Chapter 1 – Continued

     Without even knowing him she had labeled him “Jock,” “Jerk,” and “Vain” in an attempt to hate him, because love wasn’t an option. His pretty face wasn’t enough to make her leave Fernando. So she started it, and like that a war began. He didn’t like her and that was exactly what she had wanted, but at the same time she didn’t. She did it all because he was handsome. That day she left work without a care, not thinking anything at all of the hurtful rumor she had spread and the consequences she would have to face. Things like, “He wouldn’t care,” she thought to herself and “We don’t talk to each other anyway.” Stephanie felt like she was a nobody to someone like him.
     The next day things were pretty normal, all was calm and boring. She just continued to ring out people all day and continued to spread the lie that she was creeped out by Brian. Then two or three days passed and something happened. Brian was secretly a troll. Not the kind that turn into stone if they come out on a sunny day or the kind that hide under bridges. The internet kind, that make fun of people to get a rise out of them. She knew this because that day he really did creep her the fuck out. The man had a face of a God, and then he had the face of, for lack of a better word, a troll doll. He stared at her all day with that creepy face and he must have been practicing because there are no words for the amount of creeped out she felt. He made a mistake though, there was a witness.
     At the time Stephanie considered Kathy to be her best friend at work. Heather was pretty awesome too, but Kathy was the one she looked up to. Kathy was short and quirky, but she and her kids got sick a lot. The managers didn’t take kindly to all her absences. She had been there to see Brians’ troll face, which was without a doubt the most interesting and funny thing that had happened at Bookies. Her heart warmed up just a little to the menacing man. Stephanie and Kathy giggled and gossiped about the incident for a good week or two. It was fun, but she should have known better than to gossip. She wasn’t really thinking about who she could hurt in the matter, it was just a game to her.
     With a witness on her side, the rumor was spread like wild fire across all the women in the store. Jacob, one of Stephanies’ favorite managers, was the one to give her the gut wrenching truth she didn’t want to know. Brian had a girlfriend. A beautiful, nice one at that. Not calculative and secretly terrible like Stephanie knew she was. A knife in her gut twisted at the thought, but she was taken too and she had made it clear that she hated him. Nothing could go wrong, right?
     Jacob was someone Stephanie could talk to about her secret love of My Little Pony and Sailor Moon. He also showed her the world of Attack on Titan and it was truly one of her favorite anime after that. She and him talked for at least 10 minutes every time she had to cash out her drawer in the back office. He was the nicest and most fabulous man she had ever met. If Jacob had been straight, she would have easily left Fernando to marry him. She had even offered to be his surrogate mother if he ever wanted to have children. Her favorite moment involving Jacob was when Fernando came into the store and Jacob pretended he was going to kiss him. Her boyfriend totally went with the joke and it was excellent.
     That night her boyfriend had told her that Jacob was a very handsome man and to never tell anyone he had said that about Jacob. Of course, the next day she immediately told Jacob what Fernando had said, she never was good at keeping secrets. She had this tell whenever she was lying that she’d laugh nervously or her face would look guilty. She often hid her real thoughts behind a facade, because it was easier to be someone else than to be herself at work. When she had lived in Connecticut, someone at an anime convention once told her, “If you act out a character long enough, you start to become that character.” Stephanie wanted to be the person she pretended she was.
     After a while Stephanie was known as one of the better cashiers. She would always clean around her register and zone candy when she didn’t have a customer. The store manager, Joe, decided to ask her to help with spring cleaning the store. The other guy they had cleaning was aweful. He had been tasked with cleaning the shelves, but they were streaky after he finished wiping them down. Stephanie knew how to clean a store. She had not only done construction for her mother, but helped clean houses so that they could go up for sale. She had done hard wood floors, tiling, painting, and poored concrete. Stephanie was good to go and cleaned with a professional touch. She felt bad only because she took so long to scrub off years of yuck that stained the bottom of the shelves. She scrubbed until her shoulders hurt from holding up her arms. It was hell for two weeks from pain.


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