That morning, it was said on TV that it was the coldest day in ten years. This was indeed so. It had snowed since morning, and by noon the snow turned thicker.. The wind, not to be outdone, whistled constantly. People at the bus stop outside the supermarket couldn’t help running inside to get some warmth for a couple of minutes if they reckoned the bus was not coming immediately.
Thanks to the bad weather, there were few serious customers in the supermarket, and the two cashiers were playing games on their phones to kill time. Adele, who was both cashier and staff supervisor, caught sight of the snow at the entrance, tracked in by people from the bus stop.
Adele called Kate to disassemble a couple of used cartons and put them on the floor of the entrance to avoid melted snow, causing a slippery and stained floor. But she shouted a few times to the back from her cashier stand without receiving a response from Kate.
Adele had to ask another coworker to cover for her as she walked back inside to the shelves. Kate was standing between two rows of shelves, meditating. She heard footsteps and turned to Adele:
“Adele, my eyelids keep twitching all the time.”
“Left or right?”
Kate, clearly distressed, took a second to figure out left from right and pointed: “Right one.”
Adele was speechless at her state and replied carelessly, “Bad luck. My grandma said it left for fortune and right for misery.”
“Seriously?” Kate opened her eyes wide.
Adele laughed at her, being so easily shocked. “Don’t take it seriously. My uncle said it left for career and right for romance. Don’t be superstitious. It will probably go away soon.” And then Adele instructed Kate to put the flattened cartons on the floor with adhesive tapes. “Make sure the floor is dry. Otherwise, if some elderly person slips and breaks his bones, he will sue us.”
Kate nodded and ran to carry out Adele’s instructions.
After she finished, Kate came back to continue arranging items on the shelves and checking stock, a tedious job. They used to have three employees. One of the other two was the boss’s niece, and the other one was the nephew of the boss’s wife. To make things worse, these two fell in love and spent most of their time whispering and giggling together, leaving Kate to work alone.
She didn’t want to complain because it was not easy to keep a stable job. She got paid on time every month in this stagnant economic situation. Besides, she preferred to deal with merchandise rather than people. Whenever customers asked her where a certain product was, she could always give the precise location. This made her feel good. So even though Kate was busy as a bee every day, she enjoyed the job.
But today, she was a little absent-minded.
Kate took her cell phone out of her pocket from time to time. She was expecting a call, a very important one. The way her eyelids had been twitching since this morning gave her a bad feeling.
Kate hadn’t felt like herself for the whole day. She didn’t even notice when someone was walking too close to her. The person patted her on the shoulder, but she was too scared to scream out. When she turned back, that person screamed out too. It was a hoarse, male voice, and she saw a tall, skinny boy with thick eyebrows, sticking his tongue out at her.
The big boy remonstrated her for scaring him by pointing at one of her eyes, “What the hell is going on with you? That is spooky.”
Kate raised her hand to touch her eye and found a small piece of paper. She thought of her practice this morning when she had torn a small piece of tissue paper to cover her flickering eyelid. She thought there were not many customers today and that nobody would see it.
The boy with the thick eyebrows leaned on the shelf with folded arms and smiling, said, “You must be exhausted without us.”
“It will be Sarah’s birthday in two days. You should come to the party.” Sarah was the boss’s niece. The boy with the thick eyebrows is John, nephew of the boss’s wife.
Kate said OK and started stocking the shelves with milk.
John took the milk from her hands and said, “You leave early today. I will do it.”
“OK.” Kate wiped her hand on her apron and left.
“Hey! Leaving now? Not even a thank you?” John shouted at her back.
Kate replied without turning back, “Isn’t that your job?”
“OK, OK. Get out of here!” John waved his hand as if swatting away a fly. The other girls at the cashier counter laughed.
Kate was anxious to get back. Her cell phone was going to die because she didn’t have the charger with her.
The snow had almost stopped, but the wind from the coast did not subside one bit and drilled through her coat like needles.
When Kate got down to the bus, it was pitch black. She had to walk through a long alley from the bus stop to the house she shared with her roommate. There was a hotdog stand at the entrance of the alley, and Kate realized her stomach was protesting when she smelled the yummy food. She bought one and took it in her hand. The warmth of the hotdog was transmitted to her palm through the paper bag, and she had a feeling of satisfaction.
The streetlights inside the alley were broken, and it was completely dark. Kate was anxious to get home and did not notice a car following her at a distance.