Traded(2)By: Rebecca Brooke
My heart sank. I’d tried so hard to get it right that time. Standing, I stepped toward the door and nodded. “I’ll take care of it as soon as I get home from work,” I said, my voice shaky.
He pulled the sheets back and crawled into bed. “Did you make my lunch yet?”
My eyes dropped to the floor. “Not yet. I wanted to make sure the sheets were ready when you came to bed.”
He turned on his side, his back to me.
“I’m going to do it right now, while you sleep.”
“Good. And none of that shit you tried to feed me for dinner.”
I watched him lying in bed, wishing that for once he wanted me with him. “No, of course not.”
Stepping out of the room, I shut out the lights and closed the door, moving quietly to the kitchen, giving him time to fall asleep before I went to bed, otherwise I would disturb him with all of my tossing and turning. I made him a sandwich for lunch and packed his cooler. That way, he could grab it on his way out the door in the morning and he wouldn’t be late to the office. I gave the room one last scan; satisfied everything had been done to Dominic’s standards.
The clock on the oven flashed. It was after eleven; he should be asleep. Flipping off the lights and TV, I snuck into the bedroom, silently changing into pajamas and setting the alarm on my phone for four in the morning. Slowly and carefully, I climbed into bed. Dominic should have already set his alarm for eight, but I would double-check it in the morning before I left for work. With the long days at the diner, then coming home to take care of the household, the eighteen hour days caught up to me quickly. Once my head hit the pillow, it didn’t take long for me to fall into a deep sleep.
It felt like I’d only just closed my eyes when the vibration of my phone pulled me from sleep. The sun hadn’t yet risen but if I didn’t get up right away, I’d be late getting into work and with so many customers coming in early, grabbing breakfast before their day started, I couldn’t afford to be late. Creeping out of bed so as not to wake up Dominic, I took a clean uniform from the closet and tiptoed, in the dark, to the bathroom, waiting until the door was closed to turn on the light.
I was dressed and ready to walk out the door in less than twenty minutes, which gave me a little more than ten minutes to walk to work. Thankfully, the diner was only a few blocks away and I could make it there in five on foot if I didn’t dawdle, so I used the extra time to double-check Dominic’s lunch and coffee.
When I was sure everything was ready, I grabbed my purse and stepped out the door.
The humidity had risen throughout the night, something I hadn’t noticed with the air conditioning on but now, even at this early hour, the heat felt almost overpowering. Fanning myself with my hand, I made the trip quickly and clocked in for the day.
“Morning, Elena,” Gretchen called from behind the counter.
“Morning. Let me put my purse in the back and I’ll be right there.”
She walked over to take an order and I stepped out to hang my purse on the hook in the back. Grabbing an apron and tying it around my waist, I loaded my notepad and pen into the front pocket, hurrying behind the counter.
“Who’s not taken care of yet?”
Gretchen pointed to the row of customers. “Everyone up here, but there’s a table in the back I think might be ready to order.”
We didn’t have a hostess to help us, and since we were the only two who did the early morning breakfast shift during the week, we took whatever tables needed help and split the tips down the middle. It was easier than figuring out who should take what table. Once I’d taken and entered the order from the back table, I went back to wait with Gretchen, who’d already served their drinks.
“Did you give him any money last night?”
I sighed. “No. Dominic stayed home last night.”
“Yeah and let me guess—treated you like shit the whole time,” she snapped.
Gretchen and I were never going to see eye to eye on this. It was an old argument. She didn’t understand that I needed Dominic. He loved me. My eyes began to blur. Turning my face away, I tried to hide the tears.
“Oh, Elena.” Gretchen dropped the empty cup and pulled me into a hug. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry. I wish you could see how wonderful you are, and that you deserve so much better than him.”
Stepping out of her embrace, I shook my head and wiped at my face. “No. He’s the only man who has ever, or will ever want me. I’m not pretty like you. I’m just so plain.”
Gretchen had long blonde hair and crystal green eyes, not to mention a new date every weekend. I’d had one boyfriend in high school, and I’d married him.