A seal upon your heart, p.4
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.4

           Pepper Pace
 

  “Consider them a small gift. But one thing,” Jane raised her brow in question. “Read the poetry out loud. I know you won’t be able to find a place to do so in the school but try, okay?”

  Jane smiled and nodded. “Thank you, Sister.”

  They made plans to get together on Friday and Dhakiya made her promise not to fill up on her rich boss’ food. “I’m going to cook for you and you will be able to meet my love, Rodney. You will love him as well. He’s absolutely wonderful and has two very handsome brothers…” Dhakiya’s brow went up suggestively.

  Jane’s eyes got wide. “No! Don’t invite the brothers—”

  Dhakiya chuckled. “No, just you me and Rodney…for now.”

  Jane relaxed. “Thank you.” She leaned in and kissed her. “Bye Sis.”

  “Turongera.”

  Jane checked the time and noted that everyone would be gathering in the small church for devotion. She hurried to meet them and added Jen and Tim to her prayers.

  ~***~

  Tim walked past Jakob Marx’s pretty secretary.

  “Hello Mr. Singleton.”

  “Is the old bird in?”

  The girl smiled. “Yes. Go right in.”

  Tim did just that, knocking once before letting himself in without waiting for a response. Marx looked up from his computer and Tim took the chair opposite him leaning back and regarding the ceiling.

  “Singleton. And what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”

  Tim raised a brow, his eyes still lazily on the ceiling. “Dinner, Saturday, you and your wife. We’ll begin with a round of golf at your country club. After dinner we’ll have some drinks, casual conversation, then I’ll go home and you and Elaina will leave me alone for another month.”

  Jakob regarded his friend. “Elaina’s going to want to introduce you to a ‘friend.’”

  Tim’s eyes moved to the man that had been his best friend for the last 25 years. “Absolutely out of the question.”

  “Elaina calls you a ‘wonderful man’ and she has a ‘wonderful friend’ and thinks that you two will have a ‘wonderful time’ getting to know each other. I’ve tried very hard to convince her that you are neither wonderful…nor even very interesting.” Jakob hid a grin as he spoke. “But for some odd reason she’s convinced that you actually are worthy of her attention.”

  Jakob stood, he wasn’t nearly as tall as Tim and where Tim was brawny, Jakob was more athletically built. Once upon a time Tim had cared about such things and he felt a moment of shame that he’d allowed his once toned body to soften.

  Jakob seemed in deep concentration as he paced. “Now the female in question does actually fit into the arena of ‘wonderful.’” At this he peeked at Tim who at least continued to watch him. “However, I wouldn’t think that sitting down at dinner with her constitutes any pressure for…dating.”

  Tim almost gagged as he straightened in his seat.

  “Not the D-word. I don’t want to fucking hear the D-word.”

  Jakob held up his hands innocently. “I said there is no pressure in that direction. Dinner, a few drinks after, along with some casual conversation.”

  The muscles in Tim’s jaw clenched. It was more reflexive than anything else and once he realized he was doing it he relaxed. “Remove golfing at the country club, and just dinner with…Miss Wonderful present and we have a deal.”

  Jakob stood before him, staring down in disapproval. “Have you thought about hitting the gym?”

  “What are you saying? That I’m fat?” Now he was becoming offended.

  “No. But you will be in about another six months at the rate you’re going.”

  Tim scowled and muttered something about plans to hit the treadmill, and then he stood and left.

  “Seven sharp, Saturday.”

  Tim raised his hand dismissively before disappearing into the elevator.

  CHAPTER 5

  The next day Jane carried her book to work. She planned to go outside and sit in the pavilion and read aloud to herself. Something moved through her that caused her to frown briefly. Why should she have to sneak away just to read a book of poems? Why should she be afraid that one of the sister’s would see her? She couldn’t wait until she had the money to leave that place that was beginning to feel more and more like a prison!

  She arrived at work at 7:30. Jen and Tim hadn’t yet arrived and other than the receptionist, no one else was present on the floor. She liked the quiet and quickly started the coffee brewing. The smell was intoxicating and it alone perked her up. The smell of coffee is one of the few things that she did remember from her life before the school and the nuns. Why, she didn’t know. Only that the smell of it had always soothed her.

  She wasn’t sure what she should do to occupy her time until she was given her daily duties so she began with the file cabinets, checking to make sure that everything was filed properly--and of course it wasn’t. It was like Jen has said, the temps before her hadn’t cared or didn’t understand and had just put everything back haphazardly.

  Tim was met with the smell of strong coffee and the sight of Jane busily straightening a file cabinet. She was so engrossed in her activity that she didn’t even see him and he took a moment to watch her. Her height still amazed him. She was pretty, but somewhat dowdy. He didn’t think it in a mean way. He realized that she had been raised in a convent and wouldn’t have expected anything much different. She wore her hair pulled back into a bun that he hadn’t seen on anyone since the 70’s, and her skirt and blouse were outdated and ill-fitting. She was much too thin, but he didn’t think that it was by choice. He suspected that she just wasn’t fed enough at that school for nuns. He’d seen her lunch yesterday. Jane was no salad eater.

  “Good morning.” She jumped and he thought she had nearly given herself a heart attack. “Sorry.”

  “I didn’t see you!” She chuckled. “Good morning Tim. I’ll bring your coffee. You take it black?”

  “Yes. Thank you, Jane.” He went into his office impressed that she wasn’t just sitting there idly. He took off his coat and hung it, then sat in his chair. He did the same thing almost every morning; he turned on the radio then powered on his computer. His eyes fell onto the photographs on his desk and he sighed. Then he checked for messages.

  Jane brought his coffee and sat it on his desk then stood there for a moment. “What would you like for me to do for you today, Sir-um Tim?”

  He’d given the other girl a list of daily duties but he supposed that it was too much to expect her to share them with this new girl.

  “I don’t see any messages from the day before…”

  “Oh!” Jane quickly hurried back to the cubicle and located the messages. They were written on pink little message tabs.

  He took them with a sigh then pointed to his daily planner. “It’s imperative that my appointments be placed in this planner. If you see a conflict, you are to notify me immediately. Never leave a message for me on a pink sticky note. These are for your use. In the event that I’m not available to accept a message directly, you are to leave it on my voice mail, which I check several times throughout the day.

  Jane was nodding vigorously and wringing her hands.

  Tim paused. “Jane relax. You’re doing very well. I’m more than pleased with your work.” He didn’t realize that he was lecturing her until she began to look scared. Well, this was all probably very strange for her. Corrine would have cautioned him to be patient. He would do what Corrine would have wanted.

  “We’ll start the morning getting you access to some systems. I have to be at court again today at one so it will be another busy morning.” Time continued talking and she tried to keep everything he said straight.

  When she returned to the cubicle Jen was already sitting in front of the computer with a cup of coffee and looking busy. Again, Jane noted the pretty clothes the other woman wore. Today it was a grey dress with a matching jacket. There was a slit in back and the dress hugged her perfect form. She wore grey pumps,
not black and they matched perfectly.

  “Good morning Jane.” Jen said enthusiastically.”

  “Good morning.” Yesterday they had found another office chair for her and she sat down at the other end of the large desk. There were actually two desks that butted up against each other and formed two work stations. Jane noticed that Jen was looking at her personal email account. She leaned in to whisper to her.

  “I heard him talking to you. What was he saying?”

  “He wants you to help me get access to something called Axis…”

  “Lexis Nexis?”

  “Yes! That’s it.”

  “And Westlaw. Okay, I just did it for myself so I remember how to do that it . Let’s get started, shall we?”

  The morning moved quickly. Tim called Jen into his office to help with scheduling and when the phone rang, Jane answered remembering to sound professional the way everyone else did.

  “Mr. Singleton’s office. How may I help you?”

  “Is Singleton in?”

  “May I ask who is calling?” The man gave his name. “One moment please.” She placed him on hold and pressed the button for Tim’s office.

  “Tim. Mr. Rangbo is on the line.”

  Jane heard a pause. “There’s no one on any lines.” Jane looked down at the phone. No flashing lights. Oh no! She’d hung up on that man!

  The phone rang again and Jane felt a prickly panic. “I’m sorry…I think I hung up. This is him again I think. Just a minute.” She hung up on Tim and answered the phone again.

  “Hello…Mr. Rangbo?” She asked timidly.

  “Yes. It is me again.”

  He sounded far from patient. “I’m so sorry, Sir. I’ll connect you.” Tim was standing at her desk when she looked up. He reached over and pressed a button; the correct button then retreated.

  Jane covered her face. Jen gave her arm a gentle pat and she almost jumped. “Don’t worry Jane. EVERYBODY does that; but only once.” She chuckled with good humor.

  ~***~

  “Jane, let’s go down to the canteen.” Tim had again treated them for lunch. T his time he had sent Jen to a deli and Jane had again ordered whatever Tim was eating. This time it was a turkey and bacon double decker and with potato salad. She had just taken a huge bite of the oversized sandwich when Jen made her request. She looked at the phone.

  “Don’t worry about that. Tim said to hold all of his calls so we’ll just have everything go to voicemail.” Jane wrapped up her sandwich and followed Jen not sure if they shouldn’t at least tell Tim that they’d be in the canteen.

  “I needed a break from him.” Jen finally confessed once they were in the elevator. “ I’m going to be spending days putting together his legal notebook for his next c ase, and frankly the man ’s scribbling is impossible to read! Plus, if he gives me one more tape recording to transcribe I’m going to go nuts! ” Jane noticed that Tim talked into a tape record er. It seemed better than writing everything down in shorthand, s o she didn’t know why Jen found so much to complain about.

  The elevators opened up on a floor that wasn’t much different than their own. But at the end of the hall was an open area with vending machines, microwaves and several tables and chairs. It was crowded but she followed Jen to a table where three other women were talking and eating.

  “Hey there, where have you been hiding?” This was said by an older, white haired woman.

  “Mr. Singleton has court this entire week.” They all went ‘ahhh’ at the same time, as if that statement held special significance. Jen gestured to Jane and introduced her. Everyone at the table told their names and she discovered that each worked as an assistant to one of the partners.

  Everyone focused on her and she found it hard to eat her sandwich under their scrutiny. “You didn’t come out of AdWork Temp Service?”

  “No.” She said.

  “How did you get in as an assistant?” A black woman asked. Everyone waited for her response and Jane hesitated, unsure how to proceed. She remembered what Tim had said, about being dropped into the position and about how others worked hard to get a chance at being an assistant.

  “Sister Louise helped me.”

  “Sister?” The white haired woman asked.

  “Well…I…” Jane knew from past experience that people looked at girls that live in convents very strangely. “Sister Louise is a nun.” She looked at her potato salad with nothing else to say.

  After a moment Jen filled in the prolonged quiet with a story about her deadbeat boyfriend and his juvenile delinquent son. Jane felt out of place and sat quietly listening as she nibbled her potato salad.

  “Where are you from, Jane?” The black lady asked. “You have a beautiful accent.”

  “Africa.”

  “Wow, girl, you’re really from Africa?”

  Jen blushed. “I thought you were from the Middle East.”

  The black woman gave Jen a sharp, disapproving look before turning her attention back to Jane. “Where in Africa?”

  “Outside of Kigali.”

  The black lady just stared at her but the other women gushed about Africa and asked her questions about how long she’d lived in the states.

  Jane was relieved when Jen interrupted to indicate that they had better get back up before the grumpy bear moved out of his den.

  The white haired woman shook her head. “Tim hasn’t gotten over his wife’s death.”

  “Well that doesn’t mean that he should take out his frustrations on me and Jane.” Jane stumbled when she heard the words from the other woman. The picture of the pretty lady…the ever-present look of anger. She should have recognized that look. She’d seen it time and time again in the faces of the girls at St. Bartholoma.

  “When did…when did she die?”

  “Almost a year ago.” The black woman responded. “Breast cancer. She used to be his assistant. She actually did what a lot of girls think they can do; marry the boss.” Claudette, the black woman glanced at Jen and then looked away.

  Jen quickly covered her mouth. “Oh God…I didn’t realize…I mean, I knew she had died but no one told me she used to be his ASSISTANT!” Jen’s face turned red. “Oh my God…I made the stupidest comment about the filing system. Fuck! No one said she was the assistant! Why didn’t you all tell me?!”

  No one even bothered to look at Jen and Jane knew something that Jen hadn’t figured out. They didn’t really like her. And in fact, they hadn’t told HER anything, they’d told Jane.

  “Nice to meet you.” She said shyly.

  “Come down anytime, Jane.” The black woman said. “We always sit at this table if we’re not outside enjoying the sun.”

  She smiled. “Okay, I will.”

  But back at the office Jane was stunned by what she’d learned. Tim came to work every day and passed the desk that his wife had worked and stared at the picture of her and went through each day wearing her loss like a mask on his face. Her heart ached for his pain.

  The week moved swiftly. She soon became comfortable with the routine that she and Jen come up with. It allowed her to focus on the typing and Jen to work more closely with Tim. As much as she complained about him, the other woman certainly made sure she was the one that was always in Tim’s company. Jane liked what she did, but it did feel awkward when it became obvious that Jane was referring to him as Tim and Jen was still formally referring to him as Mr. Singleton.

  Jen chided her for it and Jane confided that he’d told her to do so. After that Jen began referring to him as Tim, as well.

  CHAPTER 6

  When Friday finally arrived, Jane was excited. She could barely wait to meet the love of Dhakiya’s life. Her friend would pick her up from work and they would visit for a while before Rodney arrived.

  Since Friday was dress-down day and she wanted to look nice for dinner, Jane wore black slacks instead of her customary skirt, and a colorful blouse that flowed to mid-thigh. She put on bangles; six on each wrist and she removed her crucifix for a fine gold
chain. In her ears dangled gold loops. And instead of her customary bun, Jane sectioned her hair and twisted each into intricate designs. At first she was afraid that she might get into trouble for dressing so vibrantly. But then she decided that no one would have the nerves to tell an African not to dress like an African. And that thought made her laugh.

  Still, as she moved to her work station and felt eyes on her, she became self-conscious. She remembered Sister Callista always chiding her to stand up straight and to walk proud. She decided that it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to be so lucky as to have 12 different mothers that cared about everything from your eternal soul to your posture.

 

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