The Marks of Darnella Bronson

Darnella Bronson had little trouble finding the Colby house in the prestigious Green Hill section of Greenville. It was a large three story white colonial with black shutters and a brick wall surrounding it, with a manicured lawn and well-kept shrubbery and flowers.

She parked her eight year old Honda behind a black Mercedes sports coup in the driveway and she approached the front stoop carrying her small satchel, ringing the doorbell and waiting for someone to answer.

The door opened after a few moments to reveal a haggard looking forty year old man who hadn't shaved in three days. He was wearing faded jeans and a gray sweatshirt.

"Mr. Colby?" Darnella asked tentatively.

"Mark," he acknowledged. "Darnella Bronson?"

"Yes."

"Darnella's an unusual name."

"It goes way back in my family," Darnella explained. "Australia, originally, apparently. It means strong - I think that's why my mother gave it to me."

"Because you're strong," Mark said, stepping back and motioning for her to enter the home. "Is Darnella what people call you?"

"My friends call me Nella," she revealed as she followed him into the foyer.

She appeared to be around Mark's age, with long brown hair and a noticeable horseshoe-shaped deep red birthmark on her right cheek. She was wearing a light blue pantsuit.

"The study's this way," Mark said, leading Darnella down a short side hall and into a room with built in bookcases on three of the four walls, paneled wood, leather chairs, and a huge desk by the window. "Please, have a seat," Mark said, gesturing to a large red leather chair in front of the oak desk.

Mark took his seat behind the desk and Darnella slipped into the chair across from him.

"Doris Kenwood gave me your name," Mark revealed.

"She told me," Darnella acknowledged.

"Did she tell you of my dilemma?" Mark asked.

"Your private live-in home care provider had to leave unexpectedly," Darnella said.

"We're not quite sure for how long," Mark explained. "Doris said you did a good job with her mother."

Darnella reached into her satchel and produced her resume which she handed to Mark.

"Camp Horizon?" He asked as he scanned the page.

"It's up in the Berkshires, beyond West County," she explained. "I run it during the summer but I need other employment during the rest of the year."

"So, it's a summer camp?"

"For girls with emotional issues and other challenges," Darnella told him.

"You've been doing that for a long time," Mark observed, studying the resume.

"I went there when I was younger," Darnella revealed.

Mark looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

"I experienced unfortunate meanness from insensitive people who judged me for this," she said, pointing to the birthmark on her face. "I was called horrible names and picked on for something I was born with through no fault of my own. It did a number on my self-image and confidence."

"I'm sorry."

"Camp Horizon's Staff provided an environment where everyone was accepted for who they were," Darnella explained. "Nobody called me names there. It was a wonderful, joyous and fulfilling experience. I was amazed and grateful to be a part of it and it made a big impact on my life."

"That's good."

"I went back every summer as a camper, then as a counselor," Darnella continued. "It was magical, a place where I learned to be giving and helpful and where I learned confidence to embrace who I was. Before I knew it, I was running the place just a few years after I got out of college."

"That's impressive," Mark said.

"I'm able to share my struggles that came with having the birthmark."

"I see from your resume that you've had a lot of Nanny jobs," Mark noted.

"It seemed like a natural evolution," Darnella replied. "Helping support, nurture and encourage kids."

"You've been doing more senior home care recently," Mark observed, scanning her resume.

"It just worked out that way," Darnella said. "I take the best jobs available when I'm available."

"My father had a stroke a few years ago," Mark let her know. "Now the early stages of dementia are setting in. I can't leave him alone."

"I understand," Darnella said with sensitivity.

Mark sat back in his desk chair and let out a large sigh. "Have you heard of Benson Colby Publishing Company?" He asked.

"Of course," She said. "That nice building in the industrial park."

"We're in our 84th year," Mark said. "My grandfather started the company during the great depression. Grew it into a nationally known specialty printing company famous for its Scriptography style of publications. Dad took it over and now I'm in the process of closing it."

He said the last sentence with a heavy sigh.

"Why?" Darnella asked with surprise.

"Can't keep us with the internet and other alternative technological sources," Mark confessed. "The demand is no longer there. Sixty people are about to lose their jobs."

"I'm sorry," Darnella said quietly.

"A lot of these people have been with us for years," Mark said with sadness. "Many of them longer than me. And now I'm cutting them all loose."

"Do you have a choice?" Darnella asked.

"So, as you can imagine, I have a lot on my plate right now," Mark said. "I need to know that Dad is okay."

"Does he know about the company?" Darnella asked.

Mark shook his head no. "This is my problem," he said. "I think I have a buyer for the building lined up…" His voice trailed off.

"Are you okay?" Darnella asked, sensing his stress.

"No," Mark admitted. "I'm bummed out about the company and my Dad."

"I can start whenever you need me," Darnella announced. "I'll have to leave by early June though."

"You'd be a life-saver," Mark said with appreciation. "I think Patty will be back by then. Do you want to meet Dad?"

"Sure," Darnella said pleasantly.

Both stood from their chairs and Mark led his guest out of the study, down the hall and into an open living room where an older man sat in a wheelchair. A boy of about eleven was sitting on the couch engrossed in a computer game on his phone.

"This is my Dad, Noah, and my son, Fredrick."

"Call me Frito," Fredrick insisted with annoyance, glancing up at his father and the stranger. "What happened to your face?" He asked Darnella.

"Frederick!" Mark reprimanded.

"It's a birthmark," Darnella informed the rude kid.

"Dad, this is Darnella," Mark said, raising his voice and leaning into his father sitting in the wheelchair. "She's going to be filling in for Patty for a while."

The old man looked at Darnella and made a gesture with his hand toward her face.

Mark let out a sigh. "I'm really sorry," he said to Darnella.

"It's okay," Darnella replied.

"It look like a horseshoe," Fredrick remarked.

"Would you at least try to be polite and respectful?" Mark groaned at his son. He glanced at Darnella. "He lives with his mom," he explained. "Just visits here."

"Patty is a lot bigger than you," Fredrick noted.

"That's enough," Mark counselled. He looked at Danella desperately. "You still want the job?" He worried.

"Darnella means strong, remember?" Darnella said to Mark.