Authors: Rhonda Dennis
RHONDA R. DENNIS
Copyright © 2014 RHONDA R. DENNIS
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, Rhonda R. Dennis, except where permitted by law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design: Cover Sparkle
Edited By: Donnette Freeman
ISBN 10: 0991386825
ISBN 13: 978-0-9913868-2-6
To all who struggle with personal demons.
May you find help, comfort, and peace.
“Thank you for calling Pole Co. My name is Savannah. Are you calling to report a power outage or an emergency situation?”
“Who’s this?” a frail geriatric voice calls through the speaker of my headset.
“You’ve reached the Power of Louisiana Electric Company’s customer assistance line—Pole Co. Are you having issues with your power, sir?”
“No. Can’t say that I am,” the shaky voice answers. “Maebelle! Are we having issues with our power?” He yells so loudly that I want to bat the headphones off of my ears.
“You’re supposed to be calling the water company, Stanley. Why are you bugging the nice people at Pole Co. when our problem is a water leak?” I hear a click on the line and then another geriatric voice, female this time, begins to speak to me. “Hello? Yes, Pole Co.? I’m sorry to have wasted your time. I used to be able to trust Stanley with these things, but his mind’s gone to crap since he started on the new meds. He can’t seem to keep anything straight anymore.”
“I’m still on the line,” a disgruntled Stanley mumbles.
“Hang up the phone, Stanley,” Maebelle demands.
“You can’t tell me what to do. I’m still the man of this house.”
“Save the ‘I’m the man’ crap for when you’re capable of wiping your own ass.”
“Woman! Don’t you make me get out of this chair!”
“Are you married?” Maebelle asks me, and I stumble over my words.
“Uh… No, ma’am. I’m not. Is there anything power related that I can help you with today?” I inquire while frantically searching for a way out of the conversation.
“We’ve been married for sixty-eight years. You know what I’ve learned in those sixty-eight years?” Maebelle questions. I hear Stanley’s heavy breathing over the other connection.
“Ma’am?” I’m uncertain I want to hear the answer.
“Marriage sucks,” she answers matter-of-factly. “Men want you to be their mommas, their nurses, their chefs, their secretaries, their housekeepers, and a host of other things that make their lives all nice and comfy…”
“Thank you for the advice, ma’am,” I interrupt, desperate to take another call—any call.
“Now don’t be in such a hurry. Take a second to listen to me, young lady. There’s something that sucks worse than marriage,” Maebelle asserts. Stanley is still huffing into the phone. Lizzy, my one and only friend, sits in the cubicle across from me pretending to blow her brains out with her thumb and forefinger. I point to my headset while nodding and mouthing the words, “Me, too.”
“Yes, ma’am. Something worse than marriage. Are you sure you have no power issues that you’d like to report?”
“I understand that you big city folks are all busy and don’t have much time to waste on us old people, so I’ll let you go shortly. Just listen to this one thing I’m gonna tell ya.”
It’s been a write up free couple of months, and I need my record to remain intact if I want a chance at the fifty dollar gift card the company will draw for at the end of the quarter. It’s time for me to do some damage control before she calls in a complaint. “Ma’am, I’m very sorry if it came across as though I’m not interested in what you have to say. My intention was to assure that there were no life-threatening issues that needed to be immediately addressed.” Lizzy, who has finally disconnected from her call, shoots me two thumbs up for the excellent recovery. She pulls the wire that connects her earpiece to her desk then still sitting in her chair, she rolls over to my cubicle to plug into my extra port so she can hear both sides of the conversation.
“Well, isn’t that nice of you. Isn’t that nice of her, Stanley? She wanted to make sure we were safe.”
“Who are we talking to, Maebelle? Is it Jonut?”
“No, Stanley. It’s not Jonut. You go ahead and hang up now okay?” Maebelle insists.
“Tell Jonut I love her when you talk to her,” Stanley says before clicking off of the line.
Maebelle resumes our conversation. “Jonut is a nickname we have for our daughter, Josephine. We don’t see her much, and sometimes Stanley gets confused. Anyway, as I was saying, marriage sucks. It sucks the life and soul out of you. There are days I want to kill him, and there are days I want to torture him before I kill him.” Lizzy is working so hard at containing her laughter that she almost falls out of her chair. “There are days I wish he’d never been born. There are days I wish I’d never been born. But, listen to this carefully. They are just thoughts. Random fleeting thoughts that cross my mind when I’m upset about accidentally burning supper. Did he make me burn supper? No, he didn’t, but I heaped that blame on him. Or when I forgot about a load of his underpants in the washer and they soured. He bore the brunt of that blame, too. What about the abuse he got when I gave birth to our child? Twelve hours of non-stop name calling during labor, and that man took every last bit of it and fed me words of love and encouragement to boot!”
Lizzy and I are now captivated by her speech.
“When and if you get married, those thoughts will come to you. You’re going to fight. You’re going to have resentful moments. You’re going to wonder if it’s worth it all. My Stanley is eighty-six years old, and he was diagnosed with terminal cancer four weeks ago. If we’re lucky, I might have another couple of months with him the doctors say. All that complaining I did earlier… all that truth I gave you… you’d think I regretted marrying him, wouldn’t you? Well, I don’t. I’d give anything to have sixty-eight more years with him.
“You can complain about every dropped sock, every dirty dish left behind, every piece of dirt tracked through the house, or you can deal with it and spend that time you would’ve spent complaining giving him a kiss. Or maybe a tight hug. Or even jotting down a little note for him to find. So here’s the truth—marriage sucks because one day it will end. It’s inevitable. The beginning is usually a fairy tale; the end hurts more than you could ever comprehend. It’s what you do with the middle that’s the most important. Make the most of it. Now I’m going to walk up front to give Stanley a kiss before I get on the phone with the water company.”
Lizzy looks at me, tears welled in her eyes. “Best. Call. Ever,” she says with a sigh. I’m still rendered speechless. “Oh, crap! My board is lighting up. Signal me if you get another call like that!” She rolls away to plug her headset back into the appropriate slot on her desk, then gives me a sort of point/wave to signal that I have a call waiting, too.
Rapidly shaking my head does nothing to help me clear my thoughts. “Pole Co. What do you want?” I blurt, desperately wishing I could suck my words back in, but there’s no way that’s happening. I also want to bang my forehead against my desk. That’s not going to happen either.
“The list is pretty long. Are you sure you have the time to listen to all of it?” An amused male voice comes through the line.
Embarrassment socks me hard in the stomach. There goes my chance at that gift card I want so badly. “Sir, I sincerely apologize for my lack of professionalism. If it’s okay with you, may I please start again?”
“Totally unnecessary,” the smooth voice replies with a hint of playfulness.
“It would make me feel so much better,” I insist, my gut slowly unclenching.
“If it’ll make you feel better…
,” he loudly calls into the receiver.
It’s the last thing I’m expecting to hear, and I cup my hand over my mouth to contain the snort that’s trying to break free. “What in the world is that supposed to be?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“Not really,” I tease.
“It’s a ringing phone. You remember when phones used to ring, don’t you?”
“Of course I do, but I don’t remember them sounding like that.”
“How about you quit busting my chops and answer the phone? I said b
Still trying to keep my laughter bottled inside, I take a shaky breath before answering him. “Thank you for calling Pole Co. My name is Savannah. How can I assist you, Mr. …?”
“Reilly. Fletcher Reilly. Now that I have you on the line, why don’t you tell me what flustered you so much that you forgot how to answer the phone?”
Another response I wasn’t prepared for. “I…I really don’t think I can, Mr. Reilly. It’s nothing, really. Just an unusual call,” I awkwardly answer while stumbling over my words.
“Ah, come on. It’s got to be good. You know what they say about bottling things up, right? You know you want to talk about it,” he coaxes.
A broad smile crosses my face as I lightly tap an ink pen on the scratchpad in front of me.
“Come on. Feed my curiosity. You can’t leave me hanging.” Something about his voice intrigues me. It’s comforting, confident, and relaxed. I silently scold myself for my lack of professionalism, but the daring side of me kind of wants the conversation to continue. In a split- second decision, I decide to play his game.
“So what you’re telling me is that, in your opinion, discussing a work related phone call with a complete stranger is actually good for my mental health?”
I smile. “I have a question for you, Mr. Reilly. When you initially called, did you hear the recording that stated the calls to this center may be monitored?”
“I did. Are we being monitored?”
“No,” I admit.
“Then I fail to see the problem. So, what’s up?”
I put my forehead in my palms. “Oh, this is so gonna get me fired,” I mumble into the headset.
“Or, it could get you promoted. The recording asked if I’d be willing to take a brief survey after the call. Maybe my glowing review will help you to rise through the ranks.”
“Yeah, I doubt that,” I scoff.
“How old are you?” he asks.
“How old are you?” I fire back.
“Twenty-nine,” he answers without hesitation.
“So, what are you wearing?” he asks, his voice dripping with sexiness.
Oh great! He goes from charming to pervert in seconds flat. Time to get out of this conversation. “Uh, look I… uh…”
He laughs. “Wait! Wait! Don’t get flustered! I was just picking. I wanted to break the ice a little more. That’s all. I swear it was only a joke.”
“Fletcher. I mean, Mr. Reilly, do you have a power related issue that I can help you with?”
“Ah, and I get shot down. I guess I went too far. My most humble apologies, Savannah. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“You didn’t offend me, but I do suddenly have a queue of calls that are waiting to be answered. I’m sorry, Mr. Reilly, but I really must tend to your problem, and then move on.”
“I understand. Okay, my problem is that I can’t find my bill, so I’m unsure how much I owe for this month,” he explains.
“That’s no problem at all, Mr. Reilly. Will you please verify your address for me?”
“You want my address? Does that mean you might come by for a visit one day?” he questions in a playful tone.
“I sincerely doubt that.”
“You’re breaking my heart, Savannah. 4617 Fulton Road, apartment 2.”
“I’m sorry about your broken your heart, Mr. Reilly, and thank you for verifying your address. It shows that the balance owed is $187.39. Is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?” I ask in my most professional tone.
“Will you send me a friend request now that you have my personal information? You do use social media, don’t you?”
“That would be an unethical invasion of your privacy and a huge violation of company policy, Mr. Reilly.”
“So you’re telling me that if I, Fletcher D. Reilly, who resides on Fulton Road in Lafayette, Louisiana, would like for you to find me on social media so that I can offer my services as listener extraordinaire in order for you to preserve your precious mental health by letting you discuss your day with me, that would be a violation?”
“Yes. Very much so.”
“That’s it. I must speak to a supervisor. That policy is antiquated and a hazard to all involved. It must be amended immediately. I’ll hold while you connect me,” he jokes.
He’s hooked me again. “Mr. Reilly…”
“Call me Fletcher.”
“Fletcher, I need to move on to the next caller,” I say with a smile.
“Will you find me? Come on. It’s an internet friendship, not marriage. You can delete me, block me, whatever if you don’t like me, but at least give me a chance.”
I’m silent for a beat before conceding. “Okay, I’ll find you.”
“You’re not married are you?” he asks.
“Shouldn’t you have asked that first?” I scold.
“Maybe. Are you?”
“No,” I say with a laugh.
“Okay, that’s good. I don’t need some guy showing up with a baseball bat or something. I mean, you do have my address and all,” he teases.
“No need to worry about that, Fletcher. It was nice speaking with you. Is there anything else I can assist you with today?”
“Did you write my name down?”
I playfully roll my eyes. “I don’t have to. Trust me, I’ll remember.”