Continued from CeCe2
Raindrops played chase down the windows of CeCe’s truck – zig-zagging until they would connect. CeCe, curled up on her side in the second seat of her truck and watched them play. Nature’s steel drum orchestra, rain ping, ping, pinging on various parts of her truck, was oddly soothing. She stayed still, cocooned in her red puffer jacket and in the truck’s dreary-day darkness. She wasn’t ready yet to face her reality: no job and temporarily homeless. 3 ½ months ago she was hosting 2 senators in her home—the Mayor’s Mansion.
She knew that most people, including her own family, considered her foolish: you don’t leave a socialite’s life that’s rich with parties, vacations, fabulous jewelry and clothes; but, they didn’t understand how truly broke she was—empty of anything real. She had to leave before she went from broke to broken. Even there in her car, with so much insecurity, she oddly felt better than she did back with Blake. Not knowing what’s going to happen is better than knowing something bad is going to happen – but not knowing when.
CeCe watched the raindrops play a little longer and then slowly sat up and crawled over to the driver’s seat of the car. She pulled down the visor, checked herself out in the mirror, ran her fingers through her short bob and popped a piece of cinnamon gum in her mouth since she didn’t have a toothbrush or anything. She started the engine, turned her radio station from the old R&B music station to the 24-hour news station and started driving back to the hotel. Listening to the news, all that was going on with the world was comforting: there were much bigger problems than hers. People suffered, survived and thrived. She would too.
There was one fire truck in the parking lot of the Budget Inn and Suites when CeCe pulled in. She parked near the front was able to walk up to the front desk where Daryl, one of the front desk managers, greeted her with the same smile he had almost everyday since she had been staying there.
“Morning, Mrs. Carter. Quite a night—wasn’t it?” he questioned. “I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that your section of the hotel was essentially undamaged in the fire. Most of the damage was in the laundry room and small conference rooms we have on the East corner; but we are going to ask for all guests to stay at their secondary hotel through the rest of the week, so that we may fumigate the smoke smell, and make minor repairs. You can go to your room to retrieve your things today, if you’d like though.”
CeCe sighed but understood that none of this was Daryl’s fault. “Thanks, let me grab my things she said while taking the key from Daryl. Can I use one of those luggage carts, she asked pointing through the sliding glass front doors to the carts parked in front of the building?
“Of course. Do you need any help?”
“No, I think that I can handle it. Thanks!”
CeCe went to her room and packed up all of her belongings except for the air fresheners and the potted iris that she had bought the first day she moved in to make the place seem more like a home. One by one she stacked each of her suitcases on the cart and started pushing the cart down the concrete path.
“Let me help you,” he said. It was Jeff, the man from last night.
“Oh hi”, CeCe smiled—aware that she hadn’t brushed her teeth or showered since yesterday afternoon. Jeff grabbed the right bar of the cart and started pushing it. CeCe stepped out of the way and started walking next to him. “He is huge,” thought CeCe again.
“How was the rest of your night? Was it nice to see your friend?” he asked.
At first, CeCe was confused. She forgot that she lied and told him that she was staying at a friend’s house.
“Not bad. It was great to see my friend and catch up,” she continued with the lie—feeling immediately guilty. He seemed so genuinely interested. “I don’t even know this man” she reasoned with herself. As they walked onto the elevator and made it back down to the front desk and then to her car, she listened quietly as he told her about how he had gotten to the property earlier and the fire marshall had told him that the fire started because a dryer malfunctioned. He loaded up the trunk of her car, pulled down the trunk door and then said, “I’m starving, wanna walk across the street to Applebee’s and grab an early lunch?”
“Sure,” CeCe replied. Something about him made her feel comfortable and taken care of.
As soon as the traffic permitted, they sprinted across the six lanes of highway and ran into the restaurant, which caused CeCe to burst into laugher. The rain hitting her face and the frantic run made her feel young. Jeff started laughing too. The hostess had to interrupt them, “Two”? she questioned and held up two fingers, Jeff nodded and they followed her to a booth towards the back of the restaurant.
“I don’t know about you, but all of this rain makes me want to just stuff myself with some junk food. Today just isn’t a salad type of day,” he said taking off his windbreaker and sliding into the booth.
“”I’m with you,” replied CeCe.
They sat in that for booth for 2 ½ hours, drinking ice tea and eating hot wings, potato skins and nachos while talking non-stop. Conversation was so easy between them. And for the first time in a long time, CeCe could feel that someone was interested in getting to know her and not getting to know the mayor’s wife. They laughed about growing up in a small town, old R&B music, high school, and Richard Pryor movies. CeCe realized as she was driving away from the hotel that they talked about so much, but never talked about careers or marital status. She had no idea what he did for a living or if he was married. And she didn’t care. It was just nice to have a friend.
She turned up the radio tapped her hands on the wheel to Donna Summer’s, Last Dance as she drove to the post office to pick up her mail at the p.o. box she opened there. She barely heard her phone ringing because the radio was playing so loudly. “Hello?”
“Good Afternoon. This is Emily Katchow from Riley, Kates and McKutchin. Is this CeCe?
Butterflies immediately started to flutter in CeCe’s stomach. She knew from the woman’s formal tone and the unrecognizable telephone number that this was one of the many jobs that she had applied for calling. “Yes, this is CeCe.”
“I am calling to offer you the position of Executive Assistant. Are you still available?”
“Yes,” Cece replied a little too quickly.
She and the woman discussed salary and confirmed that she would start on Monday. CeCe hung up the phone and sat in the Post Office parking lot. She put her head back on the headrest, closed her eyes and mouthed the words, “thank you.” She was was still going to have to park her car in the back of a warehouse and sleep in it for the rest of the week; but she had a friend, a job and a great deal of hope.
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