Illusions begin, p.12
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       Illusions Begin, p.12
 

           N.L. Greene
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  ***

  Ralph stood to greet her as soon as she pulled open the heavy glass doors to her office building. She could see by the look on his face that he was well aware of why the police had paid her a visit the day before and instantly felt bad for his concern and worry. “I’m fine Ralph. I promise,” she reassured him before he could voice his concerns.

  He nodded his head in a way that told her he expected nothing less. “Yes ma’am. I knew that you would be,” his voice softened just a fraction and he offered her a kind smile, “but if you need anything, make sure you let me know.”

  She couldn’t help but to walk over and give him a quick hug. When she pulled back she could see that Ralph was just a little more relaxed than he was when she came in. “Better?” she teased him.

  “Much,” he wasn’t ashamed to admit.

  “Good. I’ll see you this afternoon Ralph.”

  “Yes ma’am. You have a good day.”

  “You too Ralph,” she smiled at him again and made her way to the elevators. The day before, she had been so preoccupied with the police coming to meet her and the conversation she was going to have with her father that she thought of nothing else. Today her mind was clearer and her memory vivid. As she pressed the button and waited, she stood looking at the silver doors and her distorted reflection within, but wasn’t really seeing herself. Instead she remembered Lance and the terrifying encounter she had with him the other day. When the shiny doors finally opened and she stepped inside, she couldn’t help but to give the lobby a nervous glance, making sure he wasn’t lurking somewhere in the shadows. She practically held her breath the entire ride up, scared she would stop on another floor and he would step into the small space with her again.

  She still didn’t know what she was going to do about him. She saw a side of him that she had never seen before and she was sure it wasn’t the last time she would see that Lance. She knew he wouldn’t stop until he got whatever it was that he wanted from her. She was tired of being so naïve and she was done making excuses for his behavior. She was scared of Lance and of what he might do the next time they were alone. The right thing to do would be to tell her father. Lance was not only the son of their lifelong friends, but he was an employee at the law firm and his behavior deserved termination. But the idea of doing so, right after telling him about the subway incident, made her think twice. Not only did she not want to alarm him or cause him more distress, but she was being selfish too. She didn’t want any more pressure to move back home and she knew, without a doubt, that was exactly what would happen. For now she would just be vigilant, deal with the other things that were happening in her life, and then take care of Lance once things cooled down a bit.

  Plan solidly in place, Becky stepped off the elevator onto her floor with more confidence than she had when she stepped on. She greeted Helen warmly, reassuring her that she was indeed all right and then made her way to her office. She sat down with a new determination that transitioned into her work, helping her to power her way through her e-mails, not taking a break until Helen stepped in her office insisting she take lunch.

  “Katherine Rebecca,” Helen’s voice gently scolded, breaking through the bubble that Becky had inadvertently put herself in.

  Becky blinked a few times. “Huh?” she asked dumbly.

  Helen chuckled. “You’ve been so quiet back her I thought this may be the problem. You’re just like your parents, you know that?” She smiled and sat in one of the chairs in front of Becky’s desk. “They both get so engrossed with their work that they completely forget what time it is. Sometimes I thought they would have worked straight through the night if I hadn’t stopped them and sent them home.”

  Becky finally leaned back in her chair and smiled. “I’m sure. I remember Nanny having to reassure me a few times that they would be home because it had gotten so late. I would worry about them. I always insisted that we wait for them for dinner and they would feel so bad when they finally got home, telling me that time just got away with them. Now I know what they meant. I hadn’t even realized the day was already half way over.”

  The older women shook her head. “Just like your parents,” she muttered almost to herself, and then louder she said, “I hope you at least got a lot accomplished with all that effort.”

  “Oh I did! I finally managed to get my outstanding e-mails down to twenty-five. I know I’ll have more when I get back from lunch but I’ll be able to leave today with nothing unresolved, finally!”

  “Well good!” Helen got up with a smile and walked toward Becky’s office door. “Now get out of here and go have some lunch, or else I’ll call your mother,” she threatened but then winked before leaving the office.

  Becky knew Helen wouldn’t actually follow through with the threat, but she also didn’t need to be told twice. Now that she was out of her zombie like trance of doing work, she realized how hungry she was. Normally she would have had another cup of coffee and maybe a muffin to snack on while she worked, but today she had been so determined to get caught up, she hadn’t eaten a thing. Her stomach grumbled as if agreeing with her thoughts.

  She shut down her laptop, grabbed her cell and purse and made her way to the elevators. Waving goodbye to Helen and then Ralph as she passed them, she walked outside and took a deep breath. It was crowded as usual, but the bright sun and the fresh air helped to wake her up just a bit. She pulled her sunglasses from her purse before placing them on her face as she walked toward her favorite diner.

  The bell jingled over the door as she walked in and took a seat at the bar. The bubbly blonde waitress approached right away and smiled. “Hey Becks, how you doin’ today?” she asked while popping her gum and wiping down the counter in front of Becky before setting a glass of water down for her.

  “Hey Jenny, I’m good. How are you?” Becky asked, opening a straw and placing it in her drink before taking a sip and waiting for Jenny’s reply.

  “Exhausted!” she exclaimed over dramatically “These college courses are killing me. I don’t know how you did it Becks! I’m only taking three this term and I’m worried I might fail.”

  “You’ll be fine, but if you need any help you know you just have to ask.”

  “Thanks Becks! You’re the best!” Jenny smiled gratefully and it made Becky feel good that she had helped her. “So, the usual?” Jenny asked, like she always did.

  Becky smiled and nodded at Jenny, “Yep. Thanks!” She watched the waitress walk away to turn in her order and then help the other customers before she turned her gaze toward the window beside her.

  This was why she loved the city so much. Being able to walk into pretty much any restaurant and find the most amazing food was a huge plus, but it was the small things that mattered. Sure the city was full of millions of people, most of them literally not even seeing the person next to them on the street or the subway, but it wasn’t like that in the neighborhood restaurants and diners. In the neighborhoods, people knew each other. The owners and waitresses not only remembered all the regulars, but they got to know them personally. They remembered what they always ordered and they treated you like family. There was a coziness that most people didn’t get to experience when they just paid a visit to NYC.

  As she people watched, she saw a few groups of girlfriends, all carrying shopping bags and giggling with each other. It turned Becky’s homey thoughts to depressing ones. Trying to distract herself, she picked up her phone and started to scroll through it while she waited for her food. She didn’t know why she did this, it wasn’t like she had any missed calls or texts she needed to answer. Because of this, her distraction technique quickly back fired. Becky set her phone down and let out a frustrated huff.

  She didn’t have any friends, therefore no one called her. It was pretty depressing when she thought about it, which was why she tried so hard not to, but that became harder when there were constantly reminders all around her. She knew she was a nice
person, successful, and beautiful. She just wasn’t interested in the things normal girls her age were. She was shy around guys, sometimes even afraid, especially after Lance and that was before the aggressive incident the other day. Now she knew she’d be a mess. Aside from the guy problem though, she wasn’t a big fan of crowds in general, making it difficult to have friends when you were twenty-one. Everyone her age wanted to go clubbing or to parties all the time, which involved large crowds. So she kept her own company and ended up pushing all her friends away. She had been so busy with school; she hadn’t even missed them until recently when she graduated. That was when she suddenly realized she didn’t have anyone to celebrate with or hang out with in her free time.

  Instead of dwelling on it, she threw herself even more into her love of magic. She made more connections on-line and those were the friends that encouraged her to do her own little show. No matter how hard she tired though, she still couldn’t deny how lonely she was. Internet friends weren’t the same as real, living, breathing friends.

  Sighing again, she glanced around, hoping that Jenny would be there with her food soon. That would occupy her enough for now. No such luck, though. She watched as Jenny delivered food to another table and then headed in the opposite direction. She began to tap her fingers on the bar top and people watch again. After a few seconds her fingers stilled when she got a prickly feeling on the back of her neck, similar to the one she had gotten at the magic show before. It felt like someone was standing right behind her and made her instantly uneasy. She knew there wouldn’t be anyone there, just as there hadn’t been at the show, but the feeling was enough to make her look. Turning around slowly, she glanced around the room to see if anyone’s attention was on her. But everyone was occupied in their own conversations, not paying any attention to anyone else in the room, much less her. She shrugged, trying to shake the feeling, and turned back around just as Jenny bounced up with her food.

  “Thanks,” Becky sighed, both from relief at her thoughts being interrupted and at the sight of her food.

  “No problem Becks. Let me know if you need anything else. ‘Kay?”

  “Will do,” Becky answered absently as she took a whiff of her food. Jenny hadn’t even turned around before she was putting a fork full of it in her mouth and then groaning when the amazing taste hit her tongue, sending her taste buds into a frenzy. She looked over her plate as she chewed – fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and a homemade biscuit. It may not have been the best food health wise, but the comfort food would do wonders to soothe her. It didn’t hurt that it was probably the best fried chicken in the entire city either. She dug in with a flourish, uncaring about her manners or lack of lady-like behavior. This food was way too good for that.

  As she ate, she got that prickly feeling again on the back of her neck, but ignored it. She didn’t know what was going on with her senses lately but she wasn’t about to let her paranoia mess up her delicious meal. Ignoring the feeling of being watched, she took her time eating, savoring every bite, and groaned when she swallowed the last one. “That good huh?” Jenny asked with a smirk as she started clearing away the empty dishes.

  “God yes!”

  Jenny laughed. “Good. See ya next week?”

  “Yep,” Becky said as she laid cash on the counter for the meal and a hefty tip. Jenny was young and such a sweet heart. She deserved a good tip. “And don’t forget to let me know if you need any help studying. You know how to reach me,” Becky reminded her as she gathered up her things and headed for the door.

  “Thanks Becks!” Jenny yelled after her as she left the diner.

  When she stepped into the warm sun again, the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end and the feeling of being watched intensified. So much so that she couldn’t ignore it this time. She took her time pulling her sunglasses on as she glanced around. At first she didn’t see anything, but on her second sweep of the area, she noticed a guy standing across the street. He was leaning against the brick wall behind him, his hands in his pockets and one knee bent with his foot propped up on the wall. He wore a New York Yankees hat and it was pulled so low that she could only see the bottom of his nose and his lips. But there was no doubt that not only could he see her, but that he was purposefully watching her.

  Given the past couple of days and the mysterious events surrounding them, Becky didn’t feel up to finding out why this guy was staring at her. She turned away from him and quickly walked back to work without a backwards glance.

 
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