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Other People's Business
By Pamela Yaye
KimaniCopyright © 2007 Pamela Yaye
All right reserved.
"This file needs to be delivered to Rawlins and McGill right away. Mr. Whithers has to have this package before he leaves for the day, and I don't have the time or the patience to wait for that bungling courier. Since you did the bulk of the work on the report, I'd like you to take it over, Ms. Nicholson."
Autumn Nicholson glanced up from her computer screen and inconspicuously closed her message box. Ms. Barstow would skin her alive if she caught her surfing the Internet during working hours. It was Friday afternoon and near quitting time but her gray-haired boss wouldn't care, she would ream her out all the same.
Ms. Barstow remained firmly planted in the doorway, cueing Autumn she was expected to leave, immediately. Thank God I didn't duck out early, she thought, hastily packing her briefcase. She would have ordered me back to the office just to haul me over the coals.
Autumn checked the wall clock. She was going to get stuck in dreaded Washington, D.C., rush hour on her way downtown but it would be ten times worse on the drive home. After ribbing her best friend Melissa Grisbey about her tardiness for as long as she could remember, Autumn couldn't afford to be late to her best friend's dinner party. She was dying to tell Ms. Barstow to take the documents her damn self, but clamped down on her tongue. Shevalued her job and its hefty paycheck far too much to get fired, and if she gave in to her displeasure and told her boss what she was thinking, she would be first in line at the unemployment office come Monday morning.
After applying to more than fifty accountancy firms and wearing down the soles of her favorite pumps, Autumn had leapt for joy when Ms. Barstow had offered her the junior accountant position at the conclusion of her interview. She loathed the long hours, heavy workload and the fact that her office was the size of an airplane bathroom, but she had fallen in love with Monroe Accounting.
In her third year with the company, her assiduousness and devotion had paid off and she had been promoted to a senior accountant position. The title had come with a fifteen-percent salary increase, a lighter workload and an office three times the size of her previous one. Autumn was one of the most well-liked employees at the firm and no one worked harder than her or put in as many hours as she did.
Autumn knew her boss was overstepping her bounds, but she wasn't about to give The Glacier any ammunition for mistreating her later on down the road. The steely-eyed, fifty-something woman had earned the nickname after unleashing a tongue-lashing on a snot-nosed intern at a staff meeting. In a matter of minutes, she had reduced the pro-wrestlingsize man to a puddle of tears, and he'd quit on the spot.
Ms. Barstow was unreasonable and downright rude, but Autumn had learned from her just how far fierce determination, hard work and a no-nonsense attitude could take you. The Glacier could scare the pants off a grown man with just one look, but she was also insightful beyond measure, incredibly tough and highly esteemed in the accounting world.
Extending the bulky manila envelope, Ms. Barstow gave Autumn some final instructions. It didn't matter what came out of The Glacier's mouth, it always sounded as though she was barking orders. Take this. Hurry up. Leave now. Get there before five o'clock.
She should enlist in the army, Autumn concluded, doing up her three-button blazer and securing the locks on her briefcase. She'd be one heck of a drill sergeant.
"Have a good weekend, Ms. Barstow. I'll see you on Monday morning," Autumn called as her boss turned to go through the open door.
Ms. Barstow came to a halt. Eyebrows arched sky-high, her mouth curved disapprovingly, she pointed towards the envelope in Autumn's right hand. "you're not returning to the office after you drop that off? It's only four o'clock."
Autumn gulped. "II have a family engagement this evening and"
"Very well," Ms. Barstow said, continuing her soldier-like march down the hall, " get going."
Your wish is my command, oh Cold One. After closing her office door behind her, Autumn stomped over to the glass elevators. She jabbed the down button so hard, her index finger cracked. Why do I have to drive halfway across town on a Friday afternoon? And where in my contract does it say I'm a courier?
An hour and some change later, Autumn eased her car out of the parking lot of the Rawlins and McGill law firm and fused into early-evening traffic. She slipped on her sunglasses, turned on her CD player and signaled her intention to make a right turn at the approaching intersection. With a heavy pull on the wheel, she bounced the car over the curb, landing with a thud, then made a left turn onto Canal Road, rounding the corner like an Indianapolis-500 driver, and slammed her foot down hard on the gas. If she hurried, she would have enough time to take a bath and spiral-curl her braids.
Singing along with Janet Jackson, Autumn drummed her slender fingers on the crown of the steering wheel. The sensual, heartfelt ballad reminded her of Tyrell. The last three months of their relationship had been about as stable as a teeter-totter, and just like Janet, she, too, was growing tired of being mistreated. Nine months ago, Autumn had felt like the luckiest woman alive. Tyrell had wooed her with dinners at five-star restaurants, called her five, ten times a day and impressed her with fancy gifts. But nowadays Autumn felt that her luck had dried up. Tyrell had changed; he was nothing like the man she had fallen for. As of late, she had seen a side of him she hadn't even known existed. This new guy was cunning and deceitful, and he couldn't find the truth if it dropped into his lap. But in the last two weeks, Tyrell had made an effort to change. He was trying to make things better, and she applauded his efforts. They were far from being a couple again, but Autumn was optimistic the arrangements she had made for tonight would turn things around.
Autumn continued down MacArthur Boulevard paying no heed to the construction markers or the posted speed limit. Humming softly, she made mental preparations of what she needed to do when she finally reached home. She was deciding which pair of sandals would complement her body-fitting halter dress best, when the steering wheel began to vibrate. Autumn gripped it so tightly her hands started to throb. She fought to maintain control of the viciously shaking vehicle. Finally, frustrated, she nursed the cantankerous car onto the shoulder.
When the car came to a complete stop, Autumn released her hold on the steering wheel. With trembling hands, she shut off the music and turned off the engine. She released the breath she had been holding and rubbed her hands gingerly over her face. Taking a series of deep calming breaths, she wondered, What the heck was that?
Autumn pushed on the hazard-light button before exiting the car. The air was pervaded with the scent of smoke. She quickly backed away from the car. But when a few minutes had passed without a stream of billowing smoke issuing from the hood and with no thunderous explosion, she walked around to the front of the car and popped open the hood. Autumn didn't know what she was looking for, but she poked her head inside anyway. Everything looked normal. No smoke. No loose wires. No signs of serious damage. Autumn closed the hood and slowly walked around to the passenger side. Her mouth dropped open. Remnants of the back tire lay everywhere on the highway behind her, as well as chunks of broken glass, crooked nails and what looked like half of a hammer.
With a curse to Ms. Barstow for her needless delivery and to all construction workers on the face of the earth, Autumn wrenched open the passenger door. God, please let Tyrell be home, she prayed, ferreting around in her handbag for her cell phone. She tapped her toe on the pavement impatiently as she waited for the call to connect. Someone picked up the phone on the fifth ring. "Tyrell? Hello? Tyrell?"
"Uh Yeah. Who's this?, "What do you mean, "Who's this?" It's me," Autumn said, the attitude heavy in her voice.
Autumn chose to ignore his lackadaisical tone. She would deal with that later. "Tyrell, I'm stranded on MacArthur Boulevard, and I need you to come get me."
Autumn was poised to repeat herself when she heard him take a deep breath and then yawn loudly and expansively.
"What do you mean you're stranded?"
"My back tire blew out and I don't know the first thing about changing it. You have to hurry, Tyrell, because I still need to go home and get ready for tonight."
"I don't know if I can, Autumn. I'm just waking upand I have a splitting headache. I can barely stand up, let alone drive. Why don't you call your brother? Or one of your girlfriends?"
"Because Isaac is the guest speaker at a business conference in Baltimore," she explained, her aggravation mounting with each passing second. "Calling Yvette is out of the question because she lives too far away, and Melissa's probably at home getting ready for tonight." Autumn knew that if she called either one of her girlfriends they would drop whatever they were doing and come get her, but she didn't want to. She wanted Tyrell, the man who claimed to care about her, to come to her rescue, not one of her friends. Besides, neither Yvette nor Melissa knew the first thing about replacing a flat tire.
"Why don't you call TripleA? They'll send someone right out and the tow truck driver will change the flat for you."
Now Autumn remembered why she had dumped him the last time. Here was yet another shining example of why she was better off without Tyrell Wellman. It was almost six o'clock in the evening and he was still lazing around in bed. No doubt he'd gone clubbing last night and was now so hung over and sick to his stomach he couldn't get out of bed. Some things just never change, Autumn thought, shaking her head sadly.
"Do you know how long it will take for a tow truck to get here? It's rush hour on a Friday evening, Tyrell. I could end up waiting out here for hours." Autumn was quickly losing patience. He was either coming to get her or he wasn't. And if the latter came to pass, Tyrell could kiss the possibility of them ever getting back together goodbye.
He yawned again. "Why don't you catch a cab back to your place and we'll pick up your car after the party? That is, if I make it. With the way my stomach is churning, I may end up skipping tonight's festivities altogether."
Autumn shook her head some more as her face twisted into a frown. Leaving her car by the side of the road wasn't even an option. It was a traffic-congested street, but there was no telling what would happen if she abandoned it. It could end up being vandalized, stripped or, worse yet, stolen. When Tyrell started to suggest another dim-witted idea, she cut him off in mid word. "Are you out of your damn mind? I can't flag down a perfect stranger and catch a ride with them!"
"I can call my father and ask him to send his driver to come and get you. How does that sound?, Tyrell asked, sounding rather self-satisfied. But after a reflective pause, he reneged on the offer. "On second thought, I'd better not. He's still pissed off at me for not attending his annual Politicians of Tomorrow fundraiser last night. Scrap that idea."
Jacob C. Wellman, the African-American mayor of D.C., had expected his son to follow his political footsteps and carry on the family legacy. But instead of diving into the political waters after graduating from Georgetown University with a degree in political science, Tyrell had announced that he was taking six months off to "find himself." Ten months had passed and the only thing he'd found were new ways to blow his parents" hard-earned money. But Mr. and Mrs. Wellman didn't seem to mind their son's laziness. In fact, they supported his lifestyle by giving him a handsome monthly allowance and turning a blind eye to his destructive behavior.
"I don't even know why I bothered calling you. I should've known you wouldn't come help me," Autumn said more to herself than to him. She raised her voice and spoke directly into the mouthpiece. "Don't bother picking me up tonight, Tyrell. I'll manage just fine at the party without you. I always do. Just stay home and nurse your hangover. And while you're at it, lose my number permanently."
"Come on babe, don't start this sh"
Excerpted from Other People's Business by Pamela Yaye Copyright © 2007 by Pamela Yaye. Excerpted by permission.
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