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Exercising the craft—December 14, 2020

By Ekta R. Garg

(I’m sharing the next part to the story I started last week. Find the first part here: Part 1.)

*****

On the Monday after the cookie exchange, Maureen arrived at the office and ignored the fluttering in her stomach. Or tried to ignore it anyway. Two days earlier, Maggie had told her in no uncertain terms that she didn’t want to see Maureen. Now here Maureen was, about to crash Maggie’s workplace.

But Maggie didn’t know that yet. And Maureen wasn’t supposed to know she was entering her sister’s office. According to Maggie, this would just be another nasty run-in with the sister who ran away from home.

As Maureen went to the front desk to introduce herself, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the dull metal elevator door. Here she was, dressed as a successful executive. Before Saturday, the last time Maggie had seen her was when Maureen was in rehab.

“Hi, I’m Maureen Bishop, here to see Andrew Firth,” she said to the woman sitting at the desk.

The woman scanned the computer screen then smiled at her. “Welcome to the company, Maureen. Let me show you to Andrew’s office.”

Maureen followed her down a short hallway that opened into the central part of the office. Cubicles divided up workspaces, but the energy hummed. Maureen could feel that people were happy to be here and ready to work. It was a welcome change from some places she’d been employed.

Just then, her sister stood up from a chair with a device in her hand. She looked up from the device, and their eyes met. Maureen could see the emotions on Maggie’s face flit from confusion to anger. For a second, Maureen had the ridiculous notion of running to Maggie and throwing her arms around her like in the movies. The thought made her bite back a smile. Instead she nodded at Maggie and turned her complete attention to the door of Andrew’s office.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Maggie stomp toward her and a few heads peer over the cubicle walls in their direction.

“What are you doing here?” Maggie asked when she as about ten paces away.

Maureen turned to her in a smooth motion. Too late to pretend to run into her sister in the break room or kitchen or wherever people in the company got food. She resisted the urge to run a hand over her hair, still straightened.

“Hi, Maggie,” she said, keeping her voice neutral.

“I said, what are you doing here?”

Maggie crossed her arms, and Maureen glanced at the receptionist. The poor woman kept looking between the two sisters. Maureen gave her a reassuring smile.

“Would you mind letting Andrew know I’m here?” she said.

The woman smiled back with a little bit of uncertainty and kept going down the path to the boss’s door. Maureen turned back to her sister. At the last second, she offered a little wave.

“Hi, Maggie. Do you work here?”

“Isn’t that why you’re here?” Maggie shot back. “God, Maureen, why don’t you just leave me alone? I don’t have anything to give you. Harassing me at my home and now my workplace is just…I mean, am I going to have to call someone to take care of this?”

“What’s going on?”

Maureen turned. Andrew Firth. Founder of Quantum Analytics eight years ago. A tech genius of sorts but a nice guy. Not like some of those pretentious Silicon Valley types, which would be hard to find here in Wisconsin.

“Nothing, I can’t handle, Andy,” Maggie said. Maureen noticed her cheeks turned a little pink. “I’m just trying to figure out what my sister is doing here?”

“Sister? I didn’t know you had a sister.”

Maureen had braced herself for the words; they still hurt. She’d known long ago that Maggie no longer acknowledged her, but hearing it point blank made her chest pinch. She breathed deep and smiled even brighter than before.

“Andrew? I’m Maureen Bishop, your new project manager.”

She stepped forward with a hand extended, and Andrew raised his hand in return in an automatic response. The firmness of the handshake reassured Maureen, and she made sure to add just enough pressure to do the same for her new boss. Maggie might object, but Maureen would stay until she’d accomplished what she needed to.

“Nice to meet you, Maureen. Welcome to—”

“No,” Maggie broke in. “This can’t happen. Andy, you have no idea what you’re getting into. Maureen can’t…she won’t…I mean, she’s—”

“Been sober for fifteen years now,” Maureen said in a quiet voice. Maggie’s jaw dropped, but Maureen kept her smile in place. “I appreciate getting a chance to work with you.”

“Of course,” Andy said. “You’ve got excellent recommendations, and I think you’ve got a lot to offer Quantum. And it’s commendable that you’ve overcome such a huge challenge. How about if we make our way to my office so I can brief you on all the basics around here?”

“Sounds great.”

She ignored Maggie’s shock, although it took a deep breath to do it, and followed Andrew through his office door. In her mind, she nodded in approval. She liked the easy way he’d acknowledged and then closed the question of her sobriety.

He’d seen the battle for himself, although Maggie didn’t know that yet. And Maureen knew other things about him that Maggie probably also knew—his kindness; his involvement in the community. His single-mindedness when it came to relationships.

He was perfect for Maggie. Now, if only her sister would let her get close enough so she could help her. Maureen’s assignment from Mr. C. didn’t involve a romantic setup for her sister, but if that came about as a positive result then what was the harm?

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