Story Fragment Two

Her red acrylics tapped the counter as he stared through the smudges on the glass refrigerator door. He didn’t have a favorite. Beer was beer after all. She watched as he pulled out a six pack of PBR, the can not the bottle. The cold air fogged the glass and she looked away. On his way to the register he grabbed a pack of beef jerky. He placed it on the counter along with his six pack. Her name tag said Candice.
She smacked her bubblegum before asking him if that would be all. He nodded.
“$12.46” she said.
He stuck his hand into his right jeans pocket, the only one without a hole and pulled out some crumpled bills. Candice twirled a piece of her blonde hair around her pointer finger.
She looked like a Candice.
He handed her the bills, not bothering to smooth them out. Money was money.
She left them crumpled in the cash register and handed him some change.
The bell jingled as he walked out.
His car was parked out front. The drivers door was dented shut after someone had run into him a couple weeks ago. He hadn’t bothered to fix it yet. Instead he used the money to pay for takeout and six packs. He walked to the passenger side and climbed in. The stick shift dug into his leg as he crawled over to the drivers seat. He turned the key a few times before the car sputtered to life. As he drove away he watched Candice in his rearview mirror, still chomping on her gum with a piece of hair glued to her finger.
As she watched his car disappear from the fluorescent lights of the Quickie Mart she was reminded how much she hated that car. She hated Rodney too and the way he tried to control her. His temper was wild like him. You could always tell when he was about to go off because the vein in his forehead would appear from wherever it had been hiding. It pulsed alongside his mood, growing and retracting until it had reached the point of burst. The vein never burst, but Rodney sure did. In a violent fury he would take Cynthia by the shoulders and throw her against the wall. She tried to cover the bruises at work, wearing long sleeves and jeans but theres only so much you can do for a black eye. Her manager Dave threatened to fire her. He said her bruises were scaring away customers. She unwrapped a new stick of gum and told him to go fuck himself.
She and Rodney were done. A couple weeks ago they were out at a bar when he slipped into a rage. She saw the vein before he could get to her. As she peeled out of the bar she passed by Rodney’s car. She watched it for a second in her review mirror before slamming on the breaks and reversing hard into his drivers side door.
It was dark in his car as he drove home and for once he was glad it was his six pack and not Melissa riding shotgun. He was in no hurry. He turned down side streets and wound his way through neighborhoods watching time slip by on the digital clock on his dashboard. He hated Melissa, but not really. He hated what she had done. They were in love, or at least thats what he thought. Do you cheat on someone you love? He didn’t think so but now he wasn’t sure. Maybe, Melissa had loved both him and Steve. If he had stayed home from work that day Melissa could have loved him instead, but it was too late.
They didn’t need many people at work that day and so he had come home early. He hung his jacket next to one that was neither his or Melissa’s. He kicked off his shoes in front of the door next to a pair that could have been his, but were not. He heard them before he saw them. He didn’t need to see really so he picked up his keys and left. He ended up at a bar where he wasted the rest of his night. When he came back to his car later there was a huge dent on the drivers side door.
Her shift ended at 10:00. She clocked out, leaving Dave to clean the Slurpee machine by himself. He muttered something under his breath, but she was already halfway out the door. The radio came on when she started her car, but she turned the nob to silence it.
She was thinking about Rodney. As much as she hated him, she still missed him and this made her hate him even more. He had always apologized the day after they fought, asking if she was okay and promising to never do it again. He would say it wasn’t like him to do this and he didn’t know what had come over him. She wanted to believe him and for a long time she tried. She considered going back to him until her thoughts were stopped along with traffic. There was an accident up ahead. The blue lights on the cop cars lit up the surrounding buildings. A bitter laugh escaped from her mouth as she recognized the building on her right. A sign in the window advertised speed dating. How long had it been now since she and Rodney had sat across from each other at a table swapping numbers? A little over a year ago maybe. If only she could redo it all. Who had been sitting next to Rodney and why hadn’t she noticed him?
He was angry at himself for coming this way, but after going down so many side streets he had lost track of where he was. When he had finally popped out on the main road it had taken him here, the last place he wanted to be right now, or ever for that matter. Traffic was at a standstill. Out of the corner of his eye he could see his PBR cans sitting there in his passenger seat. The seat where Melissa should have been. He forced himself to look straight ahead, but it was hard when the place where it had all started was being lit up by the blue strobe lights of cop cars. He couldn’t help it so he turned. Speed dating was still advertised in the window just as it had been a year ago when he met Melissa. Part of him wanted to go back and redo that night. Maybe there was someone he had overlooked. Who had been sitting next to him?
She wasn’t old, but she wasn’t as young as she used to be. She took her job at the Quickie Mart a few years back thinking that it would be temporary. She would get some cash and then move on with her life, but she got stuck. She had seen a sign for speed dating on a building downtown and decided to try it. Maybe this would be her way out.
`His life was going nowhere fast and he knew it. He was lonely. The last date he had been on was years ago. As he drove through downtown one day he noticed an advertisement for speed dating. He had nothing to lose so he decided to give it a go.
There was Sarah who liked cats, Jessica who watched a lot of movies, Cynthia who smacked her gum so loud Nate missed everything she said, and Melissa who was perfect. Melissa had brown hair and laughed a lot when he talked her which he took as a good sign.
Cynthia met Rodney first. He was strong and muscular and told her he liked her blonde hair. After she gave him her number the rest of the guys blurred together. She thought she remembered a Dan who liked to a hike, or maybe his name was Jim. There was a guy named Ben who said he worked in a library and then a guy named Nate who she only remembered because he smelled like beef jerky.
Nate fell in love with Melissa before he even knew her.
Cynthia knew for sure Rodney would be it. He was going to be her escape.

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September 23rd


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