She'd gotten the notice from the department store, and saw it that day after work. She was certainly shocked and more dismayed than anything else. She knew that she'd have to attend to it tomorrow.
She shook her head and whispered to herself: "Just one more problem! One more headache that he's left for me."
Just then a small voice interceded: "Momma, what is it?"
"Oh, sweetie," Chelsie said to little Rachel Ann, "I'm afraid it's another problem that we have to deal with."
"Poppa?" Rachel Ann asked, and, though Chelsie had been determined to not bring any of this to Rachel Ann's attention, over the past ten days, when these little surprises had been popping up, it was next to impossible to keep it all a secret, and it was obvious that Rachel Ann understood far more than Chelsie gave her credit for.
In the first place, Ben's leaving, just leaving, with no forwarding address and after cleaning out the bank account, one of the 'little surprises' of the past ten days, was just the stuff of nightmare.
Chelsie blamed herself for not realizing that something was wrong. But she knew that she didn't want to know that something was wrong.
She almost kept herself in the dark; at least that's what she'd been accusing herself of in the past two weeks or so. It didn't matter that it wasn't really true, it was at least one of the ways that she initially dealt with the shock of his fleecing them of their savings and the rest of the money and running off with some woman.
And, of course, next it had been a ten day period of finding out little subterfuges, little bits of problems that Ben had set up for her. Each of those problems generated an additional call for money, which, due to Ben's actions in taking the account money from the bank, was in paltry supply.
Chelsie had encountered one such problem after another, rent, the utility bills, the bank and now the department store. She had the bill in hand and simply knew that she needed to go to the store the next day to see if she could get out of the obviously large interest that might be due. It was one of those deferred payment things and the terms indicated that interest, compounded from the date of purchase, would be assessed, if the bill were not paid off on time. And not paying it off was one of Ben's little tricks, that Chelsie was finally discovering today was indeed the last of the grace period days.
There had been no word, and, as time went on, there would be no word. Ben was gone, pretty much vanished.
That much Chelsie could take but his lack, total lack of interest in Rachel Ann was more than she could comprehend.
And that was the third thing that had happened in the past ten days. Rachel Ann, at 9 years of age, was a very sensible and wise little girl. Chelsie knew that it was folly to try to hide from her the dire financial circumstances that Ben's leaving, and taking all their funds with him had caused for them.
They had had a number of talks. With them, especially with Chelsie and lovely Rachel Ann, this was part of the pattern of how they lived, and Chelsie was grateful now for having established that kind of open and clear relationship with her Rachel Ann. It was certainly serving them well now.
So, they talked about it. Rachel Ann had cried, when the truth of her father leaving both of them became a reality. They had cried together about it, and then, also together, they set out to try to deal with the situation.
At 26, Chelsie Karl's job was essentially for them the supportive one. She'd married out of high school and was pregnant with Rachel Ann right away. There was never much time for her to establish herself in the job market or get for herself marketable skills for working. Ben had been the main source of income for the family.
Of course, during these past ten terrible days, one of the things that Chelsie discovered was that Ben had quit, before leaving them. It was one more of the shocks that these days provided for Chelsie.
In a way, Ben leaving wasn't a real surprise. He'd made no bones about being unhappy for over a year. At the same time, he never wanted to take the time to talk it out and find solutions.
It provided Chelisie with some soul searching. She would stare at the mirror and ask, mentally, the questions that attacked her mind.
But Chelsie Karl was lovely. She was petite. She never ever got too big, when she was carrying Rachel Ann. She was good about exercise and strict with herself about indulgences. She was dedicated to helping them 'make it', which, to her at least, seemed to be what was happening.
But it was within the past year and a half that she became aware of the growing unease in Ben. He had some grand ideas about 'making it' and seemed to be willing to blame Chelsie for somehow holding them back and not allowing them to 'make it big', as he used the phrase.
But his up and leaving this way, even when he admitted, in that crappy note that he'd left, with another woman, "who," he said, "Was more sympathetic to his plans for something big," had never even entered her mind.
She had John Calhoun, her lawyer, also one of the necessaries of the past ten days, on her side. But she and John were finding out that Ben had planned this so well that he wasn't leaving a trail to be followed.
After a while, Chelsie didn't care if he were discovered.
"I don't want him or anything from him," she'd said in disgust at one of her meetings with John Calhoun.
"Well, I disagree in principle," John Calhoun had said, "But it might just be the reality that you won't be able to get anything from him. He apparently planned this and planned it well. He's not leaving any tracks."
He hesitated then and said: "We could hire someone to find him."
Chelsie shook her head and said: "No, John, no! Let's not do that. He doesn't want us and we don't want him. That sounds like a cruel reaction but it's where I am now. He's robbed me and left me and that little girl behind. I want to leave it at that."
This had been another one of the necessary problems that had been faced in this terrible, terrible time that had just elapsed.
There was another talk with Rachel Ann that night and more tears for the two of them.
There was a hug for the two of them, after the talk, and Chelsie, feeling what might have been going through Rachel Ann's mind, said, with a kiss and in a voice laden with love: "Rachel Ann, I will never leave you or abandon you. It's you and me for life!"
That made Rachel Ann cry that much harder but the message was what she needed, wanted to hear just then. And, from that time, going forward, it was the two of them, and they sought to handle problems together.
The next day, that Saturday was going to be another such problem.
AT THE DEPARTMENT STORE:
Ken Sanders was there on that Saturday. He didn't need to be but his philosophy of work was to keep his hand 'in there' at the store. He tried to be open with all the employees and showed up on a regular basis. He was well liked, a very popular boss. He also had a great record with their corporate office for the way the store was handled and how profitable it was.
Retail had been his interest and his Mom and Dad, who had provided for him in such a fantastic fashion, let him follow his own lead in selecting a career.
He hardly needed the job with what they'd left him, once they had both died, but he loved the world of retail and being the boss of this large store, one of the flagships of the brand was a joy for him.
Ken was, at that time, 34 years old. He was a strapping 6'3" and 220 lbs. He kept himself well and had grey eyes and wavy hair. He was a favorite of the women at the store for sure.
He'd put his time into the business, the store, as a priority for his life and had never been a ready hand at romance. But he was a confident man. He knew that 'his time was coming' and he wasn't going to rush that time or search frantically for a romance in the meantime. His secretary, Jane Danton, told him time and again that he was just too genuine and caring to ever be overlooked for long.
"Well, if that's the case," he quip with her, "She'd better hurry up before she had to wheel me around in a wheel chair."
They both got a laugh out of that.
On that Saturday morning, Ken was wandering through the store, being greeted by everyone. He made his way through the store and finally went to the billing and finance department, where, he saw a young woman and a little girl talking with one of the finance ladies.
The little girl look worried and he could tell that the woman was on the verge of tears.
The finance gal was also looking extremely upset about what was going on.
With determination, he moved in that direction.
"Gloria," he said, "What is it?"
"Oh, Mr. Sanders," she began, not sure of how much of what she'd just heard she could divulge.
"Let me," said the young woman, wiping her eyes with a tissue.
He sensed a difficulty for her and said, softly: "Come with me and we'll handle this in a place more private."
"Thank you," Chelsie said, appreciating the fact that he was willing to not have them discuss the problem in public.
"I'll see to this, Gloria, and let you know what, if anything we need to do," Ken said, and Gloria smiled and thanked him. Before they went away, Gloria put her hand on Chelsie's and gave her a smile. Ken noticed and led the way to the office.
They got settled in the office and Ken asked if he could get them something to drink. He went and came back with tea for Chelsie and a hot chocolate for Rachel Ann, both of whom thanked him.
"Okay," he said, "How can I help."
.... There is more of this story ...