Chapter 4: Work
Serena dreamt about flowers in her hair and dark green eyes as she slept. By the time her alarm went off a couple of hours later, she was almost convinced that today was going to be better. That all changed when she opened her eyes and saw Alec Trivett wrapped up in one of her blankets, watching her.
“Good morning,” he whispered over to her, his voice soft. “Sorry there’s no breakfast or coffee…you don’t really have anything here, so…”
Serena ignored the jab and sat up. “How did I end up here?” She asked, her voice groggy from lack of sleep. The crazy events from last night slowly began to filter through her brain like a leaking faucet.
“I moved you to the bed,” Alec replied like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “That chair is too small for you and you were cold.”
“Where did you sleep, then?” she shot back. She dragged the sheets back and looked down at herself to make sure that she still had all of her clothes on.
She could hear the hurt in his voice. “I’ve been up since then. Serena, it wasn’t like that. I would never. You should know that.”
“It’s too early for this,” Serena muttered under her breath. She got up and staggered over to the bathroom. As she turned on the shower and hoped that the water would be semi-warm, she spoke loud enough for Alec to hear her. “How is your head? Did you suddenly remember anyone in your life that can come and take you off my hands?”
She just about jumped out of her skin when he appeared in the doorway of the bathroom. “No,” he replied. “Do I need to?”
Serena popped her toothbrush into her mouth. “Well, yeah. I have to go to work.”
“Work? Weren’t you working last night?”
“I work two jobs, obviously.”
“Oh,” he said, sounding slightly embarrassed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
The sudden shyness in his voice made Serena pause. As she spat into the sink and looked up, they locked eyes in the mirror. The pain and confusion written in his expression caused her chest to tighten with remorse. She hated the guy, but she felt bad for him. It wasn’t his fault that he didn’t remember anything right now.
“Look, let me get ready and then we can talk some more, okay?” she said as she closed the bathroom door. “Just a couple of minutes.”
“Right, okay,” Alec stammered, quickly stepping out of the doorway before his foot got caught. As he heard the shower curtain close, he sighed and went back over to the chair. Garfield sprawled in the middle of Serena’s bed, oblivious to Alec. He watched the cat fondly until Serena emerged again.
“I’m running late,” she said before Alec could even open his mouth. She seemed to be flying around the small space, putting her hair into a messy bun one second and then stepping into her boots the next. “I work a shorter shift today, so I’ll be back soon. Just…hang out here, okay? There’s food if you look close enough. Let Garfield out through the window. See you.”
“Wait!” Alec called, but she was already stepping out the door and heading down the steps. He went over to the window and cracked it open so he could yell down to her. His mouth shut when he saw that someone was waiting for Serena at the bottom of the steps.
“Where’s my rent ?” the man asked in greeting, his voice gruff and annoyed. The landlord.
Alec watched as Serena stopped on the last step, keeping her distance from the man. Alec tilted his head to the side at the gesture. “A couple of days, Bill. I get my next paycheck then. I’m sorry. You know that money has been tight.”
“Well, you aren’t the only one,” Bill snarked in reply. “If I don’t get it within the next week, you’re out of here, girl. I can’t keep housing you here for free, no matter how hot you are.”
Alec could see the line of Serena’s shoulders stiffen at that. “I understand. I’m going to work right now. Sorry again.” She turned and practically sprinted to her car.
Bill the landlord watched her go, his eyes running appreciatively over Serena from head to toe. When he opened his mouth and licked his lower lip, Alec’s grip tightened on the window. He waited until Serena’s car had pulled out of the drive before he headed down.
“Who the fuck are you?” Bill asked, clearly not happy to see Alec.
“How long has Serena been living here?” Alec asked in reply, his voice hard.
“I don’t think that’s any of your business,” the landlord sneered but froze when Alec took a step closer to him, towering over him in both height and build.
“And I don’t think it’s right for you to be checking out a woman that’s half your age,” Alec countered, his voice a warning in and of itself. “Watch yourself, Bill.”
There was silence as Alec headed back up the steps to Serena’s apartment and slammed the rickety old door shut. Once the locks were secure, Alec leaned back against the door and let out a worried sigh.
“Jesus, Ren,” he whispered to the empty apartment where she had just been sleeping only minutes before. “What have you gotten yourself into?”
“No, ma’am,” Serena said, her voice polite yet firm. “The sale today is only on strawberries, not bananas. Do you still want to purchase them?”
The older woman huffed in frustration and rolled her eyes. “Obviously not if they aren’t on sale. Are you stupid?”
Serena just smiled and placed the bananas off to the side. “Paper or plastic?”
Serena’s lack of sleep, the events of last night, and her run-in with her creepy landlord left her feeling drained yet anxious at the same time. As she worked, she tried to mentally calculate how much money she was going to have left after she paid her already overdue rent. She knew that it was still not going to be enough to hire a lawyer for Josh, but she tried not to let that distress her.
When lunch came, Serena allowed herself to think about Alec for the first time since she had left. She wondered what he was doing. Was he going to be there waiting for her when she got out of work? Or would he get all his memories back and be gone from her life once again? She didn’t allow herself to think about which possibility she wanted more.
Serena was pulled out of her reverie by the door to the break room opening. One of her coworkers, Nathaniel, trudged inside and sat down at the table across from her. As soon as he laid eyes on her, he grinned.
“Hey, beautiful,” he drawled. “How you doin’ today?” Just like Bill, his eyes wandered down her body, briefly lingering on her chest before meeting her eyes again.
Oblivious to his crude thoughts, Serena smiled warmly. “I’m doing okay. How about you, Nathaniel?”
“Oh, never better,” he replied. “Say, you free later tonight?”
Serena looked taken aback for several seconds. She gave Nathaniel an apologetic smile. “I am, actually. I work tonight. Why do you ask?”
Nathaniel shrugged, trying to act nonchalant. “Just thought we could hang out. What about tomorrow?”
Before she could respond, the intercom in the supermarket crackled over their heads. “Serena to the cash register, please.”
Serena gasped and shot to her feet. “Oh my goodness! That went by fast. I’ll talk to you later, Nathaniel! Sorry!” Without waiting for a response, she threw the rest of her lunch away and headed out.
Nathaniel watched her go, his lip curling up over his teeth as soon as the door shut behind her. “Work, my ass,” he mumbled under his breath.“It’s always work. That’s just gonna have to change, isn’t it?”
The rest of Serena’s shift went as smoothly as it could go, which she was grateful for. Despite the occasional tough customer, she liked that she got to work around people, especially children. Their sweet innocence was something that Serena desperately enjoyed. She hoped that they never had to grow up and face the realities of life as she had.
Before she knew it, her shift was over. As she said goodbye to her coworkers and headed out the back door towards her car, she caught sight of Nathaniel leaning against the back of the supermarket, smoking. She smiled and made her way over to him.
“Hey! Sorry that I had to rush out so quickly earlier,” she apologized. “My shift is over, so I’m heading out for the night. See you soon!”
He spoke as she began to walk away. “You still saying no to tonight?”
Something in his voice made her pause. She turned slightly to look at him and found that he had pushed himself off the wall. “I have to work,” she reminded him as kindly as she could, the wariness apparent in her tone.
Nathaniel snorted and rolled his eyes. “How long are you going to keep using that bullshit excuse?”
“It’s not an excuse,” she replied in the same firm tone she used when she was addressing a difficult customer. “I’m working two jobs right now, Nathaniel.”
“A pretty girl like you needs to be taken care of,” he murmured as he took another step closer. “If you’d stop playing hard to get and just let me take you out, you wouldn’t have to work two jobs.”
Serena gasped at his words. “What are you talking about? I’m not playing anything.”
“I see the signals you give me,” Nathaniel said. He was only inches away from her now. “You don’t fool me. Stop being coy, Serena. If you want me, just say it.”
“I don’t want you!” Serena shouted as she began backing away from him towards her car. “And I’m not giving signals, either. You mistook my friendship for something more.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, Nathaniel’s eyes darkened. “Oh, did I?” he taunted. “Or maybe I just need to show you what you’re missing out on.”
Just like last night, Serena acted on pure instinct. She spun on her heel and ran as fast as she could for her car. As soon as she grabbed the door handle, Nathaniel put his arms around her and spun her around. She yelped as he shoved one of his hands up into her hair and painfully pulled her face up towards his.
“Kiss me,” he commanded. “Just one kiss, Serena. I know you want to. Stop being such a tease.” When she continued to resist, he growled and closed the distance between them. Their mouths crashed together with enough force to bruise.