My heart feels like the sun has warmed it with its morning rays. A normally stress-filled week has turned into something amazing.
Something even bigger than me. And it’s all because of her, because of Mandy.
I just need to make sure I catch her before she finishes for the day.
“Rules are rules,” Mrs. Peters reminds me once Foxx has gone.
I’m calling him that now, Foxx. He did insist on it.
Foxx and Mandy…it has a nice ring to it.
Mr. and Mrs. Foxx De Silva…that has an even nicer ring to it!
“…And you don’t see me accepting money from anyone now, do ye?” she adds hotly, clicking her tongue.
I can barely contain my sigh, but I sense there’s more coming from the old woman.
The ‘nice’ little old lady who’s suddenly not so nice in my mind anymore is trying to climb up my ass.
That tip could’ve helped pay my rent. Foxx really wanted me to have it, too, I can tell.
Sensing my change in mood, Mrs. Peters takes my elbow and softens her tone, pulling me closer to her in a near hug.
“Oh, don’t be like that,” she scolds me playfully, mentioning the leftover food I’m welcome to help myself to once I’m finished for the day. Like she’s buttering me up for something because she is.
“Anyway, I have to leave early. And, seeing as you could use some extra money, how about you stay until closing? Wouldn’t that help you out?” she tells me rather than asks me.
I make a face but can’t say no. I can’t really say ‘yes’ either.
I’m kinda stuck with a strange expression which she accepts.
“That’s better. Now. I’ve jotted down a list of things for you…and you already know how to close up, so it’s no big deal, I suppose,” she chirps, handing me a list, assuring me I don’t have to get it all done.
I study the list with a glance and figure she’s right. A few more bucks in my pocket are way better than a few extra hours alone in my ratty apartment.
Alone inside my crappy life.
“I’m here for a little while yet,” she calls out from the back kitchen after she’s certain I’m not going anywhere.
It’s a quiet rest of the afternoon, but sure enough, it gets busy as soon as Mrs. Peters is due to go, but she hangs back as long as she can.
And boy, am I glad she does when I spot Foxx for the second time in one shift.
As much as she’s got my goat today, I appreciate it when Mrs. Peters silently makes some room and takes a few extra orders herself so I can start getting Foxx’s order ready before he’s even reached the counter.
She also lets me know out of everyone’s earshot that I can’t forget to return the money he left earlier as a tip, sliding me the envelope she’s put it in.
It sucks, but I guess she’s the boss, and rules are rules.
There’s not a lot of time for chit-chat with Foxx. There’s the late afternoon crowd, but he does seem more than just a little preoccupied himself.
He even holds up the line once he’s paid. He’s looking at me with a pained expression like he has something to say but just can’t.
“Hey, pal?” someone calls from the back. “While we’re young, eh? Some of us actually pay for our parking and don’t have all day….”
Foxx doesn’t flinch, but he does murmur, “Thanks, Mandy. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” Before he turns to go, he apologizes to the line for holding them up.
It doesn’t feel right, though.
Foxx wanted to say something just now, and well…Well, I just wished there was a way I could go after him and ask.
“The money, girl. Quick! Go give him that envelope. I’ll hold the fort here,” Mrs. Peters says to me, urging me with her eyes to do exactly what I feel I have to.
Go to him, ask him if he’s okay.
Agree to anything he wants, anything to spend another second anywhere near him.
Even if it means just giving him back the stupid tip money, which isn’t stupid, even though I’m depressed that I can’t keep it.
I don’t wait for a second invitation to duck out after him, and in moments, I’ve bustled past the tittering coffee cravers heading after Foxx.
My little thick legs aren’t made for running, but I manage to see him turn down a corridor and pick up speed.
Rounding the turn, I open my mouth to call out.
But instead of words, I hear a dry, crackling croak instead as I watch him toss the full cup of creamed coffee I just made him into the nearest trash can.
I know he hasn’t even sipped it, and the full amount of the steaming liquid leaps into the air before splashing into the rest of the trash.
It feels like a knife in my belly, too.