The Ties that Bind

By: Emilie Rose

One

Anna Aronson aimed a measured breath at the plastic wand and wished the bubbles exiting the opposite side could magically carry her worries away on the breeze.

The boys playing at her feet in the thick emerald grass squealed and gurgled in the infectious way only toddlers can, making her smile despite impending disaster.

She had to get this job.

A flash of movement caught her attention. She glanced away from the boys scampering after the bubbles, and spotted the woman who’d interviewed her earlier coming toward them. Tension wound inside Anna like an Archimedean spiral.

“Mr. Hollister will see you now, Anna. He’s waiting in his office. Take the doors on the left side of the patio.” She gestured to the luxurious, sprawling Greenwich, Connecticut, home.

Anna licked her dry lips and lowered the wand. “The boys…”

“I’ll watch them while you talk to the boss. He has the final say. But for what it’s worth, you have my vote.” Mrs. Findley held out her hand for the bottle of bubbles and wand.

Anna, feeling as if she were surrendering a life preserver in rough seas, handed them over. This interview felt very much like a sink or swim situation. If she didn’t get this job she wouldn’t be able to pay this month’s rent or electric bill, and she’d be left with no option except to swallow her pride, go home and beg for help even though her mother had already made it clear that Anna and Cody would not be welcome in the retirement community where she resided.

But hopefully it wouldn’t come to that. “Thank you, Mrs. Findley.”

“Call me Sarah. And, Anna, don’t let Pierce intimidate you. He’s a fair employer and a good man despite the armor plated personality.”

Armor plated personality?

Trepidation closed Anna’s throat. She couldn’t have spoken even if an appropriate response had materialized in her seized up brain. Instead she nodded and headed for the house. The distance seemed endless, and by the time she reached the stone porch stairs of the two-story colonial her breaths came quickly—as if she’d run a mile instead of walking a few hundred yards.

Through the glass door Anna spotted her prospective employer sitting behind a massive wooden desk. The air jammed in her lungs. Please, please, please let this go well.

She knocked on the glass. He looked up from a stack of papers, scowling, then bid her to enter with one sharp snap of his head. Her hand slipped on the polished brass knob. She had to blot her damp palm on her dress before trying again and pushing open the door.

Pierce Hollister, with his supermodel chiseled features and thick, dark hair styled in one of those intentionally messy cuts, looked as if he belonged in a glossy magazine advertisement for an expensive product that any young millionaire might want to buy, and though he’d dressed casually in a black polo shirt opened at the base of his tanned neck, he still reeked of power and prestige.

But a handsome, charming, wealthy man had contributed to her current financial predicament. She couldn’t afford to let her guard down with this one.

“H-hello, Mr. Hollister. I’m Anna Aronson.”

Hazel eyes without a trace of friendliness inspected her from head to toe. She hoped her simple shirt dress and sandals passed muster.

“Why were you fired from your last position?”

Flustered by the terse question even before she’d closed the door, she bought time by focusing on the—ohmigod original—art on the walls around him and pushing the door until she heard the lock catch. So much for a polite handshake greeting.

“I was let go because I refused an after school playdate with the father of one of my students.”

“He propositioned you?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you file a complaint with the headmaster?”

“I did. But the parent in question is one of the school’s primary benefactors and his wife is their most successful fundraiser. My complaint was ignored.”

“How long did you work for the school?”

“The dates are in my resume.”

“I’m asking you.”

Why would he question her credentials unless he thought she’d made them up and wouldn’t recall them? “The academy hired me part-time straight out of college as a tutor for some of their struggling students. Six months later when a teacher quit unexpectedly they offered me a full-time teaching position. All totaled I worked for the school for three and a half years.”

“And despite your history as an employee the school fired you because of one parent’s allegations. They chose to take his word over yours.”

“The headmaster believed generous private school donors were harder to come by than elementary school teachers.”

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