A few weeks went by with out any word from Jericho. I wasn’t surprised, but I was still pretty upset by it. We were working opposite schedules, and he was spending pretty much all of his free time with Anya before her departure. His store was on my way home, and several times I drove by seeing his car in the parking lot and flirted with the idea of stopping by to say hi. After the first incident of me stopping by had gotten so blown out of proportion I didn’t want to risk seeming like a creepy stalker, so I never did. Honestly I didn’t even know he still worked for the company until I saw his car in the parking lot driving by. I wasn’t avoiding him, but I wasn’t exactly making an effort to see him again either. That coupled with the fact that he was still in training and bouncing around from store to store made it difficult to “accidentally” run into him.
One evening in the middle of a particularly busy shift a crew member arrived in my dining room looking to borrow some product. I grabbed the cases of product he needed and sent him on his way. I told him I would fax the transfer sheet over when I had a free moment. When things finally slowed down and I was able to get the transfer sheet faxed over, I received a surprising phone call. The phone rang and I answered it with the classic: “Hello, how can I help you?”
“Kelli? It’s Jericho.” A warm familiar voice practically sang over the phone.
“Hey, what’s up?” I said trying not to let my pure excitement slip out in my voice.
“Do you work tomorrow night?” He asked.
“Nope, I’m off.” I answered not quite sure why he was asking.
“I’m supposed to close Beckett tomorrow and I don’t know how to do the weekly inventory. Would you be willing to stop by and give me a hand?”
“Sure, I guess I can, but I don’t know how to do any of the pizza side.” I answered, secretly thrilled that I would have an opportunity to see Jericho again, but trying not to get too excited.
“Yeah, neither do I. I don’t really even know how to close the pizza side. Linda had to go out of town and they didn’t have anyone to close so Stan asked me if I would go do it.” Jericho said.
It was weird and kind of uncomfortable how clinical and professional the conversation was, but at least it was something.
“Well as long as you have some one to do that stuff, I’ll help you out. I’ll be there after the dining room closes.” I replied.
“Awesome, thanks a lot. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Jericho said before hanging up the phone.
The rest of my night flew by, as did most of the next day. Since I closed my store the night before I slept until well into the evening, and as soon as I woke up I took the extra time and effort to shower and really pay attention to my hair and make up. By the time I was all done with that it was nearly time for me to meet Jericho. I left early and headed to the mall for a quick bite to eat and just to waste time. I was excited, but I was also very nervous to be seeing Jericho again for the first time since our encounter in the parking lot. I had brought a book with me to keep me occupied for the remainder of the night, since I wasn’t in uniform nor was I actually supposed to be working and I wasn’t getting paid. My plan had been to come in, help Jericho count and sit in the office until the end of the shift, quietly reading my book.
When I arrived the store was a disaster. Jericho was in the drive thru as usual, and there was only one crew member frantically trying to make food. The front register person was walking out the door as I was walking in, and things were generally in shambles. I waved to Jericho who nodded in acknowledgement and made my way back to the office to pull up the closing paperwork and get the ball rolling.
I sat down in the office chair, and opened my book tuning out the beeping and buzzing of the drive thru timer, and the clanging of the pans, and the general disorder of the place. I hadn’t read very far until Jericho popped around the corner into the office.
“Hey, long time no see.” Jericho said with a smile. “Thanks for coming in tonight. I hate counting, especially weekly counting. Too much reading.”
“Hey, no problem. What happened to the store?” I asked, putting a book mark into my book and turning to face Jericho.
“It was this way when I got here. It’s been so busy I haven’t had a chance to clean it up yet. We’ve been busy.” Jericho explained as he looked around at the mess. “I don’t think I’m even going to worry about it. Linda likes me, she’ll understand.”
“You can’t leave the store like this. I’m here!” I said, giving Jericho a look that said I valued my job, and was breaking a lot of rules just being there with out permission.
“Well I’m not going to just up and leave, but I’m not going to do anything above and beyond the basic cleaning stuff.” Jericho clarified.
“Well if I had known you were having a rough night I would have worn my uniform and helped you out with more than counting.” I said. “I guess I still can. I just can’t go up to the window or out in the dining room.”
“That would be AMAZING. After you help me with this counting stuff, right?” Jericho asked as he picked up the pile of paper work off of the printer.
“Yeah. It’s not that difficult.” I said, as Jericho pulled down a clip board and grabbed a pen.
We walked into the cooler and started counting the different products. He was only with me for a moment before he needed to return to his duties in the drive thru leaving me to count. I climbed up into the racks to get to boxes of product hidden or stashed as some things came up very short, and others very over. It wasn’t too much longer before Jericho returned and I showed him some tips and tricks to estimate open cases.
He was in a particularly jovial mood that evening, and in addition to counting in the walk in he was teasing me, and we were joking back and forth. It resulted in a lot of laughing, and loud bantering back and forth. It had never occurred to me that we had been in the walk in alone for almost an hour. Nothing other than counting had happened, but as Jericho walked out first, than I a few moments later with my hair all a mess from digging around on shelves the crew members began to tease us about being in the walk in together for too long. I didn’t immediately understand at first, until Jericho put his hands around my waist and said: “Yep, that’s right. Pizza isn’t the only thing in the oven now.” With a coy smile and cocky expression on his face.
“Jericho, knock it off.” I said with a smirk, batting his hands away. “No, thank you. Nothing happened.” I said directed at the crew as I turned to the computer to enter the numbers I had collected.
“Riiiiiiiight. You just came to “count”.” The crew laughed as they wandered out to the dining room to take a break before finishing their nightly duties.
“We were in the walk in for an awful long time.” Jericho said sort of to himself rather than to me as he watched me enter numbers.
“Yeah, I guess we were.” I replied not really invested in the conversation. “You’re missing like a case of cups according to this. Maybe I missed one.”
I returned to the store room looking all over the place for the missing inventory, but couldn’t find it. The crew had returned back behind the counter and were busy cleaning and getting things ready for the end of the day. Jericho was back in the drive thru taking orders and cleaning a little bit himself. The half of the restaurant we were familiar with was clean and put together, and we hadn’t really paid attention to the other half. Jericho had worked in the duel store before, but other than working a shift here and there I hadn’t really spent anytime in a duel store. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for as far as completion. So I left it up to him.
Soon the time came to shut off the lights and count the tills. Because it was the end of the week polling the registers took lots of extra time. The crew had gone home for the evening, and Jericho and I were yet again left alone. I didn’t have to stay, but he asked me to. He didn’t want to sit there alone waiting for the registers to poll. So I stayed. We talked by the front register for a while, until I began to shiver. We were there WELL past closing time and the heat had turned off for the night. I hadn’t brought a jacket, with me but as we stood there talking Jericho noticed that I was getting cold.
“Are you cold?” He asked, as I paced back and forth with my arms crossed.
“Yeah a little. I didn’t know it was supposed to get so cold out today.” I admitted.
“Here, I’ll share my coat. Put your arms around me. It’ll warm you up.” He offered, unzipping his coat.
I slid my arms around him, inside of his coat and stood there pressed up against him. We were still standing by the register waiting for it to complete it’s polling and I didn’t think anything of it at the time but we were also in prime view of the security camera. Jericho rested his arms on the small of my back as we continued our conversation. It was mid November and the subject of Thanksgiving had come up. I wasn’t looking forward to spending the holiday with my family. It was also my ex “boyfriend’s” birthday right around the holiday, which gave me another reason to avoid it and I shared my lament with Jericho.
“When’s this guy’s birthday?” Jericho asked.
“November 24th, why?” I answered.
“That’s my sister’s birthday.” He said. “We don’t really do anything as a family for Thanksgiving. Well my sister lives in Texas right now, and my parents usually go to Cancun. Last year they went on a cruise.”
“What do you do?” I asked.
“Nothing.” He answered with a hint of sadness in his voice.
“You’re going to be alone for Thanksgiving?” I asked, looking up into Jericho’s eyes.
“Well yeah, but it’s okay. I’ll just get drunk and watch football. The same thing I’d be doing with people around.” Jericho answered. It was meant to be a joke, but there was a depressing truth behind it.
“Awww! No! You can’t be ALONE on Thanksgiving! Come spend it with me and my family. I’m sure they won’t mind. They definitely won’t want you to be alone. No one should be alone on the holidays.” I insisted.
“It’s okay really. It’s just another day.” Jericho replied.
“It is not. I’ll ask Mom tomorrow and call you with details. Don’t make me come up to your apartment and feed you Thanksgiving food. I’ll do it.” I teased.
“Well okay. I guess if you’re going to MAKE me, I can come by for dinner.” Jericho said with a smile, as he hugged me a little tighter.
I hugged him a little tighter as well, and we both turned around to see how the register poll was going. For some reason something in the closing sequence went out of order and the registers weren’t polling correctly. An error message started flashing on the screen, and the computer in the back office started beeping in protest.
Jericho and I made our way back to the office, and I went through all the things I could think of to fix the polling problem to no avail. It was nearing six am, and we were both exhausted. Jericho sat down in the chair as I stood against the door frame, trying to figure out what had happened. We fought with the computer for a long time, and then Jericho decided to call another store for help. As he picked up the phone and dialed he looked over at me nodding impatiently trying to keep myself awake. He patted his knee, and mouthed: “Here have a seat.”
I obliged, sat across his knee, and laid my head against his shoulder which is where I remained until after yet another half an hour on the phone trying to figure out why the system wouldn’t cooperate, he decided that he was done fighting with it for the night. We shuffled out of the office and up towards the doors and the alarm system key pad. I was behind Jericho as he quickly set the alarm. I turned around to notice how much of a disaster the other half of the restaurant was. We had been here hours after close, and it was a complete wreck. That wasn’t good, especially since I wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place.
“Jericho! We can’t leave the pizza side like that! What is this water everywhere?” I asked frantically, but it was too late.
“Oh… well fuck it. I already set the alarm it’s too late to fix it now. Hurry we have to go.” Jericho answered gently urging me to exit the building.
I made my way to the front door with Jericho close behind me. The temperature had dropped even further and as soon as I walked out the door a cold wind blew sending goose bumps across my body. I crossed my arms and turned away from the wind as some light snow flurries began to fall.
“It’s snowing.” I said as Jericho pulled the doors shut, and turned to look out at the night sky.
“Wow yeah it is. Do you want my jacket? You look really cold.” Jericho offered as we both made our way over to our cars.
“No thanks, but I am going to get my car started and out of the cold. I’ll call you about Thanksgiving some time tomorrow. Good night.” I answered quickly opening my car door and popping in to start the ignition.
“Okay, drive safe. Have a good night.” Jericho replied with a small wave as he also hopped in his car.
We sat there for a moment until our cars had warmed up, and then with another small wave between us we were off.