Quiet Enlightenment

Part 1, Chapter 1 – The Dream

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"I can't believe I'm doing this. What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Is it the sacrifice?"

Andrea, a thirty-year old woman living in a "town of dreams" on the Oregon coast, walked toward the bank, in hopes of making a better life for herself. Ever since she graduated from college, she wanted to tackle the world by taking fantastic photographs with the hope of someday seeing her work on a magazine cover.

However, like most daydreamers, fate dealt her a different hand as she found herself slogging away at a fledgling family photo shop. When she wasn't frantically editing the photos on the computer, screaming babies and impatient families occupied the bulk of her "Nine-to-Five". She knew the change was coming and it couldn't some soon enough

Pulling her junky, decades-old car into the bank parking lot, she pulled a cash envelope from her purse. Her ambitions were in the making for quite some time, but it was a challenge to get funding from family members accusing her of "crazy talk". Eventually, she was able to get a sizable investment from her entrepreneurial uncle.

The bank was as busy as one could expect it to be on a typical Friday afternoon. It wasn't long before Andrea's daze was interrupted as a teller shouted out "I can get somebody over here!"

"Hi! How can I help you today?" The teller called out with an inflection that could be interpreted as "Forty-five minutes and I'll be out of this god-forsaken hole."

"Uh, yes, I want to make a deposit." Andrea sheepishly said as she opened the envelope and slid a check accompanied by a deposit slip across the counter. The teller, now dropping what little of a cheerful facade that she had, snatched up the two pieces of paper and started mashing keys. After what felt like a small eternity, the teller flapped a receipt down on the counter and said "Okay, the first $100 of the deposit will be available by Monday morning. The remaining $9,900 will become available as soon as the funds from the check clear."

Andrea, a bit surprised by the fact that her money wasn't going to be 100% available immediately, nodded and walked out of the bank. As she reached for the keys to her car, she could faintly hear the first few bars of her favorite song. Recognizing the name on the screen, she swiped it to answer.

"Hey, girl. Did you get the money deposited?"

The voice on the other end of the line belonged to Andrea's best friend, Charmaine. Charmaine, three years older, was the "big sister" that Andrea never had.

"Yes. Well, kinda-sorta. Did you know that they hold the funds until the check clears?"

Charmaine smiled from her seat at the secretary's desk at the local elementary school where she worked.

"Yes, Andrea, I know that. How else could they keep someone from writing a fraudulent check and making off with the money?"

While Charmaine certainly didn't mean to come off as condescending, Andrea couldn't help but take her response as such. She pulled the phone away from her ear and quickly slapped the steering wheel of her car while making a slight growl.

"But when you think about it, Andrea, pretty soon we're going to be so successful that we won't have to worry about little things like that."

Andrea put the phone back up against her head and let the thoughts of being rich and famous drift through her head.

"You're right and soon enough we'll be the ones making the rules, am I right, Charmaine?"

Charmaine quietly sighed and sat back in her chair at the complete lack of logic that her friend was demonstrating.

"Well, sure, why not?"

"Just think about it, Charmaine, we're going to be big. We're two ladies ready to tackle the world! We're going to be the definitive model for female entrepreneurial society!"

The secretary looked up at the clock and silently rolled her eyes.

"We're going to be on television…" Andrea continued to burble.

"Andrea, Andrea, girl, please. I know you're looking at the glitz and the glamour, but have you thought about any of the short-term stuff? Like what's on the menu?"

Charmaine smirked a bit at the silence coming from the other end of the line. This was a typical cycle for the two friends. Andrea would get a hair-brained scheme and Charmaine would be the one to introduce sanity and logic into the situation. As long as Andrea had Charmaine, the universe would be in perfect harmony.

Being a single mother meant that Charmaine had the opportunity and the drive to learn how the kitchen worked. She loved cooking and when she wasn't trying new recipes from her fellow faculty members, she was tinkering with new and creative ideas. Andrea, on a good day, threw butter and jelly on toast and called it supper.

"Charmaine, I don't want to be a wet blanket, but we need to get some things lined up before we start talking about the big-time. You're looking at the glorious part of the situation and not the long road leading up to that. We have to take this one step at a time."

"Yeah… I guess you're right. How about we meet up at my house tonight and we'll sit down and talk about what's going to be on the menu?"

Andrea looked down at the clock in her car. A quarter until five meant that they were on the cusp of the evening.

"Uh, I guess we could do that. What time would work for you?"

"Well, Kenton's got basketball practice until 6:30. After that I'll be home if you want to stop by."

"Alright then, it's a date. See you then."

"You too, girl."

Andrea pushed a rectangle on the screen of her smartphone to disconnect the call. As she turned the key to start the engine, she gave one last thought to the money that was sitting safe and sound in the bank and the lengths she went through to get it:

"Hey, princess!" an older man said as Andrea wrapped her arms around him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"How are you feeling?" Andrea said as the man opened a pill bottle and proceeded to pop one into his mouth.

"Ah, I'm still here. Doctor says I need to back off of the red meat, but what does he know?"

Andrea lightly chuckled. The doctor, a man who spent a long time in a medical school and went through his residency dealing with stubborn old man like her uncle, had a good point and she knew it.

"So, princess, what brings you here?"

"Well, I've been doing some thinking lately. Business has been slowing down at the studio and the boss doesn't think that we're going to recover thanks to the advances in smartphone cameras and such…"

"Oh, that's terrible!"

"So, I was thinking about going back to school to become a graphic designer…"

"That's wonderful, princess!"

"There's a little problem, however, while I can get a federal aid grant to help pay for the actual tuition, the materials for the class are out of my price range. Especially with the rise of computers and the high cost of software…"

"How much are you going to need?"

"About ten-thousand dollars."

"Say no more. Go get my checkbook from my bedroom dresser…"

There was no "maybe". Andrea had to make her plan work. She just had to. She burned her last possible bridge by lying to the one remaining relative that would give her a helping hand. If this wasn't going to pan out, there were no more shoulders to cry on. This plan had to succeed come hell or high water.

Author's Note:

This story began life as a short series of unconnected stories in early 2014. Over time, they have grown together in a 50+ chapter epic that has been in development for over 6 years.

Please feel free to leave any feedback and questions. This is my first novel-like story, and I would like to use this as an opportunity to hone my skills for my next project.