Alex saw him grimace and wondered what she had done wrong. Was something wrong with the contracts? It wasn’t the first time she had written one up, and it was from a template. How could she have gotten it wrong? She was such an idiot. It was a miracle she had kept this job for as long as she did.
“I have a new hopeful coming in tomorrow morning at eight am,” he finally said. “Arrange for some bagels and fruit, as well as orange and pineapple juice.”
“I’m done for the day, so please feel free to make it an early night.”
“Thank you, sir.”
When she got back to her desk, she checked her email and found several from her mother. Alex wanted to ignore them, but her compulsion to bend to her mother’s will was trained well into her.
Your father and I are so disappointed in you.
She wanted to delete the email, but something made her leave it there in her inbox. She clicked on the next one.
How can you think to leave us in our old age? You are a selfish pig! After all, we’ve done for you; you treat us like this, like garbage.
Again she left the message alone.
The last one was short.
You will pay for your sin.
The hairs on the back of her neck rose up in terror. She almost wrote back in capitulation but then thought about how at the age of twenty-three she was still living at home with her parents. She wanted her space. She wanted to be on her own for once.
Her only friend refused to come to her parent’s home. Alex didn’t blame him. Her parents were mean and rude to Grayson. They called him names because he was gay. She didn’t want to have to subject him to that kind of behavior.
As a result, she only saw him once a week at lunch on Wednesday when her mother’s bridge game made it so that she didn’t have time to make her daughter’s lunch for her. Alex would meet Grayson for lunch, and he would always pay because she wasn’t allowed to have money for such frivolous things like eating out. Plus her mother thought it best that Alex fast one day, if not several, given how fat she was.
Now she controlled her own money, she thought excitedly. She would repay Grayson with an expensive dinner at his favorite restaurant.
She could buy the clothes she wanted to wear. Right now all she got to pick out were her shoes. Thankfully her mother tolerated her taste in shoes probably because it made Alex appear taller than her five-foot-one-inch height. Much like she was too fat, she was also too short for her mother’s liking.
Alex had wondered why the Whitfields had adopted her when she was such a disappointment to them. When she had asked one day during one of her mother’s tirades, she had told Alex that when she was a baby, they hadn’t realized how much of a freak she would be. That was their fault for not holding out for a boy from a woman who wasn’t a whore. But they thought they were fulfilling their Christian duty by adopting an unwanted baby. Unfortunately, God had given them a major thorn in their side instead of a beautiful, selfless, smart boy to take care of them in their old age.
Alex sighed and wondered how until this morning she had done everything her parents had ever asked of her, except for not being friends with Grayson and not working. She had wanted to work to get out of the house after she graduated from high school. Her parents had forbidden her to go to college claiming they needed her with them and not distracted by all the temptations of college life.
Plus she hadn’t been smart enough to get into any college in Nashville probably because she missed more days of school than she went. But her parents had needed her even then.
She loved her parents, but she needed to get away from them. Just for a while, she thought timidly. She knew they were controlling and manipulative. Yet she always gave into them because she wanted their approval so badly.
When she had been younger, they often threatened to return her to the orphanage. The fear of that was usually enough to get her back in line. But for all her kowtowing to them she had yet to hear any kind words from either of her parents in the last twenty-three years.
Grayson encouraged her to move out. She wanted to, beginning to chaff under their overbearing rules and discipline. She wanted to eat what she wanted to eat, wear what she wanted to wear, think her own thoughts about the world.
With Grayson’s help, she had rented a small apartment near her work and gotten all the utilities turned on. She had switched her direct deposit to her own checking account and not one she shared with her parents.
Knowing she would probably have to fight them on leaving hadn’t stopped her from packing a bag that morning and announcing to her parents that she was not coming back home that night.
At first, her mother had laughed at her pronouncement. When she saw the suitcase, she had gotten mad. In the middle of her mother yelling at her, Alex had turned away and walked out of the house, knowing her mother wouldn’t come out in public to berate her. What if the neighbors heard and saw such rude behavior her daughter had caused?
All day her phone had been ringing. Finally, Alex turned off the ringer. She would have turned it off entirely but wanted to be able to answer if Grayson called. Now her parents had moved to email.
“Ms. Whitfield, you’re still here?”
“Just tying up some loose ends I hadn’t got to yet today,” she told her boss when he came out into her area.
“Go home. Kiss your boyfriend. Have some fun. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Ok. Good night.”