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Back To Work

Back To Work

Jen cleared the plates from the table. The supper hadn’t exactly been a disaster but it hadn’t been a triumph either. Chris had eaten his without complaint, but the cheap mince had made the Bolognese very fatty, and she’d had a hard time swallowing her own. The twins were tucked up asleep and she knew—they both knew—they had to talk.
The pile of unpaid bills, most of them red reminders, lay on the side table and she picked them up, carrying them back to the table with her as Chris watched through tired eyes. He was working every extra hour he could to support his family but, without her wages coming in, they couldn’t make ends meet.
Chris shook his head. She could see how the hours he was working were exhausting him. “Do we have to do this?”
“Yes, honey, we do. You know we do, we’ve put it off enough. In another month we’ll have bailiffs at the door.”
“I don’t know what we can do, other than sell up.”
She shook her head. “I’m not moving back in with your parents.”
Before he could respond, she popped back through to the kitchen and grabbed a couple of Buds from the fridge, the last two there, twisting the tops off with the ease that spoke of long practice. She handed one to him as she sat back down opposite him again. They solemnly chinked bottles and both took a pull of the one luxury they allowed themselves.
She took a deep breath. “I spoke to Tom today—he said he’d think about it.”
Chris’s eyes bored into hers as his face went flat. “I don’t want you going back there.”
“It’s money, something we need.”
“But, that place…it’s…”
She sighed—she’d known the conversation would come back to this. “It’s where you met me.”
“That’s not the point. You’re a married woman now, with two children. I’ve never judged you for working there, you know that. But now…?”
She gave his hand a squeeze, grateful for what he’d just said. “What else can I do? I didn’t graduate, I’ve got no work skills, and in this economy I can’t find a job that’ll cover the child care, even if I could find child care places for them. We’ve been through this before and, at least at Tom’s place, you know where I am, and that I’m safe.”
“But I’ll know what you’ll be doing…”
She shook her head. “Which is what I was doing when we met, and you liked what you saw then.”
“Yes, but…”
“And I didn’t stop doing it until I fell pregnant with our beautiful little accidents upstairs, did I?”
“No, I guess.”
“Anyway, your mother is going to take them tomorrow morning so I can go see Tom and talk about it, okay?”
“But, I remember what you said he always made the new girls do.”
She shuddered, remembering that herself. “I’m not a new girl, remember? I’m his old headliner. In fact, Trace told me my poster is still next to the door, the one showing these…” She pulled her top up to expose the serpentine row of stars across her belly—the tattoo that gave her stage-name Starz—the end of the string disappearing into the waistband of her jeans. “I’m not going to work every night, just a couple. That’ll bring enough in to allow you to cut down your hours, and the money will clear the debts in no time at all.”
“I don’t like it. You’re my wife, for God’s sake.”
“Chris, what other alternative do we have?”
He morosely emptied his beer down his throat, defeat written in every line of his face. She rose to her feet, motioning for him to push his chair back from the table so she could swing herself sideways into his lap. Jen wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him on the forehead.
“It’s not your fault, honey. I just don’t know what else to do. We love this house, our home, and I don’t want to give it up, not when I can contribute to keeping it.”
He lifted his face toward her and planted a kiss on her lips. “I know, sweet cheeks, but I don’t have to like it.”
“It’ll be for no longer than I have to, I promise you that.”

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