Holding His Forever


by Alexa Riley

1

Fia

“You finish your shit, Fia?”

Sam’s gravelly voice from years of smoking barks from behind me as I hang up the phone in his back office. A mixture of annoyance and relief fills me. I really didn’t want to have to cover Kim’s shift at the women’s shelter tonight and was thankful she was able to make it in. I would have done it if they needed me; I’d do anything for that place. But I’m dead on my feet as it is. I’ve been on my feet for the past twelve hours and haven’t slept in over twenty-four, and it would be my luck that if I went back to the shelter, it would be a busy night.

“Already clocked out.” I turn to look at Sam, whose eyes are trained on my ass. He slowly pulls them up to my face as a smirk plays at his lips, showing off his yellow-tinted teeth, not a care that he’s openly running his eyes over my body. Sadly, I’ve become used to it. It still creeps me out, but he’s never tried anything.

Or maybe my luck is about to change, I think, as he shuts the door to his office, trapping me in. The door is always open. The waitresses here at Moe’s always keep our stuff stored back here, where we clock in and out for our shifts.

“You think about my offer?” He cocks his head to the side like he’s giving me the world, not a management position at the diner. I’d stay later after waiting tables and help with paperwork and orders and get a raise, but I think Sam has a few more strings he wants to add to the positionthings I want no part of. I’ve turned down the offer twice now, but he keeps telling me to think on it.

Normally I just mumble a, “no, thanks,” on my way out the door, but now it’s closed and I’m trapped. Trapped with a man twice my age, maybe even pushing three times my age. It’s hard to tell with his shaved head. He’s double my size, and I don’t mean in muscle or height. No, there’s a lot of gut on old Sam.

“I really don’t have the time.” I tell him the same thing I’ve said every time it’s been brought up. At least, not without giving up my shifts at the shelter, and that’s not something I’m willing to do, even if the pay is way worse over there. I love that shelter. I owe them so much after what they did for my mother and me. I’m just thankful they pay me at all, because I would do it for free. I hope that one day I can do it for free, but at the moment that just isn’t possible if I want to keep a roof over my head and food on my plate.

“We’ll cut your serving time,” he suggests, taking a step towards me. I try to match his in retreat but only hit the desk. I don’t want to cut my serving hours only to spend more time with him in his cramped little office alone. Hell, I’ve been in here for two minutes and I feel like I’m having a panic attack. I can feel my heartbeat pick up speed. My anxiety grows with each pull of my breath. I know all too well how men act when they don’t get the responses they want. I’ve seen it for years with my own father and how he treated my mother.

I just shake my head again, trying to push the words past my lips. “I really” My words are cut short when Tracy throws open the door.

“Who in the hell put the” She stops abruptly when she sees us both standing in the tiny office. Her eyes narrow, going back and forth between us. Tracy has been working at the diner for years. She trained me a few months back, and many might even think she owns the place by how she pushes everyone around. And I’m pretty sure she and Sam have a thing. I stay out of her way. I want my tables and tips and nothing more from this place. It’s a means to an end. A slow means, but I’m getting there, dollar by dollar, and this place has the best tips I’ve come across so far, so I put up with it.

“I’m having a meeting.” Sam turns to look at her. Tracy purses her lips at him, clearly not liking what he’s saying.

“No, it’s fine. I really should be going. I’ll miss the bus,” I lie. I always walk home. I grab my purse and coat and don’t even bother to put them on. I just hold them close to my body over my cheap polyester uniform that fits a little too snuggly on me. “Maybe Tracy would like the manager position,” I throw out.

“What!” Tracy half-screams, her face scrunching up. I steal the moment to slip past them both as fast as I can and out the side door of the diner, into the chilled night. The street is empty now that it’s almost midnight on a Tuesday.

I slip my coat on and make the half-mile walk to my apartment, which sits over an old laundromat. Locking the door behind me, I waste no time pulling my uniform from my body and tossing my tips from tonight on the table before jumping into the shower. I have to get the smell of grease off my hair and body. I let the warm water run over me, relaxing my muscles as I wash away the day’s work.

When I’m done I grab a shirt and a pair of panties and pull them on. I sit at the small fold-out table in my half kitchen, if you can call it that. It doesn’t even have a full refrigerator, just one of those tiny ones you find in a hotel, which is probably where it came from. There’s a small sink and microwave, and that’s about it. My exhaustion outweighs my hunger as I count my tips. A hundred dollars on a double shift for a Tuesday isn’t too bad. Every dollar counts at this point. I’m so close to being able to pay for my last semester of college. Twelve more credits and I’m done, I remind myself. I can do this.

I grab the money and place it carefully, along with yesterday’s money, between the pages of a book I keep on the table. I still need to go to the bank and deposit it. After that, I walk the few feet to my bed in the corner of the room and fall face first into the cushioned surface.

“I miss you, Mom,” I whisper into the pillow before sleep takes me.

2

Phoenix

I sit on the edge of the cot and plant my feet on the floor. I’m sleeping in the firehouse tonight, even though it’s not my turn. The department shrink would have something to say about this, but it’s the only way I can move on. To move forward. To work until I’m exhausted enough that my dreams don’t turn into nightmares and I wake up screaming.

The gold plate above my head reads, Phoenix 1st LT, Engine 20; Ladder 70 FDNY, and I reach up, tapping it for good luck. Most firefighters are superstitious, and even if I don’t believe all the things that go along with it, I respect the hell out of tradition.

I stand up and walk past the rows of cots towards the chow room. Our firehouse is big, and I’m the first lieutenant here. I supervise the daily operations, training, and lead the emergency response of our engine company. Graham, our second LT, does swing shifts with me so that we’re not both constantly on call. But I’ve been here for the past four months, regardless of whether it’s been my turn on or not.

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