I hate being broke.
I know it’s something that most people deal with at one point in their lives, but I wish I could be exempt. Thanks to my wonderful former employer, I am now stretching unemployment as far as it can go.
But I’m not bitter; not at all. Focusing on this second Master’s degree has become my full-time job. I make ends meet by doing modeling and acting gigs around the city. My rent is always paid, the gas and lights are still on, and clearly I’ve been eating good because I’ve gained 10 pounds. I am thankful for all of my blessings.
But sometimes I wish I could do a little more for myself. For example, I would
love to have someone in my life to love. Oh, there are guys that I date, and they love them some Sydney, but it’s not the same as having a real commitment. Honestly, I don’t have time for a relationship, but it would be nice to have one as an option. And even if I did have that option, my
heart is set on holding out for the one I am destined for. Maybe it’s just my spirit of discernment kicking in
Or maybe it’s me coping with the fact that I may have missed the boat…
“No, it’s not that I didn’t have a good time, Maurice, it’s that…. Mmm hmmm, I know but…” Sydney rolled her eyes as she shoved another handful of cheese and caramel corn in her mouth, being careful to mute the phone so that he gentleman on the other line did not hear her smacking. “Maurice, sweetie, calm down. I am not trying to lead you on. I made it clear that I was a very busy woman and that I don’t have time for a relationship. I study and I gig, and I gig a lot so my calendar is always booked so…No, that does not mean I’m on bull and I’d appreciate if you did not cuss at me…Look, look, Maurice, I apologize for making you upset, but I did not lie to you. I said we could be friends, hang out, and see where it goes. But both you and I know that we have nothing in common and…” She pulled muted the phone and pulled it away from her ear. Why can’t I just be a rude chick, cuss this dude out, and get it over with?… “Yes, Maurice, I’m still here, but now I am about to go, because I already warned you not to cuss at me … And you wonder why I don’t want to make this work… Ok, that’s about all I can deal with, Maurice. Have a good day. Bye.” She hung up before she could hear another word. After sliding her phone back in the pocket of her jeans, she wiped the crumbs from her popcorn on a napkin and tossed it in a nearby garbage can. Welp, another one bites the dust. She laughed to herself as she stuffed another handful of popcorn into her mouth. And I really thought that one had some potential. I guess that’s what happens when you meet people in random places and give them your number. Last time I trust someone I meet at Wal-Mart…
“Sydney!” She turned around to see Tony walking toward her with a big smile on his face. When he got closer to where she was sitting, he continued. “What has you out here this afternoon?”
“My studies. Trying to stay on top of my game so this degree doesn’t whoop my butt.” Sydney stood to give Tony a small hug before sitting back down on one of the campus’ stone benches. “I had a free afternoon so I figured I’d use it wisely.”
“What brings you out here, Mr. Downtown Bigshot? I thought you had an office in the loop?”
“I had to meet with one of my clients.” Tony replied, smiling slightly at Sydney’s complement. “I’m on my way back to the office now.”
“I thought you just representing professional athletes. I didn’t know you worked with college students as well.”
“I was meeting one of my pros. We had lunch at a restaurant over on 53rd since it’s quiet and private around this time in the afternoon. And I do have some college clients, so you know.”
“Thank you for sharing.” Sydney held out her bag of snacks. “Popcorn? I threw some chocolate M&Ms in there as well.”
“Sure.” Tony set his briefcase down and then sat down next to Sydney. He reached into the bag, grabbed some of the popcorn and candy mix, and nodded in thanks. “You know your girl has been on this health kick of late, right? Since she is determined to drop her baby weight, the rest of us have to eat like rabbits until she does…”
“She needs to give that up! That is not baby weight, that’s the thickness that comes along with being one of the Carter women.” Sydney interrupted in laughter. “I’ve seen her side of the family, and those are some big girls. She wants to be a size 6 again, but there is nothing wrong with her now. I keep telling her that…”
“So do I. I actually think she’s sexier now than when she was smaller. I’ve always had a thing for thick women…”
I remember… Sydney thought to herself.
“…so her putting on a few pounds doesn’t bother me at all. And anyway, Lydia takes good care of herself, works out, and stays active with the boys. I’m not sure where she gets it from.”
“Oh, before I forget, one of the guys that I play ball with on the weekends has been asking about you. He wanted to try to talk to you at Lydia’s party but he said he couldn’t get your attention.”
“I don’t know why.” Sydney took a moment to grab another handful of her snack. “I spent most of the night on the dance floor.”
“Actually, that’s where he said he saw you. You stepped with him for a few songs…”
Tony laughed loudly. “You mean to tell me that you don’t remember dancing with him?”
“Whoever this guy was didn’t do anything to grab my attention, so no. But I just had a free spot open on the roster, so what are his stats?”
“Oh we have a roster now? Well, alright!” Tony pulled a business card from his wallet. “His name is David Douglas. He works for an accounting firm in the same building as my law firm. Single, no kids to my knowledge. Good guy.”
Sydney took a look at the card for a second. “I’ll think about it.”
“You’ll think about it?”
“Yes, I’ll think about it.” Sydney placed the card in her wallet and then slid the wallet back into her purse. “I don’t do well on blind dates.”
“When you think about it, all first dates are really blind dates. You are sitting across the table from a complete stranger. The only difference between a blind date and a regular date is that in a regular date you would’ve had the pleasure of actually seeing the person face-to-face first.”
She stared blankly at Tony for a moment before she responded. “You thought about that way too much.” Tony laughed hard as she continued. “Seriously, Tony, what guy sits down and thinks of crap like that. And what’s sad is that you made it sound convincing. If I didn’t know what kind of bull you were capable of spitting out, you would’ve actually made me think about it.”
“Thanks, Syd, that means a lot. Really.” Tony let his laughter subside a bit before he continued. “How is everything else with you?”
“I’m busy and sleep deprived, but I’ll be alright. I’ve survived worse. I mean, I did date you…
“I didn’t know dating me was that bad.”
“I’m kidding. It was a great summer. Sites of Spain and amazing food. Good times.”
“That they were. Fueron los mejores momentos que he tenido…”
“I see someone kept up with their Spanish.”
“There are times when I have to break it out.” Tony let out another laugh. “Man, I used to struggle when we were overseas! I hated the fact that you were so fluent and would constantly let me embarrass myself. Remember the time I was trying to tell that guy at that grocery store that I was embarrassed and instead of saying ‘Me quedé avergonzada’, I said…”
“’ Estoy embarazada!’” They screamed together and laughed loud enough to draw the attention of a few people. Sydney continued. “Your face turned so red when the guy asked you when you were due. Man, those were good times.”
“Yes ma’am.” Tony looked down at his watch and let out a small sigh. “I need to get going. Thanks for the junk food and the laughs.”
“No prob.” She smiled as Tony gave her a small hug goodbye. Kiss those twin boys for me and tell Lydia to call me. We need to talk about this fool she talked me into going out with.”
“Sounds like drama. I’ll have her call you.” Tony picked up his briefcase and began to walk away. After taking a few steps, he turned around to face her again. “Gracias por compartir uno de los mejores momentos de mi vida conmigo, buen amiga.”
Sydney just smiled as he walked away. They were only some of the best times you’ve ever had, but it was the best time I’ve had period.
“Have a seat, Miss Peterson.” The rehearsed sympathetic stare of the gentleman on the other side of the desk made Parker uneasy, but on the outside she remained calm. He waited until she was seated before she continued. “As you know, the company has been in a transition period. A lot of new and exciting things are happening, but of course that brings about change.”
Whenever corporate America wants to throw bad news in your face, they use words like ‘transition’, ‘new’, and ‘exciting’. And for most people, it works, because they never see the slap in the face coming. “So I hear.” Parker replied coolly.
“Parker, you are one of the best young marketing reps we have …”
“…and we want very much to see all of our promising young stars blossom into industry professionals who can really take the corporate world by storm…”
“…but right now, the company is focused on making sure that the expenses don’t exceed the losses, which unfortunately right now seems to be the case.”
Oh will you get to it already! Parker crossed her legs and adjusted herself in her seat. “I know there has been a lot of re-organization. A lot of people are concerned for their jobs…”
“Yes, I can see how that can be a concern, especially in this economy…”
Can’t have an awkward work discussion without bringing up the good ol’ economy. I’m surprised he waited this long…
“…but in times like these, it helps to be prepared. Having a financial back-up plan is essential.”
“I agree.” Parker leaned forward in her seat, a move that made the executive a little intimidated. “Mr. Peppers, please understand that what I am about to say comes with the utmost respect, but I would like to know why I am meeting with you today.” He let out a small, uncomfortable laugh which Parker did not return. “A lot of people in this office have been laid off since McMyers and Foster has taken over. I understand that they want to bring a lot of their people in since they know their work and can trust them. Mr. Peppers, I have been with this company since I completed my undergraduate degree and have worked directly with you on some major projects. I know my worth as an employee of King’s Marketing. What I am interested in knowing now is my future with McMyers and Foster…”
“Gerald,” one of Parker’s co-workers and rivals stuck her head in the doorway, “did you still want to meet with me?”
Not to sound evil, and I’ll repent for this later, but I hope she gets canned. “Hello, Trina. Right now, we are meeting so…”
“Oh, Parker! I didn’t see you sitting there!” Trina walked into the room, sporting expensive stiletto shoes and a suit with a skirt barely long enough to be considered professional. After giving her a fake hug, Trina sat in the chair next to Parker and crossed her legs so a good portion of her thighs were showing. Mr. Peppers shifted in a chair a bit as he fought to keep a smile off of his face. Trina continued. “Well, you’ll be wrapping it up soon, right? Gerald and I have some important business to discuss…”
Um, how do you NOT see me sitting here in a bright yellow sweater? Did you really think that lame excuse to flounce your thirsty self in here was going to work? “We also were in the midst of discussing something important, so I’m sure you wouldn’t mind extending some professional courtesy and waiting until we were done...”
“Gerald said to come in at 2 pm, and it’s 2 so…”
“Ladies, I actually called both of you in at the same time for a reason.” Mr. Peppers interrupted.
Why? Parker fought to roll her eyes. So you can enjoy a good catfight?
“And what reason would that be?” Trina asked.
“Both of you ladies are definite assets to the company, and we want to make sure that we keep both of you on board. Your department will be merging with someone of their company’s agents and headed by one of our own.” Both Trina and Parker’s attention began to peek. “The one that has been selected will report directly to me.”
“Any ideas on who is being considered?” Parker asked.
“The two people in this room, of course. And before either of you ask, a decision has already been reached.”
“Really?” Trina made sure to show a little more thigh as she leaned back in her chair. “Is there a way we can be made aware of the results of this decision.”
“Well, the person that we are going to put over this newly merged department is Katrina Burgess.” Trina clapped her hands together and smiled brightly as Gerald continued. “Katrina, we feel that your expertise and personality will deliver the leadership results that are expected of any of our junior execs.”
“I won’t let you down.” Trina looked at Parker out the corner of her eye and looked quickly back at Gerald.
Parker took a quick sigh to gather her emotions. “Then I guess congratulations are in order. Good job, Trina.” Parker extended her hand for a handshake, which Trina did not return. Trina simply smiled and turned back to face Gerald. “Ok. So, Gerald, I do have a couple of return phone calls to make. Can we call this meeting adjourned?”
“Yes, and thank you Parker.” Gerald shook Parker’s hand as she rose to leave the room. She gave Trina one more nod and headed out. She stood by the closed door a moment to hear a bit of their conversation. “Come here, sweetie.” She heard Gerald say.
“That was nice of you, to do that right in front of Parker.” Trina responded.
“I almost just called you in my office to tell you, but I figured you would want her to hear it.”
“You know me too well.” A brief moment of silence between the two occurred before she continued. “How long do you think she’ll be here after this?”
“As prideful as she is, not long.” A few giggles came from Trina. “You know I’m gonna take care of you.”
“You better, if you know what’s good for you…”
Ok, that’s it! Parker had had enough. She stormed back down the hall to her office and closed the door. So clearly keeping your panties on to do business is out of touch. Figures. Parker flopped in her chair, reached in her drawer, and grabbed a Snickers bar. After taking a bite, she pulled out her cell phone and called her mother.
“Why are you calling me on your cell? You working at home today?”
“No, I’m in the office.”
“Dag, I thought I had a ride to the Jewel. What’s going on, Piggy?”
“I got called into what I thought was a private meeting between my boss and me. Apparently, it was a set up to announce Trina as being my new boss…”
“Quit playing!” Parker’s mom shouted. “That chick that walks around with the tube tops barely covering her big behind? She’s your new boss? Uh-uh, that should be your job, as hard as you work. You’ve earned it! You want me to come up there?”
“No, mama, that won’t be necessary. And anyway, he must not think I deserve it because she’s in there on his lap celebrating…”
“Use your imagination...” Parker stopped her comment took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Mama. I’m so hurt and upset that I don’t know what to do.”
Parker’s mom waited a moment before she continued. “Well, maybe it’s a sign that you should move on. Look for something else. You’ve been there since you finished undergrad.”
“I know, Mama, but do you know how hard it is to find a job?”
“Maybe you can focus on your writing, since you love that so much. Like your entertainment column or your blog. Or I can get you in at the school district with me.”
“Thanks, but no thanks. If I’m going to find a new job, I need to do some more planning.”
“I understand. Well, Piggy baby, God’s got a funny way of telling you that you need to slow down and think about what is really more important – like family and children.”
Parker sat back in her chair and let out a laugh. “What in the world does this have to do with getting married and having kids, Ma?”
“I’m just sayin’ is all. God has a way of calming you down if you doing too much. Just keep that in mind. After all, you will be thirty soon.”
“Thank you for the reminder, but I have a few years…” Parker pulled the phone away from her ears and saw that it was Sydney on the other end. “Ma, my other line is beeping. It’s Sydney. I will be leaving here soon if you still want me to give you a ride to the store.”
“Tricie is coming over here to talk wedding stuff so I’ll be alright. I’ll get her to take me. I will talk to you later, Piggy. You stay strong, ok? And tell Sydney I said hi.”
“I will, Ma. Love you.” Parker clicked over to her other line. “Hey chick.”
“What are you doing tonight?” Sydney started right in. “You feel like coming to the Blue Sunflower with me?”
“Blue Sunflower. Wait, that’s where the guy that Urie likes plays, right?”
“Yep. She invited me since some of the teachers from her school are going.”
Parker stuffed the last of her candy bar in her mouth and threw away the wrapper. “Yeah, I’ll go. I could use a night out and a drink.”
“I lost the promotion to Trina.”
“Figures. Ain’t she doin’ the boss?”
“Oh, before I forget. Lydia texted me. She needs to know if you’re bringing a date to next month’s gala.”
“I know that I’m coming, but I don’t know if I am bringing a date. When is the latest I can let her know?”
“Call her. But you know she’s gonna have a fit because you’re usually on time with RSVPs.”
Sydney was quiet for a quick moment, allowing the conversation with Tony to replay through her mind. “How do you think this gala is really going to go?”
“Calvin and Tony in the same room? If Calvin is the kind of man that I think he is, it could be a disaster.”
“I pray it’s not. For her sake.”
“You know she doesn’t care about Tony or that marriage.” Sydney rolled her eyes as she stepped on the bus. “But that’s my opinion, and clearly it doesn’t matter.”
“Are we still a little sore about that whole subject?”
“I’m just saying.”
“Alright. Just be careful not to let that cat too far out the bag, ok?”
“I’ll try.” Sydney said quietly while taking her seat. “I will try.”
About PLUS Inc.
PLUS Inc. is a multi-character drama following the lives of four friends. Taking place in Chicago, IL., the ladies – Parker, Lydia, Urie, and Sydney – face life as they hold each other up through the bonds of friendship.
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