After I finished my shift I made my way home. I was exhausted, and still pretty excited from the night before. As I walked through the front door, and headed through the kitchen I was stopped by my mom. I had turned eighteen just a few months before and she still hadn’t gotten used to the idea that I was a legal adult and couldn’t be controlled with rules and idol threats as I could when I was a child. I had sort of stretched my wings by purchasing my own car, but I hadn’t looked into apartments much. I didn’t want to live with my parents forever, but my salary wasn’t the best and after our trip over seas I had primarily focused on getting back into the swing of things at work.
“You didn’t come home last night. Where were you?” She asked, rather out of the blue.
“What?” I asked, unsure that I had heard her correctly.
“You didn’t come home last night.” Mom repeated.
“Oh, yeah. I worked late then when to hang out with Lynda.” I answered nonchalantly as I continued to make my way down to my room.
“You dropped the milk off and then went back out, why?” Mom asked, not believing me at all.
“Because I wanted to? You said you needed milk so I brought it by, and then went over to Lynda’s to watch a movie.”I answered, still not quite sure why she was upset.
“Why didn’t you call? You should at least call if you’re going to be out all night.” Mom insisted.
“Ooookay.” I answered still not quite sure what she was upset with.
“Don’t take that tone with me!” Mom yelled, as I walked down the stairs and retreated into my room.
Even though nothing had happened between Jericho and I, I still didn’t feel the need to tell my mom that I had spent the night with a man. I hadn’t really lied to her about what I had been doing or where I had gone. I merely replaced the name of my companion. I rarely talked to my mom about personal matters, so it wasn’t so much that I felt I should keep Jericho a secret from her. I just didn’t want to listen to the lecture about how me staying with Jericho would tarnish my image and give people the wrong impression. I knew she was speaking from a place of love and caring, but at the same time. I didn’t agree with her. Disagreeing with my mother was something that you didn’t do if you wanted an ounce of peace, so I just let her think whatever she wanted to think.
A few days went by and Jericho and I continued to talk frequently. Not about anything in particular still in the getting to know each other phase. One evening while we were both working at different locations, I needed to borrow some inventory from his location. I called him up, and we made the arrangement. It didn’t take me very long to leave my location and head over to his, so when I arrived he still hadn’t had a chance to get everything together for me. As he was busy tending to other duties, I came in gathered the necessary product and made my way to the office. We said a quick hello as he entered the transfer data into the computer and I looked down to noticed an empty tin of Hershey Pie.
“Is that Hershey Pie?! You knew I was coming and you didn’t save me a piece of pie?” I said, joking.
“It was pretty much all gone before you called, but you like Hershey Pie?” Jericho answered still distracted with his other duties.
“I LOVE Hershey Pie.” I answered enthusiastically as I made my way back towards the front door.
“How late are you working tonight?” Jericho asked me.
“Close, why?” I answered, pausing with my box of produce balanced on one knee and the door propped open with the other.
“If you really want Hershey Pie, I’ll bring you a piece.” Jericho answered with a smile.
“Seriously? You’ll bring me pie?” I asked excited by the prospect of both receiving delicious pie and Jericho going out of his way to do something nice and unexpected for me.
“When I get off, later tonight I will bring you pie.”
With that I bounced out the door happy at the promise of pie, and made my way back to my store. The dinner rush came and went. I closed the dinning room and finished all of my other early responsibilities. The night wore and wore on with no word from Jericho nor any indication that he would be keeping his promise. I had called him after 11 when the dining room was all closed up and there was only a few minutes until closing with no answer. He had a terrible habit of not answering his phone or letting his battery die. This was way back in the day when cell phones were just starting to become a necessity versus a luxury so it wasn’t uncommon to have your battery die and not have a charger with you. I was disappointed but not entirely surprised. When Jericho was playing his trading card games there was little to nothing that would get him motivated to do much else, which was more than likely what he was doing after work.
Ten minutes before we closed when I was sitting out in the dining room taking a break and waiting for the clock to turn so I could turn off the lights and ready the deposit for the next day and head home, a car drove through the drive thru. I didn’t pay much attention as I was tired and the rest of my crew could handle one car’s order, so I stayed in the dining room glad to have a break. Not too long after the car sped by the speaker, a crew member came over to the front counter.
“Annie, the man at the window wants to talk to you.” My crew member stated.
At first I thought it was a complaint of missing food, or an oder that was wrong. I wasn’t excited about the idea of dealing with an unhappy customer so close to closing time, but it was my job after all. I hopped up and made my way back to the drive through window. To my pleasant surprise it was Jericho, with not just a piece of pie, but an ENTIRE Hershey Pie just for me.
“Jericho! Hi.” I said as I walked up to the window.
“I bring you pie.” He said enthusiastically as he handed me a box.
“Wow a whole pie? You didn’t have to do that.” I exclaimed surprised.
“Well, I couldn’t find just a piece, but I said I would bring you some so I just bought this.” Jericho explained. “It was frozen, but it’s been in my car for a while, I hope it’s still good.”
“I’m sure it’s fine. Thank you.” I said with a smile.
“You’re welcome. I better go get off your drive thru timer. I’ll drive around a few times to make up for it. Have a good night.” Jericho said as he rolled off of the drive through pad.
He drove around three times, and then sped off for home.
I took the pie into the office, and nibbled on it while I was finishing up my evening paper work. It was a little squishy, but still edible. I offered the rest to my crew, but neither of them were interested, so I packed up the remaining pie and headed home. I had an earlier shift in the morning and would need to get some sleep.
When I arrived home later that night I didn’t think too much of it when I popped the left over pie in the refrigerator and made my way down stairs to shower and get ready for bed. It was difficult to sleep my mind and heart filled to the very point of bursting with happiness. Who knew something so trivial as a chocolate pie could inspire such feelings? As I lay there staring up at the ceiling thinking about Jericho and my list and my impatience for things to work out, and my life to start falling together I smiled. He brought me pie. That had to be a good sign.
As I was wandering out the door to work the next morning my mom once again stopped me.
“Where did that pie in the fridge come from?” She asked.
“Jericho brought it to me last night.” I said, wondering why it was important.
“Jericho, huh? Who is this Jericho fellow? A boyfriend?” Mom asked with a coy tone in her voice.
“No, mother. He’s just a friend from work. He’s seeing some one else.” I answered.
“If he’s seeing some one else, why is he bringing you pie?” Mom insisted.
“I don’t know, because I said I liked pie and he offered to bring me some? It’s just pie. It’s not like he asked me to marry him.”
“Men in relationships should not be bringing other women pie!” My mom practically yelled with excitement.
“Okay mom.” I said, as I walked out of the room and off to work.
I had mentioned Jericho in passing to my mom as a coworker, but nothing else. Something about that pie set off the Mother Bear Radar. I don’t know if it was because I was 18 and still hadn’t had a real dating relationship with anyone, or if it was because my mom thought I was a Lesbian, but she was immediately suspicious. Her suspicious gave me great pause. I had considered the fact that Jericho’s offering was meant as something more than just friends, especially since it was only a few days before Anya was scheduled to leave, but I wasn’t going to count my chickens before they hatched so to speak. Whether the pie was meant as more than a random kind act between friends, or Jericho was just being a nice guy is still unknown.
That night I stopped by Jericho’s store once again after some product. The store was a disaster when I walked in, and Trisha was frantic.
“Jericho was supposed to be here an hour ago and he’s not here!” She yelled at me as I walked past the office. “I called him like three times and he won’t answer the phone. He’s probably out with Anya.”
As she explained her plight I pulled out my phone and dialed Jericho’s number. He answered on the third ring: “Hey, how was your pie?”
“It was amazing as all Hershey Pies are. What are you doing?”
“I’m at the mall, why?” Jericho asked.
“I’m standing here in the office at your store and you were supposed to be here an hour ago.” I replied as a matter of fact.
“No I wasn’t. I’m not supposed to be there until 6.”
“Jericho, it’s 7:30.”
“Wait… fuck. I must have changed the clock in my car twice. Well oops… Guess I’ll head that way. Who’s there?”
“Is she mad?”
“Yeah, and the store is a wreck. You better hurry.”
“What the hell, seriously? Well tell her I’ll get there as soon as I get there.” Jericho said in a huff as he hung up the phone.
“How the hell did you get him to answer and what pie are you talking about?” Trisha asked.
“He brought me a Hershey Pie last night. I came up to borrow some product and they had pie, I wanted some and he brought me some.” I answered honestly.
“Home wrecker!” Trisha yelled at me, in a coy tone. “First it was Dennis, and now Jericho? Wrecking homes left and right.”
“What are you talking about? I’m not a home wrecker, it was just pie. Besides that it’s not working out with Anya, and he said he was breaking up with her.” I retorted, exceptionally annoyed to both get accused by my mother, and now my coworkers. It was the main reason I was worried about spending time with Jericho out side of work in the first place. The rumor mill was going to be pumping out rumors at full speed now. Especially since Trisha was one of the worst gossips in the entire franchise.
“If he’s breaking up with her, why is he out with her right now?” Trisha asked me.
“What are you talking about? He said he was at the mall.” I said with a scowl, really tired of dealing with this and ready to get my product and go.
“Yeah, with Anya.” Trisha insisted.
“Whatever. The point is that he answered the phone and is on his way. I’m going to take this stuff and get out of here now.” I said, grabbing the product I needed and heading out the door.
“Adios Home Wrecker!” Trisha called after me.
The rest of the evening went by with out a hitch. I was cleaning the dining room when the phone rang with an unexpected voice on the other end.
“Hey, it’s Jericho. I have a question for you.” Jericho asked, an odd tone in his voice that I’d never heard before.
“Okay, what’s up?” I answered still cleaning not thinking anything of it.
“Why do I have a whole bunch of voicemails from a very up set Bulgarian girl wondering why I’m breaking up with her?” Jericho asked.
I could now distinguish the tone in his voice. It was anger. I immediately went into defense mode. First I was surprised that he hadn’t actually followed through with his word, second I was shocked that Trisha would run to Anya immediately and tell her with out talking to Jericho first. I wasn’t surprised she thew me under the bus, as she had done it before, but I was surprised that it happened so quickly. Finally, I was kind of impressed with Jericho for having the guts to confront me about it.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, my stomach dropping to the floor.
“Anya called me crying, asking why I was breaking up with her. She said Trisha told her you came in this evening and said I was breaking up with her.” Jericho clarified, the anger seeping over the phone line like a thick oil.
“I never said that. Not once. Trisha asked how I got your number and I mentioned the pie, but I never said you were breaking up with Anya.” I answered, my heart rate quickening. I shouldn’t have lied, but in the moment I panicked. Hearing the anger in Jericho’s voice scared me, and brought me to a place of fear mentally and emotionally which I perceived required drastic action. I had associated the feelings I had when I was with Jericho as “normal” and “sane.” The thought of losing what little shred of sanity I gained when I was around him, was unthinkable to me at the time. So much so that I had to defend it at all cost, even if it meant a small deception.
“Why would Trisha tell me you said that if you didn’t?” Jericho probed, still heated, but not sounding nearly as menacing.
“I don’t know. It’s Trisha. She’s a gossip and a sneak. She lies about me all the time! It was the same way with Dennis! She started this stupid rumor about us and now I can’t even go to his store.” I said, my voice cracking with emotion.
There was a brief silence on the line before Jericho said: “I don’t know, Annie. Just know I’m not breaking up with her. She’s going back to Bulgaria and trying to get her visa, so she can come back. We’re just friends, is that clear?”
“Yes…. Of course! I never thought differently. I never said differently, why would Trisha do this to me?” I wailed, tears streaming down my face.
“Annie, calm down. It’s okay. I didn’t mean to upset you, I just wanted to ask and make sure we were on the same page. I don’t want to give off the wrong impression. It’s… it’s okay.” Jericho replied, his voice continuing to soften. “I have to go, okay? Bye.”
“Wait! I want to talk about this.” I said as the other end of the line went dead.
I called back several times before Jericho finally answered. “Hello, can I help you?”
“Jericho, I want to talk about this. It really upsets me that Trisha would say that about me. I would never do that.” I spat out quickly.
“Annie, we’re really busy. I can’t talk right now. Don’t worry bout it. I have to go.” Jericho said before hanging up on me yet again.
Noticing how upset he was, and then being hung up on, triggered something deep inside of me. I was already panicked about losing our friendship, but being brushed aside like that enhanced my feelings ten fold. I called back yet again several times to no answer. When he failed to answer the store phone, I called his personal phone. When I didn’t receive an answer there, I made up my mind that I would confront him at his store. The store hours were just different enough that I could finish my shift and meet him just as he was walking out the door for the evening with out truly interrupting his shift.
The rest of the night I tried desperately to keep myself occupied, and burn off some of my nervous energy. I finished all of my duties early, and did some extra deep cleaning. Time was marching at a terribly uncomfortable slow pace. I couldn’t think of anything else to do, so I grabbed a piece of paper and began to doodle. Writing the alphabet over and over again just to keep my mind from racing, and my control from slipping away. My chest was tight, I couldn’t breathe, and I was dizzy with anticipation. Finally the time came to finish the last little bit of our nightly responsibilities and I sped off to confront Jericho.
As I pulled up to the restaurant there was a line of cars wrapped around the building. It was at least a little more comforting to see that Jericho wasn’t just being rude by hanging up on me. It hadn’t been an avoidance maneuver, which made me wonder if the confrontation was necessary. I decided that since I had driven all the way over to the store, and if he wasn’t actually mad at me that I would still stop and talk to him. If he had been busy like it was currently all night, he would probably appreciate the extra help getting things put back together. Still unsure of myself and my rash decision to confront Jericho, I parked out of sight and waited for the line of cars to disappear. As the last car pulled away from the window I waited a few moments and then dialed the store number yet again. It rang and rang, but no one answered renewing my irrational fear that Jericho was indeed ignoring and avoiding me. I decided to call his personal phone once more, and I received the same result. With that, before I truly realized what I was doing I hopped out of my car and headed toward the restaurant. First I tried the front door, only to find it locked. It was after the dining room had closed, so it wasn’t truly unusual that it was locked, but it was frustrating none the less. Still very upset by the whole thing, I walked around to the back of the store. I would wait by the back door until some one came out to take trash out. After pacing back and forth by the back door, I realized how crazy and suspicious I looked being dressed in the restaurant uniform, but wearing a jacket over it. I was just some crazy girl dressed in all black sneaking around the outside of a restaurant at two in the morning.
Not wanting to get arrested, or scare anyone. I decided to make my way back around to the front doors. I couldn’t get in, and when I knocked everyone was so busy cleaning and doing their jobs that no one paid attention. I pulled out my phone and dialed the store number yet again, and immediately realized how foolish I had been. The phone, normally loud enough to hear outside, had the ringer turned off. It was against company policy, but it was a common practice if we were short staffed or really busy. Peering through the door and into the kitchen I could see that Jericho had been telling the truth when he said they were busy. The place was a disaster. After seeing this, I realized how foolish I had been, and considered returning to my car and heading home. As I turned to walk away a car pulled up. It was an employee, and as she got out of the car and walked up to the door I said: “The phone is turned off. I’m from Hauck Rd, and wanted to talk to Jericho. I’ve been standing here for fifteen minutes waiting for some one to notice.”
“Oh, well they’re expecting me. They should come open the door here in a minute.” The employee answered.
Sure enough, with in moments of her arrival, yet another crew member bounced to the door to let her in. I explained my circumstance and she let me into the dining room, but I wasn’t allowed to go back behind the counter until she confirmed my story with Jericho, who was in the middle of taking orders in the drive thru. He glanced over with a surprised look on his face, and gestured his confusion as to why I was there. I replied with a shrug and waited until he was finished in the drive thu.
“Annie, what are you doing here?” He asked as he walked to the front counter, stress radiating off of him like a force field.
“I wanted to talk to you about Trisha. I called, but the ringer was off, and this store is on my way home from Hauck so I stopped by.” I answered honestly.
“Yeah, I told you it was busy. It’s been a giant cluster fuck tonight.” Jericho answered sharply. “You didn’t have to come up here.”
“I called your personal phone too.” I said, challenging him to say what I could see behind his eyes.
“Did you?” He asked, pulling his phone out of his pocket and showing it to me. “It’s dead, that’s why Brandy brought me her charger.”
I didn’t say anything to him for a moment, just looking into his eyes trying to figure out if he was stressed from the evening, or stressed from the argument with me.
“Well since you’re here, do you want to give me a hand? We’re seriously behind.” He said, changing the subject.
“I guess I can do that. What do you need me to do?” I answered, glad to be out of the weird nonverbal confrontation we had found ourselves in.
“Can you clean up the dining room, and maybe get the dishes caught up? We can handle everything else.” Jericho answered, still not quite himself, but no longer as angry as he had been when I arrived. He seemed relieved that I hadn’t continued to press the issue.
“Sure thing.” I answered walking behind the counter and getting the necessary supplies.
The rest of the night was just as busy as when I arrived, and Jericho and I were both diligently working, until the time came when the lights went out and we could all finally relax a little bit. The closing crew finished their assignments, and made their way home leaving Jericho and I alone. He was struggling to finish the paper work required with the end of day process.
“Do you need some help?” I asked as I finished the dishes and made my way up to the office.
“No, I’m okay. I… well I’m dyslexic. It’s hard for me to read, and I’m really ADD so I’ve been ultra distracted tonight.” Jericho answered honestly.
“Oh, okay. I’m finished with the dishes, and everything else looks good.” I said, as I slid down the office door and removed my uniform hat.
“Okay, I’ll be done in a minute.” Jericho said as he ran the last remaining cash for deposit through the money counter, and typed the amount into the computer. “Wait… that can’t be right… is that right?”
“What?” I asked looking up at the screen.
“Those little parentheses mean it’s negative right?” Jericho asked pointing to the screen.
“Oh wow. Yeah. It’s $60 short.” I answered, standing up to double check the amount missing on the screen.
“How the hell…?” Jericho exclaimed frustrated, pulling everything out and recounting it by hand.
When he reached the same amount as before, he became really agitated.
“Oh my God. This is my till. I can’t afford to pay back sixty dollars. What the fuck?!” Jericho yelled, frustrated.
“Hold on, let me count it.” I said as I stepped around him and reset the counter.
He stood up from the chair and let me take a seat. I counted quickly and thoroughly three different times and always came up with the same result. Because I had worked in this store before I knew that when over full sometimes twenties had a tendency to get stuck out side of the till and in the actual cash drawer. I went through the motions and checked all of the usual hiding spots to no avail as Jericho paced back and forth nervously.
“I don’t know what to tell you. It’s definitely short, but it could just be in the safe. Did you make change tonight?” I asked, neatly organizing the money for deposit and stashing it in the safe.
“No, Trisha was here until ten when the safe locked out.” Jericho answered, still very agitated.
“There’s your problem. Her drawers and safe are always short. She can’t count, or she’s lining her pockets. I wouldn’t be surprised.” I answered with a sigh, and a shake of my head.
“Are you serious?” Jericho asked, looking directly into my eyes.
“Yeah, it’s been happening since I’ve known her. Of course no one can actually ever pin it on her because the money always reappears a day or two later. I told you she was trouble.” I answered honestly.
“Trisha? Really? I don’t believe that. Where is the security recording? I want to watch the tapes.” Jericho answered.
I took him back to the security recording equipment and he pulled the tape. We sat back in that small corner of the restaurant for nearly two hours scouring the security footage until we realized that the tape had been stopped, and the recording was of a completely different day. As his fate became more clear, Jericho began to start talking to himself more than me.
“They can’t take that money out of my check. It’s illegal.” He stated, as he returned the small television to the closet and reset the security recording.
“They can, because when you signed your new hire paper work there was a clause in it.” I said cautiously, watching Jericho get more agitated as the night went on.
“Fuck that. They can’t do that. I’ll call my dad in the morning.” Jericho spat as we made our way to the front doors to leave.
I thought it was weird that a grown man was going to call his dad over something so trivial as losing sixty dollars at work, but it was late, we were both tired, and he was clearly upset. I wasn’t going to ask. We walked out to the employee parking lot, and Jericho looked around for my car.
“Wait, where’s you car?” He asked
“Over there behind that van.” I answered sheepishly.
“Why did you park all the way over there?” He asked.
“Well… honestly when I first showed up tonight, I thought you were ignoring and avoiding me, so I parked over here so you wouldn’t see me and I could confront you. I wasn’t even going to come inside, I was just going to wait by the back door, but then I realized that I looked like a psycho creeping around so I went up to the doors. I kind of have problems with abandonment. It really freaked me out when you hung up on me.” I explained, tears welling up In my eyes once again as we changed direction and walked over toward my car.
“Abandonment?” Jericho asked, reserved and slightly concerned.
“Yeah… I mean I don’t know. My mom is always hanging up or leaving when she’s mad, and she always blames it on me. She always fought with my dad and then disappeared for up to days at a time. Tried to ship me off to foster care when I wouldn’t behave. It’s a whole lot, I don’t really want to get into it. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did. I’m working on it.” I explained.
“I wasn’t trying to be mean. We were just really busy, and I was pretty stressed out with the whole Anya thing, and the night was just shitty all the way around. I was going to call you later.” Jericho answered, finally softening his voice to the jovial, caring tone I was accustomed to. “And when I told you I was breaking up with Anya I wasn’t lying. I was going to break up with her, but then we talked about it and she said the chances of her getting a visa were pretty good so we decided to see what happens. I wasn’t trying to give you the wrong impression or anything. Are you sure you didn’t say anything to Trisha?”
“I told her about the pie, and she called me a home wrecker because you were out with Anya.” I answered, determined to stick to my guns. I had committed to the lie, and I was going to stick to it even though Jericho would have been okay with hearing the truth. I’m not sure why I chose to continue my ruse, but I did.
“Well, I was. We were at the mall. I just dropped her off at home before coming into work.” Jericho answered.
“I don’t know Jericho. It’s Trisha. She did the same thing with Dennie and I. She still teases me about Dennis, and she’s the whole reason I got shipped out of this store in the first place. I came in to help her when she was having a really bad shift and she tried to accuse me of theft, and told all these horrible stories about how I was out to get James and it was just a mess.”
“Well… don’t worry about it. Everything is okay, but it’s really late and I want to get out of here. Can I have a hug?” Jericho asked opening his arms. I don’t think he really believed me, but he was at least willing to let it go.
I obliged and leaned into him as he closed his arms around me. Other than the arm around me on the couch this was the first time we’d actually had any physical contact. It was comforting to be surrounded by his strength and fit snuggly under his arm. We stood there for a moment, and another tear slipped down my cheek. I sniffled slightly, and wiped my eyes as Jericho released me.
“Have a good night, okay? I’ll see you around.” Jericho said as he turned with a small wave and walked over to his car.
I waved in return and climbed into my own car feeling defeated. I had ruined my chances. Jericho wasn’t going to ever be anything more than a coworker after this mess. It wasn’t really a surprise as it had been too good to be true from the very start. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up, but I did. As I sat there in the parking lot waiting for my car to warm up I just let it all out and cried. When the tears eventually stopped, I headed home.