Chapter 11 - Redemption

"No Good Deed Goes Unpunished"

It was the weekend, so I had a few days to figure out what I was going to do. I suddenly felt as if I should direct all my frustration toward Jim. After all, he was the one who got me started on this terrible stage of my life. So, on Monday, the games began.

Since I was going to quit the job anyway, I thought I'd have some fun doing it. The rain had finally stopped the on and off showers that had continued over the weekend, and the dark clouds that had covered the sky so wholly for weeks finally lifted.

Jim asked me to do something as soon as I walked in the door.

"No." I replied with a smile. He continued his instructions for the task a moment before realizing what I had said. But I had kept walking, and by that time, I was in my office. He poked his head around the door.

"Knock, knock." He chirped, and I glared up at him. "About the new line…" He began, but I didn't let him finish. Sudden fury burned inside me and I stood up quickly, knocking my chair backward. I saw with delight, Jim's eyes widen.

"Yes, Jim. About the new line…you can shove it up your ass, because I quit." A grin came to my face. I knew it would feel good, but I had no idea it would feel that good. Jim's mouth dropped. It felt like a good time to storm out, so I did. I rushed past him, saying coldly, "I'll be back for my stuff later."

I felt his eyes on me as I walked down the hall, head held high. Secretaries and office workers' heads turned to watch me strut toward the elevators, since I spared no volume in my voice telling Jim off. I grinned at him one last time before the elevator doors closed, separating me from my career, the finality of it catching me a bit off guard. But, deep down, I knew I had done the right thing. My career wasn't nearly as important to me as the people in my life.

When I got home, I immediately called Erin.

"Hello." She sounded tired.

"Hey Erin. I quit my job today." There was silence for a moment.

"You quit?" She asked, trying to sound uninterested. But I knew her better than that.

"Yep. I told James Hawthorne to shove his new line up his ass, because I quit." I knew she could hear the smile in my voice, and I could hear the smile in hers, trying to hold back her laughter, when she asked,

"How'd he take it?"

"Started crying. I had to pry him from my leg before I got into the elevator. So, better than I expected, actually." I laughed, and so did she. It sounded so nice to hear it again.

We talked for a long time after that. She ended up crying. I guess she missed me, and felt bad for abandoning me. She was really touched that I would give up something so important to me, my career, for her. I didn't tell her it wasn't just for her, though.

The next item on my agenda was Morgan. I hadn't spoken to him since I got back from Paris. I called, but he didn't pick up his phone. So, I called Mr. Delgado's store, but Mr. Delgado said he wasn't in. By the suspicious sound of his voice, I figured he really was there, but had told Mr. Delgado he didn't want to talk to me.

The determination I had felt that morning washed away as the prospect of going to the store to see Morgan crossed my mind. I ended up chickening out. I didn't go to see him. Now I wish I had. But, I can't go back in time and change things, no matter how much I wish. No matter how many pennies I toss into the fountain, or how many first stars I wish upon, I can't change that. I miss him every day. I had no idea he meant so much to me until I had to live without him.

But, life goes on. Since the first time I decided I'd chicken out on going to see Morgan, I chickened out every day. Because every day I'd think about calling him or going to see him. And every day it was the same. I'd sit, unemployed and half empty inside, with the phone in my hands, contemplating. I'd end up making myself believe there was nothing I could do to fix our relationship. That there was no relationship anymore, anyway.

I finally tried to stop thinking about him. Erin helped a lot with that. We'd go shopping and go to spas, since the money I had got from my brief fashion career was a ways away from being depleted.

A week later, the stories started showing up. The tabloids were apparently getting 'inside information' from JJ&Co. that I had been fired for stealing ideas from other designers, and manipulating Jim with sex to keep quiet about it. Of course, there was no proof, since that did not occur, but it hurt my reputation anyway.

I was sure Jim started the rumor, and I was livid about it. For about twenty minutes. I went to see Mrs. B, and she calmed me down. She told me that anger is the work of evil things. It eats you up inside until you're nothing but a hollow, empty soul, with no more desire to love or do anything but sulk and seek revenge. The vision I got of myself, just skin and bones, in the corner of an empty, dark room, frightened me out of my anger.

By that time, I had gotten very bored with myself. I was just either sitting around my apartment, or going shopping with Erin. Now, don't get me wrong, I love shopping, but I wanted to do more with my life. I needed to keep my hands busy, I needed to get a job.

So, I set out my job hunting. I wanted something fashion-oriented, but no high rise, fast lane, A-list job. I wanted to start at the bottom and work my way up. But no matter what I did, no matter how impressive my résumé was, I never got any jobs. Not even as a seamstress at a little boutique. I was sure they were concerned with the rumor Jim had started, and I took special care to assure them it was nothing but a fabrication. But they never believed me. And why should they have? James Hawthorne was much more respectable than me, and had more friends and connections.

I was at a new low, depressed that I couldn't find work to busy myself with and to give my life some meaning and direction. And that was when I got a phone call. The last day of November, a woman called my apartment and said her name was Julia Summer, that she had business to discuss with me. I thought, for a brief moment, that it might be Julia Summer the designer, but that moment, as I said, was brief. It couldn't possibly be her. Why would the greatest and most respected designer in the fashion industry (I say that because I had realized James Hawthorne in my opinion was no longer the greatest and most respected designer in the industry) want business with me?

"This is Julia Summer, as in the Julia Summer fashion designer? Owner of the Summer boutique chain?" I cringed. My voice sounded squeaky, like an obsessed teen fan girl who'd just gotten a glimpse of Orlando Bloom. Julia laughed at me. There was something familiar about her voice. Which was strange, because I had never heard Julia speak before. I had watched her shows on TV, but I had never heard her speak. Nor have I seen her. I bet I could count on my fingers all those who have. She has a great way of keeping her personal life personal.

"Yes, doll, I am that Julia Summer. I have a proposition for you." She started, and went on to explain the business involvement she'd like me to have with her company.

I nearly shit a brick. There was a burning question I needed to ask her.

"Why would you, of all people, choose to ignore the rumors about me and come to me with a job? Everyone else I begged for a job wouldn't touch me with a three foot pole."

She laughed again, and again I felt as if I'd heard it before. "Because, doll, I choose to form my own opinion about people once I actually get to know them, instead of going with what everyone else thinks about them." She stated confidently. My heart tugged. I loved this woman already.

We talked for nearly an hour, about business plans and designs and such. By the end of the night, I had a job. By going into business with her, I secured my design career once again. And this time, it seemed a lot more respectable.