I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
Summer felt good, confident and more in control of her life than she had been since Lance told her he had decided to leave her for that—well. No need to go down that path again. Still, Summer remembered that she needed to call that Jack Bain to fight the court date he had set. Probably he’d chosen it specifically because she had intended to go home to California for that time; Lance knew she had been planning the trip for months, and how much it meant to her family. He would use any means to strike at her, and Summer decided right then that she had had it.
No more playing Lance’s games. She would hire a real lawyer, not wait on the dusty little man with his piles of papers and lascivious-tale-telling secretary, and fight for her rights. Grabbing a post-it note, Summer scribbled down a reminder to call around for a new attorney as soon as she got a chance. Somebody who could stand up to McCab & Bain’s big guns… as long as they didn’t cost too much. That thought quenched her optimistic spirit a bit; she still had to work within a budget that barely allowed her to pay her bills, let alone hire somebody with the credentials to oppose her husband’s law firm.
As she settled down to work, the morning’s smile hovered on Summer’s lips. She would get out of this dead-end obit writing job with Doug replacing the loathsome Fred as her boss, she would win a settlement against Lance somehow, and most of all she would win Hunter’s heart. Summer could flex if he liked those parties, and the people she had met on Saturday night hadn’t been bad people, really. Just different from what she’d lived with before.
Continue reading.Shaking her mouse to waken her computer, Summer cracked her fingers and got down to work. If she had to write obits for a little longer, by God, they would be obits to put The Seattle Times to shame.
* * *
When she emerged from her haze of work, Summer realized lunch time had come and nearly passed without her notice. Feeling decadent that morning, she had brought money for food rather than packing a brown bag as she usually did. The cafeteria on the first floor cost a fortune, but actually served quite decent fare, specializing in pasta. Summer loved pasta.
Though she didn’t like to admit it, Summer didn’t do very well in heels because she wore them so rarely. Today, walking down the stairs, she nearly fell as she put her foot down as if she wore her usual sneakers and found nothing but a narrow heel to support her full weight. Her ankle wobbled, her other leg slipped, and Summer grabbed for the handrail in a sudden panic, catching herself a moment before she truly hurt herself or, almost worse, ripped her expensive skirt beyond repair. Straightening up, she brushed herself off, more to settle strung-out nerves than anything else, and looked around to see if anybody had observed her embarrassment. Just up the stairs stood Doug, a strange look on his face.
“Oh, hi,” Summer said, trying to sound cheerful and not like she’d just almost fallen down the stairs.
“You alright there?” A solicitous tone, but somehow edged with coldness Summer couldn’t account for. “That almost looked bad.”
“I’m fine,” she assured him quickly. Then, because she had a naturally honest streak, she stuck out one shoe and said, “It’s these darn shoes. I don’t wear heels often enough to actually be good at walking in them.”
Somehow his face lightened a bit, although the tightness behind his smile-lined eyes remained. “It’d only be right for me to escort you then, to make sure you get to…wherever you’re going safely.”
“Lunch,” she told him, “downstairs. True luxury.” Her smile was genuine, Doug thought, but she also patted her hair and smoothed her skirt as if trying a little too hard to appeal to him. Today he couldn’t help but compare this woman’s tall, muscular body to Joanna’s bone-china delicacy, and Summer came up lacking.
“I’m just on my way out to lunch as well. Some café downtown for me.” He could have invited her along, and if he had just seen her Friday and then now, he probably would have, despite the day’s sad memories. After this morning, though, Doug craved a solitary meal or perhaps no food, just a long walk around and around the city streets with his thoughts all alone in the crowd.
“Sounds better than the cafeteria, alright.” Summer paused, trying to gauge. Would it be too forward to invite herself along to lunch with her potential boss? He had mentioned his plans almost like an invitation, and perhaps if the weekend had happened differently, Summer might have taken the opening. Instead she walked with him down the stairs, turning left into the building as he took the right-hand way to the main doors, a neutral parting phrase on her lips.
Standing in line with her tray in hand, Summer thought over the encounter. Somehow Doug appeared at the exact wrong moment, precisely when Summer didn’t want anybody catching her looking stupid. “Bother,” she muttered to herself, earning a strange look from the cafeteria employee who plopped a generous pile of pasta onto a plain white plate and placed it on Summer’s tray. “Guess he’ll know I’m as human as the next girl,” she told the pasta.
“Marinara or alfredo?” asked the next serving person.
“Decisions, decisions.” But these were the kind of decisions Summer liked—choosing what to eat, wear, or stay played up on her strengths. Choosing lawyers and husbands apparently touched on weak points of hers.
* * *
Later that afternoon, Summer’s ears perked up at the sound of a welcome male voice in her cube area. She’d long ago learned to filter Fred’s bellowing out, only actually attending when he spoke her name or came to loom over her in his frightening, bearish way. Megan and Shawna she listened to, their conversations providing entertaining diversions from the tedium of writing about good traits of dead people all day.
Earlier this afternoon, for instance, Summer had listened with interest to a gem of a conversation between Shawna and an anonymous person on the other end of the phone line:
“I’m seriously considering getting this breast-enlargement surgery. I mean, don’t you think I could do with a little help in this department?”
“I’m only a C cup!”
“I know you like them how they are, but honestly I’d much rather have a little more to show off, you know? Don’t give me that! It’s my money.”
Pause. High-pitched giggling from Shawna, which Summer took to mean the person on the other end had said something appropriately conciliatory.
“Ooohhh, honey, I can’t wait to get home tonight.”
Or then there was Megan, who loved to gossip not only about Summer, but everybody else in the department. Summer had learned that her coworkers had kidney stones, which ones had had vasectomies, who had slept with whom, whose love life had gone down the tubes, who had Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and all sorts of strange proclivities Summer would never have guessed. Summer had developed a deep and abiding dislike of Megan, but she also respected the woman’s ability to ferret out any piece of information, no matter how private. She probably knew by now that Summer had applied for a job with H&G;, and Summer suspected they might even have odds on whether she’d get the job or not.
So when she heard the rumble of Doug’s mellow voice, she perked up. There was only one good reason for h
im to come here; he wanted to know more about her. She’d worked diligently at her job, more diligently than a normal person would at obituary writing, and even her divorce hadn’t more than slightly affected her performance. The only notable change was that she came in a little later than she used to, having to take busses when she couldn’t afford gas for the commute. A stab of bitterness sliced through Summer at the thought of her daily commute. Oh, nobody had forced her to leave her beautiful Bellevue house; Lance had left her, not the other way around. But it only took a little while to realize that Summer’s low-on-the-totem-pole pay from The Herald wouldn’t pay the bills for that wonderful home—gas, electric, phone, garbage, sewer, water, cable, all added up. Then, too, the mortgage weighed heavily on that house, and when it came due Summer’s whole monthly salary wouldn’t even begin to cover it. So she left, found a new home in a tiny apartment and furnished it as best she could with Salvation Army cast-offs, all the while weeping inside at the loss of her dream life.
It was only later that she’d learned she should have stayed in the house, kept her belongings and lodging and fought to force Lance to pay that hundredweight of a mortgage.
“Can I set up a meeting with you?” Doug was asking, and Summer heard Fred say, “Sure, what about” in a tone he’d never used towards Summer or any of the women in his employ. He sounded…respectful. Interested. Genuine.
“Summer Robertson has applied for a job in my department, and I’d like to talk to you.” Summer held her breath, suddenly afraid.
“Ah…” She could imagine Fred, looking a little regretful but with a malicious glow in his black piggy eyes. “I would love to talk about Summer. When is good for you?”
They arranged a time, and as Doug was about to leave, Summer heard Fred add, “Oh, would you be interested in talking with any of her coworkers? Shawna and Megan are available at that same time, if you’re interested.”
“Sure,” Doug assented, and Summer’s heart sank. “I’ll see you at two o’clock tomorrow in Conference Room A.”
“Great, see you then.” When Doug left, Fred, Shawna, and Megan grouped together in a gaggle of low-voiced discussion that convinced Summer they were plotting against her. Summer redoubled her efforts to work so hard that Dough would have to hire her.
Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.