“Hey, Ruth!” I greeted. She smiled warmly at me and then looked at the man. My eyes widened but then I remembered that Ruth’s shop was popular. “Hi, Zeno...” I said with a smile.
He was sitting with his elbows on the table. I looked at his smile and it was breathtaking. He was handsome and I couldn’t escape that fact. No one would and he was not just handsome by appearance, he was also attractive by personality.
It was true that I didn’t spend enough time to know him well, but I could tell just by the way of how he treated his little sister, Oriana. He was kind and passionate about his family and I adored that in a man. It made him feel softer to approach. Plus there was something about him made me want to know him better. Like a hidden truth.
Zeno stood up and pulled out his hand for me to shake, and I held it gently. “Hi. Evelina, right?” He countered and I nodded. “How have you been?” He asked again and we all sat on the chairs.
I made myself comfortable on the chair and then I focused on his question. “I’ve been great, thanks for asking,” I replied then looked at Ruth. “How are you, Ruth?” I asked her with a gentle touch on her shoulder. The more that I gazed at her, the more that she seemed blessed with life. She was genuinely happy and you could tell just from looking into her eyes. She was my goal when I get to her age. I wanted to age like her. Thrilled with life.
Her smile really sent some comforting vibes and I loved that about her. “Never been better, dear, how’s your stay so far?” She asked me and I signed preparing to answer. Zeno just listened silently.
“It’s great. I know it’s only been a week but I bonded with my two girl-friends well. And the others are treating me like a close friend of theirs.” I cleared and then remembered what I wanted to ask him from the first time I met him. “Zeno...” I called and he gazed at me. “How old are you? You look closer to my age but your calm nature makes you look older.” I asked. I was genuinely curious about him but no one could blame me. He did look in his mid-twenties.
He chuckled and crossed his arms. “I’m 18 and I will take what you just said as a compliment,” he rejoined and my eyes widened. He got me wrong.
I slammed my palms on the table but not so strong. It was the slam that would grab anyone’s -near- attention. “Hey! I totally meant it as a compliment!” I defended with a smile. “Do you go to school?” I asked again and he shook his head. Ruth excused herself to take care of a customer who just entered.
“No. I graduated early and now I work.” He stated and I was impressed. That meant that he was serious about his educational career, and his future. It told me that he wanted to be satisfied with his life. Maybe my theory was wrong but I tend to see the good in people more than the bad.
I smiled. “Nice, where do you work? If you don’t mind me asking.”
He looked at the floor for a second, then at the table but never into my eyes. “Here and there...” He answered and I laughed. “What’s so funny?” He asked with raised eyebrows. He was surprised that I acted that way but I couldn’t help it.
I calmed down and sighed. “Because you do mind me asking that question. You are too nice, you could have told me it’s none of my business and I would have totally understood.” I exclaimed and he thought about it for a while and then laughed with me seeing that I was right.
“Okay, if it makes you feel good... It’s none of your business!” He cleared and I approved.
“Yep,” I replied then stood up, I walked to Ruth who was returning money to a customer. I saw her a little on edge and kind of troubled. I got closer and I understood what was happening to her. “Here, let me help you.” She was having difficulty with the change. I counted the right amount and returned it to the lady. “Thank you, ma’am!” I flashed her a wide smile and the lady smiled back. She appeared independent.
“Ruth, you got a lovely worker here. Have a good day, bye.” She spoke and then she left the shop with a big bag filled with Caramel candy. Ruth and I looked at each other and laughed.
“Apparently, I’m working here!” I joked and she laughed even more. “But really, if you want any help, I’m here. This is my number, call me whenever you want after my school hours are over and I will get here in no time! I promise.” I was serious about my offer and she looked surprised. What was wrong with helping an elderly woman or anyone at all? You’d gain the best experience of life.
“Thank you, dear, it means so much to me and I will call you whenever I really need your help. I wish I had a daughter like you...” She ejaculated and I felt sad for her.
“Ruth, I’m here now. Count me as your daughter.” I told her and she embraced me tightly. We sat with Zeno once the shop was clear from the customers. As I wanted to speak with them more, I got a call from mom, she told me to get home before it was too dark. I excused myself -but of course- after I bought Caramel candy for Elara and promised them to come back. Zeno told me that he was here very often and I’d see him more. That made me super happy.
“Elara!” I called as soon as I stepped foot into the house. “I got you something,” I said and then walked to the living room knowing that she’d be watching tv. I saw the whole family watching an animated movie while having a blast. I loved the sight so I took a quick photo of them. Andro looked at my phone and sighed. He knew he could not delete it because he knew how much I treasure those memories.
“Welcome back Sugar pie” Dad greeted and I smiled. “What’s that?” He asked while pointing at the bag that was in my hand.
I put the bag on the table and Elara was the first one to open it. “It’s Caramel candy, from Ruth’s shop,” I replied and then handed everyone a candy. “She’s a nice old lady who was once young and beautiful but now she’s just beautiful!” I stated and repeated what she told me the moment we first met. Mom awed and clapped.
“I want to meet her, she sounds confident and nice.” Mom countered and I agreed. After a long hour of chatting, I got hungry so I wanted to order some hot dogs. But when I was on the phone talking to the one who was taking my order, Andro slipped a paper in my hand and told me to read it to the man. I raised my eyebrows in confusion but Andro told me to just read it and I did. “I want three hot-dogs; all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun, topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled sports peppers and a dash of celery salt. That’s all.” I finished and put down my phone. “Why three?” I asked Andro.
He grinned. “One for Elara and one for you and one for me, mom and dad are not hungry, that’s why three!” He replied and we sat on the couches while waiting for the food to arrive. I remembered that I didn’t tell him to put ketchup in it so I slapped Andro’s hand. “What was that for?” He asked as he rubbed his hand.
“I forgot the ketchup!” I stated and he sighed. “What?” I asked with a frown.
“Here, in Chicago, they don’t put ketchup on the hot-dogs but don’t worry, we have a new bottle in the kitchen, you can open it.” He said and I felt relieved. I loved ketchup. After half an hour, our food arrived and we ate it all.
The next day was normal, nothing special happened in school and we had two free periods. I went to dad’s office and chatted with the secretary who was friendly. After school, we all went home and the moment I opened the front door, I got a surprise that I did not expect. None of us did.