Sis amplexibus Amor alios mututa memini et amoris in mutationes memini.
May you be embraced by a love beyond recall that alters others
and a love within recall that alters you.
By her calculations he would stop shouting in twenty seconds.
Frances had worked at the Red River Bistro for less than a week and it already felt like a year. She had escaped marrying into one barely functional family only to end up in one that was totally dysfunctional.
The shouting stopped.
When Sally, the waitress whose mobile home she now shared, warned her that Ted, the short order cook was a short tempered cook she didn’t expect a temper could be this short.
Frances went on to wipe down and reset the next table. End of shift and everyone wanted to be gone ten minutes ago.
“Kate! Get a goddam move on.” Ted snapped at her through the serving window from his safe station in the kitchen.
Kate? Right, Kate was her. She was using her middle name here. A break from her past that she was still getting used to. No one here was calling her Francie or Franny. She’d even had her wig restyled to a shorter cut.
Her back ached, her ankles throbbed and her calves threatened to cramp if she stopped for too long. Her last chemo was eight months ago and her body was still getting back to normal. But she had a job and a place to sleep. Tips were excellent. She was free of her past but was it worth this price. With Dave she wouldn’t have to bust her ass with such shit work.
If she had stayed in Toronto she’d be married right now, this very day. What had changed her mind? Dave claimed it was a guy she had bumped into last week on her way to the wedding rehearsal.
She moved on to the next table. Wipe, refill the salt, the pepper without a thought. It was a routine that quickly turned into an energy sapping rut. This wasn’t the freedom she expected.
“I said move that lazy fat ass. I wanna lock this stink hole up. I, unlike most of you here, have a family waiting for me.”
She exchange and smirk and shrug with Sally who was re-setting the tables on the other side of the dining room. Wipe, refill the salt, the pepper without thinking.
Frances moved to the next table.
She wished she had kept that pic of the guy she bumped into. When she didn’t recognize him on his Facebook page she deleted it to get rid of all the comments Dave had posted under it. The less evidence the better. Was it still on her cell phone. She worked faster.
“That’s more like it, sweet’ums. You’re turning into a good worker.” The short order cook patted her on the butt. “Not such a fat ass either.”
Frances stiffened at his touch. Sally had warned her about Ted’s wandering hands and but not worry because his anger wasn’t the only thing that was short.
“Thanks, boss.” Were the tips worth it? She’d talked to Dave a couple of times now, first to keep him from worrying; then again because in an odd way she missed him. She was sure he’d take her back, no matter what Sophia said. Maybe it wasn’t too late. Maybe?
The last table was done. She and Sally walked to the corner to wait for the bus.
“I guess were fifty feet from the front door?” Sally laughed as she offered Frances a cigarette.
Frances puffed tentatively. She had started smoking here. A new habit for a new life. She hadn’t told Sally much about what brought her to Calgary. She merely hinted at an abusive boyfriend and Sally was totally sympathetic.
“You still talking to that prick of yours?”
“Not since …” Frances counted back the days. “Last Wednesday. Today is the day we were going to get married, you know. This very day.”
“You certainly cut it close Kate. I got that close once but the fucker disappeared. Took all the wedding gifts with him too, and left me to explain. Never heard from him again. I hope he liked the three crock pots. Those mean jerks have a razzle that makes it hard to see clearly though. I know how hard it can be to get away and then let go even when men always turn out to be such pricks. Interested in one thing.”
“Money. They only want your money. They think sex is the easiest way to get you open your purse. Open the legs and open the purse. Fuckers.”
“Dave wasn’t like that. He has money.”
“His mother ….”
“Didn’t believe you were good enough for him. Bitches-in-law can make it tough. They never want sonny boy to let go you know. Probably gives him a hand job every now and then to keep him happy.”
“No, that was me.” Frances laughed.
The bus let them off near the mobile home park.
“Kate, I’m going to drop in on the double d’s.” The double d’s were Doug and Don were a couple of men in the trailer park that Sally liked to party with.
“No thanks. I’m bushed. Still getting used to this work-a-day grind.”
“I’ll try to be quiet when I get in later.”
That’s if you get in later Frances thought. “Okay. See you some time tomorrow.”
Sally laughed and banged on Doug’s door. The door flew open in a flood of smoke, light and distorted guitar music.
“Hey, you, get the frick in here you …” Doug reached out and yanked Sally into the trailer. “You too?”
The door was shut before she replied.
Safe and snug in her little room in Sally’s mobile home she rubbed her tried feet and looked at the pictures on her cell-phone. Luckily her cell was the same as Sally’s and she could keep it charged. Ah, yes, there he was. The stranger. The eyes were in shadow and the smile more of reflex than a grin of welcome. No, she didn’t care for him. Why would she have taken his picture though?
According to the time and date she had taken it on her way to the wedding rehearsal. There was no getting around Dave’s assertion that she had met this guy. She had.
She pulled off her waitress uniform and stretched out on her bed, took a couple of deep breaths and was sound asleep.
She was awakened by the mobile home rocking. Was it tipping over? She realized it was a person sitting on her bed.
“Sally.” she asked groggily.
“Oh no, baby, better than that.”
It was Don and he got into the bed next to her. He was naked. He stank of cigarettes, beer and weed. She tried to push him away.
“Ah, come on, admit you want it. You smell sooo good. You smell like sex.” He pulled her close, his erection rubbing against her panties. “You don’t need these, do you.” He reached down to get them off her.
She hit at his head with her fists. He was too close and the bed so small she couldn’t get momentum to hit very hard.
“Feisty. Yeah I like that. I like the way you smell, too. Fresh.” He kissed her and forced his tongue into her mouth. He right hand tugged at her panties while the fingers on the left pried into her vagina. He stopped kissing her. “Yeah dripping for it. I knew you’d be hot. I bet your box tastes like heaven.”
Wedged against the wall she braced herself, pushed with her knees and elbows as hard as she could. Don fell to the floor. As he started to get up she kicked at his face with her foot. He grabbed the foot and bit her instep, slid his tongue along her leg to her panties. “I dig that smell. Honey pot. I’ll bite these off you. Is that what you want.”
She kicked at him with her free leg. He reared up and clipped her under the jaw with his head.
“Be still a minute for fuck sake.”
She tasted blood in her mouth when she started to scream for help.
“Sal’s passed out sweet thing. Mobile homes is like outer space. No one hears you when you scream.”
As she screamed she continued to flail at his head with her fists. Fists that felt small and soft on his oversized hard head.
Suddenly he was pulled off her.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing.” It was Doug. “Fuck sake Don.” He pushed Don out of the room with a finger to the chest while kicking his clothes out along with him. “A deal’s a deal.” He kicked her door shut behind him.
Trembling Frances got dressed. She could hear Doug through the door.
“When I gave you that weed I said she was mine! Scum bag.”
“But you have Sal.”
“Give me a break.”
“You had passed out, Doug. I thought ….” There was the sound of a punch. Don groaned.
“I don’t care what you thought, scum bag.” Doug growled. “Hands off, till I say otherwise. Got it?”
“Yeah Doug. I’m sorry.”
“Not as sorry as you’ll be if you don’t your ass out of here.”
After a few minutes of silence there was a gentle knock at her door. It opened.
“Sorry about him, Kate. Some guys forget they’re supposed to be gentlemen. He didn’t …. hurt you ….”
“My pleasure.” His took her hand and kissed the palm. “You can sleep safe. I’ll see you in the morning.”
He left. Frances couldn’t sleep. She packed what few things she’d purchased during the week. Folded her waitress uniform and left it on the kitchenette table. She pulled off her wig tto and left it with her key on top of that.
She went to the bus stop and called for a cab. She didn’t expect she’d be using her Toronto return ticket this soon.
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