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Andy was going in blind. She remembered the basics, but the one-page summary was at home, she’d forgotten her phone at Greg No-Last-Name’s house that morning, and she’d rather buy a new one than go back there a second time.

She pressed the doorbell.

A sound like a bullfrog answered.

“Hello?” Andy over-enunciated, “I’m from Coastal? Your new Tuesday aide? I’m a little early…”

The exasperated bullfrog bellowed again, “Eeeehs ooeeen!”

Andy leaned on the door to listen; it opened at her touch. The house was orderly and uncluttered, and a coffee machine blurped somewhere. The smell made Andy hopeful.

To her left, a toilet flushed, and a tall woman in her seventies came out of the open bathroom door. She was dressed in yoga fashion, all charcoal grey and black with bare, pedicured feet. She tilted an ear toward Andy and raised an impatient brow. The right side of her face lagged almost imperceptibly behind the left, and as she stepped into the living room, her right ankle didn’t quite lift her foot as high as it should have. A warm place in Andy’s memory noticed and thought of her mother.

She blinked the image away, knew better than to reach for a handshake.

“Ms. Baldwin? I’m Andy from the agency, they called? Lisa’s on maternity, so…”

Ms. Baldwin shushed Andy with a nod and a wave, walking toward the kitchen and the coffee. Andy followed.

Two china mugs waited on a tray beside spoons and matching sugar and cream dishes. Ms. Baldwin lifted the pot and poured, set the pot down and picked up the steaming mug all with an ink-smudged left hand.

She glanced at Andy, the tray, and back at Andy again.

Andy’s mug risked spilling as she rested it on the writing desk. A yellow legal pad covered in scrawl flopped loosely beside a laptop. A document was already open and ended where Lisa had presumably left off before motherhood overtook her.

“So… I’ll just get started?”

Ms. Baldwin made a throaty grunt and sat a respectable distance away, close enough to see the screen, her eyes dark and bitter as her coffee.

Andy had deciphered and transcribed some awful penmanship in her first three months with the agency, but this was hardly recognizable as a written language.

On the sofa, Ms. Baldwin rested her tablet on one knee and casually flicked and tapped, seeming to ignore Andy. According to her email, her publisher would give her all the time she needed, of course, but for all their sympathy, her readers were growing impatient.

“I’m just going to read the last page Lisa did to get my bearings before I start…”

As Andy began to read, her face flushed.

Tess didn’t care that he was a criminal, as long as he didn’t stop. A spark began deep inside and was slowly traveling up to her…

With the first taps on the keys, Ms. Baldwin closed her eyes and took in a slow breath.


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Kate has a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Lesley University. She enjoys all the equipment on the writing playground, evidenced by her many simultaneous projects. She is a freelance writer and editor, author of the poetry collection How to Love an Introvert, and is working on a piece of non-fiction while dabbling in children’s books and flash fiction. She’s the Platform Manager at Mash Stories and the owner of Black Squirrel Workshop LLC.

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