Monday morning, as I was getting ready to go to work with my mom, Deidre knocked on the door.
"Good morning," I smiled. She was dressed in a pair of black slacks and a green blouse. "You look nice."
She pulled on her hair. "Well, I... I thought... maybe I could see where you work? I have the day off so I don't really have anything to do. Mom has to work a double shift," she added with a sad sigh."
I nodded. "Sure. Just let me finish getting ready. I'll meet you downstairs."
"Great," she breathed, obviously relieved.
I pulled on a white wife beater and white button up shirt. For some reason, I was nervous about Deidre coming with us today. I hurried into the bathroom to put on some deodorant and run my comb through my hair. I couldn't find my deodorant so, reluctantly, I opened the bottom of the sink. Keeping my eyes from the black box to my right. I found the deodorant. Unfortunately, I glanced over and saw a wrapper in the small trash can.
I jogged down the stairs.
"What's wrong?" my mom asked, passing me an apple. "You're really red. Do you have a fever?"
"It's nothing," I said quickly.
They both looked concerned so I grabbed the keys and led the way to the car. I drove us to work, Deidre sitting in the back. I could tell she was nervous about seeing the office but I was glad she wanted to. It had been the first time we were out in public together after the media called her a charity case. As I expected, though, the media was starting to get bored.
When we got to the office, people started staring at her. I groaned quietly. Did they not check their emails? We only made it halfway to the elevator when one of our marketing employees walked over, her hand extended.
"Hello," she said pleasantly to Deidre. "I'm the marketing vice president, Victoria."
Deidre shook her hand timidly. "It's nice to meet you. I'm-"
"Oh, I know who you are," she interrupted. "It's good to see you, Evelyn. You, too, Artemis."
"Mr. Kilgore," I corrected.
She shrugged and looked back at Deidre. "We should get to know each other some time."
Deidre smiled genuinely. "That would be really-"
"Of course, it'll have to be somewhere discreet. I don't want someone to see me with Artemis' charity case."
"First, it's Mr. Kilgore," I snapped. "And second, I expect you in the office after lunch."
"Oh? Why?" she asked innocently.
"You know why," my mom snapped. "You got the email. Now go back to work."
She just scoffed and went to the front desk. I led the way to the elevator, not sure what to say. I glanced at Deidre. My mom had her arm over her shoulders but Deidre was looking down. Unfortunately, another employee approached us. This one I didn't recognize at all.
He was grinning at us, though, and I hoped this time it was genuine. I should've known better.
"You're Deidre," he said and she nodded, shaking his hand once. "I've heard... quite a bit about you."
"Careful," I warned.
"I'm just being pleasant, Artemis."
"Mr. Kilgore," I corrected with a snap in my voice. "I'm sure you have work to do, so go to it."
"But I wanted to see if Deidre would join me for lunch." He winked at her and she shrank against my mom. "I'd like to get to know how she managed to sneak her way into the Kilgore fortune."
I clenched my jaw briefly. "The office after lunch," I snapped. "Now go back to work."
I balled my hands into a fist and pushed him out of the way. I slammed my finger on the up button. The guy watched us get in, a broad smirk on his face.
"Who was that?" I snapped.
"His name is Timothy Harp," my mom answered.
"Add him to the list."
We already had at least 20 people on the probationary list. At first the employees didn't take me seriously. They were now.
"That won't happen again," my mom assured Deidre.
She nodded but looked doubtful. She sat in the other chair, working on a puzzle book my mom had given her, occasionally looking up to watch us. My mom and I were going over our different clients. I hadn't realized how many we had which explained the necessity for 10 floors.
"Each floor has its own reason," my mom explained, pulling up a picture on her computer. It was a profile of the building, cut in half. She started at the lobby. "The first floor is self-explanatory. People check in, wait for appointments, use our facilities, the usual. The second floor is for the book clients. It's the smallest so your father wanted them to get their easily."
She went all the way up to the tenth floor, the executive offices for each branch and, of course, the CEO's office. At lunch, we all went down to eat at the Arby's close by.
That's when things went to hell in a hand basket.
Deidre was asking my mom for advice on a puzzle she was stuck on while eating a curly fry when someone came up to our table. I looked up and rolled my eyes. It was one of my ex-girlfriends, Julia. Neither of the women had noticed her until she cleared her throat pointedly. Deidre's eyes lingered on her suggestive outfit before looking out the window.
"It's so good to see you again, Artemis," Julia said, leaning against the table.
"Sure," I said and went back to my sandwich, trying to block out the scent of that perfume.
"I hear you're finally getting to run the company," she said. I didn't answer and her eyes slid to Deidre. "Who is this?"
"Like you don't know," I snapped and Deidre frowned at me. "Just leave us alone, Julia. I'm trying to enjoy lunch with these two lovely ladies."
"Why when you can enjoy lunch with me?"
"Who says I want to?"
I could tell Deidre was getting uncomfortable. I swallowed thickly as Julia put her hand on my shoulder and rubbed it. That perfume.... And she was wearing the shirt I bought her. My hands started to shake.
"I've missed you," she said in a low voice.
My mother kicked my shin under the table but I kept my eyes fixed on the piece of roast beef that had fallen on the wrapping.
"The feeling isn't mutual," I managed.
"We should go have some fun when you're done here," she whispered loud enough for Deidre to hear. "Remember when we went to the drive-in?"
As if moving on its own, my hand rested on top of the hand Julia had placed on the table. My mom aimed another kick. That one hurt and drew me back to reality. I pushed Julia off of me and snatched the keys to my mom's car. I heard my mom talking to Deidre but she didn't respond.
The ride back to the office was quiet. I couldn't tell what Deidre was thinking but I was positive what my mom was. When we were all sitting, my mom slapped a large pile of papers and file folders on the desk in front of me. She was glaring at me. If looks could kill, I'd be six feet under.
"You can do these for the rest of the day," she snapped.
I sighed but did as I was told. I glanced at Deidre once in a while, trying to find a time to apologize, but she never looked up from her book. As soon as we got home, she went to her room.
"What were you thinking!?" my mom yelled.
"I don't know!" I yelled back. I ran a hand through my hair. "She was wearing that perfume and that shirt.... I wasn't expecting it!"
She stomped her foot. "Of course she was! Now that the whole state knows you're dating and about to take over, they'll come out from everywhere! We talked about this, Artemis!"
I threw my head back with a groan. "I fucked up, Mom! Please. Just let me go so I can talk to Deidre."
"You better," she seethed. "You have no idea how much you upset her."
I hurried up the stairs and knocked on Deidre's door. She didn't answer. I tried to turn the doorknob but it was locked. I sighed and put my head on the door.
"Please open, Deidre," I said.
I heard a zipper and frowned, pressing my ear to the door. She was crying; I could hear her sniffling. Then the sound of the window opening made me start shoving on the door.
"Wait!" I yelled. "No. Just wait! Open the door, Deidre! Let me explain!"
She didn't answer but I heard her grunt.
"Damn it!" I yelled and took the stairs two at a time.
I ran to the door and threw it open, ignoring my mother's questions. I tried to run after her but Deidre was fast. Before I even got to my car, she was turning out of the neighborhood, a navy blue duffle bag clutched in her hands.