​Tessa Brookfield



My stress level started to rise to an irritating level with the spitting and spattering of my car as I pulled into the underground parking lot. This can’t be happening, not now. I needed my car now more than ever—I needed a break, something to go my way for once.

I began my regular routine of gathering my cleaning cart from the musty smelling storage closet in the basement, and I headed down the long, narrow hallway towards the bank of elevators.

As the elevator traveled upward, towards the nineteenth floor, it hit me just how tired and run down I was starting to feel. The long days of school followed by working in the evenings were starting to catch up with me. I was physically and mentally drained, but I had no other choice but to do it. I was finally moving forward with my life, and I wasn’t about to go backward—not for anything. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like, and I swear I will never go there again—no matter what it takes.

With my car on the verge of letting me down, it was just another reality check that if I wanted things to be different this was what I had to do, no matter how much of a toll it was taking on me. My motivation for everything I did and had done to build a better life, far exceeded the short-term pain I had to endure. I won’t let it be all for nothing. It can’t be all for nothing.

Kipple’s Construction had provided me with the break I so desperately needed, a little over a year ago—well, he provided me with the break I needed. It was a turning point for me the day I made the call and was offered a cleaning position at Kipple’s. It was far from what you would call a gratifying job by any means, but it was a job, and at that point in my life I couldn’t be picky. I was beyond desperate. I had already hit rock bottom and there was nowhere to go but up.

I cleaned offices on the executive floor for contractors, architects, lawyers and the office of Adam Kipple, himself. It was jobs like this that made me decide to go back to school and take Interior Design. I had been given another chance, and I knew it might be the last one I ever got so I had to make the most of it. It was a one year program and I was just about done—it would be the first thing I’d ever finished in my life. My dream, although large, was to someday own my own Interior Design business—Hailey Deegan Interior Designs. A smile crossed my face just at the thought. Will it ever happen? I didn’t know, but for now it was one of the things that kept me moving forward.

The elevator stopped on the nineteenth floor, and the doors opened up to a large, bright lobby.

The front wheel of my cart caught where the bottom of the elevator and the polished grey marble floor met, sending one of my bottles of cleaning solution tumbling off my cart and onto the floor where it rolled to a stop just in front of Christine’s desk.

 Christine, Mr. Kipple’s assistant, looked up from behind her compact mirror just long enough to roll her eyes at me. She sat behind a long stretched, grey marble desk under bright florescent lights that highlighted the sign on the front of the desk that read, “Kipple’s Construction and Design”.

It was the same routine every day. The elevator doors would open on the nineteenth floor, and Christine would be sitting behind her desk fixing her makeup before checking in with Mr. Kipple prior to going home for the evening. It was quite entertaining to watch, and it was obvious what she hoped would happen when she entered his office. Come on, did she think I didn’t notice her undoing one more button on her blouse before going to his office? Why doesn’t she just throw herself on his desk? Who knew, maybe at one point he was fucking her, but with how fast she returned from his office that didn’t appear to be the case at the present time.

As much as I disliked her I couldn’t deny that she was picture perfect, with long, silky, jet black hair that fell gently around her flawless complexion and delicate features. Her designer clothes hugged her perfect body, which resembled that of a swimsuit model—I doubted she ate more than rabbit food, looking like that. She exemplified glamor and extreme confidence with only one obvious flaw in my opinion—she’s a bitch! She reminded me of the girls in high school that I hated, the ones that would walk by with their noses stuck in the air, whispering and leering. You know, the ones that thought they were better than everyone else—that was Christine to a tee. No doubt she was the ringleader of the group.

I picked up the bottle that had rolled across the floor and set it back on my cart before signing myself in on the clipboard that hung at the end of her desk. We hardly ever spoke to each other, and when we did it was always with a mutual undertone of smugness. She clearly held herself well above me—I guess talking to the cleaning staff is beneath her.

 Just like clockwork, Christine returned from Mr. Kipple’s office to gather her purse and jacket. Rejected! Today was yet again another day that Mr. Kipple had sent her packing.

 “Good night, Christine,” I mumbled snidely as she walked by me towards the elevators. I couldn’t contain the smirk from crossing my face—I couldn’t help but enjoy the fact that she wasn’t getting what she was clearly after.

“Night” she snarled back.

Grabbing the trash can from under Christine’s desk I emptied it into the bag at the end of my cart. Yes, emptying trash cans with the remains of expensive take-out every day, what a gratifying job.

“Oh, Christine, before you go.” Mr. Kipple had walked around the corner holding a file.

I had never officially met Mr. Kipple. I mean, I knew who he was, everyone knew who he was, but to him I was sure I was just the cleaning lady—if he even notices me at all.

“Um, Christine just left.” My voice cracked from the discomfort I felt in his presence. I was rather intimidated standing in such close proximity to him, with him being a successful man, not to mention his ravishing good looks. I’d seen him before, from a distance with his head down at his desk or preoccupied on his blackberry, but never this close.

“Damn it! Okay, thanks.” He tossed the file onto the desk.

I returned the empty garbage can back to its place under Christine’s desk, promptly returning to my cart, wanting to remove myself from his presence. I didn’t know how to act around him. I was more than intimidated, which triggered unwanted perspiration that moistened the armpits of my t-shirt. Great, something else to add to the level of anxiety I’m already experiencing.

“I don’t think we’ve officially met.” He held out his hand, which I reluctantly met with mine, but not before subtly running it down the side of my shirt in an effort to dry my sweaty palm.

“Adam Kipple.”

“Hailey Deegan.” I know who you are, who doesn’t? One of the most successful men in Portland, Oregon was what I felt like saying. At that moment, I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I had to force myself to make eye contact with him so I didn’t come across as rude, as painful as that was.

 I took a couple of steps to the side so my body was partially hidden by the cart. What I really wanted to do was crawl under the desk from not feeling worthy of being in his presence, and I definitely didn’t warrant him giving me the time of day.

He looks like him. Maybe it’s the dark hair and expensive suit. You’re not going to let yourself go there, you have fought way too hard to try and move past that time in your life. 

For the few brief moments I forced myself to look into his dark brown eyes, as uncomfortable as that was, I wondered just how many women he had been with. He was successful, powerful, breathtakingly good looking and much younger than I had figured him for. No doubt he had all kinds of beautiful women throwing themselves at him—Christine being one of them. Now that I’d seen him up close, I would peg him to be all of thirty years of age, which was only five years older than me. I guess I’d just assumed someone that successful had to be older.

He was stunning, standing there in his black suit—that likely cost more than what my car was worth. It was tailored perfectly to his tall, well-kept body, assuming working out was part of his regular routine. His dark hair matched his dark, mystic eyes. His shoulders were broad and strong looking, and he had to be at least six feet tall, which at minimum was half a foot taller than me. Maybe it was his looks and his success that intimidated me—or was it that he reminded me so much of him. Who am I kidding? It wasn’t any of those things that had me feeling so uneasy at that particular moment. It was my lack of self-esteem and self-confidence that had me so unnerved and wanting to remove myself from the awkward situation I was submersed in.

“It’s nice to meet you, Hailey. You have yourself a good evening.”

“Thank you,” I murmured. I looked down at the floor and started to push my cart down the hall, feeling the heat rise in my face as I sensed he was watching me walk away.

 

Nine o’clock marked the end of my shift. It couldn’t have come soon enough. I had been distraught my entire shift after my interaction with Mr. Kipple.

All I had left to do was empty the trash in Mr. Kipple’s office, and I could get out of there.

As I walked by I noticed he was still in his office, which seemed rather late for him to still be around. He was usually gone somewhere between six and seven, on most nights.

I couldn’t find the nerve to ask if he wanted me to empty his trash can, so I walked right by his office hoping he wouldn’t see me.

“Good night, Hailey.”

Shit! How can I ignore him now? I might have been lacking self-esteem and self-confidence, but I wasn’t rude. Taking an overly long deep breath I pushed my—body shied—cleaning cart back, stopping in front of his opened door.

“Good night, Mr. Kipple. Would you like me to empty your garbage before I go?” Please say no, please say no.

“Please, call me Adam, and no. You go on home and enjoy the rest of your evening.”

Breathe again. “Thank you. Good night.”

I quickly signed out on the clipboard and pushed the elevator call button over and over again, anxious to get out of there before I was faced with another insufferable interaction. I had experienced enough discomfort for one evening.

Shattered by a past of terrible choices and mistakes, Hailey Deegan is forced to live a life filled with guilt for all she has done. Embracing the second chance she has been given, which she doesn’t feel she deserves, Hailey is determined to right all the wrongs and make a better life for herself. 

Learning to love again, not only herself, but Adam Kipple, a man who helps her to believe in herself again, seems an impossible feat.

Hailey’s hopes and dreams are finally within reach, no longer a haze in the distance, until her world comes crumbling down when her present collides with her past. 
Hailey is forced to relive the secrets of her past she so desperately wants to forget. Everything she has ever done has been for one reason, and one reason only. With her past jeopardizing the future she is fighting for, Hailey is forced to dig deep to find the strength to overcome what she now must face.