Chapter Two: Meeting James
Laura opened the front door and noticed that her mother was speaking to a masculine figure. It was already dark outside, so she couldn’t see who the person was, but she knew that his voice sounded familiar. When Linda realized that she was at the door waiting, she asked the mysterious guy if he would like to come inside, to which he quickly replied no.
The strange figure took a few steps forward, getting closer to the door and revealing his identity to Laura. With his face now lit up by the living room lights, she could finally recognize him. Turns out that it was James, her boss. James Harris was the current CEO of Gold Owl, the company that she worked for. Despite the odd name, Gold Owl was a prestigious and luxurious company that specialized in mining gold and then selling it to luxurious jewelry brands across the world. They were the best at what they did, and also one of the most lucrative companies in the whole country.
James’s father founded the company himself and ran it for years until he finally retired a year ago. The company was always infamous for paying their staff the minimum wage, while everyone in higher positions was profiting an absurd amount of money. It was also a very toxic environment to work at, or maybe Laura just can’t get along with anyone there.
“Happy birthday, Laura!”, wished James, stopping just outside her door.
“Thank you.”, Laura replied.
That was the first time that she saw James outside of work, and there was something different about him now. He wasn’t wearing his fancy expensive suits. Instead, he was sporting a fluffy grey sweater and a pair of tight black jeans. Laura could even swear that he looked younger.
She never paid too much attention to James before, and, most definitely, she never looked at him like she’s looking now. He always seemed to be so overconfident and was barely even present at the company. But this time, Laura was appreciating his beauty: his sweater and tight pants were showing off his muscular build; his light brown skin tone was shining softly; his brown short hair with lighter highlights, was allowing his beautiful face to be seen; and his breathtaking blue eyes were shining.
“Laura! Mr. James was here seeing some properties in this neighborhood and he asked if I needed any help getting inside.”, informed Linda. “He was so kind!”, she continued.
“She just forgot her keys.”, clarified Laura with an awkward smile at the end.
“Yes. She told me.” James revealed. “Were you showering?”, he asked, pointing at her body, covered with a towel.
Embarrassed, she let out an awkward laugh and tried to cover her body more, stretching the towel.
“Yes.”, Laura confirmed.
James laughed awkwardly too.
“Well, I should get going now.”, he said. “It was nice seeing you, Laura.”.
James turned around and said goodbye to Linda: “It was nice meeting you too Ms. Jones!”.
If Laura wasn’t feeling lonely enough just a few minutes ago, she definitely was now. But James would never be a match for her. She thinks that James is way out of her league and that dating her own boss would be something off-limits.
Finally, Linda stepped inside, closing the door behind her. There was no greeting between the two of them, not even a kiss or a hug. They didn’t have that kind of intimacy, so, a simple hello is enough.
“I’m going to finish bathing…” announced Laura, already climbing the stairs.
“Okay.” Agreed her mother, while she headed to the kitchen.
As soon as Laura got back into the bathroom, she immediately immersed herself in the hot water again. Now, she could finally relax. Finally comfortable, Laura closed her eyes. However, instead of seeing just darkness, she had the image of James in her head. She got startled and opened her eyes to try and shake that image out of her brain.
She could already feel the urge of her body, begging to think about him and give it some pleasure, but she refused to give in. At least not at the moment, since her mother was in the house. Also, Laura was not willing to fantasize about her rich boss. Frustrated, she got out of the warm bathtub and went into her bedroom, which was just right in front of the bathroom. She changed into her most comfortable pajamas, after all, it was still her birthday. And, even though she never wants to celebrate it, she still uses it as an excuse to do whatever she wants.
As she was headed downstairs, she could already smell the food being cooked. Her mother was in the kitchen, making her favorite dish for dinner, as she always does when it’s Laura’s birthday. It was just some simple homemade tacos, but her mother was quite the specialist at making the best tacos in the world. At least that’s how Laura sees it.
The TV in the kitchen was turned on, and her mother was watching a talk show, something that was not Laura’s style. She would rather be watching some of her fantasy and horror TV shows. But, because she cherished her mother’s company, she would watch it this time. She sat in one of the chairs of her dining table, watching her mother cook.
“How are you, Laura?”, her mother asked.
“I’m doing good.”, she replied. “Work is being a bit stressful, though.”
“I’m sorry to hear that… I thought your boss seemed nice.”, Linda said.
“I don’t even know if he’s nice or not.”, Laura said.
“Because I barely even get to see him. He’s never at the company, he just hires others to do his job for him.”
“That’s a shame.”
Linda turned off the stove and Laura grabbed the dishes to set the table. The food smelled so nice that suddenly Laura could eat more than she usually would be able to. Or, perhaps, that was due to the fact that James was still on her mind and that she wanted it to go away. The talk show ended and the news broadcast started. They both sat down at the table, facing the TV while eating. By the end, they had finished eating without even saying a single word to each other.
Laura began to put the dirty dishes inside the washer, while Linda took the opportunity to reveal something:
“There’s a reason why I didn’t bring my keys.”
“What is it?”, asked Laura. She was starting to feel that something bad had happened to her mother and she felt her heart aching. Even with the palpable distance between the two of them, Laura loved her mother like any other daughter would, and was very grateful that she got all of those jobs to put food on the table and pay for her father’s debt.
“The bank took the house…”, Linda sadly revealed.
Laura could feel the sadness in her voice and if her mother wasn’t crying yet, it was only because she was holding herself from having a mental breakdown on her daughter’s birthday.
“Why?”, Laura asked, concerned.
“I got a letter from the bank last year. I wasn’t paying the debt as fast as they wanted me to.”.
“Because I lost one of my jobs last year. And I’m too old to find another job…”
“Mom! You should’ve told me this!”, screamed Laura.
Linda was staring at the ground, deeply ashamed of what she was finally revealed to her daughter.
“I didn’t want to upset you…”, Linda explained.
“Why would you upset me? I would’ve helped you!”
“They came to the house today to evict me and I could only grab a handful of stuff, so I forgot your keys.”
Laura took a deep breath. She was extremely upset with her mother for keeping that a secret, but she understood her mother’s reasons to do so. She was also starting to blame herself for not checking on her mother more often. Maybe if she wasn’t so selfish, she could’ve prevented this whole situation.
“Where are you going to stay now?”, asked Laura.
Linda paused, still facing the ground. She clearly did not have an answer to that question.
“You can stay here.”, immediately offered Laura.
It was the least she could do, and even that wasn’t enough to make up for her absence.
“No, no. I can’t!”, Linda refused.
“Yes, you can. And you obviously will!”
Linda finally raised her head to look at Laura. Her expression was of profound sadness. Laura turned on the dishwasher and turned off the TV. She took her mother’s hand and dragged her upstairs. They both climbed the stairs at a slow pace, and Linda was not sure of what was going on, but she went with it. When they both arrived at the upstairs corridor, Laura opened her guest’s bedroom door, revealing a very organized and minimal room. At its center, there was a perfectly made bed.
“You are always welcomed here.”, said Laura. “And even though we haven’t been as close as we would like, there’s nothing in this world that I would like more than you staying here with me.”
Linda’s eyes were suddenly filled with love and were now glowing.
“Thank you.”, she said softly.
They both went downstairs to grab the only two bags that Linda was able to bring with her on the bus. They placed everything down in the guest’s bedroom and Linda soon went to sleep. It was pretty late already, so Laura would soon follow. But first, she had to go downstairs and take out the dishes from the washer, storing them back into the cabinets.
Once she was done, and before she went to her bedroom, she opened the other bedroom door and glanced at her sleeping mother. She appeared calmed and relaxed, even despite everything that she must’ve been feeling for these past few days. Then, finally, Laura went to sleep.