Chapter 14: 14

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 33

It was Friday that she saw Charlie.  She hadn’t come to him, instead he had come to her.  It was evening, and the sun was just starting to go down when he walked up the crest to peer curiously at the raw beams that were starting to lend shape to the house.  If you squinted, you could get an idea of what it would look like finished.

As Hecuba reluctantly approached him, he let out a low whistle, his hands deep in his pockets.  “I gotta admit; I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it.  A round house, Heck?”  He asked, and she just watched him, her arms crossed.  “I can only apologize so much for being stupid, y’know.”  He swallowed and gestured to the house, its wall nearly done.  “I hope you’ve been resting on your time away, not doing this.”

“Really?”  She asked, tasting the venom on the word.  “I’ve only got myself, and winter’s coming up, so what exactly am I supposed to do while I sit on my hands?”

He hesitated.  “Well, hopefully you’re not sitting on the broken one—”

“Char—”

“I mean, it can’t be good for it.”  They watched each other for a moment, and Charlie sighed.  “I like you, Heck, you know it.  Maybe you weren’t clear on the particulars, but you’ve always known.  I didn’t want you to break your arm or hurt your head.  I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.  Now, I don’t want you killing yourself over this, either.  If you ask, it’s all you have to do, and I h—”

“You!”  A sharp voice came from the bus, and they turned to see Rachel hop down and begin marching over to where they stood.  “You have some nerve coming here!  Do you have any idea what you put her through?”

“Rachel, no,” Hecuba said, holding her hands up to hold the older woman at bay.  Glancing back at Charlie, she saw him freeze, unsure of what to do.  Most didn’t when Rachel began the charge.

“If it wasn’t bad enough to do that to her, you have her up high— she’s afraid of heights! — then you have her working herself to the bone!”  Rachel grabbed Hecuba’s arm and shook it carelessly, causing a flair of pain to lace through Hecuba’s wrist.  “This wouldn’t happen if you had been treating your workers properly.”

“You’re right, I—”

“Of course I’m right, but you don’t care because as long as you undercut the other guys, screw your workers,” Rachel motored on, ignoring Charlie’s shocked expression.  “Couldn’t you see that she was unwell, or did you only think that it would be easier to take advantage of her?”

“That’s enough!”  Hecuba said loudly, snatching her arm away.  “This is my business, and I’d appreciate it if you backed off!”  She gave Rachel a hard look, and after a moment, her mother walked away, shaking her head and muttering under her breath.

“Thanks.  Your mom is—”

“How did you know where I live?”  Hecuba demanded, rounding on him.  He actually took a step back.  “I don’t remember telling you.”

He pulled something out of his pocket.  “I was at the diner and you weren’t there.  Carolita said that you had no intention of coming back to me, so I asked where you lived so that I could give you your money,” he explained, offering the sealed envelope.  “I also came to see if she was giving me the whole truth.  I was a little surprised to find out that you were back to working there; I would have figured that waiting would be difficult with only one arm.”

Hecuba took the payment, weighing it in her hand before stuffing it in the back of her jeans.  “I need to get back to work,” she said flatly, turning away.

“Hold on,” he said, coming around to face her again.  “You don’t give a guy much room for error.”  He looked at her face, looking for a trace of humour, but there was nothing.  She looked worn to the bone.  “What can I do to make it up to you?”

“Nothing.”

“No.  Come on, there’s got to be something,” he said, before glancing behind him.  “How about I help you out here?  It’ll be a—”

“No.  I don’t need your help.”

Standing there, Charlie waited to hear her say that she wanted something else, anything else, but she stared at him in that bone-weary way.  “Well, if that’s the way you feel,” he said, unsure.

“Thanks for dropping this off,” Hecuba told him, walking around him before wandering into the pit.


Submitted: December 28, 2020

© Copyright 2021 wips. All rights reserved.

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