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I might be a little behind. Oh, well. I can do 4,000 words a day to catch up, right? *gulp* Let’s not think about that right now and instead concentrate on the next portion of my story, which I finally got typed up.

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

“I love drawing, sir. And I am quite good. I was hoping, perhaps, you could put in a word for me and –“

“Wait a minute – let me get this straight.” Mr. Peters actually lowered his standing desk so he could look at her. “You only just got acclimated to this job and you want to move positions?”

“No! I mean – sort of – it is just . . .”

“Please sit down, Miss Grant.” Mr. Peters sat himself and waited until Josie slowly lowered herself in the chair opposite him, a knot forming in her stomach.

“Now, Miss Grant, what makes you think you are qualified to work in design? Our designers have years of experience and, in some cases, multiple degrees. You have only recently even learned to dress professionally, and you have no experience. Believe me – I went over your resume with a fine-tooth comb, recommendation or not.” Mr. Peters reached across and took the stack of sketches Josie had set in front of her, glancing through them briefly. “You have raw talent, there is no doubt of that, but experience – experience and training is key. I would not risk my company’s reputation even if you had been here as long as Theresa has. Our clients have very specific expectations about quality and I would not chance losing their trust just because a young girl has some talent and big dreams.”

“Yes, sir.” Josie stood, well aware arguing not only would be fruitless but may result in affecting his perception of her as his employee as well. Nonetheless, as she began to retreat from his office, a thought struck her and she turned back.

“Mr. Peters – what if a client is already interested in my designs?”

“What do you mean?” He stood, looking at her with some alarm. “Miss Grant, if you have been approaching my clients without –“

“Oh, no! Of course not. But Mr. Richardson saw one of my sketches by chance and requested I do another one on commission for him. If he liked it enough to ask me to do something for him privately, then wouldn’t he like my designs in a professional capacity as well?”

“Hmm.” Mr. Peters thought it over. “And did he like the completed commission?”

“Oh – well, I was unable to do it that weekend, since I was out of town.” Josie flushed but hurried on. “However, I am sure if I offered to do one again he would take me up on it.”

“Very well – if Mr. Richardson has you do a drawing for him and likes the completed product, then we will talk again. Absolutely no promises, but we will talk.”

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Peters!” Josie fairly ran out of the room before he could change his mind.

“So how did it go?” Theresa pounced as soon as Josie closed the door behind her.

“Well, he said no.”

“I told you it wouldn’t happen.” There was no denying the note of satisfaction in Theresa’s voice. Not malicious, Josie knew – probably just delight in both being right and not losing her new assistant. She almost hated to burst her bubble. Almost.

“But . . .”

“But what?” Theresa turned her head sharply. “You aren’t quitting because of that, are you?”

“No, of course not. But he said if Mr. Richardson hires me for a sketch and is pleased wit it, he will reconsider.”

“Really?” Theresa sounded a little dumbfounded.

“Yup. So I guess I’ll have to make sure Mr. Richardson knows I’m still interested in sketching for him  – or his mother -or whoever.”

“Don’t you go bothering him about it. He probably only asked you to be polite anyway.” But Theresa no longer sounded so sure of herself.

“It wouldn’t hurt to let him know I am interested and available, though, right?”

“I suppose – as long as you don’t coerce him into it.” Theresa conceded a bit reluctantly.

“Well, what have we here?” A sweet voice sounded behind them. “A plot to further damage relationships with our clients?”

“None of your business, Ms. Hynes.” Theresa said.

“If I catch either of you talking to Mr. Richardson again, I will tell Mr. Peters how you tried to sabotage our good relationship and therefore the company.” The sweet tone was gone and a savage note displayed just how angry the woman was.

“You brought what happened upon yourself, Caroline.” Theresa retorted without fear. “If you had not been publicly criticizing a coworker, Mr. Richardson would not have gotten upset.”

“Nonetheless.” Caroline had gotten control of herself again and the sweetness was back. “I am the one who makes the money for this company and Mr. Peters cannot afford to lose me, so I would suggest you tread carefully.”

*                                             *                             *                             *

Jocelyn found it more difficult than she expected to approach Keith Richardson again. Though he seemed to be in and out of the office more than ever – a fact she wasn’t sure whether to attribute to Caroline’s overt attentions or to the new marketing plans being drawn up for his company – he always seemed to be in a hurry and Josie found herself shrinking from the bold task of actually soliciting him. It took a call from Aunt Patty to finally steel her resolve.

“Hello, dear! How are you doing?” The older lady’s voice was a little too anxious to sound normal.

“Aunt Patty – what is wrong?”

“Why must you always jump to conclusions? What if I just want to talk to my favorite niece?”

“You mean your only niece? I know how much you hate phones, Aunt Patty. That excuse doesn’t work.”

“Letters are so much more romantic. In the classic sense, not the lovey dovey sense.”

“So what’s wrong?”

Aunt Patty sighed dramatically before responding. “Very well. If you are insistent on getting straight to the point. You know, a little small talk never hurt anyone.”

“Is Mom getting worse?”

The responding silence almost negated the need for Aunt Patty’s verbal confirmation. “Well, the doctor wants more frequent treatments and an in-home nurse. Especially for the times I need to leave. Like – for Christmas next week. My son keeps asking when I will be there. He is still a little sore at me for missing Thanksgiving. I don’t mean to burden you, my dear, especially when you do so much for your poor mother, but I thought you should know, and I know quite well your mother won’t tell you.”

“Thanks for letting me know, Aunt Patty.” Josie tried not to betray the sinking feeling she had. How could she ever afford in-home care? “When do you need to go back home for Christmas?”

“Well, I was going to go as soon as you got back for the Christmas. Do you know yet how much time you get off for it yet, by the way?”

“Uh – no. Not yet.” It was sort of true. There was the possibility she could get more than Christmas Eve off if she asked. Maybe.

“Okay, well, if you let me know once you find out, I will tell my son. I am sorry, dear – I wish I could stay here and help out more, but I do need to spend the holidays with my children.”

“No, of course! I wouldn’t expect anything less. I – I might be able to get another job – sort of – and make a little extra soon. So – I will see what I can do.”

“Don’t kill yourself, dear. God will provide somehow.”

“Of course – I’ll keep you updated. Thanks, Aunt Patty.”

So it was that the next time Keith Richardson walked into the office, Josie squared her shoulders and cornered him in the elevator after his meeting.

“Mr. Richardson.” She said as she followed him into the elevator.

“Miss Grant – did I forget something?”

“No, sir. I just wanted to speak with you. Do you mind if I walk you out?”

“Not at all? What can I do for you?”

“Well, sir – you mentioned. . .that one night when you were skating. You asked about – about my sketches.”

“Ah, yes – they were very impressive, especially for one so young.”

Josie suppressed her insulted feeling and continued. “Thank you. I was just wondering – you mentioned your mother wanted a drawing and I know I was busy that weekend, but I am available now, and I was just wondering – I would love the opportunity if it isn’t too late and if you are still interested and I am pretty flexible schedule wise and I wouldn’t charge much at all if you – or she – was still interested, that is.” It all came out in a rush as though she was afraid she would stop halfway through and be unable to continue.

“Oh – I see.” Keith said with some surprise and undeniably slightly amused. The elevator doors chimed open on the ground floor and he strode out. Josie hesitated, uncertain if that was a refusal or if she was supposed to –

“Coming?” He looked back at her and she hurried out after him.

“So, I have to say,” He said as they walked toward the door, “my mother already found another artist and had her drawing done.”

“Oh.” Josie’s tone doubtlessly conveyed her sinking heart. He glanced down at her and held open the door so she could precede him out to the sidewalk.

“But I may have another idea.”

“Oh?”

“If you are serious about your offer, anyway.”

“Of course!”

“It is rather difficult to find gifts for my mother. She buys anything she wants, so Christmas shopping is basically impossible. So, your offer gives me an idea. I bet she would love an original drawing from a local, undiscovered young talent. Is that something you would be interested in?”

“Oh, wouldn’t I!” Josie exclaimed, excitement staining her cheeks and taking the edge of the cold wind off.

“Perfect! Then we just have to determine a picture. As the artist, have you have suggestions off hand?” He smiled down at her and her cheeks flushed from more than just the excitement and cold wind.

“Well – would she like a portrait of – of her son? Or family?”

“Not bad – I am sure she would. But to be quite honest, we have family portraits done yearly, so that may be a little repetitive.”

“Of course! That is rather obvious.” Josie quickly racked her brain for additional ideas. “What about – where she grew up? Any memories there?”

“Well, she grew up in the center of New York society – which might be a bit difficult to capture.  Oh – wait – I know!” His eyes brightened. “Her family used to visit an uncle’s farm in western New York. Whenever Mother has a touch too much wine, she goes off into hours’ worth of stories surrounding it, explaining how she and her brother climbed trees and explored nooks and crannies and turned an old barn into a play house. She loved that place!”

“That’s perfect! Do you know where it is? I could take a weekend out there – assuming they don’t care.”

Keith’s face dropped a bit. “Well – it was sold when Uncle Rodney died and I think its been torn down and replaced with a factory or something.”

“Oh – that could create an issue.” Josie offered a half smile.

“If only I knew someone with a nice farm, I bet it would be close enough to still catch her sentiment.”

Josie felt more than a little awkward as she cleared her throat. “Uh – well, actually. . .”

“You know someone?”

“More or less. My farm – actually. I grew up on a farm. My mom still lives there.”

“Really? Well, I guess that explains why you are so different.”

“Different?” Josie cocked her head and met his eyes without difficulty for the first time in their conversation.

“Oh – not in a bad way!” Keith quickly tried to amend. “Just – you know. Quiet. And not as taken up in appearances – and, uh-“

Josie raised her eyebrows, her ears lighting on fire. “No, I get it. I’m different.” Sometimes she was surprised at how quickly her self-consciousness disappeared when she was upset about something. “I don’t really fit in. I understand.”

“That’s not what I meant – what I really meant – “

She had to admit, as offended as she felt, it was also a little fun to see cool, collected Keith Richardson stumbling over his words. He cleared his throat and apparently deemed it best to just move on.

“Is it all right to just use your farm? I will compensate for both the use and the drawing, of course.”

“Of course we can use our farm. It will be a pleasure, Mr. Richardson.”

“Thank you.” He appeared immensely relieved she had accepted the change of subject. “When do you think it might be ready?”

“I will have to see if Mr. Peters will allow me to work remotely next week. If so, I can go down this weekend and have it ready for you to pick up at least a couple days before Christmas.”

“That would be perfect! Do you think it would help if I spoke to Mr. Peters about it?”

“Actually, it probably would help immensely.”

“Great – then I will do so tomorrow. Thank you, Miss Grant.” He stepped toward a waiting limo, eager to get himself safely away, but turned back and, with another of his mischievous grins, bowed before entering. Josie gave in and bopped a curtsy in response.

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Handwriting and Computers

My computer is fixed! My lovely husband ordered a hard drive and fixed it himself to try to get it done faster!

So I am sure you are wondering if I was able to keep up with my word count while handwriting. The answer is – um. If thinking about the book counts, then absolutely! If I had to actually write stuff down, then no. No I didn’t. But I am going to try and type up what I did write today and get it posted. Assuming I can read my own handwriting.

NaNo power outage

NaNoWriMi Update

Just in case anyone is wondering where my update from yesterday is – my computer appears to have died. I’d like to say a violent death, but more like chloroform. Quiet but annoying.

Busy day – we are prepping for guests, so I wrote only 100 words tonight. It is already 2:00 AM, so I didn’t have time for more. On the up side, there is a lot of food in the freezer! Good thing I didn’t put everything up yesterday, so that I have more than 100 words to post today!

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

Josie nodded along as her mother chatted, carefully outlining the row of trees that lined her family’s farm. Suddenly she realized she must have been asked a question because it fell silent.

“What, mom?” She looked up quickly, her mother looking at her questioningly from the wheelchair.

“Josie, my dear, you are not yourself. Is something wrong?”

“No, of course not.” Josie untucked her feet from her chair, folding up her sketch pad and turning her full attention to her mother.

“Well, you didn’t say a word when I told you that little Todd Robinson was married.”

“You mean the Todd Robinson that I dated in high school 8 years ago?”

“Well, I just thought you ought to know. You know, if he moved on, maybe you should too.”

“Mom,” Josie laughed “I haven’t thought about Todd in 6 years.”

“Then why aren’t you married? Why don’t you have a man? Or do you? Is that why you are so distracted?” Mrs. Grant was irrepressible.

“Of course not, mom.” But Josie blushed despite herself as an image of Keith Richardson’s debonair smile flashed through her mind.

“Ha! I knew it! You never tell your poor mother anything anymore. Is this what is going to be like, with you living 5 hours away? You never tell me anything? I don’t get to know anything that is going on? The least you can do is keep me updated – especially with how hard I work to make sure you don’t miss anything here!”

“Mom, you would know everything going on whether you told me about it or not.” Josie got up and kissed her mother’s cheek, noting with chagrin how wrinkled it had gotten in a few short months. “And there is no man. I am just too busy right now.”

“With what, may I ask? As far as I can tell, you do nothing but work! What kind of life is that? You should be busy with happier things! The good Lord knows I would be out there living if I could just be up longer than half an hour at a time.”

“How are you feeling, mom, really?”

“I have been better, my child.” Her mother’s voice was softer than it had been in a while, betraying just how weary she was. “But stop changing the subject! Tell me about this man.”

“There is no man, Mom! I am just – I am just tired. It is good to be home this weekend. I think I will go for a walk. Get some fresh air.”

“But, child – it is only 20 degrees out there!”

“Don’t worry – I will bundle up.” Josie called over her shoulder as she hurried toward the door.

“Escaping your mother’s everlasting questions?” Aunt Patty caught her as she was pulling on heavy gloves.

“It’s almost like you know her.” Josie smiled. “But, honestly, it will be nice just to walk around and not be bothered with city streets and smoke and hordes of people hurrying from place to place. I miss being out here, Aunt Patty.”

“Of course you do, darling. Who wouldn’t? Just don’t go freezing to death.”

Jocelyn breathed in deeply as she stepped outside and began walking toward the very grove of trees she had begun sketching. She reveled in the clean, crisp air. She loved winter. Winter out here that was. It had been colder and snowier than usual even for early December, and the intensity of white that surrounded her gave a sense of peace and belonging. It was like a different world entirely from the mushy, black slush that Boston called snow.

She didn’t even mind crunching through the slightly hardened top and letting her boots sink a couple inches down. It was marvelous to be the first one to make any imprints on this coating of snow. She felt like God was smiling down at her as she marched toward the little grove, her favorite place to sit and sketch in the summer. When she reached it, she sat down, snow and all, settling deep in against the large tree trunk, and looking up into the pale blue that represented a winter sky.

You know, God, she contemplated internally, there have been many times this past year that I didn’t think You were listening, but somehow, when I get back out here and look around, I can’t help but know that even if You don’t seem to want to answer my prayers, You have to be out here somewhere. Still, if You could see Your way through to healing my mom, or helping me get enough money to help her, I sure would appreciate it.

*                                             *                                             *

“Thank you, Josie.” Mr. Peters remarked absentmindedly as she set some reports in front of him, only a week before Christmas.

Jocelyn hurried out and straight to Theresa. “I think Mr. Peters is sick. He just called me by my first name!”

Theresa looked up from the analysis she was completing. “That’s great!”

“It is?”

“Yes – it means he is finally accepting you. He won’t call you by your first name until he is becoming fully satisfied with your work and thinks you might actually be here longer. The last three girls in your position never graduated from “miss”.”

“So – does that mean – I could ask him about my sketches?”

“That again? I suppose so, if you really want to. I will tell you now, though, I’m going to be upset if he actually moves you. I really don’t have the time or patience to train yet another assistant. But wait until after the Grayson’s meeting on renewal. If it goes badly, you will have no chance, but if it goes well, he will be in an excellent mood.”

Josie judged the meeting to have gone quite well, for Mr. Peters entered his office that afternoon with an actual smile on his face. Theresa looked over and raised her thin eyebrows as if to say now or never. Josie gathered both a deep breath and the sample sketches she had prepared for this opportunity.

“Mr. Peters.” She approached his desk with trepidation.

“Yes? I thought I had all the reports – did I miss one?”

“No, sir. I – wanted to speak to you about something else.”

Mr. Peters looked up, a slight frown on his face. “Well, make it quick, please. I do not want to be late for my next meeting.”

“Of course. Sir, I wanted to know – that is – I have here some drawings –“

“Drawings? What for? I have no use for these.”

“No, sir – I just meant them as – Sir, I would like a job in the design department.”

“What?” Mr. Peters looked genuinely confused.

“I love drawing, sir. And I am quite good. I was hoping, perhaps, you could put in a  word for me and –“

 

 

Daniel had guys’ game night tonight. But, since we had to do some shopping as well, I tagged along long enough to do shopping, which consisted of picking up groceries from Walmart’s pickup service – we were originally going to do some shopping for our upcoming Christmas Party as well, but went to the wrong Walmart for pick-up and had to backtrack a half hour to get to the correct one! Our first time trying the pick-up features. It went well once we had the right store.

Then I dropped Daniel off at his friend’s house for games and went to Starbucks for an hour and a half to write. Then Starbucks closed so I went to a restaurant down the street and sat in a booth in the bar and had wine while I wrote for another hour. I had a lovely couple glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon, fended off the attempts to sell me food, and even got additional free wine because a couple fruit flies decided my wine was the best place for a bath before their lives ended.

All in all, I wrote about 2600 words, but I am not going to share all of it tonight, since I have company coming later this week and suspect I may not get all my writing in and will still need something to post.

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

“What a horrible person.”

“Theresa!” Josie turned. “How is it you always happen to sneak up and listen just as Caroline arrives?”

“I am a born snoop.” Theresa sipped her coffee with composure. “Hmm – wouldn’t that be nice, though?”

“What?”

“if you were able to sneak Keith Richardson away right under her nose.”

“Theresa! You know quite well that has nothing to do with – I thought you said he wasn’t interested in her anyway?”

“Ah-hah – so you do care!”

“Sometimes, Theresa, I preferred it when you were taciturn.”

“Always such big words.” Theresa scoffed. “And no, you don’t. You much prefer me as a friend.”

*                                             *                                             *

Whether she denied it out loud or not, Jocelyn could not deny to herself that she watched for Keith Richardson to enter throughout the week. After all, was there any harm in wondering what his reaction to her new look would be? Every morning she rose an hour early to ensure she had adequate time to curl and coif her hair, do her makeup, and pick an outfit. Theresa usually had something to correct, but each morning became less critical and more approving. But all week she waited in vain, for no Mr. Richardson appeared.

Friday afternoon, after conceding to go get coffee with Theresa, she gave an involuntary sigh as they reentered the building and she cast her eyes about in vain for the handsome figure. Theresa broke out into a fit of laughter.

“What?” Josie’s defensive tone gave away that she already knew.

“You – you are the worst liar I have ever seen. The way you have been mooning about the office waiting for a glimpse of a man you openly acknowledge does not actually notice you is hysterical to watch.”

“Well – okay, isn’t it perfectly natural to – never mind. How long do I have to wait before we ask Mr. Peters about the promotion?”

“It has only been a week, Josie. He is barely used to you looking like a human being, without thinking about moving you to a section you have no experience in. Besides, he still occasionally brings up that time you were late with the report he needed. I would recommend you forget about the promotion for a month and work as though this is the job you have waited for your entire life.”

“A month?? But, Theresa, I need that promotion now.”

“Why? I mean – I do understand, I have seen your place – but surely you can survive another month there. All good things come to those who wait. To quote another oldy but goody.”

“But I need –“ Josie fell silent.

“What? What do you need?” Theresa grabbed her arm as she was about to move on to her cube. “I told you I was born nosy. What is so important that requires you get out of this job you only just got?”

“I just – need the money. That is all.”

“Are you in trouble? Do you secretly gamble? I knew you had to have a vice somewhere! You are too nice to be normal!”

Josie couldn’t help laughing. “No, of course not.”

“Very well, then, what is it?”

Josie’s smile faded and she looked down at her cardboard coffee cup, automatically beginning to twist a strand of hair at the same time, curled or not.

Theresa studied her. “Very well, if you don’t want to tell me, I won’t make you. You can approach him if you would like, but I can tell you right now he isn’t going to say yes. You would do far better to wait until he is pleased with your performance here. You could always get another job.”

“But how? I never know how late I am going to work here. It is impossible to tell my schedule.”

“True. I suppose you would have to find something flexible. I could probably take the night shifts sometimes when Mr. Peters is late, but not always – I do have some seniority, you know.”

Josie’s mind flashed back to her initial thought when she was visiting her mother.  If she could only get someone to pay for her sketching – that had to be flexible, and even if Mr. Richards didn’t ask her again, surely she could find someone, if he liked it enough to –

“Hello? Are you still there?” Theresa waved a hand over her face.

“Yes. Yes – sorry. I think – I have an idea. I just have to figure out how. . . .”

“Are you going to share?”

Josie looked up, her large brown eyes looked far more appealing with a bit of outline around them to shape them, less like a cow’s than an innocent young woman’s. “I was thinking maybe, if I could find someone who would buy my sketches . . .or if I could sketch for someone. . .“

“Like who?”

“Well – Mr. Richardson mentioned – “

“Oh, be careful there. If you did a side job for one of the clients and it didn’t turn out well, you may end up without a job at all.”

“Really? But –“

“Miss Grant! Theresa! Find out why my 1:00 has not arrived! It is already 1:04 and I have not got all day!”

“Just make sure whatever you decide to do doesn’t interfere with this job or you will never get promoted.” Theresa warned as she picked up the phone.

Josie turned to go and literally ran smack dab into Keith Richardson.

“I – I am so sorry!” she gasped.

“Not to worry, ma’am. Please excuse me.” Mr. Richards nodded politely and continued moving towards the conference room, where he was accosted shortly thereafter by Caroline.

Josie stared after him in bewilderment and then turned to Theresa, still on the phone, who was also staring after him with wide eyes. Then she looked back at Josie and shrugged. “Well, at least he doesn’t look on you as a child anymore. Yes, Ms. Schild. Yes – tell Mr. Cranton . . . “

There is a slight possibility that when Mr. Richards finished his meeting and progressed to Mr. Peters’ office with Caroline, Josie was in the room not entirely by accident. She demurely continued to arrange Mr. Peters notes for his next presentation as they entered. Mr. Richards, barely glancing over, nodded politely as he continued forward to shake Mr. Peters’ hand and Caroline threw a victorious look towards her.

“Mr. Richards, so good to see you again. You will forgive me – I am just hurrying out for my next presentation, but Theresa will get you the marketing reports. Miss Grant, would you please let Theresa know that Mr. Richards is waiting for the report?”

Keith Richards looked about him in some confusion until Josie responded softly.

“Of course, Mr. Peters.”

He looked towards her, and his brows raised as they had when she had refused to sue him. His eyes followed her as she left the room to get Theresa and, despite herself, Josie couldn’t help a bit of exultation in both confusing him and the indefinable look Caroline had on her face at his reaction.

It took only a few moments for him to reignite his natural manners and he followed her out, having given Mr. Peters a hasty goodbye. “Miss Grant – please forgive me for ignoring you earlier. I – I did not notice you.”

“It is quite all right, Mr. Richardson.” Somehow the knowledge she had flustered him for once made her much calmer in his presence. “Theresa – Mr. Richardson is looking for this week’s marketing reports.”

Theresa, watching the minor drama with amusement out of the corner of her eye, hurried to retrieve the paperwork.

Keith was still looking at her strangely. “Miss – Miss Grant. Did – you look different, somehow.”

Caroline’s musical laugh sounded behind him, a tinge of ire on the outskirts of it. “I suppose you mean that she has actually learned how to dress appropriately for her job? Miss Grant is such a sweet, young thing. I was really beginning to wonder if she would learn what it is like to work in the real world.”

“Miss Hynes.” Keith turned to her, his face muscles taut. “I do not believe what you just said is kind or appropriate.”

Caroline turned slightly pale. “I – I only meant – “

“Everyone knows what you meant, Caroline.” Theresa muttered and then, as all three turned to look at her, she started. “Did I just say that out loud?”

Josie couldn’t help it. She laughed. Long and loud. After a minute, Keith Richardson joined her and finally, as Theresa’s rueful, somewhat embarrassed chuckle turned it into a trio, Caroline took the opportunity to hurry away before she was further embarrassed.

“Well, Miss Grant, Miss Roesler, much as I enjoy your company, I really must – did you run into me earlier?” Again startled out of his manners by the sudden recollection, Keith turned and looked at Josie somewhat incredulously.

Embarrassment replacing mirth, Josie blushed to the tips of her ears. “I may have – tripped.” She admitted delicately.

Keith once again began to laugh. “Well, at least we are even now. I ran into you, and you ran into me.”

“You ran into me with a car!” Josie cried out with fake indignation.

“Nuance.” Keith bowed gravely as he took his leave.

“Did he just bow to you?” Theresa asked.

“It’s an inside joke.” Josie smiled after him.

“An inside joke, hmm? My, aren’t we becoming chummy.”

“Theresa! He didn’t even recognize me earlier.”

“No, but he sure did afterwards.” Theresa winked. “And it was so worth every second of that drama to see Miss Snooty-nose get shot down.”

“Miss Snooty-nose?”

“My own invention. Isn’t it great? I should go into poetry. You’d better get back to that meeting summary from this morning. Mr. Peters is going to be cranky all day because Mr. Cranton was late.”

Funny how 1,667 words seems like so much more when it is adding up to 10,000+ words instead of 5,000 something. It took forever to get my words out today. Somehow, it almost seemed easier when i was handwriting it. Maybe I was paying less attention to the word count and more to the story. I might try to do that again at work tomorrow. But here it is, for better or for worse:

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

Theresa sighed. “I knew I should not have said that to you! I do not know what I was thinking, putting such an idea into your head. You do not really think you could be moved to design, do you, Josie? The design teams has years of experience, not to mention . . .”

“A degree?” Josie supplied when she stopped.

“Well, yes. It is normal, you know.”

Josie’s hand stole up to twist a piece of loose hair. “So you do not think I have a chance?”

“Look, Josie, I am going to be honest with you. Even if I did, I would not help you. You haven’t earned it, okay? You have only been here a couple months – and design is a good position. Besides, do you know how hard it is to find and keep assistants for – Mr. Peters, how are you, sir?” Theresa smiled brightly at that venerable man as he came in.

“Cancel my 5:00 and move my 4:00 to – whenever you can fit it in earlier. The wife wants to have dinner tonight. Something about our anniversary.” Mr. Peters grunted as he went into his office and shut the door.

Theresa turned and gave Josie a look that clearly said See? and turned to her desk.

 

It took only until noon for Theresa to concede. She came over to Josie’s desk and sat on the edge of it with a giant sigh as though the girl had been begging her all morning instead of simply keeping to herself. “Okay, fine! I will help you! But I am not promising anything. It would take nothing short of a miracle to get you moved with your lack of experience!”

“Oh, Theresa! Thank – “

“None of that. First things first. If you want to be promoted, you have to look the part. Haven’t you ever heard the old saying, dress for the job you want, not the job you have? I know you do not think it is necessary, but you must do something with your hair. Really, anything. And these clothes you wear! Where did you get them? A secondhand store?”

Josie said nothing, since that was exactly where she had gotten them.

“And makeup. You definitely need makeup.”

“I do not see how – “

“Do you want my help or not? If you want Mr. Peters to take you seriously, you have to start looking your age instead of like a high school nerd who never leaves the darkest corner of the library. You also have to look representable enough to speak to clients. And no, Mr. Richardson-who-almost-ran-you-over does not count.”

Josie couldn’t help a little smile at Theresa preempting her only argument. She had nothing to do but concede. “Okay. If you think it will help. I do not know what you think I can do with myself, though. Nothing seems to help. I’ve always been thin and – and sallow. Mom told me I took after her great-aunt. Personally, I always imagined myself as Pat in Pat of Silver Bush before her new hair grew in.”

”Who?”

“Never mind.” Josie was not about to add to that image of the nerd in the corner of the school library. No matter how accurate.

“Okay, well, why don’t I come over to your place tomorrow morning before work and we’ll see what we can do?”

“Really?” Josie brightened. Then faltered again. “Oh – well – my place isn’t really that big. Perhaps we could meet someplace else?”

“Someplace where I can see all your clothes? I am assuming you do not feel like bringing your whole wardrobe with you and I do not trust you to pick anything appropriate out. What you need, Josie Grant, is some training in fashion.”

*                                             *                                             *

There was no hiding the disgust in Theresa’s face when she stepped into Josie’s little apartment. She looked about as if in fear a cockroach would emerge specifically to torture her.

“It is not much, I know.” Josie tried to brush some imaginary crumbs off the counter she had already scrubbed three times.

“I understand now why you want a promotion. I didn’t think the salary was that bad.” Theresa seemed to note the look of shame on Josie’s face and decided to be tactful and move on.

“I like your quilt!” she motioned to the bedspread.

“Thanks! My grandmother made it as a wedding gift for my mother, and she sent it with me when I moved here.” Josie walked the few steps it took to reach the bed and smoothed a wrinkle out of it lovingly. Theresa followed her and her glance landed on the collection of sketches that had taken over the wall above the bed.

“You drew all these?” her tone contained a slightly awed tone that Josie would never have believed it possessed.

“I did.” Josie said with a bit of modest pride. “I call it my garden of dreams. The collection, that is. I draw things that make me happy.”

“I have to admit – they are really good. Degree or not, you would make a great designer.” She seemed to realize the inordinate number of compliments she was paying Josie and turned briskly.

“All right, let’s have a look at your clothes.” She examined the small collection in the closet and drawers next to the bed for what seemed forever while Josie  sat on the edge of the bed and watched curiously, trying to figure out what she was thinking. Finally, Theresa settled on the shapeless brown dress, pulling it out with a long orange cardigan.

“Well, there isn’t much to work with, I have to admit, but we will see what we can do. Put these on.”

Theresa surveyed the result dissatisfiedly. “The cardigan helps, but it still looks a bit like sackcloth.” She hurried around the room, rummaging in corners and dresser drawers without bothering to ask permission before finally bringing back a small, brown belt, pair of heels, and beaded necklace, which she proceeded to arrange on Josie herself. Then she stepped back and admired her work. “Now! You actually look like you have a figure! Go look!”

Josie was stunned to find that, indeed, her rather rectangular body did have a shape hidden in it. The belt brought the outfit in neatly at the waist, the cardigan gave color, and the necklace added depth. “Wow. I – I –“

“You look good. Well, almost. You still need some work. Don’t forget the heels.”

“I don’t know – I only have them for special events. I do not think that I can work in them.”

“As a woman and a professional, you will have to learn to. Now come on, let’s do your hair and makeup.”

*                                             *                                             *

When Jocelyn entered the office later that morning, she felt incredibly shy and not at all like herself. She felt like she might actually be pretty. She automatically went to pull a strand of hair out to twist nervously as she felt eyes land on her, but there was none to grab. Her hair, a strange mix of curls and straight, was carefully pinned up, with just a few strands floating down here and there, and she wasn’t about to mess up those immaculately curled strands.

“Stand up straight if you don’t want to trip over those heels.” Theresa whispered.

Josie quickly stood up straight, forcing herself to meet the eyes that landed on her, most of which looked more puzzled than surprised.

“Theresa – you are late.” Mr. Peters came out of his office as they reached it.

“No, sir. It is 8:00 precisely.” Theresa was one of the only people who would contradict Mr. Peters, albeit with respect. Mr. Peters glanced at his watch again. “Hmm. I suppose that is technically your starting time. Where is Miss Grant? Why is she late again?”

Josie stared at him with wide eyes and then back at Theresa, who was busy smothering a laugh.

“I-I’m right here, Mr. Peters.”

It was the first time she had ever seen him surprised outside of the episode with Keith Richardson. And the first time she had seen him legitimately with no words. His eyes opened wide and he took a step back, looking her up and down without disguise, but without inappropriate intentions.

“Miss – Miss Grant?” He finally uttered, definitely more of a question than a statement.

“Yes, sir.” Josie self-consciously smoothed a hand over the cardigan, making sure it was still straight.

“What – what happened? Er, I mean – of course. My apologies. You just – did your hair differently. I am used to things a certain way.” His customary curt tone was returning. “Ah, please have yesterday’s summary to me as soon as possible.”

“Yes, sir.”

As he disappeared into his office again, Theresa gave Josie a knowing smile. Josie looked at her, still surprised, and then the two girls broke into a heartfelt laugh.

“I told you you were hot.” Theresa winked as they scurried to their individual tasks.

But the true test came later in the day when Caroline came by to obtain a packet for a new client. She stopped at Josie’s desk and looked at her with some puzzlement for a moment. “Excuse me, but I am looking for –“ She paused as Josie looked up. “Jocelyn Grant?”

“May I help you, Miss Hynes?” Josie suddenly reveled in her change in appearance, and tilted her head with a glint in her eye.

Caroline swallowed and recovered herself with a slightly flustered, sweet smile. “Why, Miss Grant. I see you finally learned what eyeliner is. And a brush. How delightful that must have been for you. You really look almost pretty.”

“How kind of you to say so.” Josie bit back a much more smarting rejoinder, reminding herself that she was not on Caroline’s level. “Were you looking for something?”

“Well, if you have managed to finish it in between your primping, I was hoping for that packet for the Graysons.”

“You already have it.”

“I do not – are you –“

Jocelyn nodded toward the delicate, white hand resting on her desk and Caroline pursed her lips a bit as she picked up the manila envelope lying beneath it. As she walked away, she apparently could not resist one last quip.

“If you are doing this for Keith, you needn’t bother. He looks upon you as a child, nothing more.”

Thank God for the extra hour of sleep this morning. I have to admit, it did not even feel like I got it, which means it was much needed. We went to church, volunteered for a couple hours, got some groceries on the way home, and then crashed for about 2 hours. It took me awhile to get going on the story again, so if it sounds a bit forced, that is why. But that is what NaNo is about, right? Not going to lie, if I hadn’t been posting every day, I probably wouldn’t have written today. But I did. Thank you all for being my inspiration, whether you actually read it or not. 🙂

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

“What a surprise. Miss Grant, do you often sit and watch skaters at the rink?”

“No, of course not – I just was – I did not expect to see you – either of you here.” Josie said, half flustered and half annoyed.

“We had a late business meeting and decided to take a much-needed break.” Caroline smiled up at Keith.

“Indeed. Miss Hynes mentioned a skating rink, and it sounded rather refreshing. Do you skate, Miss Grant?”

“No – that is – I have not skated in years.”

“Would you care to join us?”

“Keith – Mr. Richardson – I am sure Miss Grant has other plans tonight.” Caroline’s smile matched the ice rink more than the sun.

“Indeed, I do.” Josie had no desire to get in between whatever was happening between the two, and had a sneaking suspicion she would end up with a broken leg even if she did wish to join them.

“Very well.” Mr. Richardson gave a half awkward bow over the railing and Josie knew he was teasing her for her curtsy the week before. “Have a pleasurable evening, Miss Grant.”

“Thank you, sir.”

He began to turn away and then stopped, much to Caroline’s distress. “I never did get to see what you were working on, Miss Grant.”

Josie blushed. “Just – a sketch.”

“Indeed? You draw?”

“A bit.” Josie cast a look out of the corner of her eye at Caroline’s almost open glare.

“May I?”

Josie silently handed over the partially drawn scene. Keith examined it with silent attention before handing it back, his relaxed exterior turning more businesslike.

“That is quite good, Miss Grant. I must admit I am both surprised and impressed. But you do not work for Saunders’ design team?”

“Oh, no. I have no actual training, you see. I just sketch for – for myself.”

“Hmm.” Keith appeared thoughtful.

“Come on, Mr. Richardson.” Caroline tapped his arm, immersing a note of playful childishness into her plea. “I am getting chilly – we should -.”

“A moment, please, Miss Hynes.” She fell instantly silent at his commanding tone.

“Miss Grant, would you by chance be willing to do a sketch for me? My mother expressed a desire to have a drawing done of her pug’s puppies, and will be visiting this weekend. We could hire someone, of course, but she enjoys young talent and I think would be interested in seeing work by a young girl such as yourself.”

Josie was torn between being a bit insulted to be referred to as a young girl and incredibly flattered to be given such a high honor. But it did not matter either way. “Thank you for the compliment of asking, Mr. Richardson, but I am afraid I will be out of town this weekend.”

“There, you see, she does have a life.” Caroline laughed. “Contrary to common belief.”

“That is a shame. Could you not postpone your trip?” Keith ignored Caroline’s comment.

“I am afraid not. My mother would be dreadfully disappointed. But again, I thank you for the compliment.” Josie gathered her things and nodded politely to both as she left quickly, feeling she had dealt long enough with the awkward situation. But she turned back briefly with a sudden impish impulse and gave Keith Richardson another curtsy. His responding laugh warmed her on the walk back home.

*                                             *                                             *

“It is so good to see you, my Josie.” Josie’s mother hugged her for the hundredth time that day as hard as her frail arms would let her. “It seems like you have been gone for years!”

“Only for a couple of months, Mom.” Josie laughed as she hugged her back. “But it is good to be back. Now, lie back down. I want you to feel well enough to go to dinner with me tonight!”

“All right, but my girl, you have not even heard about the Wellsprings – did you know that their daughter – the one who went to college last year – just eloped? And with someone from Canada!” Her mother’s horrified tone noted that it could not get much worse than that.

“Yes, I did – you told me as soon as I walked in this morning.” Josie said, gently pushing her back on her pillows. “Now I am going to go visit with Aunt Patty – you go to sleep.”

“Okay, but Josie – did you know that the old library is being torn down to make way for a shopping mall? No one has any respect for anything anymore! Why, that building has been there since . . . “

“Sleep, Mom. Sleep.” Josie walked out and quickly closed the door behind her.

Aunt Patty was working in the kitchen and looked up with a graceful smile as Josie entered. “Did you finally get her to take a nap?”

“Unless she is still telling stories to herself, she ought to fall asleep soon. Or perhaps if she tells stories to herself.” Josie helped herself to a cookie that had been made in honor of her homecoming. “How is she, Aunt Patty? Really? She seems so – weak. Though that hasn’t injured her ability to talk at all.”

“No, it has not. I have to admit, sometimes I tell her she needs sleep just so I can hear myself think.” Aunt Patty said with a smile, which faded as she continued. “But – I have to be honest – the doctors are not too happy. They want her in the hospital, but she refuses to go. Says she spends enough of your money as it is. She does not seem to be responding to the chemotherapy. They want to have more hands-on care, but it is difficult enough to get her even to do the treatments.”

Josie sighed. “Did the extra money help at all?”

“Of course it does, my child.” Aunt Patty dusted her hands off on her apron and hurried over to where Josie sat, brushing a comforting hand across her cheek. “Without you, we could not afford treatments at all! What you are doing for is not going unnoticed. And your mother will go into remission, again – we just have to get her there.”

“I cannot thank you enough, Aunt Patty, for moving in here and caring for her like this. What she would do without you, I do not dare to think.”

“I am pleased to do what I can for my sister, dear. Besides, it is not as though I have much to do in my own home. Since my husband died, it brings nothing but loneliness to me. It makes me happy to feel needed again. But enough about me – how are you? How is your job? Really. Your mother tells me you love it, but I know you would not tell her otherwise anyway.”

Josie obtained a glass of milk to dip another cookie into. “It is a little rough, Aunt Patty – but it is getting better. I think I might even be becoming friends with one of the girls. I know they all look down on me though – I am the only one there who doesn’t have a degree and they think I do not deserve to have my job. Oh, I don’t know how it got out – but people have a way of knowing these things. Don’t get me wrong – I can’t thank you enough for asking your friend to help me get a job – and I think people are beginning to realize I really can work. It just has been – different.”

Aunt Patty listened quietly, nodding along. If there was anyone opposite of Mom, it was her sister. The ability to listen and sympathize without speaking was notable and appreciated.

“Aunt Patty – if I – if I were to get promoted – and make a little more – do you think Mom would agree to go into the hospital until she got better again?”

Aunt Patty considered the matter and then nodded slowly. “I might be able to convince her, if she was sure we could make the bills and not put you out any more than we do already.”

Josie regarded the crumbs in her milk thoughtfully. “I – I will see what I can do.”

“Do not kill yourself, dear. You are working hard enough already. Don’t feel like you need to take a second job or anything. God will provide somehow.” Aunt Patty patted her hand and rose to get back to her bread.

*                                             *                                             *

Josie sat in the window seat in her room, staring out at the stars. It was like a breath of fresh air, seeing the open space after the closeness of the dirty city that seemed to spew nothing but factory smoke and anger.

She looked down at her sketch pad and thought about Mr. Richards’ offer. If he saw enough in her sketching to offer her the chance to do a project for him, perhaps, degree or no, she could get Mr. Peters to promote her to a position in design. It had to pay more than what was essentially an assistant to an assistant. And maybe he would offer her another chance to draw his mothers’ – what was it again? Right, her dog. People and their dogs. She shook her head with a little smile. But if they liked what she did, she might be able to do other work as well on the weekends and bring in enough to pay for her mom to stay in the hospital. It was worth a try. Maybe she could even ask Theresa for advice.

Her mind made up, Josie bent and continued to work on the image of her mother, smiling, working in her beloved garden, vibrant and healthy.

*                                             *                                             *

Josie was in the office even earlier than usual Monday morning, both refreshed from her sojourn home, and yet weary from watching her mother’s failing health. But she had a goal on her mind and she was basically waiting at Theresa’s desk when the latter walked in.

Theresa looked at her askance. “You are here early. What is going on? Did Mr. Peters call you over the weekend again?” She looked into the office windows as though expecting to see the man beckoning for her.

“No, no! Everything is fine. It is just – Theresa – I was wondering if – if you would help me.”

“Help you? With what? The report Mr. Peters wants you to put together for the Carson’s request? I thought you said you could handle it.”

“Oh, not that. It was just – something you said the other day – about working in design.”