Warning: This work has been rated 16+.
Where Mike Murphy acts like a stalker and where we meet our MP at work. To find out who Mike Murphy is, read Chapter 8.
“Hello. Welcome to Carmen’s Burgers. May I take your order, please?”
I always made sure to inject some extra cheer in my voice. I had long found out that even pain-in-the-ass customers tended to be on their best behavior when you pretended you were glad to see them. Sakes was so good at this game that they started smiling on the security screen just from his saying, “Hello.”
“Number 10. Extra pickles, extra fries.”
No thanks, no hello, no please, no nothing. In a drier tone, I replied, “$6.85. Next window.”
I cashed in the guy, as unsmiling as he was. Another car entered the drive-thru.
“Hello. Welcome to Carmen’s Burgers. May I take your order, please, ma’am?”
Same cheer. It was sometimes hard to maintain this level of buoyancy all day long, but I tried not to be rude to customers just because the people before them were jerks.
“Hi,” the young woman replied hesitantly. “Uh…I’ll have a…Uh, a small burrito. The one with guacamole and chicken?”
“Alright, a small chicken-guacamole. Anything else?”
“Uh, maybe a small coke and a dessert?”
“Listen, ma’am, the small chicken-guacamole, plus the small coke, that’s $6.50. Why don’t you take a Cajita? It’s five dollars. That’s our children’s menu. You can have the small chicken-guacamole and a small side of beans or a small fries, plus a small drink – why not a coke? And you can have a small ice-cream for dessert. We’ve got peach flavor right now!”
She laughed. “Thanks. With fries, then, a coke and plain vanilla ice-cream.”
“Excellent choice, ma’am. It’ll be five dollars. You can pay and pick up at the window.”
“Okay. Thanks again.”
She drove up to the window. She was a pretty, little thing, but I didn’t hit on her as I cashed her order. I was clad entirely in green, white and red polystyrene, from my cap to the tip of my rubber overshoes. Anyone who saw me in this and wasn’t immediately turned off had issues.
I jumped and glared at Colleen, whom I hadn’t seen approach.
“Just doing my job,” I told her defensively, scratching my head where it itched under the cap.
She grinned at me over the pile of guacamole sauce bags in her arms. “Just doing your best to make a stranger’s night a little brighter.”
I blushed. I never knew how to react when people said nice things about me. Luckily, it didn’t happen often. I let out a soft hissing sound between my teeth.
“Need help?” I asked.
I was about to relieve her of some of the guacamole when the drive-thru’s gate rang. I glanced at the surveillance screen and I gritted my teeth together at the sight of the beat-up, old Volvo rumbling up to the kiosk. It stopped, and an annoyingly familiar face popped on my screen.
“That’s the guy, right?” Colleen asked, reading me like Carmen’s menu.
Instead of answering, I turned on the mic. “Carmen’s Burgers. May I take your order?”
“H-Hi,” Mike Murphy stammered. “Just a small fries.”
“$1.50. Next window.”
I turned off the mic and glanced at Colleen. She was still peering curiously at the screen over her pile of guacamole. “He looks normal,” she said.
“One small fries, though,” she added, an eyebrow raised. “Sounds like he’s pretty broke.”
I very pointedly looked away. Her expressive face was quickly morphing from curiosity to compassion. Her plump mouth was softening, the liquid brown of her eyes was warm. I tried to fill the entire window frame. I didn’t want Mike to catch sight of her behind me and to realize he had gained an ally.
“H-hi,” he greeted me with that tentative smile of his.
“$1.50,” I said, feeling like I was kicking a puppy.
Instead of fading, the smile turned sad. “Of-f course.”
He handed me the coins, still warm from his hand. I couldn’t help noticing that it was loose change. He did appear to be low in funds.
“Thanks. Perfect. Here are your fries. Don’t come back.”
He didn’t reply, and I sighed as he drove around the restaurant.
“Oh, honey,” Colleen said. “He’s definitely coming back.”
“I know. He’s been in the parking lot all day. Buys fries every hour or so.”
She made a face. “He must be really worried about his brother.”
“Shut up,” I said, but without heat.
She stared at me for a couple of seconds, then she blinked and smiled. “Come on, help me carry those suckers.”
I did, only too glad to drop the subject. I thought Colleen was done and it surprised me when, out of nowhere, she told me, “If he’s really bothering you, I’ll tell him when he comes in.”
“Why would he come in?”
“Darling, get real.” She gave me her “get real” look. “He’s been eating Carmen’s fries all day. That guy’s going to need a bathroom real soon. Real bad.”
It made me laugh, but I sobered up quickly. There was nothing funny about the entire mess. “Stay out of it, Colleen. Please.”
Read Chapter 10 to see Bitter's façade start to crack.