For disclaimers and all that business, please see Part I.
As promised, restaurant terminology and such: An I-9 form is a form utilized by the Immigration and Naturalization Department to verify legal status to be employed in the United States. The Dish Hole - okay, the term itself is real. It applies to the area of the kitchen where the electric dishwasher residesÖother than that, I don't know the actual, true reason it's called that, but heck, I'm a bard so did that bardly thing with it.
Thanks again for the encouraging emails! J
And feel free to keep 'em comingÖ
Chapter 7 (continued)
Christina walked to the edge of the Lessie Mae, looking over the side. This was not a good way to start her day!
"Whatís wrong?" Abigail strolled over the brunette and placed her hand on her back, rubbing it. "You look more upset than I feel."
"Ah," she said, forming her lie. "Just feeling a little queasy. Been having a lot of sinus congestion, kinda gets me all over."
"Oh." She glanced thoughtfully at the envelope in her hands. "I thought for a minute you were having second thoughts. You know, being involved with someone who has their own personal psycho."
"Nah, nothing like that." Hell, ya got a psycho more close and personal than you know! "Just that sinus crap." Afraid of giving Abigail mixed signals, she tried to shove recollections from her past out of her mind. "Hey, you want me to go with you to the station?"
"I appreciate the offer."
"Sure, let me change clothes." Christina interrupted as she stood up.
"But this is something I have to do myself."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah." Abigail stared into the water, looking at their reflection.
"Hey, you know I donít mind. Itís just a little sinus crap. Iíd be happy to go with you."
She turned her head and stared into sky-blue eyes. "I know. And I do appreciate that. But I donít want to do it. And that means that I really need to. I canít let her win."
Christina put her arms around the strawberry blonde, hugging her tightly.
"Iím not going to let her win."
"Iím proud of you." She interlaced her fingers with Abigail's and stepped back. "I know you want to do this on your own. I'll be right here."
"Thanks." Abigail left the boat, clutching the envelope in her hands.
Christina returned to her seat, thinking about the strange message her girlfriend received.
It couldnít be about me. There are only two people around here that know about that part of my life; one is Owen and the other is my sponsor. And no one from Tampa knows where I went.
Iím just being paranoid.
Andrew sat alone on the pier, avoiding the jetties. As much as he loved being at the beach, especially sitting on the jetties, the last person he wanted to encounter today was Lita!
What little self-respect heíd begun to establish for himself eroded through his daily contact with Lita. Out of all the gang members, he was the least likely suited to be in a gang. Thatís probably why she keeps me around!
He tossed a piece a small pebble into the water and watched as it disappeared into sea.
Thatís what I need to do, disappear!
A small, base part of him craved the attention he received from Lita. She was the most beautiful woman he knew and she vamped and led him on shamelessly. And he prostituted himself for the hope that one day they would be together.
There was a huge stain on his soul from the horrible acts he committed as part of her gang. No amount of alcohol or rationalization could wipe the slate clean for him, either. And it wasnít the kind of stuff he really felt he could talk about.
How do you walk up to your folks and say, "Hey, you remember me? Iím the kid that ran away from home and joined a gang. Oh, you wanna know what Iíve been doing? Well, Iíve killed somebody so I could be somebody, Iíve sold a few drugs so I could fit in, and Iíve done absolutely anything to get some girlís attentions. Arenít you proud of me now?"
He moved to the edge of the pier and let his feet dangle. Taking the flask from his windbreaker, he swigged quickly and put it back in his pocket. At least he hadnít been arrested. Yet.
The burning sensation filled his throat as he struggled to push down the feeling of hopelessness.
Even the alcohol ceased working now. Images constantly flooded his mind, tormenting him about his poor decisions and mess of a life. The scrawny kid he was in eighth grade, constantly harassed by the bigger kids until one day, when Jimmy came along and stood up for him. Little did he know then, the price he would pay for being one of Jimmy's crowd.
His new friend, Jimmy, took him under his wing and suddenly, no one was using him for a punching bag or the butt of practical jokes anymore. He was somebody, for a change! Andrew was instantly accepted into the fold; he was immediately smitten with Lita, the only girl who ever paid him any attention.
And he would do anything for Jimmy, the guy who saved him from daily beatings. If Jimmy needed a package dropped off or one picked up, Andrew wanted to do it.
Until he was in that stupid fight with that guy. He didn't even know him - Jimmy had been pushing and prodding him to get the homeless dude.
It all started out with his friend and that pint of whiskey he gave Andrew. A few dares Jimmy issued, which he happily accepted; little acts of vandalism and some laughs. Then his friend dared him to steal something from the homeless man.
"Like what? What does he have worth stealing?"
"Man, that ain't even the point." Jimmy laughed as he swallowed his beer. "Who is this guy? Somebody you're gonna let stand between you and your friends?"
He clasped Andrew's shoulder tightly. Andrew tried not to wince in pain.
"And here," he continued. "Take my blade."
"You never can tell when there's gonna be trouble." He shoved his switchblade into Andrew's hand. "Go on. Be a man. Show me how brave you are."
He held the switchblade in his hand and stumbled towards the homeless man.
The homeless man wasn't so willing to let Andrew just take his things. He struggled, towering over the boy. Grey eyes flashed in fear - this guy was huge! Without thinking, he popped out the blade on the knife, trying to get him to back up. Instead, the man stumbled over some of his treasures as Andrew was waving the blade in the air. And fell on it.
The homeless guy died. He was horrified. This wasn't supposed to happen.
Jimmy congratulated him for doing it. Bragged to the whole gang about Andrew being one of them now. Lita gave him his first kiss.
Suddenly, he realized he was in too deep with his new friends. But now, he was lost. What could he do? If he tried to get away from them, Jimmy was a witness to this murder. Not to mention what they might do to him personally.
He was stuck now. No way out.
And in so many ways, he was still that lost, nothing kid that bought
into a sense of belonging with Lita and her gang, willing to do anything
to fit in.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As much as Abigail liked being on the Lessie Mae, she was glad to be home. If nothing else, it was the general principle; to not stay at home would mean that Lita Tomlinson won again. The note and the trip to the police station reminded her of how it was after Michael died. Another ineffective tool. I can hear it now, as they stand over my dead body. "Look, she did the right thing. Got a restraining order against the psycho. Too bad that piece of paper didn't jump up and save her."
But to not act was to admit defeat, to let Lita win.
Not that slimy, little killer! I wonít let her beat me.
Enjoying a cup of coffee, she sat on her windowsill and looked into the sky, thinking about her conversation with Trish. Her first relationship came with a lofty price.
Her parents encouraged her to take karate to bring her out of her depression. The instructor assigned a black belt to help get her oriented to class. Kathy Morris was a second degree black belt with curly, sandy blonde hair, about the same size as her trainee.
Abigail was awestruck as she watched Kathy expertly toss around her opponents. As attractive as her trainer was, she was mostly enchanted by Kathryn Morris' self-confidence and fighting abilities. If she would have had have those skills, she could have saved Michael!
Rocked by recent events, she was painfully shy. The ordeal had taken its toll. Kathy, on the other hand, was full of raucous laughter and had an infectious smile. She was also a huge flirt and Abigail immediately succumbed to her charm
The black-belt was equally smitten with her.
Seeking some relief from the grief and pain from burying Michael, she leapt into the relationship without really getting to know Kathy. It was a mistake she regretted to this day.
At first, Kathy was charming and sweet, picking her up for karate class and spending time with her. They were around each other constantly; Abigail became a fixture in Kathyís apartment. It was only a few months, however, before all that time together became too much and Abigail discovered she needed some space.
Kathy didnít take kindly to that idea. She wasnít wrapped as tightly as Abigail had originally thought.
"I donít understand this," Kathy complained bitterly.
"Look," Abigail responded softly. "Iíve been through so much recently. I just need a little time, you know?"
"Time for what?"
"I just need a little space." She could see the anger building on Kathyís face. "I need to leave."
"You need to leave?" She sputtered, her face becoming red with rage. "Itís only nine oíclock!"
"Kat, you know what this is. We've talked about this before. Several times."
"You mean you've talked about it. It's all about what you want."
"Kat, IÖ," her voice trailed off.
"Just say it, dammit! You want out!" She spit out the words venomously, daring Abigail to contradict her. "Say it - say it's over!"
"I just need to go home." Finding renewed strength, she began again. "Please take me home."
"Fine. " Kathyís voice was flat and unemotional. Abigail found it impossible to read her. "Get in the car. I'll take you home."
They rode to Abigailís parentsí home in silence.
"Kat, Iíll call you, okay?" Abigail tried to reach for her hand, but she kept it firmly attached to the steering wheel.
"Sure you will."
She learned, later that night that Kathryn Morris was not someone to be put off in such a manner. Around midnight, she woke up to her father standing in her doorway.
"Abigail, what is the meaning of this?"
"Huh?" She tried to force herself awake.
Her father shoved a letter under her nose. "What is this?"
Barely awake and emotionally exhausted from the evening, she was unable to restrain her sarcastic remark. "Looks like a letter, Dad."
Her father stepped away from her, throwing the letter on the bed. A picture fell out Ė a picture she recognized from Kathyís dresser. It was a photograph of them taken at a friendís party, with her and Kathy entwined in each other.
Not good. Her homophobic father was definitely not amused.
She was met with stony silence.
He turned his back on her and left the room.
Abigail jumped out of bed and ran after him, but he went into his bedroom and shut the door.
Shoulders slumped, she returned to her room. She knew what this meant. Her parents' feelings regarding alternative lifestyles were all too clear. She began to pack.
From a pay phone by the donut shop, she called Trish. And was welcomed into her home without judgement.
Abigail began attending different karate classes at the school; her failed relationship with Kathy was not a good enough reason to give up karate.
Abigail snapped herself out of her memories. Life was painful enough without focusing on the negativity of the past.
Fortunately, with time as the healer, she was able to rebuild the relationship with her parents Ė an open one now, better than before. So good came out of bad. It just hurt like hell along the way.
Reflecting on recent events, she was sure in her heart that Christina was nothing like Kathy.
And she was falling in love with her.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Litaís bleached-blond hair cascaded in the breeze as she wandered along the shore, looking for Andrew.
The patience she developed in prison would finally pay off. All those nights spent in dormitories, with no privacy and forty other women, trying to get her to lose her cool. She grew accustomed to ignoring the lecherous comments made by the women who tried to taunt her into violence, which would earn her a stay in Confinement and cost her precious gain time. Now, all that added up to lessons learned.
She could slowly extract her revenge against Abigail Thanis. And she could do the same with Special K. In fact, the slower, the better.
There was no rush.
She had all the time in the world. They didnít. They only had as much time as she allowed.
First, she had to know all about those two. The task should be rather easy, since they worked together.
Who did they socialize with, were they seeing anyone? She knew Abigail lived alone, but what about Special K?
And what was Special Kís name, anyway? She knew it once; now, she saw only glimmers of it in her mind. Too much memorization of Florida Statutes and Department of Corrections Rules eroded much of her memory for names. Anything to help her earn and keep her gain time was of utmost importance; the less time she spent incarcerated, the more likely she would be able to make Thanis answer for her crime.
Even these unanswered questions did not gnaw at her as they once would have. Everything changed, seeing Special K at The Edge.
Her life had a whole new meaning.
A plan. Thatís what she needed, she decided. A plan.
One that would allow her to learn all she could about the two women who were now her focal point. She needed to be able to get inside their heads. She needed to know what they knew. Then, she could finally give them their just desserts.
To make Special K pay, as I have paid, all these years.
Lita laughed out loud as the thought hit her, striking her like a bullet. Maybe Andrew needed a second job.
Maybe in a restaurant, cooking.
Smiling, she picked up a rock and nailed a seagull.
She had a plan.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The restaurant was typically slow for a Tuesday. Christina sighed inwardly; this was also the designated day for orientation and training of new restaurant staff. The process itself was never problematic; it was irritating it happened so frequently. In spite of having a friendly working environment, low pay and hard work made staff turnover grim reality at The Edge.
"So how many do we have on the agenda today?" Fred signaled to the server for drinks.
"You have two Ė one for lunch, one for swing shift." Darlene peered through her half-glasses as she organized the new-hire packets. "And Christina, you have one Ė heís a dishwasher."
Fred and Christina looked at each other and smiled.
"Great!" She ordered sweet tea for Fred and herself, and a coffee for Ms. Hughes.
"Keep me posted on these new-hires. Iíd rather cut our losses early than carry dead weight." Darlene doctored her coffee as she continued. "Hereís your paperwork. Have it completed and in my box tomorrow morning." She rose, taking her coffee.
"Fred, you know any of these people?" Christina pushed her paperwork across the table.
"What, all three of Ďem?" He laughed as he glanced over the names. "Nope, sure donít."
He swallowed his tea and motioned to the man talking with the hostess. "Hey, I bet that guy is your dishwasher."
She glanced over her shoulder. Sure enough, the hostess was motioning towards their table.
"My name is Andrew Cantrell and Iím here for orientation." He smiled brightly and folded in hands in front of him. "Iím supposed to meet Christina."
"That would be me." She stood up and shook hands with him. "Come with me and letís do your paperwork."
"Want something to drink?" They sat in an empty booth in Siberia as he began completing the necessary forms.
"Sure." Got a nice, cold brew? "Coke."
She returned with his drink and handed it to him.
"Thanks." He took the glass and returned the completed forms to her.
"Got your IDís with you?" She took his driver license and social security care and completed the I-9 Form. "What do you prefer to be called? Andrew? Andy? Drew?"
"Andrew." He smiled, pleasantly surprised that she would bother to find out his preference.
"Letís see," she said as she glanced over his paperwork. "You work full-time with the road crew? So youíre available for nights and weekends?"
"Yes maíam. I made an arrangement with my boss so I could be here for orientation."
"Letís get started." She replied, putting on her best management smile. "Youíll have to watch some films Ė I know theyíre boring but it canít be helped. Then, Iíll give you a quick tour of the restaurant, show you where your schedule will be posted and go over the rules with you and youíll be all set."
Andrew finished watching the designated videos and followed Christina around for his tour. They were almost finished when they saw Trish.
"And this is Trish, one of our best servers at night. Trish, this is Andrew. Heís a new dishwasher."
"Hon, you like the food so much you came to work here?"
"Maíam?" Andrewís face went blank as he tried to control his nervousness. A shot of whiskey would sure help!
"Friday night." She extinguished her cigarette and smiled. "You and that pretty little blonde sat in my section. At least youíre familiar with the place already."
"Seems like a nice place." He smiled, hiding his concern behind his pearly whites. Damn, Lita needs to stay away from here!
"That your girlfriend you were with? A real looker, that one."
"Yes maíam." Can you spell interrogation? Give it a rest, lady!
"Let me show you The Hole, Andrew." Christina interceded, wanting to finish up Andrewís orientation.
"The Hole?" His gray eyes went wide. The Hole? Did I die and get sentenced to Restaurant Prison?
"Relax," she laughed as they left the break room. "Itís right there. Just what we call the area where the dish machine is. See, the stainless steel counters that make a square? Then you have this one pathway here out." She pointed to the three foot opening in front of them. "Anyway, when we get busy and the counters are piled full of dishes, it reminded somebody of a hole in the ground, so we just started calling it The Hole."
"Oh." He let out a breath he didnít even know he had been holding.
"Well, thatís about it. Be here Saturday evening at five oíclock. Iíll have you shirt, hat, and name tag then."
"Yes maíam, Iíll be here. Saturday, at five."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Trish watched Christina as she dealt with the new dishwasher. She'd better not hurt my girl!
She got up to talk with the Kitchen Manager, then promptly sat back down as Abigail came through the kitchen door.
"Hi, hon! How was your karate class?"
"I had to skip it. I took the psycho letter to the police station instead." She glanced around, looking for the tall, dark-haired woman who was slowly stealing her heart. "What's Christina doing?"
"Orientation day, hon." She motioned for the younger server to sit down. "So what's up?"
"I wanted to see what time Christina gets off." Her face fell slightly. "Probably tied up for hours, I guess."
"Oh." She drank some of her coffee before continuing. "You coming over later on? Nick's off tonight and he'd love to see you."
"Would you mind if I asked her along?"
Trish couldn't fight the frown forming on her face.
"I'll take that as a yes." Frustrated, Abigail stood up.
"No, hon, I know you like her." Trish let out a long sigh. "Bring her along."
"Great!" Abigail smiled and turned to find Christina. "See you after work!"
"See ya, hon." And I'm gonna get a hold of that Christina and make
sure she knows she better treat you right! I won't stand by and see you
hurt by the likes of some moody bitch!
Continued in Part VII ....