Once she dreamed 1, p.7
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       Once She Dreamed - 1, p.7

         Part #1 of Once She Dreamed series by Abbi Glines
 
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  though I waited for him to continue, before agreeing to anything.

  “I have a penthouse in Manhattan I mentioned before. My live in caretaker has retired from old age. It was too much for her to keep things up. I need someone to live there, to take care of the place, keep it clean and prepare it with food when I’m coming into town. Could be short notice and most of the time it is on the shortest of notice. I like things kept clean and tidy at all times. I don’t allow employees to have visitors in my home. I don’t like the intrusiveness of that. Otherwise, it’s a simple job. Not very demanding unless I’m in town and choose to entertain a guest, which I often do you see.” He paused and looked at me a moment. “Are you interested? It is in Manhattan. This would be an adventure.”

  Words wouldn’t come. I lost them. This was not what I expected. With the cupcakes and flirting I actually thought he wanted to date me outright. But he’d been looking for something else. Though it was my way out of Moulton.

  I glanced around the diner and then realized he had brought me here for a reason. So I wouldn’t get the wrong idea. His interest in me and the plans for my future were because I had been on a job interview and hadn’t known till now. This all made sense and I smirked. He was polished and refined. I wasn’t. He couldn’t invite me into his world as someone he was dating.

  But this was the chance of a lifetime.

  “The pay would be one thousand dollars a week plus room and board. You would buy the groceries on a credit card I give you and your meals would be covered. I also offer health insurance to all employees.”

  Holy crap! I only made eight hundred dollars a month now.

  He was waiting for me to respond. To offer some sort of reply. All I could manage was a nod of my head because I was leveled with shock.

  “That’s a yes then?” he asked, a grin on his face and then I nodded again and quickly he asked the next one.

  “Well then, how soon can you move?”

  How soon could I move? Leave Moulton and move to Manhattan. Holy crap! Holy crap! Holy freaking crap! Was I dreaming? Did he lace the meatloaf? Frowning, I found the words. “Is this a dream? Are my organs going to be stolen? Will I be sold into sex slavery?”

  His laughter grew and the way it made his eyes shine was beautiful and strangely dark. Hale had become my boss. Nothing more. He was hiring me to work in a place where he only visited briefly. I had to remember this.

  “It’s not a dream, Sam,” he replied, surprising me by shortening my name. “This is very real. An opportunity.”

  I pinched myself just to be sure. The small sharp pain was a relief.

  “This week. I can leave this week.”

  Chapter Seventeen

  I was home an hour before momma said I should be. After our business dinner we drove back to my house and he walked me to the door then gave me his number, took mine and said he’d be in touch by Monday with my travel arrangements.

  There was obviously no kiss and the whole flirty-interested vibe I’d gotten from him in our past meetings was completely gone. Now he was very professional and businesslike.

  When I walked in the door I heard momma in the kitchen. She was normally in bed this time of the night. With my being out she wasn’t going to sleep. After I told her about my new job I wondered if she would sleep at all. Actually, I wasn’t sure how she was going to feel about this. Would she be happy that I was finding a way to see the world or upset about my leaving home, alone to New York City? Either way I was going. I just didn’t want to upset her. I wanted her to be happy for me.

  “He didn’t ask me out because he’s interested in me the way you think.”

  She folded the towel in her hands, placed it by the sink and then looked up at me. “Is that so?”

  I nodded. “He wants to hire me as a housekeeper at his penthouse in Manhattan. He has several places all over the world and the lady he had working in this one retired. The pay is one thousand a week plus room, board, and health insurance.”

  There, I said it all.

  Momma pulled out a chair from around the table and sank down with a weary sigh. “You’re gonna go aren’t you.”

  It wasn’t a question. It was just acceptance. Minus any excitement.

  “It’s my way out, momma. My chance to live another life. I can save money and then maybe go to college or with this reference get another job when it’s time. This is the means to that end. Without a man attached.”

  She shook her head. “That’s where you’re wrong. There is a man attached.”

  “Yes, but he’s my boss. He took me to a diner momma. Nothing fancy. He talked business and explained that when he was in town he would entertain guests and I was to keep it clean and the food stocked. That was it. He also said he only came a few days a month.”

  “Is he married?” she asked me.

  I shook my head. “No.” Honestly, I wasn’t sure. He didn’t wear a ring, but did that mean anything?

  “Does he have a girlfriend? Fiancé?”

  “Possibly, probably, I don’t know. We just talked about my job and that’s it. He doesn’t share his personal stuff with me.”

  Momma rubbed her hand over her face and for a moment we sat there, neither of us speaking. The reality that I was taking this job and leaving was settling in for us both.

  “Reckon you’re grown and I can’t tell you any different. You want out of this place and this is a ticket out. But remember these words: ain’t no man hires a girl with your looks to just clean his house and cook. He’ll want more. Maybe not now, but he will. And you’ll have to make that decision. Just know that this here is home and when you need to run back the door is always open.”

  This was home. The girls, even though they could drive me nuts, were a part of me forever. And Henry was my heart. I would miss them all. Especially momma. But living with security, and always sense, wasn’t the way to chase your dreams. Dreams were scary. This was supposed to be scary.

  “I know momma.”

  She nodded her head, released a sigh and stood on weary legs. “Since you were a little girl I knew you’d be the one to leave me. That face has stopped traffic and brought attention all your life. You don’t see it or feel it, but Mr. Hale does. Don’t forget that. He’s a man and you’re beautiful. Inside and out. Don’t let that ever change Sammy Jo.”

  I stood to close the distance between us. Tears stung my eyes and momma wrapped me in her arms. “I love you,” I told her, as the first tear rolled down my cheek.

  “And I love you.”

  We stood like that for a long time. My future playing out in our heads, imagining what it would be like in New York City really soon. How my life would change and I would adjust. I knew momma was full of concerns and fears. I’d call her weekly and keep her updated. After a while she wouldn’t worry. She’d see I was able to handle it, was going to be okay.

  She believed Hale was attracted to my beauty. Momma didn’t realize there were beautiful women with class and money all around him. He could date models and heiresses. I wasn’t the prettiest girl in the world. Though convincing my momma of that was impossible. So I let it go. I knew this was a business agreement. My attraction to Hale would fade with time or at least I hoped it would. I didn’t need to be attracted to my boss. That would lead to heartache. In Manhattan I wouldn’t stand out like I apparently did in Moulton. There would be beauty and wealth all around me. I would be nothing else but me. I looked forward to that.

  But I was going to miss this house. My momma, sisters, brother, Jamie, Ben and even the bakery, were all a part of me. The largest slice of what I was and in the future would become. This place had built me from the ground up and now I’d leave it behind. Instead of dancing around in joy I felt sad and anxious in leaving. Because I knew I would miss it all. Staying here was out of the question. I wanted more and had to go get it.

  Knowing I could always come home again was what eased my ache and gave me the courage to do this from the start. I wasn’t running away. I was on
ly going forward. To a life that was worth writing about and maybe I’d do that too. Write about this. Document my journey. Share it one day with my kids. I’d make a mark on this world and in return, this world would mark me too. I’d clutch on with both hands and enjoy the ride and see what happened in time. Daddy always said it wasn’t the destination, but the journey, that’s what mattered. My journey was about to begin. Or had it begun already?

  Chapter Eighteen

  When I first told my sisters they were all giddy with excitement and hopes for a visit. Once packing began things changed. It was Bessy who cracked first. She walked into the bedroom where I was putting my clothes into the only suitcase we owned. Momma had been given the suitcase as a wedding gift from her mother. We haven’t had a reason to use it since my mother was married. Seeing it packed was too much on Bessy and her tears weren’t quiet ones. Within seconds she was sobbing loudly, in a heap on the floor in hysterics. I stopped and went to sit beside Bessy, pulling her into my arms.

  “I ca-ca-can’t imagine,” she said with a sob, “life without you here.” Honestly, neither could I.

  “I won’t be gone forever. I’ll come visit and bring presents from New York. I will call every week and you can call me. Just think of the stories and adventures I’ll get to tell you about.”

  She clung to me and continued to cry. All I could do was hold her. Eventually Henry walked into the room followed by Hazel and when Hazel saw us tears welled up in her eyes. She knew why Bessy was crying, even if Henry was confused. The idea of me moving was so foreign to him he wasn’t sure what to think.

  “I’ll come home for the holidays with presents and we will talk about all I’ve missed. Maybe one day you can come visit me. I’ll save up so you can.” I tried those encouraging words, though nothing eased them entirely. While we sat piled in the floor as a family I let them cry it out.

  Henry came to sit in my lap and laid his head on my chest. I wasn’t sure how long we sat there. I did not rush their sadness. When the tears dried we waited in the silence. I would miss them. That was felt. I’d hold onto this moment forever. Not because of sadness, but because we were family and that bond is never severed, even if we wished it to be.

  Jamie’s tears hadn’t been much better. She was emotional and pregnant so I spent two hours consoling her like a mother. If I ever wondered how much these people loved me, I definitely knew it now. To me, that meant the world.

  It was Sunday morning when I got the call from Hale’s personal assistant. Felicity was her name. She was emailing me my flight information and the list of travel details. I was to fly out of Nashville at eight on Monday, the move happening rapidly as my questions increased by the second and by the minute.

  Felicity assured me that all of the answers were contained within my email. I explained I didn’t have an email account and she asked if I had any access. I told her I did because Jamie had a laptop with an Internet connection. She then gave me a website, login name and a password all my own. I apparently had one now.

  After getting my information printed off at Jamie’s I took it to momma for perusing. She read it and said we would leave the house at four the next morning and that I needed to be packed and have my driver’s license with me.

  Sleep didn’t come easily. I was too nervous and anxious. I kept reading over the details Felicity had sent me in the email. I would be here and then I’d be there. Things changing rather quickly, which is exactly as I wished, though still, this was hard. Here were the particulars as follows:

  8:00am

  Nashville to Atlanta

  Nashville Intl. (BNA) to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Intl. (ATL)

  Delta 496

  Seat 3A

  BOEING (DOUGLAS) MD-88

  Layover

  1h 58m stop Atlanta (ATL)

  12:10p

  Atlanta to New York

  Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Intl. (ATL) to John F. Kennedy Intl. (JFK)

  Delta 1415

  Seat 4D

  Arrival at JFK:

  Upon arrival you will proceed to baggage claim. Your driver will be waiting with a sign that has your name on it. He will get your luggage and take you to the penthouse. Once there the details of your job and instructions will be on the kitchen counter. The key, credit card, and keyless entry code will also be waiting on you. Once you have gone over everything sign the contract and fax it to me from the fax machine in the office down the hall to your left. My number will be listed if you have any questions.

  Safe travels,

  Felicity

  I read over it a million times to be sure I wasn’t missing something. The fear that I would do the wrong thing and end up somewhere lost was real and apparent to me. I had never been on a plane. I had barely been out of Moulton.

  Finally I folded the paper and tucked it back in my purse. Then I rolled over to look at Hazel who was sound asleep beside me. She would grow so much this year. She was already beautiful, but this year, Hazel would really blossom. I felt a touch of sadness over missing that, but yes, I would miss it.

  Leaving had always been my dream. Now hours before I actually left I was torn between wanting to hold onto here and going to chase my new life. I wanted both, but couldn’t live two. I had to choose and I’d chosen.

  Closing my eyes I let myself dream of how New York City would look and the places I would explore. The new friends I would find and the future I wanted were right there for the taking. Leaving my past behind wasn’t a permanent thing. I could always come visit I thought.

  Tomorrow, I would finally grow up.

  Chapter Nineteen

  Momma hadn’t cried. That was the one thing I was most thankful for today. After very little sleep if she had cried it would have been so much worse. I was on the verge of tears leaving my room behind. All my sisters were sleeping as I eased out with my suitcase. I hadn’t wanted to wake them for fear of becoming emotional and again, the pile of us crying. Yet, I wanted to hug them all one last time.

  Henry, on the other hand, sleeps like a rock so I was able to go kiss his little head and whisper I love you to him before leaving. He didn’t stir once. The sound of the screen door closing behind me as we stepped outside was sad. I knew I wouldn’t hear it again, at least for a while anyway.

  The rest of my day had taken my complete concentration in order not to miss my connecting flight. For someone who had never flown before the Atlanta airport was confusing. I stopped to ask for help three times before I figured out that I needed to get on this indoor train thing and go from letter A to letter C. Then look for gate 19.

  I was fed on my flight from Atlanta to New York and even given a real cloth napkin for my lap. The glass with my soda in it was real, not plastic, like I had imagined. When I went to the restroom I realized there was a curtain separating my small section of the plane with the rest of the passengers. Looking around at the suits and laptops surrounding me I realized this wasn’t the normal part of the plane. Hale had put me in a special section.

  My flowered sundress and sandals, which felt pretty yesterday as I spent hours deciding what to wear, now felt as if they were bought from a thrift store. They hadn’t been. I bought them on sale at the local department store last year and was, as recently as before I boarded this plane, quite proud of them.

  By the time I arrived at JFK airport I was mentally exhausted from thinking too much. I felt alone and scared. However, while stepping off the plane and making my way to the baggage claim by following the signs, excitement began to grow with each second. I was doing it. I was in New York.

  Tonight, at this very moment, I would’ve been in Moulton listening to the same gossip I always heard. I wouldn’t be getting up in the morning and going to the bakery. No more canning this summer. No tripping to the lake with the people from my childhood who had known me since I could remember. That was finished. I was here. It was happening.

  My life was going to be in full color. Change was happening now and I was present for the change.

/>   A man holding a sign with my name on it, like Felicity said he would be, was waiting on me near the baggage. He was in a black suit and tie, his head bald and he stood amongst a sea of men dressed the same way as I entered the baggage claim area. Her directions had been easy to follow. I was thankful for the paper in my purse. Appreciative of her instructions. Their step-by-step delivery.

  I walked up to the man and smiled. “I’m Sam Knox,” I told him. The fact my sign hadn’t said Sammy Jo didn’t surprise me. Hale didn’t call me that. Or at least he had stopped. He preferred to shorten it.

  The older man smiled. “Welcome to New York,” he replied, placing the sign under his arm. “Let’s get your luggage shall we.”

  I followed him until he stopped at a carousel with luggage moving on it. We passed three before he halted. I was trying to figure out how he knew which one my luggage would arrive on. The one thing I was sure he didn’t know was which piece of luggage was mine. So I turned my attention to the moving bags until I spotted my piece. “There’s mine,” I said, stepping up to get it.

  “I’ll get that miss,” he replied, moving in front of me and picking the bag up as he came by.

  That was nice of him. My momma would approve. We might not be in the south, but so far I didn’t see a difference in the people here. They were all very helpful and nice.

  “Thank you,” I told him.

 
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