He held my arm and rubbed it in a fatherly fashion.
‘The world has finally lost its mind, and we are about to pay for it. Go home.’
‘But the cabs...’
He nodded and radioed someone. His mustache twitched and flickered with every word. He set the orange device down and looked me right in the eye.
‘The truck is coming up. Bernie and the gang will drop you off as close to your place as you need them to.’
My chest swelled with gratitude that he was allowing the building security guards to escort me home. I hugged the man. He had been a moral compass for so long that I thought of him as something close to my dad.
‘Stay safe, Julia. My prayers are with you.’
I didn’t answer back, simply because I never prayed. A nod did just fine. The truck picked me up and we went on our way. The streets were as they were always meant to be in New York City, I supposed. Chaos reigned and sanity was lost.
The guards dropped me off three blocks away from where I lived, because traffic prevented them from getting any closer. I thanked them once again and they nodded at me casually in response, as if it was part of their job duties.
The inside of my house smelled the same: lemongrass tea and macadamia nut cookies. There was no one to hug me, no one to say hello to. I was alone in the middle of rising chaos all around me.
Apparently, I had learned while skimming the news on my phone in the car, a global pandemic called the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, had made its way to our country and everything was being shut down so that people could stay safe. We had to isolate, or we could catch and spread this very contagious virus.
I thrust myself inside my beanie bag and let out a long, exasperated sigh, wondering when or if the world would ever be normal again.
And when or if I would ever see Henry again.
I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I had lost my opportunity to be than just an employee to him. I had fantasized about being with him but had never gotten up the nerve to try.
Well, except for a couple times, and I was pretty bold about it. But I didn’t go nearly as far as I wanted with him.
And now I might never be able to.Chapter One - JuliaI stand still and pace around the small, crowded space, anxiously listening. The woman on the other line, who owns a dog I have been walking, has a lot to say with very few words, and I think it better to bite my lip and cool my tongue. She hangs up.
I will not be getting paid, it seems.
Ever since the pandemic broke out in the United States, life completely spun around for me. I got up, dressed up, baked a fruit pie, sat on the balcony for some good old Vitamin D, binged on a TV series for a whole three minutes, which was the most my brain could take in before it gave up, then tried reading. I had no better luck focusing on the book, though.
It was crap. I had chosen to keep dog walking as a gig ever since the Era of Charlie, as I like to call it. It was a poor choice.
Almost all of New York is covered in brick and cinder. It made sense at the time to alleviate the burden that dog owners upstate had, and I would take my old clients’ dogs out to smell some flowers and feel free. As it turns out, it’s the dog owners that are having such a hard time adjusting to life indoors. The frustration, always, rubs off on me.
Today I had hoped to get some extra cha-ching going. I need to make more money.
Henry coughs from the other room. Instinctively I push three bangs off my forehead and breathe for composure’s sake.
It turns out I had the opportunity to see him again. He wanted me to work for him at his house during the quarantine, so of course I said yes.
I push the phone into my back pocket and pinch my cheeks. I move with ease past the pantry door, through the kitchen and to where he is at, behind his dining room table. He is totally focused on me.
He pays me, of course, but most of that money gets used up at home back in Arkansas, where my ma and pa live. I could ask the billionaire for a raise, but that would get the plan undone. Who goes ahead and asks their crush for a raise?
I guess the real question should be, ‘who has a crush on their boss for three years and does nothing about it?’
Or, almost nothing about it.