Lisa ran behind the moving men, directing where to place her furniture. “Hey! Watch how you lower that glass top!” she exclaimed as she nearly ran to the dining room. The movers were lowering the glass top to the base just as she entered the house. The top was extremely heavy and that alone would make it cost a fortune to replace, she continued grumbling. Eric could hear her from a connecting room and he began rolling his shoulders, in an effort to relieve some of the tension that was quickly building. “Yes, Ms. Grant,” said one of the men, thinking his response would soften the woman. But one look at her face and Eric knew instantly that they were in for a rough day on this job. Looking around at the sprawling two story Spanish accented home, it was huge and the layout alone could present its own unique challenges. However, he had no doubts about his crew. They were the epitome of professional; he knew it because whatever skills they didn’t have when they started, he equipped them with through many hours of training.
Mistakes did happen, of course, but that was why he had insurance. So what bothered him the most about this job, despite the quality of the things in place, was the petite little barracuda running around behind them, spouting words like, authentic, priceless, original and heirloom. What really irked him was the fact she hadn’t credited any of them with knowing the difference between what was “authentic” and as far as he could tell, everything, while expensive, was merely a reproduction. It was almost like she had spent an afternoon in a Bombay store. In fact, everything about this move seemed to have a rushed feel to it, starting with the fact that she’d only called three days before, but what business was it of his? He had encountered women like this one before—the Diva’s, he called them. He realized there was the professional that acquired new money and then immediately surrounded themselves with status symbols. Things that were purely to signify to other people they had it because they could, decisions like that rarely made people happy or if so, only in a transient way. He didn’t have anything against having nice things. He had a beautiful home himself. It was the place in people’s lives that things seemed to occupy, that was the problem. Instantly, he chided himself. Maybe if he hadn’t lost the most precious things in life to him, he may not feel too differently from the type of people he was now condemning. He sighed, and wished that he still had his precious gems and that he never knew what it was to have lost them. Suddenly, he could hear her sandals clicking on the tile. He tried to duck inside the library. But it was as if she had a heat seeking missile, the way she seemed to walk directly to where he was. He had turned to face the wall extended bookshelf.
“Hey! Are you sure you all are professionals? I have to tell you, I am a little concerned with the way they are placing my furniture. Do you realize those are Golden Cinema stone and granite tile floors? I’m afraid they are going to scratch the floors any minute.” Eric took time to inhale deeply, before responding. The truth was, he had been battling a migraine headache for the past hour, the exact moment that she’d had gotten on his last nerve.
“Ms. Grant, I assure you that my crew are well trained professionals. Since we are still speaking of something that hasn’t happened yet, I want to encourage you to think positively. Perhaps you could . . .use a few minutes to grab a cup of coffee or tea?” He knew the moment the last word left his mouth, it was the worst possible suggestion he could have made. The expression on her face told it all.
“If I came in here to ask your advice on how and when I should take a break, I could understand the reason behind a statement like that. However, the only expertise—and I use that statement loosely, that I hired you for is to make sure this move is smoothly, and expeditiously completed. That’s the only advice that you should be espousing and not to me—to them!” she said, while pointing out toward the hall to no one and yet everyone in particular.
“Yes ma’am,”” he managed to bite out, under a poorly composed guise of meekness. She promptly spun around on her heels, her glossy curls flowing behind her as she immediately began to light in to the first person she must have encountered.
He could hear her from where he stood, yelling at the top of her voice, “Listen, I worked hard for everything I have. I refuse to have them destroyed in a move!” Then lower but considerably audible, she added, “I knew I should have hired white people!”
That statement instantly cut Eric to the quick. He worked hard, and was always professional and insisted that his team do the same. The customer was always right. That was his motto. Doing their jobs well along with excellent customer service had done a lot to expand his business. Yet the statement that she made had always bothered him, when thrown from the mouths of fellow black people. It was as if the expectation of greatness couldn’t be expected among his own culture and he wanted to be among the many that discredited that far too prevalent attitude.
So before he thought better of it, he was walking toward her. “Uh, excuse me, Ms. Grant? May I speak with you for a moment?” Everyone within earshot immediately scurried. They probably knew she had finally reached their boss’s limit.
She turned and for the first time actually found herself noticing the face of the man that she’d been reprimanding almost since they’d arrived. She was taken a bit off guard as she felt pulled along into the gaze of the clearest brown eyes she’d ever seen. As her eyes flitted over his face, she could tell that he was way past irritated. For the first time in a long while, she felt just a bit intimidated. It kind of threw her momentarily, “Yes–Mr.? What is your name?”
“My name is Eric—just plain Eric. Now Ms. Grant, I can understand that you want the best service possible. However, you have to remember that moving is what we do. We understand that it involves more than simply transferring furniture from one place to another. We realize it’s more about moving the things that reflect your memories, it reflects the things that make your place a home. Yet despite the care we may take, things happen, unfortunately, that’s what insurance is for. At the end of the day, we want to please you. We want each bit of furniture exactly where you would like; therefore, your direction is expected.
“However, I will not tolerate you berating my employees or our race—that, is where I draw the line and if you insist on spouting phrases like the one you just made, where you expressed your racial preference as your choice of superiority when selecting a moving company, you will get your wish. Because the truth of the matter is, you chose this company, not because of the race, but because of how we managed to place you within our schedule before the end of the week and because of the rate we charge. Now if you’ll excuse me, I will get back to making sure your move is smoothly and expeditiously carried out—since it clearly is the only subject I should claim to have any expertise of.”
Then he abruptly walked away before he did any more damage. He was immediately regretful. He had never lost his temper with a customer before. The bad part was that he was going to have to apologize before they left her premises that day. In fact, he was probably going to have to send her a gift basket to appease her. Word of mouth was an essential part of advertisement.
Lisa continued to stand before him as she digested the words form this man, said gently in a level, yet forceful tone. She searched for words to respond. She sought to put this man—this blue-collar worker—in his place. The nerve of him, to speak to her as he had. But even if she could bring words to mind, they would be too late. She was suddenly facing his back as he walked away from her to rejoin his team while they arranged the last of her dining room.
“Uh. . .Eric, before you leave I’d like the name of your supervisor.” She had no intention of calling, but the phrase usually struck fear, at least momentarily, in most people. She watched as the toned broad back slowly turned to her.
“Sure thing, Ms. Grant. Did you have a complaint you’d like to leave with the supervisor or owner, as it were?”
“Yes, I certainly would. Please write his name and telephone number here.” She said as she thrust a pad and pen that she’d grabbed off the ledge of the half wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room.
It took him less than a second to cross to her and gently take the pad and scribble before returning it to her. Inside he chuckled as he awaited a final response, but from the corner of his eye he noticed she, without even so much as glancing at the pad, simply placed it back on the counter where it had been.
She seemed to get absorbed in unpacking a box of pictures and assortment of decorative items—the things that really made a house a home. Now that she was quiet he could, for the first time, see how truly attractive that she was. He noticed that her hair had been roller set, the way his sister tended to get hers done, and it was cute the way it seemed to swing at the slightest movement of her head. It shimmered with a soft sheen that made it look black, but at that moment, a ray of sun danced onto one of the curls, and he could see the subtle shades of brown that highlighted throughout. It lay against the soft pecan brown of her cheekbones, which held the most exotic shaped eyes that when they weren’t flashing anger, were quite beautiful. As she stood up from bending over a box of pictures, he noticed how she leaned all the way back and then placed both her hands into the small of her back.
He thought how odd that she did that. It was almost like…well, like she was pregnant. Then all of a sudden she seemed to wobble. As quick as Eric began moving, it still wasn’t fast enough to catch her before she crumpled to the floor, although it all seemed to happen in slow motion.
“Someone call 911,” he heard himself yelling as he lifted her head up and placed it into his lap. He began checking to make sure she was breathing and then checked her pulse points. Her pulse seemed quite rapid; her breathing seemed just a bit shallow or was it merely his imagination. He chided himself to be cautious, not to jump to a diagnosis since he wasn’t a doctor. He hadn’t even realized how he seemed to be holding his own breath until he breathed a sigh of relief upon her regaining consciousness. While it had only been a few minutes, it seemed so very much longer. Her lids began to flutter and she found herself staring up into brown eyes—those brown eyes. He watched, as the confusion seemed to settle across her face. Before she could panic or become angry, which in the short time that he’d made her acquaintance, he knew could very easily go either way—he thought he would calm her by attempting to explain.
“Ms. Grant, you fainted, and have been out for a couple of minutes. The EMT’s have been called and should be here shortly. As she attempted to rise, he gently but firmly held her in place. “Perhaps you should remain completely still until they arrive, particularly in your condition,” he added. Surprise lit up her face and she opened her mouth as if to speak just as the EMT’s were moving toward her.
“I feel much better. I actually don’t think it’s necessary to go to the hospital,” she said, while she was being examined.
“Are you sure you want to take that chance? Eric found himself asking. He surprised himself actually—he had learned from experience to not get involved and the fact that he had imposed himself into her life twice already, was completely out of character. Yet he knew that she was stubborn enough to ignore clear signs that she should be taking seriously.
He ignored the nagging pull of memories that he spent years burying. Somehow, this dragon of a woman had struck a chord with him. Maybe because he sensed that beneath all the huff was a very vulnerable person. However, she was full of surprises that day. He would have bet money and lost before he would have given her the benefit of the doubt in agreeing and yet she did.
“You are right. I should go.” She said it so softly that he nearly missed it and the softness that came over her face seemed in some ways, a look of resignation, although the first word that came to mind was defeat and that nearly made him chuckle out loud. “Is there anyone that I should call for you?” he offered after they had lifted her onto the gurney.
“No!” Then catching herself, she added, “No, I have no one to call, but thanks for offering. Especially after I wasn’t particularly kind. . . ”
Before he could respond, she simply fell unconscious again. Everything moved quickly after that, while they began moving her toward the ambulance and continued to monitor her vitals. After they took off for the hospital, Eric turned and directed his guys to move the last of her things within the house. Fortunately, he was able to find her house keys.
“Boss, we can continue putting her furniture in place if you like.” His brother and assistant manager, Ted said, as they stood by his side.
“Do what you can,” he said absently while continuing to stare into space. “I’m going to lock up the house and then take her the keys. We don’t need a liability on our hands.” He answered shaking himself back into reality.
Ted looked at him knowingly, but held his thoughts to himself. He could see already that somehow this woman had gotten under his brother’s skin. Yet another person he probably was going to try to save. He sighed, but then again it had been years since he tried to save anyone—even cared enough to. He just wished someone would care as much for him.
“Alright, T. Call me when you get home.”
“Tell the other guys we will regroup on our schedule for next week.”
“I’m just glad that the big man was here today. I’d hate to think what would have happened had the boss man not been here.”
“You would have done the same thing, I’m sure.”