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An accidental pregnancy.
From lovers to enemies to… I’m not sure what we are.
Everything was going great.
My big protector!
Then I found out his billion-dollar secret.
What the hell am I going to do?
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All the Barbie dolls I played with until I was seven years old were G.I. Joe’s in drag. I had no idea. I thought they were kick-ass women with intense physiques, edgy haircuts, and highly developed self-awareness. Not having a TV or any girl children my age in the compound probably did a lot to keep the delusion going. Turns out, my parents didn’t have the money to spend on toys for me, so they rummaged through my older brother’s childhood discards. Mom spent hours stitching together pieces of scrap fabric to make a wardrobe for my dolls, including a tiny tropical assortment perfect for an imaginary island vacation.
Even when I turned seven, and leaving the compound meant my parents finally had the money to buy me actual Barbies, I kept my G.I. Joe’s close. They were the dolls I loved, and I thought they were beautiful. Knowing what they actually were, gave me role models, showing me I could be secure in myself no matter what I did. Throughout my life, any time I faced a challenge or felt weak and afraid, I’d think of those resort-wear-bedecked soldiers and remind myself I was how I saw them – strong, confident, and resourceful.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work. There are times when there is no softening Joe. No matter how carefully you drape him in the remnants of a pink floral print Hawaiian shirt, everyone can see right through him. So as much as I want to feel like a strong, powerful, influential woman right now, all I’m feeling like is G.I. Joe in a sarong.
“Sir, if you would just give me a few minutes of your time…”
“Miss Larkin, this is the third time you’ve come to see me.”
“I know. And each time you’ve asked me to give you a more compelling presentation. If you’ll just look through the folder I gave you, I think you’ll see the amount of work I put into…”
“The amount of work you put into this presentation does not equate to the work you actually put into your theater, Miss Larkin. That would be far more persuasive.”
Poking him in the eye for interrupting me will not help me get the loan. Poking him in the eye for interrupting me will not help me get the loan. Poking him in the eye for interrupting me will not help me get the loan.
My mantra helps me calm down enough to stretch my mouth into a smile.
“If you will look at the materials I have provided, you will see not only the work I’ve done in the theater, but also my plans for the loan funds. There is a renaissance of the stage happening right now, Mr. Barnes, and Wonderland could be the centerpiece of that. Its Gilded Age appeal and prime location could draw in community theater troupes, traveling programs, and even special events.”
I might be imagining the slight glint of interest in the gray-haired man’s eye right now, but imaginary or not, I’ll take it. Anything I can cling to that might keep this conversation moving.
“Yes,” I continue enthusiastically. “People are going all out for events like birthday parties, showers, weddings… even custom proposals. Having the dramatic backdrop of Wonderland, combined with our top-of-the-line event design and catering consultants, could make the theater a one-stop destination for unique experiences tailored to a wide range of discerning clientele.”
I am talking right out of my ass, but I hope there are enough buzzwords shoved in there to dazzle him with my business mastery.
“As impressive as that sounds, Miss Larkin…” Well, shit. “…the bank has reviewed the business projections for your theater and compared them to similar businesses in the area. Considering there are several thriving theaters within a small radius of yours, the potential for immediate and substantial growth seems limited. Added to your also-limited financial prospects, it just doesn’t look good. I’m afraid our answer has to stay the same since last time.”
He keeps rattling on for a few more seconds, but I’ve tuned him out. It’s not like I need to hear it again. By now, the rejection is on auto-repeat in my mind. I could say it to myself word-for-word, and the sleep-deprived bags under my eyes are testament to how many times I have. My chest starts aching as the reality of what this particular rejection really means sinks in. It’s hard to swallow, and tears sting my eyes. I don’t want to do this. In all the times I have tried to visualize getting the funding to keep my little theater going, it’s always been without the words now creeping their way into my mouth. But these are desperate circumstances. It’s time for the big guns.
“Please. Please, Mr. Barnes. Just listen to me for a minute.”
He stops his canned corporate response and stares at me, his watery, pale green eyes blinking like he can’t process being interrupted. That’s his move. How dare I steal it?