Reciprocity

Winona woke to the warmth of a sunbeam’s sliver coming in the window of her motel room. Instinctively she rolled over and looked beside her but she was the only one in the bed. She felt a pang of sadness and then after a moment what could only be described as overwhelming relief. No Tyler. No arguments,  mind games or wondering if any of that was coming. It would eventually as she would have to figure out how to untangle their lives but for now she was just nowhere, literally. She was still in Nowhere, Saskatchewan on New Year’s Day.

The warm water washed over her in the shower and she stood there thankful for the peace and quiet. Winona took her time getting dressed again in her clothes from yesterday. She made coffee in the little pot that came with the room and drank a few cups while she watched some mindless television. It was simple and comforting, and all hers just right now.

Finally she decided to put on her jacket and face the day. She had to figure out how to get back to Saskatoon. Her friend Ellie had offered to come get her and that might be her best option. With a small sigh she looked around the sweet little room and shut the door. Winona was just taking her second step towards the cafĂ© when she heard a scream from the other direction behind the building. With a start she turned on her heel and jogged around to the source. She had to look around but now she could hear struggling, and swearing in a woman’s voice.

“Oh god dammit……ow…ow….shit shit shit…..” and then the woman was yelling for help “Alex!!! Joe!!! Chris….anyone! Oh for fuck’s sakes!”

Winona ran toward her and looked down the woman was on the ground holding her leg. She had brown hair going grey and a round face with kindly laugh lines around her eyes but she was far from laughing at the moment. She was also covered in garbage as the bag she was carrying had clearly burst open when she went down.

“Hi….are you OK? What can I do to help?”

The woman held up a hand to caution coming closer “Watch out….you’ll fall on it too. There’s a huge patch of ice here. Must have been condensation from the compressor…. If you can get around it, go through the back door and ask the kitchen for some salt. I’ve twisted my ankle badly.”

Winona gave one nod and carefully skirted the edge of what was indeed a giant patch of solid ice. She went through the back room and poked her head into the kitchen.

“Hello? Someone’s fallen on ice outside. Can I get some salt and some help for her please?”

Chris turned from the grill and then reached for a bag of salt from a nearby cupboard “Damn…” he muttered as he walked back to see the situation. Another man who Winona didn’t recognize from last night followed. He was as tall as Chris but older and leaner with a very defined jaw line, a full head of grey hair and black glasses. As he breezed past her she caught the overpowering odour of cigarettes on him. They pushed open the door and the smoky man yelled “Barb! Holy shit.”

Chris wordlessly went to work with the salt and then walked out to grab Barb’s hand and try to help her up.

She whimpered at the attempt “I don’t think I can put weight on it…Oh god…..where’s Alex?”

The smoky man moved to her other side and took her arm under the armpit “At cash while Hayley’s on her 15…” He looked up at Winona and then at Chris with a quizzical expression.

Between the two of them they hoisted the injured woman to her feet but she had to lift the injured one up the second it touched the ground and was working hard to control her breath.

Chris caught the look and introduced Winona to Joseph Melnyk “Winona, Joe, Joe Winona. Winona can you…uh hold the door and then….go tell Alex his wife fell. Oh yeah and Barb, Winona…Winona, Barb.”

Winona gave a half smile to Joe and Barb and then pulled the door open wider for them. They led Barb to a plastic chair in the back and Winona walked through to the little store and found Alex.

“Oh hello again! Sleep well? Things always look better in the morning eh?”

Winona smiled awkwardly “Generally yes. Except your wife just slipped on some ice and hurt her ankle. They got her into the back room….”

Alex was visibly concerned and then yelled “Hayley!” and glanced around. No one came and he looked annoyed “Can you watch the cash for a sec? She should be back by now…probably buried in her stupid phone…” He stepped out and past Winona before she could even answer either way.

“Sure….”

Thankfully the store was empty. She didn’t want to stand behind the register because she didn’t know how to use it. After two minutes of waiting a young woman breezed in the door wearing an apron and still giggling at something on her phone. She had chin length brown hair, big blue eyes and a face full of freckles.

“Are you Hayley?” Winona asked even though she was certain it was.

Hayley Hobbs smiled brightly and pocketed the phone “Yes I am. Can I help you find anything?”

Everyone was so damned friendly here. Winona couldn't help but smile back “No I’m OK but your boss’s wife fell behind the building on some ice. They’re helping her in the back room. She twisted her ankle.”

“Oh no!” Remarkably, Hayley’s eyes got even bigger with worry and then she clarified “Barb’s actually one of my bosses too. It’s Joe, Alex and Barb who own this place....well and technically Pete but he doesn't live here.” She sighed and looked up at the clock on the wall “Oh god. We’re about to get the New Year’s brunch rush…..this is bad…..I’m a horrible waitress….Barb does most of it..”

Winona looked up at the clock too and then noticed several cars pulling into the parking lot “Oh man….” She looked thoughtful and walked back to where Barb was being tended to. Alex was on one knee holding a bag of ice on her ankle and comforting her while the other two men stood back a bit.

She approached Joe and Chris “So uh…I was talking to Hayley. Do you guys need a waitress? Because you’re already getting people pulling in for your brunch.”

Chris beamed at her like she was the answer to their prayers.

Joe looked her up and down and asked critically “Are you any good at it?”

Alex’s head whipped around to his brother with an incredulous look “Jesus Joe….just give her an apron and don’t be an ass. Thank you Winona. That would be great.”

“Yes thank you so much….” Whispered Barb through her agony.

Joe wordlessly handed Winona an apron as she shot him a mild glare. She looked at Barb and Alex and then Chris while tying it behind her back “Yes, I’m good at it. I got this.”

Chris snickered behind his hand and then opened the door to the kitchen “After you m’lady.” He said jovially to Winona. Joe helped Alex get Barb into the car and Alex drove Barb to the hospital in the next town over.


Meanwhile, brunch was served and the good folks of Nowhere were simply delighted with the new waitress.

Comments

Popular Posts