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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Inspirational · #1332347
The second chapter.

James shifted nervously as he stood waiting at the gate. Because Jamie was a minor, he’d been allowed to go through and wait for her at the gate. He’d watched the plane land and pull up to the terminal and now, he watched the many passengers get off. After what seemed like an eternity, a flight attendant came through the terminal with a young girl next to her. James walked to them quickly. “I’m James Murdock.” He told the flight attendant. “Thank you.” She nodded. “Have a good afternoon.”
“You too.” James said and as soon as the flight attendant left, James looked down at the little girl, who was staring up at him with wide eyes. Realizing how much size he had over her, he quickly dropped to one knee. “Jamie, I guess.” She nodded. James smiled as he stared into her beautiful brown eyes. Her eyes, James had no problem admitting, seemed to be the only contribution Maria gave to her looks. From head to foot, Jamie was the female version of him. He bit his lip gently then smoothed her thick, black hair back so her ponytail looked neater. “I’m your dad.” She nodded. “Abuelita said I was gonna live with my papá.” She said and James smiled. Her voice was more melodic than any sound he’d ever heard. “How do you feel about that?” He asked. Jamie looked him over, obviously in deep thought. “Are you gonna be nice to me?” She asked and with a smile, James nodded. “Then I feel OK about that. Abuelita said you had a gazillion bazillion dollars.” James chuckled. “Not yet.”
“She said you could took care of me.”
“I can take care of you. I want to take care of you.” Jamie bit her lip gently, reminding James of himself. After a moment, she finally smiled. “OK… papá.” James chuckled then stood up and held out his hand. Jamie clasped it tightly and, taking her bag, James led her out of the airport. Upon seeing his truck, her eyes widened and she gasped. “I didn’t know they made cars that big.” James chuckled. “I hope you don’t mind too much.”
“Oh no! Can I ride up front?”
“Sure. Where else would you ride?”
“Abuelita made me ride in the back seat some times. She said some people didn’t understand why I had darker skin than her.” James found his hands balling into fists but he managed to relax as he stuffed Jamie’s few bags into the backseat. “Well,” He said. “You’ll find out quickly that people hardly realize it.” Jamie smiled as James helped her into the passenger seat then went around. He got in then cranked up the car. “Put your seatbelt on, ok?” James said and with a smile, Jamie obeyed. She loved James’ Hummer and as they drove, James knew that she would love Atlanta. “Am I gonna go to school?”
“Yes. Is that OK with you?”
“Oh yes. I love school.”
“I already enrolled you but you’ll start on Tuesday.”
“Why not Monday?”
“I thought maybe we could spend Monday together.” Jamie smiled. “That sounds great.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
         Jamie gasped as she walked into her room. She’d nearly screamed at the sight of the house but her room made her squeal even more. “And it’s all purple!” She yelled as she spun around, her teddy bear backpack purse flying behind her. She stopped spinning then danced over to the bed then squealed with delight. “Mamá!” She yelled as she grabbed the pillow and hugged it to her chest. For a moment, James thought he saw sadness but if it was ever there, it disappeared quickly. “Tio Tony said that Mamá was in a better place so I shouldn’t be sad.” She said as she looked at the picture of Maria. James nodded as he walked over to a small purple chair and sat down. “Who’s Tio Tony?” James asked casually, aware that Maria was an only child. “He was mamá’s best friend and she said they were like brother and sister. He had a boyfriend though and mamá said some people just had different views but that didn’t make them bad. Abuelita didn’t like it when Tio Tony had to watch me because she said that he was ‘one of the weird ones’.”
“Well, I’m sure your Tio Tony is a nice man but men don’t have boyfriends and women don’t have girlfriends, OK?” She nodded. “That’s what Abuelita says.” Abuelita was actually right about that one thing. James thought of saying but decided not to. “Abuelita was right, then.” Jamie dropped the pillow then went and hugged James. For a second, James felt frozen and then he put his arms around the little girl and held her to him. She was so tiny and felt so fragile in his arms but he loved her. He loved everything about her and knew from that moment on, he would do whatever needed to be done to make sure she was safe and happy, no matter what.

Jamie’s first Sunday at church, she clung tight to James’ side, refusing profusely to go into the children’s church. James didn’t mind but he worried about Jamie’s lack of communication with other people. He wanted the best for her but he knew she wouldn’t be able to function well in a private school if she distanced herself from people. She sat quietly through the sermon and highlighted the scriptures in James’ bible as the pastor read them. James kept an arm around her shoulder. He wanted her to feel as safe as he knew he’d make sure she was. After church, James introduced her to some of the women and children, hoping that she’d find enough female role models in the church. Jamie seemed to take nicely to everyone but she still didn’t go too far from James’ side. He tried to encourage her to meet and play with the other kids but she wouldn’t go. At the first chance she got, Jamie was in James’ Hummer waiting patiently for him. James went and got in the car then paused before starting it. He turned to Jamie. “Did you enjoy service?” He asked and Jamie nodded without looking up. “Mamá never took me to church before.” She said quietly. James stared at her. “Did she say why?”
“Abuelita didn’t like it. She said they expected too much from people. She said if they knew I only had a mamá, they would treat me different. She said when I got here, they would think bad of me ‘cause I only have a papá and I’m not the same color as you.” Jamie said holding out her hand to confirm her statement. James was clenching his jaw so tightly that a muscle jerked in it. He could feel his blood heating up. He didn’t want anything to hurt this little girl and here she was feeling guilty about her situation. James tried to choose his words carefully before he spoke. He knew he was angry and he tried not to let it show. He looked down at Jamie’s hand and held it in his. Her skin was a few shades lighter than his. “Sometimes… sometimes adults say things that they don’t mean, to protect you from the worst that could happen. Do you understand?” Jamie looked at him. She obviously didn’t. “What I mean is that kind of stuff won’t happen. It could, but it’s very rare that it would and Abuelita may have told you that so you wouldn’t feel bad if it did. Do you understand now?” Jamie nodded. “Good. So, don’t hide anymore. You have nothing to be scared or ashamed of, all right?” With a smile, Jamie nodded. “OK papá.”
“OK.” James said then turned and cranked up the car.
Hannah looked up from behind the reception desk on Monday morning and smiled widely. “Oh my goodness. How pretty is she?” Hannah spoke of Jamie and James smiled proudly. “Jamie this is a very good friend of mine, Ms. Hannah.” Jamie smiled as she looked up at her. “Hi. You’re pretty.” Hannah laughed lightly as she leaned on the desk. “Thank you but so are you.” Jamie smiled widely then looked up at James. He chuckled. “Are you workin’?” Hannah asked. “Oh, no. Nah, I just wanted you two to meet. I was hopin’ that maybe we could all hang out after… after you get off.”
“Oh yeah. That sounds great. Um, what time?”
“What’s good for you? I want you to have time to relax.”
“How about six?”
“Six? Really?”
“Really.” James nodded. “We’ll pick you up.”
“All right, see you later.”
“See ya. Nice to meet you, Jamie.”
“Thanks. You too.” James smiled then waved to Hannah as they walked out. “Is she a model?”
“No, she’s my secretary.”
“What’s a secaratary?” James chuckled. “It’s secretary.” He corrected gently. “And a secretary is someone that does light duties to make someone else’s job easier.”
“Do secretaries have secretaries?”
“Not usually.” James said as he walked outside the building and gave the attendant his ticket to get his car. “I wanna be a secretary too.”
“You can be anything you wanna be, little bit.” She smiled widely and twisted as she held James’ hand. “What’s my school like?”
“It’s a good school. You can learn a lot.”
“Will people look at me different?”
“Oh no. They’ll be nice to you. I can almost guarantee it.”
“What’s that mean?”
“What’s what mean?”
“Garrett… gear…”
“It’s kind of like a promise.” The attendant came around with James’ car and James helped Jamie in. When he got back in the car, Jamie was staring at him with wide eyes. “You know a lot of words.”
“I went to school a long time.”
“Abuelita only speaks Spanish to me.”
“Do you speak Spanish?”
“Not really. Mamá only speaked English to me.”
“You’d say spoke.”
“Well mamá only spoked English to me.” James smiled, shaking his head lightly. “It’s not a bad language to know.”
“Abuelita said I should know it.”
“It wouldn’t hurt.” Jamie looked out the window. “Why’d that man have the car?”
“He just parked it.”
“So we wouldn’t have to walk that far.”
“How’d he know your name?”
“He parks the car a lot.”
“No one ever parked the car for us before.”
“It’s called valet.”
“What’s that?”
“When someone parks your car for you.”
“I like it.” James smiled again. “Me too.”
“Does everyone know your name?”
“Everyone that works for me does.”
“How many people work for you?”
“I have about a hundred and fifty employees.”
“What’s an employee?”
“A person that works for someone else. It comes from the word ‘employ’ which means to put someone to work.”
“Doing what?”
“Nothing in particular. Just having a job.” Jamie looked out the window again. “A hundred and fifty is a lot of people.”
“I guess.”
“It’s almost like a bazillion!” James chuckled. “It depends on how you look at it.”
“Is Ms. Hannah your employee?”
“But I thought she was your secretary.”
“A secretary is an employee.”
“A employee’s a secretary.”
“Not all the time.”
“Why not?”
“Well, an employee is anyone that works. Everyone that works isn’t a secretary. Some people are janitors, some people are reps, and some people are—”
“—What’s a rep?”
“A representative. It’s a person that represents the company.”
“What do they do when they do that?”
“Hmm.” James said wondering how to explain it. “Hmm.” Jamie repeated and James smiled. “I-My company is pretty big so I help companies that are small get big like mine. Well, in order to help them, I have to know who they are but I can’t meet with them all so I have people that know my company well and know what it stands for to go out and meet with the smaller companies for me. They represent me meaning they present themselves as I would.”
“Oh! Is Ms. Hannah a rep too?”
“No, she’s my secretary.”
“She can’t be a rep too?”
“No, she’s just a secretary.” Jamie let this sink in. “Is a rep a employee?”
“Yes it is.”
“What’s the whole word?”
“That’s a big word.”
“I guess it’s pretty big.” Jamie looked out the window again and for a moment, it was quiet. Then she turned back to James. “Papá?”
“What’s particular mean?”
         Hannah was ready when James and Jamie showed up at six but she invited them in anyways. When they walked in, Jamie stopped and took a deep breath, trying to catch the smell, and then looked at James with a large smile. He winked at her and Hannah looked at them oddly. “What?”
“Nothin’.” James said then smiled at her. “You mind if I step in your kitchen?” She chuckled, a wide smile on her face. She knew exactly what he wanted to do. “Go ahead.” She said and James nodded. “Excuse me.” He said then walked into the kitchen and came out with the trash bag. “I’ll be right back.” He said as he walked out of the house. Hannah and Jamie sat on the couch and talked calmly until James returned. He went in the kitchen and put a new bag in the trash can then washed his hands in the kitchen sink. He came out and smiled at the two ladies. “Everyone ready?”
“Yes.” Hannah said. They walked to the car and Jamie ran to the back seat. James opened the door for Jamie and Hannah and helped them both in the car. Jamie sat happily in the back seat kicking her legs and James smiled happily. “Did you have a good day?” James asked Hannah and she nodded. “It was very fruitful, thank you. Did you?”
“Oh yeah. It was great.” He said then glanced in the rearview mirror at Jamie. Hannah smiled. “Oh! Brian tried to reach you today about Glenda’s position—”
“—Do you always talk about Murdock & Co. or have you learned to enjoy a date?” She smiled and relaxed her shoulders. “I’m sorry, Mr. Murdock.” James shook his head and Hannah chuckled. “Papá?”
“Yes?” James answered Jamie. “Can we listen to Canton Jones?” James smiled. “Hannah, will you pass me that CD case from the glove compartment.” Hannah did as she was asked and James put in a Canton Jones CD. Jamie sang along happily. “She heard this for the first time today and she’s got half the songs memorized.” He whispered to Hannah and she chuckled. “That’s great.”
“I’m glad she likes it.”
“Can we listen to number ten?” She asked and James skipped to the song Jamie wanted to hear. Hannah smiled widely as she listened to Jamie singing along. James glanced at Hannah. “She thinks highly of you.” He whispered and Hannah smiled. “Well, I like her too.” James smiled lightly. “Do you mind IHOP?”
“Of course not.”
“You sure?”
“Jamie wanted pancakes.”
“I don’t mind.” James nodded then smiled widely. Lord, He thought. I can live like this. I could live with these two women. The car jerked as the realization of what he’d just thought came over him. He wasn’t just referring to Jamie; he was referring to Hannah as well.

Hannah walked into James’ office with his phone messages. “Mr. Murdock?”
“Yes?” James asked without turning from the window. Hannah bit her lip gently. “I have some messages for you.”
“Will you sit ‘em on the desk?” Hannah did as he asked. “You have a meeting with Brian Wesley in half an hour, sir.” James barely nodded. “Thanks Hannah.” She did all she could not to ask what was wrong. “Is there anything else I can get for you, sir?”
“Do you think she’s alright?” Hannah looked at his back oddly. “Who?” James turned towards her. “Jamie.”
“She’s at school isn’t she?” James nodded, sticking his hands in his pockets. “Of course she’s alright.” James nodded again then, leaving one hand in his pocket, picked up the pink sheets of paper his messages were written on. He raised an eyebrow as he held up a piece of paper so Hannah could look at it. “Who’s this?” He asked. Hannah leaned in to see the name then stood up straight as a look of recognition appeared on her face. “Oh, Tony Morales. He said he was Maria’s brother.”
Brother? Are you sure?” She nodded then asked, “Why?”
“Because Maria didn’t have a brother. She was an only child.” Hannah shrugged as James sat the piece of paper down and, with a hand still in his pocket, picked up the handset and dialed the number on the phone. “Tell Brian the meeting’s still on?” James asked Hannah as he put the phone to his ear and she nodded then stepped out of his office closing the door behind her. “Hola, es Tony.”
“Tony Morales?”
“This is James Murdock. Can you speak English, please?”
“Ah, Jaime! Yes.”
“It’s James. I got a message that you called. What can I do for you?”
“I was calling to check up on Jamie. How is she, is she there?”
“No, I’m at work and she’s at school. Uh, who are you if you don’t mind my asking.”
“Oh no! Forgive me. I’m Tony, Jamie’s uncle.”
“You’re aware Maria didn’t have any brothers, right?”
“Yes, of course. I’m just a good friend and la niña knows me as her uncle.” Suddenly James remembered a conversation he’d had with Jamie. “Hold up! Is this the g- Tio Tony?”
“Sí! She talks about me, eh?”
“OK. How’d you get my number?”
“Eugenia gave to me. She said you wouldn’t mind. Tell niña give me call, OK? She’ll be glad hear from me. Tell her es from Tio Tony, OK? OK? Bye now.” Tony hung up and James placed the phone on the receiver. He sighed heavily then pressed the button on his phone for Hannah. “How may I serve you Mr. Murdock?”
“You still have Eugenia’s number?”
“Yes sir.”
“Have her on the phone for me after this meeting, please.”
“Yes sir. Mr. Wesley is waiting for you, sir.”
“Send him in.” The phone clicked and James sat down and took a deep breath just as Brian Wesley walked in. “Good morning Mr. Murdock.”
“Good morning, Brian. Have a seat. How’s it goin’?”
“It’s goin’ great sir.” Brian said sitting down. “Really? No problems?”
“No sir. Everything’s great.”
“Good, good. What about the opening? Have you interviewed for that?”
“Um, yes sir I have.”
“OK and how’s that going?”
“It’s going very well sir. We have some very qualified people interviewing and most of them are Christians.”
“Good. Hire anybody?” Brian chuckled. “Not yet sir, I wanted to meet with you first.”
“OK. Well, here we are. What’s on your mind?”
“Well sir, background checks take up a lot of time and you said you wanted someone on the rep floor to handle that. I have a suggestion about that, sir, if you’re open to it.”
“Of course! What’s your suggestion?”
“A representative has to review each of their clients and that’s their homework every night. Adding background checks on top of that could be stressful and one of their two jobs could easily get done sloppily if it gets done at all.” James nodded. “That’s a good point. What do you think should be done about it?”
“I think a new position should be created, sir. Someone that’s strictly into background checking. You wanted a rep to do it because they were familiar with the people already. This position could be just as effective. Kind of like an undercover detective. He or she would find out what they could and if any suspicions arose, they could go straight to the rep handling that company or business and find out what he or she needs to know. Everyone has a little less pressure and all the reps feel secure knowing there’s a professional who is only thinking about the background of each client. They wouldn’t have anything else to focus on so the job would be done efficiently.” James nodded. “Sounds great. Hire someone to do it.”
“Really sir?”
“Sure, why not?” Brian smiled. “Yes sir. Thank you for your time.”
“No problem. Thanks for your honesty. Just make sure you get it taken care of.”
“Yes sir. Have a good day Mr. Murdock.”
“You too.” Brian walked out and a few seconds later, Hannah’s voice came over James’ speaker. “Mr. Murdock?”
“Yes Hannah?”
“Ms. Rúiz on line one.”
“Thank you.” James said then picked up his phone and pressed the line one button. “Eugenia?”
“I wish you wouldn’t have people I don’t know call me.”
“Wow, you took the words right out of my mouth.” James told her. “What are you talkin’ about you crazy boy?”
“Tony, this supposed uncle of Jamie’s.”
“He is her uncle.”
“Yet you can’t stand him so you have him call me.”
“Oh Jaime.”
“Jaime nothin’. I took Jamie because she’s my daughter; I’m not takin’ any extra junk, all right? Don’t give my number out to anyone else without checking with me first. Do we have an understanding?”
“You know nothing about familia!”
“Don’t give me that, Eugenia. That man is not family.”
“He’s the only uncle Jamie ever knew! He loves her and now you won’t let him see her because he’s different!”
“Don’t act like I don’t know what I’m doin’. You wanted me to raise Jamie and now I am so let me. Stay out of it, OK?”
“I’m the grandmother.”
“Exactly. You’re the grandmother and I’m the father. Let me be who I am. I have to do what I feel is best for my daughter and you spoil her at Christmas. Beyond that, you do nothing. You don’t raise her. You’ve had your chance, give me mine.” It was silent for a moment. “No.” Eugenia said quietly and then hung up. James sighed heavily and put the receiver down. Maybe he’d said it the wrong way. He sat down and buried his face in his hands. “Lord, I repent if I said something wrong. Give me knowledge of it and show me how I should’ve handled it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” James took a deep breath then stood up and walked out of his office. Hannah stood as he walked by her desk. “Mr. Murdock?”
“I’m gonna check things out. I’ve got my phone on if you need me.”
“Yes sir.” James turned to leave then turned back around. “If I can get a sitter, you wanna do somethin’ this weekend?” With a smile, Hannah nodded. James smiled back at her then turned and walked off. Hannah watched his confident stride and it made her smile widen.
         James looked at his employees and inwardly praised God for each of them. He felt honored to have people working as diligently as his employees did. He wanted to do something for them. He’d thrown at least three staff parties within the last month but he didn’t feel it was enough. He could always throw another party but he didn’t want to do the same thing again. He sighed lightly as he walked around. He had to do something; anything. James bit his lip as he stopped at someone’s cubicle. The man looked up and his eyes widened. “M-Mr. Murdock! Sir! What can I-” The man stood up quickly and some of his papers toppled to the floor. James chuckled then helped him pick up his papers. The man gasped. “What can I do for you, sir?” James shook his head and handed the papers to his employee. “Nothing. Just wondering what you were doing. You were concentrating hard and I hate to interrupt but I was just wondering what had your attention.”
“Oh, oh! Yeah, I was just… I was just goin’ over, over these statistics.”
“Statistics, huh?”
“Yes sir. It shows the entire intake of all the small companies in Atlanta and surrounding areas over the passed two years. This number here is the percentage of intake of just the companies that came through us. You see? You see how big this number is? This means that companies that come through us make more money than small businesses that don’t.” The man smiled and James nodded. “That’s very impressive. How’d you find all this out?”
“Well sir, I simply looked it up online then called to confirm the information. I got a few different sources then did the math myself. I’d say it’s about 98% accurate. I’m confident in the information.”
“That’s amazing. Why don’t you sit in on our next board meeting? It’s in a couple of weeks, actually. Do you think you could have this ready to present to the board?” The man’s eyes were wide. “Me sir?”
“Of course, Mr. Murdock. I won’t let you down!”
“Good, thank you.” The man nodded. “I’ll be ready, sir.”
“That’s good to know. I’ll have my secretary e-mail you the dates. Get with her before you leave today.”
“Yes sir. I will.”
“Good. Good work.”
“Thank you sir.”
“Thank you.” James said then moved on. He looked around the building when he noticed a small brown spot on a ceiling tile in a corner. He made a mental note of it as he walked on. Employees seemed to be working quietly and James was able to see them all clearly. The walls of the cubicles weren’t very high. That meant there wasn’t much privacy. He made a mental note of that as well as he continued until he reached the back wall where some offices were located. Mikal’s office was along this wall and as James approached, Barbara, Mikal’s secretary, stood in shock. “Mr. Murdock?” She asked and with a smile, James nodded. “How ya doin’?”
“Fine sir, should I tell Mr. Wright you’re here?”
“Uh, is he busy?”
“No sir, just typing up the outlines for the new procedure.”
“I’ll just step in. Thank you.”
“Yes sir.” James opened the door to Mikal’s office and smiled. “Knock, knock.” Mikal looked up quickly and smiled. “Hey Mr. Murdock! How’s it goin’?”
“Great. What’s goin’ on?”
“Oh sir, I’m tellin’ ya, this thing is working!”
“What thing?”
“This new plan for the representatives.”
“Ah! Yes, how are you comin’ on that?”
“Great sir. It’s lookin’ good.” James nodded with a smile. “That’s good. I really appreciate your hard work. Let’s do lunch sometime.” Mikal’s eyes widened but just for a moment. “Yes sir! Definitely. I’d love that.” James smiled. “Good. See you later. Keep up the good work.”
“Yes sir.” James walked out of Mikal’s office then walked back to his own. He stopped in front of Hannah’s desk. “Check my schedule for an opening; I’d like to do lunch with Mikal Wright.”
“Yes sir.”
“Also, there’s a young man that’s over… statistics?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Winters.”
“I want him in our next board meeting.”
“Yes sir.”
“Thank you Hannah.”
“It’s no problem, Mr. Murdock… really.” James looked at her and met her eyes then smiled. “Thank you.” He whispered. He walked back into his office and closed the door. His heart was pounding. He knew then, without a shadow of doubt, he was going to marry that woman, and she would change his life.

James parked his car then walked into Jamie’s school. He had no problem remembering how to get to her class. He stopped by the door and peered in from around the corner. Jamie was sitting on the alphabet rug talking with another group of girls that wore uniforms that matched her own. James noticed that girls were sitting on one side of the room while boys sat on the other. If they were to communicate, they had to sit right under the teacher’s feet to do so. With a smile, James walked in and when Jamie spotted him, her face lit up. “Papá!” His smile widened as Jamie bounced over to him. James kneeled and wrapped his arms around her. “Hey baby.” He said hugging her. She ran to get her book bag and tell her friends goodbye. James took the time to talk to the teacher. “How’s she doin’?”
“Excellent sir. It’s her first week and the students love her.”
“Oh yes. She has very fun stories to tell. She gets along well with other students.”
“Stories? What kind of stories?”
“Oh, she tells us all about how you were in the army and you lived in China. That’s why she had to live with her mother but now that you’re back in America, you and her mom can finally be together again and that’s why she’s here now, because you all moved here when you got back. She thinks very highly of you.” James nodded, a little unsure of what to say. “I see. Tell me your name one more time, I’m sorry.”
“Ms. Starks.”
“Ms. Starks, right. Well Ms. Starks, I’ve never been in the military and… uh, Jamie’s mother died a little while ago, that’s why Jamie’s here.” Ms. Starks looked confused. “Oh, well… why would she say…” James raised his eyebrows and Ms. Starks smiled at him. “Well, I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about and we’ll work with her to an extent here.”
“Thank you.”
“Of course.” Jamie ran over to him. “I’m all ready.”
“You are?” Jamie nodded then waved to her teacher as James took her hand and led her out. When they got in the car, James approached the subject very carefully. “Jamie?”
“Yes papá?” He paused and took a small breath. “Um, baby, who told you I was in the army?” He asked and Jamie looked at him quickly. “Sir?”
“Well, Ms. Starks told me about the stories you were telling the class about me going to China. I’ve never been to China Jamie; I was never in the army.”
“I know.” She whispered holding her head down. James bit his lip gently. He didn’t want to say what he had to say. He pulled into McDonald’s. “Jamie, do you understand what happened with your mother?” Still holding her head down, Jamie nodded. “She’s not coming back, Jay.” Jamie sniffed but she nodded again. “Then why did you tell everyone that your mother and I were together?” She sniffed and wiped the tears from her eyes. James hated that he’d caused her to cry and he would have given anything not to have this conversation but he knew it was for the best. He sighed lightly. “Jamie, look at me, baby. Look at me.” She sniffed again and began to whimper. James took her chin lightly and turned it towards him. “Jamie.” He said, his voice more stern than he’d aimed for. She wouldn’t put her eyes on him. James sighed. “Jamie, look. It’s just you and me now. We have to learn to communicate with each other.” She sniffed and ran the back of her hand under her nose. James shook his head lightly then faced front. What was he saying wrong? Why wouldn’t she talk to him? “Do you think I’m mad at you?” He asked and Jamie said nothing. “I’m not upset. I just want to understand why you felt like you had to make up stories. Were you scared people wouldn’t like you if you didn’t have a good story?” She still said nothing. James ran a hand over his face. “Talk to me baby. Please.” She sniffed and wiped roughly at her eyes to dry the tears. James licked his lips. “We’ve gotta talk Jay. I’m not mad at you and I won’t be but I need to make sure you understand what’s going on. I don’t want you to feel like you have to go through life saying things that please people. Being you is enough, Jamie. Do you understand?” She sniffed again then shifted in the big seat. “I wanna go home.” She said quietly and James sighed. “Alright.” He whispered then turned the car on and went through the drive-thru. He ordered Jamie a cheeseburger Mighty Kid's meal before going home. She ate without saying another word.

James turned off his alarm clock then got out of bed and grabbed his bible. He went down to the prayer room and turned on the lamp then closed the door. He thanked and praised God for all He’d done and then he prayed fervently for wisdom on how to raise his daughter. He prayed that God would direct him on how to deal with his feelings for Hannah but he prayed above all for God to show him how to relate to Jamie and get her to open up. Then he opened his bible and began to meditate. It was 5:00 when James stepped out of his prayer room and when he looked at his watch, realized he’d been in there for nearly three hours. It was now time to get ready for work. He went to his bedroom and brushed his teeth then went to Jamie’s bathroom and cleaned out her bathtub. He then ran her bathwater making sure to pour in the right amount of berry scented bubble bath. After that, he stepped into Jamie’s bedroom and, as always, woke her up very gently. She rolled over a couple of times before James lifted her from the bed and helped her walk into the bathroom. While she undressed to get her bath, he made sure her uniform was still fresh from when he’d gotten it together the night before. He rechecked to make sure her socks matched then checked her shoes for scuffs. When her uniform was rechecked and fresh, he knocked on the bathroom door and Jamie told him that she was in the bathtub. James, having gotten his shower the night before, then went to get dressed. He checked on Jamie frequently to make sure she wasn’t going too slowly and by the time he was fully dressed, Jamie was sliding on her shoes. “How ya comin’?” James asked and Jamie smiled up at him. “Good.”
“Meet ya downstairs in five minutes?” He asked. “No,” Jamie said as she stood from the bed. “Now.” James smiled then turned and walked down the stairs, Jamie following not too far behind him. He made her a bowl of cereal and a glass of apple juice then placed two halves of a bagel in the toaster for him. “Big day planned?” James asked, his back to Jamie. “Yes papá.”
“What are you doin’ in school today?”
“It’s computer lab day.”
“It is?”
“Mm-hmm.” Jamie said this with a fresh spoonful of cereal in her mouth. James paused to give her time to finish eating. “What else?” He asked as he pulled his bagel from the toaster then began to spread strawberry cream cheese over it. “We have a math test today too.”
“You feel ready?”
“Mm-hmm. I studied hard last night. Ms. Starks said since I was new it might be hard but I should be OK if I apply myself.” Of course, the teacher and the principal had spoken to James about this already but he left that fact unmentioned. “I think she’s right. What do you think?”
“I can do it.” Jamie said then turned her bowl to where a built in straw stood out and sipped her milk down. James smiled as he wrapped his bagel in a paper towel then picked up his travel cup of coffee. “Ready?” He asked Jamie and she nodded. “Get your backpack.” He said and Jamie lifted her small book bag from the seat next to her and placed it over her shoulders. They walked to the garage in a silence that wasn’t broken until they were in the car. “Did you listen to a scripture this morning?” James asked as he switched lanes. Jamie nodded. “Which one?”
“I don’t ‘member.”
“Well what was it talking about?”
“Um…” Jamie thought. “Oh yeah! The woman rubbed God’s feet with her hair.”
“No, not God,” James corrected and Jamie cut him off. “I mean Jesus! All the men were mad at her for putting perfume on his feet but she did it anyway because she loved him and she used her tears to wash his feet then she used her hair to dry ‘em.”
“Why was she cryin’?” James asked and Jamie thought about it. “Because she’d been bad?”
“Yeah and what’d she want Jesus to do?”
“Forgive her.”
“Do you think he forgave her or do you think he listened to all the other men?”
“He forgave her.” James nodded. “I think you’re right.” He said and Jamie smiled widely.

James walked into the office and was greeted by a throng of people. “Mr. Murdock!”
“Mr. Murdock!”
“Excuse me, Mr. Murdock, sir!” They all seemed to scream at the same time. James felt someone grabbing his briefcase and his coffee and knew it was Hannah. He looked at Rueben who was over public relations first. “Yes?”
“Mr. Murdock, Ebony magazine called, they’d like to schedule an interview with you sometime in the near future.”
“OK, get with Hannah and see what day is best.”
“Yes sir.” More people called his name as Rueben walked off. James looked at Wanda, the junior representative. “Yes Wanda?”
“We just took in two new companies, if I recall correctly, I don’t have an address for either one of them.”
“OK. Hannah? Where’s Hannah?”
“Right here sir.”
“Can you give Wanda the name she needs?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Murdock.” Switching his briefcase and coffee to one hand, Hannah produced an organizer seemingly out of thin air. Wanda gained the information she needed and left the group. “Mr. Murdock! Mr. Murdock!” James looked quickly at Greg. “Greg. Yes?”
“Mr. Murdock, I need to speak with you.”
“As soon as possible, sir.”
“Yes Mr. Murdock?”
“Squeeze Greg in sometime this morning.”
“Yes sir.”
“Greg, get with Hannah about a time.”
“Yes sir. Thank you, Mr. Murdock.” James was nearing his office. He turned to the few people that remained. “Brian?”
“I wanted you to meet Linda Harris.” James smiled politely and extended his hand. “Hello Linda.”
“Hello Mr. Murdock.” She said giving him a flirtatious smile. James looked passed it. Most women smiled at him that way. “Mr. Murdock, Linda is the new Company Inspection Manager.” James looked impressed. “Oh. Good. You’re doing background checks then.”
“Yes sir.” Linda said placing her hands behind her back. “Good. Um, Brian, you know David, don’t you?”
“David Montgomery?”
“Yeah, get with his secretary and schedule Linda an appointment with him so she can have everything she needs to do this job effectively. Tell him to pull the money straight from the budget and contact me if he thinks it’ll get too expensive.”
“Yes sir. I’ll do that now.”
“Good. Thank you. Nice to meet you Linda.”
“Pleasure to meet you as well, Mr. Murdock.” Brian led Linda away and when she felt they were out of earshot, she whispered to Brian, “Is he a day over thirty?”
“He’s actually twenty five, I think.”
“I bet he’s the youngest thing in this building.”
“If not, one of the youngest but he’s definitely the best one for the job. He loves this business just a little less than he loves God, I think.”
“Is he that devout a Christian?”
“You have no idea. Talk with him for two minutes and you’ll know it.”
“And his girlfriend?” Brian smiled at this comment. “Actually Linda, if you’re aiming for him, you’re in luck. He’s free but I’ll give you a little heads up.” Linda blushed and stared at her feet. “I’m all ears.” She whispered and Brian chuckled. “First, James Murdock does not like to be flirted with by his employees. Second, rumor has it that his sights are set on Hannah Jordan, his secretary.”
“That’s the rumor.”
“According to who?”
“I couldn’t tell ya. But they do spend an awful lot of time together.”
“Well of course they do, she’s his secretary.” Brian shrugged with a smile. “All I’m sayin’ is, if he is dating Ms. Jordan, I wouldn’t mind a bit. I think she’s just Mr. Murdock’s match…”
         James walked into his office and sat down. Hannah followed him in and sat his briefcase down first. She walked to his bookcase, grabbed a coaster and brought it back to his desk then sat his coffee on top of it. She grabbed the organizer she’d had before and from somewhere else, got a planner. “OK Mr. Murdock, you have a meeting with Temple Jackson in an hour, he’s meeting you here in the board room.”
“Right.” James said sipping his coffee then taking his planner from Hannah. “Temple Jackson is… is the guy from Guiranni-No! He’s- that’s the lady with the-no, her name’s Connie. Temple Jackson is the-the…”
“The… The man with Harris—”
“—Man with Harrison and Company! Yes! I knew that! Thank you.” Hannah chuckled and looked back at her organizer. She flipped to the calendar, which had James’ schedule instead of her own. James looked at it. “Is that the same thing?”
“I carry extras just in case.”
“Wow.” He said looking impressed. “Don’t forget, Mr. Matthews wants to speak with you sometime today.”
“Schedule him in on my lunch break.”
“Your lunch break sir?”
“Yeah, just for a few minutes.”
“Yes sir.” Hannah said then wrote in her organizer. She reached across the desk and wrote in James’ planner as well. “Mr. Murdock?”
“Yeah?” James said, his eyes rolling over the day’s events. Hannah bit her lip. “Mr. Murdock, I need some time off.” James looked up at her quickly. He realized then that she had been quiet that morning and something was obviously wrong. He felt horrible for not recognizing before. He did all he could not to grab her in his arms. “What’s wrong?” He asked before he could hold the words in. She sniffed and shook her head forcing out a smile. “Oh, nothing. My father’s in the hospital. I’m sure he’ll be fine but… I’d… the doctor said it-we should come see him.” She nodded. James stood and went to stand in front of her. “Take however long you need. I’ll manage.” She nodded then looked back down in the organizer. “Um, you have a nine—” James took the organizer from her and placed it on his desk. “Hannah, go if you need to go.” When she met his eyes, a tear dropped to her cheek. “James, he had a heart attack. His heart just gave out.” She said, tears evident in her voice. James gave into the urge and pulled her into his arms. “It’s OK, Hannah. He’ll be fine. We both know the kind of God we serve. I know how strong your faith is and I know how strong my faith is. Nothin’s gonna happen to him. So, what if he had a heart attack. I declare right now that’s the last bad report you’ll ever receive. It’s only good news from here on out, you hear me?” She nodded, her head buried in his chest. James squeezed her gently then let her go and went to his phone. He called the airline and in no time, had a first class ticket booked so Hannah could leave for home that night. He told her to take the rest of the day off to pack and called in Courtney Cox, an intern, to receive pay to do (in part) what Hannah did. Courtney was thrilled and for the next hour and a half, Courtney was on the phone with Hannah taking notes on what to expect and what was to be done. Anytime James had a free moment, he lifted Hannah’s family up in prayer.

James wasn’t used to not having Hannah around. He missed her conversation more than anything. When he left the office, he felt like he hadn’t accomplished much that day. Usually, Hannah came in at the end of the day and went over his minutes for the entire day and went over his schedule for the next day. When James had called Courtney in to go over the day, she’d nervously stated that she hadn’t known to take notes on his day but she swore to do it the next day. James had prayed and asked God for patience with the first year college student and he’d managed to shrug off all of her mistakes while educating her on the side. He remembered how it felt to be a college student and an intern. It wasn’t an easy task he was asking of her and he knew she was doing the best job she could. When James showed up to pick up Jamie, her teacher stated that she had to talk to him. “Jamie told the class today that she had different brothers and sisters in Hawaii. I didn’t say it wasn’t true. We have kids that come from everywhere with different stories. However, I strongly doubted that her older sister was walking all the way from Hawaii to come and see her. When Sam told her that there was a massive body of water between here and Hawaii, Jamie simply stated that her sister was going to swim.” James sighed heavily and rubbed his eyes. “I’m sorry Ms. Starks. I really am. I’ll try talking to her again.”
“Mr. Murdock, I understand that you’re a busy man but here at the school, we have an image to keep up.”
“What do you mean? I check her uniform every morning.”
“Of course you do but frankly sir, Jamie’s hair hasn’t been done for sometime, it appears.” James looked at his daughter quickly and something grabbed his throat so he couldn’t speak. What did he know about doing hair? What did he even know about raising a little girl? He sighed lightly and nodded. “I’ll take care of it. I’ll take care of everything. Thank you, Ms. Starks.”
“I’m only trying to help Mr. Murdock.”
“I understand. Thank you.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
“Jay! Let’s go.” Jamie looked up at James and smiled then grabbed her book bag. She bid her friends goodbye then left while waving to Ms. Starks. Jamie’s storytelling was something that James didn’t want to deal with right then. They had Chinese food for dinner and then James put Jamie to bed. Around eight that night, Hannah called James’s phone. He was more than happy to hear from her and told her so. Hannah chuckled. “I just had to see how your first day without me went.”
“Han, I promise, it seems without you here, everything outside of business went wrong too.”
“Aww. James, stop it.”
“I mean it. Jamie’s teacher told me that she’s been tellin’ the class these stories. Yesterday she told them her mother and I were back together and I’ve been in China or somethin’ like that. Today, she said her sister in Hawaii was swimmin’ over here to see her.”
“Wow. Did you talk to her about it?”
“I tried yesterday but she didn’t say anything. She just cried then finally said she wanted to go home.”
“Well, I’m believin’ God that you’ll know exactly how to handle that. Is that all?” James blushed. “No. I don’t know how to do Jamie’s hair. Honestly, I didn’t even think about it but her teacher told me it was a little out of control.”
“Do you know how to put it in a ponytail?”
“I guess I could since I have to. I don’t know any of the cute little girl styles. I guess I can take her to have it done.”
“Yeah, but you still wanna keep it up. I can show you when I get back. Until then, why don’t you just brush up the edges to clean up the style she has or just brush it into a neat little ponytail with cute barrettes?” James sighed lightly. “I can try. Hannah I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I haven’t asked about you. I’ve been selfish. I’m sorry. How’s your dad?” She chuckled. “Oh James, you awesome man of God. All you did was speak it and it happened. Daddy’s doing great. He’s sitting up laughing and making jokes with us. The doctor wants to keep an eye on him but he’s doing just fine.”
“Good, I’m glad. Take as much time as you need. I don’t think you’ve had a vacation since you’ve been workin’ for me.” Hannah chuckled. “Actually, I haven’t. I’m enjoying the time off. How’s Courtney doing?” James laughed. “Well, she’s definitely no Hannah but she’s tryin’ and she’s not doin’ bad.”
“Well that’s good. Did you get everything done?”
“I guess. We didn’t go over the day at closing.”
“Oh! I forgot to tell her about that! I’m sorry!”
“All good. We talked about it. Man Han, I never realized how big of a job you have. Thank you, if I haven’t said it enough.” Hannah chuckled. “So how’s your family?”
“Oh James, they all love you.”
“Me? They haven’t even met me.”
“Well, they asked how I managed to get here so fast and I told them you paid for my ticket. Then they wanted to know all about you and I told them. It’s funny…”
“What’s funny?”
“Well… oh nothing. My mom’s a character, James, you’ve gotta meet her.”
“Maybe I will one day. What’s funny?” She chuckled. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course.”
“What do you think of me?”
“Oh come on Hannah, you already know. You’re the best secretary I’ve ever met.”
“Thank you. I mean as a person, though.”
“Oh.” James said then blushed and chuckled nervously. “I think you’re an awesome young woman…” Hannah waited for him to finish. “Do you mind me bein’ honest?”
“Not at all.”
“Well, I know I’ll marry you one day. I’m just enjoyin’ the ride until we get to that point.”
“That’s interesting.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah. See, my mom, she doesn’t trust any man as it relates to me but when I started talking about you, guess what she said.”
“What’s that?”
“She said, ‘ya know, you could marry that man one day’.” James laughed happily. “Man. What do you think?”
“No offense, but I don’t see it.”
“None taken. I don’t expect you to know, yet. God wired man this way. I’m supposed to know first.” Hannah was smiling widely. She was glad James couldn’t see her. “I really appreciate the time off.”
“You deserve it. How are you? You need anything?”
“Me? Nah, I’m fine. Thank you.”
“No problem. Just let me know when you’re ready to come home and I’ll call the airline.” She smiled. “Alright. Thank you.”
“It’s no problem, girl. I’ll call you back tomorrow, OK?”
“Yeah, you better get some sleep.”
“I know, right? Some of us folks that ain’t AWOL hafta work in the morning!” Hannah laughed. “I have leave, thank you very much. My boss gave it to me.”
“Well, I’ll have to talk to him about that.” Hannah chuckled. “You do that.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow, I promise.”
“Sleep well, James.”
“You too, queen.”
“Good night.” James hung up his phone then took a small breath. He looked at the papers in front of him then ran a hand over his hair. He was glad Hannah was enjoying her break but he sure did miss her a lot.

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