By Design – Chapter 13

Gracie got out of the cab in front of the old house in the suburbs. She paid the driver, shouldered her bag, stared up at the house and sighed. Her parents had called her the night before asking when she would be arriving home for the weekend. When she told them she had completely forgotten about the holiday, they nearly freaked. She tried to calmly explain to them that she had way too much work to take the weekend off, even if it was Easter, but they were having none of it. So she had gotten up early that morning and called a cab to take her out of the city and back to the house she had grown up it.

Gracie knocked once on the door before turning the knob and letting herself in. She knew the door would be unlocked. It always was. In a neighborhood like this, there was no reason to keep the door locked, unlike the neighborhood where Gracie’s apartment was located.

“I’m home!” Gracie hollered as she stepped inside and closed the door behind her.

“In the kitchen!” came the response from the back of the house. Gracie dropped her back at the foot of the stairs leading to the second floor and made her way to the back of the house where the kitchen was located.

In the kitchen, Gracie’s mother, Ariel, was moving around in a flutter from one station to the next. The stove was running, dishes were in the sink, she had a pile of chopped vegetables on the counter, and the aroma from the oven suggested that something was already baking.

Gracie’s father, Gary, was sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper, skillfully avoiding noticing that his wife might need help preparing the holiday meal. Gary Parker had never been one for cooking. It was a good thing Gracie had gotten here when she had.

“Hello, Dad,” she said as she rolled up her sleeves and took over at the sink washing dishes.

“It’s about time you made it home,” Ariel said. “I was beginning to think we were never going to see you again. You stay so busy with your work, sometimes it seems like you’ve disappeared completely from this world. The only time we see anything about you is when we read your pieces.”

“So you’ve been keeping up with my articles?” Gracie asked. She was interested in knowing her parent’s opinion about her recent critiques of Eli Walker. She wasn’t sure her parents knew who Walker was, but they had always been honest in their criticism of her pieces, and some honest criticism, unrelated to Walker as a person, was something she could really do with hearing at this point.

“Well of course we don’t have time to read all of them,” her mother said with a sort of amused laugh. “It’s not like we don’t have lives too. I’m in the middle of three different projects right now, and your father is in the middle of a big corporate case. Isn’t that right, Gary.”

Gary Parker grunted in agreement. Gracie had the feeling the response was simply a reaction to hearing his name and knowing he was supposed to respond. Her father seemed much more interested in his newspaper than their conversation.

Even if they hadn’t read the articles per se, that didn’t mean they couldn’t still give her advice about her situation with Walker. “Well recently I’ve been working on several pieces about a new business hotshot named Eli Walker. He owns a web design company called Walk On Designs. He’s very popular in the social scenes.”

“He sounds like a lovely young man,” her mother said as she moved from the vegetables to the stove to stir a sauce that was simmering.

“Well that’s just the thing,” Gracie tried to explain. “Everybody is convinced he is this wonderful guy with absolutely no faults, but I just can’t see it. I mean, there’s something really off-putting about him. After I wrote my first critique, he just started appearing all over my life out of nowhere. It’s like he’s determined to show me he doesn’t deserve negative reviews. With all this effort he’s going through, and everybody else insisting he’s so great, I’m kind of starting to feel bad about writing something bad about him.  I mean, everybody is making me feel like I made a mistake. I just wish I could understand what everybody else sees in him.”

Gracie’s story elicited a distant “hm” from her father. Her mother, though obviously only half listening as she moved around the kitchen, tried to be more responsive. “Well he sounds like a charming young man. It’s nice to see you finally taking interest in someone.”

The dish Gracie was washing clanged against the sink, causing both of her parents to jump and stare at her. “Mom! That’s not what I said at all. Believe me, I am far from interested in him.”

Ariel seemed slightly perturbed at her daughter’s outburst. “Well I’m sorry. How was I supposed to know you were uninterested, the way you were going on about him like nothing else existed in your life. It’s no reason to be throwing dishes around. If you’re not going to do them right, give them to your father to do.”

Gary Parker sent his daughter a look that suggested she better not drop another dish.

Gracie just sighed and resumed her chore. So much for trying to get her parents’ input on the situation. She couldn’t believe her mother had said something like that. Her being interested in Walker. It was enough to get Gracie’s nerves rattled. If only her mother understood the discomfort Eli had put Gracie through, she would have never said such a thing. And yet, now that the seed had been planted, Gracie couldn’t seem to get the idea out of her head. Could it be true that there was, in fact, some part of her that was interested in Eli Walker in some way?

Gracie shook her head, trying to shake the thought away. But it was no use. She was pretty sure that one comment had just ruined her entire weekend.

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