maybe next time you can wear sneakers,” Barbara suggested.

As Stacy went into the kitchen, she grumped, “We’re not allowed to wear sneakers! We have to dress business casual to maintain the store image. Like, who cares if we’re on our feet walking around the store all day!” She held her bowl of stew and circled around the kitchen before she remembered that her parents didn’t have it. “My first check, I’m buying you a microwave!”

Frank replied, “Don’t waste your money! A microwave only saves you a few minutes!”

“A significant amount of minutes!” Stacy differed as she sat down at the table to eat. “Like reheating this would take a couple of minutes versus like ten on the stove! Did you know, in a microwave, it only takes a few minutes to make a baked potato?”

“Five minutes?” Barbara reacted incredulously. “Oh, Frank, five minutes! It takes me an hour and a half sometimes!”

“That sounds so unnatural! It probably tastes way better cooked naturally in the oven!”

“Ovens are man-made,” Barbara playfully teased him. “How old fashioned do you wanna get? Do you wanna go back to cooking everything over a wood fire?”

“I would be totally comfortable with that!” Frank opinionated. “If it were up to me, we’d retire in a cabin on a distant mountain top! So quiet and peaceful!” Barbara shook her head as if he proposed a ridiculous idea. Frank chuckled and then changed the subject, “So, Stacy, once you’re done eating…” He glanced over and saw her slurping the last bit of what remained in her bowl. “Wow, that was fast!”

Stacy finished her meal and explained, “We only get fifteen minute breaks if we’re scheduled less than six and a half hours. I didn’t get to finish the lunch I brought!”

“Oh, hmm…” Frank didn’t seem to know how to react to that. “Well, I got off work early today and I wanna show you what I did.” He and Barbara led her to her old bedroom, and she saw that some of the gym equipment got pushed to one side of the room. She felt pleasantly surprised to see her old childhood bed stood in there once again! “We kept the parts in the attic, so I thought since you’ll probably be with use for a while, you should have a room to sleep in. On the weekend, I’ll move the rest of the equipment out.”

Stacy had gotten so used to sleeping on the couch that she hadn’t thought about sleeping in an actual bedroom in a long while. She felt touched by her father’s thoughtfulness, but it also made her feel a little dispirited by it. Couch surfing made her feel like she would only stay at her parents’ house temporarily, but, to her dismay, she now felt like a permanent resident. She despised working for Emporia for a pittance, and seeing this sign of it being long term thoroughly depressed her. Living with her parents, working at her old job, and sleeping in her old bed made her feel like a child. She knew that leaving Hadeon would mean she would be starting over, but she had no idea she would have to go back that far! She wondered if it would take another fifteen years to get another shot of independence!

Barbara almost seemed as though she could read Stacy’s mind because she tried to cheer her up by saying, “Don’t put too many decorations up! Soon, you’ll get a fancy new job, and when you leave, we’re turning it into a guest bedroom.”

Frank kidded, “At least this time you don’t have to hide your rock and roll records! We’ll even let you bring booze in here now!”

Stacy laughed, “Thanks! And thanks for the room it’s very nice.” Frank and Barbara gave her a smile and left the room. Stacy sat on her bed and just contemplated it all.

The next day, when Nick came out of work, he walked out and saw Stacy holding up a poster board. “You trying to start a protest against this place? I won’t stop you!”

“You wish!” Stacy retorted. Nick agreed, and they both giggled. Stacy turned the sign around, and it read, “Pay Attention by Nick Rolland, a tribute to a fallen war hero.” Stacy told him, “Just a visual way to get you noticed.”

“Is that glitter?” Nick asked, and Stacy nodded. As they walked to his truck, he remarked, “I didn’t think you’d have the time since you had to work yesterday.” They got into his truck and buckled up. “Janet told me she ran into you.”

Nick began driving, and Stacy had been so focused on all of the other drama from work that she forgot about that encounter. Now that he had brought it up, she grew curious about what Janet may have said about her. “Yeah, she was real nice to me, I was surprised!”

“Why?” Nick inquired. “Do you think I would date someone who wasn’t nice?”

Stacy’s heart lurched when she got reminded of the fact that Nick had a girlfriend that wasn’t her, but she didn’t let it show. She had to think of a valid reason of why she found Janet’s friendliness surprising. “Customers weren’t very nice to me there. They kept asking where stuff was, and they got irritated when I said I didn’t know. Then, at one point, I guess the lines where long, so they expected me to come open up another register to save them time, but I’m not trained on the registers, so I couldn’t. They did not like to hear that! ‘Course, they weren’t nearly as mean as the people I work with, whew!”

Nick chuckled, but then he told her seriously, “Thanks for not ratting me out! I know you said I should tell her about my music, but I appreciate you not telling on me when you saw her!”

The thought of telling Janet about Nick’s secret practice never even occurred to Stacy until he mentioned it just now. She assured him, “I would never do that you!”

“Thank you! It means a lot!” Nick stopped the truck as they arrived downtown. He stared at her appreciatively, and when Stacy met his gaze, the world stood still for a moment. Stacy couldn’t help but admire just how beautiful his deep, blue eyes looked! She had a strong desire to kiss him, but she broke eye contact in order to make sure that didn’t happen. She actually had no idea if Nick had that intention, but she decided to act responsibly just in case she hadn’t imagined it. She thought it was wishful thinking on her part, but she actually thought he sounded a little disappointed when he spoke, “Charlie’s memorial is a little small…”

“Maybe we can change that!” Stacy exclaimed as they got out of the truck and headed to the spot where he’d sing.

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 12

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

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

“Thanks!” Nick grinned bashfully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There you go!” Nick agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No problem!” Nick replied.

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

Nick echoed, “See you Wednesday!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 11

You don’t have to accept the job,” Barbara pointed out. “Not if it’s giving you this much stress already.”

“Yes, I do,” Stacy contradicted her. “The longer it takes to get this divorce, the more I stay in his clutches! I don’t have a choice.”

Barbara tried to buoy her spirits, “Well, it doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever! You can apply for other jobs on your time off.”

Stacy glumly remarked, “I thought getting a job would mean I’m done with applications and interviews. I guess I gotta say goodbye to all my free time!”

Frank entered through the front door with a box of pizza and greeted them with, “Who’s hungry?” He saw Stacy’s morose face and inquired, “What’s wrong?”

Stacy couldn’t say it out loud, so Barbara told him, “She got a job offer from Emporia.”

Frank furrowed his brow. “I thought job offers were good things!”

“I guess I’m being a little ungrateful,” Stacy commented despondently. “I don’t know, maybe I was just hoping to find something long term so I can have more peace of mind. I mean, after I left Hadeon, I kept asking myself ‘Where is my life going from here?’ And now, I’m working at the same job I had in high school. He said I couldn’t make it on my own, and I still can’t afford my own place on this part time, minimum wage salary. I’m glad I can start putting money away for the divorce, but this job almost feels like a step backward! How am I supposed to move on if I can’t move forward?”

Frank and Barbara turned to each other to wordlessly ask each other how to respond, and Barbara came up with, “It won’t last forever if you don’t let it. Don’t give up!”

“You’re right,” Stacy acknowledged. “Hopefully I won’t have to work at Emporia for very long!”

“You won’t!” Frank assured her. “You have too much potential to waste it at a place like that!” Stacy hadn’t made any parallels between herself and Nick until right then. She enjoyed the similarity, but it also kind of made her sad since she knew she couldn’t have him. Eventually, she realized she must have made a face at that thought because her dad asked, “Something else wrong?”

Stacy fibbed, “I’m just hungry. Let’s eat!” Frank and Barbara seemed mollified by her response, and as they sat down to eat, Stacy tried to convince herself that all was not lost.

The next day, Stacy went into Emporia and knocked on the manager’s door. She waited for an answer, and when she got none, she knocked again. A woman, who looked at least a decade younger than her, approached Stacy and eyed her suspiciously. “Can I help you with something?”

Stacy felt taken aback by her harsh tone, and when she turned to answer her, she saw that she had a badge that read, “Ava- Supervisor.” She wanted to grimace at the rocky start to her time here, but she kept her composure and addressed her, “Oh, I’m Stacy. I just came in to do my new hire paperwork.”

“Did you make an appointment?” Ava probed.

Stacy replied, “Uh, no. The letter I got just said to come in as soon as possible, it didn’t specify a time or say anything about an appointment.”

“So, you just assumed that Pat would be available all day?” Ava criticized her. Stacy didn’t understand why Ava had taken such severe attitude towards her, and she was half tempted to forget it all and go home, but Ava rolled her eyes and relented, “I’ll see if he’s available.” She picked up a walkie-talkie and paged, “Pat, you have a new hire at your office. Are you available to do paperwork?” She waited for his response, and she relayed it to Stacy, “He’s on his way. Just wait right there.”

“Thanks!” Stacy said cordially. Ava gave her a reproachful glance as if Stacy were a misbehaving child prone to wandering off, and then she walked away in a huff. Stacy didn’t understand her mindset at all, but she decided to let it go.

A minute later, the man who interviewed her came over, and in a mock cheerful tone, he regarded her, “Welcome to the Emporia family! Come on in!” Stacy followed him inside his office, which looked just as chaotic as she remembered it. He began searching around his various stacks of files. “Let’s see… Where did I put it? Ah!” He handed her a packet of paperwork. “Did you bring two copies of your I.D.?”

“Yes.” Stacy took them out of her purse and handed it to him.

He took them and explained, “Go ahead and fill these out. I’m going to run upstairs to make a copy of these. I’ll be back shortly, but if you have any questions about the paperwork, feel free to ask Ava.” As Pat left, Stacy hoped that the paperwork didn’t stump her because she absolutely did not want to engage with Ava if she could help it!

Long after she finished filling everything out, she found herself waiting for him for quite a while. She felt tempted to leave her papers on his desk and head home, but Pat still had her driver’s license and social security card. Plus, she figured he would want to go over her schedule, so she continued to wait. She rested her head in her hand and tried not to fall asleep. Finally, Pat came in, and she quickly picked herself up and hoped that he didn’t notice. He handed her I.D.’s back and then directed, “Follow me.”

Stacy found it odd that he gave no explanation about his absence or where they were going, but she trailed behind him anyhow. They went up the escalator and past the lingerie department to what Stacy remembered was the employee break room. It had the exact same tables and chairs as it did when she worked here before. He walked her over to a projector and set up a video. “We have a few things for you to watch, and when we’re finished, I’ll go over your schedule.”

He pushed play and left the room. Stacy found it tedious to have basic rules over-explained like that, and the actors were incredibly cheesy! When the first video finished, she waited for Pat to return and pop the next one in, but she grew impatient after some time. She would never forget how to use a project thanks to Hadeon, so she went ahead and did it herself. She repeated the process two more times. After she put in the last video, she hadn’t realized she fell asleep until Pat came in and commented, “You changed the video?”

Stacy jerked up and hastily answered, “I used to do it at my old job.”

“Oh, okay. I see you’re on the last one. I’ll be back after you’re done.” He left again, and Stacy begrudgingly stayed awake for the rest of the video.

When the last one finally finished, Stacy turned off the projector and turned on the lights. Her stomach growled, and she was glad that this was almost over. She found a newspaper that had been left behind and thumbed through it as she waited for Pat again. She felt relieved when he showed up with a binder that had the word “Schedule” etched on it. He sat across from her and told her, “Can you come in Monday, Thursday, and Friday?”

“I can’t do Monday.” She felt a little guilty saying that. Truthfully, she could have rescheduled with Nick, but her gut told her she needed to get as much practice with him as possible. Pat didn’t look pleased, and a part of her thought she had just blown it with this job, but he crossed off her name from Monday and informed her, “That’s okay, you can just work Thursday and Friday. Thursday is three to nine and Friday is noon to six. That’s all I have for you today. We’re excited to have you on the team, and we hope you’re excited too! See you Thursday!”

“Okay, see you then!” She didn’t want to feign any excitement, but she maintained a level of aloofness until she left the break room. When she was sure he was out of sight, she dashed out of the store to find the nearest place that sold food.

On Monday, as she waited for Nick, she felt a little anxious. She had sacrificed a whole day of pay to come there, which meant it would take a day longer to get her divorce. This project had already costed her money, and a part of her felt saddened to think that maybe she had made a mistake. She decided that she would judge how much time she needed to spend with Nick based on the productivity that happened today.

When everyone had left, Nick emerged from the factory, and her heart fluttered as he flashed her a smile. He walked towards his truck and told her excitedly, “I have a surprise for you!”

“Oh really?” Thoroughly intrigued, she followed him to the back of his truck. When he pulled out an acoustic guitar, she gasped, “You brought it!”

“Yup!” He looked pleased at her reaction. “I figured if I’m gonna sing Charlie’s song I should do it right!” Stacy eagerly followed him to the office they used last time. Stacy sat on a folding chair as Nick sat on the desk and tuned his guitar. She knew that hearing this song would help her make up her mind on whether or not she had done the right thing. She really hoped for the best as he prepared to play.

As soon as he struck the first chord, she got chills! When he sang, he glowed, and his light shined straight inside her and struck her soul. She got just as mesmerized by this song as she did the first time she heard him sing. A beauty emanated from him, and she felt like the luckiest girl in the world just to be able to witness it! As she watched him play with sparkling eyes, any doubt she harbored before had been erased! He had a gift that simply must get shared with the whole world! As he looked into her eyes during a particularly emotional lyric, she suddenly realized this was more than just a shared dream, they had a real connection. All together, there was too much potential to give any of this up!

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 8

Nick Rolland?” Stacy repeated. “I have no idea!”

“Well, he left a message on the machine for you. I saved it. I need to go to the bathroom!” Frank zipped out of the room.

Stacy wasn’t sure if he could hear her or not, but she thought out loud anyways, “None of the managers I spoke to gave me their name…Nick Roland… Sounds like a famous actor or maybe a rock star…” Suddenly, it clicked, and she knew who had called her!

With great anticipation, she rushed to the answering machine and pushed play. A familiar voice rang out, “Hi! This is Nick Rolland calling for Stacy Alyson. You can call me back at five-five-five-three-one-seven-two. Thanks, bye!”

His message had been brief enough that she didn’t get a chance to write down his number the first time. She replayed it and wrote it down on the notepad by the phone. She could hear her father go into his room, and since she knew he routinely would change out of his police uniform, she guessed that his curiosity about the phone call had ebbed. She sat on the chair next to the table where the phone stood and feverishly dialed Nick’s number. Her heart beat wildly as the phone rang. For a moment, she thought he wouldn’t pick up. She nearly jumped when he finally answered, “Hello?”

Stacy couldn’t believe she actually had the chance to talk to him alone! She almost felt too nervous to speak, but she remembered his warmth and friendliness from their conversation in the library and realized she had nothing to worry about. “Hi! This is Stacy.”

“Oh hi, Stacy!” For a moment, he didn’t say anything. Stacy got the impression that he was searching for the right words to say. “I just wanted to say thank you for the note you gave me a few days ago. No one’s ever done that before!”

“Most people probably tell you in person,” Stacy guessed.

“Well, they used to,” Nick told her. “I used to get a lot of it in high school after my band played, but once we graduated, we all got jobs and none of us had time to play anymore. I play the guitar on my days off if Janet is busy, but I haven’t performed in front of an audience in years.”

“What about your family?” Stacy inquired. “They must give you loads of encouragement.”

“Not really,” Nick replied sadly. “They think I’m good but they kinda think I’m wasting my time. They never viewed my interest in music as practical. They said the odds of making a living in that field are slim to none. They were right. I mean, lots of people wanna become rock stars and never do, so it just becomes a hobby.”

“But you have the talent to make it!” Stacy exclaimed. “My ex-husband’s marketing firm represented a few record companies, so I’ve seen the talent they signed and I know a future star when I see one! And I can tell from the tone of your voice that you still dream about it! You should go for it!”

Nick despondently argued, “You make it sound so easy! It’s not like record companies put ads in the paper to recruit people. I can’t just walk into a studio and audition. It’s not one of those things you can just wake up one day and decide to do!”

Stacy countered with, “If it was impossible, we wouldn’t have any rock stars! All you need is the right exposure. You gotta build up your image…” Stacy cringed realizing she had learned all this from Hadeon and that it actually helped her, so if he became famous, he would claim credit for her success. She pressed on anyways, “Make people believe that you’re already famous, create some buzz. Then put yourself out there! There’s lots of ways- concerts, commercial jingles, corporate events… Eventually the gigs would get bigger and bigger and record companies will come to you! It’s not impossible, you just gotta put the work in!”

Nick fell silent for a moment as he absorbed what she expressed. “That makes sense, but I don’t really have the time between work and family.”

“You don’t have an hour here and there?” Stacy challenged. “Any time spent on your craft is still progress forward. You can write songs, look for gigs, hand out your card… It all adds up!”

“I suppose…” Nick considered this notion.

“I can help you,” Stacy offered. “You have too much potential to just give up on your dreams!”

Nick pondered, “Don’t you think it’s too late? I mean, I’m thirty-four years old and-.”

“You never know unless you try!” Stacy stated firmly. “A small chance is better than no chance! Do you wanna spend your whole life with regret, wondering what could have been?”

Stacy stayed quiet while he mulled it over. Finally, he gave in, “I guess it couldn’t hurt to try!”

“Great!” Stacy rejoiced. “When can you meet?”

“How about Thursday after work?” Nick suggested.

“That’s totally fine! When do you get off work?” Stacy asked.

“At five,” Nick answered. “Meet me at the entrance of Gilmar’s Brake Factory.”

“I’ll be there!” Stacy confirmed.

Nick told her, “I gotta go or Janet will start to worry. See you Thursday!”

“Bye, Nick!”

“Bye, Stacy!”

Stacy took a moment to relish in the joy of having a conversation with him before she really analyzed all that happened. He mentioned needing to leave so Janet wouldn’t worry, which, most likely, meant he had called from somewhere besides the place he shared with her. She vaguely wondered where he had called from and whose number she now possessed, but she figured she could ask him about it on Thursday. This led her to remember that she had the chance to spend time with him alone, and she inwardly celebrated. She felt so excited about it that it took a long time to realize that her father had been standing behind her in the kitchen! She quickly exclaimed, “He’s a friend!”

Frank didn’t look like he believed her, but he responded with, “Hey, as long as you’re not breaking any laws, it’s none of my business!” Stacy laughed while feeling grateful that he didn’t press for more information.

On Thursday, Stacy dressed up as pretty as she could while still maintaining a claim of casualness. This wasn’t a date, and she knew that she couldn’t have him, but she still wanted to impress him. She got to the factory a little early, but she kind of had to because the next bus would have made her late. She found a rock to sit on and waited in view of the entrance. The factory had light gray walls with patches of brown stains sprinkled on it sporadically. It didn’t have any personal touches or decorations to give it any kind of welcoming appearance, and if she didn’t plan to meet Nick, she would have turned around and never looked back! With its cold, sterile aura, she couldn’t imagine an artist like him enjoying working there!

She finally saw people begin to trickle out, and she leapt up to make sure he saw her when he came out. More and more people came streaming out, and she knew at any second Nick would come into view. Her fervor began to dial down though when the crowd size had started to ebb. She wondered if he changed his mind about collaborating with her. She hoped that if he had that he would have called her to cancel so she wouldn’t waste her time coming there, and she feared that he might have called while she rode the bus to get there. When the flow came down to a few people, she sort of felt foolish for standing there with high expectations and considered turning around to go home.

Just when she was about to give up, he suddenly popped out to see if she was there! He wore a blue work shirt and slacks, but in her mind, he still looked very attractive! She noticed that he didn’t have smudges on his arms or face like the others did, so she realized that he had cleaned up for her. Stacy thought that maybe it was just her imagination, but he seemed to find her appearance alluring! He non-chalantly greeted her, “Hello!”

“Hi!” she chirped.

She had expected for him to come out and lead her somewhere where they could converse, but instead, he invited, “Come on in!” Stacy felt a little taken aback by this move, but she couldn’t help but trust him and willingly followed him inside. She thought she would encounter rows of machinary, but instead, she found herself in a dimly lit hallway lined with offices. He told her, “We have to use an office ’cause I told Janet I’m working late, so if she calls to look for me, she won’t get suspicious.”

“That makes sense,” Stacy said congenially, but secretly, she felt it was a shame that he felt like he needed to hide something he’s so passionate about doing. She understood that his family had a pessimistic viewpoint about the music industry, and she probably wouldn’t want to get judged either. Actually, she hadn’t told her family about the project either for the same reason! It felt a little odd that they were hiding things while not doing anything wrong, but that wasn’t about to stop her!

He took her to a small room at the end of the hall. Most of the doors were marked with someone’s name on the glass, but this one did not have anything on it. When he opened the door and flicked on the light, she saw a bunch of boxes and file cabinets had taken over most of the room. It had a small desk with a ratty, old chair behind it as well. He pulled up a metal folding chair for her and remorsefully remarked, “I know it’s not very nice in here…”

“Inspiration can come from anywhere!” She attempted to buoy his spirits.

He smiled in appreciation as he pulled up another folding chair for himself. “I’m a team leader, so sometimes we have meetings in here. I like to think of it as my office, but I’m not that important.”

“Not yet anyways!” Stacy stated encouragingly.

Nick looked like he wanted to buy that argument but couldn’t get himself to do it. “I keep telling my family I’ll be manager someday, but, honestly, I can’t see myself ever getting there. Isn’t that horrible?”

“No,” Stacy replied. “Your heart isn’t in it. I think you’re meant for something more, which is why I’m here.”

This seemed to have touched him a bit. He grabbed a clipboard and a pen, and he asked her, “Alright, where do we begin?”

Temca Academy, Part 21

INT. COMMON ROOM. EVENING.

Anielle is listening to the Temple of Isis music and reading the plant book Toci gave her. Joshua enters.

JOSHUA:
I have something for you.
I was really bored, and I had
some scrap metal, so here.

He hands her an ornate bracelet.

ANIELLE:
You made this?

JOSHUA:
I know it doesn’t look exactly
like Joseph DaVinci’s…

ANIELLE:
Yes it does! It’ one of the most
thoughtful gifts I’ve ever gotten!
Thank you!

JOSHUA:
You’re welcome.

He looks a little embarrassed. Anielle gives him a hug. He hugs back. They linger a little. They hear someone coming, and they quickly break apart. Peter enters. Joshua leaves but secretly stands in the doorway, watching.

PETER:
Ah, I thought you must be
around here somewhere. I knew
you weren’t in your room since
there was a red x on it.

ANIELLE:
Yeah, that’d be my roommate.
She does that a lot.

PETER:
There is something I wanted to
discuss with you. We’ve been
together for a while, so I feel
like I owe you this.

He brings out an engagement ring. Joshua looks horrified.

PETER:
Will you marry me?

Anielle is stunned. She sees Joshua, who runs out. She wants to go after him, but she knows she has to deal with Peter.

ANIELLE:
Oh Peter, how did we let it
get this far?

PETER:
What do you mean?

ANIELLE:
We fell out of love with each
other a long time ago. I’m a
changed woman now. I think you
should know I’m switching majors.
I don’t want to take over my
dad’s company.

PETER:
What? Why not?

ANIELLE:
It’s not what makes me happy.
Turns out helping people makes
me happy. I have to do what
feels right in my gut. And if
I married you, it’d feel like
I was marrying my brother. No,
brothers and sisters have a
strong relationship. It’d be
like marrying a second cousin
that I only see at family
reunions. I’m sure my dad will
give you the company. And if
you’re like him, the only
relationship that will last is
one where you both work together.

PETER:
Actually, I kind of like my
secretary, but I never acted
on it ‘cause I didn’t wanna be
that guy. Do you have someone else?

ANIELLE:
Kind of. I just think we both
deserve a chance at happiness,
and I don’t think we’re right
for each other.

PETER:
I was so sure this is what I
wanted, but you’re so right!

ANIELLE:
Friends?

PETER:
Always.

They hug each other amicably, and then Peter leaves.

 

EXT. DOG HOUSE. NIGHT.

Anielle comes out to meet with Toci, who is gardening.

TOCI:
How’d it go?

ANIELLE:
We agreed to stay friends. I
knew he’d take it well; it’s
my dad I’m worried about.
(beat)
Where’s Joshua?

TOCI:
He went to the store.
(beat)
You’re probably wondering why
I’m gardening at night.

ANIELLE:
Well, that looks like a skycadma,
which is harvested under a full
moon. It’s used to rid the body
of certain toxins.

TOCI:
You’ve been reading my plant
book! Can I tempt you to
switch to my major?

ANIELLE:
No.

From out of the shadows, Babelsama appears.

BABELSAMA:
Well, well, well! If
it isn’t Jeze and Bell!

They draw their scepters (Anielle’s new one is less ornate but looks more powerful).

BABELSAMA:
You’ve won the battle, but
you won’t win the war! I can
still act like a fear monger,
but not from the comfort of
my living room!

TOCI:
Can you stop acting like a
douche? We don’t wanna hurt you.

BABELSAMA:
Then just let me take over! I’ll
give you cushy jobs! How would
you like to be secretary of fiestas?

TOCI:
How dare you!

Babelsama hears someone in the distance and disappears. It turns out to be Circe.

CIRCE:
(to herself)
Come on, turn into a bat! I
know I can! I almost did it
once!

She enters the Dog House.

ANIELLE:
Talk about bats!

Thunder claps and lightning bolts.

 

INT. DOG HOUSE. NIGHT.

George is looking around the hall for them. He is relieved to see Toci and Anielle at the door.

GEORGE:
Where have you-?

ANIELLE:
Get out of the way!

George steps out of the way quickly. Anielle puts a spell on the door. A bunch of hooded men slam into the wall.

TOCI:
Yeah, Babelsama has henchmen.

GEORGE:
Oh good. I was hoping this wasn’t
going to be too easy. Listen, I’m
a little worried about Joshua. He’s
in his room, but he won’t answer my
messages or the door.

Anielle’s intuition tells her something is wrong. She runs to his room. George and Toci follow.