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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Young Adult · #1327118
James has to take in a daughter he never knew he had...
James tossed the folded paper on his nightstand then doubled his figure on his thighs. He ran his trembling hands over his face and gave a heavy sigh. “Oh dear God,” The muffled words escaped through his palms. “I need you now.” He rubbed his face again then picked up the letter he’d received from his old high school girlfriend’s mother. “She’s yours Jaime, I’m sure of it. Now, I need you to take her because there’s no one else. She needs you more than she knows…” The letter continued for another page and a half but James couldn’t bring himself to reread it. The girl he’d loved in high school, Maria, was dead and her mother, Eugenia, had sent him this letter asking him to take full custody of a daughter he’d never known but worse, had never known he had. It was too much. The letter didn’t even say how Maria had died. Simply that Jamie, his daughter, was preparing to leave so her father, James himself, could raise her. “I’m sure you’ll find,” Eugenia had written. “That it’s hard to believe Maria had anything to do with Jamie’s birth at all. She’s yours from head to foot and if you don’t know it at first glance, then you must be a little unorthodox and I’d thank you to send her back…” That was Eugenia’s dry sense of humor. James had always hated it. Eugenia was one of the many reasons James and Maria had broken up in the first place. “He just doesn’t have much money!” Eugenia had shouted to Maria from the kitchen when James went to meet her. James chuckled dryly despite his current situation. Eugenia would have loved to see him then. At twenty-five, he’d been out of college for nearly three years and he already owned one of the most successful company’s in Georgia. The first chance he’d gotten, James had left the boys home in California and gone to Morehouse in Atlanta where, he felt, his life actually started. Going to school so far away was the main factor in the break up but also because James knew he couldn’t deal with Eugenia telling Maria she was wasting her time any longer. Morehouse was not only a great school but a great excuse to end the relationship as well. As James suspected, all contact with Maria was cut off when he went to school and by the end of his first year there, Maria was a distant memory. James hadn’t had anywhere to go during the summer and he was invited to go home to Mobile, Alabama with his roommate, DeShawn. It was there that James got a true sense of family. They’d accepted him at once and DeShawn’s mother had even begun making personal phone calls to James as if he was her own son. James had loved it and in his sophomore year, when DeShawn transferred to a community college in Mobile because his girlfriend was pregnant, Melanie, DeShawn’s mother still called to check up on him.
         James ran his hands over his face one more time. The day had been going great. He’d done interviews with magazines and newspapers that called Murdock & Co. ‘one of the fastest growing companies in Georgia’. James had loved every minute of his day but it had been ruined by the short trip to the mailbox. “I hear you own your own company now. That’s great. I’m sure you’ll have no problem taking care of this minor, and by minor, I mean small, nuisance…” James had found his hands balling into fists as he read that sentence. Sure, he hadn’t known about his daughter until now but that was no reason to refer to her as a ‘nuisance’ as if she’d been born solely to be some type of burden on everyone. He didn’t even know Jamie but he knew his daughter was no nuisance. “Of course, should you prefer not to take her, other means of getting by can be arranged. I’m quite willing to allow you to pay child support. Maria never wanted to bother you with checks however, Maria is dead…” James hadn’t been too fond of that statement either. “The last and final alternative is that we put dear Jamie in a girl’s home. There are a few good ones in Tennessee, I hear. That’s not too far away should you choose to actually visit…” James made a noise in the back of his throat. Eugenia knew the last thing he’d ever do was put Jamie in a foster home and he didn’t want to deal with money coming straight from his paycheck every two weeks. Of course, he would take her. He’d known that the moment he’d finished the letter. She was his daughter and now that her mother was dead, she was his responsibility. James buried his face in his hands once again. Maria, dead. He wondered once more, how she’d died and why on earth she’d never told him she’d been pregnant. Oh father, James’s heart cried out from within him. I need your help. This is a big one and I’m pretty sure you know what to do a little better than me.

James leaned back in the black, leather-cushioned seat and rested his arm on the armrest as he ran his fingers across his chin. “I truly think, Mr. Murdock that this plan is the best way to go. If people feel like their being served instead of helped, it’ll make them more eager to work with this company.” James stared at the young man, Mikal Wright, in thought as he listened to his proposal. As lead representative, Mikal was definitely qualified to come up with ideas on how to improve the company. James sighed then put his hands up lightly. “I like it.” He said and Mikal unconsciously let out a sigh of relief as he nodded. James saw he was trying to hold in his smile. “Members of the board, vote this new procedure in with yes or no, yes meaning you like it, no meaning you don’t.” The room filled with ‘yes’s’ and James smiled at Mikal. “Sounds like you’ve got some work to do, training your staff on this new procedure but so far it’s a go. I want your notes from that meeting with Glen Bakery on my desk by this afternoon, though; I’d like to know a little more in depth how that went. Also, when your first rep uses your new procedure, get with Hannah and schedule a meeting with me to let me know how it goes, alright?” Mikal nodded. “Yes sir. I’ll get on it right away.”
“Good. Anything else?” James said tapping the table and the members of his board looked around. “Mr. Murdock?” James looked then pointed at Greg, whom had spoken. “Yes? Greg.” Greg sighed lightly. “At the last meeting, you said you wanted us to do background checks on all of the business owner’s before we began working with them.”
“Yeah, I said that. I’m glad you made a note of that. How are you comin’ on that?” Greg hesitated. “Well, sir, in all honesty, I haven’t been doing it.” James looked at him through eyes that revealed his shock, as did most other members of the board. “You haven’t been working on it? Why not? Did I not make your assignment clear?”
“Yes sir, you did—”
“—And you told me you’d do it, right?”
“Yes sir, I did but—”
“—And now you’re tellin’ me that despite all that, you just decided not to do it and you’re tellin’ me about it now instead of scheduling an appointment with me through Hannah to discuss your concerns? Is that correct?” Greg held his head down. “Well, yes sir but I—”
“—That’s not the way we handle things Greg and I think you know that. If you tell me you’re gonna do somethin’, you do it. That’s your job. If you feel incapable of doing it, don’t take the job and if you take it and change your mind, it’s your job to let me know as soon as possible. Is that clear?”
“Yes but this is as soon as possible.” James chuckled lightly. “That’s unacceptable. You do what you’re paid to do and address me formally about an issue. Not this way. Understand?” Greg sighed. “Yes… sir.” James nodded. “Good. Now, is there anything we’re missing? Hannah?” James said looking at Hannah, his secretary. She looked down at her paper. “It’s all covered Mr. Murdock. Would you like to go over the minutes?”
“Sure, do a quick recap.”
“We discussed the possibility of a second location, then Mr. Wright presented his new proposal for the representative department. The board voted his proposal a go. Then Mr. Hickenbottom brought up the background checks. It was not discussed.” James ran a hand over his face. “Is there anything else?” James asked looking around at the members and Jackie raised her hand. “Mr. Murdock, I have a question.”
“With the new location, have you filled spots yet?”
“The thing is, Jackie, I’m not seeing the new location as big as this one is. It’s gonna be a small town business for small town businesses, you see what I’m sayin’?” Everyone nodded. “When we decide where it’s going to be located and when it’ll be built, I’ll start looking into someone to head that up.”
“Will you be choosing someone from here?” Greg asked and James smiled. “I don’t know yet. I’ll be looking into the criteria of potential managers and we’ll go from there. It’s not somethin’ to get riled up over. This is still pretty farfetched.” Everyone nodded. “Mr. Murdock?” Thomas Haynes said and James nodded at him. “Yeah, Tom?”
“What are the locations your looking at?”
“Clark County, Georgia. Hyattsville, Tennessee, and Uriah, Alabama. Those are just three.” Everyone nodded as they scribbled on their notepads. James smiled. “All hearts clear?” He said and the members chuckled. “Good, well. Have a good day at work and I’ll see you next meeting.” James said then stood quickly and walked out, Hannah following quickly behind him. Greg slapped his hands down on the table and sighed heavily. “I hate workin’ for kids and this is why.”
“If you’re not doin’ your job, Greg, he has to correct you.” Jackie stated as she put her things together. “Who is he to correct me? If I had it my way, someone more experienced would be runnin’ this business.”
“He started it, you don’t get more experience than that.”
“He’s still a kid. Who is he to tell me what I should and shouldn’t be doing?” Mikal chuckled as he closed his briefcase. “Only your boss.” He said then picked his briefcase up. “Good bye everyone.”
“Bye Mike!”
“See ya Mikal.” Mikal left with his secretary following him. Greg balled his hands into tight fists. “I’m gonna own that new location and once I get the clout, I’ll see to it that James is put out of this business for good.”
“Whatever.” Jackie said as she stood to leave. “None of us have time to listen to this nonsense.” She said then left.
         Mikal knocked on the door to James’s office. “You wanted to see me sir?”
“Yeah, come in.” Mikal walked in and closed the door behind him. “Yes sir?”
“I’m very impressed with the presentation you gave today.” Mikal didn’t try to hide his smile. “Thank you sir.”
“Sure. I can see you put a lot of time and effort into it. I like the way you presented it as well. You show true leadership qualities.” Mikal chuckled. “I learned from the best, sir.” James chuckled. “Flattery doesn’t get you a raise.” James said and Mikal laughed relaxing a little. “Honestly, you taught me what I know about this business.” James looked at him through his eyelids. “I know… and you’ve done everything I’ve taught you.” James sat his pen down and leaned back in his seat. “Here’s the thing. I know you’re used to working with the people and being on the floor and heading a company takes a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work. But I like the leadership qualities that I see in you. If I were to ask you to manage Murdock & Co. location two, what would you say?” Mikal sat speechless. “You’d want me to?” James shrugged as he flipped through the pages of Mikal’s file. “You’re a single young man, nothin’ holdin’ you to Atlanta. If I needed you to move, I think you would. You show phenomenal leadership qualities and take outstanding initiative. If I asked you to manage this new location, do you think you would accept?”
“Based on the current information, sir? Without a doubt.” James smiled. “That’s what I needed to know. Thank you Mikal.”
“Yes sir.”
“That’s all.”
“Thank you, sir.” James smiled and nodded as Mikal left. James sat up to his desk and pressed a button on his phone. “How may I assist you, Mr. Murdock?” Hannah spoke into the phone. “Can you get Greg Hickenbottom in here, please, Hannah?”
“I’m on it right away.”
“Thank you.”
“Certainly.” The phone clicked and James sat back. His mind wandered to Jamie and he wondered what she could be doing. Eugenia had said she was all packed and ready to leave but James had not responded to her letter. He’d been given the number so he could call and let Eugenia know but he hadn’t been able to pick up the phone. James rubbed roughly at his temples. “Lord, please give me supernatural wisdom because I have no idea what to—”
“—Knock, knock!” Greg said with a wide smile. James forced the issue to the back of his mind and smiled at Greg. “Come in. Have a seat.” Greg closed the door and went and sat in front of James’s desk. “I just saw Mikal. He looked pretty psyched.”
“Well, he just had a million dollar idea pass with the board, I imagine he would be.” Greg laughed as if the joke had been the funniest thing. James tried not to look annoyed. “Hannah says you wanted to see me.”
“I did- I do. I wanted to talk to you about today’s meeting.” Greg smiled widely. “I think the new location is a great idea.” James looked at him oddly. “What?”
“The new location? I think it’s a great idea.” James nodded. “Oh, yeah. That. Well, that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. I didn’t want to embarrass you in front of the board, Greg, but this lack of commitment was very unacceptable.” Greg stared at him. “In the past, we’ve had people framing as a small business owner simply to gain money from us. This, of course, makes the company lose money that we’re not able to get back. We have to count it as stolen money. Now, as the proprietor of this business, I have to have an account for every cent when I sit down with my accountant and every cent that’s not accounted for puts me in some deal of trouble. Are you seeing where I’m going with this?” Greg gave a slight nod, obviously perturbed. James pretended not to notice. “When I presented the new position of background checking, you gladly volunteered to take it on along with your other responsibilities. Yet, now, when I need you to show me your work, you say you haven’t done anything. You’ve had this assignment for a little over two months, so now I’m giving you one opportunity to try to give me a good reason why this wasn’t done.”
“One opportunity?”
“Yes, an opportunity to explain so I won’t fire you.” Greg’s eyes widened. “Fire me? Mr. Murdock—”
“—I can’t afford slackers in my company Mr. Hickenbottom. Would you like to try to explain or not.” Greg nodded emphatically and James rested his chin on his fists. “I’m listening.”
“The companies felt like we’d be saying we didn’t trust them by doing the background checks—”
“—How do you know that?” James asked bluntly and Greg looked shocked. “W-Well, I asked them how they would feel about it—”
“—OK, now, did I tell you to do that?” Greg stared at James, his mouth gaped in shock. “Well, n-no but I thought… I th-thought that I… that you would…”
“Do you see the mistake you made?” James asked honestly and Greg stared at him. “The thing is, Greg, I didn’t tell you to ask how they feel about background checks because it’s irrelevant. Getting their opinion on this matter is a waste of time, yours and mine, because it’s gonna happen whether they like it or not, you see what I’m sayin’? So all you needed to do was do what I told you to do without all the extra nonsense. And even if you felt this strongly about it, what should you have done instead of waiting until the last minute?” Greg said nothing but only stared at James in disbelief. “Come on, what should you have done? This is a learning experience.” Greg sighed lightly. “Talked to you about it.” He mumbled and James nodded. “Exactly. So we know what you should do next time, correct?” Greg nodded. “Good. As of now, you are no longer doing background checks though, I’ve given the job to Glenda, and you will not receive the pay for the work you should’ve done already. Do you understand why I’m doin’ that?” As much as Greg wanted to say he didn’t, he nodded. “Good. That’s really all I wanted. Was there anything on your mind you wanted to discuss? Anything you think I did unfairly? Let’s talk about it now so you don’t feel compelled to get outside and talk about me behind my back.” Greg shook his head. “There’s nothin’.” He said standing up and James nodded. “Alright then, I’ll see you later.” Greg walked out quickly and James sighed lightly. He knew he’d done the right thing but he saw the humiliation on Greg’s face. It couldn’t have been avoided. James thought then smiled lightly. Thank you Lord for that encouraging thought, I needed that.

James found his leg shaking nervously as he sat in his living room on the phone. “Hola?” A heavily accented, female voice spoke into the receiver. James tried not to hesitate. “Hi, may I speak to Eugenia?”
“You got her. Whose this?”
“Ms. Eugenia, this is James.”
“Jaime! Hi there!” James sighed lightly. Eugenia had been saying his name in Spanish since the first time they’d met. “I got your letter.” He said as strongly as he could and Eugenia chuckled. “My, never mind the small talk, eh?”
“I’m sorry but your letter sounded urgent.”
“It’s an urgent matter. I simply cannot keep the baby with me.”
“That’s the thing, see, I’d love to have a life with her and get to know her but to move her away from her life and friends? I don’t think I can do that.”
“Oh Jaime—”
“—I’ve given this a lot of thought, Ms. Eugenia and I wanna see her in state custody about as much as I wanna file bankruptcy. I’m really hopin’ we can settle this in some way where no one gets hurt or feels burdened.”
“I’ll feel hurt and burdened if she stays here and if she has to go to Tennessee, she’ll feel hurt. It’s up to you now, Jaime, I’ve told you that. The decision’s yours now.” James sighed heavily. “Eugenia, you don’t understand. Who am I to change this girls life?”
“You’re not! What don’t you see? She wants to live with you, Jaime! She needs you!” James dropped his head in his free hand. “Eugenia, please. Don’t do this to me.”
“Por qué? You have a life? Well I had a life and then my daughter died. I don’t have time to figure out what to do, I can’t keep her. ¡La chica es suyo!” Eugenia and James sighed at the same time. “How’d she die?” James asked slowly and Eugenia took a deep breath. “Accident.”
“No. She was surfing. Her foot was hooked to the board and she went under. There was no one around except Jamie but by the time she got to her, she was already dead.” James covered his eyes trying to block out the images. “Jamie hasn’t gone near the water since.” Eugenia stated. James prayed quietly hoping that what he felt in his heart was truly the right decision to make…

“Mr. Murdock?” Hannah repeated for what she felt was the fiftieth time. James looked at her quickly. “Yes? What do you need?” She sighed. “I was just asking you about your nine o’ clock phone conference. Would you like to prepare for it?” James let his thoughts run away again. I don’t know anything about girls, young or otherwise. How am I supposed to raise one? “Mr. Murdock?” God, I need your help. I have no clue what I’m doing and she’s gonna be here Saturday. The slam the books made when Hannah dropped them in front of James on his desk made his eyes jump towards her. “What’s up?” She sat down with a smile. “There’s a woman in your life, isn’t there, Mr. Murdock?” James chuckled dryly. “You are so right but it is absolutely not what you’re thinkin’.” She stared at him. “What is it then? Can you tell me?” James sighed lightly. “Hannah, I have no earthly idea what I’m doin’. When I graduated from high school, my girlfriend was pregnant and she never told me. Her mother wrote me last week and told me that she died three weeks ago and she needs me to take in my daughter, whom I’ve never met nor did I know she existed.” Hannah sat in disbelief. “Wow, what a situation.”
“Yeah, it is. I don’t know the first thing about little girls,”
“Well, how old is she?” James shrugged. “Especially not this girl.” He said finishing his last sentence and Hannah nodded that she understood. “Well, take a guess. She was born sometime after you graduated from high school…. So?” James shrugged. “Maybe six or so.”
“Wow. She’s probably still trying to figure herself out.”
“Is that what most girls her age are doing?” Hannah nodded. “She’s lost her mother and if she’s older, she’s gonna need a woman she can talk to soon.”
“What if she’s not?”
“Then you’re in pretty good shape.” James dropped his head on his desk. “How am I gonna do this?” He mumbled. Hannah hesitated then placed her hand on his head. “It’ll be fine, sir. God’ll help you.” He looked up at her quickly making her yank her hand back. “You’re saved?”
“Of course. This is a Christian owned business.”
“Yet I didn’t know everyone that worked here was a Christian.”
“Why do you think you always walk into such a peaceful environment when you first get here? I have this building prayed up long before your alarm clock even goes off in the morning.” James smiled at her and when she smiled back, something shot through him. “God is so attractive on some people.” He whispered, more to himself. Hannah looked at him oddly. “What?”
“Huh? Nothin’. Thank you for your advice.”
“Your welcome. Do you wanna get ready for your nine o’ clock phone conference?” With a light sigh, James shook his head. “No, I want you to postpone all my meetings. If they won’t reschedule, cancel. I’m gonna spend the day decorating my daughters room.” Hannah smiled widely loving the new side of him she was seeing for the first time. “That’s really sweet. What’s her favorite color?”
“Don’t all little girls like pink?” Hannah chuckled. “Not quite. Maybe you should call and ask.”
“Oh no. I want this to be a surprise. Little girls like pink, don’t they?”
“Every girl has a different color. Some might hate pink and love orange—”
“—Orange! What little girl likes orange?” Hannah laughed again. “Some do. You should make sure.” James sighed. “I should, shouldn’t I? Will you get Eugenia on the phone for me while I pack up? Oh, and, she’ll answer the phone in Spanish but she speaks English. Do you mind?”
“Not at all.” Hannah stood then walked out of his office after getting the number. In a moment, she was on the intercom of his phone. “Mr. Murdock?”
“Hey Hannah.”
“Eugenia Rúiz is on line one.”
“Thank you.” James said picking up his phone and pressing the ‘line 1’ button. “Eugenia?”
“Don’t tell me you changed your mind.”
“Of course not. How old is Jamie?”
“How old is she.”
“Six. Why?”
“What’s her favorite color?”
“How should I know?”
“You live with her, don’t you? You’ve known her all her life.” Eugenia sighed heavily. “Who’s asking?”
“Her father.” James said then smiled enjoying the way it sounded on his lips. How ‘bout that, I’m somebody’s father. With another sigh, Eugenia answered. “I’d say purple.”
“Yeah, she wants everything in it.”
“OK. Thank you.” James said then hung up before Eugenia could make another smart comment. James closed his briefcase then turned and walked from his office. He stopped by Hannah’s desk then turned and looked at her with a smile. “Purple.” James said and Hannah smiled. “Purple.” She repeated then laughed. James chuckled as he shook his head. “What kind of stuff does a six year old girl like?”
“She’s six?” James nodded. “I don’t know. Cute stuff, I guess. Fuzzy picture frames, maybe Bratz, and lot’s of flower power, Barbie, cute things.” James nodded. “What else?”
“Oh Mr. Murdock, I’m sure everything you put in her room will be perfect.” James smiled at her. “Thanks Hannah. I’ll let you know how it goes.”
“Just call if you need more time off.”
“Certainly. See ya.”
“Bye.” James walked out. His entire drive to the mall was a quiet one. He tried to imagine how to do the room for her. The room where she would be, right next to his, had been used as a game room when he’d taken on a roommate but after his roommate graduated and moved out, Mikal moved the game system, which he hardly ever played anymore, back to the living room with the TV. He’d given the second TV to the children’s ministry at his church and now there was hardly anything in the room. James knew he had to buy a bed and furniture but he had a good idea of what he wanted to do before he put any furniture in the room.

James walked by the front desk and saw Hannah wasn’t there. He stepped into his office and a feeling of true contentment overtook him. He smiled as he sat his briefcase down. Hannah has my office all ‘prayed up’. He thought as he sat at his desk and went over the pink slips of paper that were waiting for him alerting him that he had messages. “Oh! Good morning Mr. Murdock!” Hannah said as she stepped into his office. He looked up at her and chuckled. “Good morning, Hannah. How’s it goin’?”
“Awesome. How are you this morning? Did you sleep well?” She asked as she walked over and unpacked his briefcase. James chuckled again. “I’m great. And yes, I slept very well last night.”
“Did you have a productive day yesterday?” With a wide grin, James nodded. “It was great. As a matter of fact, so great, that I wanted to celebrate.” His smile had faded and he sat nervously at his desk. “Uh, I was thinkin’ that maybe we could um… we could grab a bite to eat then I could show you the room.” Hannah shifted to one foot and stared at James with a light smile. “Are you askin’ me out?” She asked curiously and James chuckled nervously then gave a light sigh. “No and yes. I’m askin’ you to come celebrate with me. I look a lot different outside of my suits.” Hannah chuckled. “I’d love to. When?”
“Tonight at seven. I’ll pick you up around six thirty.”
“I’ll be ready.” Hannah said then turned and walked towards the door. When she got there, she swung around quickly. “Oh yeah! You have an eight o’ clock phone conference with Mrs. Anderson.”
“OK. Thanks, I’ll be ready in a moment.” Hannah smiled at him then walked out. Less than a minute later, there was a knock on his open door. “Mr. Murdock?” James looked up quickly and smiled. “Tom! Hey! Come on in.”
“I need to talk to you.” He said quietly and James nodded. Thomas walked in and closed the door. “I don’t know how to tell you this,” Thomas said then sighed lightly as he rubbed at his head. James leaned on his desk. “What? What is it?” Thomas sighed again as he shook his head. “I just gotta be frank.”
“Please do.” Thomas looked at him and met his eyes. “I don’t want this to look like I’m coming off wrong but if I don’t tell you, I could lose my job. I’m comin’ to you anomis-anonee- anonymously.”
“I understand.” With another sigh, Thomas spoke. “James, Glenda’s workin’ both sides.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s workin’ over here as a representative and working with small business companies to get money. If she can hook up with the right company, get them in, then she can manage to get 65% of the intake.” James sat in disbelief. “Would she do that to me?”
“Unfortunately yes. Honestly, I’ve known for a while and when I found out you put her over background checks, I knew I had to tell you. I’ve been battling this for a while.” James bit his lip gently. “How do you know, Thomas?”
“We kind of dated and she offered to cut me in on it. We broke up, of course, because my loyalty’s to you.” James nodded then leaned back. “Thank you, Tom.” Thomas nodded. “You can always check into it.”
“So far, we’ve had two fraudulent companies receive checks from us. Glenda’s worked with each of them and handled the deals herself. When the deal was passed, she received an extra $500.00 in her account each time that she told me about. She’s on a program where she requests her check to be deposited directly into her account so you have all the information. You can call the bank with the dates and look it up if you don’t believe me.” James pressed a button on his phone to get in touch with Hannah. “Yes Mr. Murdock?”
“Will you get Dillon on the phone, please?”
“Sure, Mr. Murdock.” The phone clicked. “Whose Dillon?”
“My accountant. He does payroll. Thank you Thomas.” Thomas nodded. “Sure. I’d like to keep this anonymous, too, Mr. Murdock.”
“Of course.” Thomas stood and shook James’s hand. “See you later.”
“Yeah.” James dropped his head in his hands and prayed fervently. “Mr. Murdock?” Hannah’s voice spoke and James answered. “Dillon Matthews, line one.”
“Thank you. Hannah, what are you doing?”
“What would you like me to be doing, sir?”
“I need you to pray.”
“Consider it done.”
“Thank you.”
“Is that all?”
“OK, line one, sir.”
“Thanks.” The phone clicked and James picked up the phone and pressed the flashing button. “James Murdock speaking.”
“James. Dillon. What’s up?”
“Hey, Dill. I need information on an employee.”
“Which one?”
“Glenda Clarke.”
“Hold on, I’m putting her in my computer now.” James waited as patiently as he could. “What do you need?” Dillon asked. “I need to know if any extra, strange money came into her account.” James could hear Dillon typing and soon, he was on his cell phone talking to who James guessed was a banker. “James?”
“Yeah, I’m here.”
“OK. This is weird, on August second, an extra thousand dollars showed up in her balance. Twelve hundred showed up on January sixteenth. I’m not sure where this money came from and the bank won’t tell me the source. You were looking for strange money? This is definitely strange.” James sighed heavily. “Do you have those records stored in your computer?”
“I’m lookin’ at ‘em now.”
“Can you fax ‘em over to me?”
“Yes I can. They’re on the way.”
“Thanks Dillon.”
“That’s what I’m here for.” James hung up the phone then ran his hands over his face. He hated having to fire any of his employees but he knew he had to do what needed to be done. The fax came directly into his office about ten minutes later. James looked over the information then pushed it to the back of his mind. After his phone conference with a sponsor, he studied the information more. After looking up information on Glenda, he found that she’d had problems in high school with an owner of a McDonald’s and had been fired for stealing money from the cash register. A similar situation had occurred in college where she’d been fired for stealing merchandise from a clothing company. James kept all of these documents and reviewed them thoroughly before having Hannah call Glenda into his office. When she came in, she smiled. “Hi Mr. Murdock.” She said closing the door and leaning against it. James didn’t force the smile that wasn’t there. “Sit down, Glenda.” With a seductive grin on her face, she walked towards his desk and sat down and crossed her legs. “You wanted to… see me?” James sighed. “I’m gonna try this the easy way. If there’s anything you want to say to me, say it now.” Glenda chuckled and tossed her hair. “It, now.” James crossed his arms, unamused. “I’m serious. Anything at all, I don’t care what it is, tell me.” Glenda suddenly began looking very serious. “There’s nothing. Why?” James met her eyes. “You’ve been stealing from me.” James said frankly and Glenda’s eyes widened. “What?”
“You’ve been stealing from me! I checked it Glenda! I checked and double-checked and had other people check and double-check! Do these checks look familiar to you?” James said tossing a piece of paper towards her with photocopied checks on them. She gasped then looked at him. “Mr. Murdock, I’m sorry. I’ll do anything to make it up to you, anything. I can’t lose my job. I have three kids and no husband. They’re all expecting something for Christmas and if there’s nothing there—”
“—I’m sorry, Glenda. I really am but I have a daughter that is expecting a lot more than something for Christmas from me and I can’t risk losin’ anymore money.”
“Please, Mr. Murdock, I beg you. Let me make it up to you.” James shook his head. “I don’t think you can.”
“Let me try. I’ll clean your house, I’ll pay back all the money, and I’ll never let another company through just please. Don’t do this. Trust me.” James shrugged then sighed. “I did. I don’t anymore.” She held her head down and sniffed. “Glenda, I’m sorry. But you’re fired.” She lifted her hand to her eyes and wiped them. James sighed lightly. “You have the rest of the week to clear out your stuff. I want you completely gone by Monday and if you leave quietly, I won’t get the police involved.” She nodded then stood and walked out slowly. When she left, Hannah walked in looking worried. “I came to pack your briefcase for your meeting at ten.” James buried his face in his hands and sighed heavily. He’d never felt worse. Hannah stared at him. “Today is supposed to be a celebration day, James.” James looked up quickly. It was the first time he’d ever heard Hannah call him by his first name and he loved the way it sounded on her lips. “What’d you say?”
“Today’s supposed to be a celebration day and I was excited.” He smiled. “I don’t wanna drench your excitement. Will you close the door?” Hannah did as he asked then went and stood in front of his desk. “I’m tellin’ you this in confidence.” He whispered then handed her the information he’d been studying that day. As Hannah began to understand, her mouth dropped and she finally looked at James in disbelief. “You mean Glenda—”
“—She’s been stealin’ from the company.” Hannah shook her head. “I’m sorry.” He shrugged as he took the papers back from her and placed them in a manila envelope, which he’d pulled and labeled specifically for these papers. Hannah sat in front of him. “How do you feel?” James sighed. “I just had to fire one of my best employees. It doesn’t feel good but I know God’ll provide for me.”
“Yes He will, James. I believe that.” James smiled at her. “Thank you, Hannah. That means a lot.” She glanced away then met his eyes. “Is tonight still OK or should we post pone?” He smiled lightly. “I don’t wanna cancel tonight for anything in the world.” He whispered and Hannah smiled widely. “Good,” She said then stood and tossed him a sideways glance. “Me either.” She said quietly then bit her lip as she packed his briefcase. James stood up and stretched. Hannah couldn’t help noticing how much his large frame extended over her. When he relaxed, she quickly looked away.
James turned and looked out of the window with his hands in his pockets. He was truly thankful for all God had given him and all he knew God would give him in the future. He’d already made his first million and had received a write up in magazines and newspapers for being the youngest millionaire in corporate America. Besides a family of his own, James could think of very little else that he wanted. Hannah cleared her throat lightly behind him. “Mr. Murdock?”
“Yeah?” James said as he stared out at the city of Atlanta. “Your briefcase is ready.”
“Thank you Hannah.”
“Your welcome.” She paused as she stared at him. “Everything OK?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“Yes sir.” She said then turned and left. James sighed lightly as he stared out the window. He was satisfied with his life. His thoughts instantly turned to Jamie. He wanted to be a great dad to her. He thought about the work he’d done in the room the day before. The purple had contrasted with the bachelor air his home possessed but he often found himself going and sitting in his daughter’s room just to get used to the fact that she was, in fact, real. He longed to see her and touch her. He wanted a relationship with her and he knew the desire had only come from God. He bowed his head and prayed that God would give him wisdom and direction for every situation he would encounter with this challenge of raising a daughter on his own.

Hannah could barely believe her eyes. James had told her he looked a lot different outside of his suits but now, she barely recognized him. He was walking calmly up to her front door wearing a baby blue and red Sean Jean t-shirt with a thick silver chain around his neck. He wore dark, baggy blue jeans that fell over his baby blue Timberland boots, which had red shoestrings. Over the two years that Hannah had known James; it was then that she realized she’d never seen his car. James drove a midnight blue Hummer, perfect for his large frame. In a moment, he was knocking on the door of her condominium. She had butterflies in her stomach as she opened the door and James smiled at her. “Good evening!” He said cheerfully and Hannah forced herself not to feel as flustered as she knew she looked. “Hi,” She said then glanced at her watch. “Right on time.” James lifted his wrist and looked at his watch, a thick article of jewelry with a red face and diamonds as the numbers. “I guess I’m fast. This says I’m a few minutes late. I was about to apologize.”
“Well, there’s no apology needed. Come on in, I’m almost ready.” James smiled and stepped into her home. “This is nice.” He said as Hannah closed her door. “Thank you. You can sit on the couch, I’ll be right back.”
“Oh, well, where’s your trash can?”
“It’s in the kitchen.” James followed Hannah into the kitchen where she pointed out her trashcan, which was full. “That’s what I thought.” He said with a light smile then began pulling the trash to take it out. Hannah gasped quietly. “Oh, you don’t have to do that!” She said and James smiled lightly as he tied the bag then lifted it and looked at her. “Why should you have to do it if I’m here?” He asked as he looked at her with a raised eyebrow. She exhaled a light chuckle then relaxed a little. “You’re right. Thank you.”
“Dumpster?” He asked and Hannah nodded. “Yeah, it’s not far, if you go out the front door, it’s to the left.”
“OK, you finish gettin’ ready, I’ll be right back.” He said as he headed to the front door. When he returned, James took a seat on her plush, beige furniture and sunk comfortably into it. He looked around then inhaled deeply. Her home had such a nice smell. He found himself not wanting to leave. He leaned his head back against the couch and took another deep breath. Man, he thought. What an awesome smell to go home to everyday. He thought as his mind wondered on what it would be like to always walk into his house taking a deep breath and loving the scent that was caught in his nostrils. “You’re not sleep, are you?” James sat up quickly then smiled at Hannah. “Nope. Just thinkin’.” She chuckled. “Are you tired? We could reschedule.” James chuckled as he stood up. “I told you I wouldn’t cancel this date for anything.” James said then bit his lip gently. “You look really nice.” She smiled. “Thank you.” James nodded. “You ready?”

“So, you wanna eat first or you wanna see the room.”
“Man, James, I’m starvin’.” James chuckled. “Well, let’s eat then. You like fondue restaurants?”
“I’ve never been. Is that where we’re goin’?” James nodded. “Yep. It’s real fun. It’s kinda neat too. You’ll like it.” She smiled. “I’m sure I will.” James smiled as well. “So Hannah, what do you like?” She shifted, sinking comfortably inside the large seat. “I like everything. I like to have fun.”
“Who doesn’t?” James chuckled. “Well, I hope I can give you what you like tonight.” Hannah chuckled. “I’m sure you will.” James shifted in his seat. “So what were you like in college? Were you always like this?” Hannah chuckled. “No! You should’ve seen me my freshman year.”
“You was one of them freshman that came in wit’ yo big ol’ book bag and the cute lil’ outfit and everything.” Hannah laughed. “No, I did not have a big book bag.”
“Yeah you did. You carried yo whole dorm to all yo classes, didn’t you?” She laughed again. “Whatever.” She said and James chuckled. “I’m just messin’ wit’ ya. You probably only had your room in ya little bag.” Hannah laughed again. “No, I just had one of those bags you put over your shoulder. Like a little cute briefcase.”
“Oh, you was one of them girls.”
“One of what girls?” Hannah asked looking at him, a confused look on her face. “You came in all cute and proper and everything.” She laughed again. “You played sports?”
“Um, I ran track my senior year.”
“You went and bought matching workout uniforms too, didn’t you?” Hannah laughed, covering her mouth and James nodded. “I knew it! You’re a little rich girl! Come on and spill it. Who’s your daddy? Come on, who is it? I know it’s one of them rich dudes.” Hannah laughed. “My parents are well off. I never lacked for anything when I was younger.” James nodded. “I hope my daughter can look back and say that.” Hannah smiled at him. “That’s sweet.”
“No,” James said then glanced at her. “That’s real.” Hannah chuckled.

Hannah sat staring wide-eyed at the chef as she sat next to James at the fondue restaurant. It was one of the most exciting experiences she’d ever had. She enjoyed the food and James kept her laughing the entire time. She’d never really gotten to enjoy his full personality but she loved it. There was never a dull moment with him. He made himself so easy to be around. When he didn’t have anything to say, which wasn’t very often, he didn’t force a conversation but when he felt the need to speak, he spoke. He welcomed Hannah’s questions about Jamie and his life with Maria. It didn’t take long for Hannah to realize that James was no longer in love with Maria. Her death had obviously shocked him but he didn’t seem depressed about it. “She wasn’t a bad girlfriend,” James informed Hannah when the show had calmed down and they sat sipping their drinks. “But she was extremely quiet. When I was in high school, I didn’t know how to sit in silence.”
“So, you grew up in foster care, right?” James shook his head as he sipped his drink. “No, a boy’s home. There’s a difference.”
“Oh, excuse me, I’m sorry. Were you always there?” James looked at Hannah and smiled. “Yeah, one day, God just poofed me into this little boys home in Compton.” Hannah nudged him with an embarrassed smile. “You know what I mean.” He chuckled. “Yeah, I know. Nah, I went into Meadley Hall when I was ten.” James said and with that comment, he looked away. Hannah waited for him to finish but he said nothing else. “Do you remember your parents?”
“Of course I do. They were my parents.” She bit her lip. “What were they like?” James looked at her and shook his head. “Let’s stay happy, aight?” Hannah understood perfectly. She knew the story, whatever it was, didn’t have a very happy mood to it and James simply chose not to acknowledge anything less than good in his life. James looked at Hannah again and smiled. “Do you remember your parents?” He asked jokingly and Hannah laughed. “Yes, I do. I grew up with them.”
“What were they like?” She chuckled again. “Well, I told you before, they always wanted what was best for us. They were hard workers. My father is a business owner as well. My folks were pretty disappointed when I became a secretary.”
“I’m sorry.”
“No! No, it’s what I wanted to do. I’m not good at all that goes into owning a business. I’m good at what I’m doing now.” James smiled. “Well, at least you know yourself well enough to realize it. The worst thing you can do is get into a business and have to file bankrupt or close it down. I can’t imagine losing my b- I’m not even gonna speak that. I am so thankful for the life God has given me to live.” Hannah smiled. “That’s awesome.”
“You’re parents are still livin’, right?”
“Yes. Are yours?” James shook his head. “No, but God’s provided me with another lady to take the place of my mother. She’s a doll, I love her.”
“How’d you meet her?”
“Oh, she’s actually my roommate’s from college mom. I went home wit’ him for the holidays and she kinda unofficially adopted me.”
“Aww, that’s cool.” James nodded. “Yeah. I love her.”
“Did you like college?”
“Oh man, I loved college! That was the best time of my life. I got saved in college and from there, my life just got better and better.” Hannah smiled. “God’s awesome, isn’t He?”
“Yeah. How long have you been saved?”
“All my life.”
“Really?” She smiled. “I’m a minister’s kid, James.”
“Whoa! For real?” She chuckled. “I thought you’d like that.”
“I ain’t know that!”
“I know you didn’t.” She chuckled again. “What was that like?” He asked. “Fine. I mean, you can’t miss what you never had. I’ve never known anything else.” James nodded. “I used to wish that I was a preacher’s kid.”
“Really?” Hannah asked turning towards him. “Yeah, but then again, I used to wish I was anybody’s kid except my parents.” Hannah smiled. James looked at her. “You wanna go see the room?”
“Oh! Yeah.” James chuckled then stood and helped Hannah from her seat. He tipped the chef then walked with Hannah and paid for their food. The night air was cool but not cold. When James opened the door for Hannah, she turned towards him. “I just wanna say somethin’ real quick.” James stared at her. “What’s that?”
“I don’t know what happened to you when you were younger,” James’ hand tightened on the door handle and he clenched his teeth so tightly, a muscle in his jaw jerked. “And honestly James, I don’t need to know. But I want you to know that you have my prayers and if you ever want to talk about it, I’m not gonna cry or sulk with you; I’m gonna encourage you.” James stared at her. “Hannah…” He paused as he stared down at his shoes. After a moment, he looked back at her. “I-I’m not sure what made you say that…” James bit his lip gently and Hannah saw something glistening on his gorgeous eyelashes. “But thank you.” He said hoarsely. Hannah nodded. “Your welcome.” She said then grabbed the door trying to get into the vehicle. James helped her in then closed the door. As he walked around, he wiped his eyes. When he got into his truck, he was fine. He turned on his car and, knowing he had nothing to say, turned on the CD player.
         Hannah sat shocked as she waited for James to open her door. His home was beautiful. They were parked in the wraparound driveway and when James opened her door, he explained, “I usually park in the garage but I know I’ll have to take you home, so I’m just gonna leave it here.”
“That’s fine.” Hannah said, almost speechless. She looked up at his huge house as he walked her up to the front door. He unlocked the two locks on his door then opened it. “Come on in.” Hannah walked in and her mouth dropped open. “Oh my God! This is beautiful!” She said and James smiled lightly as he looked around. “It’s a bachelor pad.” He said as he remembered the wonderful smell Hannah’s condominium had. He closed the door and locked it. “The room’s upstairs.” James said then turned and led Hannah up the staircase, turning on lights as he went. He stopped in front of a door that had purple, pink, and yellow glow in the dark flower decors stuck on it. Towards the top of the door was Jamie’s name in big, purple letters. James opened the door and Hannah walked in and gasped. He’d painted the walls a sort of marble, light purple. The twin bed that sat in the middle of the room had a canopy with light purple transparent curtain around it. The dressers were white with purple flowers and there was a rack with teddy bears and other stuffed animals. There were picture frames with scriptures in pretty font hanging all around the room. James bit his lip as Hannah walked around. The main dresser had a huge mirror behind it that was lined with plastic purple flowers. The closet door had been removed and a purple-bead curtain hung in its place. Hannah ran her fingers across the beads, listening to the slight clack they made as she walked over to a huge dollhouse. She opened it slowly and smiled at the dolls and accessories that were in a box inside. She closed it slowly then went to the bed. There was a big, violet pillow in the midst of the purple that had a small, plastic pouch on it for a picture. This spot did not contain a scripture, however. There was a picture of a young woman at a park. James shifted in his spot by the door. “That’s Maria. Should I move that?” Hannah shook her head. “No, I think she’ll love it.” Hannah whispered then looked around the room. She looked at James with a smile. “James, this is beautiful.”
“You think she’ll like it?” Hannah happened to glance up at the ceiling and saw that there were glow in the dark stars stuck to it. “Oh.” James said then turned the light out and the room was illuminated by the pale glow that the multicolored stars cast on the room. Hannah looked at James. “She’ll love it.” He smiled. “That’s what I want. I wanna give her a life better than I had.” James said as he stared up at the ceiling. Hannah chuckled lightly. “This is a good start.” James turned the light back on then looked at her, a serious expression on his face. “How can you love someone you’ve never met so strongly?”
“She’s a part of you, James.” He shook his head. “I don’t even know what she looks like but I know that I’ll do anything to see her smile.” Hannah smiled at him. “You sound like a true father.” He tilted his head and looked at her. “Do I?”
“A good one?”
“No.” James dropped his head. “A great one.” He looked up quickly and a smile covered his face. “I wanna make her happy.” Hannah looked around the room once more. “She will be. I can almost guarantee it.”
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