Here to Stay - Adriana Herrera

Chapter One


If you assumed that being a grown-ass woman who paid her bills and lived ten states away from my Dominican mother meant she would not be all up in my business, you’d be wrong.

“Mami, I gotta go. I need to go and see my boss. It’s important.” My stomach dipped, remembering how pressed my boss had sounded on the phone. Gail, who was usually cool as a cucumber, was pretty flustered when she’d asked to see me. Not that I blamed her. Things around here were getting more stressful by the minute. My new job, on paper, was a dream.

Program director for the Sturm Foundation. Not only did I get to do the work I was passionate about, but I was also employed by one of the most iconic high-end department stores in the world. There was also that seriously impressive employee discount.

Sample sales and meaningful work... I was living the dream.

Except as soon as I got to Dallas, the boyfriend I moved across the country for dumped me for his side-chick. And now six months later when I finally felt like I was settling in, things had taken a not-so-great turn at work. So arriving late to an important meeting with my boss was not the best move I’d ever made, and yet here I was in a hallway making a personal call. Because my family was my Kryptonite and they knew it.

“Okay, pero abuelita wants to say hi.” My mother was aware things at my job were stressful, but that did not keep her from laying on the guilt. “You know she gets worried about you down there by yourself.” You’d think instead of Dallas I’d relocated to the moon. I hoped my mother didn’t start with the guilt trip and demands to come back home. I was not in the mood and it was not the time.

I looked around the empty hallway to check if anyone was around and nodded like my mother could see me. “Fine, Mami, but just one minute.” Sturm’s headquarters was in a downtown Dallas building built in 1914. It was gorgeous inside and out like only vintage architecture could be, but the halls were narrow and the ceilings low, so it wasn’t like I could go unnoticed while lurking in a corner. I wasn’t trying to get myself on the radar of anyone who could fire me, especially now that we seemed to be in a Code Red at the foundation. After just a couple of months into my new position, the higher-ups at Sturm’s had announced that the fashion empire was preparing to go public after almost sixty years as a private company. They’d hired a firm to help them in the process and in the last week they had deployed a team of men and women that had been power walking through the hallways looking like a wolf pack hunting for prey. They were very easy to spot in their dark and boring suits, a striking contrast to the Sturm’s workforce, who, no matter what shape or size, always looked runway ready.

Gail had warned me that our program—hell, the whole foundation—was on the team leader’s radar and very likely to end up on the chopping block. So, me chatting on my phone instead of sitting at my cube working was not likely to go over well. I winced, remembering I’d seen him walking around this morning.

“Lita, mija, are you still there?” I almost jumped three feet in the air when the voice of my grandmother startled me out of my anxious inner ramblings.

“Aqui estoy, Abue.”

“Your mami said you’re trying to meet strangers from the computer.” I cracked a smile at my grandmother’s suspicion for anything that happened via the internet.

“Abue, I am not meeting people from the computer. They all work here.” I could barely hold back a laugh as a round of tongue clicking ensued. “We’re just planning a meetup using an app, because the company is big and we don’t all know each other.” I tried to sound as reassuring as possible because neither my mother nor my grandmother were above getting on a plane and crashing my happy hour.

There was more shuffling, which probably meant that someone else was getting a turn at instructing me on how to be a functioning adult.

“Li.” My name is Julia. A pretty short name, but somehow my family had come up with at least twenty variations to it.

Julita, Lita, Li, Tali...the five letters of my name offered infinite possibilities for my