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Brenda Nelson-Davis

Never Would I Ever  Try 2 Rewrite

Brenda Davis

Contemporary Romance

<p style=”text-align: center;”>Wednesday</p>
If Charlene was superstitious, she’d blame the cashmere gloves with texting fingertips in the gift shop for landing her in HealthVantage’s Human Resource’s office. She hadn’t been in the office since Blissdale added the new wing and had gone from a needs-improvement nursing home to a state-of-the-art assisted living community.

Truthfully, she’d hoped the merger with HealthVantage meant they’d skip performance reviews this spring.

No such luck, Charlene sat in a straight-backed chair across from Eugene and HealthVantage’s hatch woman, Madison Echolls, but it had to be okay, right? Eugene wasn’t just the Human Resource Manager. He was her friend.

Now, she sat curling her bitten-to-the-quick nails into her palms. She didn’t want to guess what would happen next.

Whatever, it involved change. She hated change. Why couldn’t things just stay—same old, same old—safe? Elbows digging into her sides, she waited, and tried to distract herself by remembering the gloves.

Smooth as creamed butter, they slid over her chapped hands, enticing her to stop, to linger and to touch them even though she had catheter bags to change, and patients to check on. The gloves belonged to someone brave, someone who didn’t dread moving out of the family bungalow–a world traveler maybe.

Madison’s blunt cut bob was the exact grey of the security footage printouts she spread across the desk—pictures of Charlene fingering the gloves.

Charlene nodded. She might have popped into the gift shop twice. Five, maybe seven times, but, okay, too many times. Her habitual smile wobbled. “I didn’t take the gloves. Check the gift shop. They’re there.”

A flush creeping under his freckles, Eugene tugged at the tie he’d never worn before the merger.

“This isn’t about the gloves.” Madison launched another volley of security stills across the desk top–stills of Charlene entering or exiting bathrooms.

Bathrooms? What did they have to do with anything? When in doubt, be friendly her mom used to say. Charlene went for it. “Good. I’m hoping with the warmer weather, the gloves will go on sale, so I can snap them up.”

“You’re missing the point. Each of these is time stamped.” In rapid succession, Madison tapped the numbers displayed on the bottom of each surveillance picture. Her manicured nails caused the shots to rustle like dead leaves caught in the wind. “You’re punched in—working and yet, we find you in the gift shop, visiting the restrooms.”

“I have a thing about washing my hands, but we have a system. I come in half an hour early and stay half an hour late, so my duties always get done.” She tried to catch Eugene’s gaze, but he wouldn’t look at her. Her stomach clenched.

“Blissdale may have enjoyed your shenanigans; however, HealthVantage needs their Certified Nursing Assistants to be on task from punch in to punch out.” She cast a sharp glare at Eugene that signaled his job was on the line, too.

The pink under his freckles blanched to spoiled hamburger grey. Awkwardly, he came around the desk to plunk a banker’s box onto Charlene’s trembling knees. “We took the liberty of cleaning out your locker.”

“Couldn’t you let me off with a warning?” Charlene had to catch the box to keep it from tumbling floorward. “I’ve worked here since I was 16.”

“Exactly, you’ve had ten years to exacerbate bad habits. Eugene will explain your severance package and walk you out.” Madison curved her thin lips in the facsimile of a smile.

Apology in the drooping of his jowls, Eugene held open the office door, and motioned for her to exit.

Nothing she could do but pick up her box and walk through it.

As she did, he offered, “Look at the upside. You can extend tomorrow’s weekend getaway with Rupert for as long as you like.”

Rupert. Pretty much they’d dated on and off since she was sixteen too. Suddenly her same old, same old didn’t work for him either. Hence the breakaway weekend. Charlene swallowed hard.

Escorting her out, Eugene babbled about final paychecks, insurance end dates and vacation day cash-outs. Stuff Charlene couldn’t grasp currently.

In Blissdales’ employee parking lot, Eugene plucked her id clip from her scrubs. “Sorry, we’ve got to turn these in.”

Was the tightness in his eyes regret? She could almost hear her brother, Ned’s voice in her head—demand a reference. Don’t walk out without it.

But… but she didn’t demand, and if Eugene refused, she wouldn’t be able to keep her tears at bay. Instead, she nodded dumbly.

“Keep in touch, okay?” Eugene swayed over her.

Or maybe she was tilting as her whole world fishtailed.
<p style=”text-align: center;”>Thursday</p>
Waiting for an open spot in the drop off lane at the airport, Charlene read and re-read her text stream while Ned drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.

Rupert-K, I’ve waited ‘til the day of. Where R we headed?

Charlene-Sylvania, Ohio.

Rupert – People go to Paris, Rome, Tahiti. Not Sylvania.

Charlene- Sylvania is 1 of the safest cities in US.

Rupert- Don’t want to be safe. Safe = boring. Count me out.

Charlene sniffled. Common sense screamed she should bail on the weekend getaway even if she couldn’t get her money back. She should tell Ned about her job loss. Yet, she couldn’t really look at him and not see the baby brother her mom had asked her to take care of.  He’d fret endlessly about meeting expenses with the upcoming baby and all.  She couldn’t face that. Not today. Instead of confessing, she stared out the window.

Her gaze caught on a sandy-haired stranger lodging on the sidewalk, leaning against a backpack, and jotting notes on a spiral notepad. He had a pleasant face, the kind a person might tell anything to. When their eyes met, he smiled like they were classmates who shared notes, and her whole body warmed from her cheeks down to her always cold fingertips.

Then an SUV directly in front of the sure-to-be-kind stranger pulled out. Ned eased the wagon into the space, leaned across Charlene and yanked her door handle. It popped open.

Ahead and behind their station wagon, travelers leaped from barely stopped minivans and raced through automated glass doors. The polite Miss Manners inside her head prodded her— Move it. Don’t take up the time and space others’ need.

On automatic, she stepped out and collected her mother’s vintage Bermuda green Samsonite from the backseat.


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