The three weeks between the day I found out I got my job back and the day I reported back to work flew by. I was super excited to go back. I’d missed everyone. I had also missed having a job period, and I hated to admit it but most of all, I missed Alex. I did admit it to Liz. I had to ask her if she thought that was a really bad reason for me to go back, especially since he was back with his wife.
“Is that the only reason?” she said.
“No, not at all. I need a job and I really liked it there. My co-workers are great and the pay is good.”
“Then there is nothing wrong with accepting it. Honey, you can’t help how you feel. Your actions you have to be concerned with. I don’t believe you would ever have an affair with a married man, so I think you’re okay. Just watch your heart. Try not to let it get too broken or you’ll end up cynical like me.”
“At least no one takes advantage of you,” I told her.
“Anymore,” she said.
“Thank you, Liz.”
“It’s what friends are for,” she said again.
I received papers about a week after that day saying that the lawsuit had been dropped on Alex’s end. It was another thing I was apprehensive about. I kept wondering if bringing me back was some kind of stunt for court. I didn’t want to be paranoid, but it had been a really hard few months. The papers were filed the day I’d dropped mine. I guess we both had the same idea. I used the money I got to pay off my lawyers and my storage. That left me a little to live off of and help Liz and Gloria pay bills until I started back to work and got paid again. I had a check-up at the doctor and he said things were going very well with the baby. My life was finally back on track and I couldn’t be happier about it.
I was a little nervous about going to work after what happened the last time I was there. I was wondering how many of the staff knew what had really gone on. Plus, being seven and a half months pregnant was a little different in and of itself. When I got to the front gates, the security man greeted me warmly and welcomed me back. Karen hugged me and fussed over my tummy bulge and the cook wanted to feed me. But best of all, Alex was at the kitchen table and when he heard the cook offer me pancakes and eggs he said, “Yes Vicki. Please join me.”
I nervously sat down next to him and he looked at me with soft eyes and a smile and said, “I’m glad you agreed to come back. We’ve all missed you around here.” It was kind of surreal. So much had happened since the last time I’d sat at this table with him. The cook loaded me down with pancakes laden with butter and syrup. As I took a healthy bite I thought: If my mother could see me now, she’d have a heart attack and remind me how many calories were in what I was eating. I didn’t care. I was happy and it was delicious. “So how are things with the baby?” Alex asked me.
“Everything is good,” I told him. “I’m taking a semester off school after he is born and I’m working on finding someone reliable to watch him so I won’t have to take too much time off.” I had no idea how to hire childcare; it was one of those brand new things to me. I’m sure I’d have a million more of them before my baby was grown.
“Bring him with you,” Alex said, nearly knocking me off my chair. “You don’t want to leave an infant alone with a stranger.”
“No I don’t, but… I mean…”
He smiled. “I’ll hire a nanny. We can go through the agency where they are all background investigated and have references. We’ll make him a nursery. Please consider it,” he said. I was considering how expensive that would be. I wondered if the cost would come out of my wages. He looked like he was about to say something else but Cassandra walked in. In my mind it was like what Dorothy must have felt like the first time she saw the wicked witch. Cassandra gave me a look that said she didn’t approve of her husband eating with the help, but she didn’t seem jealous or angry at all. I had to assume that for all Alex’s big talk about hiring a nanny and making a nursery, his wife didn’t know the baby in my belly was his.
“I should get to work,” I said.
“Yeah, you probably should,” Cassandra said, dismissively. Alex glared at her and then he turned to look at me and again he smiled.
I smiled and nodded at him and as I was walking away I heard Cassandra say, “You didn’t tell me she was about to pop. She’ll only be here a month and we’ll have to hire a replacement. What were you thinking?”
I was too far away to hear Alex’s response, but I could tell that Cassandra’s attitude hadn’t changed at all. As I was doing my work that day I thought about all of the times when I was a kid that I had seen a house like this one and thought about how happy all of the people inside must be. I was sure that with all of that wealth they couldn’t want for anything, but it was obvious when I watched Alex and his wife together that they both wanted for a lot. Neither of them was happy and I couldn’t understand why someone would choose to live that way, simply because of the money.
My days fell back into a routine easily. I knew the layout of the mansion like the back of my hand and I knew how both Alex and Cassandra liked things done. Cassandra seemed to be around all of the time to tell me in case I didn’t. In spite of that, I was still glad to be back. It was good to see my old friends again too. Manny found out that I was having a boy and started a campaign for me to name the baby after him. Every time I saw him, he’d present me with a different version of the name that I could call my son.
“What about Manuel?” he said.
“Too ethnic for a blonde haired, blue eyed boy,” I told him. I honestly hadn’t thought about names yet. I’d been too preoccupied with other things.
He laughed and the next time I saw him he said, “Manly.”
I cracked up and just said, “Um...no.”
A few days later I was cleaning the banister and he walked by in the foyer below and said, “Man.”
Laughing I said, “Too old for a baby.”
“Little man,” he said with a grin.
“I’ll consider it.” I had almost worked my way to the bottom when I saw Karen letting three men into the front door. They looked like construction workers and were armed with tools and cans of paint. They smiled at me as they passed me on the stairs and I watched as Karen led them up to the room at the end of the hall from the master suite. On her way back down I asked, “Who are they?”
“They’re designing a nursery,” she said with a smile.
“Really? I thought he was only joking.”
Karen took my hand and said, “Let’s sit for a minute.” I’m not sure if she knew what she was asking of a woman who was almost eight months pregnant. I had to squat and spread my legs wide and kind of fall back onto the stairs. “I’ve worked for Alexander since he was twenty-two years old. This will be my eighth year here. Before that, I worked for his parents for fifteen years so I’ve known him for most of his life.”
“Wow, that’s great,” I said.
“I’ve noticed something about him lately, Victoria.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
I was assuming that she was going to say something about the baby but I was surprised when she said, “In all of those years, I’ve never seen him look even a tenth as happy as he looks when you’re around.”
“Um…” I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say to that. It made me feel good and bad at the same time. Karen wasn’t looking for a response though.
Karen smiled. “Alexander is a brilliant man. His IQ is beyond genius level, did you know that?”
“No. I mean I knew he was smart, that’s obvious. I had no idea how smart I guess.”