Zera and the Green Man: Chapter 6

moneyTheodore jogged alone in the running room at Biotech Multinational’s gym. His legs, stronger from the weeks of intense exercise, pumped beneath him, his chest rose and fell in full, measured breaths, light perspiration beaded on his forehead below his dark shock of hair. He easily kept up with the moving floor of fake stone as the four walls surrounding him showed a landscape leafy and dappled in light.

Theodore passed the same grove of trees once every mile, and kept his eye on the glinting river far off in the distance. The river always sounded the same. It didn’t roar, like the rapids on the Arkansas River, it was steady and melodic. Even so, it always reminded him of the Arkansas River, and his sister Sally’s death. Sally and Ewan, killed in a flash flood that wouldn’t have happened if the lands around the river had been preserved, instead of being stripped of trees and vegetation for mining. Of course their deaths also might have been avoided if the two were not such adrenaline junkies — always wanting to go out and do things like ride rapids, climb the highest peaks in Colorado, fly a single-engine plane, or spend weekends skiing black-diamond slopes. He’d teased Sally for being a “hippie,” living in Ute Springs, being an artist and working on save-something causes all the time; that is, when she wasn’t pushing her limits physically. They’d always argued good-naturedly; he on the side of progress, she questioning his definition of “progress,” and yet she always let him know she adored her little brother.

He used to think about his sister’s death every day, but since the evening at Burger Depot, life had changed. That night he’d made a decision that he would not be pulled down by his grief (which was not easy, given Zera’s resemblance to Sally) or by feeling sorry for himself because his career wasn’t going the way he planned. On that night, he formed a purpose. He would take action. And now, finally, it was paying off. He’d lost a lot of flab, and he kept a positive attitude most days. Today as he jogged, he whistled and thought over his itinerary. I’ll do my early morning workout, check in at the office, pick up my stuff, and then just walk out those doors.

An attractive woman in a skimpy jogging outfit appeared behind him on the left wall. She ran up, passed him, then turned and smiled, a smile both encouraging and flirtatious. “You’re doing great. Keep it up!”

Theodore smiled back at the holographic image, even though a second later he felt silly. His wristwatch buzzed — 7:50 A.M.

“I’m done,” he said. The machine-room obeyed the comment. In tandem, the woman disappeared, and the walls and road slowed to a stop. A door, invisible in the moving landscape, became visible again and Theodore opened it into the rest of the gym.

After showering and changing, he returned to his cubicle. His desk now held only his computer, a framed Glamour-Girl holograph of Tiffany, and a school holograph of Zera. Theodore picked up Tiffany’s picture. I hope this works, he thought, gazing at the image, because I can’t come back here. I’ve got to leave without saying anything. He looked at Zera’s picture. I hope this is going to work out for you, too, kid.

From over his cubicle wall, Theodore spied the top of Harv Headstrom’s shiny head. He watched it bob down the corridor, approaching his office. Probably making his third trip to the coffee bar this morning, or his third trip to the bathroom. I hope he doesn’t stop to say hi.

Harv peered over the five-foot-six-inch-tall cubicle wall, his caterpillar eyebrows hovering over bright brown eyes. “Hey Theo, how’s it going?”

Theodore put the picture down, and for the first time in a long time he smiled at Harv. “It’s going great.”

Harv’s caterpillars reared up. “Yeah?”

Theodore nodded.

“Well, cool, it’s about time!” Harv went around to the door of Theodore’s office. “Wow, you really cleaned off your desk, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it not buried.”

“Uh . . . it was due,” Theodore said flatly. He didn’t want to encourage Harv to stick around.

“I was just heading down for a cup of joe, thought I’d say hi. See you at the meeting before lunch.”

Oh, no you won’t, Theodore thought. Instead he said, “Later, Harv.”

Burger Depot had turned out to be a huge hit, just as expected. Americo had opened five new restaurants since the grand opening, with ten more scheduled by the end of next year. And still, Theodore had received no recognition from Bob Cadger. He’d tried to talk to him, and had his appointment “rescheduled” numerous times. After a while, Theodore gave up.

He opened his briefcase. So long Biotech Multinational, he said to himself as he began to play over in his mind last night’s dinner at Chez Escargot.

*     *     *     *     *

He and Tiffany had shared a candlelight dinner in the darkened, richly-decorated dining room just hours after Theodore got the news. Tiffany was surprised at the invitation to dinner and on their arrival at the restaurant purred, “What’s the occasion, Theodore? I’m on pins and needles! Tell me!”

“You’ll find out soon enough.”

He waited until after dessert. Behind his glasses, Theodore’s eyes shone as he pulled out from his breast pocket two airline tickets to Los Angeles. He laid them on the table and announced, “Tiffany, it’s happened.”

Tiffany picked up the tickets, then looked at Theodore. A hint of confusion, then disappointment, flickered in her eyes, as if she were expecting something else. “What . . . what’s happened?”

“Somebody finally recognizes my worth. My potential.” Theodore brought out his ever-present pocket computer. “I’ve received an offer from Void Chemical. You’ve heard me talk about them. We’ve been in contact almost since the time of the Burger Depot opening. They’re bigger than Biotech. Way bigger.” He started punching in numbers. “Tiffany, they want me as president of their Biotechnology Division, and — this is my starting salary.” He handed the pad across the table. Tiffany’s slender hand trembled as she took it. She peeked at the display. It read: $ 900,000.00.

“Oh–my–God!” She squealed and bounced up several inches in her chair. A few diners looked over and Tiffany flashed them a lottery winner’s smile.

“Tomorrow I’m leaving Biotech and I’m not even giving them notice. I’m never going back. And that’s just the beginning.” Theodore’s voice lowered, “We can get out of here. I’ll finally have the chance to be all I’m destined to be.”

“Theodore, I am so hap . . .” She stopped, looked at him wide-eyed. “You said ‘we’ . . . Does that mean . . .”

“Yep, no more slaving over equations and hypotheses while the powers that be take all the credit, and the money. Langston Void, the top CEO at Void Chemical Corporation, wants to meet me tomorrow, wants me to personally bring him the signed contract. I told him about you, how you encouraged me, and he invited you, too. He wants to meet you.”

“You said ‘we’ll’ before, Teddy . . . ,” a hopeful eagerness brightened Tiffany’s face. “Does this mean, well, that you might want to . . .” she looked around the room, “take our relationship to the next level?”

Theodore turned pale. He took a gulp of wine. He cared about Tiffany, but had no desire to even think about the “M” word. Before Sally and Ewan died, he and Tiffany had been on exactly two dates. Then she showed up the day after his sister’s death. She’d read about it in the papers, wanted to comfort him. Before he knew it, she was a big part of his and Zera’s lives. She’d been hinting at marriage for months, but he didn’t know if he would ever be ready for that. His mother had been married three times; he just didn’t believe in that institution. Yet he needed Tiffany’s help with Zera, an area where he was clueless and she was confident, and he needed her enthusiasm. Tiffany’s ambition and drive were contagious. More than anything, Theodore wanted to succeed, to be someone important, and Tiffany understood this like no one else.

“We both know I couldn’t have done this without you, Tiff, and I do want you to come out with me to L.A. You’ve always said you’d like to maybe live out there someday, and I thought you could help me find a place to live. There’s just so much going on, and if I get this job there will be a lot to figure out.”

Tiffany flashed her eyes up at Theodore’s. “I didn’t mean to sound like I was pressuring you, but we’ve been together for a long time now. I just don’t want you to forget that. That we’re a team.” The last line hung in the air like a tease — and a threat.

“That I know.” Theodore took another gulp of wine.

“Now,” Tiffany said, “what are we going to do about Zera?”

*     *     *     *     *

In the cubicle, as Theodore put the holographic photos in his briefcase, he thought more about Tiffany’s question. What to do with Zera? Once again his excitement over a new future, a future that finally involved serious money and status, dimmed. It was strange. He was elated yesterday, he thought it was the best day of his entire life, but the more he thought about it . . .

Zera has only a few more years until she’s out of high school. It should be okay. Mom should be able to handle it, and if she can’t she’ll tell me. And Zera will be happier too.

 

 

To purchase your own copy of Zera and the Green Man, visit the official website now. Paperback and Kindle versions are now available.

Zera and the Green Man is a novel by Sandra Knauf, a local author and sustainability advocate living in Colorado Springs.

GreenwomanPublishing

Published via US Represented by consent of the publisher:
Published by Greenwoman Publishing, LLC
P. O. Box 6587, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80934-6587, U.S.A.

First published in the United States of America
Copyright © Sandra Knauf, 2013
All rights reserved

ISBN: 978-0-9897056-0-8 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9897056-1-5 (ebook)

Cover drawing by Paul Spielman.
Cover photography by CanStockPhoto 11569383
Cover and interior design by Zora Knauf.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or living-dead, is entirely coincidental.

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