Status: complete;;

Right Now

Got a Secret - Can You Keep It?

I flop onto my bed, pull my laptop closer, and type into the search bar as I eat the yogurt I brought upstairs with me. Nothing on the recommended screen catches my attention, so I go back to my staple show: The Office. I queue it up from the pilot episode and settle into the mattress further while Michael Scott talks to Jim Halpert about his quarterlies. I scoop another spoonful of yogurt into my mouth, cringe at the awkward jokes Michael makes even though he's not funny.

Brianna is working the closing shift tonight, and the guys left for their tour almost two weeks ago, which means I'm alone. It isn't so bad, really, especially since my days are filled with work. I've only been with the agency for a few days now, but I already really like this job. It feels great to be employed again, and the fact that I'm helping people makes it all that much better. It's still surprising, though, that I managed to even land an interview, let alone the job itself. The owner of the agency had filled out all the necessary paperwork for me to get a work visa, taking all the stress and worries off of me.

My heart aches at the memory of Bea, the way her face fell when her nephew never showed like he promised. She'd been looking forward to his company since before I became her aide, and the fact that the time came and went without sight of him had hurt even me. She put on a strong front, however, and said it was okay, he was just busy. I still wanted to find him and kick his ass for hurting his great-aunt like that. She's a sweet old lady who doesn't deserve to be let down that way. So after my shift was over, I'd texted my boss and asked if I could stay for a bit - off the clock - and spent another three hours playing board games and listening to Bea’s stories about her life. It was a pleasant way to pass the afternoon, and I am honestly looking forward to seeing her again in a couple of days.

Tomorrow is going to be more difficult, I know. But I push that thought aside and let the antics of my show push me into a mindless lull, one in which I don't think about anything other than laughing at Jim’s pranks.

Brianna is still sleeping by the time I slip out of the house the next morning. After I slide into the backseat of the waiting taxi, I send a quick text to her telling her good morning and that I'd see her after work. The ride to James and Dorothy’s is silent; the driver doesn't speak as he makes his way through the streets. I sit back, watch the buildings and faces blur past. Amari waits on the front stoop when the car comes to a stop, and I thank the driver before getting out. He pulls away as soon as the door is closed. I scrunch up my nose at his impatience but make my way up the sidewalk, stepping carefully over the divots and cracks in the concrete.

“Mornin’, love!”

“Hey, good morning, Amari.” I help her to her feet and breathe deeply, the morning air crisp and somewhat rejuvenating. “Ready for today?”

“‘Course. Just a reminder, Miss Dorothy has an appointment at half eleven. Do you want to take her?”

“Sure, since we all know you don't like doctors’ offices.”

“I'll have you know, those jabs traumatised me.”

I giggle and unlock the front door, and we step into the foyer. The television set in the living room is already on. I wipe the bottom of my shoes on the mat just inside the door before rounding the corner. James sits in his armchair, eyes on the TV, and his hands twist and turn the rubber strip he's holding. Amari had said it seems to help him with maintaining focus, and I desperately wanted to believe her. I just haven't seen any evidence of it. I knock lightly on the doorframe and give James my brightest smile.

“Mornin’ there, Mister James,” I say cheerily; Amari barely manages to stifle her snort of laughter at how awful my put-on accent is. We learnt that he didn't trust my American one, so I've spent time learning to speak with a British one. “How would you like some breakfast?”

James grunts quietly but doesn't look away from the show. My grin dims a bit, and I exchange a look with Amari. She shrugs in sympathy.

“Is Miss Dorothy still upstairs, then?”

Another grunt. Amari touches my shoulder and turns on her heel. Her footsteps are nearly silent as she makes her way up the stairs, and I wait until she's disappeared to the upper floor before heading to the kitchen. Once the tea is started, I rummage through the cupboards for the oats I know James will eat and then grab a couple of eggs from the refrigerator. Dorothy cries out from her room; my heart twinges in my chest at the sound. The poor woman is always either in too much pain to move much or, when her arthritis isn't acting up, too weak. It makes me wonder how she's managed to care for her husband for so long. Will I ever have something like that?, I wonder as I crack an egg into a bowl. I shake my head violently. I don't need to think about this right now.

Dorothy pants heavily after she's finally situated in the backseat, and I tuck her blanket more securely around her legs. Her gnarled hand clumsily pats at my cheek. I force a smile, close the door, and round the car to slide into the driver’s seat. She doesn't say anything as I drive toward the medical offices; I glance in the rear-view mirror every so often to make sure she's okay, but I don't voice my concerns about her health, no matter how pale and haggard her face is in the reflection.

Thankfully, getting her out of the car is much easier than getting her in. She pulls a face in displeasure but still obediently sits in the wheelchair I've pulled up to the car. It isn't too long of a walk into the building, but I have legitimate doubts that she is going to be able to take the stairs to the second floor or stand in the elevator long enough. Her grumbling is quiet, almost inaudible, as I push the chair toward the doors, and I bite back a smile. Frail though she may be physically, she's still a feisty woman. I love it.

The doctor nods in my direction when he enters the room, but otherwise, that's the most interaction I have with him. He speaks directly to Dorothy, and I know she's thankful to not be treated as an invalid. I make sure to pay attention to the entire conversation, even when she goes off on a tangent about James, and write down everything medically relevant; Amari said the last aide got terminated for not keeping meticulous notes and it causing a catastrophe - he hadn't picked up Dorothy’s new medication because he'd forgotten it was prescribed, and she'd ended up in hospital due to it. I really don't want to get fired in my first week. Besides, I've grown to adore the woman and her husband.

“I want a treat,” announces Dorothy when we’re crossing the parking lot to the car.

“What would you like, ma'am?”

She waves a hand. “I want… a Big Mac.”

“Uh, I, well… I don't think Doctor Hendricks would be okay with that,” I say after a long moment. “He says you're supposed to -”

“I know what he said, love, but I think I've earned it, don't you?”

I stop the wheelchair and pull open the back door to the car. I can see her hopeful expression from the corner of my eye. I sigh.

“We split one, okay? Right down the middle. You get half, I get half. And we don't tell Doctor Hendricks or Miss Amari.”

Dorothy cackles in delight and lets me help her to her feet. She looks triumphant as she settles into the seat, and I can't stop myself from smiling with her. If my coworker or the doctor ever finds out about this, we’re both going to be in a lot of trouble - me, more so than her, since I'm supposed to be the one in charge - but I just can't tell the woman no.

Bag of food in hand, I pull over into a parking spot and pull the sandwich out. Dorothy watches closely as I use the plastic knife provided at my request to cut the sandwich directly down the centre, just like I promised her. We eat in silence, and I catch a glimpse of her face while I wipe my hands with a napkin. Her eyes are closed, a grin tugging at her lips; she looks like a woman who's been pardoned after fifty years on death row, ecstatic and full of life.

“Our secret, right, Miss Dorothy?”

“Our secret, Miss Dakota,” she promises with a wide grin, and I shake my head when I see the bit of sauce at the corner of her mouth.

Our secret indeed.
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title credit secret the pierces