Another Bettina post. To update you, Erik was about to steal out of the cash register at the diner where he frequents, but Jessica came in just at the last minute and now they're trying to look for whatever was jamming the drawer. Erik has a bit of a crush on Jess, but he knows they're not a good match. She's (in his opinion) too innocent for someone like him, and because of what's happened in his past life, he doesn't want to corrupt her - he's a little full of himself. :)
“Tada!” Jessica sings as she pulls the tongs out. There’s a piece of paper wadded up between the metal clamps - a piece of paper that looks very familiar.
I snatch the bill and smooth it out. It’s greasy and has a bit of gum stuck to it, but otherwise it’s in good shape. No, it’s much better than that. It’s beautiful.
“This is a fifty,” I whisper.
“Where on earth did it come from?”
She’s right to be curious. People don’t walk around Granite Falls with bills this large in their pockets. Not to pay for lunch at Mel’s Diner.
Something in my memory stirs, and I snap my fingers. “Senator Humphrey.”
“What about him?”
“Remember, he was here back in September, showing his support for Andersen in the governor’s race. He and his crew ate here. They paid with a fifty-dollar bill. This fifty-dollar bill.”
“You actually went to that campaign rally? You can’t even vote yet.”
I frown. I expect more from Jessica than a glib response like that. “That doesn’t matter, Jess. In a few years you and I will both be able to vote. You can’t stand by and ignore what goes on in this country just because you’re too young to do anything about it. What happens now shapes our future. You can’t be so complacent. Especially you.”
“Why especially me?”
“Because you’re a woman!”
She blushes at my outburst, and for a moment I go blind to everything except the color flaring up her cheeks.
“Jessica, do you like it that every person in this town expects nothing more of you than that you should get married and pump out a few kids?”
“I...I like the idea of having kids, and not everyone expects that. My father doesn’t. He wants me to go to college.”
“To do what?”
“Become a teacher,” she says, so quiet I have to lean forward to hear her.
“A teacher? Not an astronaut, a scientist, a lawyer, or a doctor? A teacher, a fall back trade.”
“That is not true. Teaching is a wonderful profession.”
“A profession that you chose?” She pouts, her bottom lip jutting out so that the pink flesh underneath is exposed. It’s adorable, sweet and sexy, and I have an urge to...conflabbit! A string of more colorful curses sprint through my head, but I don’t say them. Instead I decide to end the whole nasty business once and for all.
“Uh-huh. I see. Not that I expected anything more from the great Reverend Hughes.”
That should do it. If insulting her father doesn’t stop her from looking at me like that, then nothing will.
Well, maybe something.
With the money still in my hand, I grab the drawer and slide it back into place. I don’t walk to the kitchen to show Mel what we’ve found. Rather, I turn in the opposite direction and walk back to my booth, collect my books and newspaper, and throw a quarter on the table. I head towards the door with the fifty-dollar bill wadded in my fist.
“Erik, aren’t you forgetting something?” Jessica asks.
“Nope.” I stuff the bill into my pocket. “See you around, Jess.”
“Erik, you can’t just...but that’s stealing!”
She’s horrified. Innocence shattered, crush gone.