"Mommy?" Alex could hear the little voice behind her, and feel the gentle tug on her blanket. She rolled over to see her son RJ standing next to her bed.
"What is it sweetie?"
He was chewing his lip nervously. "I thirsty." She got out of bed and picked him up.
"And you didn't want to go in the kitchen?" He shook his head and laid it on her shoulder. "Honey, nothing is going to hurt you in here, I promise. No monsters, no boogeyman, no nothing." She set him on the counter and filled his glass with water. She handed it to him, and he gulped it. "You really were thirsty, huh?" He nodded and smiled. She put the glass in the sink and picked him back up. "Alright, kiddo, back to sleep."
"I don't wanna." She sighed and looked at the microwave clock.
"RJ, it's only 4. We don't have to get up for three more hours."
"Yes." He shook his head against her shoulder. "Do you want to sleep in my room."
"OK." They went back into her room and laid down. She turned on the TV, knowing his next request would be that. She also knew from previous experience that she wouldn't be getting much more sleep that night.
Alex woke up with a weight on her shoulder. She looked down to see RJ's head there, and smiled. 'At least we both got a little more sleep,' she thought. Then she got a glimpse of the clock on the table behind RJ and sat straight up, which elicited a groan from him. "RJ, you have to wake up, or we're going to be late!" It was 7:30, and he had to be at school by 8. Luckily, the elementary school he attended was only a ten minute walk from their apartment.
"No Mommy, I don't wanna go." She threw back her covers and got up.
"RJ, you have to."
He rolled his eyes. "Fine. But I don't wanna."
"You are so dramatic."
He looked confused. "What's grammatic?"
She laughed and pulled him out of the bed. "Not grammatic, silly. Dramatic. It's kind of like acting." He seemed satisfied with that, and walked in front of her towards the bathroom. She went to his room to grab some clothes, tossed them on his bed, and went to start breakfast. She could hear him walk from the bathroom over to his room, and when he didn't yell for her she started cooking. Her thoughts drifted to how hectic her life had become lately. Isabelle Alexandra McGill, better known as Alex to friends and family, was only 22, but she felt as if she were much older. She had a four, almost five year old son, a full time job as a store manager at Abercrombie & Fitch, and she was an almost full-time student at the local University. Thankfully she had a lot of support from her family, as well as RJ's father's parents. She imagined she would have help from his father as well, but that would mean she would have to tell him, and that was NOT a possibility. She was drawn out of her thoughts by RJ clamoring to his seat at the table.
"Pancakes. Sound good?"
"Yeah." His eyes grew wide as she set the plate down in front of him. He started eating, and she sat down with hers. "Am I goin to Grandma Mimi's or to Nana's after school?"
"Aunt Becky is picking you up after school and taking you to Nana's. I have a class after work, but I'll pick you up right after I'm done."
"OK." RJ was pretty used to the routine. School, and then going to one of his grandparents' house. They finished eating a few minutes later, and RJ grabbed his bookbag while Alex stepped into her sneakers. "K ready."
"K, let's go." He giggled as she grabbed her keys in one hand, and his hand in her other. She locked the door behind them and they went downstairs. She opened the door and they stepped onto one of the already bustling sidewalks of downtown St. Louis, Missouri. She smiled and nodded hellos at the people she recognzed, while patiently lisenting to one of RJ's stories about school. They stopped in front of the school a short time later. They walked into his classroom, and Alex waved at his kindergarden teacher Miss Jessie, who was actually a friend of her's named Jessica Chase. She knelt down and hugged RJ. "I'm going to go talk to Jessie for a minute. Don't forget that Aunt Becky is going to pick you up today, ok?"
He nodded. "You'll tell Miss Jessie?"
"Of course." She kissed his cheek. "Have a good day. I love you."
"Love too mommy." She stood back up, and RJ ran off to see his friends. Alex walked to the front of the room. "Hey Jess."
"Hey Alex. How are you?"
She shrugged. "A little tired, but what's new? How are you?"
"Pretty good. Hey, I heard that Randy hurt himself over the weekend. Did you hear about it?" Alex nodded. Randy Orton, a wrestler with World Wrestling Entertainment, was a lifelong friend of both Alex and Jessie's, as well as RJ's father- a fact very few people knew about. He had badly damaged his arm at a house show the Saturday before.
"You also know that means he'll be coming home, and that he'll want to hang out."
"Yeah, I do."
Jess paused for a moment, knowing the answer to her next question before she even asked it. "Are you going to tell him this time?"
"You say that everytime he comes home. He'll figure it out eventually, Alex. Everyone in his family knows except him. How long before it gets out?"
"It won't." The bell rang, signaling an end to their conversation. "Becky will be here for him at noon. I'll see you later."
Jess sighed. "Bye Alex."
Alex hurried back home. She only had an hour to get to work, so she had to hurry. Twenty minutes later she was standing in front of her closet wrapped in her towel, hair soaking wet. "What to wear, what to wear..." she said aloud to herself. "We have the jeans promo going on now, so jeans work." She grabbed a pair and tossed then behind her. She then rifled through the front of the closet, where she kept the current clothes she could wear, and pulled out a red long sleeve shirt. "That works." She tossed it on the bed along with the jeans and ran back into the bathroom. She hurridley dried her hair and pulled it up in a knot before applying a little makeup. She was out the door by 8:40, giving her just enough time to get to the mall. Traffic cooperated for a change, and she pulled into a parking spot just as the other employee opening with her was getting out of her car. "Morning Korinne." Alex smiled at the young girl as they walked through the back corridors of the mall.
"Morning Alex. Anything interesting on the agenda today?"
Alex laughed. "Isn't there always?"
"Well, yeah, I guess there is."
"Seriously though, I think we just have some signs to put out along with regular opening. I'll see what Missy left from last night, and we'll go from there."
"Works for me." Alex opened the gate and they walked in. Just as she was putting it back down, the phone rang. Korinne was near the counter, so she grabbed it. "Thank you for calling Abercrombie and Fitch, the is Korinne speaking, how may I help you?" She heard a deep voice chuckle on the other end.
"Well after that greeting I think I forgot what I was calling for."
"You think that's bad? I forget halfway through what else I'm supposed to say." She giggled. "Is there something I could help you with."
"Sure. I'm looking for Al."
"Al?" Korinne's brow creased. "There isn't anyone here by that name."
"Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure, but-" she was interrupted by Alex yelling from up front.
"Did you say Al?"
"Yeah. Did they used to work here?"
Alex smiled and reached for the other phone. "Last time I checked I still worked here." She pushed the button for the line, and Korinne set the other extension down. "Hey Randy."
"Hi Al." Randy was the only person who got away with calling her Al. Not because she let him, but because she could never win an argument with him.
"So you're back in town huh?"
"Heard about the arm, did ya?"
She started twisting the phone cord. "I do have the internet, Randy. Rajahwwf.com is quite the informational site."
"True. So, since I'm covered, what's new with you?"
"Not too much. School and work have been going fine."
"That's good. I did have a reason for calling though."
"And what was that?"
"First, I wondered how long you were working today because my wardrobe could use some updating."
"I'm here 'till 5:30."
"Good. I also wondered if you'd like to grab some coffee and talk later. I haven't actually seen you in years, Al. Talking on the phone isn't the same."
"I know Randy. I'll have to get someone to watch-" She stopped, realizing what she almost said.
"To what? I couldn't hear you very well. I'm on my cell and it's kind of fuzzy."
"It was nothing. How does Starbucks by Tinseltown sound, around 8:30?"
"OK, see you then." Sam sighed and hung up the phone.
"That was close."