Marriage of Convenience by Katy Kaylee

Chapter 2

Sara – Monday

Religious texts and self-help books all tout the idea that happiness comes to those who show gratitude and work their butts off. I’d done both and could confirm that it was a good plan, but not always full proof. I expressed gratitude for having parents and a home, and I worked hard to be a dutiful daughter. Unfortunately, my parents were never happy with my efforts, which made it difficult to feel grateful. How could I feel gratitude when all my dreams were always dismissed or thwarted?

My parents sheltered me until I felt like I was being suffocated. They were more rigid in their rules and conservative lifestyle than nearly all the other kids I went to school with. My peers got to watch TV, surf the Internet, and have cell phones. I never watched TV or went online until I went to college. That’s when I got my first cell phone, too, and it was a dumb phone: no Internet access or apps for me. I got my own computer then too, a restored ancient laptop that allowed me to write my papers, but that was about it.

I suspected most parents would have been happy to have their child earn a full scholarship to college. My parents said I was ungrateful, selfish and greedy by wanting something more in life. They said I should be happy to stay home, marry, and have babies as the Good Lord deemed appropriate for a woman. But I wanted out of their small world, and to them that was a sin.

But as smart and driven I thought I was, I’d squandered my opportunities and my scholarship. Perhaps in my subconscious, I believed my parents and thought I wasn’t worthy of having more in life. That could be why I let Glen’s dominating tendencies control my life until my grades slipped and I was on the verge of losing my scholarship. If I didn’t get it together, marrying Glen or going home would be my only two choices. I didn’t work hard to end up living under other people’s expectations of me.

Fortunately, Professor Fellows had a way I could get my studies back on track. I didn’t like him. He was always leering at me and other female students, but if he could help get me on the right path for my future, I’d endure his ogling.

I arrived at his office at the end of my sophomore year of college on time, ready to grab my dreams again. His office wasn’t impressive. Stacks of books cluttered the small space which reeked of stale coffee.

He rose from his desk as I entered. “Sara, come in.” He motioned for me to sit on the ratty leather loveseat. I’d thought he’d stay behind his desk or take the chair near the couch, but he sat next to me, putting his arm across the back of the couch behind me. Immediately I tensed up. Maybe he wasn’t just going to leer.

“I’m so glad you’re interested in this summer internship,” he said with a smile that on close inspection appeared a little wolfish. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and extremely competitive.”

While I’d done very well the first year of college, the second year my grades had tanked as I let Glen take more control over my life. How could I earn a competitive internship with poor grades? I was getting nervous that perhaps I was going to be expected to deliver some sort of favor in return for his.

“I appreciate the opportunity, Professor Fellows.”

“I don’t arrange this type of internship for everyone,” he said.

I nodded. “I know my grades this last semester weren’t great.”

He laughed like what I said was an understatement. It probably was, although I did manage to pass all of my classes.

“No, but you have potential, Sara. You’re smart and a hard worker when you put your mind to it, which is why I arranged this. I’ve vouched for you and that means my reputation is on the line, so I’ll need to mentor you closely.” His arm moved from the back of the couch onto my shoulder.

I swallowed as the realization hit. It was a wonder that I was still a virgin with the number of men who tried to have me repay their kindness. A few, such as Professor Fellows, offered me a leg up in the world in exchange for sex. So far, I’d been successful at riding the dangerous edge of flirting without committing or following through. I hated it. I knew all the women’s magazines and self-help books frowned on anything except me slapping his face and walking away. But what choice did I have? I was a nineteen-year-old woman with few prospects and no support system. If I had to let men leer at me to have a chance, I could manage that. They could look, but couldn’t touch, I’d decided. Someday, when I was successful, then I’d slap them.

I smiled sweetly. I also learned that men seemed to like the idea of a woman being innocent. It was another thing about them that baffled me. They liked purity and yet wanted to do impure things to us. Even Glen used to tell me all the things he planned to do to me on our wedding night. Some sounded impossible, and quite possibly illegal. Too bad for him, that wouldn’t be happening, at least not with me.

“I’d be so honored to have you personally mentor me. I promise to make you proud. You won’t regret it,” I said.

He smiled at me, his gaze drifting from mine down to my lips and then my breasts. Finally, he looked back into my face. “Let’s get the paperwork finished, shall we?” He brought his arm from around my shoulder and leaned forward to a little coffee table with a folder on it. He opened it. “I’ve already started filling it out, but need a few more items. What is your cell phone number?”

I gave him my number, which he wrote on a sticky note, not the form.

“Just in case I have more questions later,” he said, moving the note to the outside of the folder. He filled out the form and signed it, then handed it to me. “You’ll be at the home office of one of the most powerful businessmen in Manhattan. There are people who’d do anything to get this internship.”

His emphasis on “anything” had me swallowing back my revulsion. Instead I focused on “Manhattan.” I’d be able to get off Staten Island and into the heart of New York. I loved the city; the lights, the energy, the possibilities it offered. The problem was that it was expensive.

“It does offer a stipend,” he said as if he were reading my mind. “But it’s not much. As far as I’m concerned, it won’t be enough to live on in the city. You’ll be better off commuting from here, and it would give us the opportunity to see each other more regularly.” He set his hand on my thigh. Thank goodness I wore pants instead of a dress today, I reflected.

I smiled and nodded, having no intention of staying close to him. I signed the paper, putting it in my bookbag. “I really appreciate this, Professor Fellows.” I stood and headed to the door.

He rose and stopped me from leaving. “When shall we meet? We can discuss your internship and perhaps your appreciation.”

My stomach roiled. “I have my last econ class in ten minutes.” Remembering he wrote down my number, I added. “Text me.” Then I hurried past him and out the door. I didn’t have a class, which possibly he knew, but he didn’t stop me. I went to my dorm room and tossed my bag on my bed ignoring my roommate’s dirty look.

I didn’t know what her problem was. She was the non-marriage material that Glen would sometimes use to take care of his “manly needs.” Had we been friends, I might have asked her about it. Did he really do those things with his mouth that he said he’d do to me? It seemed like it would be gross, just like having his thing in my mouth sounded gross. Of course, I’d read about oral sex in Cosmo, but I couldn’t imagine people really liked it.

But my roommate and I weren’t friends. She hated me because Glen wanted to marry me. But as far as I was concerned, if she wanted him, she could have him. I told them both that. Of course, since she wasn’t a virgin, thanks to Glen, he didn’t see her as anything but someone to get his rocks off with. Clearly, she wanted more, but that wasn’t my fault. I didn’t make her sleep with him.

I pulled the internship agreement out and studied it more carefully.

Raven Industries is pleased to offer you the position of marketing intern reporting to Daniel Larson.

I’d chosen marketing as a major because it seemed to me that the ability to sell something would always be something businesses were willing to pay for. I was behind when it came to the digital aspects of marketing, but committed to catching up. Besides, the real power of marketing came from understanding people and writing words or creating images that made them take action and buy. For that reason, I was minoring in psychology, and taking a few classes in copywriting.

I scanned down the page for the payment information. Professor Fellows was right, the stipend wasn’t enough to live on. Maybe I could get a second job. Whatever it took, I had to get to Manhattan.

New York City wasn’t far away. I could see it from Staten Island. But for most of my life it felt impossibly far from my grasp. Now I was one step closer to getting there.

I pulled out my journal, another recommendation from self-help books, and reviewed my goals. I checked off the one that said, “Get an internship at Raven Industries,” and then began to revise my goals. My scholarship was gone, so there was no reason to stay here. Instead, I’d find a way to transfer to a school in Manhattan. I’d work hard enough to earn a job at Raven Industries and then attend night school or perhaps take online courses. Either way, once I got to Manhattan, I wasn’t going to leave.

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