I didn't hear from Caleb or Luther for several days. I wanted to call Caleb but I didn't want him to make him angrier than he already was. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to have your sibling try to rob you then have your favorite and most expensive item be destroyed. I looked up the same green screen they had and it ran for nearly $500. I hoped their investor would compensate....
Four days after the burglary, I was in Starbucks trying to work. I kept having nightmares about my father. Now that the anniversary of his death was coming up, they were getting more frequent. It happened every year. Only, instead of the dreams of Oradea, I was dreaming about his death in the hospital. I rubbed my eyes and tried to focus on the current project I was doing.
My phone rang and I groaned. Not again.
"Hello, Mrs. Stevens," I sighed.
"My website still isn't working," she snapped.
"I told you: I'm working on it right now."
"Then why isn't it done yet!?"
"It takes time to do all that you're asking me to do. If you keep calling me every hour, too, it'll take even longer to finish."
"You better have it done by tomorrow or I'll call someone else."
"With all due respect, Mrs. Stevens, I'm the best you're going to get as far as my rates go."
"Twenty dollars is pretty steep," she said in a huffy voice.
I slammed my pen down. "I can direct you to three other people," I said firmly. "You'll find they charge at least $50 an hour. Now, please give me some time to work uninterrupted."
She hung up and I shook my head. I finished my coffee and was about to get another one when someone put one in front of me. Expecting Stephen, I looked up.
It was Caleb.
"You look like you could use some coffee," he said and I sighed.
"You have no idea," I said. "Thank you."
He nodded. "Can I sit next to you? I'm working on our pictures and I want these to be a little more discreet."
"Sure," I said, moving all my stuff over.
He sat down and plugged his laptop in. He turned it on and waited patiently for it to come up. I went back to Mrs. Stevens' website. She ran a rehab center for people that were addicted to drugs and alcohol. She wanted me to make it so that pictures would move, the background would change color periodically, and a marquee flashed at the top of the screen. I had to be careful with the marquee, though. If I got the frequency wrong, it could cause epileptic seizures, something she and I were fighting on. She's a great woman, just a pain in the ass to work with.
"Is-Is that a good place?" Caleb asked suddenly and I looked over.
He was watching my computer screen.
"Yeah," I said. "Carol Stevens is a wonderful woman. She started the rehab after her husband died from overdosing on heroin."
"Is it expensive?" he whispered.
"No. People donate to it. She has a good reputation and, from what I know, she's only had to do one benefit dinner and that was because the state raised the taxes." I scrolled through the different effects I could do for the marquee. "The main problem she has is it's hard for her to find someone that can mow the lawns. She can't pay a lot and, if it gets too high...."
"It become a fire hazard and she could get hit with a fine," he finished and I nodded. He cleared his throat. "Do you- Do you have her phone number?"
I looked at him. "Yeah, I do," I whispered and wrote it down. "Is it-?"
"Yes," he interrupted.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"Me too," he sighed and went back to his laptop. "He's staying with me again and it's been... hard."
"Is there anything I can do?" I asked and he held up the scrap of paper with a small smile.
"You just did."
I wasn't used to this side of him. He put the paper in his pocket and double clicked on one of our pictures.
"What are you going to do with it?" I asked.
"Take off all your clothes," he said and I shook my head with a smile.
At least he was getting back to normal.
We worked quietly until Mrs. Stevens called me again.
"No," I groaned, tossing my head back. "Hello?"
She sighed. "I'm sorry I was so short with you on the phone. I'm just stressed."
I frowned. "What's wrong?"
"We had... we had an overdose."
I sighed heavily. "Oh Carol. I am so sorry."
"Thank you. She was a good girl just... made a bad choice."
I glanced at Caleb who was concentrating on zooming in or out on one of the pictures of us kissing.
"Can I ask for a favor?" I asked.
"Of course you can."
"A friend of mine is in need of some help," I said and Caleb looked at me.
"A family member."
She sighed again. "Those are always the hardest to face."
"No. For your friend. What do you need from me?"
"A discount," I answered and Caleb started shaking his head, waving his hands. I put my hand in his face. "Take it out of my check."
"I won't do that," she said. "You've done a lot for me even though I've been a bitch to you. What's your friend's name?"
"Caleb Parrish," I answered.
"Wait. Caleb Parrish the photographer?"
"You've heard of him?"
"Yes! I was going to ask him to do our next grounds picture series!"
"Well there you go. You can make a deal."
"You're a saint, Mirela!"
"Nah. Just a friend helping out other friends. I'll text you his number."
"I'll email you when the website's done," I said and hung up.
"A discount?" he asked. "From your check? Are you insane!?"
I laughed. "Chill," I said, pulling up Carol's contact info. "She's heard of you and wants you to do the next series of pictures for her grounds and buildings. You can make a deal for your brother."
He stared at me and, without warning, grabbed my face and kissed me. I pulled back, shocked.
"Sorry," he said in a choked voice. "It's just- You don't know how much this means to me and my brother."
I smiled sadly. "Actually, I do," I whispered. "My father... that's how he died."
His face fell. "Addiction?"
"Heroin and meth," I nodded, feeling like crying. I cleared my throat a few times and went back to my laptop. "That's why I'm not charging my usual rate for her even though she doesn't know that. Her rehab center was built after my dad died or I would've sent him there."
He was staring at me until his phone rang.
"Caleb Parrish," he said professionally. "Carol Stevens?" he breathed. "Uh- Uh yeah, yeah this-this is her friend."
I smiled at him and went back to working on her website.