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"Notes from the side station - an escalation" by Sarah DiSilvestro



Mackinac Island - Week Four - 2004


Sunday


The staff dining room walls were the color of cooked egg yolk, the floors a hospital white. Sterile, bland, and unimagined, it was a stark contrast to the parts of the hotel visible to guests with lavender walls, emerald carpets, and floral wallpaper. The building came alive for our customers; admittedly, so did we. 

Chef stood at the banquet table arranging platters of food. He always prepared the specials for family dinner. If we didn’t eat them, we’d be pulled from the shift. It was partly about control, partly about making sure we could sell the most expensive dishes. I didn’t mind. It was my way of staying well-fed. 

I reached for a plate just as his dry, calloused hand wrapped around my wrist. I recoiled and yanked my arm back, but he didn’t let go. My skin pulled between his fingers. 

“Enjoy,” he growled. 

His lips, pink and chapped, glistened with either sweat or spit beneath his charcoal mustache. He leaned in. He lingered.

“Thank you,” I whispered, wriggling free.  

He returned to the kitchen, and I looked at the group with a shrug.

“The fuck?” said Peter.  

I stared at my wrist. He hadn’t left a mark, but I could still feel his skin on mine. 

*

We savored the coffee until the last of it was poured, then dripped into the dining room for side work. Chef called to me from the bulletin board.

“What’d you think of the food?” 

“Yeah, it was good,” I replied, stopping just beyond his reach.

His mustache was freshly trimmed, his teeth polished white, but when he smiled, I could see they were crooked and chipped in the front. He pointed at the schedule on the corkboard, “we’ll continue to see a lot of each other next week.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Extra shifts. I thought you might like the money. It’ll go up in a couple of days.”

“Oh.” I hadn’t realized he made the server schedules. “Right. Thank you for that.”

He looked me over with a smirk as he returned to the line, shouting at the cooks to finish prepping the asparagus. I scurried past him to join Peter at the side station. 

“Chef is so strange,” I moaned.

“Bonafide whackjob, but don’t screw this up. Befriend the chef and you’ll have the easiest summer of your life, and so will I…by extension.” He nudged me and giggled before handing me a handful of forks to polish.

*

Ted’s Place was the only bar off Main Street that didn’t require a reservation, so it filled up quickly and hummed until last call. Small and dimly lit by scattered neon signs, Glam Metal pulsed from the jukebox in the corner, even though we could barely hear it, and intermingling bodies ushered waves of flowery perfume and sandalwood and Coppertone. Rich people never smell like sweat. 

Ted was pouring us a line of tequila shots when we walked in, and by the time the last person had a glass in hand, Peter had already had at least two. I obliged with the first, but the warmth of my bed summoned, so I waved at Peter as he raised another shot into the air and howled.

Outside, the heaviest rain from the day’s storm had ended, but mist continued to spray like the wake of a distant boat, spitting from every direction. I draped the hood of my raincoat over my ponytail, though it did little to keep me dry, and looked down as I hurried my steps. I wasn’t paying attention when I collided with him.   

“I’m so sorry,” I said quickly, lifting my head.

“Leaving so soon?” 

It was Chef.

I stepped back, widening the breadth between us. My heartbeat quickened. “I’m lunch shift tomorrow, so I want to rest up.”

“Lunch isn’t breakfast. I was hoping we could talk a little tonight. Get to know each other.” He seemed unbothered by the water pellets forming in his hairline, and he stepped closer. His breath, sour and warm, mingled with the thick, heavy air and wafted against my skin.

“I appreciate that. Maybe another night.” 

“Maybe we need to take you off doubles so you can have more fun at night.”

I shivered even though I wasn’t cold. “That’s not necessary. I’m glad to do it. I need the money.”

He stepped closer, even as I moved further away, and he leveled his eyes with mine. “With a face like yours, you aren’t going to have any trouble making money.”

I pulled the hood over my forehead, almost covering my eyes, and stepped around him. My breathing quickened, and I worried I might vomit. “I really should get going. See you tomorrow,” I said as I started to jog. 

“Looking forward to it!”

My feet moved faster and faster until I was running. I ran as fast as I could up that wet hill, splashing and sliding over the pavement, wondering if I should tell someone. 

But what was there to tell?


Monday


Chef shouted my name as I passed through the kitchen. I tightened my grip around my pen, and my fingernails carved into my palm. 

“You know the specials?” He leaned on his heels like a schoolgirl with a secret, his hands clasped behind his back. 

“I do.” They were the same as last shift.

“Can you describe them?”

I tilted my head and pursed my lips. “Of course I can.” 

He chuckled and removed one hand from behind his back, taking my wrist and holding my hand open. I wondered which one of us was sweating as my palm dampened, and I shifted on my feet. His grip tightened, holding me still before handing me a plum-like object.  

“That’s a fig. It’s one of the rarest known figs in the world and more expensive than anything you’ve had to eat all day. All week, probably.”

I turned it over in my hand, wondering what he wanted me to do with it. 

“Try it,” he whispered.

I knew others were watching us now. I needed to indulge him to end the moment and get into the dining room, to be anywhere but near him. “Just take a bite? Right into it?”

He nodded and grabbed my wrist to guide the fig to my lips, but I jerked back and shook his hand away. Clear from his grasp, I bit into its flesh. He stepped forward and placed his hand on my elbow. 

“These were special ordered, and that one was ordered just for you.” He rubbed my arm and continued, “There’s so much I have to teach you. There’s so much for us to experience together.”

I felt sick. The fig tasted bitter as I pulled it from my lips, and he held out his hand to take it from me. 

“Don’t tell anyone about this. I don’t want anyone to get jealous, but I’ll have more treats for you tomorrow.” 

He turned to the line and shouted something about the crab, and I was left standing in the middle of the kitchen. Alone.

*


“The hell was that about?” Peter asked. He leaned against the side station pinching a white linen cloth around the rim of a wine glass. 

“You saw that?” 

“Honey. Everyone saw that. You were in the middle of the kitchen.”

“Peter, I don’t know. Something isn’t right.”

“Tell me you’re not into him.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I hope so! But I don’t know! You two, all huddled up, whispering sweet nothings…”

Bile rose in my throat. “It’s not like that.”

“Baby, with that little show you just put on, everyone is talking. And you better get your shit together ‘cause that’s how you make enemies in a place like this. And believe me, you do not want enemies here.”  

He smacked the cloth against my thigh and left to check the reservations. I jumped, startled to be touched again.

*

I tried to explain the situation at Ted’s. I told the other servers I wasn’t encouraging it, that I wanted it to stop, but I knew they were skeptical. Chef leered at the rest of them, shouting insults at how they stacked their trays, but he’d offer to load mine.

Peter wrapped his arm around me and called me his little hussy before leaving to flirt with a handsome blonde. I hoped that as long as I had him the rest of the staff would come around, but I worried that because Peter and I were so close, they might think his pet name was true. Epithets become titles so effortlessly.


Tuesday


It was another double shift. The back room and patio had been booked for an all-day reception, and I was assigned to it with Jessica, a tall brunette with plump lips and ice-blue eyes. She didn’t smile much, but she was so beautiful that the guests were grateful to accept their plates from her. We shared every table, all responsibilities, and Chef was on his best behavior. 

When the last guest had left, Jessica and I observed the dining room. Crayon and chimichurri sauce and some sort of vinaigrette were swirled over the top of the white linen tablecloths like an edible homage to Van Gogh. Wine glasses lay on their sides, and soda glasses were packed with soggy bread, limp French fries and torn pieces of paper. Fragments of food crunched beneath our feet as we surveyed the damage. People can be disgusting.

“Salvage what you can,” the manager said. 

So that’s what we did. 

We stacked the dishes onto the trays, piling the silverware against the outer rims, and shook the napkins over the plates. The napkins could be saved, but only two of the twelve tablecloths had survived. We created a mound on the laundry room floor and left it to housekeeping to determine how to discard anything unusable. 

Jessica and I didn’t speak. Speaking required energy, and we were too tired to expend what we had left on conversation; our weary glances and sighs said more than words could, anyway. When we finally finished, we entered the kitchen to gather our things, and Chef stood next to the island with a bowl of pasta in his hands. “Hungry?”

I was ravenous. I took it and thanked him, not pausing to think about what he, or Jessica, or anyone would think. 

“You worked hard today,” he said, following me into the staff dining room. “You should be proud of yourself. What do you have left to do? Why don’t you relax and I’ll finish up.”

I smiled and grabbed two forks from the service station. “I’m all finished, but thank you. And thank you for this.”  

I kicked my shoes onto the floor and folded my legs beneath me, sinking into a chair with a sigh. Jessica passed the doorway, and I shouted for her to join me. Chef appeared just as she sat down.

“I made that for you,” he barked.

“No, I know,” I said slowly, handing Jessica a fork. “But there’s so much here and we’re both so hungry.” My voice cracked at the end, a betrayal of my nerves.   

 His arms were tense at his sides, and his mouth pulled down in the corners. His eyes were almost impossible to see beneath his caterpillar brow, and he said nothing as he watched Jessica twirl forkfuls of pasta. She oscillated glances between us.

“This is really good, Chef,” she offered, breaking the silence.    

He didn’t reply. He wasn’t looking at her anymore because he was locked on me, and I stared into the food in front of me until he walked away.


*

Peter was eager to inquire about the pasta when I got to Ted’s. I didn’t bother asking what he’d been told. I already knew. His grin was too wide. His eyes were too delighted. It was too scandalous. 

“It’s not ideal,” I admitted, “this whole thing. I don’t even know how it started. It’s not like I’m doing anything.”

“Just wait until you do,” he laughed. 

I groaned and pretended to vomit as his eyes turned toward the door. 

“Heads up,” he said, standing to join a group at the jukebox. Chef was walking toward me. 

I wanted to ask Peter to stay, but I hadn’t told him how scared I was. I worried he wouldn’t understand. Chef favored me, that much was clear, but he hadn’t threatened me. He hadn’t hurt me. I wondered if I was overreacting. So I let him leave, straightened my back, and stared at the bar top as Chef sat down next to me. 

“You know, if I wanted to make Jessica dinner, I would have made her a plate.”

I nodded. A conversation was unavoidable.  

“You have next Wednesday off.”

“Do I?” I hadn’t checked to see if the new schedule was up.

“You do. I made sure of it because I do, too. I thought we’d get off the island for the day and go to the Farmer’s Market. I was there last week, and it’s got some really great stuff. It’s a nice drive, too. A ways out into nothing.”

I ran my fingers over the fibers of the coaster. One side was wet and blistered, the other flat and soft like fabric. I turned it to the lumpy side and pressed on the bubbles, keeping my hands busy to hide how intensely they were shaking. It didn’t work. 

“I think I might be picking up a shift for Toni,” I lied. 

“She can find someone else. As your boss, I can say when I want you working–and when I don’t. Blame it on me.”

“Oh no, I couldn’t do that to her. We already agreed to it.”

His stare burned into me, then through me. My heart thumped in my throat.  

“She won’t mind. I already made the arrangements and told them.”

“You told who?! What arrangements?” My voice was shrill.    

“Everyone at the restaurant. I told them I would be going away on Wednesday night.”

I didn’t understand. “Night?”

His mouth curled into a crooked, broken-toothed smile. “See…now you get it. It’ll be so nice. Let Toni find someone else.”  

He leaned in, and I stood and stepped behind my stool. “I can’t do that.”

“You can, and you will,” he growled. “Stop being such a pussy and have some fun.”

I blinked and steadied myself against the stool. The cells of my skin crawled over and slid around each other. 

“We seem awfully serious over here,” sang Peter as he stepped up behind me. 

My throat constricted, and my eyes welled with tears. I wrapped my fingers around his forearm and asked him to pull up a chair. He studied my face as he placed a stool between Chef and me. We were a tight triangle, and I sat back down. I didn’t want to stay. But I was terrified to leave. 

“How’s it go–.”

“We’re in the middle of something,” Chef spat.

Peter smiled, continuing to search my face. “There’s always room for one more, right? You were crazy busy today, huh?”

Before I could answer, Chef leaned in and snarled, “What don’t you understand? We’re having a conversation that doesn’t concern you. If you don’t get outta here you’re gonna have a real problem.”

Peter looked at me. He understood. “You want to come sit with the rest of the group?”  

“We’re not done here,” Chef said. His elbow was on the bar. The edges of a napkin stuck out from between his fingers.

“You know what, I’m really tired,” I said, standing. “I think I’m just gonna go.” 

Chef pounded his fist on the bar top. “I said we’re not done!” 

I looked down and saw the napkin he’d been holding crumpled next to his glass. His fingers now wrapped around my arm. My skin between them was white.  

“Oh, but I think we are, right? Done here?” Peter stood and put his hand beneath my arm. When Chef’s grip broke, we left. 

Outside, my knees trembled, and sweat matted the hair to the back of my neck. 

“Maybe he’s just having a bad night,” Peter said. 

I looked at my feet and kicked the pebbles beneath them. Maybe I was inflating everything in my mind. Peter had just witnessed it but didn’t seem overly concerned. “Yeah, maybe.”

“Can I walk you home?”

I didn’t want to give Chef a reason to retaliate against him, so I told him I was fine. Peter went back into the bar, and I went home alone. Even the crickets made me jump.


Wednesday


Early in the afternoon, the sun beckoned eager children to the shore with their parents in tow, and the streets hummed with shoppers. The restaurant was quiet, so I cleaned anything I could find, knowing the guests would arrive when their skin was sufficiently baked and their bellies were sufficiently empty. 

I stood at the service sink when his hand wrapped around my forearm. His skin was rough like sandpaper. I hadn’t heard him come in. 

“Come with me.”

He knocked the cloth from my hand and pulled me into the pantry, shoving me against the wall behind the industrial fan. The blades created a loud, persistent whir that echoed off the cement walls and the metal shelving. All other sounds were erased. 

He stood in front of me and curled his hands over my shoulders. I lifted my arms to push him off, but he took my wrists and forced them to my sides. I pressed the back of my head against the cinder blocks behind me, praying they’d soften and pull me in, but the wall remained upright, coarse and cold. 

He leaned in, his chest rose and fell against mine.

“Look at me.”

His eyes were black and incensed, frenzied with adrenaline, and beads of sweat were forming in the creases of his forehead. I knew he felt my heart pounding against him as his mouth curled into a wicked smile. I wanted to yell, to shriek for help, but my tongue was too heavy. I was paralyzed with fear. 

“It’s been arranged,” he hissed.

“What’s--,” he brought his finger to my lips and shook his head to silence me.

“Not until I’m finished.” 

His breath poured over my skin in putrid waves of onions and sweat. I held my breath.

“You’re coming off this island with me next Wednesday. I don’t know if we’re staying overnight. Pack a bag just in case.”

“But I–.” 

“Do I look finished?” He shook my wrists and pressed his body harder against mine, almost as if he wanted to make sure I felt the weight of him. He looked at the open door and then back to me. Bristly ends of his mustache rubbed against my cheek, and his hands tightened around my wrists. My hands tingled. “No one will know about this,” he leveled his eyes with mine. “Do you understand?”

I nodded.  

“Do…you…understand?”

“I understand.” I could barely whisper.  

He smacked his lips and brought his mouth to my ear. “I’m going to treat you like no one’s treated you. And if you tell anyone about this,” he paused and sucked in my scent, “I’ll know. You understand? I’ll know.” 

Releasing me, he grinned and strode to the door. “Wait to come out until I’ve been out there a while. I don’t want anyone to think we’ve been inappropriate in here.” 

He whistled as he walked away.

I placed my hand over my mouth to stifle any sounds, but I knew, even if I wailed, no one could hear me. I slid down the wall and hugged my legs to my chest. My mind was blank with panic as tears dripped to my knees.

After a few minutes, I stood and gathered myself, brushing the dust from my pants and the wetness from my face and worked quickly and quietly for the rest of the night. I was in the kitchen only when absolutely necessary and went back to the apartment when the shift was over, vowing to handle it in the morning.

I slept poorly, tossing and turning as I tried to forget the feeling of Chef’s hot breath on my skin, his fingers around my wrists, his body pressed against mine. 


Thursday


I rose with the sun and went to the cafe, but it was closed for another hour. Sitting on the dock, I dangled my feet over the water and stared at my phone. I wanted to call Mom, but I didn’t want to worry her. She’d been through enough and was seven hundred miles away piecing her life back together. It felt selfish to interfere with that. 

Dad was a four-hour drive. Even if he and I didn’t like one another very much, I was still his daughter. I assumed that meant he’d have to help. 

The phone rang twice before he sang a happy and familiar hello on the other end.

“Dad?” My voice trembled.

“Hi, munchkin.” 

My shoulders relaxed. He sounded pleased to hear my voice. “I...I think I’m in trouble.”

“What do you mean, ‘trouble?’”

I told him about the advances, the touches, the meals, and the demands. “I don’t know what he wants from me, but I’m afraid of what’s going to happen if I go off this island with him. I’m also afraid of what’s going to happen if I don’t.”

There was a long pause before Dad replied, “well, Pumpkin, I don’t really know what it is you want me to do here. You need to be firm, hold your position, and tell him you aren’t going anywhere with him.” His voice was flat, direct.  

“I tried that, Dad. It didn’t do anything.”

He sighed, sounding exhausted and bored. “Well, dear, there comes a time when you need to be an adult and handle your own situations. Don’t be ambiguous about your response. Just tell him no.”

“He attacked me in the pantry! It doesn’t feel like I have much of a choice here, Dad…I’m scared.”

“Are you sure you’ve been as clear as you think you’ve been? Maybe there’s a chance that you’ve behaved in a way that…well…that made him think he had the go-ahead. You do that, you know. You have a way.”

A way. I felt sick. He thought I’d somehow asked for Chef’s behavior. That somehow I had welcomed it. My own father believed me to be naturally wrong, and innately inappropriate. “I’m not some whore.”

“Don’t be dramatic. I’m just saying that sometimes you act in ways that project a message I don’t think you intend to send.”   

I closed my eyes to keep the tears from falling. They snuck out anyway. “I shouldn’t have called.” 

We didn’t speak again for four months.

I felt worthless, like a napkin to be used, crumpled, and discarded, and I hated myself and him and all the Hims who had come before, each one chipping away, molding me into this pathetic thing that couldn’t protect herself.


*


I met Toni at the bulletin board, and she was happy to swap shifts. I offered her my Friday; a wedding reception was scheduled. 

“You sure?” she asked.

“Yeah. I’d just rather Wednesday.” 

When I entered the kitchen, Chef stepped in front of me, proud to announce that the new schedule was up.

“I know. I saw. I switched with Toni for Wednesday. I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to go.” My breath was slow, my voice strong, and my fists were in my apron pocket, my nails carving half moons into my skin.

His eyes narrowed and he straightened his back. “Switch back.”

“I can’t do that.” 

“I’m not canceling our plans. Find someone to fill in.”

“I’m not going to do that. Maybe you can find someone else to go with.”

I felt sweat in my hairline. His face reddened, and he stepped closer, challenging me to look away. I didn’t, and after a while, he returned to the line. I wondered if maybe Dad had been right. Maybe I just needed to stand my ground.


*


The shift was unremarkable. The tables were steady; the food was quick, and no one complained. I was in the kitchen sometime in the middle of service when a metallic bang rang out behind me. It reverberated off the hard kitchen walls in swells until there was only silence. The room was stunned and electrified all at once. 

I spun around to find Chef at the line with a butcher’s knife clenched in his fist and his eyes locked on me. The blade had gone through the center of a butcher block, piercing the steel table beneath it, and his knuckles were white.

“If it wasn’t okay…” he heaved, “you shouldn’t have fucking said it was okay!” His voice echoed around the room. 

The staff stared at me, then at him, then back at me, and the fluorescent light shone down on me like a spotlight. I stood dumbfounded in the center of the kitchen, my mouth drifting open, my body shaking. 

“Hey, you alright?” Peter touched my arm. I jumped and caught the dessert I was holding just before it toppled.  

Chef glared at me, his chest rising and falling quickly, and Peter took my hand. “Come on.”

I nodded and walked with him, and as we left, Chef yelled at the cooks for being too slow. Peter wrapped his arms around me once we were in the dining room. “What the fuck happened?”

“It’s too much. It’s just gone too far,” was all I could say.

Everyone was quiet for the rest of the night. No one was unaffected. After clocking out, I went back to my apartment and called Mom. I didn’t want to bother her with it, but I was afraid that if I stayed, I might not make it to her at the end of the summer.

“I’m coming,” was all she said.

I slept with the lights on.


Friday


I went to the cafe in the morning and sat at the corner table, tracing my fingers along the sailboat carved into its worn oak top. The grooves of the mast above and the waves below had dulled, their edges smoothed by time and people and things. Fragments of paint hinted at the color that once filled their indentations, and I wondered how long it had taken to wipe the gold from the sun and the blue from the sea. What had it taken to erase the beautiful thing it had been? 

My phone rang. I splashed my coffee over the carving, and I swore at my clumsiness and my nervousness. And me.

“I have a flight. I’ll be there tomorrow morning at eleven. Meet me at the airport,” Mom said. 

“Okay.”

“There’s a lot to do, so I have to run, but be safe. I’ll be there soon.”

Maybe I wasn’t overreacting. If she was flying from Connecticut, maybe I was right. Maybe I was in danger.    

There was one thing left to do.

*


The receptionist took me into a small room in the back. It was intimate and bright and away from the noise of the comings and goings in the lobby. Four mocha, leather chairs sat around a glass coffee table, and a white vase embraced white roses at its center. Egg white walls were untarnished by pictures or paintings. The room was pure. 

The three owners glided in shortly after me. Long, delicate, and lean, they looked like they’d been picked straight from the garden; silky, pastel suits draped over their dewy skin. I tugged at a string from a hole in my jeans and tucked the stained edge of my t-shirt into my waistband, acutely aware that I was a smudge, a blemish, on the room. 

“What can we do for you this morning, Sarah?”

I took a deep breath. “I want to say how much I’ve enjoyed it here. What you have is something really special, but some things have happened, some big things, and I need to leave. I’ll have my shifts covered for today, but I leave tomorrow.”

“Why do you need to leave?” the youngest asked. She was direct, not unfeeling but not unbothered, either.

“I can’t stay. It’s not possible,” I paused, waiting to see if maybe they already knew what I was about to say, but if they did, they offered nothing. They were stoic. “It started out fine, I guess…”. 

I explained the events of the prior three weeks, and as I spoke, my words got faster and my sentences got longer; I tried to stop and take a breath but couldn’t, and my hands swatted at the air, acting out the words. I accidentally knocked my water bottle off the coffee table, jarring them into movement, but I didn’t slow down. When I finished, I sat back in the chair and took a sip of the water, grateful the lid had been on tight. My hands trembled. I knew they noticed.

“Why are you bringing this to us now?”

I didn’t have a good response. “I guess I thought I could handle it, or I was worried that you might not believe me. He’s my boss.”

They shook their heads and responded in unison, “he is not.” 

“I’m sorry. I thought he was. He makes the schedule and orders us around. It felt like he was in charge. He even told me he was my boss, that he controlled when we worked and what we did…all of it.”

“He is not. And besides, we instructed all of you to come to us with anything on the very first day.” 

I wanted to tell them I hadn’t seen them in weeks. I wanted to tell them that this conversation was the first we’d had since that very first day, twenty-seven days ago. I wanted to tell them they had no presence at the restaurant, that they didn’t know me, that they knew my name merely because I’d made the appointment. But I didn’t say any of that because I didn’t want to be inappropriate anymore. Instead, I looked down and pulled at a string on my jeans, expanding the hole even further.

The youngest leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees and clasping her hands over the coffee table. “I’ll tell you what I’m hearing: it seems the situation has thwarted itself. If you want to leave, that’s one thing, but what you’ve described certainly does not sound like it gives rise to quitting,” she paused. “Please don’t misunderstand. This sounds like it was very upsetting for you, but that’s why we’re here, and that’s what I hope you’ve learned this morning. If something happens, you come to us. You tell us. Not only do you work for us, but the chef does, too. Everyone reports to someone.”

The mother placed her hand on her daughter’s arm, adding, “As it is, if you leave now, don’t you think that would send the message that he’d won? People like that, who act that way, who do those things, those people are the kind who feed on intimidation. They pick on the weaker prey only because they can. But if you don’t run out of town, if you stay, well, you could show him just how strong you are. Do you like working here?”

I nodded and spun my ring around my finger, studying the lines of my knuckles.

“Well then, you should never let anyone, a man of all people, run you out of town and away from what you want. You have the right to do whatever you feel is best, but if you ask me, you need to show him that you are stronger than him, that you are better than him. He can’t win. I think you should stay.”

“I don’t think this is a matter of win or lose,” I replied hesitantly. “I think this is a matter of feeling threatened, of being threatened. I’m afraid of this man. I’m afraid of what he might do when no one’s watching. Look at what he did when everyone was.”

“What can we do to keep you?”

I knew they knew the answer. I also knew it didn’t matter. 

“There’s nothing you can do. I can’t stay while he’s here.”

As I stood to leave, I wasn’t upset with them. I knew they didn’t understand, and I don’t condemn them for that. I envy them. It was clear that they had never experienced the kind of fear that wraps around your throat and roots your feet to the floor, the kind that pollutes the air you breathe and terrorizes your sleep. They had never been haunted by the shadow of someone else, that much was clear because once you have, you’ll recognize it anywhere, in anyone. And you’d do anything to stop it.


Two Weeks Later - Connecticut


I ran my fingers over the embossed flowers adorning a card from Peter. It had just arrived. Inside it read:


I wish you’d left your phone number. I didn’t even realize until you’d

left that I didn’t have a way to contact you. Thankfully the owners gave

me your address. God I miss you. Things got a little out of control after

you left. Chef started bothering Sera - you know, from Ted’s - and

things got so bad so fast. Two nights ago he went behind the bar and

grabbed her by the throat - right in front of us! It was a packed bar! I

swear he went crazy. He was screaming he’d kill her if she didn’t leave

with him, and I think he probably would have if they’d been alone. It

was something about going off the island and staying overnight

somewhere. God, Sarah, it was really bad. Ted had to rip him off of her.

Anyway, the owners asked me to send you this letter. They fired him

yesterday and want you to know your job is waiting. They’d love to

have you back.

Please come back. I miss you.

~P




Sarah DiSilvestro is a writer from Connecticut. She loves the smell of the ocean and the sound of her son's laughter, and you can usually find her overanalyzing whatever human interaction she just awkwardly concluded. Feel free to read her works in Club Plum Literary Journal, Lavender Bones Magazine, Scary Mommy, and nothingisfine.com.

1 Comment


Guest
5 days ago

Fantastic Sarah!

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