Help Wanted: Excerpt, Chapter Four

Help Wanted will be published by the end of the month. After this there will be one more chapter posted pre-publishing to get you hooked.


Amy didn’t hear from Paul or see him as “online” on Gmail for some time after that. That was a good way to follow through on a self-fulfilling prophecy. Possibly Amy could have done more to help make the visit happen. Maybe she could have found more people with resources to help. But as the time came and then started to pass, she knew it wasn’t going to happen.

Amy didn’t brood on it, though. There’s no way on this earth that you can fix someone else’s problems. You can give them tools that they can use to help them fix themselves, you can sometimes take away burdens that are interfering with their ability to help themselves, but that’s as far as it could go.

So she started to date. First it was SeeNoEvil from Musikland. He lived a little ways out of town, but close enough to date. It was then that she finally got around to meeting KareBear – whose real name was Karen – offline, and they formed an instant friendship. Karen and her husband Josef were very pleasant, and they shared Amy’s off-balance sense of humor.

SeeNoEvil turned out to be full of things she just didn’t care for and their break up was not wholly tidy. Amy had no regrets.

She went out to bars with female friends very occasionally, letting Jennifer babysit Maggie. Sometimes she would get a phone number from someone she enjoyed dancing with, but nothing was gelling. She didn’t worry.


Then Paul was let go of his job in February. He said he was laid off for being the newest guy when they had to cut somebody. Who knows if it was true? But it’s likely that that’s the reason he was given in any case. Things were bad for him. The economy and the time of year didn’t lend themselves well for him looking for a job in his area. And then, his family who had been his landlord kicked him out without any notice, just said “get out,” and he got; wearing only a “wifebeater” shirt, shorts, and Crocs. In February. In New Hampshire. It could have been worse: it could have been Alaska.

Paul’s internet friends rallied around him. A mysterious Musikland user – Amy never did figure out who she was – picked Paul up from a random bus station but was never part of the communication network. That group was SaraLee (who’s real name, Amy now learned, actually was Sara), Karebare (boring! Karen was too smart for a silly screen-name like that) and Amy (QueenoftheDarned; best name in the bunch, Amy thought smugly) herself. Paul was delivered to Sara, and Amy and Karen sent care-boxes of clothes, since he hadn’t any of his own.

Separately and together, Karen and Amy talked Paul into giving California a try. He had nothing left to tie him to New Hampshire. The tricky bit was getting him across the country.


Paul spoke a lot by instant messaging on Sara’s computer, with Karen possibly as often as with Amy. Finally Sara bought Paul a ticket to Sacramento. Amy was grateful, since she didn’t have the cash to do that. She could provide a couch for him, but not a plane ticket. She got an email from Karen, shortly thereafter.


Dear Amy,

I’m going to pick him up, don’t worry your head about it. I was already figuring that since he’d be crawling into town pretty late it would make sense for him to spend his first night here. So if you can plan on getting him from my house some time on Wednesday – after work or whatever – that would be perfect. We’ll be able to host him longer as of the last week of the month, but until then we’re a little full up. Not at all a big deal for one night on the couch, but it would start to get a bit crowded pretty quickly. 😉

It will be no problem to have Paul here in April. I know he’s anxious that nobody starts to feel burdened by his presence, so we’ll share as needed. I don’t want him to feel too shuffled around, though, because I know it is stressful to feel like you don’t have a home. Hopefully he’ll find work quickly. He’ll need to continue staying with us while he works up some rent money and I know he’ll want to pay Sara back for the ticket. It will all work out, though.

Well, we’ll see you on Wednesday, then! =D


It was becoming real so fast! Amy was a little jealous that Karen would get to see Paul before she did, but she knew that was foolish. Karen was absolutely devoted to her husband; she was no threat to Amy… assuming that anything could happen between Paul and Amy in any case.


The night before Paul flew out he pinged Amy for the last time.

Bonk! Amy jumped. She had been staring off into space.

Paul Fournier: I can’t wait to see you!

Amy: Me too. I just wish I could have picked you up at the airport. My mom planned this party for Maggie… Maggie’s too young to care, but my mom is old enough to really hold a grudge! Lol

Paul Fournier: It’s okay, we’ll see each other soon. I can’t stay, Sara’s kids want to use the computer. I just wanted to say I’ll see you soon.

Amy: Have a safe flight!


The next day, Amy was jittery, even though she knew she wouldn’t be seeing Paul until the following day. She was admonished at work both for inattention and for her demeanor, which was less than soothing. Luckily she wasn’t written up for either reprimand. She wanted to go home early, but there wasn’t any real excuse. Maggie’s party was going to be at Amy’s mom’s place, she didn’t have to get there early to make it work.

Maggie’s birthday party was beautiful. Maggie would never be able to remember it, of course, but Amy took lots of pictures of Maggie in her beautiful dress, Maggie’s pile of wrapped presents, Maggie’s fabulously decorated cake, and, most importantly, Maggie’s face covered in cake.

When Amy got Maggie home and put the exhausted child to bed, she sat down at her computer almost by reflex. She had an email from Karen. She expected it to be a report of a successful retrieval of Paul, but then she saw it had been sent hours ago, while she was at work. It read:


Dear Amy:

I got an email from Sara today after she saw Paul onto the plane. She spoke of many troubles she had with him as a guest in her house. She said he drank her dry and that while she couldn’t prove it, she believed he stole from her to buy booze and that he inappropriately used her son’s cell phone. She was very apologetic and trying really hard not to bad-mouth him, just wanted to make sure I was aware of the behaviors he could be capable of. Just thought I’d pass that on to you, since he’ll be with you before he settles in here.




Amy sighed. She would have to be firm. Or maybe in a healthy environment Paul would behave better. She really didn’t know anything about Sara. But if there was something she knew a little bit about, it was the system. Get Paul into the system, and he’d get the mental health help he needed, and when he felt better he wouldn’t need to self-medicate. Paul couldn’t be a patient of hers, but she knew who he should talk to, and what he should say. Amy hoped that with an “expert” like her, Paul would be able to get the help he needed.

Later that evening when Amy was just about ready to go to bed, she got the email from Karen she had been expecting from the first.


Dear Amy:

Our little lost lamb is safely fetched. See you tomorrow.

Hugs and loves,



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