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Paid For

By:Alexa Riley

Chapter One

Kennedy

I think I’m going to throw up. The single thought runs through my head, over and over. I take a deep breath, trying to get my nerves under control. Glancing around the giant room, I feel completely out of place. A woman in her late fifties sits typing away at a large desk, the clicks of her fingers hitting the keys the only sound in the big, empty lobby. I’m on the fiftieth floor of the Foster Building, trying to control my stomach as the lady ignores me and continues to work. Her silky gray hair is cut short to just below her ears and she’s wearing thick-framed glasses perched on the end of her nose. Everything about her is professional and says she belongs here. Her outfit is stylish in a way I could never put together, even if I had the money to do so. She’s classy and elegant and was surprisingly sweet to me when I checked in. She didn’t give me a snide look like the women downstairs had done.

I run one hand across my thighs in an attempt to brush away any pieces of fuzz on the too-tight gray skirt I have on. I’m still shocked I got myself into the thing. I got it in the ninth grade when I’d joined the debate team and needed to look professional. My stint at that size lasted about as long as my time on the team. The waist is starting to dig into my stomach, and I pray that the button in the back won’t pop.

I’m wearing simple black heels that I spent two hours practicing walking in yesterday. I found them in a discount bin in a shop down the street from my little studio apartment, along with a simple button-up white shirt. I feel so plain, even a little mousy. I was trying to look older, but I’m not sure I’m pulling it off.

I tried my hand at a little makeup and even took the time to put some curls into my hair. I’d tried to mimic a woman from a magazine I saw, but I’m not sure I got close to what I was trying to pull off.

What am I doing here? I shake my head at myself. I’m a horrible liar and I know it. The absolute worst at it. When I was seven, I broke a glass case my grandpa kept a signed football in. I’d confessed before he could even ask me what happened to it. Then when I was thirteen, my grandpa asked me how my day at school was, and out of my mouth came details of how Cody kissed me after school. I was so bad at lying. I couldn’t even fake it for a second. I simply couldn’t bring myself to do it.

How I think I’ll ever pull this off, I have no idea. Because you have no other choice, I remind myself. I need this job. Correction, I more than need this job. I needed this job three weeks ago.

The little money I had left from selling my grandpa’s house is almost gone. I have no idea how I am going to make rent in my shitty little studio apartment. I might actually be happy to lose the place, though. Maybe I can find a local YMCA to stay at or something. My landlord is starting to really creep me out.

His apartment is right next to mine, and this morning he caught me as I was leaving, reminding me my rent was due three days ago. He also implied there are other ways to pay my rent. Ways that don’t involve money. It made my skin crawl. Mr. Kelly was easily sixty years old. He is always in pajama bottoms and a wife beater with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. And I am pretty sure the lady across the hall from me is paying her rent in the other ways he was talking about. I’d heard her earn her room on multiple occasions, and it made me shiver with disgust.

He was always a little too handsy. He finds new ways to put his hands on me all the time, and it’s becoming unsettling. I try to find ways to avoid him, but yesterday I’d come home to find him standing inside my home. He said he was checking on the water pipes, something about a leak, but my blood ran cold at how easily he accessed my home. How easily he could do it again. After he left, I shoved a chair under the door handle, but it gave me no comfort. I barely slept all night. I had no idea what I was going to do if I came up with the money to pay the rent, because I didn’t feel safe at all.

I’m just happy I still have a few more weeks until I need to make another payment to the nursing home my grandpa’s in. Knowing he has a place to be for a little longer gives me some relief, but not much. A sharp pain in my palm reminds me I’m squeezing my apartment keys too tight and they’re digging into my skin. I open my bag and drop them down inside.

Your name is Kennedy Myers. You went to University of Michigan, where you got a degree in liberal arts. You are twenty-two years old and have always dreamed of working for a company like Foster and Crate, I remind myself for the hundredth time. All lies, other than my name. Lies I made up to try and get this job.

I’m barely eighteen, almost didn’t graduate high school because of my attendance, and I had no freaking clue what Foster and Crate was until two days ago when I saw the job listing. It’s a job that pays more than I could dream of. Enough to keep my grandfather in the pricey nursing home he’s in. Not only that, but if I can keep the sham up, I can get us both health insurance in a few months’ time.

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