Liv started from sleep with a grunt as the loud alarm clock let out a shrill beep three times showing five am on the screen. She reached across and pressed snooze. Turning over, she stretched within the delicious warmth of her covers, stilling a bit as sleep seeped into her senses again. She sat up in a slow daze, throwing the covers aside. Why did it always feel like moving a boulder, getting up in the morning? She swung her legs out of the bed and stood up, rubbing her eyes and scratching her hair. Dragging her feet, she went to the bathroom, toothpasted her toothbrush and undressed for the shower. Naked, toothbrush in hand and hair covered, she went under the spray of nearly too hot water, and stood there, brushing her teeth. The water felt like a benediction for leaving the warmth of her bed at this sacrilegious hour. Gazing listlessly at the floor, water slid down her body as she scrubbed them. When she was satisfied she rinsed her mouth and then the brush, then threw that back on the sink.
After an hour, she was closing her apartment door and walking to her co-worker’s door.
“You look like hell,” Liv remarked as Sunny came into view around the corner. Sunny had on the standard work uniform but it was buttoned only halfway up, and her pants were creasy in places and stained at the knees. Her hair was in a messy bun at the crown and her face did not match her bare neck and arms. There were smudges under her eyes and her pink bra strap was showing at the shoulders.
“Long weekend. Don’t ask.” Sunny replied.
“Daniel is Not a good kisser,” Sunny said.
“I thought we weren’t going to talk about it,” Liv drew down her brows.
Sunny couldn’t have heard her. “He is just the worst,”
Liv gave up. “Alright, what happened,”
“Well, he took me this club, right?….” The rest of the tale was included, but not limited to; creepy looking ‘friends’ in near pitch black bars, hootchie mamas, and what may or may not have been transgender midgets giving head at the back of a bar behind some dumpsters. Liv had known Sunny on the very first day she started work at Hopmart’s, a chain supermarket. Sunny was trying to help a mother reason with a nine-year-old toddler who wanted a wrench in the tools aisle. Liv had walked to within talking distance of the three of them and stopped, her eyes on the child. When the toddler looked up, she’d given him a promisingly threatening stare and he’d cooperated instantly. After the mother left with her child, Sunny had turned to her with a wide, beautiful smile that gave credit to her name and then proceeded to ask Liv what she was doing that night after work. They’d been friends ever since.
As they stood outside waiting for the supermarket doors to be opened, Liv heard a voice next to her ear.
“I really like how those pants look on you,”
“Yeah? I’ll buy you a pair to wear, then we’ll see if you’ll still think so,”
“Girl you know I be killin’ it,” Guy replied, pursing his lips and raising his eyebrows.
Liv smiled. “How was your weekend,”
Guy sighed, “It was long and hard girl, I wasn’t sure I could take it….”
Liv’s lips quirked in a conceding smile and she narrowed her eyes. “Good to know. At least you got some action.”
“You need to get yourself a man. Let me hook you up, you know I know lotta bis.”
“I don’t need that right now,”
“You Don’t Know that,”
“How do You know that?”
“The Magic Mike reruns I know you’ve been touching yourself to,”
Liv was affronted, “How do you know That?”
Before he could answer the doors opened and they filed inside. It wasn’t true, of course, they both knew that. And she never took offence, but she turned and walked backwards. shaking her head, watching Guy with the same rueful smile.
“You need therapy,”
“And you need some wood,” Guy replied, smirking. “I got the hookup, holla if you need me.”
After the staff briefing that preceded store preparation, Liv found Sunny in the locker room ruffling through her things.
“Looking for something?” Liv asked, after a prolonged sentence punctuated by frustrated sighs and fruitless tossing and banging of things.
“I can’t find the wallet with all my dog tags and my keys” came the muffled reply.
“Move over, let me try,”
Liv methodically took out the stuff in Sunny’s locker one by one. She found the small wallet wrapped in one of the jackets she never uses. It was already opened. And her keys were gone.
Sunny was one of three supervisors at checkout whose keys opened the cash registers, and whose dog tags enabled a customer to take back items. So it was not an over the top reaction when she shrieked in horror and clutched her chest on seeing the open wallet.
Liv continued taking out everything and then shaking them out in front of her. When the locker was empty and the keys were still missing, Sunny raised her brown eyes from the floor where she was kneeling, double checking all the pockets.
“Where the fuck are they??” she almost screamed in her terror.
“I don’t know Sunshine, are you sure you left them in here?” Liv asked, terrified on her behalf.
The overall supervisor walked in just then,
“Liv, Sunny, what’s taking you so long? We don’t have all day.”
“Umm, sir, I can’t find the cash register keys?” Sunny’s voice shook.
“What? What do you mean you can’t find the keys?”
“I can’t find them. We’ve looked everywhere.”
“Where did you leave them last?”
“Here in my locker,”
Pretty soon, all the lockers were lying open and everyone’s stuff was strewn on the floor.
“Damn it Sunny! How could you lose something as valuable as this?” the Supervisor was nearly hysterical.
“I’m sorry sir, I swear I didn’t mean for it to happen. I put them in my wallet and left the wallet locked in there like I always do. I don’t know what could have happened.”
Liv stood up from her rubble of bags and sweaters and went to Sunny’s locker. She turned the door and examined the lock, looking closely at the area around it and the door as a whole. Nothing was broken. She leaned further into the locker to check out the back. Everything was intact.
“No one broke in. Everything looks tight. That means someone stole the keys to your locker first.”
“What? How could that have happened? They were in my pocket when I left here on Friday. And I came with them this morning,” Sunny was nearly crying.
“Alright. Everyone back to your posts, we need to get started with the day. Jane, we’ll use your set, help everyone get sorted. Come with me Sunny.”
The crowd disbanded.
Liv put hers and Sunny’s stuff back in the lockers and got ready for the day.
She’d just gotten into a rhythm when there came a crash from the far end of the aisle, and she looked up from the assortment of spices and cooking sauces to see a man in a pair of brown pants and a brown jacket. He looked to be in his mid-forties, with greying hair at his temples and a squint behind thick glasses. This squint was aimed at the bags of rice he was looking at while holding three jars of Mayo from the shelves behind him. One of which he’d just dropped.
“Sir, is there something I can help you with?” Liv asked.
Beside the man, was a large shopping trolley, filled with a mixture of items to which no order could be placed except in their costliness. He turned to look at Liv, and she stiffened at the wild look in his eyes.
He started toward her with faltering steps, as all the jars fell down.
Liv ran to him just as the overhead speaker shouted, “clean up in aisle three,”
“Sir, is everything alright? What’s wrong, do you need help? Did you come here with someone?”
The man reached out a shaky hand and Liv grabbed it, thinking to help, but he slapped at it and reached up at the neat ponytail swinging behind her and pulled. Pulled hard. Liv turned her head and leaned back out of his reach. He then tightened his grip on her forearm until she thought he was going to rip it out.
“Where is she? Tell me, where is Sarah, you stupid bitch! I know you’re keeping her here somewhere – just tell me!” He was foaming at the mouth and shaking her back and forth. Suddenly he lunged forward and bit her cheek. Liv screamed, quite inexplicably shocked, trying to pull away as he snarled at her. His breath was rank and warm on her face and as he leaned in, their feet got tangled together. They fell down just as Sunny rounded the corner.
Liv’s name died at her throat as she watched her trying to wrestle the lunatic off of her. He had his hands around her throat and was choking her. Liv formed a fist with her right hand and forced it under the man’s ribs, making him rise up off her. Sunny called security as he then proceeded right around and started throwing out the items that were in his cart, screaming about Sarah. Rolls of toilet paper were flying everywhere when a man and a woman rushed around the end of the aisle, their faces the colour of horror as they gazed at the man with the flailing arms full of tissue. They made a dash for the lunatic and brought him to the floor.
“Sid? Sid, calm down. Sarah is not here. She’s dead Sid. Listen to me,”
“No! Let go of me! Let me go right now I swear to God. I need to find her. I need to find Sarah.”
The other man kept his arms restrained above him as he tried to calmly talk to him.
“Sid, Sarah isn’t here. You know she isn’t here. We need to get you home. Why did you leave the house when you know you haven’t been taking your medication?”
“You people just want me to die. You and your filthy wife. I see her over there acting as if she cares. You care nothing for me! Pumping me with chemicals, you animals! Let me go!”
In the end, they had to carry him out of there, thrashing limbs and all.
“What did the Supervisor say,” Liv asked a while later in the locker room. She had an ice bag at the back of her head and her cheek was swollen where the lunatic had bitten her.
“He told me they are going to change the locks on the registers today, and that the fee will be taken out of my pay.” Sunny replied, flatly.
“Oh. Typical. Aren’t they even going to attempt to find out who took them keys?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t talk to me about it.”
“What did you do after you locked up last week? Tell me everything.”
“Well, I came from the front, changed clothes, then put all my tags and the keys in the wallet, put that in the locker, locked shit up, put the key in my carry on and went to find Daniel out front and we left. He took me straight to this seedy bar downtown where we had drinks.”
“Where did you leave your bag?”
“I was afraid of the place so I carried it with me most of the time. But wait though, I think I left it at one point with Daniel when I needed a bathroom break.”
“How long were you gone”
“Couple of minutes. Why?
“Did you sleep at his place?”
“Yeah, just that one night.”
“I see. Come with me.”
“You don’t think he actually took them, do you? Because I still have them.”
“We’ll found out,”
For the rest of the day, Liv kept a discreet eye on Daniel. Noting how he kept checking his pockets, wanting to stand in for Sunny every time she needed a break. Sometimes even asking when it wasn’t necessary.
During the evening shift, Liv was on customer care duty when a young girl came up to the desk and asked her if she’d seen her mommy. She was dressed in bright yellow with a raggedy teddy bear in her arms. Her hair, however, was not tidy, and her shoes were torn. Liv regarded the little girl with mild interest.
“Where did you last see your mommy?”
“Outside, before she came in. She told me to wait for her here”
“Well let’s go look for her then,”
Liv turned and signal to a co-worker to come and cover for her while she slid out from behind the desk and went to take the little girl’s hand. As she passed by Daniel on the way out, he was standing near a checkout point, his hands drifting near the cash register.
Outside, she walked the little girl to the spot where she last saw her mother. The parking lot was bustling, filled with cars and people and push trolleys, all going in different directions. The street lights were coming on one by one, and there was a lot of noise and dust in the air. There was a road outside Hopmart’s perimeters and medium height buildings on the other side of it. A distance away, Liv heard a woman shouting a name. At the very end of the lot, right next to the exit, a small woman was stopping random strangers and forcing a piece of paper beneath their noses. She had on a green parka, black pants and a white scarf. On her arm was a black purse.
Liv looked down at the girl, and asked, “What was your mommy wearing today, can you tell me?”
“Umm, jeans and a tee shirt and a scarf. The scarf was white and the pants black.” was the instant reply.
“Okay, come with me. I think I see her.”
As they were tallying up the numbers at closing time, only Sunny’s registers were short. When asked about it, she said she didn’t know how that could have happened. Liv did, however, and she confronted Daniel the minute they hit the lockers.
“Danny…I had no idea you wanted Sunny’s job so bad. If I did I would have advised her against going out with you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh, I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. At first, I thought you just wanted some quick cash, but that’s not it, is it?”
“Are you trying to say something here?”
“When I saw you lingering over Sunny’s registers though,… You could be less obvious.”
Daniel leapt at her. “You can’t prove anything.”
“I’m curious. How did you get a copy? Those kinds of keys are pretty hard to imitate.”
“I know a guy.”
“Huh. Figures. But why Sunny?”
“Because she’s the easiest to get to. Jane and the other one wouldn’t talk to me to warn me of a fire.”
Liv could imagine that.
“So how do you wanna play this Danny? You have one of my closest friends set up, and I want her out. Would you like me to come clean for you? Or are you at least a little bit brave?”
Daniel was a furious coward at the moment. “How dare you threaten me? You can’t prove anything, and besides, they won’t believe you. So shut your fucking mouth or I’ll shut it for you.”
“Really?” said Liv, not at all moved. “That’s the best you can do? Alright, guys, you heard him. He’s a fucking coward.”
From the partially closed door behind her, to Daniel’s magnificently horrified face, came the entire supermarket staff, with the supervisor front and centre.
“I gotta say, you weren’t that big a challenge. I’m disappointed.” Liv said, head tilted to the side.
“I can’t believe you’re gonna just sit there and look at me like that.” Sunny huffed at her staring from the top of the cherry bottle they were sharing.
“What do you want me to do?”
“I don’t know, ask me to make you supper, do your dishes for a week, help you shave your legs…”
“That last one though,” Liv smiled at her.
“Really though, thank you for coming through for me. I don’t know what I would’ve fucking done if I’d lost my job because of him.”
“It’s alright baby doll. I’m glad I could help. Besides, you’re the only sunshine in that shithole.”
“I’m glad you think so,” Sunny said, giving her one of her siren smiles. “Even though we both know I make shitty decisions.”
“So thank God I’m here, right?” asked Liv, with a hint of humour.
Sunny giggled, “Right. But let me pick the movies. The last time you picked I was seeing severed limbs climbing all my vertical surfaces”
“Did you hear Guy this morning? He wants to set me up with bisexuals.”
“His intentions do make a fair point,”
“You too? Man, give me that remote, I’mmona make you watch The Conjuring just for that….”
“Oh, come on….”