The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 14
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape Of Anne's Grief chapter 14 Black Friday
It took Anne a lot of pestering to eventually get her mother downstairs. Finally getting out of bed with a annoyed sigh, Cheryl put on a robe and slippers and followed her agitated daughter downstairs. Luke hung back as they headed to the kitchen. Anne suspected the dog wasn’t a fan of her mom. Given the amount of times she hollered at poor Luke.
By the time they looked outside. The heavy snowfall had mostly covered up the footprints. Cheryl doubted it was from a person. Telling Anne it was most likely from an animal looking for food that had come into the house. Anne had scared it off went she went to the kitchen. If her mom had come right down, Anne thought, she would have seen the footprints. She would have believed me.
After getting a lecture from her mother, Anne walked around the house. She didn’t buy the animal theory. Going from room to room, looking for anything missing or something that an intruder might have disturbed. Something she could use to prove to her mother that somebody had been in the house. Finally giving up when she found nothing. Anne went back to her room feeling humiliated and beaten. Sitting on the bed, shoulders slumped. Luke stared at her, cocking his head one way then the other. Those large, expressive eyes of his looked concerned.
“Am I losing it?” Maybe her mom was right. It was all too much. The pressure of everything was breaking her. She stroked Luke’s head. Scratching him behind the ears. “I lost it a long time ago, right buddy?”
After last night Anne wasn’t exactly looking forward to seeing her mom. Not to mention the lack of sleep left her feeling edgy. She couldn’t avoid it. And with the smell of bacon coming from the kitchen, Anne ventured downstairs drawn by the delicious aroma. She wasn’t sure what to expect from her mom this morning. Would she be angry about last night?
In the kitchen her mom was standing in front of the stove, making scrambled eggs. The already cooked bacon sat on a large plate on the kitchen table.
“Morning.” Cheryl greeted her. Her voice sounded cheerful. “Dig in. I figured you’d need a lot of energy today.”
“Thanks.” Anne took a plate and shoveled some bacon onto it. Her mom was right, she’d need all the energy she could get today.
Toast popped up in the toaster. Making Anne jump.
“Your jumpy. Did you get any sleep last night?” She took two pieces of toast and dropped them on her daughter’s plate.
“Some.” Anne bit into a piece of bacon. “A couple hours anyway.”
“It’s finally stopped snowing. For now, at least. The radio says we might get a dusting later in the day.”
Anne spread some butter on the toast. There was something else bothering her concerning last night. There was something missing. Something Anne hadn’t even thought about since she been sick Halloween night. In the rush of everything else she’d forgotten about till last night.
“What happened to my clothes from when I was sick? My costume?”
“I’m not sure.” She turned off the stove. Her face appeared pensive. “Why do you ask?”
“I looked around last night.” Anne mustered up the courage to finish. “To see if anybody had been in the house and… Well, nothing was missing. It got me thinking, I haven’t seen that stuff since that night.”
“I threw it out.” Her mother said.
“You did?” Why?”
Her mom smiled warmly. “They were a mess. You got sick on them.”
“Oh.” Anne took a bite out of her toast. She didn’t remember that. She was pretty sure that she was in her pajamas when she’d gotten sick. Was her mom lying? Anne decided she didn’t want to get into that with her mom now. Starting work in a bad mood today was the last thing she needed.
Of course, it bothered her. The fact that her mom appeared not to believe her about last night. And now might be lying to her. Not to mention Anne loved that hoodie and had spent hard earned money on that costume. Why would she throw them out?
On the way to work Anne passed people digging their cars out of large snowbanks. Buried by a combination of the falling snow and the early morning plows. She was glad to have the truck on days like this. A lot of the side streets and back roads had yet to be plowed. Four-Wheel drive was a blessing.
Despite the storm there was a small mob waiting outside the store when Anne arrived. They’d been waiting for god knows how long for the store to open. Ready to trample one another for the best bargains.
In the back Anne felt Carol Machen watching her as she headed for the time clock. The bitch had it in for her after she’d told Carol off. Anne imagined slamming Carol’s face into the brick wall. Once. Twice. Three times. Her head cracking open. Brains and blood smearing on the wall. As Carol punched in, Anne smiled with a macabre satisfaction.
Your life is mine if I want it.
No. She had to stop thinking like that. Carol was a huge asshole sure. But Anne could never hurt her. As satisfying as it might feel. Carol passed by, her back to Anne. Earning a middle finger salute from Anne. This got a few chuckles from her fellow employees.
“Got that right.” Vera Holmes said. Flashing Anne a smile as their eyes met.
The store was even more packed then Anne thought it would be. There was a really good sale on television sets. That was the thing everybody was clamoring for this year. Through most of the morning the electronics section was asshole to elbow. She was glad that wasn’t her section. Anne was about to take her lunch break, walking past the restrooms, when Carol called her over.
“Hey Marsten. What are you doing?”
“Going on break.” Anne said. Feeling defensive.
“Got a little job for you first, then you can go on break.”
“What?” Anne asked. Her voice sounded leery.
Carol smiled. “You’d think I was going to pull teeth with that expression. Look, somebody made a mess in the ladies’ room. Smeared feces all over one of the stalls and plugged the toilet.”
This was too much. Carol was fucking with her. “What? C’mon, can’t somebody else take care of it?”
Carol scoffed. “Someone else… Someone else? Everyone is either busy or on their break. There is nobody else.”
“What about you?”
“Me? I’m headed to electronics. They’re swamped, not enough people to help out. Which leaves you.” Carol pointed at Anne.
“No.” Anne shook her head. “I’m going on break.”
“Fine. When you punch out… Just go home. Can’t do your job, you’re not needed.”
Anne felt the anger building up in her, felt the warmth on her face. Holding her arms rigid at her sides, she balled her fists. “You’re not the boss.”
“No. But we both know who is. And what do you think he’d say?”
There was no way she could go through with it. Hitting Carol, she’d lose her job. There would be charges too. Carol wasn’t the type that would let assault go. Instead, Anne watched the smug bitch walk away. Feeling a little bit of herself die.
In the bathroom it came crashing down on her. Anne sobbed for a few minutes. Hoping, praying nobody would walk in and catch her moment of weakness. Washing her face with some cold water, Anne turned to face another kind of mess. Disgusting, but at least this one she could clean up easier.
Afterwards she peeled off the rubber gloves and washed her hand thoroughly with the hottest water she could stand. Her skin turning bright red from the heat. Cleaning the steam from the mirror, Anne checked her face. She didn’t want Carol or anyone else to know she’d been crying. Her eyes were still a bit red. The restroom door creaked open. A refined looking older woman walked in. Her silver hair permed. Multiple shopping bags hung from her arms. Seeing Anne standing there, the woman shook her head in disgust.
“Don’t you have a job to do young lady?”
Just a little longer. Anne thought. Then she could go home, take a warm bath and crawl under the blankets and sleep. If she was lucky, maybe she’d die in her sleep.
For the rest of her shift Anne was in her own little world. Ignoring customers if she could. When she did talk to them, she was curt. Any offer of thanks she ignored. Walking away without a word. There were so many people. It felt like a tidal wave of human flesh ready to crush her.
Everyone ended up staying late due to the insane amount of people coming in. By the time Anne punched out, it was after eleven. The brisk night air was a relief after the heat of the store. As the others were saying their goodbyes for the night, Anne walked, head down towards her truck. Snow crunched underfoot. Anne was tired. With another round of work in the morning, by the time she got home there wouldn’t be much time for anything except that bath and then sleep. She wasn’t even hungry. Cleaning that mess in the bathroom had done away with that. She could still smell the feces and urine.
There sitting all by its lonesome was her truck. A solitary light shining down on it. There wasn’t much snow on it at least. It shouldn’t take too long to clean it off. Brushing away the snow with her sleeve, Anne noticed the windshield. The crack had grown again. Anne felt the anger building up again. She needed to get home, away from everything. It was times like this Anne wished she was a drinker. To lose herself in a bottle of whiskey seemed like bliss. Unfortunately, alcohol never really did anything for her. Plenty of kids she’d went to school with, not to mention many of her coworkers, loved to drink. Beer, wine, whiskey, whatever. Many lived for their next drink. There were a few that loved their pot too. She wondered what it must be to lose yourself like that. Have something else control your thoughts and feelings for a short amount of time.
In her room, Anne combed her damp hair. Her mom had pestered her about eating something. Anything, so she didn’t go to sleep on an empty stomach. Anne relented. Having a quick turkey sandwich and watching Letterman on the couch. Instead of a bath, Anne used the hand-held shower hose for a quick wash.
She heard footsteps in the hall outside her room. She thought it was her mom coming to check on her. But the light taps on the door meant it was just Luke. Anne opened the door letting him in. He’d been asleep in the living room when she’d headed upstairs.
“Come to cheer me up boy?”
The dog stared at her strangely.
“Time for bed boy. Tomorrow is another fucking day.”
Anne laid down, turning off the light, she hoped sleep would come fast.
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