A line of two customers, a haggard, brunette young mom and a stocky man in a factory uniform stood behind the glass case of the sandwich shop to determine their ingredients. The mom gave her order quickly, with breaks to scold the two year old who kept skipping away and laughing maniacally, blonde pigtails flapping. I concentrated on the order, assembling the hoagies with a poker-face. Wanting so bad to smile at the young girls antics, pity kept me from revealing my mirth.
After the rather large order was complete and she had paid, I moved on to the middle-aged man. He got out his order in a gruff voice, rubbing bloodshot blue eyes, when the phone next to the cash register rang.
I excused myself, and went to the phone.
“Heaven’s hoagies, how can I help you?”
“Can I speak to Samantha?” a familiar voice was on the line, but I couldn’t quite place it.
“This is her.”
“Hey! This is John! John Mars?” A cold shock punched me in the gut.
“Can I get in you in a sec? Thanks.” I abruptly put the receiver on the counter next to the register and apologized to the customer in front of me. His shrug was indifferent.
I assembled his sandwich with precision, then numbly wrapped his food with the folding formula that had become automatic after a few months working there.
“Would you like a two cookies or a chip with that?”
“Meal,” was his reply.
I refused to look at the phone next to the register as I rung him up.
After he approached the soda fountain to get his drink, I tried not to look at the receiver, gingerly setting his sandwich on the outgoing counter. I stood for a full minute or two, waiting for him to finish and leave.
Then, I picked up the phone.
“Why are you calling me now?”
“Found out you moved out of your parents house,” his voice was hearty.
“Just trying to get back in touch with you. We haven’t talked in a while, since you said you also wanted to see other people. I was thinking we could go out again, and, you know, just talk. As friends.”
My glance fell on my left ring finger.
“Actually, that should be fine. I think my fiance would be cool with it. Oh, and I have a baby on the way in May.”
“You’re pregnant?” Shock tinged his voice.
“Yeah, and engaged. Like I said, though; I think my fiance would be cool with it. He has exes who he is still friends with.”
“Oh, ok. Sure. Well, sorry to cut this short and everything, but I have to go. Talk to you later.”
“Sure. ‘bye.”
The phone clicked as he hung up.


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