I hadn’t set out to be an assistant. I’d wanted to be an executive, maybe the CEO of a French company or one that had dealings with France. But when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I focused on spending as much time with her as I could. Since I was organized and had my Bachelors in business administration, I found freelance work as a virtual assistant, and ultimately started my own virtual assistant business. For the situation I was in, it was ideal as it allowed me the flexibility to care for my mother and still earn an income.
My mother’s illness was terminal and she told me to use the inheritance I’d receive when she passed to go back to school and earn my MBA. But losing her last year was devastating. She was all I had in the world. I never knew my father. I didn’t have siblings or aunts, uncles, or grandparents. Because my life with her was all encompassing, I didn’t have friends, and working from home meant I didn’t have coworkers. When she died, I was alone.
Being alone in the world terrified me. At first, I hid in our little apartment, unable to do anything. As a result, my virtual assistant business faltered and I ended up having to refer my clients to other virtual assistants and close down my business.
“You’ve got so much to give in this world, my Bella. Go out and experience it all. Do it for me.”
Her words rang in my head day after day as I wallowed in bed and eventually, they motivated me to go out and get a job. I was hired as an administrative assistant to a low-level manager in JoXander Cosmetics. A few months later, quite by accident, I’d heard Mr. Alexander was hiring a new executive assistant. Although I had the experience, I didn’t think I’d even get an interview. I was fairly new at the company and young, much younger than the assistant I’d be replacing, who was retiring. But then I learned Mr. Alexander was hoping to expand his business’ market into France. My mother was a French teacher and had raised me to be bilingual. I put my fluency in French at the top of my resume, which got me the interview, and eventually the job. Hot interlude in the elevator or not, I believed Mr. Alexander thought I did good work.
Merci, Mama. I thanked my mother for giving me a skill that would get me a job that allowed me to stay in New York City, and close to my original goal of working in business.
Today, though, I found doing my work extremely difficult. Today was the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death. I’d thought about taking the day off, knowing it would be hard. But her words that encouraged me to live my life drove me out of bed and to work.
Like a machine, I threw myself into my long to-do list, using work to distract myself. But at moments I wasn’t engaged in a task, grief overwhelmed me. Not wanting to draw attention to myself, I spent a lot of time in the restroom weeping and then washing the signs of my tears from my face.
By the end of the day, I looked like a worn-out dishrag. After my latest crying jag, I returned to my office to complete one final email for the day. I hit the send button and prepared to shut my computer down.
My phone beeped with an alert, so I checked to see what it was in case Mr. Alexander needed something. It was a text from a teacher my mother used to work with.
Bella: Thinking of your mom today made me think of you. I hope you’re doing well.
I burst into tears again. I’d learned to live my life, but without her, it was lonely. I had a few friends from work, but no one I was close to. I dedicated my life to helping Mr. Alexander build his business and binge-watching Netflix on the weekends.
Geez, I wasn’t really living at all, which brought on a bigger deluge of tears.
I jerked up at the deep masculine voice coming from my door. “Oh… Mr. Alexander… I’m sorry…” I reached for my tissues but my box was empty.
“What’s the matter?” His dark brows pulled together in concern as he came into my office.
I worked to rein in my tears and pain. “I’m sorry… I’m alright.”
“No, you’re not.” He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to me.
I reluctantly took it. I didn’t want to get my snot on his hanky.
“Do you need something?” he asked.
“No. I’ll be okay, really.” I dabbed his handkerchief on my eyes.
He frowned. “Did something happen?”
I took a deep breath, getting my tears under control. “It’s just a difficult day.”