The next week fell into a routine. I arrived at work and went straight to the kitchen with Ms. Mary. She talked much more than Fran and her stories were entertaining. She told me all about her two daughters and seven grandchildren. One daughter lived in Michigan with five daughters of her own. The other daughter lived in Georgia, and she had a girl age nine and one little boy who was loved immensely by a family full of girls. Her life raising her daughters made me realize just how dysfunctional my life with Jessica would sound. I imagined my life being as full and normal as Ms. Mary's. I knew I could one day make a life just as full of family and love as she seemed to have. I often daydreamed of a life like the one she told me about.
My first afternoons with Mr. Greg began a little tense since he wasn't real fond of having a teenage girl helping him, but after a day of not having to get on his arthritic knees he seemed to appreciate my being there. After my fourth day, Mr. Greg and I sat and played chess out in the gazebo when our workdays ended. He beat me each time, but I picked up on it and promised him my skills would improve, and one day I would beat him. I saw Marcus in the evenings when we all sat around the table and enjoyed a bowl of soup and salad. Ms. Mary always sent a plate of food home for Jessica, and I suspected she sent it for my sake. Somehow without my telling her, she seemed to understand how my life at home functioned. After Marcus got off work, he always drove me and my bike home. Ms. Mary hired another server Marcus suggested. He was working out well and things seemed to run smooth with the staff and family. Sunday morning arrived before I knew it.
I lay in bed, covering my face from the bright sunlight streaming in the windows. It was good to not have to jump up and get ready. I enjoyed my job, but I also enjoyed sleeping late. I yawned and stretched.
Today, I would be going out with a friend. I was more excited than the normal person would be, but I couldn't help it. I sat up and rubbed my face, trying to wake up enough to go eat breakfast. It was still really quiet in the house, but Jessica normal y slept til' eleven every day. I went to the kitchen and fixed myself a bowl of Peanut Butter Crunch, and then went to sit on the piece of slab outside our back door. The sun glistened off the water, and it warmed me as I enjoyed my bowl of cereal. Today felt like my first real day of summer. Today, I would be able to go do something a seventeen year old would do.
"What are you eating?" Jessica asked as she walked out the door, or more like waddled out the door. "Peanut Butter Crunch cereal," I replied and took another bite.
She sank down in the lawn chair beside me and sighed. "Do you love me?" I rolled my eyes, knowing what words would be next. "Yes," I replied and took another bite.
"Then will you have pity on me and my enormous stomach, and go fix me a bowl when you're done?" This was an old game. She thought it cute to ask if I loved her before she asked me to go get her something. I ate the rest of my cereal and drank al my milk before I stood up.
"Going to get your cereal," I said as I walked back in the door. "Thanks honey," she replied not opening her eyes.
I fixed her a large bowl, so I wouldn't have to fix her a second one, and took it to her. I needed to tell her about Marcus before he got here. I gave her the bowl, and she sat back up from her reclined position in a chair that did not recline and took the bowl from me.
"Thanks a bunch," she said, smiling. I sat back down. "I have made a friend at work, and he is coming to get me today to show me around and hang out." Jessica put the spoon full of cereal back down.
"A boy! You?"
"He isn't a boy I am dating. He is just a friend. He is from around here and wants to hang out today."
She smiled and took a bite of cereal. She'd barely swallowed when she said, "I can't believe you talked to someone enough to make a friend. Or is he a recluse too?" I stood up, not in the mood for my mom's teasing. She loved to remind me how I lacked social skills.
I started back inside, and she laughed. "I'm just teasing, Sadie. Don't get so upset. I'm glad you've got a friend. Just don't forget about me and stay gone al day. It gets lonely around here." I hated it when she laid on a guilt trip. "You have a car. Go somewhere and do something." She gave a melodramatic sigh. "I do need to go get a pedicure, since I can't see my toes anymore.
I shook my head. "No, something where no money is required. Like go for a walk down the beach." She rolled her eyes this time, and I went inside. I made a beeline for the stashed money I'd saved for bills and hid it somewhere else. I didn't need to come home and find she'd spent all our money. After the cash was secured, I went to get ready for my day with Marcus. I needed to wash my hair and coat myself with sun block. The sun here could be brutal.
But first, I needed to find a swimsuit and something to wear. I checked the time. I had thirty minutes until he would arrive to pick me up. I needed to be ready so Jessica didn't answer the door and find some way to embarrass me.
"Good morning," Marcus said when I opened the door. "Good morning to you too! Hold on just a sec and I'll grab my purse." I turned, went back into the living room, and picked up the purse I'd left on the coffee table.
"I'm gone. Get out and go do something," I said to my mom before I walked back to the door.
"What, you're not bringing him in?" She was stil dressed in her black nightgown, which stretched over her stomach. "No, Mom, not with you dressed in your nightgown." She laughed, and I rushed back to the door.