Continued from CeCe3
Oddly, there is a large dog with long, wavy, blond hair sitting by the receptionist’s desk. “Maybe a lab mix of some sort,” CeCe thought. CeCe approached the desk, and the red-haired, 30-something year old receptionist wearing an emerald green blouse, looks up at CeCe holding up one finger to indicate that she will be with CeCe momentarily. CeCe stands there wondering if she should pet the dog to show that she is a warm person. She knows how folks are about their dogs and she wants to make a good impression; but she worries that the dog will coat her black Armani suit with it’s light-colored fur. The dog doesn’t get up to greet her either, and rather stays stretched out, and looks briefly at CeCe under hooded eyes with a rather bored expression on his face. So she stands, in her three-inch heels, holding the black Coach bag that she has decided would make a good briefcase, and alternated between smiling awkwardly at the receptionist and at the dog.
“So sorry to keep you waiting,” the receptionist hung up the phone, stood up, pulled down her tan clingy skirt and smiled. She extended her hand towards CeCe, “Hi, I’m Monique. You must be Cecelia.”
CeCe shook Monique’s hand and before she could stop herself divulged, “Please call me CeCe. And I’m more of a hugger” and embraced Monique. Immediately, CeCe felt regretful, knowing that she hadn’t been professional — but lately she had felt more like her true self, and she was indeed a hugger. Thankfully, Monique seemed to be touched instead of offended, so CeCe told herself not to spend too much time thinking about it.
“Let me take you to your office,” Monique offered and led CeCe around the corner to a row of three elevators. They rode up to the 18th floor and got off at a large room that had pecan wood cubicles in the center and offices with glass windows around the periphery. The largest office was in the far right corner. Monique pointed to it and said, “That’s Mr. Anderson’s office. You will be his Executive Assistant.” Monique then walked into a bare office with light gray walls with a desk, two chairs and a small bookshelf and said, “this is your office. Why don’t you leave your things here and I’ll introduce you to some folks. You have a meeting at 10:00 with IT to get you set-up, a lunch meeting with HR at noon, and a meeting with Mr. Anderson at 2:00.”
The day was even busier than Monique made it sound. When CeCe wasn’t in a structured meeting, she was meeting more of the staff. She was shocked at the respect that her Executive Assistant job gave her. Evidently being that close to the head of the company was viewed as a big deal by some. CeCe laughed to herself: using all of her years volunteering and turning it into a resume that made her look highly employable actually worked. Who knew that her seven years serving as the Links Treasurer would later turn into seven years of “accounting firm experience.” And that being Blake’s pseudo campaign manager would give her “exceptional writing and multitasking skills.”
She was so relieved that she had finally found a job. Her first paycheck would be there just in time for her to pay for the next month at the Budget Inn. For the first time, she felt real gratitude for the expensive jewelry Blake had bought her following the worst beatings: they had paid for a month of rent and had fed her for the last several weeks. When she walked into the pawn shop on 5th street with the large, red fluorescent sign that read “Pete’s Pawn” wearing her Juicy Sweats, she was heavily accessorized with massive shame. When she was growing up, her great Aunt would talk about people who went to the pawn shop in ways to suggest that they had hit rock bottom, had failed in life. “Dat daggone Earl is stuck on dat gambling tighter than a pit bull on a turkey leg. Heard he had to pawn his gold teeth and is walking around town half toothless. Now you know dat’s a daggone shame. Poor Lily Ann. She comes to church every Wednesday and Sunday to pray for dat fool ass husband of hers; but I say even God has limits. So when she walked in, for a moment she felt toothless and disgraced — as if she too had hit bottom.
Maybe it was because she didn’t give him eye contact or that she couldn’t get her voice to go much above a whisper, but Pete, himself, seemed to recognize her distress and treated her as if they were in Saks Fifth Avenue and she were his best customer. He came from around the glass display case, put one hand lightly on CeCe’s shoulder and said, “Let me get a closer look these beauties that you brought in to me today, picking up a diamond and ruby necklace that CeCe had placed on the counter. By the time CeCe left Pete’s, she felt that she had met an ally. Between Pete and Jeff, CeCe had started to build a nice support system.
When CeCe walked into the tapas restaurant, Jeff was already there, sitting in a booth wearing Levis and a white polo shirt drinking what she guessed was a Crown and Coke. “Heeeeeey!”, she walked up and gave him a hug. He swallowed her in his arms.
“What’s going on, Ms. Executive Assistant. Let’s get you a drink quickly so we can toast the new job,“ he bellowed.
It was nice to see Jeff. Both he and CeCe were in similar situations. He had just moved out of his home after 12 years of marriage and three sons. They didn’t talk too much about their spouses, but they had that natural bond that occurs when you and a person are in the same situation.
“To the next CEO of Riley, Kates and McKutchin” he said raising his glass and tapping it with CeCe’s. CeCe laughed and looked down.
“Nooooo, we’ve got to toast again. You know if you don’t look into a person’s eyes when you toast that means seven years bad sex,” Jeff admonished.
CeCe felt shy immediately. It was the first time Jeff ever said anything remotely sexual around her. He treated her like she was his little sister, which was just fine for CeCe. She definitely wasn’t ready—didn’t know if she would ever be ready-for a relationship. But she forced herself to have eye contact, raised her glass, looked into his large brown eyes (why do the boys always get the eyelashes that girls would pay for) and toasted saying, “I don’t know about CEO, but I will toast to that.”
They spent the next 2 ½ hours laughing about old times and Jeff’s adventures of owning a trucking company. Cece looked at her watch and knew that they should be heading back to the Budget Inn. She said, “We should get back. After all I am a working woman now.”
Once back at the hotel CeCe took off her clothes and crawled in the bed under the pink comforter she had bought from Walmart a few weeks ago (she didn’t know who had used — or what they had done on — the hotel comforter). She turned on the t.v. to catch the last half of Law & Order when her phone rang. CeCe immediately answered, assuming that it was Jeff calling about something.
“Hello”, she sang.
“Baby, I need you back here,” she heard Blake’s demanding voice say. Immediately, her stomach tightened. She wanted to press “end” and end that call, end hearing his voice, end the fear, but she didn’t. She listened to his drunk ramblings until seemingly he passed out or his phone died. CeCe turned off her phone, pulled on her her green juicy sweat suit over her pajamas and drove to the Denny’s up the street. Denny’s, even during the day, seemed too bright. Tonight the yellow sign and the bright lights inside seemed almost blinding. CeCe, seeing that the place was almost empty took a large booth in the corner of the restaurant. When the almost elderly waitress came to take her order, she ordered two eggs and a hot tea.
She wondered about her waitress. She was clearly in her late 60s or early 70s, an easy smile that showed silver teeth in the back and revealed that she was a long time smoker. The lines in her face were deep and CeCe had a feeling that her story was too. Her name tag said Gloria. Gloria smiled as she moved from table to table wearing her white nursing shoes and walking in short quick steps. She didn’t seem tired; rather she seemed to have more energy than the mixed bag of characters in Denny’s. There were two cops sitting at the bar drinking coffee and deep in conversation, an old white man who kept talking to himself, and a young couple who kept breaking out in startling, loud bursts of laughter. There were a million stories here. Being around people, regular folks like her, was comforting. She knew that they had faced hard times and had made it through. She would too.