Help Wanted: Excerpt, Chapter Three

I’m starting to feel the pinch! Help Wanted is going to e-press by the end of the month, and I’ll be ready. For your third taste…


Time went on. Maggie did well at school except that she remained shy. Amy’s maternity-leave anxiety about a closing came to pass, but for another hospital. The rule with County was that if you have the job, you keep it, regardless of seniority or qualifications. Amy had the job. She was very qualified, but hadn’t been there as long as many equally qualified people. There were a few rules broken in round-about ways; a firing of a fumble-fingered phlebotomist who was only coincidentally replaced by a nurse with twenty years seniority at the closed hospital, for instance. Amy was very nervous for a while. Then things finally seemed to shake down, and reach a new equilibrium. It had been good fortune that this coincided with Jenny going back to school. Trade one worry for another, rather than carry them both. Amy felt blessed.

As the nights came earlier and earlier and the temperatures started to drop, Amy, too regained her balance. Jenny was doing fine; good grades, did her homework, no trouble at school. Maggie was thriving in the day-care except in social skills. She wasn’t troublesome, like some pre-verbal children. She didn’t hit or scratch or bite either teachers or other babies. She just didn’t get over being shy and generally liked to play alone and, by preference, somewhere where she could hide or scurry away if something got scary. Nothing ever did, but she acted like it might.

Amy was assured that this was “Within the realms of normal development, just a little unusual for her age.” It was, they said, “Pushing one edge of normal. Pushing the other edge would be a child her age, (nine months) who had a hundred word vocabulary. When a child is otherwise normal, we don’t worry about one area of deviation over a short period of time. Something like this is almost always grown out of. But if you are concerned, take her to her pediatrician. I’m sure he’ll tell you the same thing.”

Amy had had to learn a thing or two about child development when she was getting her education. She knew the day-care teachers were right. Basically Maggie was a shy angel, and she’d get around to being less shy when it suited her.

With her children being of as little worry as it is possible – considering Amy was a mother, and mothers worry about their children all the time, reason or not – and work calmed down to the least stressful it got – which isn’t saying much, but it’s still something to be grateful for – she felt that things were all right in the world. She’d never dare say it out loud or even think it too often for fear of jinxing herself. But for the moment, things were really okay for Amy.


She found herself instant messaging with Paul nearly every night. Mostly they talked about nothing at all, really. Some nights he was on the very friendly side, sending cyber smooches, and hugs, and such. She found herself repeating them back to him. And then she’d tell him she was so glad to have him as a friend and that she adored him. And sometimes he would reply with “I love you.”

Amy wondered if he was drunk those times.

But after weeks of this had gone by she decided to try to get an answer of him about what, exactly, he meant when he said that. It didn’t go exactly as she had imagined it would.

Amy: haha! You’re so funny. I adore you, my friend. =)

Paul Fournier: I love you too, baby.

Amy: You know, there are a lot of people who would think that “I love you” isn’t quite the same thing as “I adore you”

Paul Fournier: Well, you know, I love you. I’m not trying to bust a move on you, I know you don’t feel the same way. If it bothers you, I’ll stop saying it.

Amy: Oh.

Amy tried to think fast, but she was sort of blown away. She grabbed at the first “can we be talking about something else” that floated by

Amy: Wouldn’t everybody at Musikland think that was the funniest dern thing they’d ever heard?

Paul Fournier: HAHAHAHAHA! Let’s do it. Let’s tell them we’re getting married. I’m telling KareBare right now.

Amy eyes got wide, then wider still as the minutes stretched by with no further comment from Paul. Finally she couldn’t bear the tension any longer.

Amy: So? What did she say?

There was another minute or so of waiting then “Paul Fournier is typing” appeared at the bottom of the chat window.

Paul Fournier: Oh that was hilarious

Amy: What did she say? What did YOU say?

Paul Fournier: I said “Congratulate me, I’m engaged”. And she said, “Are you really, or are you just messing with me?”

Amy: lol, can’t really blame her for that.

Paul Fournier: =P So I tell her I’m not messing with her. She says “Congratulations! Who are you marrying, or would I even know her?” So I tell her QueenoftheDarned, and she just says “Wow, I didn’t even know you guys talked.”

Amy: That’s a pretty careful answer.

Paul Fournier: That’s how she is. Really super nice, wouldn’t hurt a fly, but she’ll lay it on the line if she thinks I need it.

Amy: I’ve gotten that impression about her. She’s always seemed very nice, but we’ve never talked privately.

Paul Fournier: She may be the first one I ever chatted with. Hard to remember that far back. Kind of like with you. Except I never told anybody was engaged to her. Seeing as she’s married it might have looked weird.

Amy: Yeah you never know which way Musikland is going to run with something like that.

Paul Fournier: Shugerbooger, I gotta hit the hay, the bed is calling my name.

Amy: Okay, sweet dreams.


Amy had a feeling that Paul wasn’t good relationship material, even though he did make her laugh, and seemed to have such a good heart. He had a lot of things he needed to work on before being in a relationship with him would sound genuinely appealing. Still, Amy felt the tiniest of flutterings in her heart at the words she’d read. It was definitely time to get back into circulation.

That goof-ball, Amy thought as she was drifting off to sleep. He’s probably not even going to remember telling KareBare about this… but KareBare won’t forget.


As Amy had half-predicted, Paul didn’t mention the engagement idea the next night or any night after that. They went on the same as before. He started talking about how he was going to have two weeks off of work in December, as the nursery closed around the Christmas holiday.

Paul Fournier: I have a little money saved, but it’s not enough.

Amy: Enough to get you through the shut-down?

Paul Fournier: Enough for me to go to California.

Amy: Oooohhhhh

Paul Fournier: 😉 I can get a cheap ticket from a friend, but I can’t rent a car or pay for a hotel.

Amy: Where in California were you thinking of visiting?

Paul Fournier: Well Sacramento, of course. You and KareBare both live there so I could meet both of you, as well as take a look around. KareBare says that San Francisco is not too far, if I wanted to see that.

Amy: That’s true.

Paul Fournier: But it doesn’t matter, since I can’t do it anyway.

Amy thought hard as fast as she could.

Amy: If you were only staying a couple of days, I could put you up at my apartment. I only have a couch to offer, but the price is right. And honestly, you don’t need a car to get around Sacramento. And anyway KareBare doesn’t work at all, does she? Maybe she could drive you to the places that are harder to get to or further away.

Paul Fournier: Do you really think that would work?

Amy: Well, obviously you’d have to ask KareBare about the driving part! Lol

Paul Fournier: lol

Then Paul’s uncle phoned him up for some help, or so he said. Possibly he just needed an excuse to think things over. Amy had noticed in Paul a strong tendency to think there was no way to change a bad situation and that there wasn’t any point in trying. People like that were all in a day’s work, to Amy… but those people were in a contained situation where they could be monitored and helped in a number of different ways. Amy did not have all those tools at her disposal for Paul.


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