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Looking at her cell phone to check the date, Tricia confirmed it was the 22nd. Staring at the single shelf of the remaining four packs of yogurt cups, she also confirmed that the three raspberry packs were dated the 18th. Doing very simple math, she ascertained that unless she binged on them, eating all six by tomorrow, that at least four would go bad.
Stepping forward and putting both hands on the glass, she raised up on her tippy toes and saw several to the rear, far out of her reach, although she could not check the dates. Turning her body around in a complete circle looking for any employee who could help, and not finding anyone, she spun and tried again. Stopping facing the glass door, she opened it and stretched upward. Reaching her small arms inside as far as they would go, she briefly saw the face of a woman looking back at her, and then she was gone.
Nikki looked upon the girl and left the cooler to try to catch her before she left and gave up. Taking the first steps at a run, she pushed open the panel doors without looking through them first, nearly crushing Tricia in the process. Unable to move quick enough to avoid the swinging doors due to her bad knee, Tricia found herself falling backwards in slow motion. The woman who had just hit her with the doors reached out and caught her before she hit, righting her on her own two feet.
“Easy cupcake. I’m sorry the doors hit you, but I wanted to know how I could help?” Nikki asked.
Tricia’s knee hurt, badly, but it could have been worse, she thought, turning to face the woman wearing a white smock.
“Raspberry yogurt. The ones in front are expired. I need to know the date of the ones in back, and I need a few, 2 or 3 boxes should do,” she stated.
“Alright. Come with me please, just inside and please, mind the doors,” Nikki said smiling.
Not waiting for the short in stature, tall in demeaner red head to follow, Nikki went inside. Reaching the inner cooler doors, she paused only long enough to see a hand coming toward her before grabbing it and yanking hard. Tricia felt her right shoulder explode in pain and her arm pull out its socket, popping back into place just in time for her face to miss the doors. Her screams were muffled inside the cooler, but Nikki heard them full blast; the sharp, piercing, biting screams of a teenager.
The girl in front of her being pulled in deeper into the cooler had the look of abject horror on her face. She was a young, petite little red head with excessive freckles, a short woman with a small trunk (her legs were longer than her upper body.) Keeping hold of her hand, she pulled her closer and kicked her in the stomach, before taking her to the ground. As Tricia struggled to escape, she changed her focus from screaming to trying to breathe.
Reaching to her left, Nikki grabbed a roll of bubble wrap and went to town. Starting with the center of Tricia’s unbalanced body, she began wrapping her up. It didn’t take much to keep her arms at her sides, Tricia was quite thin; this was mainly due to eating a vegan lifestyle, coupled with being a runner on her high school track team. In short, she was easy picking for a predator with attitude, Nikki thought. Pulling the girl underneath her instead of climbing up, she dominated her prey, sending horror throughout the girl’s body; it showed on her face. That horror was renewed when Nikki took the bubble wrap up as high as her face, wrapping twice around before telling her to shut up.
“Stop squeaking, you little mouse. Shut up or I’ll hurt you real good,” Nikki said loud enough for the girl to hear through the plastic around her head.
Sami sat in her car on yet another stakeout, bored out of her mind. It was afternoon now, and try as she might, Sami couldn’t help to feel a little tired, and possibly, in need of a nap. She spent her time taking notes and watching patients and employees alike come and go. Beside her on the passenger seat were at least three different types of chips, a bag of pretzels, and a bag of snack-size candy bars. On the floorboard was the remnants of her lunch from the Olive Garden. Looking down at the large bag full of goodies, she remembered her dinner with James. To sum it up, she would say the food was good, and the company was great. She learned a lot from James and his experiences at Physio, and even more about her choices for dinner.
Moving her snacks away from her, she placed her bowl of soup and her lunch in their place. What she was eating today for lunch was far different from what she enjoyed for her dinner with James. She was having gnocchi soup, a small salad, and their tour of Italy, without breadsticks. Thinking on whether or not she missed the breadsticks, she did miss them, but chose a slightly lower calorie lunch; I know right, she thought, or IKR, if she was sending text messages or emails.
Writing more notes between taking soup breaks, Sami wrote down that Nick did not appear to be working today. She didn’t know if he was off if he had changed his schedule or if he didn’t’ show up. Another two sips of soup, and she decided to go and find out. Replacing the cover on her gnocchi, she placed it safely on the passenger floorboard, took her cell phone, her keys, and got out.
Sporting her unusually large and heavy looking metal cane, she stood beside her car door and mashed the button to lock her car. Step after step, she slowly walked towards the front door, milking it by exaggerating her condition, and continuing to watch who came and left. It took an eternity for her to get there, during which several people stopped to hold the door for her, until deciding that she was taking too long, and moving on, thinking that someone else would hold it for her instead. Sami thought that was funny, and a few times, she slowed down when someone was standing by the door. Sami laughed inside at this; she dare not laugh for someone trying to help her to see.
Finally, Sami was close enough for someone to help her by holding the door. She smiled and nodded, as she passed the young man with a cast on his arm. Moving slowly inside, she approached the main desk. Before she got there, two different employees made beelines to intercept her. Sami spoke to the first person to approach before they went into their company’s script.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m trying to reach Nick. He was a referral for me; is he in today?”
Tom looked around to verify Nick had not come in today, before turning to her and telling the nice lady he had switched his schedule.
“I was just checking that he had not changed his mind, but Nick took today off. Is there anything that I can assist with?” he kindly asked.
“Oh, no. It’s all right. I’ll come back Friday to see him,” she finished.
“Well, if it’s important, he’ll be back in tomorrow, sometime in the afternoon, I think. I can check for you if you like, Miss?” he asked.
“No worries. I’ll just come back tomorrow. Thank you for your time, young man,” she said, turning around and walking to the door.
He moved to her side, easily beating her to the door, and held it until she was through. Have a good day, she heard over her shoulder as she kept walking to her car. There was her answer. If you changed your schedule, Nick, what are you doing, she thought? Getting situated in her car, she chose to take her soup and salad home, and started to attack Italy.
It was just shy of four in the morning and Tamara was leaning against the door, waiting for the shop to open. She had been here for over twenty minutes because she wanted to make sure she would be first for the goodies. Moments later the exterior lights came on and a small Korean man walked to the front door. He turned the closed sign over to open, he pulled on a short metal chain turning on a bright red neon sign, and he reached to unlock the door. She smiled as she went inside and followed the man to the glass display case full of pastries.
Perusing all the goodies, she decides to go with quality for her, and quantity for Earl.
“I’ll have two of each the chocolate ones in front, and from the tray on the right, three each of those crème filled ones. After that, I’ll take a dozen glazed please,” she sleepily said.
Smiling back, the man who’s name she could not pronounce if she were to try, nodded and smiled. Taking a sip of his coffee, he took a tissue and started packing her order. The smell of vanilla wafted past the counter and hovered gently in the air in front of her.
“I don’t suppose I could have one of those, could I?” Tamara said as she looked at the man’s coffee.
“Sure thing, I’ll grab you a large cup in a few,” he said with an accent.
Her smile was payment enough, he charged her for three dozen donuts and gave her a cup of his fresh brewed pot of vanilla shortbread coffee, free of charge.
“Thanks for being open!” she said smiling as she juggled her goods and opened the door.
“Thanks for stopping by!” he replied, smiling large enough for both of them.
Managing to get the hatchback of her Toyota open without incident, she placed the boxes of donuts behind her back seat, side by side. Closing the door, she grabbed her coffee and sipped on it as she sat down in the driver’s seat. She was headed across town to her favorite bowling alley, Strike Ten. If she was asked about why she liked going there instead of the smaller, older place not two streets away from her house, she would give you the professional response.
It was the closest professional lanes, and the newest, blending technology with nostalgia; it was an overall pleasurable experience bowling there. What she really thought was, well it was newer, it was larger, and it offered today’s technology with the nostalgia of yesterday; it was hard being a semi-professional bowler, and a stellar influencer, she thought smiling.
Tamara’s opinions were carefully crafted for today’s brand of social media; being a semi-professional bowler with a ranking not quite yet good enough to go pro, she had to be cautious. It was O.K. to be outspoken, to have opinions, she just had to be cautious. Thinking of her donuts and enjoying her coffee as she drove, she didn’t notice the headlights turn on and follow her as she left the bakery’s parking lot.
With being as cautious as she was about how she was portrayed in the media, and given her safe driving record, and even her skills at checking her mirrors when she drove to always know what vehicles were around her; she paid no attention to the same pair of headlights following behind her, all the way to her destination. In her defense, it was early, and she was hungry.
Looking down at her donuts, Tamara quickly sorted through them. She took one dozen for her friend Earl, one for her, and left the last dozen for later in her car. When she walked in, she would make sure to hand him the plain glazed ones, keeping the box of crème-filled for herself. The last sips of her coffee were as good as the first, but alas, it was the last. Leaving the empty cup in the back besides the extra donuts, she closed the hatch and walked to the front door.
Standing in front of the door, with the business hours clearly posted for all to see, Tamara dialed a cell number and waited. After a brief conversation with Earl, he told her he would be right there, and ended the call.
“Now you know I can’t pass up a dozen of America’s greatest glazed! Come on in, Tamara!” Earl said, accepting his bribe with pride.
Sami woke up half rested, and fully sure that she was already behind in today’s goals. It was already late in the afternoon, and she still didn’t feel rested. Panic set in. Sitting straight up in her bed, she could not remember the last time she bought milk, eggs, coffee? Coffee?! All right. Tonight, on the way home, no matter when that was, I’m stopping to get some basics, she thought. What if there was a run on toilet paper? What if it showed? Was it the first of the month, where all the old people were buying up all the good things? These thoughts flooded her mind. She needed coffee!
Taking a deep calming breath, Sami got out of bed. Picking out today’s clothes, she remembered her ‘leakproof undies,’ as she was now calling them, and dressed accordingly. Walking slowly into her kitchen, she refilled the reservoir on her coffee maker with filtered water from her refrigerator, and happily waited for her coffee to finish abusing the coconut-flavored pod-twice, before adding the goodies to her cup. Taking it over to her kitchen table, she then booted up her laptop.
Sami didn’t know why she didn’t start the laptop first, put in a pod, sit, wait, and tidy everything up before starting to work; she blamed not enough caffeine present in her blood to help her think properly; something she was going to correct right now, She thought, as she sipped on her coffee. Standing up abruptly, she remembered her earlier thoughts. Taking another sip of her coffee, she took her cup with her over to the refrigerator and opened the door. Glancing around at all the barren real estate, she assessed her situation. Three eggs, an almost full half gallon of expired milk, and half a roll of toilet paper. Toilet paper, in the refrigerator? Seriously? I’m losing my friggin’ mind, she thought.
Taking the toilet paper, she shook her head, and sadly closed the door. Sami stood staring at the toilet paper, and decided to never mention this to anybody, before throwing it away in the trash. Thinking she was behind; Sami skipped her usual news sites and went straight into her email. She started the app, then went to the bathroom. Nothing gets things moving like caffeine, she thought, closing the door, and putting on the fan.
With nothing in her inbox that she cared to read, in particular, nothing from CotD, she quickly closed her app and logged out. After her screen was black, she closed her laptop, and for whatever reason, she disconnected her power supply, and carried it into her bedroom. Placing it under the middle of the bed, she headed to Physio. Sami didn’t know why she had the urge to hide her laptop, she just did. Forgoing her coffee because she was late, she grabbed a loaf of bread, an unusually light jar of peanut butter, and a plastic knife, putting them into a plastic bag before leaving.
Pulling into the parking lot, it was already half full. Circling the lot to find a good place to watch the front door, she passed a taco truck. Here’s your sign, she said out loud. It was obvious that the extra vehicles were for the impromptu visit from the lunch truck. Finding the best spot possible, she pulled in and parked. Sami had not been on the right side, not this far over, anyway. Having not eaten breakfast, and with it being nearly lunch, she decided to keep the food she brought for an emergency and go get some tacos.
Sami had a general rule when it came to eating out; the prettier face, the higher it was up on her list, and the more she wanted it. Walking slowly over to the taco truck with the help from her cane, she read the side for the menu. The reasoning behind it, was that when she was younger, she used to hunt. Preferring a bow to her 12-gauge shot Mossberg, she went each year around the holidays and did what she could to have fresh game for her special meal. After her illness took over, she lost her ability to easily go out in the woods, so now she chose to enjoy her nature this way.
The line was long, and by the overall amount of people present, Sami assured herself that indeed, there was no way all these people worked here. Being a part of the crowd, Sami took this time to mingle and look around for people she might know. She didn’t see anyone she was investigating, and no one she knew as a friend. Waiting her turn patiently, and frequently shifting her weight from foot to foot, she was finally able to place her order.
“Two lamb tacos, hold the guacamole please,” she said.