Money changes everything.
Those words were printed across the top of the ridiculous poster tacked to a wood-paneled wall inside the lobby of the century-old bank. At the bottom in an equally obnoxious script: Open a savings account today! There was a glossy photo of strangers pretending to be a family between the two phrases, betrayed by the forced expression of love on their faces. Their affection for one another was just as fake as the cheap backdrop of a city park behind them.
Actors, thought Adam. They’re no family.
The father was pretty, clean-shaven, and probably gay.
The mother looked lost. She was petite, Asian, and wearing way too much lipstick for a day out in the sun with her loved ones.
Maybe she stumbled onto the photo shoot by accident, the photographer thought she had the right look, and she landed the gig without even trying. Poor thing.
The child looked Middle Eastern and terribly unhappy, probably forced against his will to hold the melting rainbow-colored snow cone in his hand. His lips were stained with food coloring and his gaze aimed away from the camera, like a loud noise had occurred at the moment the photo was taken.
The three of them looked like hostages, begging to be rescued and taken home.
Adam moved away from the sun-faded poster, took a few steps to his left and pushed open the half-closed, dark wooden door to his mother’s new office.
Wow. I’m impressed. Dear old Mom’s moving up in the world.
Becca Parsh was sitting behind a computer in an outdated navy blue skirt suit, a broad-shouldered blazer with shiny gold buttons, a string of inherited pearls, and a new salmon-colored blouse that made her look like a politician’s dutiful wife. Her blond highlights were in desperate need of a touch-up and she was wearing too much blush and mascara.
As usual, she looked exhausted and overwhelmed.
“I come bearing salad,” Adam offered, raising the overstuffed, overpriced plastic container he held, like the lunch was a token of friendship.
His mother pointed to her earlobe and mouthed familiar words: I’m on the phone.
Adam nodded, placed the salad in the center of her already-cluttered desk, and started to leave. He moved backward in the same direction he’d entered, retreating toward the doorway and the lobby of the bank. It was a game left over from his childhood that they called Rewind. The object was to determine who could move in reverse the longest.
Adam always won. Becca usually fell.
Adam had one foot out the door when his mother held up an index finger and stopped him in his tracks. He gave her a look, hoping for more instructions. She pointed to the empty black leather and chrome chair on the opposite side of her desk. Adam took a seat.
“Sir, I’m sorry you’re upset,” his mother said into the illuminated earpiece. The stress the conversation was causing could be heard in her strained voice. Adam knew the tone well, as he often caused it. She was trying to be polite, but frustration was breaking through. She leaned back in her chair and rubbed her temples. “And I understand why. Really, I do. These are hard times for everyone.”
You’re telling me. At least you have a job, Mom.
Adam’s attention shifted. There were three helium-filled balloons trying to free themselves from the streams of pink and yellow ribbons they were secured to. They were drifting like shiny ghosts behind Becca’s head, caught in the gentle flow of warm air streaming out of the vent in the ceiling above them. One of the balloons offered Congratulations! The other was a maniacal happy face. The third was an odd choice: pictures of a baby’s bottle and a pacifier.
Mother, is there something I should know?
Adam grinned at the thought of his forty-year-old mother announcing she was pregnant. Sure, women her age had babies all the time. But if she did, Adam’s society-concerned grandmother would never recover from the shock and public humiliation. It was bad enough Becca never remarried, living the lonely life of a widow for all these years, but to commit the ultimate social sin of getting knocked up while unmarried?
That would throw the uptight old broad right over the edge.
Nana would literally die of embarrassment.
“I’ll look into the foreclosure,” his mother promised the caller. “You have my word, sir. If the bank made a mistake, I’ll make it my personal mission to find it. I really wish there was more I could do for you right now.”
Seconds later, she was off the phone. She let out a sigh that was way too heavy for a newly promoted loan officer. She whipped off the wireless headset and started rummaging through desk drawers, frustrated.
“Can I help?” Adam asked.
“I’m looking for a fork,” she said to the pile of papers on her desk.
Adam reached into a sweatshirt pocket and produced a black plastic fork, encased in a see-through wrapper. “For the lady,” he said, reaching across the desk.
“I don’t feel like a lady today.”
“But you got flowers,” he said, noticing the red vase of white carnations on the edge of the desk. “And balloons. Speaking of which…anything you want to tell me?”
“They’re from my promotion,” she said. “You know that. I texted you this morning.”
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Genre - Gay Romance, Suspense
Rating – R
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