I stand in front of the mayor’s desk, clutching the folder I wanted to discuss with him in my arms.
Marcus Cornelius Banks Jr. is not a man to repeat himself, and I know this.
But surely, I haven’t heard him correctly.
“Dad, you can’t be serious.” Usually, I don’t bring our relationship into the office, but I think it might be warranted this time.
“You heard me. You’re fired. Effective immediately.” He slides his glasses back on and looks down at the papers he was going over when I came in, dismissing me.
“I…I don’t understand. Why? What do you mean?”
He sighs like he wasn’t expecting me to ask any questions.
Uh, HELLO! This is me we’re talking about. It’s my actual freaking job to understand situations completely.
I can’t decide what I’m more offended about right now.
The fact that he thinks he’s firing me or the fact that he thought I was going to just go quietly.
“Keyra, what have you done since you got shot?” Just him mentioning it makes me rub my fingers on my side out of habit.
“Uh…work? We still had the campaign to finish.” I’m confused. Is that a bad thing? We got him into office with great numbers and a large popularity vote.
I’d like to think I was an important part of that.
“Exactly. You could’ve died, and the first thing you did was go back to exactly what you’ve been doing most of your adult life.” My dad’s face is grim, with maybe a little trace of…regret? Guilt?
I haven’t the slightest idea why he’d feel either of those things.
“The bullet missed everything vital. I’m fine, why does it matter? I love my job.”
I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
I’ve never done anything else.
“It’s all you’ve ever done. You need to explore, do something for yourself. You’re always worried about something. This time, I’m giving you no choice but to worry about yourself.” He nods his head one final time like he’s not going to say anything else about it, and I feel panic welling up inside me.
“Daddy, let—.” He cuts me off.
“Keyra Danielle Banks, I’m not going to say it again.” He stands, putting his palms squarely on his desk and leaning over it just slightly.
My dad is already a large man. I really don’t need the full force of his stare and stern voice.
“Get. Out. It won’t kill you to take a few months off. The office will still be standing when you get back.”
“So this isn’t a permanent fire? If I go do something for a few weeks, I can come back?” Thank god, a little hope.
“No.” He deadpans, coming around the desk. He grabs the edge of the file I’m holding and tugs, and I hold onto it for a second before he yanks it and I don’t have any choice but to let it go.
“Keyra, do you know what it was like for me to watch them load you into that ambulance, not knowing what the hell was going on?” He takes my hands in his and I look at them, avoiding his gaze.
Not for long though, because he tips up my chin and I hate seeing the mistiness in his.
“You’ve given so much of yourself for this family. I need you to take some time for you. Please. Don’t make me beg you.” He makes like he’s going to get down on one knee or something and I grip his hands tightly. There’s no way I want him doing that. “Promise me you’ll do things you’ve always wanted to. Explore. Live.”
“I mean…I’ll try?” I hedge, shifting on my feet and avoiding his gaze again. If he gets too emotional, I’ll get too emotional.
“You’re not allowed to work for me for at least six months, so you better do more than try.” He kisses me on the forehead and turns me around, nudging me towards the door.
Holy hell in a hand-basket, I’m not going to survive.
Maybe he was just giving a strong suggestion and he’ll forget about it once he realizes how crazy it is.
* * *
“Miss Banks?” I swing my gaze towards the door, where an officer is standing.
“Yes?” I stand when my dad appears behind him, flanked by another officer who’s holding a box.
“Since you, my dear daughter, can’t seem to follow simple directions, I thought I would personally see to it that this gets done.” He sits the empty box on my desk and starts grabbing up my things!
“Hey!” I snatch away my glass paperweight before he can pick it up, clutching the cupcake to my chest.
“Hand it over. It’s going in the box.” He demands, holding out a palm.
I straighten my back and subtly step back into my heels, even though from the minute I stood up, I stood on the balls of my feet so it would look like I was already wearing them.
I don’t like being caught off-guard.
“You’re being absurd. This is very unprofessional.”
“What’s unprofessional is you ignoring me directly telling you to go home.” He grumbles, turning and moving to other areas of my office, grabbing the small knickknacks I’ve placed around.
I like a little character, but mostly simplicity. Too many things mean not enough organization.
I watch silently as he just puts the little bit of my work life into a box. He picks it up and hands it to one of the officers, going to the drawer where I keep my purse and getting that too.
Walking to me, he holds out his hand again.
“Give me your badges, you’re not allowed back without an appointment. Better yet, just drop by the house.” I numbly hand them over, and he presses another firm kiss to my cheek then motions me ahead of him.
So much for him not being serious.
I lift my chin and drop my cupcake paper-weight into my purse gently, and take it from the officer.
Refusing to look my dad in the eyes again and refusing to look at anyone as I pass them, escorted by police officers, I end my journey outside of the double doors of City Hall.
Just me and my box.
I’m grateful that I make it to my car before the first tear falls.