Half of the first chapter of the current book I’m trying to write

Chapter One — Leaving Group Behind

James Wilson paged me to his office as soon as I entered the call center around 1 p.m. where I worked in the afternoon. Mornings I was a nanny. James handed me a piece of paper with a phone number and a message asking Jessamyn Archer to call Killian O’Reilly, and motioned to the phone. I dialed the number. I didn’t think I had much choice.

Killian O’Reilly, himself, answered the phone and said he was my Great Uncle Duncan Vester’s next door neighbor if I didn’t remember. I said I did vaguely remember. I even thought I remembered that he was black-haired and blue-eyed and a godlike fifteen when I last saw him sixteen years ago. He said he needed my help.  My Great Uncle had had a terrible accident and he, Killian, was calling to see if I could do anything. Or were there any other relatives? And he’d been trying to reach me all day.

“What kind of thing are you hoping I can do,” I asked.

“Like, come and take care of him,” he said.

“Umm,” I looked at the wall above Jimmy’s head for a long moment.

Earlier that day, Alina, my current morning job mother had kissed me good-bye. I left her house, wondering whether I would still be her nanny when she returned from her spur-of-the-moment vacation in Belize. I loved taking care of her babies but I guessed that Marielle might not reassign me as her helper. Alina wanted to take me with her to the beach and called my Group, but Marielle said no, we don’t do that kind of thing. I hadn’t argued.

Before I left Alina and her babies gave me warm hugs and kisses. She also gave me a large, fashionable, handbag with various small but expensive items in it including a rosewood knitting needle set, some soft yarn, and quite a bit of money. She wanted to tell me not to share it but, just barely, refrained. I could still hear the unspoken comment. She also gave me a zippered sweatshirt of her own that I had admired.

I had imagined I’d be at an agency the next day looking for a new home help position. Babies and the elderly are my specialty. Oh, and having a job. That’s another of my specialities. The Group seemed to need my money. Whether that was reason enough to give it to them was a new question on my mind. But I hadn’t seen my great-uncle since I was nine years old when I visited for two weeks; I dreamed for years of going back; something always intervened.  My great uncle and I wrote long letters to each other, and in fact I had an idea that I was his healthcare representative. If he needed me so directly and plainly I thought I should finally go. 

I thought that laying down one life or set of obligations for another was a little scary.

Then I said, “Killian? Yes, I’ll be there as soon as I can.  Do you have any suggestions for how to get there?”

“Plane flight to Cedar Rapids and a car after that. Be sure to get a map. Or if you let me know what flight I can try to have someone meet you. If you are very quick I think there’s a flight in three hours and it’s the last one today.”

I said I’d rather be picked up and to expect me on that flight unless he heard differently. “Give me a number where I can reach you anytime,” I said, “and give me the hospital number just in case. And if you’ve been looking for me all day how did you finally reach me?”

There was a noisy exhalation on the other end of the line.  “Let’s skip that for now,” he said. “Just come if you’re coming. Do you need any money for the ticket?” 

I said no I could manage assuming there was a seat.  I’d call to let him know as soon as I had a ticket and if he would arrange to pick me up that would be great. 

“Fine. See you.” Killian hung up.

I looked at my boss. He looked at me and said, “The rules are that there are no private phone calls and you lose your job if it happens. So you’re fired.”

I thought about the fact that it was the second time that day a job had vanished.

I said, “Well, that’s usually on someone’s cell phone. If you hadn’t given me this paper I wouldn’t have called — or known about it, so what’s up with that?  I didn’t give this guy this number.”

“You’re leaving aren’t you? And not because this job is over but because you wouldn’t say no to someone who needed you. So I’m just saving time.  But I’ll also tell you that if you come back,” he thought about that, “maybe I’ll say when, and kinda hope that you do, you can get a job with me anytime.” He pulled out some termination paper work.

I was surprised. Very.

“Jimmy, what is this?”

“That guy’s been calling for three-four hours. He said he had to call your uncle’s lawyer to find out where you were living and then your housemates wouldn’t tell him where you were working and wouldn’t promise to give you any messages so then he had to read all your uncle’s old mail to find you. He doesn’t think much of your housemates. And I don’t like them either. You gotta get a move on if you’re catching a plane somewhere.” Well, he could hardly have helped hearing that, considering that this whole transaction was in his office. “Here’s the cash for your last paycheck.” He had it ready. He must have had quite a conversation with Killian off and on all morning.

“Can’t you let it be deposited like normal?” 

“Standard when I fire someone. I give them all their money and some severance and if they fuss they lose. Sign here.”

I signed. The money would have to go with me and Group would have to do without. I gathered my new purse, and my wits, and stood up.  My knees were actually a little shaky and James made a gesture of support but I managed to pull myself together. I went over to the door and turned and looked at him. He scowled back at me. “I hate losing a good worker but no-one’s indispensable. Get outta here.”

“Okay, thanks, really.  And good-bye.” I shut the door carefully and went out into the street looking for a place to sit and think about what came next. This part of the city was a bit drab and had no park benches to sit and consider. I wandered down the street towards a drugstore thinking hard. Ever since the Group had met with the bishop ten days ago, I had puzzled over what I should do. I had even said a brief prayer to Saint Waltruda, patron of my birth date, asking for her help in clarifying my mind.  I hadn’t expected this comprehensive answer.

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