Truck Stop

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Chapter XXI.

For a few days, everything is fine. Well, there still weren’t many calls or texts. His social media was silent save for people he barely spoke to anymore liking his pictures or sending him pictures on Snapchat that he never opened. Work was hectic, with Sierra leaving, he was promoted to assistant manager. It meant he had a lot more duties than he normally did, like boxing up leftovers at the end of the day and delivering them to the Phoenix House, a place of support and a shelter for youth. They were always grateful to have extra food, so much that it made the trip worthwhile.

Lincoln wouldn’t get home until around eleven, and on Fridays he would go straight from Happy Go Lucky to the club without any break in between. He was also swamped with projects, assignments and studying for finals. He was so busy, it felt like he didn’t even have time to breathe. Lincoln was just glad everyone else was preparing for finals too, or his friends would probably hate him for never meeting up. It wasn’t like he was getting any invitations out, though.

It was the day of Jupiter’s art show, and Lincoln had called in sick at the club. He rarely missed a shift, so they had no choice but to give him time off. Still, his boss didn’t sound happy when he hung up the phone. He felt a headache coming on, so he quickly grabbed some Advil and swallowed it dry before heading off to class.

Later on in the day, when Lincoln was at work, the headache shifted into an intense migraine on the left side of his brain. Still, he forced himself to smile at patrons and serve them accordingly. On his break, he swallowed another Advil and leaned heavily against the counter until it was time for him to go back out front and stand in front of the register.

“Excuse me,” One woman huffed out, startling Lincoln from his daze. It took him a second to focus, black spots dotting his vision until they cleared out and he had a view of an older woman who was standing near the coffee bean shelves. “I think these coffee beans are overpriced.”

Lincoln sighed internally before pasting a smile on his face. He could already feel his migraine beginning to worsen. “Ma’am, those coffee beans are at a set price, I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m sure you can find cheaper coffee beans somewhere else.”

“No! I want those ones,” She replied, jabbing her finger at the bag. “But $7 for one bag is just too much.”

“As I said, they’re sold at a set price,” Lincoln repeated politely. “It’s the same price at any other store selling them.”

“This isn’t fair!” She yelled, drawing attention to the counter. Lincoln shifted nervously as he noticed the stares from the other customers. “I demand to see the manager in charge!”

“Actually, the manager isn’t here right now, and I’m the assistant manager. If you’d like, you can come back another time,” Lincoln said patiently. His cheeks were hurting from the artificial smiles.

“No, I want her now!” The woman screamed. “This is discrimination! I have a disability, you know! I shouldn’t have to pay this much for coffee!”

“Lady, shut the fuck up,” A girl in a wheelchair interrupted. “I’m in a fucking wheelchair and I paid for the coffee.” She held up her own bag, blowing her bangs out of her face.

The woman paled as everyone began to laugh at her. She glared furiously at the girl in the wheelchair, before whipping her head around to glare at Lincoln before storming out of the cafe. Lincoln was quick to thank the girl and give her a free drink and pastry on the house.

“Thank you so much for getting rid of her,” Lincoln said as he handed her the strawberry danish that she chose from the display case.

“Hey, I’ll get rid of assholes anyday if it means I get a free pastry,” She replied with a grin. “Are you feeling alright? You look a little pale.”

“This is just my normal complexion,” Lincoln assured her, lying through his teeth. Although when his next break came around, he spent it splashing water on his clammy skin and examining his reflection in the mirror. He looked worse than usual, with his cheeks sunken in and dark circles under his eyes. He sighed and leaned his forehead against the glass, the mirror blessedly cool on his heated face. He was most likely coming down with something. After Jupiter’s art show, he’d head to bed right away and sleep in until late.

“Link, you feeling alright?” He was asked as soon as he stepped outside of the bathroom. Anne was peering at him with a concerned expression on her face. He quickly nodded and went back out front to finish the remainder of his shift.

By the time he clocked out, it was already 6:30. Lincoln sprinted home and dove into the shower, not even checking anything else. He quickly scrubbed at his skin and washed his hair, toweling off and wrapping a towel around his waist before stepping outside. Yong-sun wasn’t home, he had said something about helping Jupiter set up before Lincoln had left for work.

Lincoln fed the cat before going back to his room and picking out decent clothing for the art show. Apparently, a lot of rich and important people were going to be at the gallery where Jupiter’s work would be on display. Jupiter had complained about having to wear a tux for three days straight.

Out of curiosity, he checked his temperature; 105.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The result made him blanche and shove the thermometer back in the drawer. It was fine, he’d take some Tylenol Extra-Strength, go to the show and then take another sick day.

After Lincoln swallowed down his pills, he realized he hadn’t checked his phone all day. Frowning, he went through his jeans to find his phone, turning it on. He had the usual missed notifications from Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. About to put it away, he noticed the series of text messages towards the bottom of the list, along with several missed calls.

Uncle Jack 2h ago

Lincoln answer your phone

Uncle Jack 2h ago

Goddammit Lincoln answer your phone

Uncle Jack 2h ago

Lincoln your mother is in the hospital, answer the phone

Lincoln’s breath caught in his throat, freezing for a moment before panic clawed up his chest and he frantically called his uncle, with no answer. Breathing heavily, he sat down hard on the floor and tried Danielle’s cellphone.

“Link?”

“What happened to Mom?” Lincoln almost whispered, his voice trembling. “Danielle, is she okay? What happened? Where is she?!”

“Lincoln, calm down,” Danielle said softly. She sounded like she had been crying. “Your mom is in the hospital right now, I’m here with your uncle. She’s in a critical condition and she-” Her voice cut off as there was muffled shouting on the other side.

“Danielle, what’s going on?” Lincoln said, high-pitched and panicking. His hands were shaking, and he almost dropped the phone. He was barely aware of the cold sweat sliding down his face, or maybe he was crying.

For a long time (seconds, minutes, hours), there’s no reply. Lincoln waited impatiently, nails digging into his palms. He chewed a hole through his lip, the taste of rust exploding on his tongue. He was so fucking terrified, worse than anything he’d ever felt before. He couldn’t breathe.

“Link,” Danielle said. She was crying again. “Link, I’m sorry. She’s gone.”

No.

His whole world stopped. Shattered.

“No,” Lincoln croaked out. “No, you’re lying. She’s not gone.”

“I’m sorry,” Danielle said again. Lincoln’s chest tightened as he sobbed, lashing out wildly. At what, he wasn’t sure. He just couldn’t accept it; there was no way she was gone. She couldn’t be gone, she’d been fighting for years. His mother wouldn’t just give up.

He lurched upwards, dropping his phone in favor of staggering to the bathroom. Lincoln collapsed on his knees just as his stomach churned and he threw up. Gone. Clutching the porcelain bowl, he waited for the room to stop spinning, then curled up on the floor and sobbed.

He was still just a fucking kid, he hadn’t even graduated university yet. But as his tears dried on his cheeks and his breathing slowed, Lincoln realized he hadn’t been a kid for a long time. Since his dad left, his mother was diagnosed and slowly went mental. Since he started paying his own bills and rent, skipping three meals in a row so he could afford to get new shoes.

Lincoln didn’t know how long he stayed there, crying on the bathroom floor. The tile was cold and his head ached something fierce. The Tylenol wasn’t doing shit and there was a dull throb at the back of his skull. His skin was burning up, and he felt hot all over.

He sat up after a while, climbing to his feet and stumbling into the kitchen. Above the kitchen sink, on a shelf, there were rows of bottles of alcohol, purchased for him by co-workers and old friends. Shit he barely touched except to mix drinks for guests. Now, though, he grabbed a half-full bottle of whiskey and opened it, taking a sip. The alcohol burned his throat, but he barely noticed, taking the bottle into the living room. He drank until everything felt distorted, then chucked the bottle across the room. It shattered and spilled all over the floor. He couldn’t bring himself to care.

Half an hour later, after he puked up his guts in the bathtub, he chugged two bottles of water to punish himself. Lincoln felt like absolute shit, hating himself for everything. He hated himself for not being there, he hated himself for not visiting his mom everyday instead of just once a week. And he hated himself even more when he finally picked up his phone and saw texts from Jupiter.

Your Zelda <3 2h ago

Hey where are you? It’s starting soon

Your Zelda <3 2h ago

Link? We’re starting rn

Your Zelda <3 2h ago

Are you running late? It’s okay, the gallery closes at ten (≧◡≦)

Your Zelda <3 1h ago

Wow are you ok?? Did something happen??

Your Zelda <3 1h ago

Please answer your phone

Your Zelda <3 24m ago

I guess you’re not coming?

Your Zelda <3 12m ago

I’m home now, it’s over. I sold a painting for $2000.

Your Zelda <3 9m ago

I really wish you came

Lincoln turned his phone off completely, put his head down and cried.

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