THG 3 – Ch 3 – Alone

Amanda Morisé’s office / Late Monday morning January 8th, 1979

“Cambridge?” The skepticism in Amanda’s voice was almost theatrical.

“Yes, like you.”

“I was being groomed for Cambridge when I was twelve, Deanna.”

“I want to be a smart girl, a smarter girl. It will only make me better.”

“Another member of the Smart Girl club?” Amanda picked up a piece of marble the size of a business card a quarter of an inch thick. The engraved brass plaque read “Sometimes smart girls don’t know shit.”

“Wow.” Deanna felt the weight of the stone before handing it back. “Jackson told me that. This morning, before he, uh…Did he get that from you?”

“No, I got it from him. He told me this the day before your seventeenth birthday when he put you on this road. His point, I believe, was that constantly having to be the smartest person in the room sometimes got in the way of what was important.”

“What could ever be more important? To Jax or anyone?”

“Heart. We had this discussion Saturday. I keep this on my desk and pass it around the office to those who have momentarily lost sight of theirs, as you have. However you have never known the difference between your head and your heart, Miss Collings. In fact I often wonder if you possess the latter. It’s all facts and figures and Jackson’s conducting.”

“Then you don’t understand, either?”

“No. I don’t understand you at all, Miss Collings.”

“Why are you all being so, so fucking weird? What’s to understand? I just need to do this alone. By myself. I need —”

“That’s what this last year has been about? Paving the way for you to make you, by yourself?” Amanda made a tent with her fingertips, gave Deanna the briefest of appraisals. “Very well, Miss Collings. Alone it is.” She pencil punched her phone. “Amber, got a sec? Bring me the Deanna C. Collings open contract file.”

Miss Collings. Not Ms. Collings. Not Deanna, not Deanna Dear, not God fucking dammit what-the-hell Deanna Dear which is what she expected. Simply ‘Miss Collings.’ It took Amber two of the longest minutes of Deanna’s life to enter Amanda’s office through the side door.

“Amber, thank you. I need you stay, please.”

“I don’t like the way this room feels, Amanda. Are you –”

“Yes, I’m sure.” Amanda took the folder from Amber, opened it on the desk in front of her. “Miss Collings, we need to discuss some legal documents with you. If you feel that you would like personal counsel, we can call someone from elsewhere in the building. Would you like your own counsel for this?”

“No. I trust you.”

“‘Love all, trust a few, do harm to none,’ Miss Collings. Are you certain?”
Deanna nodded.

“I need to hear it, please.”

“Yes.”

“Thank you.” Amanda stood the papers in the folder, popped them on her desk, laid them back down. “You are, or rather were, involved in several operations at C.A. Morisé. A number of people here have an investment in you, and we need to sever those relationships and investments. Do you understand?”
“Yes. No. Amanda, what is this?”

“You, on the way to alone.” She spun one of the papers Deanna’s direction. “Your publishing contract. I was a softy when I drafted it. This waiver is a mutual severance of rights. The D.C. Collings materials were developed at the expense of C.A. Morisé. However, this severance gives both you and C.A. Morisé equal right to the material without punitive consequence for use. We can use it. You can use it. We can’t sue each other over who the materials belong to. If you agree, check the box, and sign the bottom. If you disagree, sign the top.” Deanna picked a pen from the row on Amanda’s desk, checked and signed. “Thank you. Wise choice. No more lawyers.”

Amanda removed several more pages paper-clipped together, uncapped her fountain pen, wrote the date and signed the top page. “This is a personal release starting with today’s date. Simply stated, anything you may do or create after this moment in time will be treated as having nothing to do with C.A. Morisé, and releases us from any liability incurred by any action or actions you might take. You are no longer an agent of C.A. Morisé in any personal or professional endeavor. Sign there. Thank you.”

The last document from the file was one page. Amanda turned it towards Deanna like all the rest. “This is your open ended offer of contract for internship employment, available to you upon graduation. You may destroy it, we can keep it on file as it is, or you may waive it now or at any time in the future. We will keep it on file for seven years from the last date of communication with you regarding this offer. After that time your offer is legally voided.”

“I’m coming back, Amanda. I don’t understand all of this.”

“If you fall in love with Alix’s ‘real boy,’ the boy you can share your life with instead of the one you exchanged for this enterprise, send us something in writing to release us from our obligation, because this company is full of lawyers. The only binding obligation is ours to accept you for a year upon your graduation from college unless you waive this. Waive it by signing here.”

No. I’m coming back.”
“‘No’ to waiving your internship?”
“Yes. No, I mean. No, I won’t waive it. I’m coming back.”

Amanda dated the internship form, had Amber and Deanna initial it. From a second folder came two more documents, each with a check voucher attached. “There are a few other contracts we can no show, Miss Collings. They’re simple entry forms. However I need you to waive these two. They are, or would have been, professional D.C. Collings guest speaker appearances where you would have had a chance to tell the world what you think needs to happen and been paid for your opinion.” She turned the papers to Deanna. “Sign here and here. Thank you. There were appearance retainers involved, and we’ll need to refund them. You haven’t been paid yet, so there will be no tax documents for you to be concerned about. Amber, give these two to Bev when you leave, please.”

“Can I take them now?”

“Not yet. Not all lawyering is pleasant, Amber. Miss Collings, do you have any questions?”

“What does the mutual use thing mean, really?”

“That any images, writings, or other materials developed by you or C.A. Morisé during the course of the D.C. Collings project can be used by you or C.A. Morisé or any entity to whom either of us assign agency, in any way either of us sees fit.”

“You could use my stuff to make me look bad?”

“No, that would be unethical, to no one’s benefit and legally actionable.”

“Even Jackson? I saw his signature behind mine. On the last page.”

“He signed mutuality as well. He participated materially on our behalf, and his handwriting is all over your archive documents. If he hadn’t signed, he could sue us both. Are you worried about him using any of our material negatively?”

“No, I guess not. When did he sign it? Today? Has he already been here?”

“Yes, he was here, but not today.” She flipped through the forms in the folder. “November first. He came in and asked me about the waiver I’d explained to him when you signed your contracts several years ago.”

“Is that all he said? Just ‘Where’s the waiver,’ like Jax suddenly got interested in forms?”

“No, he said, in words to this effect, ‘Where’s the hot girl flunky release you told me about. Something’s going on, so I’ll sign it now. Between you and I, D.C. Collings is history, and so am I. I can feel it.’”

“He didn’t say that, he wouldn’t. He couldn’t say that to anyone, ever, about being a flunky and being history.”

“Amber was in attendance then as she is today, Miss. Collings. Amber, please?”

“Those were close to his exact words, Miss Collings.”
Miss Collings? Even Amber? They’d worked together one summer with Jackson and that football player architect. Architectural reclamation Amanda had called it. Amber had covered for them when she and Jackson, that day…When she rented the cold hotel room and made him promise. She’d watched Amber the hippie with a masters become Amber the corporate attorney. Now she was Miss Collings?

Amanda sat back in her chair with a look Deanna had never seen, at least not directed at her. People who did business with C.A. Morisé called it the invisible man stare because it was as if she were looking through whoever her target was. If you had a secret it wasn’t a secret anymore, it was on the desk in front of her.
“Did you tell him, and he was doing his Jackson man thing, keeping your secret for two months? Did you lie to me recently in Boston?”

“No. I didn’t lie, really. Not about that. What I don’t know is how he ‘felt’ anything.”

“Jackson runs on how he feels, Miss Collings. Much like Amber and Alix. Feeling things and being disconnected from reality are not the same. We all obtain our information in different ways. Jackson understands considerably more than you give him credit for.”

“I don’t need another lecture on Jackson, not from you or anyone. I know he’s not stupid. He’s just Jax, that’s all. None of you know him like I do. He must have ‘felt’ a few things from reality. Did you know his SAT scores were higher than mine? He studied with me, prompted me. He says I’m supposed to be the smart one for both of us, and there he is again, out in front of me with his ‘far fetched analogies,’ and his ‘feelings.’ I know who he is, alright? I’m coming back. We…We love each other.”

“Interesting. You know who he is by a test score? And you’love’ for each other is leftover from a once-upon-a-time fairy tale turned sex driven little romance of convenience you have finally destroyed? I believe you know far less about him than you think. Was he a jerk when he told you about his scores?”

“He never told me, really. I looked at his transcripts. They… They were on his kitchen table a couple of weeks ago.”

“If you didn’t tell him you were leaving when you found out, when did you tell him?”

“This morning. Before I drove up here.”
Amanda closed Deanna’s folder and handed it to Amber. “Miss Collings, do you have any other concerns?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Yes or no please.”

“No.”
“You are officially alone. Miss Collings. Good day.”

Deanna picked up two of Amanda’s cards from the small silver tray by the door on her way out. She hadn’t expected alone to feel so…alone.

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Published by

Phil Huston

https://philh52.wordpress.com/

7 thoughts on “THG 3 – Ch 3 – Alone”

    1. This one is draft mode, in the can so to speak, and goes on forever. Catch up, hang on, welcome back. Wife and I are going to NorCal tomorrow. Let the rocky pacific cliffs explain insignificance and reality. And Russian River Chardonnay.

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      1. We returned yesterday from a trip down the Oregon coast as far as Brookings! Absolutely breathtaking down there. Didn’t go into CA yhis time. You two enjoy your trip!

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  1. This is good. No, you can’t know how it feels to be really alone until you actually go out and do it. It usually isn’t at all what one thought it would be. But… it is the the one door to personal freedom that isn’t revolving.

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