A bank teller misses her boyfriend.
|VERONICA'S RED SWEATER
March 2018 Derek B Thorpe
Veronica Poem knew precisely why her palms had become so sweaty.
She could barely grip the Parker pen between her damp fingers and blotted her hands against the seat cushion to absorb the excess moisture. She'd not seen her boyfriend for a whole two weeks and expected him to walk through the glass doors of her workplace at any second. They'd been going steady for a little over three months and she was anxious to take the relationship to the next level.
Dennis Pritchard, depending on traffic, usually arrived between 1:12 and 1:19 and it was already 1:18 in the afternoon. Her heart convulsed within the cage of her chest and threatened to catch the next train up her throat and out of her mouth. She checked her workstation again and it remained meticulous for his arrival, with every paperclip and rubber band in its place.
She wore his favorite dress. The green sleeveless frock with the red laced neckline she bought online, exposed her pale arms but it was worth braving the cold temperatures of the bank in order to please him.
Perhaps he'd bring a gift or a tasty morsel for her today, she thought. The fantasy fought for dominance against the attention required to complete the financial transaction before her. She asked her customer to repeat the request while keeping a distracted eye peeled to the entrance.
The customer left and another appeared before Veronica in the window slot. She needed to check her appearance once again before Dennis arrived and used her phone camera to view the condition of her makeup. To her horror the clear cellophane face-lift tape she placed just above her left ear had started to slip due to the excessive perspiration. The skin fold between her nose and mouth began to assume it's normal contour and the disparity between the two sides of her face looked as if a medical emergency was evolving.
Ian Wharton rapped on the plastic divider behind Veronica. The bank manager was not pleased. His generous mustache hid how rigid his upper lip had become.
"Veronica. Now is not the time to be taking a selfie when dealing with a client," he said, through a gnarled jawline. "You should know our electronic device use policy by now."
Veronica Poem, startled by the manager's controlled growl, almost dropped the phone through her already lubricated fingers. There was nothing she could do about her cosmetic malfunction at that time. She swiveled only a few degrees so she could conceal her entire face.
"Oh, Mr. Wharton. I was not actually taking a ..."
He interrupted her. "Save it, Veronica. And where is Miss Turner? Is she coming in today or not?" He scanned the empty cubicle next to Veronica's.
"Sal? She's stuck at her gynecologist. She's not well 'down below'. Didn't she call in?"
"No, she did not," he said in retreat.
Veronica covered for her rookie workmate by lying about where she was. She maintained that tellers, especially female tellers, should stick together and not rat each other out. But young Sally Turner would have to owe her for this one.
At 1:20, Dennis Pritchard walked through the thick glass doors of First Financial Bank. Veronica was sure she heard a tabernacle choir begin to sing when he appeared and struggled to maintain her composure after not having seen him for such a long time. There was a tremor in her shoulders, both from the anticipation and from the cold draught spewing out of the air-conditioner ducts.
He tucked in his black and red flannel shirt, wiped his boots and headed towards her. She pretended not to see him and busied herself with the feminine flair of an innocent coquette.
As he neared, she bathed in the musk of cologne that preceded him. Dennis came to a stop not more than four feet from Veronica at the back of the roped, serpentine, customers service line. She allowed a knowing smile, signaling the start of their intimate game where he pretended to ignore her too. Keeping their relationship a secret from her colleagues was one of the more satisfying aspects of their courtship.
She stole a glance at his shoulders as he backed her. They were slouched and she made a mental note to tell him to straighten his posture and that he needed a haircut. Clutches of tangled hair protruded from the base of his soiled 'Salt Life' cap. A single piece of folded white paper was all he carried in his hand and Veronica could not wait to read the love note he surely penned. She had a gift for him too. A little something to celebrate their three and a half month lunaversary.
Over the years, she developed a skill to perfectly time the duration of her clients at the teller's desk to synchronize with whom she wanted to see in the line. It worked ninety-nine percent of the time, only foiled when another teller released their customer at the same time. Dennis neared the front of the line and she gathered the gift she prepared for him.
With perfect execution, Veronica handed her present client a receipt, bade her good-bye and called for her secret love to approach. It probably was not necessary for her to be as precise, as it was obvious he'd come to visit only her. She watched him approach with his boyish grin and quirky gait. Not much different from the steps he'd take as he would walk down the aisle to wed her, she thought.
Her entire pelvis flushed with a warmth and she squirmed in her office chair.
"Why hello, Dennis." She batted the extra thick eyelashes she picked up at the flea market last week.
He had never been a man of many words and Veronica absolutely loved that about him. He sort of scratched at his patchy neck-beard and swallowed the brown saliva from the tobacco wad wedged against his gum line.
"Hey yourself, this is for you." He passed her the note under the glass partition.
More than a few times, in the moments just before she drifted off to sleep, she fantasized the note would read... 'Give me all your money or there'll be trouble'. She loved Dennis so much, she thought she'd probably hand over a large amount of cash to her bad boy lover and they'd run off to Mexico or somewhere. She'd giggle herself to sleep in the darkness.
"How have you been?" She took the note.
Although her nails were beautifully polished in olive green to match her dress, she was disappointed how aged the backs of her hands had become. The haggard veins appeared prominent, not unlike sick earthworms entwined under her skin.
"Been alright. You?"
Her heart sank. It was not a romantic note after all. Merely his usual unemployment check for $213.82.
"I've been good... Umm, you like my dress?" She ached for his soft word.
" 'Snice. Seems you been wearing that one the last time I was in here."
The decibel level of the tabernacle choir increased in her ears as it became clear he noticed the little things about her, even though she had not been his teller on his last visit. She counted his money and similar to the previous time, four weeks ago, she added a fifty-dollar bill of her own money to his stash. Her special touch this time was that she slept with the bill between her breasts so her unique lure would be imparted amidst the note's ink. She was sure it would make her irresistible. Once again she added her telephone number and hoped he'd figure it out when he matched her fragrance.
Veronica Poem swooned at the depth of Dennis Pritchard's romantic side when he said; 'Thanks', and promptly walked out of the bank.
She immediately put out her 'next teller' sign to indicate she was on break. She followed him right up to the double glass doors and watched him trot to catch the waiting bus at the corner.
Her hormone levels plummetted after being with her boyfriend and it became difficult to contain her emotions. She needed a minute, plus the frigid cold had become unbearable on her slender arms. A quiet saunter through the parking lot to pick up a sweater from her car would likely kill two birds.
The three sweater jackets on her back seat were fine but her red one would match the scarlet fringe at her neckline. Where was it?
With her sweaty fingers, she removed the 'instant-face-lift' clear tape from the sides of her face and she opened the trunk of her car.
Sally Turner lay partially on Veronica's red sweater. The blood from her head wound had dried sufficiently such that Veronica could flick the stain from the wool fibers.
"Hot enough for ya, Sal? So this will teach you not to try to steal my boyfriend away from me while he's in the teller line. You got that?"
Sally had become doubly incontinent from the prolonged heat exposure. A mere mouthful of water is all she needed from her rescuer.
"I had to cover for you with Mr. Wharton, so you owe me one."
Shutting the trunk, Veronica headed back to her workstation wearing her slightly soiled, button-down red sweater. Thank God the next day was Friday. It'd been a tough week. At least she already had her Grey and blue skirt-suit selected.
That was Darryl's favorite. She missed him. Hadn't seen him in two weeks either.