Small-Town Desperation

There she was, standing in the checkout line at Payless with a cheap and unattractive pair of shoes, listening to a woman in ruddy old jeans ramble on about her disgust with the weather.
"It's too darn hot," she said. "If Global Warming is coming like Al Gore says, this is it.  I can barely walk around out here without buying a big bottle of water.  And you know how much that costs; I could buy a coffee from Starbucks for less, but of course, that's hot.  Like the weather.  I had to drive my kids to school in this weather today, and you know how they were..."

The girl zoned out and stared sympathetically at the cashier, who was obviously trying her best to kindly listen to the customer's best attempt at conversation, but wasn't managing very well.  Surely enough, she interrupted the woman.

"M'am, I do agree it is quite hot outside, but there are other customers in line, and we've gotta get it moving along." she said in a plain voice.  It had probably been a long day for the tired teenager.

Camilla knew perfectly well that she was screwed.  She could at least afford the shoes on her feet - but Payless was all she could pay for.  Working at McDonald's on a late shift, you didn't get many customers to help pay the rent.  And of course, she was paying it all.  Tyler was back home playing Halo 3 and munching down the chips she had bought for him.  He'd quit his job last month, and still wasn't looking for a new one.

His response every time was "I'll look in the papers tomorrow.".  But he never did.  Stubborn, lazy man-child.  That's all Camilla could say about her boyfriend of three years... even though she knew she loved him more than her own mother; god bless her soul, that rested peacefully on a lawn chair on some resort in Florida.

He was probably eventually going to ask her to marry him.  He just needed the money first.  But to get money, he'd need a job.  And to get a job, he'd have to look for one.  And to look for one, he'd have to get off the leather loveseat that Camilla had also bought for him.  McDonald's wasn't even that good of a job, and she'd already purchased more for her boyfriend in the past month than he had in their entire relationship. 

She couldn't leave him, either.  It was going to get better, she knew it.  He was going to smarten up and get his ducks in a row, and get down on one knee and ask to spend the rest of his life with her.  Camilla told herself that every night before she went to bed, while Tyler continued to tell her 'one more minute' from the living room.  And even as she continued to get frustrated and hurt by his behaviour, she knew she couldn't leave him, ever.

Which was why she was leaving, instead, the checkout line and put the shoes back on the shelf, because the cashier had failed to shut the woman at the front of the line up. 

The cashier called after her. "M'am? It will just be one more moment if you could stay?"

Camilla ignored the desperation in the cashier's voice and walked out of the tiny smalltown mall, pulling her car keys for her '93 Ford Tempo out of her purse. 

She'd have to drive home fast.  After all: she had to make Tyler supper, then go to McDonald's for a not so loving-it experience of fast food serving.

Right then, the phone rang in her back pocket, vibrating uncomfortably close to her behind.  Camilla quickly pulled out her cell and opened it to see a surprising caller ID.

"Hello?" she said in shock.

"Hi, Camilla.  Good to see you again."

Camilla looked around, where she stood.  Past her car, beside the mall, behind her... and there he was.  Her best friend and ex-boyfriend from university, standing welcomingly close to her with the familiar smirk on his face that she always used to love.

"Hi, Tom."


The End

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