Authors: Lila Felix
His face was a replica of many before him who’d told me that I talked too much. It was a cross between the verge of strangulation and train whistle ears, steam blowing and everything. His fists hadn’t stopped squeezing an invisible stress ball since I’d entered. I decided to dismiss myself before I told him all the details. I swore sometimes I got on such a roll, I told people what size panties I wore.
“Ok, well, it’s clear you don’t care and you’ve already made your decision. I’ll leave now.”
I’d just made the biggest fool of myself in front of the most attractive, aloof and cold-hearted, but still hottest, guy I’d laid eyes on in a long time. His hair was black and cut pretty short, some of it spiked out in different directions. And it didn’t help matters when he answered the door without a shirt on. He was thinner than what I actually went for but he still had nice abs. And his eyes were the color of smoke. Too bad he was a jerk, a very pale jerk.
“I’ll let myself out since you’re obviously just gonna stand there.” I rolled my eyes and made for the door.
He cleared his throat and beat me to it, opening the door and silently letting me out. I exited onto the stoop and took one look back, just for eye candy’s sake. When I did, I was taken aback by the look on his face. It was pure despair, the exact opposite of what I expected, not that I expected the door to be open at all. His eyes met mine for a fraction of a second and then he looked to the ground before closing the door. I didn’t know what to make of it.
As instructed, I went back to Mrs. Collins’ house to give her a debriefing. It sounded a little off to me, but I needed this job.
I waited outside of the office within the walls of the extravagant Collins’ mansion. Marble floors beneath my five dollar flops, my back, swathed in an eleven dollar clearance rack shirt against a Mahogany carved bench. I was a run-over, scraped up nickel amongst fourteen carat Double Eagles and it made me squirm.
An older lady walked out of the office and shook hands with Mrs. Collins one last time before turning to me and saying, “Age before beauty, Dear.”
I wonder if my job at the restaurant is still good?
Mrs. Collins invited me into her office but what was the point? It was obvious she’d already hired the lady before me and judging by Breaker’s attitude, he agreed.
Mrs. Collins sat in her big leather chair and gestured for me to take a seat. I should’ve been paying attention but I couldn’t get Breaker’s face out of my head and the questions that came along with it. I wanted to know why a guy who obviously had a lot going for him could be so sad.
“So, I think it’s best that another person fill the position. She’s got lots of experience…”
“My dad owns a commercial cleaning business. I’ve been helping him since I was a kid. I know how to clean.”
She smirked at me but shrugged her shoulders, “Well, the fact is, I’ve already hired someone else. I’m sorry.”
I’d done it. I’d let myself get my hopes up in vain. I thanked her and got up to leave. But since I wasn’t getting this job, I decided to take a chance and ask her one more question.
“Mrs. Collins,” I prompted and she looked up at me, slightly irked.
“Why is he so sad?”
She cleared her throat, “Who?”
“Breaker. He was kinda rude at first but then I thought—nevermind, it’s none of my business.”
I walked out, not giving her time to respond.
I got home and called the restaurant to confirm I’d be taking the position and buckled down on studying for the rest of the night. Stephanie came in hours later after a movie and dinner with her other friends. It was no wonder she didn’t get good grades, the girl would do anything not to study.
“Gross Ash, have you been studying all day?” She plopped on the bed.
“No, I went to the coffee shop and a job interview and then I studied.”
She contorted her face in a sideways grin, “Did you see Ozark? Did he fawn all over you? That boy is hot.”
I rolled my eyes, “He made my coffee and then came to sit by me on his break.”
She flung herself back on the bed, “He’s so dreamy. I can’t understand why you won’t give him a chance. Those blue eyes, damn.”
I shrugged. He just didn’t do it for me. I couldn’t explain it. But gray eyes got me going good. Apparently so did a foul attitude and a dusty house because I hadn’t stopped thinking about Breaker since I’d left his place.
“So did you get it?”
“The job. Wait, what aren’t you telling me? I see that look on your face.”
“No, I didn’t get the job. And I’m not telling you about the guy I met today, not doing it.”
She jumped from her side of the room to my side.
“Tell me everything.” She shrieked at me.
I started work at the restaurant that Friday night after my last final. It was a swanky restaurant and the dress code made me wear a black skirt and a white button down shirt—and heels.
I already knew how to waitress from working part-time at a pizza place on the weekends when I wasn’t helping my dad out so I got the hang of things pretty quickly. The requests were certainly different from the pizza joint. One lady asked for truffle oil on her salad. I had to tell her it was almost thirty dollars extra and she waved her hand at me as if money was a drop in the hat. And then when they left, they tipped me a hundred dollar bill. I guessed money wasn’t an issue after all.
By the time I left at two a.m., I was beat and my feet had blisters and water bubbles on them the size of clams. I took a hot shower when I got into the dorms, no longer caring about whether there was a coupling in the bathroom or not.
The hot water soothed my aching back but stung the blisters on my feet. I got out, clean and unscathed by bathroom lovers and in my sleepiness barely made it back to my dorm room. This job was gonna suck.
The next morning, I woke up without an alarm since I was exhausted and I’d taken a shower at a decent time. I could hear my phone ringing but decided to ignore it.
Stephanie groaned from the other side of the room and threw something my way, a shoe I think, “Answer the damn phone. Whoever it is has called three freakin’ times!”
“Hello,” I took her command and answered without lifting my head from the pillow.
“Ashland?” a voice asked.
“This is Ashland. Who is this?”
“This is Mrs. Collins. Should I call back at a better time?”
I sat up in a fury and tossed my comforter aside.
“No Ma’am, I’m sorry, I worked until two a.m. Can I help you?”
She ‘Mmmmed’ over the phone, “Yes, I think you can. Are you free today?”
Stephanie was sitting up now too with a questioning face. She was trying to hand gesture me to death, curious about what was happening.
“I have to be to work at noon. Can I meet you before then?”
“Yes, please be at my house at eleven. If you still want to work wherever you’re working after my proposition, you’ll have time to get there.”
“Thank you, I will be there. Goodbye.”
I hung up and stared at Stephanie.
“I might have that job after all.”
“The one with the hottie? Shut up.”
“You meant the one with the rude hottie. But yes, that one. This just might be my day.”
Friday, I had no schoolwork as the quarter was over. I dragged myself around the house looking under things: the toaster, the blender again, the lamps, the coffee pot. She’d been right. I didn’t clean under anything. Every time I picked up an object and there was dirt under it, I chuckled.
Lucy was supposed to come on Monday for the first time and my mom told me to clean up. I didn’t understand the point of cleaning up before someone came in to clean, but I didn’t understand a lot of things anymore.
I stared out the back window for about an hour, psyching myself up for what I was about to attempt. I watched the fence line for a while, making sure no one was near. I put my hand on the door knob and turned it for the first time in years. I stuck my head out and looked both ways, like a kid getting off the bus.
I stepped out and the sunlight blinded me. I looked around one more time for good measure and then proceeded to the greenhouse. It was once a place where I grew orchids and cultivated roses for Holly, who called them stupid and called me effeminate for gardening in the first place. So I let all those orchids die and the roses were long gone. Vines and weeds took their place, cracking through the windows and doors.
I found the lawnmower in its regular spot. I cranked it and actually mowed a third of the yard before it sputtered to a stop. It was out of gas and I was out of my mind. I couldn’t go anywhere to get gas. I kicked the machine that once again reminded me of who I was and slammed the door behind me, back inside the comfort and restriction of my prison.
This became one of those days where I wished I took the medication prescribed by Dr. Mavis. I took it for the first few months after I’d come out of the hospital but it made me groggy and in a cloud. I stopped taking it cold turkey after about six months. Pain and depression were better than oblivious ignorance and complacent judgment any day. But days like today, I’d almost take it. On days like today, I wished I
take it. Everywhere I turned I was face to face with who I was, mirror images of my cripple all over the place. Packages and merchandise bought from the internet that should’ve been returned but my insane ass couldn’t get to the post office. A car in the garage that needed new tires and an oil change. Not to mention, a life that desperately begged to be lived but I had no life to live, only walls and a virtual social existence.
I texted Memphis and he told me what he was up to. I lived vicariously through him now. We stayed in touch through e-mail, phone and text but we were both afraid if I saw him, I would flip out, bombarded by the memories he brought me. Plus, he had a nasty habit of updating me on Holly’s antics.
And I was growing sicker and sicker of myself every day.
Saturday morning I worked on a leather bag for my mother. I knew she’d never carry it anywhere or even give it a second look other than to throw it in the back of her closet but we pretended. She would take it and thank me, compliment me on my workmanship and then leave. But it wasn’t Gucci or Versace so it wouldn’t make the cut.