What Matters Most ~ Chapter Nine

Marah worried her lip as she looked over her proposed designs for the new Fifth Street Community Center. She knew she was good but jobs of this scale always made her a bit nervous. But a job this big would also launch her business into a whole other playing field. Which was why she had arrived a few minutes early to make sure everything was perfect, and to give herself a little pep talk. “If you could handle starving models during fashion week you can handle this. Doris Wolfe at her worst is nothing compared to that.”

“You know talking to yourself is never a good sign.”

Marah had been so engrossed in her plans she hadn’t noticed the man approach. She just considered herself lucky that she hadn’t been drinking anything or her surprise might have scrapped the entire project. Hard to look professional when not only your outfit but your designs are drenched, “Occupational hazard or personal quirk? Take your pick. I like to go with occupational hazard myself. Makes me seem a little less on the crazy side.”

The man smiled, “And why is a beautiful lady like yourself sitting alone?”

Inwardly Marah groaned. Why was it that when men decided to flirt they used such lame lines? Marah eyed the stranger again, she guessed he was handsome enough. If you liked that generic dark-haired college frat boy look. She hadn’t been a fan of that look when she was in college much less now. She had always had eyed for her tall, dark, and handsome Santos. Some things never changed no matter how old you were.

As if sensing that he had moved beyond normal social etiquette the newcomer held out his hand, “Sorry I forgot to introduce myself. My name is David Anderson. I am the new bartender slash night manager here at Towers.”

Years of good manners demanded dignify with a response. She held out her hand, “Marah Santos. Do you always flirt with patrons you just met?”

“Only the pretty ones.”

He still wore that smile meant to disarm unsuspecting females though she would have sworn his eyes flickered when she introduced herself. Which by now she was sort of used to, the Santos name still wasn’t completely cleared, and probably never would be, but they chose not to let the curious whispers bother them. But this was a stranger, which in her eyes put a whole new spin on the situation. Marah opened up her mouth to inquire further when she saw Doris Wolfe enter from the elevators. Show time! She stood and gathered her designs back into her portfolio, “Well it was nice to meet you but my meeting is about to start. I’m sure I’ll see you around.”

“Oh I can almost guarantee it Mrs. Santos.”

***

Marah found that Doris Wolfe was remarkably less frightening as an adult than she was as a teenager. As a teenager Doris had not only tried to send Tony to prison but had actually succeeded in sending her mother away for a while. She had been formidable and scary on Marah’s youthful memories. Now they were on my even footing and Marah wasn’t so intimidated by Doris’s formidable demeanor. Even better, she liked the plans Marah had for the community center. “Well Marah I must say I’m impressed. It’s both practical and efficient while still remaining classy . I will present these to the Board of Trustees but off the record, yours is the best we’ve seen yet.” The older woman began placing the photo renderings in her briefcase while inside Marah did a happy dance. Yes Doris Wolfe wasn’t nearly as bad as she had been to a frightened teenager.

“Thank you for the opportunity Ms. Wolfe. Working on a project of this magnitude would be a great honor.” When Doris continued to stare off into space Marah became a little concerned. She tried again. “Ms. Wolfe?”

Snapped out of her thoughts Doris looked at Marah with a guilty wince. “Sorry my mind is elsewhere today.”

Marah was no idiot, she knew that snagging this job hinged on her ability to charm Doris Wolfe. And it was clear that Doris’ mind wasn’t anywhere close to community centers or Fifth Street. “Would you like to talk about it? I hear I am a pretty good listener.”

It was as if giving Doris the green light to unload her emotional drama opened the flood gates. Suddenly Marah was privy to all of Doris’ woes and she was regretting her offer of assistance. “It’s my daughter Ashlee. I sent her to college to get an education and what happens? She meets a man. She could be the next Barbara Walters, instead she and her fiance are thinking of returning to Springfield. I wanted better for her than working for the Springfield Journal.”

Marah wisely kept her mouth shut. She doubted Doris wanted to hear about how since Fletcher Reade had returned to Springfield the paper had seen a resurgence of its formal glory so she just tried to nod sympathetically while Doris kept ranting.

“And her fiancé? I think he is some kind of hippie. Has her balancing her chakras and meditating. And rock climbing! Like I want my daughter hanging off a mountainside by her fingertips. But that is not the real issue. The real issue is I frankly don’t know how I could see being related, even through marriage, to Olivia Spencer.”

While Doris visibly shuddered Marah’s antennas went up. That must mean that Ashlee was engaged to… “Is Ashlee engaged to Sam Spencer by any chance?”

Marah wasn’t the only one whose antennas went up. Doris practically perked up with the innocent enough question. “I forgot your father was married to Olivia for a while.”

Marah laughed without any real humor.  She had put Olivia through the ringer, had in fact considered her the stepmother from hell. And she hadn’t been too far off the mark, Olivia had been a real piece of work. But if Marah was honest with herself she hadn’t been too much better. She had been in her teenage rebellion phase and not very pleasant to, well, anyone those days. Not even poor sweet Sam who tried so hard for her to see him as more than a friend. But even then her heart had belonged to Tony. “Doris I hope this doesn’t ruin all my hopes of getting the job, but Sam is a good guy. I haven’t seen Olivia in years but back then he was the best part of Olivia Spencer, even with the New Age meditation stuff.”

Doris seemed to ponder this for a moment. “I am still not to thrilled with my daughter hanging off the side of a mountain.”

At that moment Doris reminded Marah so much of her parents, particularly her father, it was downright scary. But then did any parent want to see their child grow up and spread their wings? But Joshua Lewis’ reluctance had been due to the danger associated with the Santos family so Marah at least felt compelled to point out Sam’s positive points. “You know one time Sam literally free climbed a tower to rescue me from kidnappers? We were never meant to be more than friends but he was always a good one.”

Marah glanced at the clock on the wall and was shocked to see how much time had passed. She still had to so much to get done before her family came over tonight! “I am sorry to cut this meeting short but my parents are coming over for dinner tonight and I am not even remotely ready.” But before she could leave she had to say at least one more thing, “I hope you like my designs. I may be new to the business but my portfolio speaks for itself. I do good work. And give your daughter a chance at love. If not you might end up missing out on time that you can never get back.”

As she made her way towards the exit Doris called out her name to get her attention. “Thanks for the advice. And though I will have to run it formally by the trustees I can informally say you got the job.”

Marah smiled demurely while inside she was doing a happy dance. ” Thank you. You won’t be disappointed.”

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