Need to catch up? Check out Chapter One here.
Darkness met me when I opened my eyes. No light from outside, which meant it was still early. I stretched my arms over my head, arching my back and yawning. My bladder begged me to get out of bed, and I’d tried unsuccessfully to ignore it. The room, though fully equipped with the wonders of modern central heating, felt just a few degrees warmer than the air outside. Shivering, I slipped out from under the covers and braced myself for the cold, laminate floors. Not hardwood, of course, not in this cheap apartment.
I ran to the bathroom, not even bothering the flip on the light. As I sat on the toilet, I closed my eyes and replayed the events of last night. I opened then quickly. There was absolutely no need to relive any of that. Still single. Now unemployed. But, hey, I did win a two-week cruise with my best friend. After I flushed, I made my way back to the bed. The smell of fresh-brewed coffee wafted in my room, which was odd considering I hadn’t made it and I didn’t have one of those fancy coffee makers with a timer.
Mom. It had to be, unless the world’s nicest intruder was currently in my house brewing me coffee before sunrise on a Saturday.
“Ugh,” I groaned and grabbed a pair of flannel pajama pants off the floor.
“I can hear you,” my mother called from the other side of the door.
“Good morning,” I said, forcing as much fake enthusiasm into my scowl as possible.
“I made coffee. You really should change the password on your computer. Took me all of two tries to guess it. Also—”
“Nope,” I said. I held my hands up in surrender. I wasn’t ready to talk about why that name was my password, or how she’d figured it out so quickly. Geri Yancey didn’t do boundaries. No locked door could keep her from breaking into her daughter’s apartment to make coffee and hack into her only child’s computer.
“Anyway, I took a look at your resume.”
“Can I have coffee before you dive into how pathetic my life really is?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to say the words, Mom. I can hear it in your tone and the fact that you hacked into my computer to fluff up my resume for Uncle Ted.”
“Carrie, I just don’t understand why—”
“Coffee first. Then you can shame your little heart out.” I padded into the kitchen and pulled open the cabinet. Grabbing the largest clean mug I could find, I pulled it out and filled it with coffee. No cream. No sugar. Just black.
Mom was sitting on the couch with my laptop perched in her lap. I reluctantly made my way over to her and sat beside her. No matter how much I wanted to avoid whatever conversation we were about to have, I knew resistance was pointless.
“Well, the one bright spot is that you have agency experience. Though, I’m not sure we can put Jake down as a reference.”
I cringed. It was far too early to hear that name. As long as she didn’t dive into details, I might survive this conversation.
“Considering how badly you screwed that one up.” She clearly had no intention of avoiding painful memories.
“Mom, please,” I whined. I didn’t want to talk about my lack of experience in my field any more than I wanted to drudge up the ex-boyfriend that sent me crying back to minimum wage and stocking shelves. “Not today. Besides, I didn’t screw anything up.”
“Sure, dear.” My mother patted my knee and turned to face me. Her brown eyes studied mine for a moment. I got my eyes from her, as she liked to remind me. The mousey blonde hair came from my father’s side of the family. “Who was your boss at Tabor and Associates?”
“Jake,” I replied. His name spilled from my mouth like venom. “His boss was Robin.”
“Can we put her down?”
Considering Robin was the reason we broke up, probably not. I shook my head. “Can we just leave that one off? I was only there two years.”
“It’s your only relevant experience.”
“This is Uncle Ted we are talking about. Your brother won’t dive into his niece’s resume.”
“And if Uncle Ted doesn’t hire you?”
I laughed. “Mom, Uncle Ted once paid me two hundred dollars to tie his shoes because I needed a new tire on my car, I’m pretty sure he’ll hire me the second I ask.”
Mom smiled and said, “You’re probably right but can you take this seriously, just in case he doesn’t?”
“Sure,” I replied, “oh, by the way, I’m going on a cruise on Monday.”
“With Aaron.” I held my breath as I waited for her response. The only thing she hated more than my lack of career growth was my friendship with Aaron. Ever since she found him standing naked in her kitchen digging through the refrigerator our sophomore year of high school, she hadn’t been able to say his name without gagging just a little. The visual of Aaron’s naked ass was forever etched in her mind.
“Mom, I know you heard me. Aaron won, well, I won, a two-week cruise through the Mediterranean.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Not even a little.”
“Do you think now is a good time for you to be galivanting halfway across the world with … Aaron.” Her nose wrinkled and her lips curled in disgust.
“Aaron,” I said, repeating his name just to watch her squirm, “won the trip for us, so yeah, he has to go. And, I’m unemployed now, what better time to escape reality for a little while.”
“And if Uncle Ted hires you?”
“Then I start in two weeks like any other normal job.”
“This is a bad idea.”
“But what if I meet some hot Greek guy, fall in love, get married and squirt out a few grandbabies.” Mentioning Aaron was guaranteed to produce a reaction of disgust. Mentioning future grandbabies was sure to elicit my mother’s approval of anything.
She thought for a moment. Her eyes twinkled at the possibilities. She was probably naming her grandchildren as she sat there.
Smiling, she said, “I suppose you’re right. Two weeks is a normal lead time before starting a job. Do you have clothes? Formal dresses for dinner? Bathing suits? Maybe we should go over to Green Hills today.”
And just like that, I went from winning a cruise to winning a new wardrobe. “That sounds like an excellent idea, Mom.”