Sunday is always busy at the hardware store, I don’t really know why and Mr. Marsh always comes up with some random reason. He’s always happy to have the store full. I’ve been bouncing between the register and the back room while Mr. Marsh covers the floor, it is a small store but I often wonder why he doesn’t hire one more person. He says there’s no point, but he’s always winded by the time Sunday Rush dies down.
I’m focused on the people at the register, occasionally running to the back room for a pick up order. There’s only a few minutes before I get to go on break, it’s a saving grace seeing the clock keep moving as people start flowing out.
I’m handing the last person their receipt when I hear the bell above the door. I stifle a disappointed groan as I turn to face what I assume is another random customer. Much to my surprise, I see Dominic smiling at me, I freeze at the sight of him.
“Hey Rhea,” He pulls out a pen, “I hope it’s ok that I came by. I saw your truck sitting at the library the past couple days, when I saw it still there this morning I got worried.”
“Oh,” I force myself to relax, “Well everything is ok, I’m fine. I was hanging out at a friend’s house.”
“Cool, I am glad I caught you though, my parents have been looking for a babysitter for my sister, Emily, they don’t want to make me do it and get all pissy about missing hanging with my friends,” He starts scribbling something onto a sticky note from off the counter, “They’re interviewing people, mostly college girls, and haven’t found anyone they liked. I thought about you, you’re smart and sweet. I think my sister would like you, you follow the rules so my dad’ll like you, and my parents are offering a generous pay.”
He hands me the sticky note. On it is an address and a phone number labeled as Dominic’s, “I don’t know,” I mutter, “I come here most days right after school, I don’t leave until closing. I work every hour I’m allowed to.”
“They just need someone on weekends. My parents are trying to spend more time together and my dad is busy as hell during the week. Just think about it, ok? Call me if you decide you want to interview, I’ll set it up.”
He smiles and winks at me before leaving the store. He leaves me stunned, speechless, and confused. Mr. Marsh is standing close by, listening.
“You get off before dark on Sunday’s, you should go interview,” He comments as he stocks more hammers.
“You told me earlier this week I need to get out and have fun, kind of hard to do that when the two days that’s possible I’m babysitting,” I close the register and hang my apron to go on break, “I’ll be back in 15 minutes, open the door for me please?”
He nods, “You know, depending on how much they pay, I could give you Friday off instead of Saturday. You can have Friday for yourself and babysit Saturday and Sunday after work here. Besides, he seems like a nice boy, could be a good friend.”
I don’t respond as I push out the back door and pull out my phone. I call Jordan, I told him I’d call him on break when he dropped me off. He picks up almost immediately.
“Hey, how’s work?” I can hear his car radio playing.
“Awkward and tiring. Sunday rush beat me up and then Dominic Stom showed up looking for me,” I kick a rock and change the subject fast, “Where are you? I hear your radio.”
He sighs, “I’m going to the store really quick, Rosie wanted me to get something for dinner tonight but didn’t tell me that until after I got home. I’m debating just driving around the next three hours before picking it up and then getting you after. Save a trip. Why was that jackass Dominic looking for you?”
“His parents are looking for a babysitter for his sister, it’ll be a weekend thing. He says he thinks I could be what they’re looking for and it pays well, I don’t know, I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Mmm, ok,” He sounds hesitant, “Well maybe we can talk about it later? I know every penny counts and I don’t think it’s something to just dismiss, but I’ll leave it alone until you’re ready. I’m not far from the hardware store, do you want me to bring you some lunch or something?”
“No, I just needed fresh air, wanted to say hi. You don’t have to pick me up after work, I can go home or drive myself to your place.”
“I want to get you, I want every second I can get with you. And I definitely want you to come over tonight. I want to curl up on the couch with you, watch a movie, play with your hair, help you with math, talk to you about anything and everything. If you’d rather drive yourself or go home, that’s fine too, just let me know.”
I smile against the phone, “Well you know where I am, when I get off. I wouldn’t mind you picking me up.”
I hear him chuckle, “Alright then. I’ll meet you out back at five thirty. In the meantime I’ll just drive around and get that stuff for Rosie before I get you. I’ll talk to you later, ok?”
“Yeah,” I say goodbye before I hang up. I won’t go inside yet, I take in the warm air and the sunshine that does reach me. I stay in that spot until Mr. Marsh opens the door to let me know break is over.
“Hey kiddo,” I look up at him as I sit at the register, he looks uncomfortable and awkward as he rubs the back of his neck, “I’m sorry if I overstepped with that babysitting thing. I’ve known you for a few years now and I’ve grown to care about you. You’re a quiet kid, and I just worry that without a little push you won’t ever get out there. You’re here right after school, stay until closing and never have any friends stop by. I think the Stom boy would be good for you.”
“I get it Mr. Marsh, really I do... I just don’t know, he kind of appeared out of nowhere and suddenly is everywhere. It’s just a little... Uncomfortable.”
“If he’s doing something you don’t like, you should tell him. I think he really likes you, he wants to do this right.”
I want to say he doesn’t have a chance, that I have Jordan, but I don’t. I don’t know what Jordan thinks we are, if he wants to tell people. I know Mr. Marsh wouldn’t approve, he’s never liked the Mars men. Jordan’s dad has little consideration for the working people of our town.
I pull out my backpack to find my history essay outline, I need to go to the school library at lunch to type up the assignment. Part of me wants to tap into the savings for a computer, but who knows how much is in the savings or if we’ll need it for a bill we can’t pay. And even if I could afford a laptop, the only printer in the house is in dad’s office and I never go in there.
I edit my outline, going over quotes and references I’ve chosen. I’ve perfected it to the best of my ability but still stare at it, I try to avoid my math homework. I can’t afford another late assignment but I feel like I’m on the verge of tears every time I look at it. I remind myself that Jordan said he’d help tonight.
The clock clicks behind me, every second passing with an obnoxious tick, tick, tick. Every now and again, a customer comes in or the phone rings but it stays quiet in the store through the evening.
The last hour before closing, I’m in the back room watching the clock as I pack up pick up orders. Mr. Marsh has disappeared for his daily 15 minutes so I quickly pull out my phone to see if I have any texts from Jordan. I hate admitting that I’m disappointed to see no new texts from anyone. He probably doesn’t want to bother me while I’m working and I don’t have to wait much longer to see him.
I focus on the boxes in front of me, taping everything up and smacking a label on the top. Tape and label, tape and label, over and over again until there aren’t any left. I leave to get my stuff together and wait for Mr. Marsh to tell me I can clock out.
He walks in the front door twenty minutes after I’m supposed to have left, “Mr. Marsh,” He looks spent, “Is everything alright?”
He stares at me with wide eyes, “Oh of course Rhea, I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were still here. You go ahead and clock out kiddo, I’ll see you tomorrow,” He waves his hand dismissively before disappearing again.
I grab my bag and punch in my time card before giving a final glance in the direction Mr. Marsh yet and walk out the back door. Stepping out, I see Jordan leaning on the hood of his Lexus smiling at me.
I try not to run up to him, I don’t want to seem crazy and obsessive especially since I don’t even know what he and I are. He wraps an arm around my shoulders and pulls me in to kiss the top of my head.
“You ready?” He asks. I nod as he walks over and open the passenger side door for me.
Once we’re both in the car and on our way back to Jordan’s house, he takes my hand. He doesn’t speak, just smiles at me, running his hand over my knuckles.
The silence is disturbed only when he turns on the radio. He taps to the beat of the music, squeezing my hand every now and again. As we pull into his driveway he looks at me and smiles.
“When we get inside I’ve got to give some stuff to Rosie, I’ll meet you in the living room, ok? We’ll smash out the last of the math homework while Rosie cooks dinner and then we’ll just hang out.”
“Sounds nice,” I nod and stare at the dashboard.
“Alright,” He leans over to kiss me on the forehead, “I’ll see you inside.”
He climbs out of the car, going straight for the trunk. I watch him throw me a smile before going into the house, I stay where I am. Jordan left the front door open, probably for me, I don’t want to leave it just sitting so I force myself from the car.
I take a few steps into the house and hear talking coming from the kitchen. Slowly, hoping to not make much noise, I close the door and make my way to what I assume is the living room. The plush couch makes an attempt at swallowing me whole, causing me to shift so I don’t keep sinking. Rosie’s shrill laugh travels across the empty space. I feel out of place in such a large home with such happy, tight knit people. I grab my bag and stand, preparing to leave, but when I look up I see Jordan in the doorway, his smile fading.
“What’s wrong? Where are you going?”
“I...” I’m speechless, trying to find any words to voice my thoughts, I don’t want to upset him, “I don’t know what we’re doing. I don’t know where I fit in this.”
“What do you mean?” His brow furrows as he takes a couple steps forward.
“What are we? What is this? What are you and I doing? Does it mean anything, what does it mean? Is this something we’re keeping to ourselves?” I shrug my shoulders and look at my sneakers.
I feel his fingers wrap around mine, “Rhea, this is something special, something great. You and I are starting something I’ve wanted for a while. I’m crazy about you, and I’d happily shout it from the rooftops if you’d let me. I want you.”