Chapter One – The Big Bang

Tired, Jeanette Adams held her smile in place as the last customer of the evening took her time deciding which blouse to purchase. 

“Which one do you like?” the woman asked, holding the garments against her pale skin.

Jeanette honestly didn’t like either one. If she wasn’t drained from being up since dawn, she would’ve suggested the pink one. The red and blue made the customer look washed out.

“The red one,” Jeanette lied.

As she accepted the article of clothing, she felt terrible for misleading the elderly woman.

“But I think the pink one would go much better with your complexion.”

“You do?” The woman beamed. “I’m buying this to wear to my granddaughter’s birthday party. I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

Before the elder could hobble off with her cane, Jeanette gently touched her hand. The blouses were on the other side of the store. It was already five minutes after nine, if Jeanette didn’t assist the woman, she’d be there another fifteen minutes or longer.

“I’ll get it for you.”

Jeanette glanced at the tag on the garment for its size. She took the other blouses with her to return to the rack as she rushed away.

“Thank you so much. That was kind of you,” the customer acknowledged when Jeanette returned to complete the transaction.

“You’re welcome. Your total is fifty dollars and eighty-nine cents.”

Jeanette wanted to cry when the woman set her large purse on the counter and started rooting through it. It took an eternity for the woman to find her wallet. As she accepted the credit card, Jeanette prayed it wouldn’t be declined. She breathed a sigh of relief when the transaction went through. She didn’t want a repeat from earlier when a customer’s card had been declined. The woman had insisted that Jeanette run the card three times. Which she did. Only to have the woman snatch the defunct card before yelling at Jeanette as if it was her fault the card was rejected.

“Please sign in the box, Mrs. Goldsmith.”

The elderly woman took another hundred years writing her signature. Accepting the bag from Jeanette, she complimented, “You’re such a pretty girl. Do you have a boyfriend?”

Jeanette smiled, another lie rolling off her tongue. “Yes, ma’am. I have a boyfriend.”

 “What a shame. My grandson is a good Jewish boy. He’s an attorney.” She leaned in toward Jeanette, dropping her voice an octave. Her aged blue eyes sparkled. “He likes Black girls.”

Jeanette laughed. Even if she wanted to date, her life was too busy to give attention to another living soul.

“Have a good night, Mrs. Goldsmith. Get home safely.”

Mrs. Goldsmith patted Jeanette’s hand. “Thank you, dear.”

Before the customer could get five feet away, Jeanette covered her mouth to muffle a yawn. Quickly, she removed her drawer, taking speedy steps to the floor manager to cash her out.

Drawer totaled and every dollar accounted for, Jeanette hurried to her locker to get her things. She wrapped the heavy, gray cardigan she wore tightly around her body to protect against the cool air as she made her way across the parking lot. Management’s policy stating employees had to park two lots over from the entrance to accommodate customers was a nuisance. Especially on a dark and chilly night.

Jeanette wished she had time to drop off the application a former coworker had suggested she fill out as she whizzed by the popular upscale restaurant.

“Girl, the tips are crazy. You could easily work two shifts and make more cash than the five days you’re working at Macy’s.”

Jeanette had taken the part-time sales associate position to supplement her income as an early childhood education teacher. The extra money also helped her great-aunt pay for unexpected expenses. Something was always in need of repair. Like the hole Rocky the Raccoon had chewed through the roof.

Jeanette would do anything for her auntie. Even if it meant working five, sometimes six evening shifts to bring in the extra income. To be able to work less hours and make more money would be a dream. Too bad she was too beat to drop off the application. It would have to wait until another day. At home was a pile of laundry that should have been folded three days ago. She was starving, but too tired to cook. Another frozen dinner would have to do. If she was lucky, she’d be asleep by midnight. Which she doubted because lately restless nights tormented Jeanette with worry about the floundering family business.

Shivering, her steps quickened. An old, beat up blue Honda Civic she’d bought at auction three months ago was her mode of transportation. The only reason Jeanette put out the cash she’d been saving for emergencies to buy the hooptie was because her aunt worried about her taking public transportation at night.

She dug inside her purse for her car keys and noticed the luxury car parked behind hers looked out of place. The Honda’s door creaked obnoxiously loud when she opened it.  Throwing her purse on the passenger seat, Jeanette slid behind the wheel. She cringed because the door was just as noisy when she slammed it shut. Ready for this day to be over, Jeanette started the engine and put the car in gear before letting out another exhausted yawn.

“Oh, God. I’m so tired.”

The sudden bang jolted her. The sound of metal grinding plunged her stomach into a sickening sensation.

“Oh! My! God!” Jeanette shrieked. How in the world had she rammed into the black BMW sedan parked behind her? Slamming on the brakes, she jerked forward. Her hands were shaking as she put the car in drive to move up a few feet. Nerves getting the best of her, Jeanette slammed on the brakes again before putting the car in park and jumping out of the vehicle.

She kneeled to inspect the damage she’d done to the other car’s front bumper. It didn’t look too bad. Just a few scratches and a small dent. Nothing too major. The impact sounded worse than the actual damage.

She stood and looked around the dimly-lit parking lot. She glanced at her watch. It was nine forty-five p.m. and no one was in sight. The car’s owner was most likely enjoying dinner and drinks. Guilt flowed through Jeanette at the realization that she had probably ruined someone’s night. No way was she hanging around to witness the owner’s reaction.

Jeanette went to the passenger side of her car. At least that door didn’t squeak, adding to the faint throbbing in her right temple. The beginning sign of a stress headache. Her hand fumbled as she reached inside the glove compartment retrieving a small notepad and pen. Leaning against the car, she scribbled a note with her information.

Jeanette let out a deep sigh as she placed the note under the windshield wiper.

“This is going to make my insurance premium go up,” she yelled in frustration, grateful no one was around to witness her outburst.

This little mishap would be one more thing to add to the list of problems keeping her awake at night.

Can’t wait until the next episode to find out what happens next?

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