1. Trouble Comes Knocking

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A lone tear rolls down my clenched cheek, the first one I've shed since she left this world. Three weeks. I haven't cried in three weeks. I didn't have time to cry. I couldn't. If I cried, I feared I'd never stop, that I'd live in a perpetual state of agony. Of grief. Of sadness.

Stop crying. Stop.

I should've let myself feel this loss earlier. Not now. Not when I have five minutes left on break. Not when the bank manager already commented on my smudged make-up. Not when I have to face customers for the next two hours before we close. Just two more hours and I can go home to an empty house. Two hours until I can climb into bed and stay there until my next shift. Two hours. You can do this, Kiara.

Two fucking hours.

With glossy eyes, I scroll through my camera roll, my heart aching as my grandmother's smiling face looks up at me with her signature red lips.

You were all I had left, nana, why'd you have to leave me too? Are you with Mom and Dad right now? Are they happy? How about Grandpa? Is he up there? Did they let him in? He was kind of a dick but I think he made the cut...right?

Tears spill onto my screen, seeping into the crevices. Damn it. Flipping my phone around, I wipe it against my thigh, taking a deep stabilizing breath as the backroom door creaks open.

Shit. Already?

"Kiara!" Bethany, my fifty-year-old manager barks, her shrill voice echoing through the sterile empty room. "Your break is over. I need you up at the front." She narrows her judgemental eyes at my chest, her thin lips pursed. "And button up your blouse. This is a bank, not a brothel. What would your grandmother say if she saw you walking around looking like that?"

She'd probably tell me to unbutton my blouse even further; grandma wasn't a prude, at least not at home. But to the small town of Hawthorne, Granny Anne was a saint and a recluse, barely leaving the house, except for church. She was wary of the outside world, she never even let me go to school. I'll teach you everything you need to know, dear, she'd say to me.

And she did.

With a tight-lipped smile, I fasten the top button of my standardized white blouse. "Better?" I ask, standing up and slipping my phone back into my purse.

"Much," Bethany states, uppity arrogance radiating off her stump body. "I know this is only your first day but you've had a week of training. If you read our employee manual like you said you did, you'd be well versed in our dress code." She takes a purposeful step towards me. "I gave you this job because your grandmother was a dear friend. Don't make me regret it."

I fight the urge to roll my eyes. "And I'm so thankful for this opportunity, Bethany," I say, my tone sweet, grateful, despite the fact I want to smack this priss over the head with a rotary telephone. "You've gone above and beyond to help me, so thank you."

Bethany tosses me a smug smile. "I am a very kind and generous woman," she states matter-of-factly. "It's in my nature to help those in need."

"Yes, you're very kind," I say. People who are kind and generous seldom refer to themselves as such but I'm not interested in starting a confrontation. "I'll get back to work now."

"Go on now," she says, shooing me out of the room. Once she closes the door, I immediately unbutton my shirt. Fuck you, Beth. If she gave me a uniform of the correct size, we wouldn't have this problem.

As I walk past Evie, my only other coworker, to my computer situated on the far counter of the bank, the street lights flicker on, casting shadows of the trees lining the block.

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