Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” Hadeon sharply reacted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” Nick and Stacy said in unison.

“Why?” Nick asked her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gloria inquired, “You guys know each other?”

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

“What a small world!” Gloria remarked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 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 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 7

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

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

“Yeah.” He pointed to the phone book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re right,” Stacy admitted.

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

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

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

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

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

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 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 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!