1.9 Leaps And Bounds

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The scene keeps repeating in my head. Every time I remember it, I come up with something better I could have said. I had the full attention of one of the richest, most powerful men in the world and I pulled another "pickles and peanut butter."

I guess "religious reasons" is somewhat true but now the entire staff thinks I'm a smelly, smoking, religious nut. I'll have to quit my job for sure now. I can't go back there. To make matters worse, I left so quickly I forgot my groceries in the hallway.

Another gurgle from my stomach reminds me I need to eat. I'll probably never set foot in this mall again, so I might as well go to the food court. Most of it is greasy fast food but there is a decent sushi spot. I have just enough cash for an eel roll and some sashimi.

I'm so hungry I gobble up 2 pieces almost at once. I don't want to hang around here too long. The people to the right of me are having fried chicken and biscuits, their lips covered in grease. I dip the third piece into the sauce, chewing quickly to make room for it. I'm thinking of more things I could have said to Armand but they all seem like lies. The people on my left are having sausage and pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.

Out of nowhere, Anabel appears and sits down across from me. I am so surprised I stop chewing. Am I imagining this?

"Hi there," she says.

I drop the piece of eel into the soy sauce and it splashes on my jacket. Ok this is real. She looks down at the tray in front of her, pretending not to notice.

"Hi. Hello. How are you," I greet her three times.

"Great, mind if I join you," she asks, already unwrapping her sandwich.

"Yes, I mean no, of course," I nod like a bobble head.

On her tray is a cheeseburger with fries and a soda. I blot my jacket with some bottled water and watch as she takes a gigantic bite of the burger.

With her mouth full she mumbles, "Srrh uhm sho hungrh."

I smile and casually reach for another piece. The ends of the chopsticks tremble in hands. Instead, I go for sip water. This will keep my hands and mouth busy.

Loud and bubbly as usual, she says, "It's so funny we've worked here so long and I've never seen you down here."

"I usually bag lunch," like a schoolboy. "Sometimes I go out to the square too," like a big boy.

"I bet you guys are super busy what with the E5 and all. Is that why you're all dressed up like that?" she asks, stabbing my heart with her kind eyes.

"Yeah."

She's wearing a cotton t-shirt, not one of those form fitting stretchy tops everyone wears. On it, colorful cartoon ponies dance under a rainbow. I realize I'm staring at her chest.

I blurt out; "Anabel is a nice name," something a 5-year-old child would say.

"Yeah, but call me Ana. Only my mom calls me Anabel," twisting her mouth in a cutesy way.

Her mother is probably my age.

"You're Tomás, right?"

"Yeah, well actually, it's pronounced 'Thomas'. My mother felt the 'H' was unnecessary," I'm already talking about my mother.

She laughs, "Oh listen to me; here I just assumed it was all exotic or something."

Something about her voice, the tone, the pitch, I find it both nurturing and seductive.

"How long have you worked here, Tomas?"

"I started about a year before you."

"You remember when I started?"

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