It had been a quick two weeks since I started my position at the Clifton institute. The job itself wasn’t too hard. I had a calendar and schedule that I had to adhere too. I made sure to contact family members to confirm their visits and make sure the lounge area was clean and prepared with fresh coffee and cookies for their arrival. I scheduled the weekly therapy sessions meetings for patients. I kept in constant communication with sponsors wanting to do events and corresponded this information to Dr. Clifton via email. Dr. Clifton was not a terrible boss, in fact I barely saw him, most of our communication has been through email, his door was always closed. He would conduct a lot of meetings in there with our patients and their parents or legal guardians.
It is not to say that I didn’t have much supervision, Evelyn would often check up on me and we did have a HR manager who seems to also be an office manager. She was an elderly woman who would walk throughout our floor. Her name was Mrs. Rosenbaum.
My first encounter with Mrs. Rosenbaum was a strange one. On my third day of working here, I was emailed by her to come in and go over my job contract, benefits and salary. She looked as if she kept up with herself for an elderly woman. Her hair was a bright red color, she wore lots of makeup and had a lot of jewelry on. Her desk was decorated with pictures of her children and grandchildren. Throughout our meeting she kept referring to me as Jackie or Jenny. I would go on to correct her twice and each time I did she just would scratch her head with her long bright pink fingernails as if she was confused.
Now I only see her when she prowls the hallways randomly making visits to my office and others.
It was about fifteen minutes to until my lunch break and my stomach growling.
“I should have brought food” I thought as I rubbed my belly. I walk outside my office to see if I could catch Evelyn before she left. Evelyn was sitting at her desk, she grabbed her purse and placed on her jacket.
“Hey” I shouted and swiftly waved my hand to catch her attention. Her head turns to my direction and she motions me to come over.
“Hey I am just going to go out to get a quick bite then come back here” She pulls a cigarette from her jacket.
“Do you want to come”
I nodded in agreement. “I am just going to grab my jacket really quick”
“Okay I’ll wait outside, as horrible as this sounds I have been dying for one all day” Evelyn inserts the cigarette in her mouth as she enters the elevator.
As I am walking I catch wind of a conversation between two of the janitors cleaning out the recreational room next to my office. At first, I just open my door and grab my jacket but then I kept hearing them mention the name of one of the security guards, so I lean in a little closer to the door. It probably wasn’t the brightest thing to do, I was not trying to be nosy but the way these two janitors were being so secretive, curiosity got the best of me.
“He’s becoming a real problem” the elderly janitor says as he takes off his glasses. He was speaking to a much younger janitor with dark hair and a ponytail. Both of them were tidying up the room, the older Janitor was wiping down the table as the younger janitor was sweeping the floor. The voice of the elderly janitor was raspy but even through that I could still sense that there was a real concern on his voice.
“I don’t know what to tell you Larry, it’s like when it comes to those two people want to turn a blind eye and nobody wants to deal with it” The younger janitor replies, he rolls up his sleeves revealing his tattoos and continues to mop the recreational room.
I wonder who they are talking about. I thought and I leaned in closer to hear.
The door swung open without me having a chance to walk away, and I was faced to face with the elderly janitor. His face was firm and he didn’t look too pleased with me eavesdropping.
“Excuse me Ma’am do you need something” The sound of his voice told me he really wasn’t offering. I could see the younger janitor behind him sweeping the floor, not even looking up.
“No, it’s just my office happens to be next door and I wasn’t paying attention and I almost walked into this office. I am sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt.
He shrugged off my explanation.
“My name is Tina by the way, what is your name” I asked him. The younger janitor was still sweeping around the room.
“I am Larry and that’s Joseph” He said as he points the younger janitor. I waved at him and he smiles back.
“Okay well I will leave you two alone you seem busy” I quickly walked away, both Larry and Joseph were giving me the cold shoulder, I knew I caught them talking about a person who worked here and it wasn’t a bad assumption to think that they would not want anyone to know about their conversation. I went in to the office to grab my jacket and walk to the elevator.
“You can talk the stairs now, I don’t think you’d want to go through the elevator again” A raspy voice said behind me, I turn around to see the same security guard that was in entrance the day I came into my interview. He smiled and not in a nice way. It gave me the chills. From the corner of my eye I can also spot Larry the janitor staring at me with a troubled look. I ignored it.
“Thank You” I say to the old guard and turn to the doors to the staircase next to the elevator.
By the time I walked down to the front entrance, Evelyn had a fresh cigarette in her mouth.
“What’s the matter” Evelyn puts out her new cigarette and tosses it in the garbage.
“Did someone say something to you, one of the patients”
I shake my head no and start to walk side by side with her. She takes out her car keys to unlock her car door. We both get in and she drives off.
“I met the janitors today” I say, I wait to hear Evelyn’s response to see if she mentions how off they are.
“Oh, which ones”
“Larry and I think the other one is named Joseph” I said waiting for her to interject.
Evelyn nods her head but doesn’t say anything.
“They seem nice” I pause, waiting for some response.
“Yea well, Joseph is pretty cool, he has been here since the opening of this place, I don’t know the other one that well. But I heard he’s been around this place since it was a psych ward”. Evelyn pulls into the parking lot of a shopping center.
“Do you like salads and wraps” She asked as she pulls another cigarette
“This place makes some awesome ones, by the way does this bother you” She holds up the now lit cigarette.
“No, I’m okay” It was her car I wasn’t about to complain.
“I like to eat healthy but for some reason I just can’t kick this habit.”
Evelyn finishes the rest of her cigarette in the car. When she finishes we go inside a café called Bean & Co. It was a cute little café that had already made wraps, salads and several other pastries laid out. I grab a turkey and pesto wrap and Evelyn grabs an already made wheat pasta salad. After paying we sit toward the back of the café.
“I like to sit in the back because sometimes people from the center will come here and I don’t want to be bothered you know” She unravels her pasta salad and starts to eat.
“I can there is something on your mind’ Evelyn says in between bites.
“Does it have to do with the people that work at the center?” She smiles. I sensed that she wanted to tell me more but it would not be without more probing from me.
“It’s just that in the couple of weeks I’ve been there, I guess because I don’t really have a ton of work to do, I can sort of pick up on things.”
Evelyn nods in agreement. She takes another bite of her pasta salad.
“Well I can give you the run around on the assholes of the place. But you have to swear that this is between us” Evelyn looked serious, but at least this confirmed that some part of my intuition was right.
“Absolutely” I say and I unwrap my sandwich as she begins to tell me.
“Okay so first off I don’t want to give a bad impression of Dr. Clifton and I don’t want to seem ungrateful for him giving me this job or helping out my sister with her addiction. But there are some things that go on in the institute that are very weird.” Evelyn takes a quick sip of her bottle of water before continuing.
“So, when my sister Marie was going through her rehab here she saw a lot of stuff go on that she was sure shouldn’t have been. Unfortunately, my sister was recovering from a Xanax addiction and things in her head were already cloudy. But she told me that one day she woke up to some noise outside her room. She got up to see what it was. As soon as she opened the door and she sees the office door open of the person that used to be in your position, her name was Jennifer I think. The security guard Donald was outside the door and Marie could tell that someone was in the office.” Evelyn was getting visibly nervous as she told the story.
“You mean Don the big white guy that hangs around the other security guard Dennis” I asked, they were not the only security guards that worked there but they were the only ones that seemed close with each other. It always seemed to me that Don and Dennis were always together.
“Yes they are like ebony and ivory those two, you really must promise me that you won’t repeat this story, it cannot get back to those guys. They can be fucked up if they want to be and get away with it too. I am about to tell you why”
I nod my head in agreement and Evelyn goes on.
“So, Don is blocking Marie’s view and she asks him what’s going on. He tells her nothing and to go back to bed. But Marie hears a door being closed so she knows someone is up. Because Don wouldn’t move and kept demanding that she go back to bed she decided to go back to bed. The next day during a group therapy session, both Don and Dennis along with Mrs. Rosenbaum go into Jennifer’s office and fire her. Don and Dennis had to escort her out in front of everyone.” Evelyn lets out a big sigh.
I wait for her to finish her story, but she stops talking, instead she just shakes her head.
“Well, why did she get fired” I finally say as it seems Evelyn became distracted.
“Supposedly, an empty wine bottle and glass was found in her office, that’s a huge violation. Especially in a place where teens with battling addiction roaming around”
“But… Do you think she was really drinking at work?” I highly doubt anyone would be that stupid I thought.
Evelyn’s mouth was full of her remaining pasta salad, so she held up her finger and waved in an opposing no.
“Mrs. Rosenbaum is old, and I seriously think she’s on the brink of dementia, my sister told me that prior to that there were rumors going around that Jennifer made several complaints to Mrs. Rosenbaum about Don and Dennis sexually harassing her. Personally, I have never seen them do that to anyone, but I know they can be dicks. Anyways, my sister believes they framed her to get back at her for her sexual harassment claims. There are still some people who work at the institute that still talk about her firing. Apparently, this girl was pretty nice” Evelyn looks at the time and immediately begins to pack up her garbage.
“We got to go lunch is almost over” She gets up and throws her garbage away. I throw out my garbage and follow her to her car.
While we are in the car many questions popped in my head about the story she just told me. If what her sister told her was true, why didn’t Jennifer sue the company for wrongful termination? Why do Dennis and Don still work there despite the allegations and do they still behave like that toward other people in the here? I didn’t want to ask Evelyn while we were back at work in case anyone overheard. There was no way I wanted to risk bringing up something like that for other people to hear. We pulled into the parking space in front of Clifton Institute.
“I just have one question about the story you told me and once we go in I promise I won’t mention it”
“Okay one question and then don’t mention it again” Evelyn parked the car waited for my question.
“So, if any of what you said was true, why hasn’t Jennifer taken any action against the company”
Evelyn shrugged “I honestly have no idea but like I said before I personally have never seen Don and Dennis behave in the manner that Jennifer described so who knows maybe it is not true. However, I do believe my sister when she says she saw both of them sneaking around in Jennifer’s office. Maybe they were angry about the accusations that she made and wanted payback. Who knows and my sister sure as hell wasn’t going to ask them” Evelyn opened the doors and we got out the car.
It was awkward going into the hospital. I didn’t exactly have the best poker face. Evelyn went to her desk and smiled at Dennis, who was there scanning the visitors going in and out of the facility.
“Where is the intern that was covering me” Evelyn asks Dennis, there was nobody at the front desk when we arrived I figured she must have gone to the bathroom or something.
“She left early, had something to do” Dennis said dryly.
“Oh, okay I guess you were watching the front then?” Evelyn settles in her desk
“Yes, and you were late, like we all don’t have jobs of our own to attend too” Dennis sneered. He walked away from Evelyn and I as we both looked at each other, perplexed by his hostility.
“They are just pissed that they have to cover my front desk. We have interns who are supposed to do it but they are very flaky” Evelyn puts her bag down on her desk. I rush to get back to my office.
It is the end of the day, and I to save my notes from today’s appointments on my computer and shut it off. It was dark out and I couldn’t wait to get home. The fall days over the Clifton Institute were not pleasant. It was getting darker earlier and that meant I would have to walk to Andy’s car through the creepy parking lot surrounded by mini buildings that were abandoned. The hospital grounds were very old and sometimes you couldn’t tell that this was once a thriving place. Now, only the main hospital was being used and the other sites on the campus were shrouded in branches from overgrown trees and bushes. The windows of some of the buildings would be broken due to many people’s curiosity getting the best of them. Obviously, I wasn’t around to see how this place used to look but now it looks like frightening.
My phone rings. I look and it’s Andy.
I am outside
As soon as I read that I throw on my jacket and grab my purse.
There was a knock at the door.
“Great just as I was going to get out of here” I said out loud.
Usually I keep the office door closed just to keep out the noise while I make my phone calls. Sometimes, on purpose I do not reopen it. Not a second after I walk towards the door, Don opens it and waltzes right in. His face is the usual shade of tomato red, his grin malicious and stature was that of an ogre. His security uniform seemed a size too small and his messy blond hair was unevenly tucked in his security cap. Don’s presence made me feel uneasy, but I put on as straight face. For the first few seconds there was an awkward stare between us with an equally as awkward silence.
“Can I help you” I said finally said.
“I just wanted to check up on you, its been about two weeks and I barely feel like I know you.” He said with no enthusiasm in his tone. Even though clearly, I looked as if I was about to leave, Don did not budge, he just stood there, expecting a conversation.
Okay so I guess he wants to talk. I don’t put my things down as I didn’t plan on saying much.
“I don’t think I’ve gotten to know anyone.” I coyly said. Don lets out a chuckle that sounds more like a life-threatening hack of the lungs.
“You and Evelyn are pretty close I see. Didn’t you guys go out to lunch today”
“We did, I don’t really know much of the neighborhood, so Evelyn showed me around”
This conversation really needed to be over.
“Did she give you a rundown of the Cliff, I call this place the Cliff, you know I have been here awhile and so I kind of gave it its own name. Sounds pretty fancy doesn’t it, the Cliff. But the people here they are not so fancy. You will begin to see that the longer you’re here. The place is overrun by animals, I am not just talking about the patients” Don had his hands at his waist, I wasn’t sure if this was his way of giving me advice or giving me warning. It truly could have been both.
“So far it has been okay, I haven’t had any troubles” At this point I had already put on my coat and I had my office keys in hand.
Don must have sensed what I was doing because he let his hands down and loosened his stance. “Oh my God I am so sorry are you going home, I am such an idiot, you have the same face my fiancé has when I am talking too long.” Don steps aside from the door.
“No please don’t apologize like I said I haven’t gotten a chance to know anyone here so thanks for coming by to talk to me” I go to open the door.
“After you” I say as I hold open the door patiently waiting for him to leave.
“Right I am sorry.” He walks out of the room.
I lock the door behind me and proceed to head for the front. Don walks alongside me, I don’t quicken my pace in an effort not to be rude.
“You are a lot nicer then that last girl, Julie or Jennifer. I don’t remember. Let’s hope you last longer then her too” Don lets out another hack of a laugh. You would think he was recovering from bronchitis.
“She was into some very illegal things, not a good person” He said.
“Let’s hope” I wave goodbye to Don. He was definitely a strange person. He seemed desperate in his gestures and pathetic in his appearance. It was just physically, he presented himself to be friendly but with an undertone of malice. How his eye’s lit up as he spoke of the last woman in my position was weird. It felt as if he wanted to see my reaction to his comments about her, to see if I believed him. Even if Evelyn didn’t tell me what Don and the other guard did to the previous girl I still wouldn’t have believed him. Don was too eager in his words, and I doubt he couldn’t remember her name.
I see Andrew outside the parking lot blinking his lights. This time I do quicken my pace and jump right in his car. We kiss, and he then hands me a box.
“What’s this” The box was a velvet black, I opened it and see a beautiful rose gold necklace adorned with pearl pendant.
“It’s something I wanted to get you when you got this job, to congratulate you” Andrew sported a wide grin across his face.
“Thank you, baby,” I gently grab him by beard and give him another kiss.
Andrew starts the car and I place the necklace on.
“So how was your day” Andrew asks.
“It was okay, I had lunch with Evelyn” I finish putting on the necklace.
“Oh good, she did seem nice. What about that security guard that was standing near the entrance. The one that looked like Donald Trump of if he had real hair”
I roared with laughter.
“Oh my God he really does look like him, his name is Donald but everyone I guess calls him Don. He’s weird and from what Evelyn told me he is not a nice person, him and another security guard named Dennis. Apparently, they are both trouble”
“Well then that is two bad people you got to stay away from. People like will only make your job harder” Andrew replies.
“Yea, your right” I said.
“They will only make your life harder”
As we drove home I kept thinking about how quickly I felt I settled into my job, a lot quicker than I thought I would. There were many things in my life I had to look forward too. Those months I spent miserable in a new place with no close by family, no friends and no job felt like agony. Though through it all I had Andrew and because of that the days were easier to deal with. Now I have a new job and I was beginning to feel productive.
It was a new beginning to look forward too.
“By the way you smell like you’ve been through a fire” Andrew opens the window.
“Oh, like cigarettes” Evelyn’s cigarette smoke must have gotten on me.
“No like actual fire” Andrew’s face squirms.
“I don’t know why, sorry” and I open my window to vent out the smell.