Leaving work in a huff has become a regular event. I can feel everyone’s perturbed eyes staring at me through the back of my head as I exit the kitchen door of my bakery, Coffee, Tea & Treats. All my employees are angry with me, but the way I’m feeling, I don’t care. I haven’t been my sweet self for a while. I’m not trying to be difficult, but the nightmares I’ve been having are taking their toll on me.
Pulling out of the parking lot with tires squealing, I turn right to head home. I remember I haven’t been shopping lately, so my bare cabinets and refrigerator won’t provide dinner. Since I skipped lunch because Sal and I were arguing over what next week’s special should be, I’m starving. I make an abrupt U-turn at the next corner heading back to town to grab a salad and pizza to go at a small pizza place, aptly named “Pizza on the Run”.
As I hit the traffic light before my stop, a car revving its engine pulls up to my left. I can sense the driver of the car staring at me and the rev of the engine is getting louder. Turning my head toward the irritating noise, I glare at the driver. He’s a young twenty-something year old with a diamond stud in his ear, a large menacing tattoo on his arm, and an ugly patch of hair on his chin. He rolls his window down and shouts to me.
“Hey there, babe, lookin’ fly. I saw that move you made back at the corner—pretty cool. How ’bout I take you for a few spins in my car?”
My eyes narrow as I deliberately turn my head back to the front.
“Hey girl, I’m talkin’ to you. You ignorin’ me?”
I continue staring straight ahead. The light turns green and I speed off. The car to my left is attempting to stay with me, but I ignore it. Reaching the pizza place at the edge of town, I make a brusque turn into their parking lot. The obnoxious young man drives off. Thank goodness he’s gone because I’m afraid I would’ve said something unpleasant.
As I exit the restaurant with my food, I see my engine-revving pest. He’s lazily leaning against his souped-up orange car with the big, fancy rims and rear spoiler. He’s maybe 5’8” compared to my 5’4” frame, but he does have about 75 pounds on me.
“Well, there’s the bitch who thinks she’s too good to talk to me.”
I calmly open my passenger door and place the hot box of pizza and salad on my car seat. Taking a deep breath, I walk around to the driver’s side of my car, and get in without even looking at the immature idiot trying to get my attention.
“You stupid slut. You think you can ignore me?”
“I’m trying, but you’re not making it easy.”
Before I can close my door, start my car, and take off, he comes at me. He pulls my arm toward him and then snatches my hair. He lowers his face to mine and I can feel his hot breath. “Maybe I should tame this mouth of yours, babe. What’d ya think?”
The village idiot pulls me further out of my car in an attempt to kiss me. I step on his foot and push him, creating some distance. I get far enough away that I’m able to use a front jump kick to protect myself. My right foot connects with his mouth and sends him backward and onto the ground. He’s still swearing at me.
“Stay down or I’ll kick you again, and this time I’ll really make it count. You messed with the wrong woman. I don’t like being treated disrespectfully, and I certainly don’t like being touched. Now, get back in your obnoxious car and drive away before I really make you pay.”
He’s shocked, stands up wiping his nose with his hand, and says something nasty under his breath. He hops into his car and speeds off. I watch him drive away. Another perfect ending to another imperfect day.
~ * ~
After dinner, I retire early. I climb into bed and slink under the covers. What’s going on? Am I bringing all this on myself? Is it karma? Or is the universe simply out to get me? All I know is that this isn’t normal. That was the second creep I’ve had to hit this month, not to mention the woman I threatened. She deserved it, though. She slammed her shopping cart into me and didn’t apologize. The other guy I hit may have been more my fault. I stole his parking space. Although, he didn’t have to get out of his car and yell obscenities at me.
I’ve got to get a grip. This isn’t how I was raised. If my family and the congregation from church back home could see me now, they’d wonder what happened to me! It’s almost as if I’m wishing for people to do things wrong to me so I can expel my anger. As I fall asleep, all I can think of is a four-letter word: Rage.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been out when I wake up yelling from another nightmare. I’m tense and frightened, and I can’t get back to sleep. What else is new?
The next morning at work, I’m tired and sluggish when I arrive at 5:00. My restless nights and early mornings are taking their toll on me. I can tell that Sal Malone, my head baker, doesn’t want to have a conversation with me. He politely says good morning and continues with his business. This Sal is different from the one I met during my grand opening of Coffee, Tea & Treats back on May 5, 2009.
~ * ~
On the first day I opened my doors for business, Sal and his wife Rita came into my shop in the early morning and welcomed me and my business to the community. My store manager, Jill, and I introduced ourselves and we began chatting. I took to Sal and Rita immediately. They were very warm and personable and I felt we’d known each other for years.
The Malone’s have lived in Cold Spring Harbor their entire lives. They raised two children here and now have six grandchildren. They know everything there is to know about this town and the people.
They were the perfect people to ask if they knew of someone that might be interested in working for me, but the catch was they needed to start right away. Sal and Rita shouted out with a resounding, “Yes!”
Sal flashed a friendly smile and said, “I know of someone, and he can start right now.”
I was thrilled; I didn’t care who it was. Besides, these are the kind of people whose word can be trusted. Still smiling, Sal stood. “Do you have an apron for me?”
My eyes widened. He added, “Nope, I’m not too old and yep, I know what I’m doin’. I was a pastry chef for 40 years in a Manhattan restaurant.”
I couldn’t believe my ears.
“Sal, it never occurred to me that you’re too old. I’m just surprised by your experience and thrilled you’re interested in working. Welcome!”
I retrieved an apron for Sal. Then I hesitated a moment and he questioned me.
“Change your mind? What’s wrong?”
“I can’t pay you much, at least to start, and with your experience, I know…”
He stopped me.
“Little lady—you don’t mind if I call you little lady, do ya?” I started to nod to assent that I didn’t mind, but he ignored me and continued talking.
“I’m not doin’ this for the money. Just ask my wife, Rita, here. You know, retired people get bored sometimes and I’ve been retired for a while. My wife knows I’ve been lookin’ for somethin’ to do for a time, and this is just my cup of tea. Whatever you can pay me is fine.”
I was excited; I could hardly refrain myself from giving him a hug.
Rita had a smile on her face. She looked as happy as he did. “Thank you, Marcy Jenson, you made our day. Sal has missed being busy and having a place to go every day. Even I miss helping him as I did from time to time.”
“Yep, I used to help him in the restaurant when they were short-handed. That’s how we met. We both worked as pastry chefs. I quit to have children and only went back occasionally to help Sal when he needed it.”
“I have a brilliant idea, Rita. Why don’t you do the same thing here?”
“Oh my, yes, I’d love that. You call me anytime you need extra help. I’m available most days.”
“Wonderful, Rita, thank you. I’ll do that. Let me show you the back so you’re familiar with the place.”
I gave Rita and Sal the quick tour. The shop’s not too large, but it’s a convenient size—1,250 square feet, enough room for eight café tables and chairs, the counter area, and a spacious work station in the back.
Sal dove right in and made himself at home in the kitchen. It was like he’d been working here for years. Rita kissed him goodbye for the day, shook my hand, and departed.
It turned out to be a fantastic opening day for me. With Rita and Sal’s reputation in town, they brought in a lot of customers right away that normally might not have frequented my establishment at all.
That day I felt like everything was going my way and life was good. It was going to be smooth-sailing from there on out. Little did I know how wrong I was, and how much my life would change in the next few years.