Joanne rushed through the backdoor of the kitchen, pinning up her messy brunette hair as she walked. She dodged waiters carrying just-made dishes and chefs holding scalding hot pans until she finally made her way to her cubby just outside the kitchen. She shoved her belongings inside the small space, then frantically attempted to remove the wrinkles from her white dress shirt and tucked it into her black dress pants.
Being twenty-one with no high school diploma was not exactly every girls’ dream, but for Joanne, it was her reality. She did what she could with her minimal skills and education, and she managed to find herself a waitressing job at the Triston in Philadelphia, just a couple miles from her home on the south side of town.
“Late again, Jo?” Kaylyn laughed from behind her. Kaylyn’s bright blue eyes twinkled back at Jolene as she rolled her eyes. Her effortless beauty accompanied by her dirty blonde waves always made her appear a bit more put together than Jolene could ever dream of looking while working a shift.
“I know, I know... Things have just been... difficult at home.”
“That’s what you always say. Maybe one of these days you’ll tell me your real story, huh?” Kaylyn smirked, turning to follow Joanne back to the workroom.
Kaylyn and Joanne had worked together for almost six months now, and they were always attached at the hip while at the Triston. While they were only working friends, they always vented to one another about small life problems to get things off their chests.
Joanne was always hesitant to tell people about her messy life. Even though she cared about Kaylyn, and she knew that Kaylyn cared about her, things were too complicated. Involving people in her problems was not fair.
Joanne spun around and punched in her code on the computer screen to clock-in. She checked her table assignments for the day and ran out of the backroom into the tight hallway. She pulled her notepad and pen out of her apron instinctively. She began to walk down the hallway with Kaylyn at her side. While looking down, Joanne bumped directly into someone. She started to apologize but was immediately interrupted.
Joanne looked up to see her stuck-up boss Macie standing in her way, arms crossed across her chest. Her pasty foundation and dusty red lips stared back at Joanne. Macie carried an undeserved sense of entitlement with her that only made her more difficult to comply with. Joanne and Kaylyn always tried their best to be polite, but Macie was always sure to make this a challenge for them.
“Hmm... just getting here I see?” Macie asked rudely.
“Yes, I’m sorry. I swear it won’t happen again,” Joanne replied honestly.
“Sorry, but there will be no ‘again.’ You’re fired!” Macie stated matter-of-factly.
“You can’t do that, Macie!” Kaylyn bit back, unphased.
“Yes, I can, considering I’m the manager, and Joanne is perpetually late!” she laughed.
“But-” Kaylyn fought although unable to provide any more sound argument.
Joanne grabbed a hold of the sleeve on Kaylyn’s shirt, her fist quaking as she held back tears. She tried to tell her friend that she loved and appreciated her, unable to use the proper words.
“It’s okay,” Joanne whispered to her friend, telling her to give in.
Kaylyn was fuming with anger, and her body was shaking with rage. Yet at the whisper of her friend’s voice, she began to calm and her sense of reason took over. As Macie walked away from the two women, Joanne fell into her friend’s arms, letting her emotions take over.
Kaylyn was stunned by Joanne’s reaction, yet she wrapped her arms tightly around her torso and did not let go. Joanne let the tears roll down her cheeks as she sobbed softly into Kaylyn’s warm embrace. Without a word, Joanne quietly pulled herself away from her friend and wiped away her tears with her sleeve.
“I-” Joanne began, unable to find the right words.
“I know. It’s okay,” Kaylyn nodded, understanding all she wanted to say.
“I guess this is goodbye,” Joanne managed, feeling the tension in the air.
“For now…” Kaylyn smiled softly, leaving the rest unsaid.
Without another word, Joanne turned around to make her way back down the small hallway. She reached her cubby and grabbed her cheap purse and threw her apron into the adjacent wastebasket. Taking a deep breath, she looked around quickly, realizing that she would not be missing this place. She forced a smile and headed out the back door of the kitchen.
The air smelled like rain and pavement. Joanne breathed it in in an attempt to calm herself. Failing in her effort, she rummaged through her black fake-leather purse and pulled out a set of keys. She manually unlocked the door of her maroon 2007 Honda Civic that barely started on its own.
Joanne flopped herself down into the driver’s seat while lazily tossing her belongings to the passenger’s side. She hit her hands forcefully on the wheel in frustration, and she could no longer force a smile. The tears came, and she knew that she had been holding them in for quite some time.
Upon arriving home, Joanne sat in the car contemplating entering the house that could barely be called a home. She took a deep breath and attempted to compose herself before swinging open the car door. She stumbled outside of it, lazily making her way through her gated yard and up the front stairs. Then, she opened the already unlocked door and walked inside the house. Surprisingly, it was quiet. She wondered where on earth her father could be. She glanced at her watch. It read 12:45 p.m. “I suppose it’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” she muttered, defeated.
Joanne decided to use this unplanned free time to rest. She had a couple of hours until she had to pick up her siblings from school. She pulled her phone out of her purse and set an alarm for 3:20 p.m. Immediately after doing so, she dragged herself upstairs, simultaneously unbuckling her belt and unpinning her hair. She threw the belt in the hallway and quickly it was lost in the mess of toys and magazines that had been issued in 2015.
Joanne peered into her father’s room and saw nothing but some cheap furniture and dirty clothes scattered on the floor. She shook her head, disappointed but not surprised by the state of it. She walked into her room, kicking off her shoes and slamming the door audibly. She flopped onto her twin bed pushed against the wall under two small windows.
She hated being so emotional, but at this point, she was completely defeated. Silent tears made their way out of her closed eyes, and she let them roll into her pillow, not even attempting to rub them away.
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