Chapter 2:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 147

 

*Six months later*

“I hate work.  I hate it. I hate it,” I sang to myself.  This is what happens when you work part time at the grocery store for almost three years.  The lonely nights, mopping and scrubbing counters, start to get to you.  Today had been an especially crappy day, involving rotten chicken, kitty litter, and now, Creepy Joe. 

Creepy Joe, also known as the Creeper and the Jolester, had come in to the store about ten minutes ago.  Since it’s now nice at night, he was probably in here after root beer and the rip off brand of Oreos so he could sit in his truck across the street and watch me while I worked.  See how he got the nick name?

I heard Creepy Joe cough, only a few aisles away, and put the mop back in the mop bucket.  I took my spot at the check stand, feeling like a sacrifice.  I glanced at the clock.  I only had thirty five minutes left.  I could do this.

I successfully fought back the gag reflex when the dirty hand plopped a can of root beer and a package of store brand cookies on my check stand.  “I’m feeling mighty… thirsty tonight, Keely girl.”  I cringed internally.  That gravelly voice drives me up the wall.  And he didn’t mean thirsty.  He knew I knew.  I just play dumb so as not to address the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room.

Creepy Joe is under the impression that he’s the greatest thing to the female gender since sliced bread.  That’s why he walks around in flannel shirts with the sleeves ripped off, the buttons only buttoned halfway up.  He’s pushing fifty, overweight, and has yet to reach the sophistication level of bathing bi-weekly.  And he also hits on every girl from thirteen to sixty.  I’ve been working here since I was sixteen and had numerous stories about his creepiness.  So did Kirsten, who’d started here at the same time. 

I just rang up his stuff, speaking only to tell him the total.  “Could you get me a pack of my cee-gars?” he drawled.

Once my back was turned I rolled my eyes.  He thinks he’s sophisticated, but again, no bathing and I’ve never seen him buy deodorant.  I’ve only seen him buy laundry detergent once and I work here all the time since I have no life.  Yes, buying the four dollar pack of cigars makes you cool.  Ooh, cherry blend.  Even better.  The only reason he chose them was because they used to be on the top shelf, giving him the sick pleasure of watching us stretch for them after getting to watch our ass as we walked over here.  My boss’s wife had caught onto this quickly and had moved them to the bottom shelf.  By then he liked them and just had to settle for watching our backsides.  Yes, we were all thirty years younger than him, but hey, now we weren’t jail bait.

By the time I reached my check stand I’d put a lid on my inner monologue.  I didn’t want to accidentally say something.  I could tell him that I hoped he jumped off a bridge and it would turn into a twenty minute conversation about bridges and blahblahblah.  Then he’d try to follow me to my car and I would have to key him in the eye.  I wanted to save myself the aggravated assault charges, and just kept my mouth shut.

Luckily the phone rang so I answered it, just holding out my hand for his money.  If it were any other person I’d feel rude but right now I cared not.  “Logan Super Foods, how may I help you?” I asked cheerfully.  You are my savior and new favorite customer. 

“Hey, Keely, it’s Kirsten.”  It was my bestie on the phone.  She’d worked with me tonight and had been the lucky one that left early.

“You just left here.”  Creepy Joe was handed his change.  I tried as hard as possible not to make contact.  Even if I did we all had hand sanitizer.

“I know,” she replied.  “I’ve got good news and bad news.”

“Ok,” I said cautiously.  The last time she’d said that the good news was we were going on a double date.  The bad news was she had no idea who my guy was.  That had not been the best night of my life.

“Don’t worry, it’s not another double date.”  Her knowing what I was thinking, over the phone, was just another sign that we spend way too much time together.  “My mom’s sister broke her leg and my mom had to fly out there today and help her after her surgery.”

“Oh geez, that sucks.”  Creepy Joe finally realized that I wasn’t getting off the phone and oozed his way out the door. 

“And my step sister broke up with her nasty boyfriend so she’s moving back in.  That’s the really bad news.”  I knew her step sister.  I knew that was really bad news.  The two of them never got along.  And she liked to say that Kirsten’s mom was a gold-digging psycho bitch.  The irony of it all was that she was dating a forty year old guy with two kids who wasn’t technically separated from his wife yet.  And that relationship had failed.  Now there was a surprise.

“So what’s the good news?” I asked, checking for my boss.  He would not be happy if he came up here and caught me talking to Kirsten on the phone.  He’s told us a time or two we talk too much.  But he puts up with it because we’re more cheerful when we work together and the customers get a kick out of our sisterly bickering.

“My mom has given me permission to move in with you for the next couple of weeks.  And your parents gave permission too.”

“Awesome.  So do you want the good news or bad news?”

“What?  You can’t play this game with me.”

“The good news is that Rylan is coming home… actually he will be home by the time I get there tonight.  The  better news is he’s bringing his roommate, Tate, with him.”

“Tate?  Super cute Tate that came to everything Ry came home for?”  That was good news for Kirsten.  Not only did she think Rylan was gorgeous, she had a crush on Tate.  She was just one of many in that regard.

“The one and only.  The bad news is Leigh is coming home…actually, she’ll be home when I get there.  And-“ Kirsten groaned.  “Tori called this morning.  Their house has to get fumigated so she’s coming down with her family to stay with us then go to the Fitz fest next week, and by then their house should be good.”

“That’s a lot of people.”

“That is a lot of people.  It’s going to be one crowded house.  I was going to volunteer to take everyone’s hours just so I could escape.  Um, no ma’am we don’t have any more of those frozen sausage links.  Our truck will be here Friday.”  My boss had come around the corner, hopefully to count down the drawers and let me go.

With the quick conversation change, Kirsten knew that the boss was present.  “I’m packing right now.  I’ll be at the store before you get off.  Otherwise, I know where you live.”

“Okay. Yep.  It’s no problem.  Bye.”  That was typically how conversations ended around here.

“How’s it going up here, young lady?” my boss asked.  He’s super nice.  And deals with a lot more crap than most part time bosses would.  Once you gave him a schedule for an extracurricular, he worked around it.  If you said you needed a Saturday off for a family thing, he gave it to you, once in a while, even if he knew you were lying and going shopping with your best friend.  When I couldn’t even get out of my driveway because of the foot of snow, he told me not to worry about it, that’s why he had kids in town.  When it started blizzarding while I was working, he made sure I got home okay.  Mostly it’s the whole small town thing, but it’s also because I’ve proven that for every time I call in sick, I will accept coming in for someone else when they’re sick.  I get to work early.  I smile.  And there’s only been one time when my drawer was off and that guy had been a professional.

“Pretty slow,” I said, getting back to mopping.  So slow that this was my last chore of the night.  I’d even done extra chores that we didn’t have to do unless we had time.  I’d done them to fill time before mopping.  If you mop too soon, people still come in and wreck it.  If you mop too late, you get the five minutes until closing crowd, running in for one last thing.“Except for Creepy Joe.”

He just laughed.  I think it’s pretty much a rite of passage for every girl who works here to deal with Joe.  His wife has some pretty good stories about Joe’s antics throughout the years so I’m sure he’s heard them.  One day I’d like for him to kick Creepy Joe out of the store but my boss is the king of anti-confrontation.  In the almost twenty years he’s owned the place, he’s only fired two people.  I’ve worked with some pretty horrible people who deserved it but never quite managed, so I’d hate to see how bad those two had been.

Ten minutes later I was done mopping and he was done counting the drawers.  He went into the back to check on the stockers.  Once the place slowed down they tended to screw around in the back.  The two tonight were especially horrible and needed constant badgering to stay on task.  But finally I was released. 

I clocked out in the back room and went out the front door, checking for Joe’s truck before stepping out.  I didn’t want him to follow me home.  Or kidnap me and bury me under his trailer.  It could happen.

I stepped around the corner of the building to where the employees park in time to run into Kirsten.  She’s about a half inch taller than me, had blonde hair, green eyes, milky skin that I’d kill for.  We’ve both got guy senses of humor, earned from hanging out with older brothers while growing up.  She’s more into the fine arts while I’m all for academics.  She’s the dreamer, the spontaneous one while I’m the sensible one who points out the flaws in the plans.  We balance each other out.  “Of course he lets you off early,” she said, stepping back.  “I never get off early.”

“Liar.  He lets you off early when you’re the early person off.  I always have to stay until seven thirty.”  We constantly try to prove that the other is more favored.  In reality, he probably can’t stand either of us. 

“Whatever.  Do you have snack food necessary for if I’m to be dealing with Leigh?”  My older sister is twenty three, about to go into law school.  She likes to practice her shark mentality on innocent people.  Since she’s  been evil since she hit  puberty, I already had a defense built.  Once I hit puberty, my defense became an offense.  She zings me, I zing her right back.  Psychological warfare is so much fun, especially when you’re good at it.She probably hates me because I stand up to her, whereas everyone else just ignores her.  I just don’t think it’s fun that way.

“I think it’s more I have snack food, so you won’t embarrass yourself by drooling on Tate.”

Kirsten got into her car, which was packed to the brim with bags.  I said nothing, just heading for my car.  I rolled down my passenger window and she rolled down hers.  “Be careful on the bridge.  There’s a hole.”

“A hole?”

“Just a little one.  Nothing to worry about.”  Or so my dad told me.  Personally I didn’t trust a bridge that got holes all the time.  This was the second one in less than two years.  With my luck I’d be driving over it one day and fall through to be swept away by the river.  Ok, so it was a creek but you can drown in anything over two inches, right? 

I rolled up the window and backed out, turning down my radio.  I tended to blare the volume to psych myself up for work.  Especially knowing that my devil sister was going to greet me when I got home.  I should really be fair when describing her, but this is a complex relationship that goes back years.

I’m the odd one out in my family.  Both of my parents have dark hair and dark eyes.  My oldest brother, Chance, had black hair and brown eyes.  Victoria, or Tori for short, had dark brown hair and brown eyes.  Leigh was the petite one of the family.  Short, delicate, dark haired, and dark eyed.  And dark hearted too, but again, that’s probably just my opinion.  Then there’s Ry, the sibling that I’m closest too.  His hair is a shade lighter and he got blue eyes out of the deal.  They thought he was going to be the weird one.  Then I was born, my dark brown baby hair lightening until its current shade, a strawberry blonde.  I also got the blue eyes.  Then Jonathan rounded it out again, dark hair, dark eyes. 

Leigh was the baby for four and a half years.  Tori and Chance spoiled her, as did my parents and grandparents.  Then Ry came along.  She was fine with that.  She was still the baby girl.  Then I hit the scene.  Not only was I the new baby girl, but I was pretty in a different way, which made me a threat to her throne.  I didn’t care.  I was so close to Ry in age that I ran around more with him and Chance than I did Tori and Leigh.  In a way, that probably made things worse.  I spent more time with my dad and grandpas than she did, but playing with barbies instead of fishing and horseback riding was her choice.

I really didn’t understand that Leigh was jealous of me until I hit fifteen and then it all sank in.  By then my brain and self esteem had already been damaged.  I idolized Leigh.  She was so petite, so pretty, so smart.  I wanted to be just like her.  I cut my hair like hers, I liked the colors she liked.  I would have enjoyed dressing like her except skirts and tight jeans didn’t work when you were going four-wheeling with your brother or playing kick ball at recess with the guys.

I still remember the instance that I believe screwed me over permanently.  I was twelve, making her about eighteen.  She was getting ready for a date in the bathroom, leaning over the counter, doing her makeup.  I remember being curious.  She was pretty before but this made her dazzling.  I could use that.  At this stage in my life I was all knees and elbows, my feet were huge, my hair was long and uncontrollable and I was already as tall as she was.  I felt ugly compared to her.  “What’s that?” I’d asked her, sitting on the edge of the bath tub.  I was muddy, which explained why I’d been banished in here to wash up.  I think I’d fallen off of my horse, trying something new.  It hadn’t worked.  That time.  I worked up to it.

“It’s makeup, to make me prettier.  I don’t even go out of the house without it anymore.  God, I’m so ugly.”Right there, that’s fishing for a compliment.  All girls do it.  Just normally not to their pre-pubescent sisters. 

“You’re beautiful,” I said to her truthfully.  “Everyone thinks so.”

“No.  They just say that.  I’m not as pretty compared to you or Tori.”

“Me?”  That was shocking. 

“Yeah.  Mom and Dad think so too.  Remember when we were watching Practical Magic and mom said you looked like Nicole Kidman?”

“Yeah, but she said you looked like Sandra Bullock.”

“Nicole Kidman is so much prettier.  You’re so much prettier.  That’s why Mom and Dad love you more.”  I was horrified to see tears well up in her eyes.  The last thing I wanted to do was hurt my sister.  So I put even less effort into my looks than ever.

I hit fifteen and my mom suggested I learn how to use makeup from Leigh.  I refused.  It was so firmly lodged in my psyche that I not do anything to make me prettier than her.  I started using foundation, blush, and mascara and that was it.  I didn’t own any skirts, sticking to jeans.  I was most comfortable in cut offs and my cowboy boots.  My hair was either down or pulled straight back.  I didn’t need to put forth more effort when I knew that the guys at my school only considered me friends.  Which sucked, but I didn’t dwell on it.  Much.  Sometimes I go back and read my diary and laugh at myself.  It’s amazing how much one can grow up.

My sixteenth birthday was the night my relationship with Leigh snapped.  I now had four inches on her, three on my mom and Tori.  I still lacked a figure but I had filled out a little bit.  Leigh had brought back on of her boyfriends from college.  Tori was back with her family.  Chance was back with the girl who would soon be his fiancée.All night, Leigh had been picking away at me.  My feet looked like skis.  Why thank you.  I needed high lights in my hair.  Whatever.  My lips were too big.  Don’t care.  I always had a witty comeback for her.  It just hurt because she said it in front of everyone.  The giant feet had been pointed out when I’d propped them up on the table, instinctively, as I watched the basketball game on TV with my dad before my mom brought out the cake.  Everyone had been there.  Chance’s girlfriend had said my hair was really pretty and bam, Leigh stomped on that one.

Tori had gotten me this really cute shirt that I still remember.  Girlier than I normally go, but she and Mom were trying to fix me.They wanted me to date before I got to college and totally made a fool of myself.  Rylan had made some crack about the guys in school liking that one and Leigh had spoken up.  “I’m sure they wouldn’t be interested in her, no matter what she wore.”

The rest of the family jumped to my defense while I’d stormed off in tears.  She was always good at finding your secret weak spot.  At that point, I was starting to wonder why I never got a date to the dance, why the guys only asked me for help on homework.The pity on my family’s face when I’d been pulled out of my room to blow out the candles on my cake and Leigh’s snide remarks under her breath had killed me.  “Make a wish,” Chance’s girlfriend had said lightly.

I could have wished for all of Leigh’s hair to fall out but I decided to be the bigger person. I think I wished to be more confident.  “Wish to look like a girl,” Leigh had said.

I learned something about my sister that night.  She likes attention.  She targets the person who steals it away and I happened to be the birthday girl.  She was trying extra hard to impress her boyfriend.  Leigh didn’t care that I was family, that she was supposed to protect me.  I wished for confidence and I got it.

I blew out the candles and looked up.  “It didn’t work,” I said glumly.

“How do you know?” Mom had asked, looking sympathetic.

“Leigh’s still here.”  Everyone laughed.  And Leigh glowered.  With that little sarcastic remark, I’d openly declared war.

After that, every time I did my hair cute, it was my little revenge.  I spiced up my outfits and stocked up on makeup.  I never quite mastered it, but I could pass.  I was just as smart as my brilliant siblings but I topped Leigh.  She’d been the cheerleader, woo.I skipped that and went straight for flag corps and drill team, hitting up the musicals and contest speech.  I did everything I could choir related, which is how I bumped into Kirsten.  My school is pretty good at everything, so the family didn’t mind coming to see all of my performances.  They went to all of her stuff.  But I was in more so they showed up more, therefore they loved me more and she hated me more. Basically, all you need to know is she’s crazy, don’t make eye contact, and she’s crazy.

By the time I dragged myself out of my thoughts I was more than halfway home.  Once we hit the rock road, I rolled my window down and let the night air wash over me.  Summer hadn’t gone full blown yet so today hadn’t been bad but I’m sure it was coming.  I love the Midwest and I love summer,  but I do not love the humidity.  Stepping outside and feeling the air get sucked out of your lungs isn’t my thing. I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older the reason I don’t go to the pool as much is I feel like a fool swimming by myself and it’s no fun to sit in the sweltering heat and bake. 

I drove over the bridge, avoiding the hole that was on the other side.  Like I said, it’s not very big, maybe the size of my hand, but on a bridge any hole is a problem.I tapped my brakes and stuck my hand out the window, pointing at the hole to remind Kirsten it was there.  She too got over to this side.

I’ve been driving on this road since I was twelve so I know it like the back of my hand.  I know which corners I can cut.  I know when to turn off my brights so I don’t shine them in the neighbors’ windows.  I know the perfect time to accelerate to get past the neighbor’s dogs so I don’t have to slow down and they don’t have to get hit.  I knew when my car was visible to my house, meaning I had to slow down to avoid the lecture about speeding on the gravel roads.  Like now.  I coasted and only had to hit the brakes to turn into my driveway.

I pulled into the circle drive, which was crowded.  Leigh’s car, Tate’s car, Ry’s car.  Whose car was that?  I didn’t question these things.  Leigh always had a new boyfriend who was The One.  Gag, gag, gag. 

Kirsten pulled up behind me.  I was out of my car before she even had hers turned off.I figured out why soon enough.  “Hot and dangerous…”  The music was blaring out of her car.

“Oh, come on,” I laughed, opening her door.  She turned up the radio even louder and got out, dancing around, singing.  We’re big Ke$ha fans. 

*Tate*

“Oh come on.” 

Tate looked at Leigh from the corner of his eyes, then at Ry.  Ry had her tuned out, focusing more on the music that was blaring from the dark.  From here, Tate could see someone in a pink sweatshirt dancing around.  Then someone with very blonde hair.  There was laughter and loud singing, mostly on key.  Ry’s dad was involved in a book, totally tuning out all sounds.  His mom was already opening the door.

“Who’s with Keely?” Leigh asked, her eagle eyes missing nothing.

“Kirsten.  Her mom called and needed Kirsten to stay with us for a while.”

“Kirsten.  The little blonde with the bad sense of humor that my dear sister is too close to?”

Tate disagreed.  Kirsten’s sense of humor was fantastic and when you got her and Keely going, a person could break a rib from laughing too hard.  Ry disagreed too.  “Just because you have no sense of humor and never could make friends with girls, that doesn’t make Keely a lesbian with bad jokes.”

Leigh glared at him.  Keely and Kirsten chose that moment to burst in the front door, each loaded down with bags.  “How long is awhile?” Leigh asked, seeing the large mass.

She was ignored.  “What up, family?” Kirsten asked.  Yes, Kirsten.  She was loud and outgoing and utterly likeable.  And the two girls that had just entered the house looked more like sisters than the two that were biologically related.  Tate smiled, remembering the first time he’d heard them address each other as twins.

“I can see it,” he’d said lightly.  “It’s the eyes right?”

Keely and Kirsten had looked at each other, puzzled but not wanting to point out that their eyes were totally different colors. Kirsten had these green eyes that almost leaned towards blue.  They were always sparkling with some funny remark she was storing away to share with Keely later.  Keely’s eyes were this great grey color, always looking like she had a secret stored away.  Guys had to be dying to know what that secret was.

Keely and Kirsten had turned back to him.  “No, it’s not,” Keely had said politely.

“No, you both have eyes.”  And with that remark the twins had accepted him. 

“We could hear you coming for the last mile,” Keely’s mom teased the two of them.

“Not true,” Kirsten said defensively, just dropping her bags to the side of the door.“We turned up the radio in the circle because Ke$ha came on.”

“You have horrible taste in music,” Ry said. 

“It’s better than Dad’s.”  The music listener in question looked up from his book.  He straightened, seeing his youngest daughter was home.

“Hey Bug.”

“Dad,” Keely groaned.  “We agreed that you would stop calling me that.”

“It’s your name.”

“Mom, I’d like to thank you for being the one to choose my name that went down on the birth certificate,” Keely said, taking the seat right next to her dad.  She was a daddy’s girl.  Kirsten plopped on the floor at her feet.

“Hey, Beetle,” she was greeted by her best friend’s dad.

Tate could tell that Leigh so desperately wanted to say something.  And she never wanted to say anything nice.  Tate looked at the guy sitting next to her.  Poor, dumb bastard.  He should get away while he still could.

“I see we still can’t find a shirt that fits,”  Leigh said, nodding at Keely’s dark blue work shirt.  Keely had such a small frame that the medium shirt hung on her like a dress.  She just pulled the slack back and tied it with a pony tail, then tucked her tail under the shirt.  When she sat down and then got back up, like now, the tail would be visible.

“It is such a curse to be so petite,” Keely said easily.  Ry bit his lip.  He got a kick out of watching Keely fend off Leigh.  Keely just looked too dainty to have a mouth like a sailor and a repertoire of insults that could bring tears to one’s eyes. 

“Leigh, why don’t you tell your sister the good news?”  There was Mom, jumping in to diffuse the situation.

Tate saw the wariness in Keely’s eyes.  She was always on the guard around Leigh.  Even he could tell and he barely knew her.

“I’m getting married!”  Leigh squealed, holding up her hand with the engagement ring sparkling.  Kirsten and Keely summoned up some enthusiasm but everyone else in the room had already heard this at least twice.  The enthusiasm ship had sailed. 

“I’m Josh by the way,” the lucky guy said with a grin.

“Great to meet you, my future brother in law,” Keely said, smiling back. 

“I’m not done.”

“Didn’t figure you were.”  Keely’s smile turned to ice when she looked at her sister.

“Josh got promoted and his new law firm wants him in China.”

“Oh, cool.  Congrats on the-“

“I’m still not done.  Stop interrupting me.”

“Stop pausing for dramatic effect.”  Ry and Jonathan snorted.  Obviously the brothers enjoyed their sisters’ banter.

“Girls.”  But dad was sick of it, probably tired of being referee for nineteen years.

“Anyway,” Leigh shot Keely a look that clearly got the message across.  Way to go, it said, you made Daddy mad.  “He has to move over there in six weeks.  I want to go with him.  But I want to be married beforehand so the family can be there for it.  I need to find a job over there and finish up some classes on line so I don’t have time to plan the wedding.  I need you to do that for me.”

Keely waited, not wanting to step on her sister’s toes again.  “Oh, I can talk now?”  Or not.

Leigh shot her another dirty look.  She also earned an exasperated look from her parents. 

“Keely-“ her dad started.

“No, let me go first,” Keely said.  “I would rather hunt you down a job and do your horrible tests than plan your wedding.  I would rather gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon.  You know that you’re not going to be happy with anything I come up with and it will just take twice as much time and effort than if you would do it.  I think you should plan your wedding.  Or elope and do us all a favor.”

Before Leigh could dive in and confront, their dad broke in.  “Keely, we’ve already had this discussion with Leigh.  She wants the big, white wedding and she knows that you will do an amazing job.  She has agreed to be professional and if she’s not, you can back out.  It would just be a big favor to your mom and me.”

That got her.  Tate could see the indecision on her face.  She really didn’t want to do it, knowing her sister, but she loved her parents that much.  “Fine,” she sighed.  “But the first time she says something…”

“I’ll help out too,” Kirsten piped in.  “Since I’m living here for the next month.”

“And you can have your brothers too.”

Ry and Jonathan groaned.  At sixteen, the youngest Fitz knew that he didn’t want to get involved.  With the two strongest and polarized personalities in the family clashing, things were going to get heated.


Submitted: April 25, 2012

© Copyright 2022 DMT. All rights reserved.

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