Going to the Apple store was almost a ritual for Dom McQuiston. He liked to be around the products, see what might be new, swap news about up-coming or possible up-coming items and just talk with the people who worked there.
One time someone suggested, only half in jest, that Dom take some courses and become one of the 'geniuses'. But if Dom McQuiston knew anything at all, he knew his own limitations with computers and computer technology.
When a friend of his came to him with a financial proposal, namely to invest money in opening an Apple Store, Dom was totally in favor. They made the arrangements, which had Dom doing the bankrolling and his friend Stew running the store. They established a 60-40% partnership, that initially both were fine with, though Dom decided at the beginning that, if the venture went well, he'd change the percentage to give Stew much more of the profit.
They were talking, he and Stew, enjoying themselves, reviewing the features of the new iPhone 5, when Dom saw a young woman, accompanied by a little girl, a very sickly looking little girl, enter the store.
"Stew," he said.
"Yes?" his business partner replied.
"I know that woman; she works for me, newly hired. She doesn't know who I am though, she was hired by my associate/manager Vi. I just don't want the young woman to think that I'm shadowing her."
"You are extra sensitive," Stew said, "But that's why everyone loves you."
They both ended laughing, and Dom went to the back of the store, as Stew went to wait on the young woman and her daughter.
Almost as though they had planned it, Stew drew the young woman, whom Dom had said was named Debra Wilson, over by the doorway through which Dom went.
"Can I help you?" Stew asked.
"Oh, it's more of a fancy than anything," Debra Wilson said.
"Momma," the little girl said, tugging on he Mother's arm, "Have him show us the new iMacs. It's what I want."
Debra Wilson sighed and said: "Yes, please, will you do that."
For a moment, the little girl, whose name was Amanda, was distracted and Debra Wilson spoke to Stew:
"I'm sorry to bother you; she's been so sick and having her own iMac is her dream. I'm wasting your time, I'm afraid. I just finally got a job; this economy, you know, and we surely can't afford the iMac, not with the medical bills, and here I am running on and on. I apologize."
"No problem," Stew said. "It's what she wants to see, and so, let's show her, especially, if it makes her happy."
"So," Stew said, to the little girl, "What is it that you want to see?"
"An iMac," Amanda said, coughing. "Mommie says that we can't buy it but she has a job now and hopes that soon we can. It's my dream."
"Well," Stew replied, "Let's take a look at your dream machine."
They spent the next 15 or so minutes inspecting the lovely, big screened machine, while Dom heard what had taken place. But listening in made him feel creepy and he decided that he'd head out and go home.
As he walked through the store, from the back, he said lightly: "Stew, call me!"
"Will do, Dom," Stew said but noticed, when Dom McQuiston shook his head 'no' and didn't mention anything more about Dom's name.
After another ten minutes, Debra said to the little girl: "Come on, honey, we've had our treat for today and need to get you home for a rest."
Stew gave her his business card and said: "Let me know, if I can be of any further assistance."
"Thank you," Debra said, "I'm afraid that it'll be a while but now and then we need to have a pick me up and your store was today's."
"How nice," Stew said and offered a rather wilting looking Amanda his hand and said: "Amanda, nice to meet you."
Stew made a call soon after they left.
"Hey, partner," Stew said, "You said that you wanted me to call."
"Yes," Dom said, "I'm only over at Panera having coffee and a scone; I'll be right there."
"Good" Stew said, "Scone for me!"
"Got it!" Dom replied.
Dominick McQuiston's life, these days, was wrapped up, almost completely, in the business. When things with his wife, early on, went so bad, before she had been committed and eventually did away with herself, he put himself almost completely into the business. It had certainly paid off for him, making him, in the process, a wealthy man, certainly a lonely wealthy man. Over the years ensuing, it was more the challenge of the business than the money that was important for him but it did leave him wealthy, as he grew older. When he was 40 years old, he and Stew partnered in the Apple Store and a few other businesses that were in the computer market, software, accessories, support etc.
One of Dom's weaknesses, according to his 'person in charge of everything', Vi his associate/manager, was his desire, almost need to get involved with the lives of his people.
In this situation, he felt the same way about Debra Wilson. He'd had her dossier and recognized her, though it was Vi who'd decided to hire the woman.
While he was waiting for Stew to be free, he called Vi:
"Vi, honey," he said, "I need all your information about Debra Wilson."
"What are you plotting now," Vi said with a quick laugh.
"Please, just the information," he said.
"Will do, boss," she said, "Who are you going to have do all these little, crazy acts of love, when I take my leave?"
"Vi, I've already told you that I don't want to talk about that, until we need to," he said softly.
"Okay," she said, "But we need to schedule it within the next two weeks."
"Can do, sweetie," he said.
"Yes, I'll get everything, including the team scuttle-butt about Debra Wilson."
"Thank you," he said.
Then he went to talk to Stew.
"Well here's what it is," Stew said. He went on to explain what Debra said about the outing to the Apple Store being a treat to raise the little girl, Amanda's spirits.
"She obviously is ill," Stew said.
"What did she say about the computer?" Dom asked.
Then Stew told him about what Debra had said to the little girl, and then to him about the new iMac being only a dream at that point.
Stew looked at Dom, and recognized the look on his face: "What are you going to do?" he asked, suspicious.
Just then Dom's phone rang. It was Vi.
"Here's the lowdown, boss," she said.
She described Debra's resume to Dom, which he recalled right away.
"Also," Vi said, "The little girl apparently has a rather severe illness that requires her to be hospitalized several times a year. According to the local gossip, most of what the woman makes is going to medial bills. Also, there is no husband in the picture. He is gone for a few years now, and, I understand, now deceased. That's about what I've been able to get on her."
"Thanks, love," he said.
"By the way," Vi went on, "In the category of 'for what it's worth', she had good credentials and might be a great replacement for yours truly."
"Don't want to talk about it for at least another week!" he said, and left her laughing.
"Sorry, Stew," he said.
"More info on the woman?" he said, laughing.
"Yes," Dom answered, "She's one of mine."
"So, what do you want?" Stew asked.
"The iMac," Dom said. "Will you take it?"
"Anonymous?" Stew asked.
"Of course," Dom said.
"All the normal bells and whistles?" Stew asked then.
"Yes, I think so," Dom said, "Especially, if it makes a brighter day for the little girl!"
"You're too good," Stew said.
Dom just laughed.
Amanda had only just gotten up from her rest, when the doorbell rang. Debra answered the door and was surprised to see the guy from the Apple Store there.
"Ms Wilson?" Stew said.
"Yes?" Debra said, "Oh, you're the man from the Apple store."
"Yes," Stew said, "I need to talk to you."
Debra looked doubtful.
"It's okay," Stew said, "I don't need to come in; I only need to talk for a minute."
"Yes?" she said, turning and listening for any sound from Amanda in the next room, where she was stirring now.
"I've been asked, Ma'am," he continued, "To bring around this iMac for your daughter."
"I don't understand!" Debra said, confused.
"I"m sorry," he went on, "I'm not making it plain. Someone has purchased this iMac for the little girl and asked me to drop it off, and get it set up."
"For Amanda, an iMac?" Debra said, struggling with the reality of it.
"Yes, Ma'am," Stew said.
"I'm sorry," Debra said next, "I'm not trying to be difficult but I don't understand."
"The person who bought it for your daughter wishes to remain anonymous, and I need to honor that person's wish," Stew said next.
"But I can't ... we can't accept this!" Debra said.
"Ma'am, of course you can," he said, "There are no 'strings' attached to the gift at all. I don't want to get into trouble with the donor."
"Oh, dear," Debra said, getting tears in her eyes then.
It was exactly at that moment that Amanda wandered in from the living room.
"Momma?" she said.
Stew smiled at the rather pale little girl, and apparently Debra made an instant decision.
"Amanda, honey," she said softly. "This nice man from the computer store is here because someone has bought the iMac that you've been wanting."
"Really?" the little girl said, getting rather excited right away.
"Oh, Momma! For me?" she said breathlessly.
Stew was smiling then and said, to the little girl: "Yes, for you!" Turning then to Debra he mouthed a soft: "Thank you!"
"No, thank you," Debra said.
She thought a moment and asked: "But can't we know, so that we can say 'thank you' properly."
"I'm afraid not!" Stew said.
"Ohhhh," Debra sighed.
"Momma?" Amanda asked, afraid that there was a problem.
"It's okay, honey," Debra said, hugging the little girl, "The person who's giving you the iMac doesn't want us to know who he is."
"But, Momma," Amanda reasoned, "I want to say 'thank you'."
"I know, love," Debra said, "But that's the way this is."
"Then can I keep it?" Amanda wanted to know, her voice taking on an edge of worry immediately.
"Yes," Stew said, and Debra echoed the thought, with Amanda grinning and clapping her hands in glee.
"Okay," Debra said, "In here."
She led him into Amanda's bedroom, smaller than her own. (They lived in a smallish two bedroom apartment.)
Stew went to work, with Amanda always in attendance, and Debra looking on and smiling. She went then and fetched a cup of coffee for him, as he worked to get it all wired and operational.
He thanked her and then, when he was done with his installation, he walked Amanda through all of the various programs on the iMac. She was thrilled.
When it was all done, and his personal tutorial finished, Amanda insisted on giving him a hug.
"Please give that to whoever gave me this!" she said, smiling.
"I will do that!" he said leaving.
Debra hugged Amanda, when Stew had left. She had tears running down her face, as she held the little girl who was proclaiming how 'cool' the new computer was.
They spent the rest of the afternoon with the computer. Amanda was a happy as Debra had seen her for a long time.
Debra called the Apple Store, and asked for Stew. When he came on the phone, she identified herself and said:
"Stew, I wanted to say 'thank you' again; you've made my daughter very, very happy."
"You're welcome," he said, "After all, it wasn't me."
"I know and I wish that you'd tell me so that I could say 'thank you' personally," she said then.
"I know, but I can't; I promised!" Stew said.
"Well, when you get a chance," Debra replied, "Please tell that person 'thank you' from me and my daughter both."
"Will do!" Stew said.
He did call Dom then, who was at his office, though it was later in the day, and told him about the kind of reception that the computer got at Debra and Amanda's.
"The little girl was ecstatic," Stew said.
"Good," Dom said, "Mission accomplished."
"She wanted me to tell her who had given the computer," Stew went on.
"You didn't?" Dom asked.
"No, I kept it a secret, man," Stew answered.
"Good again," Dom said,"She doesn't need to know."
"Gotcha!" Stew said before ringing off.
EVENTS AT WORK: A NEW OPPORTUNITY AND WHO DID IT!
It was shortly after that. Dom was in his office, when Vi breezed in. (They had that kind of relationship.)
"Okay, Mr Bossman, what did you do? Tell me?"
He got red in the face.
"Aha, I thought so," she said to him. "Tell!"
He went through the fortuitous meeting with Debra and Amanda at the Apple Store, and what she'd told Stew about the new iMac being a dream for her daughter.
"So, you bought the iMac for her!" Vi said, more of a statement than a question.
"Yes," he said, getting red again.
"You're too good!" Vi said, going to him and giving him a kiss on the cheek.
"Does she know?" Vi asked then.
"No," he said, "I swore Stew to secrecy!"
"Sneaky!" Vi said, "I hope you get caught!" She laughed, after saying it and turned to leave with him just shaking his head.
"Don't tell," he said.
"Oh, I won't, Boss, but I still hope you get caught!" she said, leaving the room.
It was coffee break time at work. Debra was sitting with some girls from the secretarial pool. They were giggling and passing some company gossip.
In the course of their conversations, Debra told them about the gift of the computer for Amanda.
"How cool!" one said.
"Who gave it? Do you know?" another asked.
"No," Debra said, "They demanded that it be kept a secret. So, I don't know if I can find out to say a proper 'thank you'."
"Sounds like a secret admirer," was the opinion of another of the girls.
They laughed, including Debra, who just laughed it off with them.
"Oops," one of them said, "Here comes the big lady."
Just then Vi had come into the canteen. She went to get some coffee, and one for Dom to take up to him but then wandered over to the table where the girls from the pool were talking.
"Debra," Vi said, "After your break, I'm going to need to talk to you."
"Boy are you in trouble now!" one of the girls said, and they all laughed.
Vi laughed with them and said: "Honey, whenever you're done; don't you hurry, and it's not about any trouble."
Debra smiled at her and said: "I'll be there right a way, Ms..."
At that point, Vi put her hand up in the air and said: "Vi, please!"
"Thank you, Vi," Debra said and went to take her cup and plate to the dish bin.
As she passed the table on the way back to work, one of the girls said:
"Deb, we're praying for you!" and they all giggled.
Vi had an office that connected to Dom's, so that traffic had to go to him through her but her office was, nevertheless, quite private.
Debra knocked on the door and Vi asked her in, and motioned for her to sit. Debra looked at the older lady expectantly.
"Let me ask first, before we do any of the work stuff," Vi began, "How is that little angel of yours?"
"Oh, thank you for asking," Debra said, "Making progress slowly but she still has a way to go before she'll be fine. She recently had a treat though."
Debra went on then about the gift of the iMac and how happy it had made Amanda. She also said how upset she was at not being able to say a proper 'thank you' to whoever made the lovely gesture.
"But I'm sorry," Debra said, "Here I am going on and on and you called me up here for some work reason."
"No problem, love," Vi said. "So, let me tell you what' on my mind."
"I am finally going to take my papers and leave here," Vi said.
"Ohhhhh!" Debra said, the disappointment obvious in her voice.
Vi smiled at her.
"It's time for me to retire and get on with the kind of life that I want," Vi said. "But the reason that I'm bringing it up is that I really think that you might fit my position very well. I've already spoken to Mr McQuisten, the boss, about you, and he is willing to talk to you about it. I personally don't think that there's any problem with you stepping into the position though. And I'd stay to do some training with you.
"Ohhhh," Debra said again, the smile on her face was huge and she hurried over to Vi and hugged her.
"What a lovely, lovely thing!" she said.
"Well, let's see what the big boss says," Vi said, smiling at Debra. "You ready now?"
"Yes, I, uh, guess so," Debra said.
Vi went then and knocked on the door. He called for her to enter, and she went in, ahead of Debra. She stood aside then and said:
"Boss, this is Debra Wilson, whom I've been talking to you about."
Dom stood up and Debra was suddenly rooted to the floor. Her mouth was open wide and she was suddenly connecting the dots.
"Pleased to meet you Debra," Dom said but wondered why she was staring.
"I've seen you before," Debra said, "You were at the Apple Store."
He nodded his head.
"It was you!" Debra said.
"Me?" Dom asked.
"You bought the computer for my Amanda! I know it!" Debra said, getting obviously choked up immediately by the truth that she was speaking.
At that point, Dom, really properly caught, just nodded his head to show the truth of what she was saying.
"What a wonderful thing to do!" Debra said, and with no other word went to him and hugged him and began to sob.
"Uh, Vi," he said, "Can you give us a moment here?"
Vi was smiling and said; "Sure, Boss; I'll be in my office."
"Debra," Dom said. "Please sit down."
She did and had a handkerchief out to dab the tears from her eyes.
"Sorry," she said, "When it comes to my Amanda, I get very emotional."
"Lovely, lovely little girl!" he said.
"Yes," Debra said, "Still frail."
Then she went on about Amanda's health problems but mentioned that the doctors were pretty certain that they were on the right track with the girl and she'd be getting better but it would be a struggle yet.
"Sorry," she said, eventually, "I'm just rambling on."
"Don't say it," Dom replied. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, thank you," Debra answered, "I just want to say 'thank you' and tell you how grateful my Amanda is for your generous gift."
"My only aim!" he said.
Debra cried at that point; it all finally overwhelmed her.
Dom then called Vi on the intercom: "Vi, can you come in here please?"
When Vi entered, she assessed the situation in a trice and said: "Okay, what did you do to her?"
Debra giggled at that and Vi went on: "Let me take her to my office, boss and we'll be back in a bit."
"Good," Dom said.
Vi took Debra with her, the young woman still sobbing. They got to Vi's office and Vi got her a glass of water and they sat for a bit.
'Better?" Vi asked kindly.
"Yes," she said, "I guess I've really messed up the purpose of this meeting. Sorry."
"I doubt it," Vi replied, "he is that way, I mean doing kind things, when he knows that one of his people has a need."
"Oh, dear!" Debra said. "But what must he think of me, breaking down like that? Acting like a loon in there?"
"He did a kindness for your little girl, lovely Amanda, and you're correctly, emotionally affected by that. So, let's not worry about it."
"Oh, thank you," Debra said. "And I have to say that I'd really like this chance, if it still is possible."
"Oh, I think that it is certainly possible," Vi said smiling. "Let's go and talk to the tiger again now."
"Oh," Debra said, with a small laugh, "Yes, the tiger."
They went back to Dom's office, where Vi knocked.
"Here we are again, boss," Vi said. "Now you behave yourself!"
"Okay now?" Dom asked, grinning at the two of them.
"Yes, okay and it's your fault anyway with your sneaky ways!" Vi went on.
"See what I have to put up with, Debra!" Dom complained and they all laughed.
"Only for a little bit," Vi said.
"No more of that talk," Dom said, "You need to stay here and train our Debra."
"Ohhh," Debra said, "I can still have the position?"
"Well," Dom went on, "Vi's recommendation is as good as gold around here."
Vi grinned at Debra then, who returned it with a smile.
"I am sorry for being emotional, or maybe inappropriate," Debra said softly.
Vi gave Dom a withering glance and he nodded:
"No sorries, and I apologize for being sneaky about the computer," he said.
"It was such a nice thing to do!" Debra said wistfully.
"And your daughter?" he asked, "Um..."
"Amanda," Debra said, "In cloud heaven about the computer!"
"Good," he said then, "My only aim!"
"So, let's talk," Dom said then.
"Okay," Vi said, "I'll be in my office, while you talk to this poor girl about the nitty gritty!"
"Poor girl?" he said suspiciously.
"Yes, since she has to put up with you in the future!" Vi concluded.
"Okay," he growled with a grin, "Out!"
"Don't worry, honey," Vi said to Debra, who was grinning, "His bark is worse than his bite!"
"Well, you don't know that!" he said.
"Nope," she replied, "You've never bitten me!"
"Out, I say!" he repeated.
"I'm going, bossy!" she said, smiling at the two of them over her shoulder.
Debra and Dom settled down and a short silence ensued.
"I so appreciate this opportunity," Debra said. "I guess I'm just nervous here and the things with my Amanda always make me emotional."
"Well, let's begin," Dom said, "By talking about your lovely Amanda. I am always interested in the lives of people who work for me, what they need, what kind of support is good."
He looked at her watching him and went on: "Debra, please don't think that I'm only being nosy here, and anything that you don't want to tell me is fine."
She held up a hand and said: "Oh, you're being so nice though! Not nosy at all."
She did talk to him then about the problem with Amanda's breathing and all the efforts to help that they'd undergone.
"We do seem to be getting close, I hope," she concluded.
"Must be expensive!" he said.
"Ohhh, yes!' she answered wistfully, "That was the problem with the computer! I was so upset that I couldn't get it for her. You are such an angel of mercy and love!"
He grinned at her.
"How can I repay you?" she said, again wistfully.
"With that comment," he said, "Consider it paid in full."
She got tears in her eyes: "Here I go again!" she said. "Sorry!"
He held up his hand at that point and said: "No need for 'sorries'. But business?"
"Yes, yes, of course!" she said.
"Here is the package that we'll be offering you; it will start you at a grade level and let you rise into the kind of package that Vi has right now."
"Ohhhh," she said, "This is so generous."
She gave him a huge grin, which he returned.
"So, it's set?" he asked. "You can start working with Vi tomorrow and get into the rhythm of the office?"
"Yes," she replied, "I can start at soon as you wish! I'm excited about this possibility."
"Need to go and clean out your stuff from the office downstairs?" he asked. (Each of the 'pool' gals had a desk and a cubicle on a lower floor.)
"Yes, I can do that, and start tomorrow," she said, getting up. "I want to thank you again for helping me and my Amanda."
He came from around the desk and she surprised him by pulling him into a hug.
"I don't mean to be inappropriate," she said, "But I needed to do that for the iMac! It was a lovely thing to do."
He was temporarily at a loss for words but only smiled at her, as she left.
"Boy," he said to himself, "That felt nice."
Vi entered, as soon as Debra left.
"Why the red face, big man?" she asked conversationally.
"Oh, she hugged me to say 'thank you'," he stammered.
Vi grinned and said: "Serves you right. Want to talk about this?"
"Yes, there's something that I need to have," he said.
"Oho," she replied, "Another conspiracy!"
He sighed and said: "Oh, Vi, someone has to help that lovely woman with the medical bills."
Vi said earnestly: "Yes, Dom, you're right!'
She thought for a moment and asked: "Are you falling for her? The great Mr Stoneface?" she giggled as she asked it.
"Stop!" he said answering her laugh, "But I certainly am falling for that lovely little girl Amanda. She's a cutie!"
"So is her Momma!" Vi said with a conspiratorial wink.
They arranged it and Vi got the information that he needed. The bills totaled well above $50,000 for the advanced medical treatment that she'd needed for Amanda's breathing problems.
"Well, what shall we do?" Vi asked.
"Can you find a place for the money?" he asked.
"Of course, I can," she said, and she went to him. "You're a saint!" she gave him a kiss on the cheek, when she said it.
"Do we tell her?" she asked.
"I guess that I need to do that!" he responded.
"Yes, I agree!" she said and laughed, "Screw up your courage?"
"Something like that!" was his answer and it was all arranged.
In the end, it was Debra herself that came to Dom's rescue about selecting the time and place for telling her what the company was going to do about the medical bills.
It was a few days later; they had established a schedule and Debra was working with Vi to get oriented and doing very well at it. During a break in the afternoon, she was in Dom's office and Vi was having a coffee break at the cafeteria.
"Um, Mr McQuiston," Debra began.
"'Dom' please!" he said kindly.
"Yes," she smiled, "Dom. My Amanda and I would like to invite you to dessert tonight. She really wants to say 'thank you' for the gift of the iMac. I think that it will include a hug too. She's good at hugs!"
"So is her Momma," he said, and got red in the face immediately.
She only giggled. "I didn't know you noticed!" was her comment.
"Not dead!" he said, "I guess I noticed. What time?"
They set the dessert date for 7:30 PM that night. Dom was there on time. He was nervous but on time. He also brought flowers for the two of them. He rang the doorbell at their apartment and it was Amanda who answered.
"Momma," she said, "It's a man."
Debra appeared and shook her head 'yes' at Amanda. "Yes, that's him!" she said, and before he knew it, he was in Amanda's clutches. She had her head against his stomach and was hugging him and saying softly: "What you did was so nice! Thank you, Mr McQuiston! Thank you!"
When the little girl broke off the hug, she had tears on her face, and her Momma stood by watching, as he used his handkerchief to wipe the tears from Amanda's face.
"You're welcome, honey!" he said. "Your Momma and I are good friends!"
"Yes," Amanda said, "Good friends!"
"Please come in, Dom!" Debra said.
Amanda took him by the hand and led him into the apartment.
"Momma baked a cake for us," she said, "And I helped!"
"Well," Dom replied to the little girl, "I bet it's going to be good."
"I'm sick," Amanda continued, with the honesty of the young, her eyes wide with earnestness.
"Yes, I know, honey," he said, "And your Momma and I are going to do something about that!"
"Oh, goodie," Amanda said then with some enthusiasm, "I want to be all better; I really do."
Debra was watching all this, tears glistening in her eyes, and was pleased at the way that Dom McQuiston and her Amanda seemed to bond so quickly and completely.
"We'll have dessert in the kitchen," Debra said.
"It's where we eat always!" Amanda said, as if the explanation were necessary.
"Good place then!' Dom said, as Amanda led him by the hand into the kitchen.
"Coffee?" Debra asked.
"Please," he said, "Black."
They had their cake and talked a bit. After the cake, it was obvious that Amanda was getting tired. Her head nodded and Debra said:
"Oh, too much for some people!"
Dom got up and took the little girl into his arms and carried her off to the bathroom, where her Mom got her ready for bed. When she was ready and in bed, she said her prayers and mentioned Dom's name in her prayers. Then she insisted on a kiss and a hug for him as well as her Momma.
"She's such a love!" he said.
"She is that!" Debra said with a sigh.
There was a bit of nervousness then between them but he was determined to get on with what he wanted to tell her.
"Have a little time?" she asked.
"Yes, the boss won't mind if we're late tomorrow!" he said, and they both laughed.
She got them each a glass of white wine and they sat at the kitchen table.
"Debra," he said, "I have to talk to you. "Please don't think that I'm being overly sneaky here. Vi helped me with this and I want to talk to you about it."