I was eighteen the night I began to believe in ghosts. And that's not to say there wasn't good reason to believe before then, mind you. It wasn't when the Miller boy went missing from the Red Zone. Even though Grandpa said it was Penelope. He always knew that boy was no good and said Penelope taking him only proves it. I remember when they found his clothes tattered and torn right at the curve- her curve. And even with no body, I still didn't believe. I knew Joseph Miller, and yeah, he was a sleezeball and a jerk, but I'd known him since childhood. Usually the people that went missing were strangers, names I forget a month or so after they would disappear. It should have made me more wary of that park, that curve, that woman. It should have.
That night, I was ending my shift at work when an older looking white lady pushed past Louis to get in the door as he was locking up for closing. She carried a slightly ripped "The Burger Joint" bag in one hand and her receipt in the other. Her face had a deep scowl. I let out a quick breath in preparation for whatever she was about to say. Something about the way her face was scrunched up told me it wouldn't be nice. Louis gave me a small shrug, locked the door, and went back to sweeping the lobby.
Great, it would be on me to deal with this.
"I asked for no tomatoes and no ketchup. It's even written here on the damn receipt," she said, thrusting the crumpled slip of paper in my face. Her fingers smelled of mud, like that smell of dirt after a fresh rain. It was such a weird smell for the middle of October but it was only the second offensive thing she'd done in my book. The first being her mistake in thinking I had anything to do with her food being made. I bit down on my lip and took a step back, putting up my hands in front of me to create some distance between us.
A man appeared at the entrance and banged his fist against the glass, making us both jump. I looked from her, to the man, and then at Louis. Louis dropped the wide broom and quickly went to unlock the door. Lot of sense that made. The man walked in and stood behind her, peering over her shoulder and down at me. His presence would've been more intimidating except I could see the holes where teeth should've been clear as day. I bit down on my lip harder to hide that I actually felt sorry for him. He gave me a smirk and a head nod that was cringe-worthy.
"Are you not seeing this?" she said, pushing the receipt back in my direction.
Everything in me wanted to tell that lady, and the man with her, to take the receipt and sandwich and put it in a place that the sun don't shine. Luckily, Patricia was the one working the grill, while I was the sandwich artist all week. I knew this would be her fault, regardless of what she said because the receipt cleared me of any wrongdoing. I do love technology.
When I reached for the receipt to return her money, she looked very angry. So angry that I actually thought she might try to hit me. Her dark brown eyes held a gaze that seemed downright disrespectful.
"Aren't you the one that took my order?" she said.
"Yes ma'am. No tomatoes, no ketchup, two cups of water but one with no ice. And two kids meals with apple juice." The answer tumbled out like I'd memorized them. I couldn't help but feel a tinge of pride at how quick my mind replayed the memory of the woman wrangling three unruly children.
"I want a refund and I want my food made correctly," she said. She slammed the bag of food on the counter so hard I jumped.
I looked from her then to the bag, Louis, and finally the tall man. I couldn't get a read on him. He was standing too close to be her father, and the way his eyes fondled my frame- he couldn't have been her man, could he? I got ready to tighten my jaw then took a moment to think. I was not trying to end my night on a bad note.
YOU ARE READING
In this introductory short story to the Penelope's Curve Collection, readers are immersed into the night that changed Sophie Lawrence's life forever. She's always known 'don't go there at night, and you'll be alright', but what happens when Sophie d...