License – Chapter 58
Ten hours a day, six days a week Kayla worked at the deli, slicing lunchmeats and measuring out salads. But she didn’t mind the long hours. It gave her something to do and kept her out a trouble.
She always had lots of customers in her line. They liked her because she smiled and chatted with them, all friendly like. Being friendly was something she never was before she got cleaned up and straightened out but she liked to be friendly now.
The boss might give her the old evil eye, nod his head in the direction of the line that was getting longer and longer with people waiting to order their ham and bologna and potato salad. ‘Quit your jabbering and get back to slicing, Vester!’ Those eyes would warn. ‘Or else!’
Or else what? Kayla wasn’t too worried. She was the best worker he had. She was always on time and never once in the six years she’d worked there had she ever even missed one day.
Another reason she had lots of customers in her line was because sometimes, after the order had been weighed and she had slapped on the price sticker, if she was sure the boss wasn’t looking, she’d wink and throw on a extra slice of turkey breast or another little spoon a pasta salad. And that was because she was trying to be nice now, like she had never been before either. Even before she got hooked, Kayla had never been nice.
Getting hooked changed you. Getting cleaned up changed you too. But getting older changed you most, made you see things different, made you know all what you done wrong before and made you want to do better now.
And Kayla had done lots wrong. She tried not to think about it too much. It ate her insides out, made her want to scream, made her want to sit with her head in her hands and cry forever. How could that person a been her? How could she a done the things she done?
So now she tried to be friendly and nice and kind to everyone to make up for them bad things. And she tried especially hard to be nice to children. They’d come into the deli with their little hands tucked into the hand a their mom or dad, most a them looking bored and dying to get out a there. And Kayla would smile and offer them a sucker from the basket by the register.
Their eyes would light up and they’d reach into that basket searching for their favorite, which most times would be one a them red, cherry ones. The ones Kayla hated, that tasted like sickening sweet cough medicine and made her wanna gag. They nearly never picked her favorite, the sunny yellow lemon ones.
Kayla used to have a kid once. A little boy. But she lost him more than twenty years ago. And when she made the kids at the deli smile it made her glad and sad at the same time because it made her think a him.
Then one day, when she was off on a vacation visiting her cousin out a state, she seen him on a TV morning show! Her son! Her heart about stopped dead and then it started beating so fast she thought it might jump right out a her mouth. She couldn’t hardly breathe!
She tried telling herself she had a be wrong, so her heart would settle down. But that didn’t work because she knew she was right. There was no one else it could be but him! He was taller and older a course, but he still had the exact same round face and gray eyes. And he had the same mouth! Except on the TV he was smiling, like what she never made him do before she lost him when they took him away from her.
He was one a the bad things she done. She made him cry instead a smile. She broke wooden spoons on his little backside. She scratched the jagged end across his skin till he bled. And she didn’t care how much he cried or how loud he screamed. And she let the guy she lived with beat him too, till he was near unconscious, for nothing more than using the red crayon for the sky instead a the blue one.
And she got to thinking she should contact her son somehow. Apologize for the terrible things she done to him and let him know how awful sorry she was. Tell him she was so thankful he turned out ok in spite a her, with happiness and goodness and love and success in his life. Tell him she was a changed person now, good and kind instead a mean and cruel. And ask him if he could ever forgive her.
She found out his new last name, because it sure wouldn’t a stayed Vester once he got adopted. And she found out the address of the TV station where he worked.
She started that letter so many times.
‘Dear Mike Chatelain,’
But she always ripped it up. He had enough scars. On the outside, probably. On the inside, for certain.
He didn’t need no reminders a her.
Saturday, May 13th • 2:00 – 4:00
Lift Bridge Books in Brockport
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