The Pages Inside
She jumped out of her car and ran through the doors of a McDonald’s restaurant. She wasn’t starving. She wasn’t dying of thirst. She wasn’t desperate for a bathroom. She was late for work. She was in love.
“I’m so sorry…I’ll stay late if you need me to,” she said between breaths to the assistant manager as she ran back to the break room to deposit her purse and sweater.
“Just hurry,” was his response. She could tell he was irritated.
She rushed back to the front to get her assignment.
“Linda, I’m gonna have to write you up if you’re late again. This is the third time in two weeks. Drive-thru. First window. Take over for Chris. I’ll be right there to change out the drawer.”
“Okay, Randy, I’m really sorry. It won’t happen again.” She smiled as she turned and rushed again to the small cubby where she would be standing for the next eight hours as usual. Monday through Friday, eight to four. Minus breaks. She was fine with it. She didn’t really feel like interacting with too many people. She was hopelessly in love.
She took her first break at ten. She wasn’t hungry; she grabbed a cup of black coffee and went to her car. She dialed a number on her cell. “Hi, baby, how are you?” She spoke cheerfully, enthusiastically. She chatted with the person on the other end for a few minutes before saying, “I love you too. I’ll call again on my lunch break.”
She was back at the register in time for changeover from breakfast to lunch.
“What do you mean you don’t have any more Egg McMuffins!” screamed a stranger’s voice. She lifted the headset from her ears. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but it’s 10:40. Breakfast is over at 10:30.”
“That’s ridiculous! Forget it then,” as if to teach her a lesson. A car flew by but not so fast that she couldn’t see the gesture intended for her. She hated changeover; people could be so mean. If they could only feel what she was feeling. She was desperately in love.
Lunchtime passed quickly, two hours of vehicle after vehicle placing orders, handing her some cash, and driving up to the next window. She took her lunch break at one.
She grabbed a cheeseburger, fry, and Mr. Pibb and went to the break room to eat.
“Hey, Joni, Craig. How you guys doing?” she asked genuinely, smiling. Their responses were typical, routine, complaining. She listened and spoke “I’m so sorry’s,” and whatever encouraging words she thought might help.
With fifteen minutes still to go, she took a cigarette and lighter out of her purse and walked to an area outside where she wouldn’t bother, or be bothered by, anyone. She lit the cigarette and wiped a lone tear from her cheek before placing another call on her phone. Same number, like conversation, similar animated tone.
She was interrupted by Randy’s frantic voice, “Linda, can you clock back in? We’re getting swamped.” He stood halfway out the door. She nodded, sighed, said goodbye, snuffed out her cigarette, and rushed back in. She needed the job. She was sacrificially in love.
“Hey, you didn’t give me enough change! I gave you a twenty, not a ten. You trying to cheat me or something?”
She looked down at the bill she hadn’t put away yet. It was a twenty.
“I’m sorry, sir. Here you go.” He drove away shaking his head. She smiled but had to use a little more effort this time. She was tired and wanted to leave. She wanted to be with the love of her life. The rest of the day dragged by. As expected, Randy kept her late. She bought a super-sized Big Mac meal on her way out. It was his favorite.
She took the elevator to the third floor and walked down the corridor to room 322. She paused before entering. She wiped another lone tear, put on a great, big smile, and entered the room.
“Hi, baby! How you doing?”
“Hi, mom” was the reply from the weak, smiling lips of her eight-year old, dying son.
She was excruciatingly in love.
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