I cringe as I stare at my reflection in the visor mirror. Of course the busiest day of the week is when I have a black eye. My biggest fears are Mr. Marsh thinking Jordan did it or Jordan stopping by and seeing it. My arm aches still but I can use it. I had tried to cover the black eye but honestly I just made it worse.
Mr. Marsh will have kittens. With one last look at the deep bruise I sigh and climb out of the truck. I knock gently on the door and brace myself.
He opens the door with a smile, one that fades almost instantly, “Rhea, what happened?”
He pulls me in gently to the side, near the back room, holding my chin and tilting me up towards the light.
“It’s fine,” I mumble, “Its nothing. I... I tripped after I got home last night. I was tired, not paying attention.”
“This looks bad, whatever you hit you hit hard. Was this really an accident,” Something I don’t recognize flashes in his eyes, “Did Jordan do this?”
“No!” I push his hands away, “It was after he dropped me off. I... I fell, hit the corner of a picture frame,” Not technically a lie, “It’s alright, I’m fine. I barely even feel it.”
I brush past him before he objects. Customers give me weird looks from the moment I reach the register. I try my best to ignore the stares, just make it through the day, just make it to five o’clock. Today will be nothing compared to tomorrow when I face school and Jordan.
I don’t dwell on it, as I don’t have time. Without fail, everyone in town who needs any sort of tool chose today to come in. With my luck Jordan will show up and flip out in front of everyone.
My arm is aching, and by my break, I’ve stopped using it unless I have to. I’m making my way to the back door to get some air when Mr. Marsh approaches.
“Do you want to head home kid? You look exhausted.”
I shake my head, “I’m fine, I promise. I’ll probably turn in early tonight,” I fake a smile before pushing out the door.
The Sunday Rush is dying out, so the rest of the day should be calmer. I glance at my phone and see a new message from Jordan. My heart sinks before I even read it, I can only hope he’s not coming here.
"I miss you. I hope you slept well and are having a good day at work. Maybe we can go out to dinner tonight?"
My first thought is to ignore the text but then I’m almost certain he’d stop by, but I don’t want to tell him no and I don’t want to lie to him. I feel my stomach doing summer salts.
"I don’t feel great today... I’m probably going to just go home and sleep after work. I’ll see you tomorrow"
Not technically a lie... I don’t feel good, probably because I lied. I’m a horrible person. He’s going to panic when he sees me, I almost debate staying home tomorrow. He would know something was up, and he’d probably ditch class to check on me which will only make things worse. I can’t win here.
I feel my phone buzz in my hand. Jordan is calling. I think I may throw up, will he be able to tell something is wrong?
Before I have a chance to second guess myself, I answer, trying to sound cheerful.
“Hey Jordan,” I force myself to smile, hoping it’ll make me sound happier.
“Hey, what’s up? Are you alright?”
“Yeah I guess, just feel kind of off today. Maybe I caught something at the dance, I don’t know.”
He’s silent for a few moments, he probably doesn’t believe me. I know I probably wouldn’t believe me.
“Do you want me to bring you something? I could get you some tums or pick up soup or something.”
“No I’m ok, hopefully I’ll be better tomorrow. How are you feeling? Did you get a good nights sleep?”
“Hell yeah. I didn’t wake up until like an hour ago,” I hear his light laughter, it makes my smile soften and feel real.
“I love you,” I whisper, overcome by the need to make sure he knows that, I raise my voice slightly, “I love you so much.”
“I love you too. Are you sure you don’t need anything? I could bring you whatever. I could drive you home. Maybe come in and snuggle you until you’re better,” I hear the mischievous smile spreading over his lips, I suddenly miss those lips.
My eye starts throbbing, a reminder that I can’t, “No it’s ok. Maybe sometime this week.”
He lets out a disappointed sigh, “Alright, well you know where to find me if you need anything.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. I should think about heading back inside, I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?”
“Ok, I love you, Rhea.”
“I love you too,” I stay on the line even after he hangs up. I wanted to tell him about last night but I knew nothing good would come of it, so now I sit and listen to the dial tone and contemplate being the worst girlfriend ever.
Sitting outside by the door, my head runs through every reaction Jordan could give. I don’t really like any of them, granted I don’t really like the idea of anyone seeing my black eye. Mr. Marsh pulls me from my thoughts to tell me my break is over, I wasn’t aware of how much time was passing.
There are still people in the store, but it’s definitely calmed down since the morning. The calm gives Mr. Marsh the time to hover over me and try to talk about my eye. If he doesn’t buy the tripping excuse, what are the chances that Jordan will? I am absolutely fucked. I cringe as my eye starts throbbing again.
“Does it still hurt?” Mr. Marsh asks, trying to sound casual.
“It comes and goes, it’s alright, it’ll hopefully be gone in a few days.”
He watches me closely a few more moments before going back to helping a customer find the right screws. The older gentlemen barely registers anything Mr. Marsh says, he’s too busy staring at me, I’m trying really hard to act like I don’t notice. One by one, customers pay and leave, a couple give me sympathetic smiles while others try not to stare or acknowledge my eye. At one point a little boy had pointed and asked what happened, his mother was quick to scold him and leave.
Mr. Marsh keeps talking to me, it all feels forced and uncomfortable, “Have you seen Jordan today?”
“No he’s at home, sleeping in after the long night last night.”
“Is he planning to stop by today?”
“No, I told him to stay home. He hasn’t seen my eye, I know he’ll freak out no matter what I say.”
“Well you told me you just tripped, didn’t you?”
My cheeks get hot, “Yeah, doesn’t mean he’ll like it. I could tell him it magically appeared and he’d freak out,” I try to laugh it off but I know I probably sound terrible and unbelievable.
Painful, awkward silence fills the room. I hear every footstep Mr. Marsh makes as he goes through the aisles and restocks. All pick up orders have been claimed, so I just sit at the counter, watching to see if he’s watching me. Relief floods my system when I hear the bell over the door, it’s quick to dissipate when I see who is standing in the door.
“Hey Rhea,” Dominic’s twisted smile makes me feel sick, “How are you doing?” His smile doesn’t fade as he tilts his head and looks at my eye, “What happened to your face?”
“Hmmm, alright,” He doesn’t look convinced but at least he doesn’t push it.
“Are you going to come in or just stand there letting in the cold air boy?” Mr. Marsh interrupts, looking less than pleased with Dominic’s presence.
“Sorry sir, didn’t mean to loiter. Do you have philips head screwdrivers?”
Mr. Marsh gives a single nod before disappearing into the aisles, watching us until he can’t any longer. Dominic’s smile goes sour as he makes his way over to me.
“Who pissed in his prune juice?” He grumbles as he leans on the counter, much like Jordan does, putting all his weight on his elbows.
“It’s been a long day, we’re tired,” I avoid eye contact. I can see him messing with his hair from the corner of my eye.
“So what happened to your eye? It looks pretty bad,” His voice is so casual it almost scares me, like me having a black eye is part of a normal Sunday, like he expected it, “You didn’t have it last night at the dance.”
I feel myself tense up, “I was so tired after I got home, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking and tripped. My face decided to try to kiss the corner of a picture frame, picture frame didn’t like that,” I’m hoping to make a joke of it so he’ll leave it alone.
“What does Jordan have to say about it? I can’t imagine he’d like it,” He reaches his hand out to touch it but I jerk away.
Mr. Marsh is there a moment later, dropping the screwdriver on the counter quickly. His eyes are cold as he stares at Dominic.
“Thank you,” Dominic tries to smile but can’t hold Mr. Marsh’s gaze.
I ring him up quickly, wanting nothing more than for him to leave. Handing him the bag, he stands there smiling at me.
“Is there something else you need kid?” Mr. Marsh steps between us.
“Nope, I’m good, see you later Rhea. I sure hope no one gets the wrong idea at school when they see your eye.”
With that he takes the bag, and leaves the store. My heart is thumping in my chest. What did he mean by “the wrong idea”? With a quick glance to Mr. Marsh I pull out my phone, there’s no calls or messages from Jordan. I’m starting to wonder if I should tell him what happened so he doesn’t freak out, he still will though, just sooner.
“There’s got to be something wrong with that boy’s head,” Mr. Marsh says to himself before going back to the back room. I don’t much notice his absence as a nervous feeling invades my stomach.
I didn’t like how Dominic said that, ”I sure hope no one gets the wrong idea at school when they see your eye."
“Must be,” I mumble to myself as I put my phone away.
My eye starts throbbing, and I’m wondering if I’m trying to tell myself through pain that all hell is about to break loose. With every passing minute, the idea of staying home or ditching and going to the city starts sounding better and better.
Mr. Marsh is quiet as he moves around the store, often looking out the door nervously. It’s amazing to me how in the course of a month his opinions of both Dominic and Jordan have become completely reversed. Mr. Marsh is very stubborn about a lot of things, he says it’s a side effect of his age, but as long as I’ve known him, he’s always been open minded. Hopefully Jordan will be as open minded when I ask him to stay calm tomorrow when he sees my eye.
I jump as my phone starts ringing in my pocket. It’s Jordan. I glance at Mr. Marsh and he gives a nod of approval before disappearing in the aisles again.
“Hey,” I say as I answer, unsure what to say, “I thought you were sleeping.”
“Yeah I was, I just missed you too much. I had to hear your voice. My mom really like the photos from the dance by the way, she said you looked amazing. She wasn’t wrong. I’ve been looking at them since I woke up. Are you sure you don’t want me to come over?”
I bite the inside of my cheek, “You were the one who looked amazing. And I’m sure, the store has gotten really quiet, I might get off early and go home,” I lie, hating myself for it.
“Are you feeling any better at least?”
“Umm, yeah, a little bit. Maybe I was just still super tired from last night, you know?”
“Yeah, I’ve been sleeping all day and I still feel the tired. Hopefully we’ll both sleep well and feel rested tomorrow.”
God knows I’m going to need to have lots of energy to handle tomorrow.