It was exciting that Jericho and I had been able to completely renew our friendship after the incident with Trisha. I was a completely nervous wreck that he would be spending time with my family on Thanksgiving, especially with my mom and her immediate suspicion of him. I knew that my family would welcome him into our home with out second thought, especially since he was going to be alone, so that wasn’t what concerned me. I was concerned that being in the same room with him my attraction to him would be immediately obvious. Anya had returned home to Bulgaria, and he hadn’t heard from her in several weeks. He took it as a sign that the relationship had ended so by all rights he was a single man again. That wasn’t going to be an issue.
The only other thing I was kind of worried about was the fact that he was SO out spoken, SO vulgar, and SO brash he would come across as massively offensive toward my grandparents, who were the stereotypical mega conservative fire and brimstone Baptists. Thanksgiving was a few days away so I would have time to talk to Jericho and make sure he was on his best behavior. I only hoped that his best behavior matched up to acceptable behavior in my family’s eyes.
As promised the next day when I was heading out the door to work, I found my mom and asked: “Mom, is it okay if Jericho joins us for Thanksgiving? His parents are in Cancun and his sister is in Texas. He’ll be all alone.”
Mom paused for a moment: “Jericho? Is this the same Jericho who brought you the pie?” she asked.
“Yes, mom. It’s the same Jericho who brought me the pie.” I answered, annoyed.
“Why isn’t he spending the holiday with his girlfriend?” Mom asked. It was a valid question, but I didn’t want to get into the messy details of Anya being Bulgarian and returning home to get her visa and possibly breaking up with him.
“She’s Bulgarian, and had to go home to renew her visa. He hasn’t spoken to her in a few weeks.” I answered honestly, trying to keep it as vague as possible.
“Oh well, I suppose it’s okay. He definitely doesn’t need to be alone during the holidays. We’re eating around 4pm at your grandparent’s.” Mom finally relented. “Maybe he can bring one of his famous pies for dessert?”
“Ha ha. Yeah, sure. I’ll let him know.” I said turning to leave.
As promised, I called Jericho on my way to work. He answered on the second ring, which was pretty unusual for him.
“Hey.” He said with sleep heavy in his voice.
“Hey, so I talked to my mom, and it’s cool if you want to join us for Thanksgiving. We’re eating at 4pm and if you could bring a pie that would be awesome.”
“Okay. Have you heard from Stan today?” Jericho asked. “He called me like three times this morning.”
“Noooo… why?” I asked pretty confused as to why Stan would be calling me and Jericho for the same reason.
“I don’t know. He said something about the close last night, but I wasn’t really paying attention.” Jericho said as a matter of fact.
Immediately I realized what Jericho was talking about. The close had been terrible, and because I was the senior manager in the equation it was my responsibility, not truly Jericho’s. True, it wasn’t my shift, but that wouldn’t matter. In fact I had gotten myself into MORE trouble by being there when I wasn’t supposed to be, AND leaving behind a giant mess. As I pulled into the parking lot at my store, my suspicions were confirmed. Stan was there waiting for me to arrive.
“Uh oh. Stan’s here. I’m at work. I guess I’m about to hear all about it.” I said with a tone of defeat in my voice.
“Shit… well, don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it. Just listen to what he has to say and call me later, okay?” Jericho said, sounding a bit more alert than he had when he first answered.
“Okay. Talk to you later.” I said with a sigh as I ended the call, gathered my things and made my way inside.
It was true there was any number of other reasons that Stan could have been at the store, but intuition told me he was there to speak to me. As I walked through the door, he motioned me over to the table he was sitting at in the dining room.
“Annie, I need to talk to you.” He said.
“Okay, hold on.” I answered, trying to appear as innocent and surprised to see him as I could.
I dropped my things off in the office, grabbed a drink and headed out to the dining room, ready to face my punishment. I saw my book, and a hat which I had inadvertently left behind when Jericho rushed me out the door setting on the table next to Stan, so before I even sat down I knew what was coming.
“Annie, why were you at Beckett last night?” Stan asked directly, with just a hint of accusation in his voice that made me immediately tense.
“Jericho called and said he needed help with the weekly close and counting, he asked me if I would help and I did.” I answered honestly.
“That’s not what I heard from the closing crew, and besides that the store was an absolute mess when Linda arrived this morning.” Stan said.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, genuinely confused at what Stan had implied with his reference to the closing crew.
“When I couldn’t get a hold of Jericho this morning we pulled the security tapes to see what happened last night. Jericho has never left a mess like that. What we saw was the two of you being highly unprofessional. Sitting on his lap in the office, and cuddling by the front register. Not to mention that you weren’t even supposed to be there, nor where you in uniform, and you left these things behind. I’m really disappointed in you two. You know what you did was against the rules. That’s what we saw on camera, what we heard from the crew is that you spent a lot of time together in the walk in. I don’t know what did or didn’t happen during that time, but with everything else we saw it doesn’t look good.” Stan said, cutting off any attempt I made to defend myself. “So, I have several write ups here for you to sign, and you will no longer be allowed to work with Jericho.”
I was probably more offended than I should have been by the accusations coming from Stan, but because they had also come from Trisha, and my mother I finally had enough. Stan was the last straw on the camels back so to speak, and he got the brunt of my frustration.
“Are you serious?! Nothing happened! We were COUNTING in the walk in, which is the whole damn reason I was there in the first place! When you checked the tapes didn’t you also see me wandering around with a clip board? COUNTING? Entering the numbers in the computer?” I yelled.
“Annie, the counts were completely off, and the closing sequence wasn’t done correctly. Not to mention the mess left behind. Now you can either sign these write ups or turn in your keys and leave. I’m not giving you any other options.” Stan replied firmly, also raising his voice.
I reluctantly, and spitefully signed the papers presented to me, snatched my book and hat from Stan and stormed off back behind the counter. Really I was lucky to get away with just a few write ups considering that everything I had done was more than enough grounds to fire me, but it still irritated me. Especially since Stan was the one who had forced me to work with Jericho in the first place, and now he was sitting here telling me that I wasn’t allowed to. He was completely in the right, and I knew it which made me just that much more upset about the circumstances.
I was also pretty upset with Jericho for dropping the ball on his responsibilities. I had only been there to help with the counts, I hadn’t been paying attention to the rest of the close and trusted Jericho to finish everything. Only when it was too late to clean up the mess did I notice. I understood that as the senior manager it technically was my responsibility, but I was upset none the less. It certainly wasn’t the greatest way to start my evening, and the rest of my shift followed suite. After the dinner rush, when I had some extra time I called Jericho.
“Hey.” He answered after several rings.
“Yeah. So, we’re not allowed to work together anymore, I got written up for like three different things, and apparently we were screwing around in the walk in all night. Not working.” I fired off, still really heated about the entire mess.
“I know. I just got off the phone with Stan. If it makes you feel any better I got written up too, and they’re sending me to Kemper for like six weeks for training. I hate Kemper.” Jericho replied, obviously just as annoyed with the situation as I was.
We were both guilty and we knew it, but we were going to be hard pressed to admit it.
“Why do you hate Kemper?” I asked, momentarily moving on from our offense, to other things.
“I don’t like Lynda. She’s all high and mighty about her store, and how she knows everything. It just rubs me the wrong way.” Jericho answered honestly.
“I like Lynda, and Kemper was my favorite store. I think once you get in there you’ll be okay. She’s a good person.”
“I guess. So Thanksgiving, where am I supposed to be at what time?” Jericho asked.
We discussed where to meet and when for Thanksgiving day. Jericho wasn’t the best with directions, or being punctual so we decided to meet at McDonald’s as we had before and he would follow me over to my grandparent’s house. After we figured out our plans for Thanksgiving we continued to talk as much as the flow of customers would allow. It was as if getting into trouble together we had formed a bond, or sense of camaraderie. Not only were we good friends, we were partners in crime. It was nice to have some one else in my corner. I had spent so long being the outcast or scapegoat I had almost forgotten the rules applied to other people aside from myself. It certainly didn’t seem that way at the time. It was also nice to have some one to commiserate with about how we seemed to get into trouble more than others for doing things that while technically “against the rules” made much more sense as far as customer service, or maintaining our sanity under all of the constant stress that our profession afforded to us.
Jericho and I didn’t always agree on solutions to the same problems, but we did both acknowledge that they were in fact problems, and we both spent the majority of our time trying to find solutions. When we were focused on our work we were exceptionally good managers, we only had the fatal flaw of getting distracted or stuck on trivial little things that caught our nerves. Honestly, the fact that while taking different sides of the argument more often that not, that we reacted so strongly to certain situations is probably what drew me to him in the first place. My entire life people had been telling me how wrong it was to react with gusto and passionate argument. How expressing my opinion and feelings was immature and unacceptable. Despite every fiber of my being railing against these accusations, I had willfully complied until meeting Jericho. He opened my eyes to a completely new view on life, and it was one that I could relate to and embrace. It was thouroughly and completely intoxicating. I fell in love with the idea of Jericho many years before I actually fell in love with the man, which in itself was scary. Opening up to people before about the things going on in my head had only ended badly. While I trusted Jericho more than anyone else with the secrets of my insanity I still wasn’t ready to completely open up to him. Really it was because I wasn’t ready to accept those parts of myself, so I kept silent.
We talked for so long that eventually Jericho’s battery died on his phone. We said quick good byes, with the promise to talk later, and I finished my shift. I made my way quickly home and called Jericho as I was laying in bed trying desperately to shut off my brain and fall asleep. We spoke until the sound of his voice eventually lulled me to sleep. The most peaceful sleep I had experienced in quite a while. I was excited at what the promise of the future would bring for Jericho and I and as my eyes closed I smiled.