My alarm goes off at five am making me groan. Today was the beginning of the holiday season, and I knew they would swamp me with work. I had to drop my son Callum off at daycare while I worked my day job as a secretary with Vivianne at MacNee Inc. Then I would start my night shift as a server at Young and Long’s Steakhouse. Vivianne offered to keep Callum for me at night so I could pick up the extra shifts. I wanted to get Callum gifts for Christmas and his birthday coming up in January. Daycare isn’t cheap, and no one is helping me with Callum. His father Nick found out when I was pregnant with him and dropped me like a nasty habit. Ironic because Nick is addicted to meth.
Climbing out of bed, I look in the mirror to see an exhausted woman with dark circles under her eyes.
“Mommy!” Callum screams, running into my room and slamming into my legs. I buckle a little, then reach down and scoop him up.
“Good morning, munchkin, did you go potty?” I ask. We’ve been potty training.
“Yes.” Callum slams his head onto my shoulder, making me wince. He loves rough play, and with my autoimmune disease, I bruise easily.
“Good. Let me get dressed and then I’ll help you.” I set him down and reach into my closet, pulling out my typical work look. An empire waist dress with a cardigan, the dress lay over my stomach hiding the baby weight I never could lose.
“I do it!” he yells, running back across the hall into his bedroom.
“Pants and a long-sleeved shirt. It is cold outside,” I order, slipping my stockings on. By the time I am dressed Callum comes back stuck in his shirt. I laugh and help him get the shirt over his head. I am not surprised to see he has chosen a shirt with a dinosaur on it. Right now he is on a massive dinosaur kick. Everything he wants for Christmas this year is something to do with dinosaurs. When he gets his hour of television, he begs for anything dinosaur-related he sees in the commercials. It hurts me knowing I can’t get him everything he wants. I already struggle with working seven days a week as a secretary during the workweek and server on the weekends.
“There we go,” I say when his head pops out. He has white blond hair and blue eyes, although his eyes are closer to sky-blue whereas mine are grayish blue.
“Is Aunt Viv getting me?” he asks when I bring him out to the kitchenette.
“Yes. Mommy is working extra shifts right now.” I see his frown, but he nods. I know he hates it when I can’t get him from daycare, but I need the money. More bills keep piling up from my doctor visits. Yes, I have health insurance but the copays are still outrageous. I had to get an MRI, and it cost me almost a thousand dollars out of pocket. I am still working on paying it off.
“Eat your cereal,” I tell him, pushing his bowl toward him as I pull out yogurt to eat for my breakfast. I put my homemade granola into the vanilla yogurt and lean against the counter.
“Mommy.” I look at Callum, with my spoon halfway to my mouth.
“Why don’t I have a daddy?” I shove the yogurt into my mouth, giving myself a few moments to think through the answer.
“Why do you ask bud?”
“Well, my friend Noah has a daddy, and Will has a daddy. Why don’t I have one?” I sigh, I knew this was coming, but didn’t think he would ask so young.
“Well sweetie, your daddy wasn’t good for us. Sometimes when people are not nice, you shouldn’t be around them.” I try my best to explain it so he will understand.
“Like Una? She bit me last week.” I can see his little brain working hard to make a connection.
“Like Una, you remember me telling you not to play with her if she bites you?” I ask, putting my spoon in the sink before tossing away my yogurt container.
“We need to get you to daycare.” I hurry to the door with Callum following. I bundle him up in his coat, hat, gloves, and scarf before doing the same for me. I didn’t own a car, so we had to either take the bus or walk. The daycare is close to my apartment, so we walk. It is expensive to live there, but I chose it because it is close to daycare and my job. Slinging my purse over my shoulder, I put Callum’s backpack on him.
“Yes.” I take his hand, grab my keys, and leave my apartment. We walk three blocks to his daycare. I drop him off and tell his teacher, Miss Trina, that Vivianne is picking him up today.
“Does he know?” Trina asks me, she is an older woman in her fifties.
“Yes. I told him this morning.”
“Good. Have a good day, Ainsley.” She pats me on the arm and I rush out the door to my job. It is another five blocks before I come up to the towering building my company uses. The company uses the entire building. I work on the bottom floor as the first person people see before coming into the building. My best friend Vivianne Forth works for the COO as a personal assistant. Walking into the building I hurry behind the desk, and stow away my coat, gloves, and scarf along with my bag. I notice there is another woman at the desk setting her things up. I frown and look around. To my surprise Vivianne comes down, hurrying over to me.
“Ainsley, I need you now.” Vivianne grabs my arm, pulling me from behind the main desk.
“What? Why?” I bend down to grab my bag.
“Charlotte quit!” she exclaims and I gasp. Charlotte was the personal assistant to Finn MacNee, the CEO.
“What do you need me to do?” I ask, gathering all of my things.
“I need you to be Charlotte until we can find a replacement.”
“Okay.” I won’t say no because first I don’t want to lose my job, and second I would do anything for Vivianne.
“Lead the way,” I say. She hugs me and leads me to the top floor of the building.
“Go down the hall and knock on his door. He knows you are his temp.” Vivianne points at the end of the hall, to a massive set of double doors. Outside the door sits a desk with a computer and phone set up. My nerves get the best of me, I can’t help but shake as I knock on the door.
“Come,” I hear a deep voice call.
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