Last Thursday, the day after the riot at the Capitol, Maya told me at breakfast that she wanted to see me in her office. She didn’t tell me why, and I was a pretty nervous that I was in trouble somehow.
Maya’s office is on the first floor of the house, but on the opposite side from Sandy’s. I always reckoned that was because she didn’t want to be disturbed by all the traffic that goes through her assistant’s office: Sandy’s office is a pretty busy place. So I’ve never been in Maya’s office. Turns out it’s quite a room with seemingly everything in a gold frame, including a huge mirror sitting on the floor that’s taller than I am. I found that very distracting, since, if you sit at the chair facing Maya’s desk, you can see the mirror out of the corner of your eye, and, yeah, fine, let Keaton call me gayass for it, but I have trouble not looking in a mirror when there’s one close by.
I reckon I looked kinda scared when I came into the office, since the first thing Maya said was:
“Don’t worry, Hunter…it’s nothing bad. I hope you’ll think it’s something good. Have a seat.”
She gestured to the chair from which you can see yourself in the mirror.
“I want you to know that we think you’re going a great job with the boys, and that we really appreciate your contribution since we started the bubble I know it hasn’t been easy on you, but you’ve been great about it…and the boys adore you. Dr. Peterson is going to be very jealous when he comes back.”
“When’s that going to be?,” I asked.
“Not for another couple weeks,” she said. “He’s still having symptoms from the bronchitis.”
“I had that once,” I said, although y’all know that already. “It took forever to go away…and they wouldn’t let me play sports until it did. It sucked…a lot.”
“So you know what Dr. Peterson is going through,” Maya said. “Although the important thing about him is that he got over COVID and will be back with us soon enough. In the meantime, we have you to pick up the slack. What made you decide to teach them Shakespeare, by the way?”
“It’s one of the things I know the most about, so it seemed like a good choice. I was afraid they’d be a little young for it, especially Matteo, but…”
“…Matteo’s a bright boy,” Maya interjected, although I don’t like the type-casting of Matteo as the smart one and Jacob as the jock.
“Yes he is…and they both took to it just fine. We’re going to start a third play next week, since we’re just about done with As You Like It.”
“Which one are you going to do?”
“Macbeth,” I said. I wasn’t sure when Mom first recommended it, but then I realized what a good idea it was. The boys would definitely like all the blood.
“You know I was in As You Like It before anyone knew who I was,” Maya said. “We did it in a small production in Portland. I was Rosalind, but I doubt I was very good. I never did Shakespeare after that. But never say never. There have been offers for Lady M” – Maya was careful not to say the name of the ‘Scottish Play’, like every other actor I’ve known – “for TV, believe it or not. But my Shakespeare career is neither here nor there for the time being. Yours is, however.”
“Yes, your career. I know you said that you’ve been laid off by a hotel and that you might go back…”
“I’ve kinda given up on that, ma’am,” I said, although it’s the first time I ever mentioned aloud that I doubted I had a future at the hotel the way things have been going. “I think I’m going to have to concentrate on making my living as a baseball tutor.”
“That’s a great idea,” Maya said. “You’re good at it. Both Robert and I have seen you with the boys. You’ve got a talent, Hunter. And you have other pupils too, right? The ones you haven’t been seeing since we started the bubble. How many of them are there?”
“Two, basically. I think you can say that Lucas, my first pupil, is a graduate of the Hunter Block School of Baseball.”
“Change that to Baseball Boy’s Baseball Academy and it may go somewhere,” said Maya with that smile of hers that always makes me notice her perfume that always makes me go al fuzzy in the head. When I got my brain back to working she was saying “…you still haven’t gotten that the show is one big commercial for all of us, and that includes you. Destiny can help market you…if that’s what you want…”
“No need to give me an answer now,” Maya said, to my relief. “I brought you in here to make an offer. Well…a suggestion, but I hope you’ll accept.” I was kinda holding my breath, although I reckoned it couldn’t be anything too bad. “We’d like you to move into the pool house. We know your lease on your apartment is up this month, and, well, we know that you’ve not really been able to pay your rent there…so why not move in here, keep an eye on the boys, and not have to pay any rent at all?”
I had a shit ton of thoughts going through my head and had a hard time focusing on them. And, no, Maya’s perfume wasn’t helping.
“It doesn’t have to be forever,” she said, “but at least until you’re on your feet with your baseball business, although we’d expect you to spend a lot of time with the boys. Maybe you can have them in the mornings, which would leave your afternoons open for other students. Of course the bubble will be over in another week, so you’ll be able to come and go as you please. You can even have a friend or two over and use the pool. Mi casa es tu casa,” she continued, “and I want you to know we’ve come to think of you as part of the family. No overnight guests, though…we don’t want to set a bad example…”
“Of course not,” I said. “Although…” I really didn’t want to ask it, but: “although, I will be able to go spend some time with my girlfriend…I mean…spend the night…sometimes…”
“You don’t have to blush like that,” Maya said. “Of course you can. Just not every night…or you could move in with her.” I think that made me turn an even brighter shade of red. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have said that. Let’s say two nights a week…but it doesn’t have to be an iron-clad rule. Does that seem fair?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, still feeling like I was blushing.
“We want you to be here for the boys…and – I won’t hide it from you – we want you to be here for the show. You’re very good for ratings. None of us thought we needed a young hunk, but it seems like a young hunk is good for business. And you’re our resident hunk.” She paused. “Or at least we’d like you to be our resident hunk.”
My brain was kinda swimming. It was a lot to think about and I wasn’t sure that Maya was going to give me a lot of time to think about it.
“And of course we’ll pay you a salary. It won’t be as much as we paid you while you were in the bubble” I felt my insides contract when she said that “but would this be acceptable?” She wrote a number on a pad on her desk. It was a lot less than I was getting for being in the bubble, but, all things considered, I was going to be getting room and board to go with it, so it was still a lot more than I was gonna need to keep gas in the shitbox’ tank.
I’ve been through this writing a number down and showing it to me salary ‘negotiations’ thing before a couple times now, although all I’ve ever done is say yes. Maya was looking up at me expectantly, like she wanted me to suggest another number.
So I wrote a number that was $100 higher. I really didn’t know what else to do.
Maya smiled, took the pen back, and wrote a number that was $50 lower than the one I’d written. She looked up at me…but didn’t extend the pen.
I got the point. I think. I really didn’t know what I was doing. And, since the first number was fine with me, I nodded and said that the new number would be great.
“But I would like to think about it…at least until this afternoon.”
“You can take more time than that,” Maya said. “It’s not like we’re interviewing other young hunks for the job. We’d just like to have you on property, since it’s been working out so well.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Thanks a lot.” I started to leave and a whole bunch of questions suddenly came into my head all at once. I turned around and asked one of them:
“If I move here, what am I going to do with my furniture and…stuff?”
“Do you have a lot of it?,” Maya asked.
“Enough to fill a 1 bedroom apartment. A small apartment, but I have a couch and tables and chairs and a bed and a dresser and…”
“So you’re going to need a storage unit?,” Maya asked.
“I…I reckon so,” I said, although I hadn’t been able to think that far in advance.
“You’re in luck: Robert and I have a large storage unit we only use half of. There should be more than enough room for your furniture. There’s lots of closet space in the pool house, so you should bring your clothes with you. You’ve got the legs for shorts several times over,” she said, “but it would be nice to see you in regular pants sometimes.” She smiled, but it was kinda weird: this was the first time she’d really said something about my looks and it felt, well, weird. Was the famous Maya Bedrossian flirting with me? I hoped not…although it wasn’t a totally bad feeling if she was…
I left Maya’s office and headed up to the schoolroom, where the boys were waiting for me. Since it was the day after Armenian Christmas, I figured that Christmas vacation was over and we had to get back to work. That was going to mean going back to math. Since we were done with the Bill of Rights, I also needed some other topic in American History. So I decided to focus on impeachment, since it was sure to be in the news in the next couple days. The boys had heard the word a lot, and weren’t exactly sure how it worked. That meant I needed to bone up on the Constitution myself, although Dad made sure that we all had a good grasp on everything in it long before we started taking American government in school. (Y’all know how Mom was with Shakespeare? Ok, that’s how Dad was with the Constitution.)
Before we could get started, Jacob asked me:
“So? Are you coming to live here?”
I wasn’t sure if the boys knew about the offer. Turns out, they did.
“It would be really cool if you did,” said Matteo.
“I told your Mom that I was going to think about it,” I said, although I was already realizing that there was no way I could say no.