Blane’s Story – Chapter 1, Part Three
Anne’s feet ached as she unlocked the door to her apartment. She’d had to stay at the restaurant later than usual. The dishwasher had broken so what was left of the staff at closing had pitched in to help clean up. Well, they’d been volun-told to help.
Her apartment wasn’t in the greatest area of D.C., and that was being kind. Rental rates were outrageous and although scraping together the money was harder some months more than others, she’d drawn the line at having a roommate.
Teddy made angry noises when he saw any of the employees on their phones, so it was only now that she saw a voice mail left by her mother. Anne pressed to listen.
“Good evening, sweetheart. I hope you’re out on a lovely date and not working that ghastly job you insist on having. Really, darling, there are better ways to rebel against your father than slinging hash in some diner.” She’d only told her mother a hundred times that she worked in a five-star restaurant, but to her mom, a waitress was the same if she worked at the Ritz or a truck stop. Not that she’d know what a truck stop was. Anne stifled a sigh. “But let’s not rehash that right now,” the message continued.
“I’m calling to tell you I’m hosting the annual Daughters of the Revolution luncheon Sunday and I expect you to be there. One o’clock sharp. And do dress appropriately. None of those off-the-rack garments I’ve seen you in lately.” Anne could almost see her mother give a shudder. “Call me. Love you.” The message ended.
Ugh. The luncheon. She’d completely forgotten about it. Her mother and a carefully-selected seventy-five to a hundred of East Coast elite ladies, dressed in their finery, each trying to earn a bit of extra favor from her mom. Anne would be paraded about as the epitome of style and grace—the perfect daughter of the perfect couple.
She already had a headache, just thinking about it. But no way could she not show. Her mother would never let her hear the end of it.
Her mother. Bless her heart. A woman with more beauty and kindness than common sense. Her parents had met when her mother was just twenty. A debutante of one of Boston’s oldest families. Her father had been a business tycoon, already a multi-millionaire, and just beginning to dabble in politics. He’d been smitten with the young blonde immediately, and she’d been taken with him as well, though demurely leading him through a courtship that lasted only six months before they’d become engaged. The wedding had been the highlight of society and the most sought-after invitation.
That was over forty years ago.
It took fifteen years before they’d been able to conceive, and Anne had been the result. Prized and protected from the moment she’d drawn her first breath, the effect of so much love was sometimes akin to being smothered.
To make it worse, the senator’s new demand for her attendance for his lunch meant that—while she kept her job—she had to juggle her day job. Being a social worker in the city of Washington, D.C. had its drawbacks. A lot of them. Including a sad excuse of a paycheck. Hence the need for the waitressing gig.
Anne thought through the timing as she stripped and showered in the tiny bathroom. If she got to work early tomorrow, she could take a slightly earlier lunch and be at the restaurant in time. Then back to work, finishing up about five and back to the restaurant for the dinner shift. It would make for a long day, but there wasn’t anything to be done about it.
Setting her alarm to wake her in five hours, she fell into bed, asleep nearly before her head hit the pillow.
# # #
“Mrs. Levee, I’m sorry, but there’s just nothing more we can do about your grandson.”
Anne’s heart ached as she watched the elderly woman sitting across from her, twisting a thin, old-fashioned handkerchief with hands that spoke of decades of hard work, roughened with callouses and bent with arthritis.
“But she’s still doing those drugs,” Mrs. Levee protested, desperation pinching the corners of her mouth. “She stole money out of my purse just the other day, and lied to me about it. I went by her apartment and J.J. hadn’t had his diaper changed in hours. The poor thing was raw. He ate like he hadn’t eaten for days.” Tears stung her eyes, which she dabbed at with the threadbare handkerchief.
Anne grimaced. “DFS hasn’t certified the child is in danger or being neglected. Until they do, our hands are tied.”
“I’m just supposed to leave him like that? She won’t let me take him. Lord knows, I’ve tried everything I can think of. I even give her money if she’ll let me have him for a few days, but she always comes back. I don’t have any more money to give her.”
The pain in Mrs. Levee’s voice felt like a knife slicing through Anne. She wondered again why she’d gone into this profession. Just because a career assessment test said that her empathy made her well-suited to social work, it obviously hadn’t thought through what that empathy did to the emotional well-being of said worker.
Reaching over the desk, she grasped Mrs. Levee’s hand and squeezed. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” She actually could, which was why this job was so damn hard. “I promise you. If I hear anything more from DFS, I will call you. And I’ll pass on the information about J.J. that you just gave me. Maybe they’ll be able to stop by again.”
The woman nodded in a way that said she appreciated Anne’s gesture, but also that she wasn’t holding out much hope. She rose and left without a word, her shoulders bent in defeat.
And that’s how the morning had gone.
One case after another where her hands were tied and the limitations of the system meant that people—and children—fell through the cracks. It was an exercise in futility and Anne’s frustration was nearing epic levels. She had to be angry or the sadness of so many would overwhelm her.
Glancing at her watch, she saw with a start that it was already eleven-thirty. If she didn’t hurry up, she’d be late for the restaurant. As it was, she’d be cutting it close.
By the time she’d gotten off the Metro, hurried into the restaurant, changed, and yanked her hair up into a ponytail, it was two minutes until noon. She clocked in just as Teddy walked by. Scowling, he pointedly looked at his watch.
“I’m not late,” she said. “I’m on time.”
His scowl deepened, but he didn’t say anything. He was lucky. If he’d decided to bitch at her, Anne’s mood was such that she’d be hard-pressed not to bitch right back and screw the consequences.
Lori, the hostess, was waiting for her at the front of the restaurant. “He wanted to sit in the bar,” she said, motioning with her chin. “He’s at a high-top.”
She shook her head. “Just him.”
Good. She wasn’t in the mood for a crowd of politicians tis afternoon.
The seating area in the bar was mostly empty. A handful of other tables had patrons, but Georgia was taking care of them. Anne’s sole responsibility was Senator Kirk. And the faster she could get him to eat, the quicker she could get back to her work that mattered, but didn’t pay the bills.
“Good afternoon, Senator,” she said, pasting on her plastic smile. She set a cocktail napkin and glass of water in front of him. “What can I get for you today?”
He looked good, but then he always did. A charcoal suit and silver tie that made his green eyes now appear a stormy gray. His hair was cut to always fall back into place no matter how many times he ran his fingers through it. A smooth, square jaw made her gaze fall on his lips. How a man could have such perfectly shaped lips without appearing in the least bit feminine was a mystery. Somehow, he pulled it off.
He shifted on his chair and Anne hear the smooth slide of expensive fabric. A waft of his cologne hit her and she resisted the urge to lean a bit closer.
“Hello, Anne. How are you today?”
She gritted her teeth so she wouldn’t tell him exactly how she was. He was just being nice. It wasn’t his fault she’d had a shitty day. She forced her smile wider. “I’m doing well. Thank you. Have you decided what you’re having?”
Although she’d been polite, his eyes narrowed, as though sensing she wasn’t telling the truth. He opened his mouth to say something when she caught a familiar face over his shoulder.
Oh no. This could not be happening. Not here. Not today.
Her father had just walked in.