She bawled. There was no better way to put it and to describe the way the tears were coming fast and furious. She had felt it inside her spirit. There had been talks about layoffs, downsizing and letting go but she had allowed herself to hope and she had prayed; after all she had a direct line to God and he was supposed to listen to her.
She had kept everything in and had even managed to smile and nod when they told her they were so sorry to let her go but she understood: ‘last in first out’ and it wasn’t that she was not doing a good job; as a matter of fact she was doing an excellent job and she had gotten the beautiful recommendation letters to prove it and the two weeks check that would be sent in the mail.
Faith wiped her hand over her wet cheeks, furtively looking if anyone was noticing her breakdown – she was a private person and did not allow people to see her unhinged, other than her mother, God bless her soul. She had a feeling that her troubles had started two years ago when her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer; then everything had started declining. Her father had died when she was only nine years old so it had been just her and her mother for the past fifteen years.
She had thought that she was getting back on her feet and was living a normal life again and she had thrown herself into her work. She had done such a good job of it – getting in earlier than everyone and staying later than most. So much for that – after five years of being settled in a job she was now going to job hunt again.
With a sigh, she took up her box she had piled her personal stuff in and stood up to leave.
“Hey, Faith wait up,” the voice sounded from behind her and she closed her eyes briefly, chiding herself that she had not left long ago and dealt with her self-pity behind closed doors. Pasting a smile on her face she turned towards Howard; one of the guys who worked beside her in the office.
“Hi Howard, I was just leaving,” she told him pointedly. Ever since they had been working together at the company, he had been trying to get her to go out with him. His lanky frame came closer to her; his chocolate brown complexion a little flushed from his apparent run from the office building to catch her.
“I am glad I caught you,” he told her a little breathlessly; either not getting that she wanted to leave or totally ignoring it. “Now that you’re no longer working here, how about we start going out?” he grinned at her, his white smile a little crooked.
Faith stared at him in disbelief. She had just had her world turned upside down and here was this man asking her to go out with him and that’s the only thing he can think to ask.
Taking a deep breath before she answered, with a quick flash she realized that her mother would have been so proud of her; as she was always telling her to take deep breaths before she spoke as words cannot be withdrawn once they are spoken. “I am sorry Howard, the answer is still no and I need to go home and consider my options; so if you’ll excuse me,” she started to move away from him but he held on to her arm.
“Hey, I can take care of you. A beautiful girl like you should not have to worry about where the next cent is coming from.” He made an attempt at being charming.
Faith went rigid. The man was totally clueless and she felt like punching him in the unknown. “I am not one of those women who thinks she can use the assets God gave her to make a buck and I really resent that you think I might be.” She told him frostily, pulling away her arm.
“Hey babes, please don’t be that way,” he protested trailing behind her as she made her way to her small beat up car. “I didn’t mean to offend you; I was just looking out for you. I am worried about you babes, I don’t want to know that you are out there wanting for anything.”
Faith pulled her car door open and slide into the seat. “That’s not on you Howard, I have a God whose job it is to take care of my needs,” she put the car into reverse and without waiting for his response started backing out of the parking lot.
“Will he also take care of your physical needs?” he shouted. “You don’t know what you’re missing baby.” He added, using his hands to cup his private area in a lewd gesture.
Faith shook her head in wonder and went on her way. She had reached a few blocks before she pulled off the road and started laughing hysterically. She had lost her job and being propositioned by the office ‘lothario’ in almost the same breath. What a pretty awful day. Leaning against the steering wheel she sighed wearily as she took a stock of her circumstances; it certainly felt as if God had forgotten about her.
As soon as she got home to the small house, she kicked off her shoes wearily and sank back into the well-worn settee. It was well past six o’clock but she was not in the least bit hungry; she had left overs from yesterday and usually on Fridays she would buy something from the restaurant across from where she worked but now she would have to pinch every penny because she did not know when next she would be earning a salary.
The house was small and an inheritance from her mother, thank God. So she did not have to worry about paying rent or a mortgage as her mother had paid off her house a long time ago. Her gaze went over to where a large portrait hung over the small fireplace, her mother smiled gently down at her; a serenely peaceful expression on her face. She had gotten her looks from her mother who had always told her teasingly that she looked like a black Barbie doll. She unconsciously passed a hand over her riot of curls that framed her small oval face. She had been asked more times than she could count by men who worked alongside her and even those in upper management but she had remained firm in her answer; she never dated anyone she worked with – too many complications could ensue. She had seen it happen many times in the office and how uncomfortable the atmosphere had gotten after it had turned sour. And her mother had told her never to settle. “You’re a beautiful girl, my dear; so let it be that you are in love with the person you allow to enter into your space and consider you will be spending the rest of your life with him and make sure that God approves; because being trapped in a loveless marriage has got to be the most awful thing in the world. Contrary to what society says, we as women, don’t need a man to take care of us. I loved your father and he was all I needed and when he died I was not interested in anyone else.”
Her phone rang just then and from the caller id she found out it was her friend Maureen. “I really hope you are not at home wallowing in self-pity and thinking that all is lost,” she said firmly. “We know that when one door is closed God opens another one.”
Faith rolled her eyes. She and Maureen had been best friends since they were teenagers at the same school and attending the same church. They had been through a lot together and she had been a shoulder to cry on when Maureen’s husband had filed for divorce two years ago. Now she was dating a wonderful man who would do anything for her. “Mark and I were wondering if you want to come to dinner with us tomorrow night.”
“Does every sentence begin with ‘Mark and I’ now?” Faith teased; momentarily forgetting her woes.
“Not all the time,” Maureen retorted. “But most of the time. How about it? Dinner tomorrow night?”
“No,” Faith refused gently. “Saturdays are date nights for you and I am going to be updating my resume so I will be too busy to be wallowing in self-pity.”
“Well I am coming over tonight,” the girl said decidedly and Faith could almost see her getting ready to leave the house.
“Maureen please,” Faith laughingly protested. “I will be going to bed shortly and I already had my crying jog so it’s out of my system.” She told her friend about her crying on the steps of her workplace and the weird encounter she had with Howard from work.
“I hope you told him where to put his suggestion,” Maureen said heatedly.
“No, seeing as I am a good Christian girl, I was very polite.” Faith said with a laugh. “And besides I will see you at church on Sunday.”
“Are you sure you are okay?” Maureen asked in concern.
“Not really, but I will be.” Faith told her and she meant it.
“Okay love,” Maureen said. “I have some papers to mark before I get my beauty sleep.” She was a Junior High school teacher.
After she had hung up from Maureen, Faith went into the tiny kitchen to get something to eat – all of sudden she had gotten her appetite back. Maureen was right, she would find something else very soon – she was not named ‘Faith’ for nothing; she would not let a little thing like losing her job make her think that all was over. It certainly was not.
Her Saturdays were usually spent doing housework but since she did not have a job to go to come Monday morning, she could afford to put off doing laundry for a day. She was going to update her resume and make sure it was eye-catching enough to get her employed. She was a trained secretary and was very good at what she did and she was going to make sure someone out there knew it; she was a catch in the business world. Months after her mother had died, she still had not found the energy or inclination to clear out her stuff. It was Maureen who had gently persuaded that her mother’s clothes and few pieces of jewelry that she herself did not want was better served if they were given to people in need. So she had turned her bedroom into a small study and had moved into her mother’s bedroom. Now to get to work, she thought with determination, booting up her lap top.
It was almost one o’clock when she stirred from the small scarred desk she had found at a garage sale and stood up, stretching her tired muscles. She had not bothered to change out of her pajamas and she grimaced as she remembered that her mother would have scolded her for being in night wear at this time of day. “Life is a dress rehearsal, darling. No matter what is going on with us, we get up take a shower and get ready to meet the day and that means getting rid of our yesterdays and starting a fresh day – you never know what possibilities it holds.”
Faith went into the bathroom and took a quick shower, barely glancing into the mirror to look at her coffee and cream complexion; noticing that her large chocolate brown eyes were a little too bright. She had often been told of her beauty but it meant little or nothing to her and even though she dressed well; she did not go through any extra effort.
She went into the kitchen to fix something; remembering that she had poured herself some coffee and had gulped it down hot before going into the study to deal with her resume. Her stomach rumbled as she pulled out corned beef and made a huge sandwich; some hot chocolate and a glass of orange juice. Her mother had always told her that after a very good breakfast one can always conquer the world. She dug around in the kitchen drawer to find a recipe book her mother had made over the years; it had been so long since she had cooked herself a very good meal and she thought she would do so today. Why not? She might as well cook a good meal now, who knows when she would be able to afford another one? It was then she found it. The Bible her mother always kept in the kitchen. She always called it ‘the kitchen Bible’ and she would always take it out whenever she was cooking, along with her recipe book and read scriptures. Faith sat down on the stool at the kitchen counter with the ‘Good book’ and thumbed through it; smiling wistfully at the many red and yellow highlights of particular chapters she wanted to remember. There were many times when they had spent time inside the warmth of this kitchen; she sitting and watching while her mother measured and poured and stirred and when she was old enough she had done some of the measuring and pouring and there had always been love and laughter and contentment. Her mother had told her the story of when she had met her father and how very shy he had been and she had broken through his reserves. Faith had wanted to hear the story over and over again and her mother had always humored her by repeating it every time she had asked. She had told her that one day the Lord would provide a man for her who was going to be her husband and that there was no need to rush anything – it will all be there at the right time.
She thumbed through the well-worn pages; her eyes brimming with tears. She missed her so much that sometimes she wondered if she was ever going to go on without her. They had shared everything and had spent so much time just being friends. With a decisive sniff she put the Bible on the counter and started to prepare something to eat; she was not going to be miserable today; she had to try and be happy even if she had to force herself.
The Baptist church she had grown up in was not big – in fact it was more of a family gathering where everyone knew each other and was always deeply involved in each other’s lives. Faith parked the car in the parking lot and headed towards the building; a determined smile on her beautiful face. She had dressed for success this morning. The weather was summery even though it was spring and she had chosen to wear a red and white cotton dress with small cap sleeves and white heels; her hair bundled on top of her head with several curls rioting on her cheeks. She had no intention of unburdening herself to all and sundry; church family or not. Her mother had taught her to take her burdens to the Lord and let him deal with it – self-pity is not allowed. She smiled at the Barber family who were also on their way in and waved to old Mrs. Elliot who had lost her husband and son ten years ago in a terrible car accident; the woman positively radiated faith and hope and refused to blame God for anything. “God knows best,” she had said firmly. “Who am I to question Him?” Faith wished she could view things like that but she was far way from being at that place.
Maureen and Mark came in shortly after and sat beside her. Faith liked Mark; he was very unassuming and quiet and loved Maureen very much. He was tall and lanky and wore glasses. He had a light brown complexion and hazel eyes and Maureen called him her almost white guy. “You look great for someone who is unemployed.” Maureen commented dryly.
“Look good, feel good,” Faith whispered with a smile. Maureen had always told her friend that her beauty was almost unreal and she made people like her looked frumpy.
“Honey you don’t have to make any extra effort to do so,” Maureen whispered as Pastor Baker climbed the simple wooden pulpit.
His sermon was on starting over and Faith listened with interest as the man told his congregation that sometimes people are forced to adapt to changes but God has a plan for every person and every situation in one’s lives.
The service was finished with the choir singing ‘All to Jesus I Surrender’ and Pastor Baker making his usual plea for the congregation to totally rely on God, who knows what the future holds.
It was more than half an hour before they were able to go outside because of the traditional meet and greet that takes place after every service.
“My dear, how are you holding up?” Pastor Baker came over just as she was about to leave.
“I am holding on pastor,” Faith said with a smile. She had always respected and like the elderly man who paid so much attention to matters of the soul.
“I hope you know that if there is anything you need, you can always come to me,” he told her sincerely, his brow creased with concern. “Your dear mother was such a blessing to us all and I miss her every day.”
For a minute Faith had to fight back the tears that threatened to come but with a brace of her narrow shoulders she smiled slightly. “I know Pastor, she will always be missed.”
“God bless you my dear,” he said kindly, patting her hand gently before moving away to greet some other congregates.
She hurried outside to find Maureen and Mark who were waiting beside her car. Mark’s car was parked alongside hers and Faith smiled as she saw that they were holding hands. “How adorable,” she teased, her eyes twinkling.
“Thanks,” Maureen said flippantly. “We are going to grab some food at ‘Eda’s’” she told her friend; referring to a local restaurant a few blocks away. “And we are not taking no for an answer.”
“Yes mother,” Faith said dryly. “How do you put up with her bossiness?” she asked Mark, as she opened her car door in readiness to get in.
“I love her too much to wonder about that,” Mark said with his slow smile creasing his attractive face.
“Good answer,” Maureen said fondly, pecking his cheek as they turned and went towards his car. “See you there,” she waved at Faith.
‘Eda’s eatery’ was a small local restaurant that catered and was famous for its fried chicken, wild rice and vegetable casserole and on Sundays there was hardly any available seats. “”I have a table for you,” plump and smiling Eda bustled over to them. She was a church member and always looked out for them. “How was church?”
“Very good,” Maureen answered, taking a seat as soon as Mark pulled out her chair for her. It had taken her awhile to get used to Mark doing things like that for her. “What happened to you?”
“My Sunday help bailed on me,” Eda shook her head. “I will have to get rid of that girl,” she said regretfully.
She took their orders and bustled away, coming back shortly with steaming plates of food.
“So what’s the plan?” Maureen asked, spooning some rice inside her mouth.
“Job hunting starting tomorrow,” Faith said with a shrug. She did not have much appetite but gamely sliced off a piece of chicken.
“I was thinking that maybe you should give yourself some space,” Maureen said softly. “Like get a week’s rest before you start to hunt.”
“I don’t need rest Maureen, I need to be earning a living,” Faith said a little sharply.
“All right honey, it was just a suggestion,” the other girl said soothingly.
Faith shook her head and did not respond. It was Mark who changed the subject, regaling them with stories about a sales rep at his office. Very soon the mood had lightened and Faith found herself cleaning her plate and actually laughing. She was not going to let the problem overwhelm her.
Monday morning came with determination and optimism. Faith was determined to be positive and with that in mind she armed herself; making sure to dress the part in tailored pants and white cotton blouse. She packed a sandwich and some fruits into her little tote and a bottle of water. Along with that she put her documents inside a folder; saying a prayer before heading out.
By mid-morning her enthusiasm had waned considerably after being told for the fifth time that there was no vacancy. “We will be sure to get in touch with you if anything opens up,” a woman told her sympathetically; seeing apparent dejection on the girl’s face.
One man told her lewdly, that with her looks and figure she should not be walking around looking for a job but instead should be some man’s arm candy. She left without leaving a resume.
It was Wednesday morning before she got a call from a woman asking her if she would like to come in because her employee would be off for a month and she needed someone to fill the vacancy. Faith had to squelch the disappointment and with a bright voice told her of course.
It was a real estate office and Faith dressed in her best suit; a black and white skirt suit with white silk blouse underneath. She’d had ruthlessly tamed her riotous curls; leaving a few tendrils curling at her cheeks. She was determined to make the best of a bad situation.
When she got there, the determination took a downward spiral as she sat for half an hour in the dingy waiting room. She did not remember dropping off a resume at this place but then again she had sent some via email. At that moment a harried, untidy looking woman bustled out and beckoned her to follow. The offices were not any better; she passed what looked like a secretarial office and had a glimpse of a tiny cubicle with a small table heaped with papers.
The woman indicated that she sit on one of the vinyl chairs in front of an untidy, crowded desk which looked like the documents were going to slide off any second. “I am sorry to be rushing so much my dear but Miranda had an emergency that came up and she had to leave suddenly.” She sat at her desk and gave Faith an assessing stare, taking in her immaculate attire. “We’re casual here so in the future you don’t have to bother dressing up so much.”
“Where I come from this is considered professional attire and I am a professional,” Faith told her smoothly, not caring whether or not she was going to be told that she was no longer needed.
“Well then,” the woman frowned. “I can’t say I blame you and I don’t want you to feel that we are not professional here; it’s just that it’s a small office and you know what I mean.”
Faith nodded without saying a word; wondering if this was such a good idea. As if the woman could hear what she was thinking she hastened to add, “You are definitely going to make a positive spin on the place.” She beamed. “By the way my name is Cathy and I have a showing in half an hour,” she glanced at her watch, discovering that it was almost eleven o’clock. “Let me show you where you will be.” She stood up and headed for the door, expecting Faith to follow her.
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