The Next Chapter

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  • Scent Notes
    Caraway seeds, raspberry ale, basil.
  • Description

      Scent Notes: Caraway seeds, raspberry ale, basil.

      Marilyn felt like nothing was going right lately. She’d done the stupid thing and moved across the country to be with the guy she thought loved her unconditionally and that she definitely loved wholeheartedly. That is, until she walked into the living room of “their” new apartment and found her boyfriend hooking up with another girl, not even six weeks after she’d arrived. If that weren’t bad enough, before she could even react, another girl walked in from the bathroom, saw Marilyn, and said, “Really babe? You need a third girl tonight? I thought we saved that for special occasions!” Marilyn didn’t remember blacking out, but she remembered waking up on the floor of the kitchen with a bad headache and a roiling stomach. She sat up gingerly and found a note on the counter. Well, not even a note, it was a scrap of paper towel off the roll, and in lazy script it said, “This isn’t working out. See ya.” Sobbing hysterically, she walked around the apartment and found that everything that was “his” was gone. So he’d moved out and left her with a lease of an apartment she couldn’t afford by herself in a brand new part of the country in what was supposed to be their place. She’d just landed a temp job and was otherwise living frugally on her very meager savings, as her boyfriend’s family was rich and financing his lifestyle without a care. He was a top executive at the family business and yet he never seemed to be at work. He drove a fancy “company car,” shopped only at designer stores, and generally acted as if the world was his oyster. He hid most of his life from his family, though, as their image was one of propriety, kindness, and decency. She’d been assured he would “take care of her,” pay most of the rent, and most of their living expenses. It all seemed too good to be true, so of course it was. She’d been a fool in all the ways.

      A few weeks had passed, and the temp job was terrible, but at least it brought in some income. Outside of work she was taking on random freelance jobs that paid meagerly, like typing up transcripts on certain websites for .05 cents a word. Sometimes they’d take her all night and she’d be rewarded with a whopping $30. She had no social life, no real career prospects, an erratic sleep schedule, and was surviving on the cheapest generic foods she could find at the cheapest grocery store in town. She’d tried to get out of the lease on this apartment, explaining the situation, only to be told she’d have to pay a penalty fee that was three times the cost of the airfare to fly back home first class. It was terrible. On the rare occasions she fully slept, she had dreams about a fairy godmother descending to take her away from all of this. “Please, help,” she murmured in her sleep. “I am ready.” One night, a woman came to her in a dream. She gave step-by-step instructions to Marilyn on how to turn her life around. It was going to be a long and tedious process, but this dream fairy godmother was patient, loving, and kind as she explained: First, Marilyn would have to spend her after-hours looking for new, non-temp jobs. Second, she should call all her current service providers to see if they could cut her any deals on her service. Third, once she found a new job, she’d still have to hustle doing side work in the evenings, but she had to find something that paid more per hour than those ripoff websites. Eventually, this would give her more stable footing, and from then on, she could make friends at her new job(s) and also potentially start dating again. “Can’t you just wave a magic wand and make my life better?” she asked, a little overwhelmed. Her godmother just smiled at her a little sadly. “Sweetie, there are no magic wands, only hard work and determination.” After a lot of intense conversation, Marilyn could feel herself beginning to wake. The final words she heard the fairy whisper were, “Are you ready for what’s to come?”

      “Yes. Yes! YES!” Marilyn awoke with a start, her neighbors probably thinking something very different was happening in her bedroom. She took a deep inhale and found herself feeling more refreshed than she had felt in quite a long time. Before all the knowledge from her dream faded, she quickly grabbed a notebook and pen and wrote out the steps that had been outlined for her. “I am going to do this. I am ready.” So began Marilyn’s next chapter. Over the next few weeks, she started initiating the plans step by step. It took a lot of work and a lot less sleep, but sure enough, she secured a better-paying day job, a discount on her internet, and a part-time evening/weekend gig waitressing at a bar just down the road. Her shitty ex had taken her there the first night she’d arrived, and she’d been too scared of running into him to risk going, but last she saw on social media he’d moved far across town, so the chances seemed slim.

      Time passed. She got through her three-month probationary period, then her six-month review at her day job. It was nearly a year since she’d moved across the country, and she was loving her new life so much she decided to stay. She was able to pay the rent on her apartment easily, and while she was not rich by any means, she had a little bit saved up. She made friends with coworkers and regulars at the bar, and had even been on a few dates. Things really were getting better! A few weeks later, she found out she’d gotten a modest promotion at her day job. It was enough that she’d be able to leave her part-time bar job and maybe finally get some more sleep. Marilyn was thrilled, and put in her notice at the bar that night. 

      Two weeks later, on the one-year anniversary of the day she walked in on her ex, she was working her last shift at the bar. Maybe it was her energy, or just a spell of good luck, or the fact that word had gotten around that she was leaving, but she was making triple her usual amount in tips that night. It was later in the evening, and by now, the bar was mostly regulars. “I feel like I’ve turned a page, like nothing can go wrong,” she told her friend/coworker/manager Candace. “Things are looking up!” As she said that, she saw Candace’s eyes go wide. Marilyn turned and saw her ex walk in with some other girl. “Shit,” she mumbled to herself. “Shit shit shit. Of course.” They took a seat at a high top in, of course, Marilyn’s section. Candace offered to cover the table, and Marilyn agreed. “Trust me dear, I have a plan.” Candace went over to the table with her best customer service voice and attitude. “Damn, she’s good,” Marilyn thought as she skulked around the bar, trying her best to avoid looking over at them (and failing). His back was to her, so mostly she just kept locking eyes with this truly gorgeous woman, and getting mad at herself for constantly being caught staring. Candace was giving them the best customer service, constantly refilling their drinks, sending out the food they ordered piping hot, stacking their table with every condiment and enough napkins for a table of eight. It was impressive. Marilyn could tell he wasn’t having the best time on this date, and she wondered why this woman was even bothering with him? She was clearly way out of his league, but then again, he was (or his family was) loaded, and some people care more about that than anything else.

      Two things then happened in quick succession: Marilyn saw the woman get up and head for the bathroom, and Candace appeared at Marilyn’s side. “Follow her into the bathroom and tell her what happened to you. Don’t let the same mistake happen to another woman.” Marilyn looked queasily towards the bathroom door. “I don’t know. Is it really my business?” “YES, DAMMIT,” Candace said while she shoved Marilyn. They were only a few steps away, so Marilyn ended up right outside the bathroom door just after the woman walked through it. Marilyn took a breath, steeled her nerves, and walked in. She found the woman standing at the mirror, re-applying her lipstick. “Hi,” she said in a quiet voice. “I’m Marilyn, and I used to date the guy you’re on a date with. Trust me, you’d be better off running far, far away from that boy. He’s awful.” The woman stopped applying her lipstick and turned to look at Marilyn. “Hi. I’m Kathy. Please tell me more.” Marilyn whipped out her phone and showed her all the evidence: The texts and calls from when they started dating; the promises to take care of her if she moved to be with him; even a photo of the note he left. She also had screenshots from his private social media accounts proving other bad behavior on his part, and Marilyn relayed a story involving an accident in his previous company car that was 100% his fault but which he’d lied to his family about so they wouldn’t fire him. “So he’s not a great guy, actually. You’re absolutely too good for him.” Marilyn took in Kathy’s full appearance now: Perfectly coiffed hair, expertly applied makeup, a chic and impeccably tailored pantsuit with a great silk tank underneath, killer heels. She was absolutely too good for this man. Kathy just smiled at her. “I do apologize for his behavior. Thank you for the heads-up about all of this. I’ve had my suspicions for a long time now, but this just confirms it. If you’ll excuse me, I have to make some calls.” Marilyn nodded and quickly left the bathroom. Candace was waiting for her by the bar. “So???” Marilyn shrugged. “She didn’t seem all that surprised or angry, and she said she had to make some calls, so I don’t really know.” Candace nodded. “Well, you tried, and that’s what’s important. Good job. Now go bus those tables.” Marilyn saluted and headed off, back to work.

      It took Kathy a good 15 or 20 minutes to leave the bathroom after that. He was on his phone on what looked like multiple dating apps, swiping and responding, laughing to himself at probably his own terrible jokes. Marilyn heard Kathy’s heels clicking as she left the bathroom, but wasn’t expecting to feel Kathy’s hand wrap around her arm and bring her to the table with her. Kathy stood there, holding onto Marilyn’s arm firmly, as they waited for him to look up from his phone. When he finally did, a vague sense of recognition was on his face. “There you are. Oh! It’s … Madison? Martina? I’m sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve been here, but I know I know you.” He looked like he really was trying to figure out who Marilyn was, but he truly did not recognize her. Marilyn felt the tears well up, but before she could speak, Kathy cut in. “Close! This is Marilyn. I met her in the bathroom, and she told me the craziest stories, with backup documentation! Apparently you lured her across the country with promises of love and financial support only to have her walk in on you with other women? She told many other interesting stories involving your social life, crashing cars, and generally acting like a crass nincompoop. Again, with documentation! You know how mom and dad feel about this stuff.” Marilyn’s head swirled. “Wait, you’re his SISTER?” “Unfortunately, yes,” Kathy answered. “And his former boss. We came here today to talk about a new initiative he’s supposed to be spearheading at the company involving outreach to disadvantaged women and girls, which he was severely slacking on.” Kathy smiled the most devastating smile Marilyn had ever seen. “And now, thanks to some calls to our parents and the board, he’s fired and cut off!” His face turned pale, and he started stammering about how this wasn’t fair, he could explain, he didn’t even know this Monique woman! How could she believe her over her own brother? “I haven’t believed you for years, but you were good at covering your tracks. Give me your car keys; the company is taking back the car. You have three days to move out of your company-paid-for penthouse, and your company cards are canceled. Probably your personal ones, too, but you’d have to talk to mom and dad about that one. Good luck!” He went into a fit of rage, flipping the table, screaming that he was ruined by lies, and how dare they! Marilyn was frightened; Kathy looked bored. Candace and a couple regulars came over and physically dragged him out of the bar. “Don’t try to take an Uber home; your company account is closed!” Kathy yelled as they slammed the door in his face. 

      Marilyn was absolutely stunned. Kathy released her hold on her arm and turned to face her. “I could use someone like you at our company,” Kathy said. “I could use a new VP of strategy. You’re clearly organized and can keep a brave face under pressure. We’ll work on not showing if you’re terrified, but you’re composed and succinct. I like that. I can get you an interview for Monday.” Marilyn nodded. “I, uh, I just accepted a small promotion at my current job to be head executive assistant, but….” Kathy cut her off. “This position will probably triple your new salary, I’ll make sure you get a company car, full benefits, and three weeks of PTO plus two weeks of sick time a year. You will have to work for me, but I don’t think that will be a problem. You seem smart and hardworking. These are all qualities I like in a person. You’ll still have to pass the interview, but I don’t think that will be a problem. Let me buy you a drink and let’s talk how to nail this interview, shall we?” Marilyn nodded and flagged down Candace. “I’ll help you clean up the mess this guy made, but then I’m going to sit and talk business with my new friend and maybe boss?” Kathy nodded and ordered them drinks. Candace just hugged Marilyn excitedly. “I have a feeling this new chapter will be even better than the last.”

      Scent Notes: Caraway seeds, raspberry ale, basil.

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