Susan Harris sighed as she pulled out the rag and cleaner from behind the counter. Looking around the bowling alley where she worked, she saw all the people there, happy and having fun. Smirking, she remembered when she had been able to do that. Have fun without worrying. Be with her family and friends. Of course, all that had changed when she had come to college. She saw her family maybe twice a year now, if she was lucky. And considering that they were almost two hundred miles away, that couldn't be helped.
Remembering that she had a job to do and that Mr. Reynolds, though kind, was still her boss and wouldn't appreciate it if she was wasting her time instead of working. How, she wondered, is he going to feel when he finds out about my little… handicap? Touching her stomach, she felt what anyone could have felt. Part of her stomach was harder than the rest. Of course, she thought, that tends to happen when you're pregnant. Shaking the sense of impending horror at having to explain that to him, she focused her attention on cleaning the table. Of course, her mind wasn't on the task at hand, but instead remembering the events that had led up to this fiasco.
She remembered clearly now all the little things that she should have seen. But, as they say, love is blind. Well, that had certainly been the case with her. How could he have just abandoned her? It was simple. All he had done was sneak out the door. Turned a knob, and left her dreams of a future life and possibly family with hanging him high and dry. All he had done was said plain and simply, I didn't think we were exclusive, and walked away with his new girlfriend. Susan felt despair fill her as she thought of that. Not because she missed him. Oh no, after what he had said and how he had used and abandoned her, all she felt was bitterness and anger. After that cooled off, just apathy. No, she felt sorry for his little girlfriend. Poor thing, she was just a freshman. How could she possibly see him for what he was? Of course, Susan herself, though a junior, hadn't seen it. The fact that Timothy Hollister had been a poser, telling her everything that she had wanted to hear, and a user, getting what he wanted and then leaving her in the dust.
Feeling her soul laugh bitterly, she felt a dark part of her say, And why couldn't you see it? Because you wanted so much to believe that he loved you. That someone other than your family actually felt that way. That a living man actually could feel love for you. Angrily, she curbed the tears that sprung to her eyes. Of course, that part of her would bring up the one man who had loved her as a father. Trying to take her mind off it, she sprayed another table with the cleaner and set to work. But her mind would not leave the area. In her mind's eye, she saw a young version of herself, hugging the man that had loved her so dearly. Old Gramps. She could almost feel the light pressure as she worked. Then, in another second, she remembered the funeral. The sadness, and disbelief as she saw him lying in that casket. The only father that she had ever known, eyes closed and a look of eternal peace on his face. A small part of her stirred at that thought. She almost smiled, a somewhat rare occurrence, as she reminded herself that although she herself may not be a Christian, she knew that he was, and that he was now healthy and happy, and waiting for his family to join him. Of course, how many joined him was entirely her family's choice. No, he wasn't completely dead, and she was glad of that, but it wasn't the same. Smiling sadly, she continued to clean the table. At least it was something.
Moving on, she remembered the despair that she had felt when she had found out of her pregnancy. It had been three weeks in, early, but she had known that something was wrong, feared it, and it turned out that her fears were a reality. Shame filled her, as she remembered how she had panicked, not a usual thing for her, but this had been different. Self-disgust also filled her again as she remembered going to that abortion clinic. Of course, she had just gone to learn more about the option. And learned she had. When she had finished reading those pamphlets, oh, how her soul had raged in her. Smiling ironically, she remembered the fierce love that had risen that instant for the being in her. Never had she thought that she could feel that deeply. Though the righteous anger in her had told her to throw the pamphlets on the table and storm out, the logic in her has advised otherwise. So, she had simply canceled her appointment, left as quickly as she could, and never returned. Still, thought something in her, you went.
Well, the past can't be redone. It is futile to imagine what would be different, she thought. Moving on to her next to last table, she looked up as the doors swished open to see two men and a woman enter. Shaking her head amusedly at the obvious affection between what appeared to be the older man and the woman, she could only surmise that they were a couple. They seem so happy, she thought, and a she did she felt the tears form in her eyes. Shaking her head roughly, she refused to let the tears fall and waited until they were gone.
Moving on to her thankfully last table, she smirked as she felt the old desire to just be in someone's arms resurface. No, she thought, not going to happen. Of course, all thought of that dissipated into shock as she felt arms encircle her still small waist from behind. For a second, just a second, she was back at home, she was younger, she was happy. Her family was all with her, and the future seemed so bright. Then, reality came back to her as she realized she had no clue who had the hold on her. Then she rolled her eyes as she remembered that there was only person who would dare hug her from behind, and that was Lena, her best friend and roommate.
"Lena, let me go." She said.
The person didn't listen. "Lena, I said let me go," she repeated.
Sighing, she placed her hands over her friend's hands and froze. Those weren't Lena's hands. Lena's hands were small and soft, whereas these were bigger, much bigger. Turning her head slightly, she saw the man who had walked in with the other couple. She did her best not to scream the words as she said, as civilly as possible, "Sir, I'm not the friend that you have obviously mistaken me for, so please, let me go." With that, the hands unfolded under hers, and the man moved away. Turning around to face him, she was surprised to see how handsome he was. What? Where did that come from! part of her thought.
"Sorry, I think you misunderstand. I didn't mistake you for someone else, something in me just told me that you could use a hug." he said.
Of course, it would then register to Susan that he was talking. Smirking inwardly, she had to fight to keep her face straight. "I would suggest that you don't do that very often. Not all people can handle it as calmly," she said.
"I'm sorry if I startled you. Please, allow me to buy you a soda to make up for it," he said, giving her a small grin.
Repressing a smile to match, she shook her head, "I'm still on the clock. My boss wouldn't appreciate it very much, Mr…………"
"Mike, Mike McLoughlan." He finished for her.
"Sorry, Mike, but I can't." she stated.
"Well, when do you get off?"
Looking at her watch, she almost smiled, "Ten minutes."
"How about then? " he asked.
"Um, I don't kn-"
"Of course she will."
Susan turned at the voice behind her to see her friend, Lena. Cocking her eyebrow at her friend, she kept silent as Lena finished "Of course my single friend would love to take you up on that offer. Turning to Mike, she found him holding back a laugh.
"All right then, um…"
"Susan, Susan Harris, " she said.
"All right then, Susan, it's a date… I meant that figuratively of course," he said, noticing the look he was getting from Susan. Nodding her head in agreement, she watched him leave, then turned to her friend with the same look.
"What?" Lena asked.
"Please, explain to me again how my love life is any of your business." Susan simply asked.
"It's my business since you've been moping around for two months since that creep Tim broke up with you," she said "I'm getting tired of the moodiness and of seeing my best friend sad. I just want you to forget about him and move on with your life."
"I can't forget about him, Lena." Susan said.
"Why? You used to be so happy, now all you do is stare off into space and look as if the weight of the world is yours."
"In a way, it is. Since Tim broke up with me, I've changed, a lot. Things can't go back to the way they were."
"Care to explain that?" Lena asked.
"I'll tell you later, at home. Right now, I just need to tell that nice man that I can't keep my date with him…figuratively, Lena!" she said as she saw her friend's expression.
"Ok, I'll see you at home. And I'm just trying to make you happy, " Lena said as her friend walked away.
Sighing, Susan turned around, walked up to her friend, and pulled a shocked Lena into a hug. "I know." She said " And thank you."
Pushing her friend away gently, Susan turned around and tracked down Mike.
"Mr. McLoughlan, I'm afraid I can't keep my date with you. I have some things I have to work on, " Susan said.
Smiling slightly, Mike turned to face her. "It's all right. I can understand that. Maybe another time?" he asked.
Smiling slightly, Susan said the only thing that came to her mind, "Maybe", turned, and walked out the door.