by rugal b.
K.C. meets with her inadvertant teacher.
|I drove my sister to school the next morning. I could still see the swelling and bruising near her eye. I wanted to say something, to ask her what had happened, but I didn’t. She still seemed upset and that being something I had never really experienced from her before I wasn’t really sure how to approach it or how to make things better. I sure as hell didn’t want to make things worse. So I said nothing. We rode in virtual silence really only speaking to give each other perfunctory goodbyes as I dropped her off.
Today was a light day – Wednesdays always are – so after the thankfully lone late morning class I had I decided to head over to Milagro for lunch. It always feels a little weird going into somewhere you work when you’re not actually on shift but it was an environment that I felt comfortable in; one where I felt accepted.
It was the kind of small-but-chic cafe that attracted French bobbed art hoes and bearded craft beer enthusiasts but out of all the cafes and small eateries around town it was the best. That hipster vibe was why I liked it.
So familiar was I with the place and the place with me that I didn’t even have to say anything, just a simple acknowledgment to one of the girls behind the counter and I took a seat at a table near a wall. A few minutes later the girl was over with the latte and sandwich that I’d always get whether on break or as a customer. She took the seat across from me.
“You’re lucky you caught me right before break. The new girl doesn’t know you well enough yet so you’d actually have had to talk to someone to place your order.”
The girl grinned before tearing off a bit at the end of the sandwich and popping it into her mouth; her tip, she’d called it.
Shannon Biddle was a student – older than me – with porcelain skin that peaked out in the few cracks available in the sea of tattoos that ran up and down her arms. Piercings dotted and crossed her ears while her hair – a dark pink and very straight – hung down to her shoulders. More than showing me the ropes when I’d started, she’d showed me what having confidence was. The kind of laid back confidence that draws people in and lets things run off of you; that lets you look and act as if the opinions of others don’t reach you.
For a nineteen-year-old young woman coming from a home that would have a collective stroke if they saw her, someone like Shannon was just the coolest. Though she didn’t know it I’d taken her on as my teacher and I made sure to always pay attention and try to absorb her lessons hoping that I myself could one day be half as cool.
“So, you coming in later?” Shannon asked after swallowing the bit of sandwich she’d taken.
“I’m not scheduled.”
“Whole day free huh? Lucky,” she smiled as she leaned back in her chair.
“I don’t know,” I sighed.
“Issues at home?”
“Something like that.”
“I mean you can still come in if you want then,” she said. “You know Becca doesn’t give a shit about people ‘going over hours’ so she’ll be cool with it.”
“Tell her I’ll drop in at five then. I’ve got some errands I’ve gotta run this afternoon.”
“Will do,” she replied. “So what’s up? Is it that bad for you?”
“What makes you say that?”
“’Cause nobody’s so rah rah about wanting to come in on their off days.”
She’d gotten me; I grunted. “Yeah, well, I’m going to need some extra money. Birthday’s coming up.”
“Didn’t we get you a small cake last month?” asked Shannon as she leaned forward and eyed me with skepticism.
“Other people have birthdays,” I shot back.
“Mhm,” she responded. “So tell me what’s going on K.C.”
“I’ve got someone crashing at my place,” I relented. “But it’s more like they invited themselves and kicking them out is going to be...”
“Hard?” Shannon completed my thought. “I get you, same thing happened to me I guess. You remember Liv?”
“Vaguely? She was working here when I started right? The redhead?”
“That’s the one,” she answered as she relaxed. “Well not even a week after she’d started her new job she shows up at my place and she looks bad. There’s some bruises on her, some swelling, her lip’s cracked, you know all the signs.”
“That’s awful. A boyfriend?”
“Yeah,” she nodded. “She said that it wasn’t the first time he’d smacked her around either but it was the first time it’d ever been this bad.”
“Shit, I didn’t know.”
“None of us did. She’d been dating him for two years and it had been happening the whole time. But I guess she was real good at hiding it.” She sighed and leaned back once more in her chair.
“She told me that something felt weird so she went snooping through his phone; found some pics and texts on there. So she decides she’s done. She starts looking for another job that pays a little more and manages to get one at Locarno right before leaving here. So he comes home and sees her packing up. She tells him what’s what and, well, you know.”
“So what’d you do?”
“Took her in of course; got a restraining order against the guy. We’re still roomies actually. Even the wait staff at Locarno can make some nice coin so it helps with the bills. But I’d have taken her in even if she offered nothing. I’ve known her since eleventh grade so I mean of course I’d want to help her.”
“You weren’t annoyed or anything?” I asked.
“I guess maybe I was a little at first deep down which is kind of fucked up considering...” I watched Shannon shift and get a bit more comfortable. “But it’s been good. We’ve gotten a lot tighter so I wouldn’t trade it. Ah fuck,” she said as she checked her phone. “I’ve gotta make sure I’ve got time to use the bathroom before break ends.”
“See you this evening?”
“Nah, I’ll be off by the time you’re here. You working tomorrow?”
“I’ll see you then,” she said with a smile as she got up and pushed her chair in. She gave me a friendly wave as she walked off.
All I could do as I ate my lunch was think about my own situation and Jelena’s as well. The bruising I’d seen on her face was enough. I was still kind of annoyed at her for dropping in unannounced but if something was going on at home I couldn’t just send her back and where else would she go? I knew she had some friends but I didn’t really know much about them what with being just far enough apart in age to where our circles hadn’t really overlapped.
So I did the only thing that made sense to do. I pulled out my phone and tapped away at a message. futon’s in the guest room, I sent off and then quickly added, if you don’t want to sleep on the couch again.
I had no idea if she was at lunch but I guess she was because the reply was pretty quick in coming. ok, she answered. btw hanging out w/ friend so dont need to pick me up. ok if they come over? she added.
I bristled a bit at that but I was nothing if not a good student – in this respect at least – so I took a breath and tried to collect myself
sure. just don’t do anything nuts, I responded. I didn’t even really know what I’d meant by that because I had no real idea what my sister could even do that would be considered nuts. But it seemed like the responsible thing to say so there was, I’d assumed, no real harm in saying it.
Not like I’d be home before her friend was gone anyway.