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On the weekend during the lunch hour Burger King couldn’t have been more busier, crew members slinging whoppers a half-dozen at a time, a melee of kids running rapid in the playground area, their parents and then some attempting to wait patiently in line to place their orders.
Among them, Deborah, just one customer away from reaching the counter when her cellphone rang. Once the screen told her who was on the other end she wasted no time with greetings, going straight for the jugular as soon as she swiped. “Where were you? We got there ten minutes early, and waited until twenty minutes after nine. That’s thirty minutes of my day I can’t get back.
“Yes Roger, every other weekend if you’re actually there to take them! The judge also said that if you’re not responsible enough to show up on time that you lose the visitation right. I guess your selective memory forgot that too, right?
“You think I wanna argue with you? My day, my weekend is shot because of you.”
Turned to the side Deborah failed to see the customer in front of her being handed their order and walking away, as well as the cashier motioning to the one behind her to take her place when she hadn’t turned back around. And so Deborah only caught wind of Penelope taking her place once she had decided to hang up on her ex and direct her attention back to the present moment.
“Excuse me, the line starts back there,” Deborah said in an irritated tone.
“I’m aware of that,” Penelope replied, “I’ve been standing in this line almost as long as you have. But since you were on the phone, the cashier–”
“You see me standing here on my feet?” Deborah snapped back. “Just because I had to answer a phone call doesn’t mean I gave up my place in line. Why don’t you just learn some patience?”
“I have,” Penelope replied, “which is why I’m stepping back and letting you go ahead.”
“Letting me?!” Deborah said in a way that could have been universally translated as I don’t think so, bitch! before stepping up to place her order.
Meanwhile her two kids, Dustin and Breanna, were on the other side of the restaurant playing within the tunnels of fun and balls of life-sized Trix, Dustin scaring the hell out of any kid in his way as he sped down the slides atop a plastic serving tray, the noise it created reaching all the way back to the counter. “It’s so damn loud in here,” Deborah complained while placing her order.
Twenty minutes later, five of which Deborah had spent wrangling up her kids, they were leaving the restaurant, she having to threaten them every step of the way as they trailed behind her not wanting to leave. When she got to the entrance/exit a little boy no older than seven held the door open for her, turning Deborah’s frowned face into somewhat of a surprised smile. “What a kind gentleman you are,” she complimented to him.
Upon looking up to see whom he belonged to an instant shame came over Deborah, for it was Penelope who was the mother to this well-mannered child. While under the shadow of remorse two thoughts rippled with olive branch green instantaneously appeared in Deborah’s mind.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Perhaps she had gotten his mother wrong.
A friend or an enemy, often based on circumstance.
What if she hadn’t received that call from Roger, instead striking up a conversation with the woman behind her? Would it had been found that they enjoyed some of the same things? In this moment of ponder Deborah noticed Penelope was not wearing a wedding ring. Maybe something even deeper in common, like single motherhood.
There were only two words Deborah could think of saying; “I’m sorry.”
Two words that were accepted with a look of understanding.