Episode Two – Etta

A DOUBLE SHIFT MEANS EXTRA cash, which is all fine and dandy, but the ache in my back and feet doesn’t make it seem worthwhile. I stretch my legs across the booth and rest them next to Jocelyn, shoes off. She’s yammerin’ on about this guy she’s seeing, but my lids are getting heavy and I haven’t been listening ever since she told me his name. Billy or Bobby or Buddy, something Southern and clichéd. My mind is on Susannah and the greased up brainless jerks she’s been keeping time with.

I’ve counted the money twice and come up with two different numbers and Jocelyn is double checking the credit card receipts against the till. The sound of crunching gravel in the parking lot makes me glance up from the stack of bills in front of me. It’s Eddie. My knight in a rusted-out pickup truck. He’s sitting behind the wheel, grinning foolishly and waving me out. I push the cash across to Jocelyn, give her a weary smile.

She’s mid-sentence about something Billy, Bobby or Buddy did when I say, “Can you finish this up, honey?”

Bright smile and eyes, she nods. “Have yourself a good night, ya hear, and enjoy your week off.”

“Not much of a vacation, prettying up the house to sell, but at least I’ll get to sleep in. You going to be okay here?”

“Yeah, Jacks will stick around and walk me out to my car.”

“I will?” he shouts from the kitchen.

“You will,” I reply.

On the way out, I grab my shoes and purse. The night is soft and sweet, crickets singing and moon hanging high in the sky. A cool breeze ruffles my auburn hair as I approach Eddie’s truck. The door is unlocked but I don’t have the wherewithall to open it. Holding up my exhausted body is all I can manage tonight.

“Eddie,” I whine.

He’s out of the truck, rounding the front, and asking, “What’s the matter, baby?”

“I’m dog tired. Can’t open this fucking door. Don’t even know how I’m standing.”

Eddie takes my bite in stride and opens the truck for me. “Do you want me to lift you in?”

Even though I’m grumpy and a bit broken, I smile up at him. He’s always a sight for sore eyes. Whenever he’s close, the world doesn’t seem quite so big and mean. A pretty fantastic illusion, if you ask me. The truth is, we’d be lost without each other. All I got is Eddie and Susannah, and lately I can feel my sister slipping away.

“I think I can manage on my own.”

But as I step up, he plants a strong hand on my ass and gives a hearty push. Despite the furrow between my brow, I laugh. He waits until I’m tucked inside to slam the door. When he’s behind the wheel again, he leans over and kisses me. Not a fleeting we’ve-done-this-a-million-times-before kiss. A real one. It flushes my cheeks and makes me wonder if I’m too beaten down for a romp when we get home.

The diner ain’t too far my house. I usually walk to and fro, as long as my feet aren’t barking too much and Eddie thinks it isn’t too late. I suppose
I could drive Daddy’s Barracuda. Or my Barracuda, I guess. He left it to me. Left everything to me.

I still don’t know why he had to go and die.

Page Two

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