Warm ComfortsAnnie Pelle
Copyright 2012 by Annie Pelle
Cover by Lisa Browning Photography Tupelo Mississippi
Thank you for purchasing this book even though the underlying subject can trigger many emotions. The female in my story, Cori, has a new life away from a tragic past. Domestic Abuse is too prevalent in our society and I hope that if you were a victim that you have received the help you need. I hope that if you are a victim that you reach out right now to get help. I hope with all my heart that you have a wonderful loving spouse like I do.
12 years ago
100 miles west of Houston, Texas
Cori Alyssa Lewis walked calmly away from the lunch room at Ridgemont Senior High School. There was loud laughter following her and just to make their day, Cori acknowledged the insult and the laughter by giving a backwards wave over her shoulder. She could hear the ring leader Seth Reynolds over everyone else. He had gone above and beyond today though in his insults and it would make a great addition to her list that she was collecting.
“Hey wait up” Faith Harris, Cori’s friend said as she ran to catch up with her. “Why don’t you tell them off?”
“And ruin their good time, never.” Cori returned sarcastically. “Anyway, it wouldn’t do any good. We have five days until graduation and then I’m out of the city to go to school two weeks after that. I’ve listened to their taunts for this long; five more days can’t hurt me.”
“You are nicer about it than I would be.”
“Forget about them. I will.”
“I just came to tell you that Roger Morgan asked me about you today. He wanted to know where you were going to school next year.”
“You didn’t tell him, did you?”
“That would be difficult since I don’t even know.”
“I know and I’m sorry about that. I’ll let you know where I am when I get there. I don’t want anyone to know before then.”
“I remember. Anyway, meet me at the car after school and I’ll drive you home.”
“Thanks” Cori said as her friend walked away to her next class. Cori entered the classroom and prepared for one of the last tests she would ever take in high school.
Two days before graduation, Cori watched Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds leave the house next door late in the afternoon and decided this was her opportunity. She was done studying so she had time to focus on this one last item that needed to be taken care of before she left Catesville, Texas. She took the eight pieces of paper that she had printed off her computer stuffed them in a large envelope and left her bedroom.
Since no one was at her house, she locked the back door as she left and walked quickly through the backyard to the side yard and slipped into the side yard of the Reynolds’ house next door. At the back door of the Reynolds’ house she knocked hoping that someone would answer that door instead of the front door. A short minute after knocking, she heard the doorknob turning and saw the door opening.
“Hi Cori” Micah Reynolds greeted.
“Hi Micah. I didn’t know you were home.”
“I just got home today. Summer break for me too. And I needed to be here to see Seth graduate.”
“Speaking of Seth, is he home and can I talk to him?”
“He’s here. I’ll get him.”
“Can you not tell him it is me?”
“I’ll wait here.”
Micah disappeared back inside the house and Cori waited anxiously on the porch, she had planned this speech for most of the last two years but she was still so nervous.
“What are you doing here?” Seth asked surprised at who was visiting him
“Don’t worry; no one will know I darkened your doorstep.”
“So, what do you want?” Seth asked rudely.
“I wanted to give you something. It is something I’m sure you are going to treasure for a lifetime.”
“From you? I doubt it.”
“I think you’ll see it the same way as I do - a memento of your years at Ridgemont.” She said handing him the manila envelope. “That is many of the insults I have heard from you over the last four years. You are at four hundred and eight-five. Yes, I wrote them all down and yes that makes me a loser. You have two days until graduation and then two weeks after that to reach five hundred and then I’ll print you a newer version with the last fifteen. But then I’ll be gone from this town and you’ll lose your opportunity to insult me ever again.” Cori’s anger was beginning to show. “But know this, Seth Reynolds; someday you may own this whole town, this whole county and this whole state. You may even be the President of the United States. I will even have to call you Mr. President but I believe you are going to need me for something and I’m going to remember you and your five hundred insults and then I’m, unless it involves saving the life of someone you love, I’m going to get to turn and walk away. And unlike this time where I’m doing it in private where only you and I know about it, the next time I really hope it is public so you can be as embarrassed as I’ve been for four plus years.” Cori turned and walked away from Seth. “Just remember you are working on a deadline…” she said as she disappeared around the corner of the house.
Seth stood shocked on his back porch and pulled out the list from the envelope. She really had numbered the insults and there were four hundred and eighty-five. He opened his back door and slipped into the kitchen.
“Way to go Cori” Micah said as Seth entered. “She has more class than you’ll ever have but she should have done that in public so all your friends could have heard it too.”
“She’s nothing and she’s wrong.” Seth said angrily. “What would I ever need her for? It will never happen. She’s a loser just like she said.”
“I want you to remember a saying Never say Never.” Micah returned. Seth left the kitchen after giving Micah a dirty look. Micah’s laughter followed him upstairs to his room.
Two and a half weeks later, Seth’s mother handed him another manila envelope and inside was a revised Cori’s insult list and a note. I’m really disappointed in you Seth; you only made it to four hundred and ninety. Love, Cori. Seth swore at her note and threw the whole package on his bed as he left the room to go swimming.
Beaches Toy Company Headquarters
Seth Reynolds, CEO of Beaches Toy Company, stared out the window of the conference room at the headquarters of Beaches Toy Company. He heard his executive and middle management personnel arrive and take a seat at the table behind him but he didn’t acknowledge them until he heard the door close and then he knew everyone had arrived and his assistant Abigail had given him his signal.
He turned from the window to face his employees. “Good morning.” He greeted. There was a mixture of greetings back at him. “I hope you had a good weekend because it is going to be a busy week.” He paused to look at their faces “Yes, I know I know, it seems to always be busy around here.” He joked. His employees laughed with him.
“What is today’s date?” Seth asked even though he already knew it
“March 15th” his chief financial officer answered.
“What day does our Christmas toy catalog have to be to the printer in final form?”
“July 15th” answered the products manager of Beaches Toy.
“That’s right” Seth answered. He stepped to the table behind him where a sack was waiting for him and he pulled out a stuffed teddy bear and a book along with a box.
“Since I am CEO of a toy company and I happen to be a kid at heart and I love toys, you all will understand and still think I’ve got machismo when I tell you that this stuffed bear is the cutest thing I’ve seen in a while.” He stated sitting the aforementioned stuffed bear on the conference room table. “And he is the reason you are sitting here right now instead of doing your Monday morning reports and other various chores. Does anyone know why?”
“He’s not ours.” Seth heard from his marketing manager.
“Give Jason a toy surprise because he is correct. He isn’t ours but I want him in our Christmas toy catalogue for this year.” Seth saw and heard the mumblings of his staff.
“Ah” chuckled Seth “I see you know where I’m going with this - that’s right - I want this little guy and all of his buddies in Beaches Toy catalogue and under our label in time for this Christmas.”
Seth’s and Beaches’ ever polite but extremely talented chief legal counsel raised his hand with a question. “I have a question, Seth.”
“Of course you do, Isaac. What would one of our meetings be without a question from you?”
“Very funny” Isaac groaned as the rest of the room chuckled. “Have you approached the company where this bear came from?”
“Isaac, I now know why you graduated top of your class at Harvard. Why didn’t I think of that?” Seth teased. He picked up the bear and walked with it to Isaac. Since Isaac and Seth were good friends and everyone knew it they accepted and expected Seth to tease Isaac because a lot of the times it was Isaac teasing Seth. “Can you please tell me the name of that company I need to contact?” Seth asked as he handed the bear and the book to Isaac. Isaac turned the bear upside down and around but didn’t see a tag. He looked at the book and didn’t see a publisher name or address or anything.
“Who doesn’t put their name on their product?” Isaac questioned.
Seth shrugged “Beats me.”
Isaac turned the bear around in his hands again still searching for a non-existent tag “Where did you get it?”
Seth grimaced. “Well, if you all can keep a secret from my niece, Mindy, then I’ll tell you. Her father, my brother Micah, sent it to her. She received it in that box over the weekend.” Seth pointed to the box still sitting on the table. “She doesn’t know I borrowed it today.”
“Mindy’s going to have your head.” Isaac laughed.
“No doubt” retorted Seth. “I have until three thirty to return it to her bedroom.”
“So where did Micah get it?”
“Well you know Isaac, if his commanding officer didn’t have him in some firefight in Afghanistan, I’d be thrilled to ask him but since I can’t call him on the phone and he can’t read my email until who knows when, I have to find out by myself. Or make the twelve of you do it or help me do it.”
“What does the box say?” asked the production manager
“It says Made with Love and a return address of Teddybearville, Texas. And since I’m a Texan and have lived here all my life except for those horrid years in Boston, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of Teddybearville, Texas. And guess what, it isn’t in the atlas, Google Earth, Mapquest or Houston because believe me I’ve looked. In fact, my head hurts because I looked all day yesterday. I searched every site I could until bedtime last night. I’ve seen cute bears and ugly bears until I dreamed about bears attacking me in my sleep.” Seth’s staff laughed with him as he rubbed his eyes. “But seriously, this is your top assignment this week. I’ve taken pictures of the little guy and the book and Abigail will email them to you as soon as she returns to her desk. Find the website of where someone can buy one of him or his buddies and find me a name of a company. I have four months but no pressure.” Seth said in a jovial tone. “Before ending this meeting, I want to tell you that I’ve read the comments on Facebook.com about our company and I’m thrilled. Tell your people that I’m proud of them and thank them for their hard work. Anything else?” Seth asked. When he received no response from anyone he waved them away “Back to work then.” The chairs rattled and the staff left to return to their offices. Isaac remained behind and followed Seth to his office.
“Have you emailed Micah?”
“Yes, I did.” Seth answered sitting down behind his desk. “Sometimes it is weeks before he can answer though.”
“Don’t you pay his bills, snoop in his credit card account.”
“I did. It says the same thing. Teddybearville.”
“I wish. Come on Isaac, think. Who does this? Where are they?”
“Okay, Seth, you are seriously scaring me with this obsession.”
“I know. Daphne avoided me all day yesterday and Mindy gave me a wide berth except at bedtime when she wanted me to read the stupid but well written book.” Seth said shaking the book in his hand. “I’m serious. I spent the whole day on searching for this bear.”
“Then let Uncle Isaac have the book and the bear so he can return them safe and sound to Mindy.” Isaac patronized as he picked up the bear and took the book from Seth. “You have calls to make and contracts to read.”
“I know, I know.” Seth answered “Our trip to Galveston this weekend, cancelled. My mom called and she isn’t feeling well so Mindy, Daphne and I are headed to see her in Catesville. Do you want to go with us?”
“Sure. How is she sick?”
“I’m not sure, that’s why we are going. She says she feels listless.”
“My mama Millie can’t get sick, I won’t allow it.”
“I’ll pass your message along. We are leaving at noon on Friday.”
“I’ll be ready” answered Isaac. “I’ll pick Mindy up from school today. It is t-ball day.”
“I remember. Thanks Isaac.”
“Later boss” Isaac said leaving his friend’s office. He gave the bear and the book to Abigail and told her to get it back to Mindy’s bedroom as soon as possible. She laughed and said she would go at lunch time.
Cori arrived at the back door of the warehouse of Warm Comforts. She was ready for a new week of work and discovery. She liked to let her mind wander and dream up new crafts to make and sell. She liked to dream up new “comfort” foods. The past weekend she had spent with a sketch book and had a few new designs to try out this week.
“Hi Kane” she greeted the security guard inside the back door.
“Hi Cori” the young man answered.
“It is all quiet.” He answered.
“Keep a close eye out. We got two new arrivals over the weekend and I don’t want trouble. Here is the information I have on the potential trouble.” She said handing him a package. He quickly glanced through the information.
“Any pictures I can have?”
“Faith is making the copies this morning and she’ll bring them to you.”
“Yes ma’am. I post them for all shifts.”
“You are the best, Kane.” She stated as she walked down the hall to her office.
“No ma’am, you are.” He said quietly when she was out of range. Kane was a benefactor of Cori’s best. He was an uneducated junkie living on the streets four years ago and now he was head of security at Warm Comforts. Cori had taught him to read, gave him shelter and food and helped him get into a rehabilitation facility. He was clean, sober and productive again and there was nothing he wouldn’t do for Cori Morgan.
Cori Morgan had been through it all and still was a sweet, kind and wonderful person. Her life in Catesville as a teenager had been normal. She lived with wonderful parents and her big brother in a classic small town house. Right after high school graduation she went to New York University with early admission. Four years later she had graduated with double degree in Accounting and Art History. She was one of the few people to ever combine those two degr
ees. Most people just looked at her weird when she told them that. But after her life fell apart, she used both degrees to start a business. She created, started, organized and managed Warm Comforts because she was smart and had an accounting degree but she made it a company that flourished under her other love, home. Home to Cori meant crafts, designing and cooking and all things that made a home a place of comfort.
“Hi Cori” greeted Cori’s assistant Pearl.
“Hi Pearl. How are you?”
“I’m good. How are you?”
“Energized” answered Cori.
“Good. Your brother wants to see you.”
“On Monday morning? Yuck.” She teased.
“John has that effect on everyone.” teased Pearl.
“He’s your husband and you talk about him like that?”
“He knows I love him dearly.”
“So do I but we won’t tell him that.”
“I already knew it anyway.” John retorted from his office door. Pearl and Cori had known all along that he would listen to their conversation since his office was just a few steps away from where they were talking. “You both are just rotten.” He grumbled as he came to stand next to them. He hugged his sister, Cori and kissed his wife, Pearl. “Cori, I need a few minutes.”
“I’m listening.” She said. He looked at Pearl then led Cori into his office. Pearl already knew the topic and knew it was going to be more for Cori to absorb. She felt compassion for her sister-in-law who had already been through so much.
“What’s up?” Cori asked as they sat around his conference table.
“A couple of things, first of all; you are officially, Cori Alyssa Lewis again. The paperwork came from the judge this morning.”
“Thank you. Thank you.”
“But the second thing is Roger’s mother called this morning, early.”
“Of course she did, what now?”
“Well she wants to know when you are going to give up this ridiculous charade about Roger being a wife abuser.”
“She didn’t really say that, did she?”
“I couldn’t make this stuff up, Cori.”
“Oh, heavens” Cori swore. “And what else?”
“She wants his professional football memorabilia donated to Ridgemont High School and USC.”