I stuffed my things into my purse and walked with as much dignity as I possessed toward the bank of elevators, hiding my mirth as I saw Mr. Edwards being escorted out by security. His pants were buttoned, but not zipped, and his once-impeccable suit was spattered with blood. Two more security staff members were going from cubicle to cubicle, looking for me, I supposed.
I took the stairs and exited the building.
Since my temp agency never had any parking spots available, I caught the bus over to their offices, hoping I’d be able to find another job right away.
My contact, Sheila, tapped on her computer for several minutes, then turned to me with a slight frown. “I’m sorry, Kyrie, but we just don’t have anything else right now.”
“He sexually assaulted me, Sheila.”
Sheila let out a long breath. “I understand that, Kyrie, and he will be dealt with accordingly, but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t have any work available at the moment.”
I tried to keep breathing. “Can you check again? I’ll take anything. Literally anything.”
She looked again, and then glanced back up at me with a shrug. “Nothing. I’m so sorry. Maybe try again in a few weeks.”
“I won’t have an apartment in a few weeks.”
“I’m sorry, honey. Things are tight. What can I tell you?” She laid a manicured hand on mine. “Do you need a few bucks? I can spare you—”
I stood up. “No. Thanks.” I did need the money, desperately. I’d skipped lunch today, just to have a bit more cash to go toward the rent. But I wouldn’t take pity charity. “I’ll figure something out.”
Slowly, I walked back to get my car from the parking lot. I started it, and then remembered that, because I’d just been fired, I wouldn’t get my parking slip validated. Shit. There went another fifteen bucks I couldn’t spare.
The drive home was long in more ways than one. I’d been working in an office downtown, but I lived more than forty-five minutes away in the suburbs north of Detroit. My car was running on fumes by the time I got home, and my stomach was empty, rumbling and growling and gurgling.
I struggled to hold back the tears as I checked the mail. I was fumbling through the envelopes, muttering “fuck…fuck…fuck” under my breath at each new bill. There was DTE Energy, Consumers, AT&T cable and Internet, water, gas, Cal’s tuition, my tuition, Mom’s hospice bill…and a plain white envelope with no return address, just my name—Kyrie St. Claire—handwritten in neat black script in the center, along with my address. I tucked the other bills into my purse and stuck the envelope between my lips as I inserted my key in the lock.
That, of course, was when I saw the white notice taped to my apartment door. Eviction Notice: pay rent or quit within 3 days.
I was still a hundred dollars short on rent. Or rather, short of the one month of rent I could scrounge up. I had been hoping to avoid eviction long enough to be able to catch up on the past due amount. But that wasn’t going to happen now. I’d just been fired.
Still holding back tears, I opened my door, closed it behind me, and stifled a sob. I let the envelope fall to the floor at my feet and covered my mouth with my fist, tears hot and salty in my eyes. No. No. No tears, no regret, no self-pity. Figure it the f**k out, Kyrie. Figure it out.
I pushed away from the door, knelt to retrieve the bizarre envelope, and flicked the light switch.
Of course the power had been turned off.
On top of everything, I was starving. I’d had one of my granola bars on the drive home, but I needed something more. The only food I had in the kitchen was one package of ramen, some ketchup, two-week-old Chinese carryout, and a bag of baby carrots. And a single, lonely little cup of black cherry Chobani.
Thank you, Jesus, and all the Greeks for Chobani. And thank you for the fact that the yogurt was still cold.
I took my yogurt from the dark, still-cool fridge, opened it, grabbed a spoon from the drawer, and stirred it up. I opened my blouse all the way, unzipped my skirt, and perched on the counter, eating my yogurt, relishing every bite. Apart from the meager amount of food, I had one paycheck for not quite eight hundred dollars for two weeks of temp office work, plus my severance pay. That was it.
Finally, I couldn’t hold back the sobs any longer. I gave in and let myself cry for a solid ten minutes. I tore off a piece of paper towel—my last roll—and dabbed at my nose and eyes, making myself stop. I’d figure this out. Somehow.
The strange envelope caught my eye. It was sitting where I’d left it on top of the microwave. I reached over and grabbed it, slid my index finger under the flap. Inside was…a check?
Yes, a check. A personal check.
For ten thousand dollars.
Made out to me.
I took a deep breath, put the check face down on my lap, and blinked several times. Hard. Okay, look again. Yep. It said, Pay to the order of Kyrie St. Claire, in the amount of ten thousand dollars and zero cents. At the top left of the check was the payer: VRI Inc., and a P.O. box address in Manhattan.
And there, in the bottom left-hand corner, on the single line opposite the illegible signature, was a single word. YOU. All caps, all in the same bold, neat script that appeared on the envelope. I examined the signature again, but it was little more than a squiggly black line. I thought there might be a “V,” and maybe an “R,” but there was no way to be sure. I guess that would make sense, given the fact that the payer was VRI Incorporated. But that didn’t tell me much.
No note, nothing in the envelope except the check. For ten thousand dollars.
What the hell was I supposed to do? Cash it? Ten thousand dollars would pay current rent due, as well as the past due amount; it would get the electricity turned back on after paying what I owed them…ten thousand dollars would pay all my bills and still leave me enough to get the brakes on my car fixed.
Ten thousand dollars.
From whom? And why? I knew no one. I had no family other than my mom and brother. I mean, yeah, I had Grandma and Grandpa in Florida, but they were living off Social Security, and were about five minutes from moving into a nursing home…that I couldn’t pay for. They’d asked me for money last year. And I’d given it to them.
What if I cashed this, and it was…like, the Mob? And they’d come for what I owed them, and they’d break my kneecaps. Okay, that was stupid. But, for real, who on earth would send me money at all, much less this much? I had one friend, Layla. And she was almost as desperate as I was.