Looking to Silence the Inner Critic

As soon as Angelo had accepted her invitation Lu felt a rising panic. A scribbled address and an indication that the party would start in an hour was all she could manage. Once in her car she allowed herself a moment of terror. With self-control strengthened by years of denying herself any feelings of joy or contentment, Lu drove home. Once in the house she realized that she needed to prepare. She was a whirlwind. She swept through her house straightening and cleaning like a madwoman. A glance at the clock and she felt nauseous. Angelo was probably only a few minutes away and she was dressed in her shabby clothes! She dashed upstairs and quickly changed into one of her new outfits. She even took time to put on a little make up and to run a comb through her hair. As an after thought she wiped one of the perfume samples over her wrists and behind her ears. All this time Aurelius was perched on the bed watching in amazement. As Lu came downstairs she peeked out the small window next to the door. She realized that the sun was setting and it was dark so she flipped on the porch light. With relief there wasn’t a car in the drive. Taking a deep breath she pulled out some plates and a couple bowls to set on the counter. She rummaged through the bottom drawer and extracted two place mats. Her hands were starting to sweat as she put crackers in one bowl. The other she filled with grapes and the last two mandarin oranges. As she stared into the refrigerator she realized all she had to drink was milk and diet Dr. Pepper. With a sigh she extracted two cans of soda and set them on the counter with the plates.

Angelo still hadn’t arrived so she sat down. As soon as she did Aurelius was on her lap. He shoved his nose under her chin. Lu looked into his eyes and stroking him head to tail said, “I hope I haven’t made a big mistake.” Aurelius seemed to reassure her as he curled around and kneaded her leg gently without using his claws. Then the sound of a knock on the door exploded into the quiet. Aurelius flew into the air as Lu lurched from her chair. The two of them, Lu and Aurelius, stood frozen. Then Lu with her heart racing, walked to the front door. She took a deep breath and opened the door. It was an action that was not just physical but symbolic. She was letting someone into her life and it terrified her. As Angelo crossed the threshold, Aurelius appeared. While Lu was closing the door, Angelo and Aurelius were both sizing up the other. Angelo let Lu take his coat and then offered her the box he was holding. “Here’s something for the party.” he said as he put the box in her hands. Lu looked surprised. “It’s not much but I bake for my mother, she likes her sweets. I thought maybe I’d share.” he mumbled and his voice trailed off as he stared at his shoes. Lu opened the box to see several cookies and they smelled very good. By this time Aurelius was standing between them looking up at Angelo. “What’s his name?” he asked Lu. Lu had to swallow hard to answer. Her throat was dry and she could feel herself getting lightheaded. She managed to croak out, “Aurelius.” Angelo looked down admiringly and commented, “Sounds like a good Italian name.” as he reached to pet Aurelius. Lu held her breath. She knew what he was capable doing but she shouldn’t have worried. Aurelius took a couple steps forward and not only allowed Angelo to pet him as he wound around his ankles but even let him lift him into his arms.

Lu ushered Angelo into her living room and they all sat down. She then remembered her party food and jumped up again. Aurelius was belly up and sprawled across Angelo’s lap when she returned. Placing a can of diet Dr. Pepper on the coffee table for Angelo, she started to apologize for the lack of selection when he stopped her. “How’d ya know this is my favorite?” He was incredulous. Lu just shrugged and told him she hadn’t known but it was her favorite too. When she opened the sardines Aurelius was so relaxed he didn’t even turn his head. Angelo was drawing circles on her cat’s stomach and only stopped to eat. It was then that Aurelius revived and joined the feast. Lu was feeling much more relaxed too. The conversation started slowly but by the time they had finished the little fishes they were laughing like old friends. “Ms. Dupin” Angelo started but was interrupted when Lu corrected him, “Call me Lu.” A grin spread across his face. “Lu, thanks for inviting me over. I’ve had a great time but I need to get back home.” Lu felt crushed. Her face must have given away her feelings. Angelo continued in a more conspiratorial tone, “Let’s eat the cookies first!” Over cookies Angelo asked if she’d like to come over for dinner on the following Wednesday. Lu suppressed the urge to shout and restrained her enthusiasm to a demure, “Yes, I’d love to!” This time Angelo handed her his phone number and address. As he was leaving he hesitated at the door. He took Lu’s hand. She was sure he was going to shake it, so sure that her inner critic had already started the mantra of you’re not attractive or smart or even interesting, when Angelo turned her hand and placed a soft kiss on the back. Before she could even react he had released the hand and was getting into his car. She closed and locked the door after he had left. Looking at Aurelius, Lu smiled. For the first time in forever her inner voice was stunned into silence. “Aurelius, I think he’s really nice.” she purred. Aurelius blinked a slow satisfied agreement.

This is it, the conclusion of the story. Lu has finally silenced her inner critic. Aurelius approves of Angelo. Lu has turned the corner and is ready to trust herself and others. She is feeling happiness for the first time in a long time and has pushed her panic and insecurities to the curb. Well, maybe not the curb but she has locked them in the trunk of the car… I’m glad you all enjoyed this little diversion. Perhaps I’ll start another one after the new year.

Looking for a Party

After ending the call with Lily, she felt that a celebration was in order. She looked at Aurelius and he squinted at her with the look of a self-satisfied cat. “Sardines for everyone!” she announced. It was after rummaging through the pantry that she discovered that there were no sardines, canned salmon, or even a lowly can of tuna on the shelves. An air of dejection seeped into the room. “I suppose I can go to the store.” she intoned. That elicited a chirp from Aurelius and he leapt from the chair with a thump and with the thunder of paws raced to the hall closet where he took up position staring intently at her hanging coat.

Lu was never spontaneous. She liked to plan everything. When she thought about it too hard she’d get a headache and see Aurora. Aurora was mercurial; she’d make plans and change them with her next breath. Lu was determined to be, she paused trying to find the right word, steadfast. Yes, she was steadfast. So she made a grocery list while Aurelius waited. It had started to snow when she pulled out of the garage. Her car left tire tracks down the driveway. As the garage door slowly closed, she could see Aurelius on the window sill watching her departure. The trip to the store was intended to be efficient. This time she wasn’t going to spend 30 minutes in the car psyching herself into a courageous mode. She forced a smile. She wasn’t going to be constrained by the past. She was going to celebrate even while the small voice of caution told her not to count her chickens before they hatched.

In the grocery she stood contemplating the canned fish. Mackerel was cheap and she liked it but salmon was better. She stood there with a can in each hand before putting them both in her basket. They had sardines on sale for a mere 99 cents. She scooped four cans up before putting them back. Packed in hot sauce was probably not the right choice if she intended to share with Aurelius. She decided to get the water packed variety instead. As she headed to the self-checkout a voice called her name. Although she was in a hurry to get back to her party, she paused to look for the origin. As she scanned the area behind her, she heard her name again. This time she spotted the source. Lu for a moment longed for the days when she could have simply ignored people. As Angelo approached, she heard another voice. This one was in her head telling her she was ugly and stupid and no one would ever want to be her friend. To silence her inner critic, she greeted Angelo with a smile.

He looked as awkward as she felt. She stared into his shopping cart. He had a large container of cat litter and a big bag of the expensive cat food. She commented that she didn’t know he had a cat. He hesitated and then began telling her about his mother’s cat. Lu surmised that he still lived at home. It was true but only because he needed to take care of his mother. Most women usually bolted as soon as he revealed that tidbit of personal information. Lu just stood there nodding. Suddenly she looked up. She had made a decision and it felt reckless. “Would you like to come over for a celebration?” She asked. “What are you celebrating?” Angelo questioned. Lu became cautious, “I have a new cat and a prospect for a new job.” She decided that he didn’t need to know about the lawsuit and it would probably be better not to discuss it. She held up her sardines and indicated that that was the party food. Angelo’s eyes brightened and twinkled, “I love little fishes! When’s the party?”

As the prospect of a party looms for Lu, Aurelius, and Angelo I am going to pause the story leaving you to form your own conclusions. Will Aurelius accept Angelo or try to kill him? Will Lu overcome her inner critic and be able to forge a real relationship with Angelo and Lily? Will she find a new job? Will she get the big bucks from the lawsuit before she has to take in a lodger? You can sight the trajectory for the ending you want! Let me know how you’d like the story to end…

Looking at a New Friend

The rest of the week was spent getting to know Aurelius. He was a fierce cat. She tried not to compare him to Mister but couldn’t help herself. Mister waited for trouble and would respond but this bold feline was on the prowl almost daring trouble to come visit. Mister was silent but Aurelius thumped and thudded his way through the house. Mister was affectionate in a distant way but not Aurelius. He was not shy about demanding attention. He preferred to drape himself across her lap with his back legs dangling over the edge. He would nudge her hand asking to be petted and if she stopped prematurely he would wrap a paw around her wrist and pull her hand back. They fell into a kind of routine. She felt secure for once since the home invasion with Aurelius on guard duty. He made official rounds checking every window and every door. At first she thought he was trying to escape. It finally dawned on her that he was a “watch cat” extraordinaire when she had failed to latch the garage door.

He came tearing into the kitchen and leapt onto the counter making a horrible racket. It startled her. He gave her a piercing look and headed into the family room and parked himself in front of the garage door. She of course followed and realized that the door was not only unlocked but slightly ajar. As soon as she closed and locked it he wove his body against and between her legs purring as loud as a truck.
Breakfast was an event as he stalked the toast popping up from the toaster. He tried to steal the whole eggs she had set on the counter to fry. He liked the cat food well enough but seemed to live for whatever she had on her plate. So far the only thing he didn’t like was oranges. Aurelius used the litter box, refused to sleep on the bed, and had a special hatred for dogs. She only discovered that quirk when the neighbor’s terrier decided to wander onto her porch. If Aurelius hadn’t had a solid door as a barrier that dog would have been killed. It surprised her up to see the fury and pent up anger unleashed simply from spying the dog from the window. It was also comforting to know that any future intruders would likely not survive the onslaught of Aurelius’ attack.

Lu had been scanning the employment ads in the newspaper and on line. Her resume had been refreshed and she had sent it to several head hunters hoping for some leads. She was not a frivolous spender and had a very health savings account. She figured that the worst case scenario she could live on her savings for 36 months if she was very careful and didn’t have any catastrophic expenses. She was mulling over the prospect of renting out a room if worst came to worst when her phone vibrated. She had been waiting for a call from the law firm on an update. Lily was calling to touch base. Lu sighed and relaxed. Lily wasn’t so bad and was the closest thing to a friend she had at present. She answered the phone with a confident hello. The news was good. The lawsuit had been filed and a response from the defendants had been received.

Lily was excited. Lu’s former company had offered a settlement of $500,000. Lily cut Lu off when she started to say that it was a lot of money. Seems Polder and Swale countered with a demand for $4 million dollars! Lu was speechless. Lily wasn’t waiting for a response anyway and forged on saying that it was likely that they would get that sum since the only people let go from the company were women and all had impeccable performance reviews and that they retained many other men with poor performance records. Lu was nearly out of breath just listening to Lily. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath while Lily forged on saying that the money Aurora Dupin had been bequeathed had cleared. She asked if Lu wanted it deposited directly into her savings account or did she want to place it into CDs or some other savings vehicle. With that news all Lu’s worries evaporated. Aurelius pounced into her lap and nudged her chin with his head.

I think the pendulum has swung for Lu. As bad as life has treated her it looks like she has gathered a few friends – at least Aurelius and Lily. But then again she may have made some new enemies since I doubt her former employer is very happy with this turn of events…

Looking for a Stupid Name

Once in the car she berated herself, pounding the steering wheel to punctuate her words, “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” She rubbed her eyes only to realize an instant too late that she had smeared her eye makeup. She quickly grabbed a tissue and flipped the mirror down to try to fix the damage. The mirror reflected not only her image but that of Angelo advancing on her parked vehicle. She froze with the iron fingers of panic clutching her heart and squeezing her throat. She did her best with the streaks of mascara. The tapping on the window sounded louder than gun shots. She rolled the window down and gave Angelo a feeble smile. All she could think of was how silly she must look.

He presented her a manila file folder through the window, “You dropped this in the elevator. I put all the papers back in and I promise I didn’t look at any of it.” He looked at her kindly. He wasn’t mocking her and there wasn’t a trace of meanness in his voice. Lu realized that her own insecurities were working overtime. She sighed audibly and thanked him. He waved her off as she drove away.

The offices of Polder and Swale were her next stop. Once inside she set to organizing the papers. It wasn’t difficult as most of them had been stapled together. She looked over her performance reviews. All of them labeled her a ‘top performer’. She had achieved all the set goals and went above and beyond in every category except one, social engagement. She hadn’t joined the golf outing, participated in the tug of war, or volunteered to play on the dodgeball team, but neither had most of the other women in the department. She handed the file to Lily. It was satisfying to get things started.

She made it home before she got the shakes. She sat in the cold garage trembling and asking what she had been thinking when she gave her phone number to Angelo. He was nearly a stranger. She struck the seat with her fist and it bounced up just missing her face. She managed to get into the house before her phone rang. It took just a second for the words to sink in. The call was to remind her that “Stinkerbell” was ready to be picked up at the shelter. Lu assured them that she would be arriving shortly. She then proceeded to do a happy dance through the kitchen before dashing to the car only to have to go back inside to get the carrier. In no time she was home again. She left him in the carrier for an hour while she let him settle down from the trip. After she opened the carrier he began to explore.

He was bold. She remembered Mister examining the house when they first moved in. Mister had walked like the floor might fall out from under him. Eventually he owned every inch. This cat strutted, peering under and behind the furniture. There was no trace of fear or uncertainty in his demeanor. Once he had made a grand tour, he approached Lu as a sovereign would his favored servant. He sat squarely in front of her and stared into her eyes. She sat on the ottoman and waited for a name to come to her but there wasn’t anything popping into her head. She felt as if she were missing something. In a fit of impatience she blurted out, “Just tell me your name already!” She instantly felt foolish but this regal cat didn’t flinch. He stood, turned, and leaped onto the bookcase knocking off a single tome. He sat on the book casually. The book was an old college text from her philosophy class, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. She softly spoke the name Marcus but he only turned his ears slightly back. With a whisper she said Aurelius and he leapt light as a feather onto her lap. Lu was stunned. He looked at her smugly with an air of satisfaction. Lu felt a wave of peace. She was starting to feel better.

We are often our own worst critics. We criticize our work, appearance and even our actions. We are harsh judges of others but doubly hard on ourselves. At least she got the name right!

Looking Hot and Playing it Cool

A quick call and she was headed back to work. She had to correct herself, it was her former workplace. She had taken the time to hand write the list of things she needed from HR prior to exiting her car. At least her gate key still worked even if her door key wouldn’t. She parked and instead of walking to the employee entrance, headed into the main lobby. It was impressive with all the marble flooring and massive marble reception desk. After a brief call, Lu was directed to wait for an escort to the HR department. Secretly she hoped it would be Angelo. It wasn’t. Once at HR, she had to sign in and then wait. It was a long wait, much longer than the first time at the lawyers’ office. The consultant was cold and moved in slow motion. Lu surmised that it was a strategy to make her leave and come back later, possibly again and again. Lu was used to waiting for what she wanted. She had waited patiently her whole life. Today she was clear on what she wanted and there was no turning back. She waited. The time passed and she approached the girl at the desk every 15 minutes to remind her that she was still waiting. Lunchtime arrived and the office emptied. Lu pulled out her cell phone and called the number again. The phone on the desk began to ring. Eventually someone answered it. Lu was polite and asked a couple easy questions about time frames for documents to be copied. She thanked the woman and asked her name, Deanna was the reply.

As soon as the receptionist returned from her lunch, Lu asked her to go check on the status of the files she was waiting for. After another 30 minutes Lu lost patience. She was a little hangry. She called Deanna again. This time she asked for the supervisor. Deanna was the supervisor. Lu demanded the copies be made. It was amazing how quickly the papers appeared, perfectly collated, stapled and in a file folder. In fact Deanna made an appearance with the paper work for the insurance. It was a quick process. Disgusted, Lu turned to leave but the supervisor stopped her and insisted she wait for a security escort. Lu didn’t respond except to glare at the woman with her best angry cat stare. As she stood facing the elevator her agitation turned to impatience. When the doors opened Angelo was standing a mere foot in front of her.

Startled, she stepped backwards and unaware that Deanna had been standing guard behind her, crushed the supervisor’s foot under her heel. The result was a sharp wail and Lu was shoved from behind. She barely had time to put her hands up before she bounced against Angelo’s chest. Instinctively he closed his arms around her preventing her from falling. Lu was so disoriented that she could only sputter a soft apology to Angelo and Deanna one after the other until she had regained her balance and some semblance of composure. In the awkward silence of the elevator, she ran her fingers through her hair and closed her eyes. Angelo was the first to break the silence, “How you doing, Ms. Dupin?” Lu was amazed at how pleasant his voice sounded. Her reply was slow, “I’m O.K., I guess.” She turned her head to look at him and realized he was staring intensely at her. “You look really dressed up today.” he muttered. “You going somewhere special?” She shook her head no.

She tensed. This interlude was heading toward being asked for a date, she was fairly certain. She began to feel the familiar panic. But Angelo didn’t follow up and seemed to accept that she was just dressed fancy for no reason. The ride to the lobby felt rushed as more people entered the elevator. Lu impulsively scribbled her phone number on the back of a gum wrapper. Then thought better of it and crumpled it in her fist. Angelo escorted her out of the elevator and she handed him the wadded up gum wrapper. She was having an out of body experience. She had never done anything like that before. Looking over her shoulder as she walked to the exit, she could see Angelo staring at the paper grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Lu is trying to play it cool. Of course things don’t always go as planned especially when you don’t follow the game plan.

Looking to Lawyer-Up

Her foremost and pressing problem was of income and insurance. She figured that she would approach the HR people after the meeting with the lawyer. And all that would have to wait until Monday anyway. A little more organizing and a satisfying dinner took all the energy she had left. She made the bed and hung her new clothes still warm from the dryer in the closet before going to sleep. Again she woke before the alarm. Monday was just the beginning. Showered and dressed in what she called her “power outfit” she was ready to take on the world. She had a short moment of hesitation when she spotted her reflection in the car window. A deep breath and she conquered her trepidation.

She slid into the car; the red pants punctuation for her new style. The heavy black coat had new life with a bright scarf and large brooch turning it from pseudo military to trendy fashion statement. She gave herself a pep talk on the drive to the law office. She tried to remember that perky woman’s name but it wouldn’t come. She was going to have to try harder to keep track of those kinds of details. Once at Polder and Swale, the perky woman didn’t offer her coffee but instead offered cookies and the big bowl of chocolates. She screwed up her courage and admitted she couldn’t remember the perky woman’s name. A pleasant conversation resulted and Lu admitted that her name was not George but Lucile and she committed Lily’s name to memory.

When the lawyer came in Lu laid out the events on Friday. She produced the audio recording. The lawyer at first was uninterested but after hearing the recording and again asking the name of the company, he was practically salivating. He called in a couple of other attorneys and they listened to the recording. Lu didn’t understand exactly what they were discussing among themselves but she could feel the excitement. She finally interrupted their conversation with the simple question, “Is there anything you can do to help me?” Mr. Swale didn’t look blasé anymore. His eyes were shining as he responded, “Ms. Dupin, what do you want us to accomplish? Do you want your job back, a large settlement for wrongful termination or a judgement against them for discrimination?” Lu wasn’t sure what she really wanted but it all sounded good so she replied, “Yes.” Mr. Swale nodded as he looked around at his colleagues. “Very well, we’ll take this on. I’ll have Ms. Przybyszewski come in and explain the fee schedule and get some additional information.” With that he gave her a toothy smile that had a touch of sinister at the corners and left the room.

It had all happened so quickly that she felt dizzy. She leaned back in her chair and contemplated the chocolates. Throwing caution to the wind, she dug down to the dark chocolate truffle and was soon biting it in half. She had to laugh a little because as soon as she popped the other half into her mouth, Lily appeared. That was her usual luck. It was reassuring to know that some things were the same. She was given a huge stack of papers to sign which she took her time reading before putting her signature on the bottom. Then Lily explained all the documentation that the law office would need from the company. She cautioned Lu not to mention having consulted with a lawyer to the HR department. She also gave Lu a print out of those things she was legally entitled to have including copies of all her job performance reviews. The perkiness in Lily was replaced with efficiency and Lu could now appreciate her help. Finally she finished and was ready to leave when Lily advised her to take the initial COBRA insurance HR would offer. When Lu pressed her for a reason Lily replied that at least for the next 18 months she would be covered. Lily made it clear that some of these cases dragged on for years. It was disheartening to think that she would need to try to find a new position while the specter of this last job hovered in the background. As she left, she grabbed a couple more chocolates for the road.

Lu is getting serious about getting even. Although it is satisfying to fantasize about strangling her boss or maybe just slashing the tires, Lu is a law abiding citizen. She may rant about how stupid her species is on the whole and how stupid certain individuals may be, but she is no criminal. She is civilized. She is going to sue the pants off them!!

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask that as you finish reading this blog you take a moment to pause and reflect on the events that occurred on this date in 2001. I continue to pray for peace and justice…

Looking Stinky

The door made a jingle as she walked in. Immediately she had second thoughts and would have turned and fled except as she turned her eye caught sight of the cage. Inside were several kittens all clamoring for her attention with little star paws waving through the bars. She was transfixed. When a voice asked if she wanted to hold one of them she nearly leapt against the cage. Sputtering she said no. She regained her composure and asked to see some adult cats. She was ushered into a long corridor, past kennels and runs filled with barking dogs and into a room with cages three high on three sides. The door closed and the barking became a muted rumble. Lu surveyed the occupants. Most were bedraggled with notched ears, seeping eyes, and the uninterested look of animals awaiting death.

She slowly walked past every cage searching for that intelligent spark that Mister had in his gaze. It was missing. She was disappointed and at the same time relieved. She shook her head and softly asked to leave. The worker indicated that there was another room if she was interested. Lu was. Again the cats were indifferent to her presence although there were a few that were frightened and a several that were overtly hostile. Finally the worker took her to the room of last resort. In that room were all the cats that had been at the shelter beyond the 12 weeks and were slated for euthanasia. When the worker opened the door nearly all the cats perked up. As Lu scanned the room a large cat pressed his head to the cage door purring so loudly that she could hear it from where she stood. Another cat was waving at her like the kittens in the entry. There was one cat that caught her eye. He was larger than most but not fat. His coat was orange with a darker swirl. His eyes were bright orange to match his coat and he was staring at her. She stared back. When the cage was opened, he remained immobile, feet prim and his tail curled over his toes. She reached in and placed her hand on his shoulder. He closed his eyes. She waited. He waited. Then there was a faint vibration beneath her finger tips. He turned his head to look at her again and their eyes met. The only thing she could say was, “This is the one I want.” The girl shrugged and ushered Lu back to the adoption area.

She hadn’t adopted from a shelter before and was very confused to find out that there was a stack of documents to fill out and a 3 day waiting period before she could bring him home. She had already decided that this was going to be her cat. As she filled out form after form she noticed that the cat had been given the name “Stinkerbell”. She read the brief history to discover he had been adopted 3 times and returned every time because of “bad behavior”. When she inquired the adoption coordinator was evasive, only saying that he didn’t especially like small children or other animals.

Sunday came and went. Lu gave herself permission to be sad. She dumped Mister’s litter box and completely sanitized it. She tossed all his toys. That wasn’t difficult since he wasn’t ever interested in them anyway. She had eliminated his hair when she donated most of her clothes. The rest was removed when she laundered the bedding and the new clothes and did a complete cleaning of the house. All day she fluctuated between sorrow over Mister and anticipation of bringing the new cat home. Three days seemed a long time to wait. She guessed that they were making sure she wasn’t an animal abuser. She shifted to trying to come up with new name. Stinkerbell would not do. She felt that he deserved a more dignified moniker but nothing came to mind. In the end she turned to other matters.

So there you have it. Lu is moving on. She can barely stand to be in the house alone. Between her personal ghosts and now Mister being dead and buried, Lu is absolutely lonely. She would never admit that but that doesn’t change it in the least.

Looking Fired Up

A quick check of the time and she knew there was no use trying to talk to anyone in Human Resources. That was just as well, she needed to consider carefully her course of action. Losing her job was not expected. Now she’d have to deal with the unemployment office, HR, and insurance companies. The prospect would have crushed the old Lu but the new Lu would not be defeated by paperwork. The drive home was punctuated by bursts of profanity directed at idiot drivers. Going into the house was hard. She half expected Mister to come silently down the stairs but it was still and empty. Dinner and the clean-up were quick, even with the dishes from the night before. She had eaten with a notepad at her elbow and jotted notes outlining her plan of attack. It was liberating to have an agenda and an attainable goal.

The adrenalin slowly wore off and she became more introspective. A smile played across her lips as she recalled the security guard. His last words were hesitant and hopeful wishing her luck and telling her how he would miss seeing her every day. She considered the possibilities but they evaporated as she considered her next move. Calling to the offices of Polder and Swale she made an appointment. The plastic receptionist tried to put her off for several weeks but the new Lu was having none of it. She had an appointment on Monday morning. The next step was to send the recording from her phone to herself as a wav file. Then she burned it to a CD. Without Mister she lost track of the time. It was well past midnight when she crawled into bed and fell into an exhausted sleep.

She woke up before the alarm went off. Saturday was going to be a day of activity. She tackled the closet. Out were all the dumpy clothes, clunky shoes, mannish sweaters and gender neutral shirts. The closet was nearly empty. Next was the dresser as she eliminated almost everything, even the men’s black crew socks. Although she had removed her entire wardrobe it all fit into 5 large grocery bags. They went into the trunk of the car after removing her work effects. The thrift store opened at 9:00 AM and Lu was there before the door was unlocked. It took her nearly until noon but she put together a new look for under $50. She was more feminine and colorful version of herself. She looked in the full length mirror and was pleased at what she saw.

She looked younger. She took her hair out of the rubber band and fluffed it. She gazed critically at her reflection. She didn’t look glamorous but she wasn’t homely either. For a brief moment she thought of Aurora but it was only because she was wearing a dress. There was still much to be done – a haircut and style, maybe even a manicure, a stop at the optical shop, the shoe store and even the dreaded mall. She figured if anyone could give her free makeup lessons it would be the maniacal women at Macy’s perfume counter. From there it would be to the dollar store to purchase makeup and any hair accessories. By 5:00 PM she was exhausted. It would have been easy to just go home but she felt compelled to stop at one more place. She pulled in and the sign said they were open until 7 PM. It took a couple deep breaths before she exited the car. She had put a wad of Kleenex into her coat pocket just in case.

Lu has made a decision. She is taking charge of her life. Who knows where this may lead? Stay tuned.

Looking Fired

Her boss was reading a report and peered over her cheaters at Lu with a look of surprise and apprehension. “What are you doing here!” her boss nearly shouted. Lu was confused. This wasn’t part of her script. Sputtering she replied, “I stopped in to let you know that I’ll be back to work on Monday.” Lu had begun to frown. In the past she would have started to apologize even if she didn’t know what she had done wrong but not today. The frown deepened as she noticed a box on the floor filled with familiar items including her photo of Mister and her cat pencil holder. She still had her hands in her coat pocket and there at her finger tips was her new phone. With a simple thumb print and a double tap her phone was now in recording mode. She removed her hand and the phone from her pocket. She shifted her attention to her boss. With a piercing look, Lu stared her down. Her boss was now at a loss. She had never dealt with this new angry Lu. She stood up and leaned forward bracing herself on the desk. Lu recognized the stance as the “power pose” from that online seminar on managing the manager. She consciously struck her own pose, open arms with relaxed shoulders and a slight sideways tilt of the head. She was signaling that she was not afraid, she would not be cowed. “Ms. Dupin, I regret to inform you that you have been terminated effective immediately.” Lu nodded to herself as she looked inward and considered her next move. With a steady voice she asked on what grounds she was being let go. Her boss paused. Lu thought that it was odd that she didn’t have a well-rehearsed reply. Her boss started and stopped in the way a child does when conjuring a lie. She was being let go for too many absences, for failing to call in, for missing the project due date on a critical contract. The boss’ voice trailed off. Lu stared hard at her boss before she spoke. “I called you Monday morning to call off. That was my first missed day of work since starting this job.” Lu paused but maintained eye contact. “I worked Tuesday and called you that night to explain my situation. I distinctly remember you telling me to take the rest of the week off. You assured me that others would handle my work load.” The boss was starting to look uncomfortable. Lu continued, “I have accrued over 5 weeks of vacation time. Counting today, I have taken 4 days in the last 6 years.” Lu paused again, just like the prosecutor on Law & Order, “How does one sick day and 3 vacation days translate to too many absences?” Without allowing a rely she continued, “How many other people in this company are required to call in everyday during a vacation to remind you that they are not coming in? And how is it that you are firing me over work you assured me would be handled by others in the office?” Lu waited for a response. There wasn’t one immediately.

She blinked the way Mister did when he was being patient and condescending at the same time. She continued to look at her boss in a way that demanded an answer. Her boss lost the staring contest, probably because she wasn’t a cat owner but remained mute. Lu was angry. That fire that had been burning in her stomach flared. She took a deep breath before asking, “Can you get someone to carry my things to my car? I’ve got a very sore back and my hands hurt.” The boss asked her to have a seat and she’d call security to have them escort her out and transport her stuff. The boss maintained an uneasy silence. While Lu waited she looked at the photo of Mister sitting atop her things. It was a picture she had taken last year on a sunny day. Mister had found a sunbeam and positioned himself sphinx-like, eyes half closed. She had taken the photo, in fact several of them while Mister had posed unflinching as she tried to get the best angle. Her reverie was interrupted with a knock on the glass door. It was Angelo who arrived to carry her things. When he realized what was happening the happy fled from his eyes. He simply took the box and headed down to the lobby. Lu stood and looked at her former boss. She was half expecting some words of luck or encouragement but none came. She headed to the door but was brought up short when the boss asked, “By the way, how’s your cat doing?” Lu spun like a tiger that had its tail yanked hard. “He’s dead! I can’t carry the box because I have blisters on my hands from digging a grave in the frozen ground,…” She spat the words. There was a pause at the end of her sentence. Calling people names was something she did in private, in her car or in her head. Today she reconsidered. “…bitch!” She stormed out. There was only silence as she swept past her former coworkers. As she reached the elevator she could hear the slowly rising hum of the comments. She was feeling powerful and now she had more work to do.

Lu is starting to get mad. Yes, she is probably going to exact some sort of revenge but as you well know, revenge is a dish best served cold…

Looking Assertive

It was a quick drive to the offices of Polder and Swale. She marched to the reception desk and demanded to speak with Mr. Swale. The fake smile fled from the receptionist’s face. Lu’s tone of voice commanded action and the lawyer appeared much more quickly than on her previous visit. She transferred the papers to his hands and asked for a receipt acknowledging he had taken possession. He looked at Lu. He was puzzled because this woman was not the meek and withdrawn person that he remembered. Lu was done being a door mat. With a curt nod she turned and headed for the door. On impulse she tossed a comment over her shoulder, “You will keep me informed. Feel free to call and leave a message.” Once in her car a little of the bravado slipped. Looking at her hands she could detect a slight tremor born of repressed panic. She was going to fake it until she made it. Everything had gone smoothly. People had snapped to attention. She was catered to. She had to admit that it felt good to be in charge. Although she was feeling a wave of bravado it started ebbing as she considered her next move.

Checking the time, she estimated that she had at least an hour before her boss would leave for the day. A turn of the key and her car nearly drove itself to her place of employment. The lot was almost full. She had never failed to get a spot in the first row but now found herself parked in the far corner with the prospect of a long cold walk to the building. Looking for her gloves brought the realization that she’d left them in the phone store. On any other day, she would have taken that as a sign that she needed to abort her mission. Today it pushed her forward. Her pass key in her hand and hands jammed into coat pockets, she headed inside. The security guard was at his post and she nodded and swiped her card but the door didn’t click open. She tried again. Lu felt the familiar tingle of panic and a tightening of her throat as the guard approached. “Good morning Ms. Dupin. Is there a problem?” Normally she would have turned and run, instead she managed a hoarse affirmative and an explanation that her card wasn’t working. She noticed for the first time that his badge had his name on it, Angelo. She looked at his face. He was smiling and had happy wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. She blushed. He reached past her and with his card let her in. He even held the door for her. She was flustered and she felt her face getting warmer. She dropped her gaze as she muttered a soft “Thank-you.” The elevator was already at the lobby just waiting for a passenger. With relief she entered. She hated to ride with other people. So much so that she would take the stairs all the way to the 6th floor. Today was her lucky day she told herself. The soft chime indicated her floor and the doors opened to a familiar sight of file cabinets and cubicles. She turned left and headed to the frosted glass that was the location of her boss’ office. As she rounded the partition the normal murmur and hum of the office went silent. It was as if the sound tract had been placed on mute. Lu paused briefly and considered if her stress had finally caught up to her. Looking into the cubicle city she saw what looked like a hundred eyes staring at her. She shifted her attention to the office door. The frosted glass couldn’t hide the fact that he boss was at her desk. She knocked and entered without waiting for the invitation.

Lu is turning the corner. I think she has discovered her spine and maybe a little seldom used courage…It is amazing how a smidgen of self confidence can make a person that much more attractive!