For a moment it felt like I had nothing, I must admit. But I couldn’t let myself dwell in the self-pity for long for a number of reasons, with the main one being that I had work to do. Sitting around crying about it, wasn’t going to solve anything...it wasn’t going to take back the words spoken at the cafe or give me back the money I had earned. I had a decision to make, stay and continue on living here with the hope that Meghan didn’t find my parents and tell them where I was or move on. Something within me didn’t settle well with the thought of having to move on...I felt compelled to stay here despite the humiliation Meghan had thrown at me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years, it’s to trust your gut, so that’s what I’m doing.
That’s why I’m standing outside the cafe with Chelsea giving my back a light pat in an attempt to calm my racing heart and the flutters in my stomach. I looked up at her, grateful for all that she’s done for me these past few days. Ironically, the day Meghan had exposed my secret to practically half the town, was the day that Chelsea had been notified of the approval of my request to reside with her in her apartment. I tried declining the offer, since I wasn’t sure how possible it’d be for me to afford the apartment now that more than half of savings are gone but she insisted that I’d stay free of charge until I get back on my feet. While I did want to go in to work the following day, I couldn’t bring myself to show my face there...not yet at least; not until now.
“You can go back home ya know? It’s completely understandable if you want to take the next few days off as well-” I shifted the weight between feet, feeling a bit uneasy as I didn’t have my bag with me today. There was no need to have it with my anymore when I could have it back at the apartment where it can be locked up.
“No,” I cut her off, “I’m so grateful for all that you’ve done for me cricket,...but I have to stand on my own two feet. Life doesn’t wait for anyone, including me so it’s time I go back...” It sounded like I was trying to convince myself more than I was trying to convince her.
“Well, let me know if it’s too much ’kay? I’ll walk you home in a heartbeat- we will be just fine if you decided to leave early” I nodded in response, even though I wasn’t planning on taking her up on the offer.
Taking a deep breath I entered into the quiet cafe. I made sure to get here early to help with the opening. Mo was already at the front counter, placing a fresh batch of muffins in the display window. When she saw me, she didn’t say a word but simply gave me a hug before giving me a motherly look that made it clear to tell her if I wanted to go home at all. I nodded at her before stepping away from the hug and began to open the cafe.
We had a few minutes left before opening the doors to the cafe, so I went to bathroom. As I was washing my hands, I looked at myself in the mirror. I was still recovering from the beating. My abdomen was still throbbing in response and the cuts on my face was still visible. My black hair was down today, to help with covering the cuts on my face. It was looking a lot better since I’ve been able to use Chelsea’s stuff to wash up and keep it healthy. It now had slight curls in it, the same curls that I thought were long gone from my childhood. I suppose all the dirt and uncleanliness was weighing it down. My brown eyes continued to take in my new uniform, seeing as my old one was ruined, and my cut up legs. I sighed as my ache in my abdomen continued on but I was determined to make it through work today. I couldn’t sit around feeling sorry for myself- not anymore at least. I sighed again as I walked back into the dining area.
As usual, the first customer was Walter. He gave me a smile and the usual morning greeting before sitting in his usual spot as Chelsea came up to take his order. I was relieved when he didn’t mention anything and simply kept to his usual routine. I occupied myself with fiddling with the food in the display window until the next customer walked in. Not soon after, the bell rung signaling that the next customer just came through. I waited a moment before gathering my courage and walking over to the customer.
“Good morning ma’m. My name is Ally and I’ll be your waitress today. What can I get for you today?” I asked her when I reached her table. I could see the look of pity in her eyes, but nonetheless she didn’t say anything about the incident that took place a couple days ago and ordered her food. This shouldn’t be too bad ...as long as no one brings up what happened I think I should be just fine... I quickly put her order in as I grabbed a cup of coffee, before I bought it back to her table.
It wasn’t long until noon came around and the butterflies in my stomach grew. I wonder if Andy will be coming in today. That was a random thought although I couldn’t deny that it’s been lingering in the back of my mind all morning.
“Here you go ma’m. Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you okay?” I said to the elderly woman at the counter. I heard the door bell ring, signaling that someone had just walked through. The flutters in my stomach increased yet again, along with the ache in my abdomen. The elderly woman nodded and said a quick “Thank you, dearie” before digging into her pancakes. I nodded in return before making my way towards the customer who just walked in. Andrew.
I took my time walking over to him on the other side of the counter. To be honest, he was the one I dreaded seeing the most. I didn’t know what he would say or how he would act. Would he still treat me the same?
“Good mornin’ Pumpkin” His deep voice quickly reached my ears almost making me shiver as it feels like it’s been a few weeks since I’ve heard his voice instead of a few days.
“Good mornin’ Andy,” I said quietly before clearing my throat and straightening my back, “what can I get for you today?” I was looking down at my notepad as I waited for him to speak, only to hear nothing. Looking up, I saw him staring intently at me with a small smile on his face. Why is he smiling at me? I couldn’t help the small smile that appeared on my face as well, before wincing as it tugged at one of the cuts on my face.
“I actually just came to help out today, after our walk of course. Are you ready for your lunch break, pumpkin?” I raised my eyebrow at him. He isn’t going to say anything either? I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Just a moment,” I said as I looked for Chelsea’s head weaving her way throughout the cafe. I found her at the register and went to ask if she’s okay with me taking an earlier lunch break, as she usually takes the noon lunch break.
“Of course, suga’. Take your time.” She smiled at me before getting back to work. I said a quick thank you, before taking off my apron and grabbing my wallet, courtesy of Chelsea, and heading back over to Andy.
“Okay, I’m ready.” He smiled at me before hopping off the stool, as we both made our way to the doors.
“Andrew, make sure she gets something to eat” Chelsea demanded him as she was passing by us with her hands full of food. With all the food options we have here, you’d think it’s more of a diner then a cafe. A blush quickly made its way over my cheeks as I exited the cafe with Andrew close behind.
I”m glad he isn’t acting any different. I’m starting to find comfort in having him around and actually growing used to having him take me on walks and grabbing food on my lunch breaks over the past two weeks. How has it only been two weeks? It honestly felt so much longer than that since Andrew had came back to town.
“Anything in particular that you’re craving?” He asked me. I gently shook my head, being careful not to make myself dizzy. He nodded in response as he continued to walk. If I had to take a guess, I’d say we will be going back to Burgers and Shakes. It’s a wonder how he seems to healthy yet he eats at Burgers and Shakes at least three times a week. Not to my surprise, we strolled into Burgers and Shakes a few minutes later.
Within 30 minutes we were seated and had our food in front of us. Andrew had ordered his usual classic cheeseburger, fries and milkshake while I was given the bacon cheeseburger with fries and a medium drink- courtesy of Andrew. I personally was just going to get some fries seeing as that’s all I can afford, but Andrew practically demanded that the waiter bring out bacon cheeseburger and a drink to with it.
“So how was your morning shift, pumpkin?” He asked as he continued to stuff fries in his mouth.
“The usual, nothing to hectic” I replied to him before taking another bite of my burger. It was silent for a moment as we continued to munch on our food. He cleared his throat, making me glance up at him.
“I missed you these past few days,” He continued to eat like normal, where as I paused setting down my half-eaten burger “as a matter of fact, a lot of people did, pumpkin. Everyone’s happy that you decided to come back,” Everyone? I’m assuming that ‘everyone’ didn’t include Meghan. I took a moment to sip on my Sprite before asking him,
“Have you seen Meghan at all?” I tried to ask casually, but I think it was obvious that I was really interested in his response. Did she come by again after I left? Does she intend on coming back to work at Mo’s? Would Mo even allowed that?
“She’s still ’round town for sure, but she hasn’t shown her face at Mo’s” He replied. I felt his eyes on my face as I looked down at my burger while munching on the rest of it. I simply nodded in response as I continued to eat the rest of my meal. I glanced up at the clock that was located behind the cashier, and saw that I only had 10 minutes left in my lunch break.
“I’m going to use the restroom real quick before we leave” He nodded as I headed off towards the bathroom. I was half afraid that Meghan would be waiting for me there, to finish what she started in a way. However, nothing happened. I used the restroom, and glanced over my appearance as I washed my hands. Of course, there was nothing different from this morning, I still had cuts on my face, half hidden by my hair. My abdomen was throbbing more than it was this morning, but still the pain was manageable. Taking a deep breath, I exited the bathroom. Andrew was standing by the table we were sitting at, with a small smile on his face. He sure does smile a lot.
“Ready to go?” I nodded in response, before walking towards the register. “I already paid for our food, suga’” I frowned at him as he simply shrugged in response, and began walking towards the door. “You comin’? You know how Chelsea is about her lunch break” I didn’t have the energy to argue with him or withstand Chelsea’s wrath if I were to come back late from my lunch break. So I simply sighed as I followed him out of the door. Although, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, a part of me was pleased that Andrew was willing to sacrifice not only his money, but his time to have lunch with me- even after he found out about my previous situation. As he looked back at me, waiting for me to catch up with him, I couldn’t help but think that he could be my friend. The thought erupted a flood of butterflies in my stomach. He’s my friend.