Chapter Two

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Writer's Note— Did you guys want pictures of characters and such? Or more pictures in general?

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Just as Trace was leaving Jules walked in looking stressed. I fulfilled a few orders while she put on an apron, some nitrile gloves and tied her hair into a low ponytail before putting on the customary store baseball cap. She came up to me while my line waned in numbers.

"Sorry." Jules began in a rush. "It's just something came up and I know you hate working cash, Darius, but I'm really sorry I'm late. Ralphie just can't stand to be alone and me and Justin are still splitting up. So—" she inhaled deeply but I was already tired of hearing it.

The morning rush was effectively done and at this time we typically took one of the girls off of cash to do some light cleaning and help refill the displays. "You're two hours late." I said quietly, cashing out my last customer and closing out the till.

"I'm sorry, Darius. It won't happen again."

"It's not like I'm your boss, Jules." I said sharply, annoyed by the entire morning.

Her head bobbed aggressively, pony tail bouncing. "Okay, I'm still sorry."

My anxiety attack was still waiting in the wings to ruin my day so I told Jules to count the till and report to Maureen, our manager who came in after the morning rush was done, even as I felt my vision tunnelling and my breath falling short.

I walked towards the back, feeling sweat slip down between my shoulder blades and trail down my back.  The only place I could quietly freak out was the all gender washroom the shop had. I was already struggling to breathe and my heart was beating with such an intensity it felt like my ribs were breaking. I went towards the hallway that lead towards the kitchen, opened what looked like a janitor's closet and turned on the light to the bathroom.

I already couldn't breathe by the time I started pacing the small space. I stumbled, sitting down on the lidded toilet seat and clenched my fists, trying to count. "One, two, three, four, five, six." Heaving, shaking and trying not to cry. "Se—seven, eight, nine, ten." I practiced more deep breathing exercises, telling myself most of the customers would probably forget about the disaster, that I was over reacting, that I'd get over it. But it felt like a pipe dream to think I would get over this sensation of walls caving in, and like death at the very moment would be better than the sense of profound embarrassment my anxiety gave me.

Most of the time, my anxiety allowed me to function, but too much would trigger an eventual anxiety attack. Like today. Working cash during rush hour set me on edge and the customer only pushed me over it. For about five minutes I choked, shuddered and shook while my chest ached, and I felt like some kind of darkness was consuming me.

Self loathing washed over me as I kept counting to ten slowly and my breaths finally evened as the anxiety attack came to an end. And then the exhaustion set in. I was basically drenched in sweat and my muscles were sore from clenching so hard.

I left the bathroom after washing my face and went to the change room to change shirts and reapply deodorant. I always brought two or three in case I sweated up a storm. It was embarrassing but better than having a sweat drenched t-shirt.

Back in the kitchen Mitchell was packaging one of our catering orders when I walked in. The rest of the morning staff were here as well, moving around Mitchell easily in their white uniforms and aprons.

Mitchell gave me a knowing look and I knew he wanted to discuss my absence. He was the only person who knew how debilitating my anxiety attacks could be. During his first week, I'd disappeared into a janitorial closet to shake and shudder alone and he'd found me, thinking I was having some kind of medical attack. It had taken a lot to convince him not to call an ambulance. Sometimes, Mitchell being African made it worse because my parents were originally from West Africa and Mitchell frequently looked to me as someone he needed to look after and take of.

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