I came into work the next morning to find a bouquet of flowers on my desk. My first thought was that they were from Jamie. I found myself imagining about proposals and weddings and other highly romantic and gun-jumping things of that nature when I actually read the card.
“Thanks for helping me out last night! 🙂 Jane.”
Oh, well. I’d rather have romantic surprise flowers, but I suppose I’ll settle for platonic surprise flowers.
I am about to settle into the soothing work flow of answering emails, when Linda burst into my office. She is livid. I can imagine smoke pouring forth from her ears.
“Ms. Watson, my office. NOW, ” she bellows.
Here are the possible things for which she might be bringing me to her office to chastise me:
1.) The way I handled her Paideia class yesterday. I probably shouldn’t have gone all Dead Poets Society on their asses. Or ripped up her discussion notes.
2.) Taking the CD out of her desk and listening to it. (Although this is really only a viable scenario if she has surveillance cameras installed in her office. Which is doubtful.)
3.) Taking Brittany to lunch. She has already warned me about not fraternizing with students.
4.) Working Jane’s shift last night without consulting her. Linda is a creature of habit and she does not like last minute changes in staffing.
I take a notebook and pen into her office. I will feign innocence until she lets me know for which trespass I’m being admonished. I lower myself into the chair facing her desk and carefully look up into her icy glare.
“What. Did. You. Do yesterday?”
I attempt to respond, but she’s off and running before I utter a syllable.
“Who do you think you are? What on earth, what on EARTH did you do during my Paideia class yesterday? Some of the students went to the Dean and said that they wanted YOU to take over teaching the class? You were just supposed to stand there and read my discussion notes out loud! You weren’t supposed to TEACH them anything! How could you do this to me? This is awful!”
“Linda, surely they aren’t going to take the student’s request seriously–”
“No, of COURSE NOT. But I feel betrayed. How could you go in there and be so, so, inspiring to them?! There’s no call for that in academia!”
I should just apologize and let this blow over. I should sit on my hands and keep my mouth shut. But something inside me rises up and takes over instead.
“Let me be clear, Linda. You have brought me into your office because you’re upset that I taught your class well? Because the students liked me? The only reason I was teaching your class was because you were too drunk to drive home the night before and too hung over to teach the next day. I will not suffer this gross injustice. The next time you take me away from my work, please have an actual, logical reason as outlined in the Faculty and Staff Handbook. Having hurt feelings because I did an excellent job on short notice is not grounds for discipline. In fact, it’s an abuse of power. I have half a mind to file a complained with the HR department. But I’m not going to do that. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you are having an off day. But if this tyrannical behavior continues in the future, rest assured, I have no qualms with writing a detailed complaint and submitting it. Good day.”
I collect my things and exit calmly. Good day? Who says good day anymore?
I hide myself in the safe cave of my office and lock the door. My heart is pounding and my throat feels like it’s on fire. I’m not used to raising my voice.
I might categorize the events of the past week as out of character. But there have been so many of them that perhaps I am evolving. Being outspoken takes a lot of work. I have a newfound respect for anyone who’s ever spoken up for themselves or others.
This is going to come back and bit me in the ass. Hard. But do I really want to be working underneath someone who is so unbalanced? What an insane week. I want comfort. I want to be with Jamie and Pete in Lanesboro. It’s already Wednesday, but Friday still seems so far away.
I get out my phone and text Jamie.
“Work is crazy. Miss you and Pete.”
He responds instantly.
“We miss you, too. What happened?”
“Nothing, just had a heated conversation with my boss. Hopefully it will blow over soon. Can’t wait to see you guys.”
There is a pause, and then:
“Can you take tomorrow off?”
“Why?” I type curiously.
“Pete’s kindergarten class is taking a field trip and he wants to know if you can come. It’s tomorrow morning. Come up here after work and we’ll make you spaghetti.”
This offer is too good to pass up.
“See you tonight, then! I will bring garlic bread.”
Now to figure out how to get tomorrow off. I think I know how to work this situation, but I must tread carefully. I pull myself together and head back to Linda’s office.
I don’t knock, I just walk right in.
“Linda, I’d like to apologize for my outburst earlier this morning. I ended up working the reference desk unexpectedly last night and that paired with having to teach your class earlier in the day proved to be too much stress for one day. I know I am the youngest member of this staff and have a lot to learn. I also think I have a lot to offer. I apologize for bringing your leadership abilities into question and I think that if I took tomorrow off I could refocus myself and come back ready to servet the needs of this library in whatever way may present themselves.”
I wish it was possible to give myself a high five.
Linda takes all this in. Her face is not easy to read, but eventually she responds with: “Of course, Dorothy, that would be fine. Why don’t you take Friday, too. We’ll see you back here on Monday. I apologize as well.”
With that she turns and pretends to look for a file that probably does not exist.
Of course, she didn’t say why she was apologizing, but I’ll take all the time I can get with Jamie and Pete.
People talk about how wonderful it is to live “in the moment.” “Being present.” I always rolled my eyes at them because I couldn’t grasp what that really meant. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.
I feel like a kid waiting for the end of the school day bell to ring. As soon I’m done with work, I rush to the grocery store and buy garlic bread. It’s the frozen kind, not as good as if I would stop and get all the proper ingredients, but I can’t wait. I need to see my boys.
There are an inordinate number of Amish buggies on the road tonight, but I don’t mind. I whiz past them gleefully and take a right onto Highway 21. The rolling hills fade into black and I keep my eyes peeled for deer. I know that we only have a short window of time before they need to be at the theatre and I want to savor every tendril of spaghetti.
I park in front of the yellow cottage and scurry up the steps. Pete jumps into my arms, knocking the garlic bread to the floor. But I don’t care. We squeeze each other affectionately.
“You’re HERE!” He squeals with delight.
“Yes I am! And I’m so glad to be here!”
Nothing can compare with the singular sensation of a small child being excited to see you. It moves you into a realm with Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse. You are the recipient of unbridled love and infinite awe.
Once Pete releases me from our hug, Jamie comes over and gives me a quick peck on the check while Pete’s back is turned.
“I will pop the garlic bread in the oven and we can all eat dinner together before we head over to the theatre. Dorothy, I know you’re going to see the show on Friday, but you’re welcome to come or hang out here.”
“I think I’ll stay here and bake cookies, if that’s ok.”
“That’s better than ok. That’s AWESOME!” Pete leaps into my arms again and starts to like my like I’m a cookie. “Yum, you taste delicious!”
“Ok, buddy, that’s enough, let’s let her settle in and sit down before we start licking her.”
We all let that last sentence soak in for a minute. Then we all start laughing. Just when I think I’m going to stop laughing, I get a glimpse of Jamie or Pete laughing and I can’t stop laughing even more.
When we all catch our breath, dinner is served. The sauce and noodles look and smell divine.
“Did you make all this?” I ask Jamie.
“Well, Pete is my sous-chef, but yup, I made the sauce from scratch–my grandmother’s secret recipe.”
Each bite is better than the last. Red sauce sticks in the corners of Pete’s mouth and he pretends to be a vampire. Dinner is over far too soon and the boys head out to perform.
“You should have everything to make cookies. There are a couple of recipe books on top of the fridge, or the password for the internet is on the bottom of the router if you want to look up something online.”
“Thanks, Jamie. Break a leg, you two!”
“We will!” Pete says as they leave.
I am not a baker by any means, but I love to make cookies for people I care about. I grab a recipe book off the fridge and find a recipe for snickerdoodles. I grab butter and eggs from the fridge and find flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda in the cupboard. I smile at the blue gingham pattern that lines the shelves.
I get out a big bowl and mix all the ingredients together. I plan on letting the dough sit in the fridge until right before the show gets out. There’s nothing better than coming home to the smell of freshly baked cookies.
I form the dough into a thick snake and wrap it in wax paper. I find space in the fridge and wash the big bowl and wipe off the counter.
I walk to the bookshelf in the living room. Jamie is well read. There are a lot of scripts and acting books, but also lots of biographies and classics. My hand rests on a well-loved copy of Pride and Prejudice, when I hear the front door opening.
“Did you guys forget something? The cookies won’t be done until after the show!”
I turn around to see a woman with bright red hair standing in the doorway.
“Who are you?” I ask hesitantly.
“I’m Peter’s mother. Who the hell are you?”