To new visitors: THANK YOU for bothering to click on my story. I hope that you'll enjoy this. It is a lot better than it used to be, because I just fixed my obvious mistakes. Don't forget to leave a review and tell me what you think! :)
To others: THANKS for clicking on this story again. And thanks for looking past the errors. I was ashamed of my VERY careless mistakes so I replaced the chapter with a better, more satisfactory work. YAY. ooh, chapter 13 is coming out soon. weee :D
So here it is, my very own story...
Meet Me Halfway
I already had my apron draped on my left arm. I had a duster on my right hand, and I was just about to grab a broom from our enormous closet when Nana grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me outside.
"You're working for the president!" She said smiling, revealing her pearly white teeth, which were amazingly bright and clean in such an old age.
I didn't reply.
"I said, honey, you're working for the president now." She repeated.
"I'm not exactly sure what you're trying to say, Nana." I stood there, confused.
"I meant, that Gracey was fired. That poor child."
The following sentence made much better sense. The picture of our notorious, dear Mr. President appeared in my mind.
"Fired? Nana, how?" I whispered in her ear, to drown out the noise. People were starting to rush in, frantically putting on their aprons and attempting to wolf down their last piece of muffin for breakfast.
She shook her head. "Ay, I don't know. I heard something about throwing away the most recent documents of LARE. Like I said, what a poor child. She probably misunderstood the president, or most likely she was instructed improperly and Mr. Lee made a mistake. Ay mi hija, no se. Pero, this is not the first time this has happened, you know."
I nodded. It really wasn't. Every once in a while, the ground floor heard terrible news of cleaners getting fired, two or three at a time. Rumors stated that our bosses, who were floors above us, were big, pathetic excuses for professionals. And they are all really just a pain in the behind.
But I understood. We belonged in two worlds, in two spheres that didn't, and never will touch.
We cleaned up their mess, we brought them their coffees, we memorized the menu they liked, we fixed up their papers, we picked up their lunch, we prepared their coats, and we would have removed lint from their clothes, if ordered. We were their nannies--- sophisticatedly speaking. We took care of their needs.
Yet, we were the most unrecognized workers in the company. Ah, the beauty of Life's injustice.
"So, I'm Mr. Lee's new cleaner?" Realization finally dawned.
"Si, si. Ay Dios Mio, that's what I've been trying to tell you, honey!" Nana laughed.
"Now, don't let Mr. Lee scare you," She continued, when she saw my eyes widened exaggeratedly. "You are a very wonderful lady. Pretty lady too! Just do your job--- and you do your job well--- and you'll be all right."
She kissed my cheek. "You are the most hard-working and the most caring girl here, mi hija. You deserve this. This extra money will really help you, dear. Imagine the new toys for Jakey, and you might be able to send more money to your dad. I knew how much you needed it. So I recommended you upstairs. I hope you're not angry…"
My heart melted. I sighed. Anything for dad and Jakey.
"Oh no, no Nana. I am very, very grateful. Just a little nervous, that's all." I forced a giggle. "He is the LARE president, the idol of New Jersey."
"Just a little intimidating, that's all. But… Nana, thank you so much." I kissed her too.
"You start this afternoon, when he goes on a lunch break. Good luck, dear." Nana walked away.
I turned around again, into the closet. I needed to grab a broom. But more appropriately, I needed get a grip of myself. I needed some place quiet, just to calm the ridiculous beating of my heart.
Truth be told, I was scared. And anxious, very anxious. I was thinking that; if I lost the job, I will not be able to get another one so quickly. If I lost the job, it may mean a month or two of just mac 'n cheese for Jakey. And dad will not have money to sustain his medication.
Oh God, what do I do? I was panicking, after jumping into conclusions.
I wiped my sweaty palms on the apron, across my stomach.
"Keys, I heard!" Someone giggled next to me, breaking my depressing train of thoughts.
"Jordy! You scared me." I whistled.
"You were already scared even before I got here. Look at you, all sticky and red. AND hiding in the closet. What are you doin' here? You just got promoted, go on, go on, celebrate!"
Oh, Jordy. She was my best, best friend. She had always known how to make me laugh. She was like me, alone and isolated in New Jersey. We had a huge similarity, maybe that was why we loved each other.
"Jordy, I'm a little terrified." I admitted.
"Of what? Of working for the most gorgeous bachelor New Jersey has ever seen? Girl, if I was in your place, I'd wear my tightest uniform and buy a new bra."
I suppressed my laughter. I wasn't completely composed yet.
"Eight-oh-three. Oh my, Mrs. Evans is probably going insane without me there, fixing her invoices. I gotta go, Keys. I'll see you at lunch break." She gave me a hug, walked away and turned back around in one swift motion.
"Oh, and watch out for Claire. She's spreading rumors that a simple "maid" like you, won't ever be friends with Mr. Lee. She's a jealous little mouse. Don't hear her squeak."
At that moment, I had to laugh. Jordy and I didn't like Claire. Maybe because Claire specifically didn't like me.
She had always degraded us, including her own self, as little maids. She couldn't live with the fact that her office was not 3 floors above.
"I won't. Take care, Jordy. Please don't get into any more trouble!" I yelled. She waved.
Unlike Claire, I never cared. I was happy to be there, happy to find a place where I could work. I loved the people I was with, I liked the busy environment. Yes, sometimes I wondered how it would be, if I were someone more experienced and educated. I often day-dreamed about how it would be holding a pen all day and sipping coffee instead of carrying dusters and running in and out of rooms, sorting out copies for our executives.
But life was as good as you choose to believe it is. I had enough money to send my younger brother Jake to school, just enough to give him good lunches and feed him his favorite meal requests every day and night. I earned enough as well, to send some for my father, for health and for our farm maintenance.
I wasn't rich. I was a world apart from luxury. But I sure was content.
I went up to 7th floor, Brokerage Department. Mr. Yukiso was such a gentleman, it was a shame I had to leave him.
"Yes, he left me a memo. Can't say no to the boss. He said, he needs 'someone reliable more than I do'." He shook his bald head. "What a smug bastard, really smug bastard."
I gave him an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry, sir. Is there anything you'd like me to do before I go?"
"No, I don't want any more rough words from that young man! Oh, he makes me feel so inferior. Just his voice belittles me. I would like to shove this big lamp up his overlarge a---"
"Mr. Yukiso!" I interjected. "I—I should probably, just, just leave then."
I laughed softly. He was always one to lose control so rapidly.
"Oh, right, right. Take it easy sweetheart. Remember, if 12th floor doesn't want you, I do."
My mind was whirring. Mr. Yukiso would re-hire me, right? Wouldn't he? In case I get fired? I could probably beg him, bring him his favorite chicken salad, everyday.. Or his cinnamon rolls. Jordy and I can sing out in the streets, or the park for extra money, she can sing really well. She said I can too.. Hmm, maybe.
"WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING." A booming voice woke me up. Apparently I walked myself back to the cleaners' quarters.
I saw Nana's swaying hips approach me. "Kayla, honey. Mr. Lee would like you to go up in his office right now. He said he has some-- err, briefing to do."
I couldn't speak. My stomach was so tight that it hurt. I had never been that nervous before. I was very comfortable in what I do. I know them well, I was good at it. For five years, I had cleaned similar tables with identical drawers, with all the same papers. But I had never even seen the floors above the 7th floor! I didn't know what the carpet felt like, the sound of the elevator… for god's sake, I didn't even know where the restrooms were!
"Where's Jordy?" That was all I could mutter.
"Why, I just saw her here. But dear, don't you think you should go and---"
"Yes, I know. But I need to see her first." Jordy, where are you?
"KEYS! What's wrong?" She was trying not to chortle. "You look sick. No, you look horrible. I don't get you! It's no big deal!"
"Jordy. I'm so nervous. I really can't do this. Come with me?"
She laughed. That was one thing I loved to hate about her. She was always laughing even in times that I needed her to panic, especially when I panic.
"You're gonna get us both fired." She said, and then straightened up her face.
"Listen, Keys. There's nothing to be afraid of. You clean for a living. You've been taking care of LARE peoples for so long now, you can do it with your eyes closed. You're the nicest person I've ever known. Everyone loves you here, everyone respects you here. Now, Mr. Lee may be tough. But he'll see that you're real. And maybe, maybe he'd like you too. I know he will, okay?"
I hugged her. "Fine." I mumbled. "I trust you. I believe you. I hope you're right."
"Now go. Before you get a minute late and have your butt fired."
I gave her a look.
The yellow light was highlighting the circle 10 when I gave up trying to keep my cool and started tapping my foot on the steel floor of the elevating room. I tried cracking my knuckles but miserably failed. I wondered if that was how it felt anticipating a celebrity. Anxiety, mixed with nerves and apprehension. Really not a good feeling at all.
With an unusually loud DING, the stupid door had split apart and allowed me to step into a brightly lit room I have never before seen. The carpet was rich and thick with what seemed like very expensive animal fur.
If Jakey was here, he'd roll on the floor and lay down.
I smiled. There was no other boy in this world that could soothe me better than my little brother.
On the right of the hallway stood an espresso machine, two mahogany tables with four pairs of chairs.
On the left side of the hallway, stood 2 doors, right next to each other. I stood in the middle. There were platinum plates on each, with their names and positions perfectly engraved.
'Antoinette Lee, L.A.R.E. Vice-President' and… 'Dylan Lee, L.A.R.E President'.
I swallowed the hard lump that has been accumulatively forming in my throat since I heard of the news of my promotion. I made a fist, and knocked thrice, ever so softly. I regretted knocking softly, assuming that he might not have heard it.
"Come in," Came the cool voice of Mr. Lee.
I turned the doorknob to the right, which made a loud revelation of my mistake. Idiot!
I turned it to the left, and finally made it in his office. And oh dear, it was breathtaking.
The full glass windows, with the blinds gathered on the right side showed the perfect day it really was outside. The view consisted of the other brilliantly structured buildings outside LARE's, and the beautiful tint of blue from the cloudless sky.
There were leather loveseat couches in the corner of the room, and across of that stood the handsome and very organized bookshelf filled with thick volumes. There were a couple of shiny, wooden cabinets that displayed his obvious collection of coins and stamps. There was also a glass shelf, with picture frames erected on it. Hung on the wall were his recognition awards that shimmered gold even from afar.
I looked up and gazed at the most elegant chandelier, with crystal balls that seemed like bright pearls.
I must have looked really astounded because Mr. Lee made it obvious that he saw me do something pretty embarrassing.
"When you're done gaping at my office, please come forward."
I cleared my throat subtly and started the long walk to his expensive-looking ebony desk.
He was filling out a form when I got there. He was writing what looked like an essay, as fast as he could. His hand was moving furiously across the paper yet his face looked at ease, as if it was a piece of cake.
That was the very first time I took in our president's features. It took everything I had not to let out a breath of amazement.
Everything they said was true. There was something about him that somehow drew you close, eager for more. It might be his light brown eyes or his straight, distinguished nose. Or it could be the fine lining of his jaw or his firm lips. It might be the broad shoulders in his Armani dress shirt. Maybe it was his strong, masculine scent. Or maybe, his slightly tussled brown hair that was artistically and beautifully piled on top his head.
Oh, Heavens. He was gorgeous.
"For the third time, can you tell me your full name?" I heard agitation in his voice.
"Kayla Lowle Channing." I replied hastily, mortified.
"Channing?" he asked critically. "You're… French?" he asked, in a manner somewhere between polite and condescending. I then understood what Mr. Yukiso meant.
"My mother was," was my short answer. "..sir." I added.
"I've always thought that, French were somewhere-- better." He looked at me once and dropped his head down again and continued writing.
I had no idea what he meant exactly, but I knew that it had something to do with the uniform I was wearing.
I bit my lip. Claire's words never penetrated, she was one of us. But hearing it from someone who can rightfully disparage me was more painful than I had expected. I swallowed and told myself to ignore.
I didn't know what to do, or what to say. I stood there motionless, trying arduously to be invisible.
"Sir, er, did you need something?"
He looked at my eyes. My heart keyed up. He stopped writing and put his hand on his desk.
"Gracey, was it, tried to reorganize my stock room according to her convenience when I specifically told her to follow my directions. There are three filing cabinets in there. The black one if finished or abandoned transactions; yellow papers. The green cabinet is for pending estates; white. And the last one, it's dark blue and it's for filed projects that are soon to be tackled, they are the ones in blue papers. Got it?"
Black cabinet, yellow paper. Green and white, blue with blue. "Yes, sir."
"Get started before I go out for lunch. I'll ring you up. I don't like tardiness, by the way."
I almost ran out the door.
"I'll be back by 2. When I return, I have things for you to do." Mr. Lee stiffly informed.
I nodded my head in acknowledgement. Once the door clicked shut, my heart was finally free to beat.
I stood quietly for a minute or two and tried to even out my breathing. It was an overwhelming first day. From the remarkable room to the most attractive man on earth, from receiving thirty-second worth of critical, valuable instructions to being left alone in his office. I really didn't know what to feel.
I did look around first before getting started on my real job. I fingered the plate on his desk that says 'Lee Association Real Estate, Dylan Lee- President'. I felt the soft fabric of his pure gray carpet, I sat for a second on his leather loveseat and I even turned his huge touch lamp on and off.
It was only when I thought I heard footsteps that I actually entered the stock room.
I slumped on the floor, pulled a big carton filled with different-colored paper and started sorting them out.
Black cabinet, yellow paper. Green and white, blue with blue. Black cabinet, yellow paper. Green and white, blue with blue.
Then I heard his door open. And the sound of his footsteps declared his return. I looked at the big box. I wasn't even half-way done. I began panicking again.
The stock room opened and he stood there with a small package.
"Here are letter tabs. Every cabinet should be alphabetized by the initial of the client's last name," he gave me the tabs silently. "I want my coffee in five."
Before I could even forget, I got up and walked up to his desk.
"Black coffee, sir?" He seemed like the black coffee type.
"Yes. 2 cubes of sugar. And just a teaspoon of cream." He answered without even looking up from his laptop.
I went out and made him his coffee. That part I was a little more confident. I had been told before by the Realtor secretaries that I make excellent coffee. I came back and closed the door as quietly as I could.
I was walking to his desk once again, and unfortunately didn't notice that the edge of the carpet was slightly propped up due to my silly whim to touch it, minutes before. With my luck, my foot got caught; I lost my balance and spilled half the coffee on the silvery mass of fur on the floor. I wished I had fallen and winded up with a concussion. The look on his face was so much scarier than that.
He just stared at me, with questioning eyes; probably wondering what kind of maid couldn't even safely deliver a cup of coffee to her boss. He gazed at me for what felt like an hour, while I just gripped my skirt, and waited for a shout.
Seconds passed. He regained his composure and resumed his activity on the computer.
"You just cost me a several-thousand Persian rug." He clicked on the mouse. "Your paycheck for half a year won't even cover for that"
I bit my lip. I wanted to cry. He was right. Before I could begin to apologize, he already interrupted me.
"Just get me another cup. Bring it all the way to my desk. Then just get out of my sight. I know you still have a lot of papers waiting in the stock room. Please. Prove yourself useful."
His looks were piercing. He looked so serious, so unfeeling. I was so relieved when he dismissed me.
"Channing, I want you to get rid of these papers in this box." Mr. Lee ordered. He lifted a box and placed it on his desk. "I don't want it, I don't need it, it's junk. You can take it away from here."
"Sir, are you sure you have no need for these papers?"
He looked at me again, quizzically. As if I spoke a different language. I was starting to hate the way he didn't speak when he was upset. It was a lot nerve-wracking than being scolded.
"Are you… questioning me?"
"No, no!" I eagerly replied. Too eagerly. "I just, I mean… Well, I don't want to make a mistake, that's all."
"Get one thing straight, Channing. You work for me. What I say is law and my instructions are final. Do you hear? People, not even my Board, ever dare to think twice about anything I say."
His voice was so icy.
I gulped. "Yes, sir."
"I said you can get rid of it." He plainly repeated. "You can leave when my office is spotless. And by the way, everything in here is accounted for. Don't tempt yourself."
He went and gone. I couldn't believe him. I may have been poor. But I wasn't a thief.
The stained, silver carpet was immediately replaced with a new, jet black one. I wondered how many he had in his possession. With his money, he could have bought it right after I spilled, and it wouldn't have bothered him at all.
I checked again, for the third time, if his room was the cleanest I could have it. And it was. So I locked the room, with the box in hand, and made my way to the ground floor where Jordy was waiting for me.
"What are you carrying?" She asked casually as we waited for the bus.
"Mr. Lee said to get rid of it." I answered angrily. "But I refuse to. I'm keeping it. What if he made a mistake? I'm not giving him a chance to fire me."
"How is he?" Jordy asked in the bus, with a concerned look.
"He knows exactly how to humiliate and act superior. He does it so effortlessly! I really don't like him."
Jordy snorted. "He might be the first person in New Jersey that you don't like, oh saint Keys."
"If you saw him today, you'd understand why." I sighed.
"Just wait a while... Maybe your kindness will rub onto him or something."
We took the bus home and she laughed at my account of the coffee blunder. We said our goodbyes when she had to take another flight in our apartment complex.
I opened my door and saw Jakey finishing his up his homework. He brightened up when he saw me.
"HI!" I hugged him. "How are you, kiddo? How was school?"
"We had a race at school today and I beat everybody!" Ah, I wish my day was as great.
I laughed. "That's wonderful! Honey, what did you want for dinner? Meatballs and spaghetti?"
"GREAT!" He exclaimed, and settled in our small living room and turned on the TV.
Thirty minutes had gone by, and I had just turned off the stove when I heard loud banging on our door.
I wiped my hand quickly and ran to the door while Jakey turned off the TV and rushed to the bedroom and peeked out thru a crack.
"STOP, okay, okay! I'm coming, I'm opening the door!" The banging was getting a little irritating.
I was beyond shocked. It was Mr. Lee. He was sweating, and for the first time today, looking slightly alarmed.
"Channing." He panted. "Please don't tell me you threw away those papers."
"Oh." I blanked out. "No, no, no sir. It's actually here with me."
"Well, where the hell is it?" He demanded. "Can't you sense the urgency? I need it. Now!"
I ran to the kitchen and ran back to the door. He snatched the box from my hands and yelled down the stairs.
"I have it, Collins, start the damn car! GO!"
Then Mr. Lee ran down. I walked to the window and saw his Mercedes speed through our skimpy street.
You're welcome, sir. I breathed out, feeling slightly resentful.
"Jakey, it's fine. Don't worry about it. We're okay."
I remembered Jordy. "Maybe your kindness will rub onto him or something"
I really, really doubt it, I thought.