Maria weaved through the booths and walked to table five, balancing four plates on her arms and hands. Sometimes she wondered why she took this job in the first place. But she didn’t have much of a choice, that and the fact there wasn’t much in the small town of Jacksonville Mississippi to do. There also weren’t many job options for a twenty three year old girl who without a college education, with a five year old son and a dead beat boyfriend. It was a good thing her mother worked as a seamstress, or they would be struggling more than they already were.
“Two burgers with fries, a veggie salad and an omelette with toast,” Maria repeated their order with a smile as she set the plates down on the table.
She placed the veggie salad in front of the girl silently congratulating her on her efforts to lose weight. She was so round and hefty, at first Maria didn’t think she would fit in the booth, but somehow she managed. She placed the omelette and the burgers in front of the three guys sharing her table.
“Would you like anything else?” she asked with a pasted smile that her manager had insisted she needed to have on at all times.
“You got our orders wrong!” the girl barked at Maria with a lethal gaze. Her freckled forehead was creased in three deep Vs and her chubby cheeks looked even bigger with her lips in a scowl.
Maria looked at her with equally hostile eyes. It had been a long day already, with many obnoxious and perverted customers. There was very little polite left in her and chubster was pushing it.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Which one?” she said feigned concern.
She was sure she had gotten the orders right and the girl just wanted to annoy her. For some incomprehensible stupid reason, customers thought it was fun to make waitresses run around like hamsters on a wheel under the guise of good customer service. She was about to pull out her notebook from the front pocket of her apron when the girl switched plates with one of the burger guys and pulled the omelette closer to her.
“Those are both yours?” The shock clear in her voice as it probably was on her face.
“Yeah, so?” the girl barked defensively.
Maria looked at the man who didn’t have food. He was tiny and wearing a shirt three sizes too big. He sucked on his straw nosily, looking at her from under his long brown hair. Then she turned to the one with the salad. His clothes fitted tightly on his small frame. He looked like a pubescent girl tossing the salad around on his plate. He needed that burger more than the chubby girl did. The two were thin enough for her to eat with one bite each! At least the third guy had some meat on his bones.
“Enjoy your meal.” She turned around and walked away, shaking her head at the oddity.
As she made her way to the counter, she could feel several eyes on her. She suddenly felt under dressed as she did on several occasions in the diner. Their uniforms didn’t help much and made her discomfort even worse. The manager made them wear the tiniest black shorts she’d ever seen and tight grey tops which they had to leave the front buttons open to show off more cleavage than necessary. Their green aprons were only an inch longer than their shorts. This was one of the reasons she hated working there—it was a step away from working in a strip club. She was relieved to see her best friend’s friendly face at the counter. Jane was more like her sister than a friend and they’d been inseparable all through high school. She too didn’t go to college, but her reasons were for true love.
Her husband Tom worked at a factory close by. She’d insisted on not leaving the small town to go to a big city like most of their classmates had. She didn’t want to leave him alone; in case he found some other girl to love—which personally Maria thought was inconceivable. The man was head over heels in love with Jane. Her parents fought her left and right. They wanted her to better herself, to find a job in a big city and to find someone her own age to love. Tom was almost ten years her senior, but she didn’t care, she loved him. Tom also tried to get her to leave, but Jane wouldn’t budge, so he broke it off and avoided her as much as he could. Her parents were ecstatic of course, but Jane was heartbroken. She got desperate and when she got desperate she came up with the craziest ideas. She lied to her parents and said she was pregnant, and since Maria was close to six months pregnant at the time they didn’t doubt it. They blamed Maria for corrupting their daughter. Maria put up with it though the accusations annoyed her. She wanted her friend to get what she wanted, and since Maria was happy at the time, she didn’t see why her friend shouldn’t be also. Jane married Tom a month later. Her parents didn’t want the embarrassment of having a pregnant daughter in their house. A few weeks after the wedding, she told them all the truth. Tom laughed, and couldn’t believe he didn’t see through her plan, her parents however were furious. They took her college money and moved to Miami stating they were going to put it to good use since Jane didn’t want to. Two years later Jane did have a child, a daughter, the splitting image of herself.
Maria leaned on the counter, her hand in her long thick black hair. “Jane, why do we work here again?”
Jane smiled at her, “Because we have families to support.” She squeezed Maria’s hand and went back to filling glasses from the soda machine. “Twenty more minutes till our shift ends, suck it up.” She pulled her long blonde hair into a ponytail then picked up the tray full of drinks.
Jane had one of those pageant faces, big beautiful brown eyes, and the body to match. Maria always liked to think Michael had Jane’s eyes, just so she wouldn’t see the resemblance of Ricky.
Maria felt more depressed at the thought of going home. It wasn’t her mother or her son. She looked forward to seeing them at the end of a long day. The one she dreaded seeing was Ricky. She hated the fights, the beatings, and his unfounded jealousy. If she could, she would pack up her mother and her son and leave. But with Ricky it wasn’t that simple. He would find them and when he did, he’ll take her son away from her. Maria could live without a lot of things, but not her son.
Maria watched as Jane put her tray down and before wrapping her arms around her in a tight hug. Maria held on to her grateful to her. If it wasn’t for Jane’s support, she wouldn’t have the strength to hold on to life otherwise.
Jane pulled away, “Maria, leave him.”
She shook her head the feeling of defeat and fear settling heavily in her stomach, “I can’t do that. He’ll take my son away.”
Jane looked at her, “Why not reach down for the Latino in you and kick his ass.”