Everything is Illuminated

Hello friends!! Sorry I’ve been absent these past few days. I’ve added a few extra days to my work out schedule and I’ve been physically exhausted. It’s greatly helped me find my way out of my depression, but my body is just done for. lol. I’ll be thankful for it later, but right now I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.

Picking up where we left off:

Part 6:

The next time I encountered Jericho was at the request of our boss Stan. I had still completely missed the fact that I had been cruel to Jericho and continued my ruse of hatred for the benefit of the rest of the franchise. I didn’t know it at the time, but Stat was actually good friends with Jericho, so when Stan asked me what I thought about Jericho I gave him the third degree.

“Jericho? He’s lazy, arrogant, and has no idea how to run the store. He’s a jerk.” I said pausing in the office to talk to Stan.

Stan listened to me closely, and then replied: “If I give you tomorrow off, would you be willing to go over to Tylersville and help Jericho close? He’s never done it before. It wouldn’t be your shift, you would just be there helping him with paper work.”

I thought about it for a moment, and repeated how much I disliked working with him to which Stan said: “I’ve known Jericho for a long time. He’s a little rough around the edges, but he’s really not a bad guy once you give him a chance. I think if you got to know him you would change your mind about him.”

After taking a moment to listen to what Stan had to say, I reluctantly agreed to go help Jericho close. I arrived after the dining room had closed and it was just Jericho and his skeleton crew. Jericho was on the drive through, and the dining room was a disaster. Since I was there to help him and not actually run the shift I grabbed a head set out of the back office and made my way out to the dining room where I remained dutifully cleaning until at last things began to slow down for the evening. Jericho wandered from the drive through cash register over to the front counter and just watched me cleaning for a moment before he spoke.

“So Stan sent you over here, huh?” He asked.

“He did. He said you needed help with the closing paper work?” I answered, as I paused for a moment to look up from my cleaning and talk to Jericho.

“I guess. I mean I’ve done it a few times. I really just have trouble polling the registers.” He answered. “What are you doing?”

“Deck scrubbing the floors because they’re disgusting.” I answered as I threw myself back into my work scrubbing. “It looks like they haven’t been deck scrubbed since I last did them. The grout is NOT this color.”

“What color is it?” Jericho asked, genuinely interested.

“Light orange. It matches the tile.” I answered as I dumped a bucket of cleaning solution across the floor.

“Seriously? Wow. That floor is pretty gross if the grout is supposed to match the tile.” Jericho said as a matter of fact.

That was all he was able to say before the drive through was once again filled with cars. I finished the dining room, the dishes and kept myself busy until the restaurant was closed and the crew had left for the night. It was then just Jericho and I left to our own devices. He counted all of the cash drawers, made up the deposit and did most everything else by himself as I went around behind the closers checking their work. Eventually there was nothing left for me to do but sit in the office with him and wait until he finished out the night. He did so with hardly any help from me. As we were waiting for the computer to finish our conversation drifted from work to personal things. As we locked the doors and headed out to our cars we paused and continued our conversation. We talked about everything and nothing all at once, until the sun began to rise and the parking lot was lit with a dim cool morning glow. I had the following day off since I had agreed to come over and help Jericho, but he had to report in the next evening. I said since I was off I would swing by again to make sure he got everything in the right place since he had encountered a bit of trouble.

Really I just wanted to be around him as much as possible. He wasn’t so bad once you got him alone and picked through the annoying, arrogant shell. I mean I had always been drawn to him, but the more I got to spend time with him one on one, even if it was just at work, the more I wanted to get to know him on a deeper personal level. He talked a lot, but he was also an exceptionally good listener as long as you could keep his attention. Even when he was only paying half attention he still caught quite a lot of what was going on around him.

The next night I arrived early in the evening to see if he needed any actual help, or just help with the paper work. While I was talking to the store manager on the front steps two of her employees walked up. She shifted the conversation away from me, and toward these two strangers who had walked up.

“Whatcha’ got there?” Trisha, the store manager asked.

“Maxi pads.” One of the strangers answered.

“So you’re not pregnant? No Jericho babies?” Trisha asked.

“Yes. We don’t want babies.” The stranger answered.

“Hear that Annie? No Jericho babies.” Trisha said. “This is Anya, Jericho’s girlfriend.”

I wasn’t amused that Trisha had been so devious and coy, especially after her stunt with James. A mere two seconds before these two girls walked up, I had been talking about how I was coming back to help Jericho close, and depending on how late we were there we had considered going to get coffee afterward. She had failed to mention that Jericho was seeing some one, and she certainly hadn’t told me that she worked at the store or that she was on her way to close with him tonight. I was also pretty surprised by Jericho, spending all night talking to me and trying to set up a coffee date with another woman, if he was seriously seeing some one. Anya had thought she was pregnant, their relationship obviously went a little deeper than merely dating. After that the Anya and her friend went inside to start their shift, I continued to talk to Trisha for a few moments and then made my way to another store to pick up some product for her since I was returning that evening to close with Jericho.

I returned late that evening, just as everything was winding down. The dining room was closed and cleaned, the two girls had most everything done, and Jericho was sitting in the office Anya on his lap talking quietly amongst themselves. I wandered behind the counter as casually as I could with out seeming like I was trying to interrupt them and popped into the office myself.

“Hey, here’s that transfer sheet for that product I brought over. I already put it in the walk in.” I said, making no mention, and trying my best to show no disappointment or emotion in regards to this woman sitting on Jericho’s lap.

“Hey, thanks. We’re just waiting to turn the lights off so I can count the last till.” Jericho said, also not showing any surprise or emotion at the fact that I had waltzed in on him with his girlfriend. “Actually, if you girls want to go ahead and go, Annie can make food for me if we get any cars in the last two minutes.”

Anya and her friend spoke briefly in their native Bulgarian tongue and decided that they would go. We made sure they were clocked out for the proper time, and I followed them out to make sure the door shut and locked securely behind them. By the time I got back to the office, Jericho had turned off the lights and pulled the register. I sat in the office as he made his rounds finishing up paper work, making casual conversation, and asking questions when he needed help. It only took a few moments before we were ready to walk out the door.

We walked over to our cars, and he started his ignition. It was getting late in the year and it there was a definite chill in the air.

“So how about that coffee?” Jericho asked as he popped back out of the car as I stood by the hood waiting.

I was kind of interested in what he was going to say since I had met Anya.

“What about Anya? Is she okay with that?” I asked, not even beating around the bush.

“What do you mean?” Jericho asked, growing visibly nervous.

“Your girlfriend? Is she okay with us going out to have coffee?” I asked again.

“It’s not like it’s a date or anything. We’re just going to hang out and have coffee. Like we’re hanging out here, just not in the cold and with coffee.” He answered slowly regaining his confidence.

“Well yeah, but I’m a girl. You’re going to have coffee with a girl.”

“Can we talk about this in the car? It’s cold out here. I’m about to freeze my balls off.”

I hesitated, not really sure if I should accept his offer to sit in the car, or just start my own car and head home.

“Surely you can sit in the car and talk with me for a minute. I’m not going to like run off with you or anything.”

“Well I know that.” I said with an amused sigh. “I guess I can for a minute.”

He hopped in the car, and leaned over into the passenger seat and popped the door open for me. I slid into the seat, as he turned down the radio.

“Oh my God, that’s better. If I had stood out there any longer my dick would have turned inside out.” Jericho said, holding his hands in front of the car vents.

“No one wants that.” I replied.

“Fuck no, no one wants that.” Jericho said, turning to me. “So… coffee?” He asked again.

I only looked at him and before I could really reply he continued with: “We don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I don’t want you to worry about Anya. Things aren’t really working out, I just haven’t found the right way to break up with her. Besides that she’s going back to Bulgaria like two weeks. I mean it wasn’t ever really serious, it was just kind of a fling. I really need to break it off, I just can’t quite figure out how to tell her. Y’know?”

After a few moments of deliberation on my part I finally replied with: “Yeah I guess. Where did you want to go?”

“Are you sure? You really want to?” Jericho asked, reading the conflict in my face. “It’s not a date.”

“Yeah, I get that. I want to go, it’s just kind of late. Is there anything open?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. Good point.” Jericho replied looking at the clock on the dash board. “I mean I guess there’s the Waffle House down the street, or I’m off early tomorrow. Do you want to just meet up somewhere tomorrow so we have the whole evening?”

I thought it was weird he suggested the whole evening for coffee that wasn’t a date, but I didn’t say anything. Instead I looked at the clock once again thinking about it.

“Let’s do that. Tomorrow. Where do you want to meet?”

“Uh… well I live in Lebanon so how about the McDonald’s over by Kings Island? Say 9?” Jericho suggested.

“Sure. We can do that.” I answered.

“Can I get your number? Just in case something comes up.” Jericho asked pulling out his phone.

“Oh yeah, I guess that would be a good thing to have. Give me yours and I’ll call you.”

He listed off his number, and I put it in my phone, then called him. As his phone rang and the display lit up I had to laugh. Cell phones were still a relatively new thing, but his was almost ten years old, and it’s age was showing.

“I know, it’s old, but it works great, and it’s all I need.” Jericho said, programing my number into his phone.

“Hey if it works that’s all that matters.” I said as he returned his phone to his pocket.

We talked early into the morning, not nearly as early as we had the previous evening, but just before dawn. As I was getting warm sitting in the car with Jericho talking, I began to doze off. I decided that I should be heading home, especially since I had to work early the next morning. We said our good byes, and Jericho sped off out of the parking lot and I sat in my own car waiting for it to warm up.

The next day flew by as I was excited to be meeting Jericho. I knew it wasn’t actually a date, but it was the first time I had actually just gone to meet some guy I hardly knew alone, with OUT telling my parents who I was with or where I was going. I arrived early, anxiously waiting. The scheduled time for us to meet came and went with no Jericho. I waited around for several minutes but decided to cut my losses and head home.

My mom had called me while I was waiting and asked if I could pick up a gallon of milk on my way home. I said I would, so when I decided to leave that’s where I went. As I was walking through the grocery store with milk in hand my phone rang. It was Jericho. I paused looking at the caller ID trying to decide if I wanted to answer it or not. It went to voice mail and I thought that would be the end of it. Instead with out leaving a message he called back and it began to ring again. This time I answered trying to sound unaffected by the turn of events. I was extremely disappointed, but really I had gotten my hopes up prematurely. It wasn’t even supposed to be a date, so really he hadn’t stood me up. I could have called him when he failed to show up, but I chose not to.

“Hello?” I answered, reluctantly.

“Annie? It’s Jericho.” He replied.

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“I’m really sorry. I got home late and lost track of time. Then I had to shower, and all of that… I’m on my way though. I should be there in like ten minutes.” He explained.

“Oh. Okay. Well my mom called and said they needed some milk for breakfast, so I ran up to Kroger’s really quick. They don’t live too far away. I can run it home and be back probably before you get there.” I said, my fingers going numb from holding the cold milk as I paused to talk to Jericho.

“I’m really sorry. You’re really coming back? I’ll be there. Promise.” Jericho said.

“Yes, I’ll be back, but right now I have to go. My fingers are numb from holding this milk.” I said.

“Okay, well… I’ll see you soon.” Jericho said before hanging up, with a hint of defeat in his voice.

He didn’t believe me, and honestly I was still weighing my options. I wanted to see him, but at the same time he was already on his second chance with me since Stan had convinced me to get to know him, and thus far he hadn’t made the best impression. On the other hand, he was generally late nine times out of ten for everything, and was quite easily distracted. That coupled with the fact that our meeting wasn’t truly a date swayed my decision and after dropping the milk off at my parents house, I hopped back in my car and returned to McDonald’s.

I pulled into the parking lot, and drove around until I spotted his car. Once inside I found him, finished with his snack and waiting for me, just as nervous as I had been when I was waiting alone for him. I sat down at the table with him and he apologized yet again.

“I’m really sorry, Annie. I looked at the clock and it was already 9 before I realized how late it was. Do you want the rest of these?” Jericho asked pushing his remaining chicken nuggets across the table in my direction.

I nibbled on a nugget, and shrugged off his tardiness determined to not let my feelings get the best of me and we talked.

“So do you know anything about trading cards?” Jericho asked.

“Like baseball cards?” I replied.

“Sort of, but more like Pokemon cards.” Jericho explained.

“Oh yeah! I used to play Pokemon when I was younger.” I answered.

“Well there’s a game I play with cards like that. It’s called Versus System. It’s basically like Pokemon but with super heros. That’s why I got home late. I was at card game. It’s one of my only hobbies.” Jericho confessed.

“Oh yeah? How’d you get into that?” I asked, genuinely interested. This was the first time Jericho had actually opened up to me about anything he did outside of work.

“You used to play Pokemon, right? Did you ever go to that kiosk in the mall?”

“Of course. It was only THE place to get cards.” I answered.

“I owned it. It was my kiosk.” Jericho said.

“YOU OWNED THE POKEMON KIOSK?!” I practically yelled, as I almost fell out of my chair.

“Whoa there. Don’t get too excited or anything. It was my first job out of high school. I started on eBay, then when Pokemon really took off I opened up the store. I was there almost all the time.” Jericho answered.

“Wait, so you owned the Pokemon kiosk, and you met Stan at Chuck E. Cheese?” I asked, putting everything together in my head.

“Yeah…” Jericho answered confused at the strong reaction I had when I found out about his work history.

I had to chuckle to myself at the irony of it all. Here he was sitting right in front of me, the guy who I’d tried everything to get a glimpse of at various different times in my awkward adolescence. It also explained the way I was attracted to him just as intensely as I had been to “Pokemon Guy” and “Pizza Guy”. He WAS Pokemon, and Pizza guy. I was just one in a complete sea of people in and out of his life, completely ordinary and unnoticeable until we started working together. Of course the previous times I had run into him I was 12 and 14. I didn’t even technically look like a girl until about 16, and I’m pretty sure the only thing that caught his eye was the miniskirt I wore to come pick up my check one afternoon. That and my complete Fuck Off response when he tried to ask me why I dressed that way, yet again.

He was heading to his car after his shift, and I was just walking in to pick up my check. At this point we hadn’t gotten to know each other yet and he yelled across the parking lot: “Why do you dress like that?”

I paused for a moment, and replied: “Because it’s comfortable, why do you care?”

He replied: “That can’t be comfortable, and it’s definitely not attractive.”

I rolled my eyes, and turned to keep walking into the building.

Instead of just letting it go he shouted after me: “You just want attention!”

To which I shouted back: “Right, your attention, which is why I’m ignoring you and walking away.”

Mysteriously after that encounter I had my heart to heart chat with Stan about “giving Jericho a chance.”

It was all so serendipitous, I was completely and thoroughly amused. I didn’t tell him that I had a massive crush on him since the first time I saw him, mostly because he was dating some one else, and I enjoyed our friendship even if it wasn’t meant to be anything more than that. I certainly wasn’t going to ruin anything by expressing my true feelings.

He gave me an odd look, but the moment passed and we continued talking late into the evening.