Sandwich Girl

"Would you like any salad?"
"Just lettuce and cheese, thanks. Oh, and on white bread, none of that bird-feed."
"Hee hee! You got it."
I loved the way she laughed. The way her white teeth sparkled against her dark skin. The way those wide, chocolate eyes momentarily glanced away from the sandwich in her plastic-clad hands. Every Saturday afternoon, after tennis, I would drive down to the little deli to see her smile. And for lunch. She began tapping on the cash register.
"So, with a Diet Coke that comes to $5.85." She looked up at me and held out her hand. Biting my lip, I fumbled around in my pockets.
"Um, well, this is embarrassing. I'm out of cash. Why don't I pay for it some other way? I could take you out for dinner, or we could see a movie." I grinned at her. She laughed.
"You're in luck. There's an ATM 'round back." She tilted her head to one side, awaiting my response with an expression that said "check - your move". Not having my wits about me, I responded with a lame:
"It's broken."
"Oh, really? Then why don't I go check?"
"Be my guest." Not taking her eyes off me, she marched around the counter. I rewarded my newly found cunning with a long gaze at her lower half before she disappeared behind the plastic drapes of the entrance. I followed her outside and around the shop to the ATM. She slid her card into it, withdrew $20, and turned to face me, arms crossed and satifsfied.
"Well, would you look at that," I began. "Guess it's not broken, after all. I suppose I should take you out anyway, though. You know, since you were right." Checkmate. She couldn't resist my charms for long.
"Fine. But you still owe me that $5.85."

Her shift finished at 5:30. I had waited for her, dropping crumbs from my third sandwhich as she cleaned up. I drove her back to her place where we could shower and change. The house was small. And I mean small. The front door only had a chain lock and the windows didn't lock at all. Inside, the wallpaper was peeling off and there was grime inhabiting the cracks between every tile.
"I'm sorry about the mess. My father and I work hard all day, every day. We don't really have the time to clean," she called to me through the bathroom door "you should've seen our house in India. It was even worse! At least here we can run a legitimate business without having competition less than a foot next door!" Finally, she emerged from the bathroom, wearing skinny jeans and a ruffled shirt with a floral design. Her netted hair had been released and was tied in a neat plait, running down to the centre of her back. She was truely a rose amongst this house of thorns.
"You look lovely."

After the movie, we stopped for ice cream.
"So how's Engineering? Is it difficult?"
"Not really, the university has some great tutors and lecturers."
"I wish I could go to university. I never sat my high-school exams, though. I was too busy with the deli." I thought about this for a moment. If she came to university with me, I could tutor her myself. I could help her with assignments and get her grades up to my level. She would be the perfect girlfriend: smart, beautiful and successful.
“You know, there is still a chance,” She raised her eyebrows. “I could make you a portfolio. We submit it to the university, they assess its quality and if it’s good enough, you’re in!”
“Is it really that simple?”
“Not for most people, but my dad works in the department. I could ask him to pull a few strings and you could go to uni!”
“I don’t know. Father could never afford the fees.”
“It’s alright, I could pay for your first semester so you can get a head start, and then you can pay me back at the end.” She pondered the idea for a while.
“I’ll have to get back to you on that one,” She stood up, “Can you take me home, please?”

I wasn’t sure what I had expected her to say the next week, but I was surprised nonetheless.
“I’ll do it!”
“Really? That’s great news! We can get started now!” Over the next few weeks, I tutored her between customers. I even had her reciting equations as she made sandwiches. I gradually compiled work to put in her portfolio and submitted it to the university. She got accepted.

The next week, I waltzed happily into the deli, only to find an old man chopping up tomatoes behind the counter.
“Excuse me?” I asked, “Where’s the girl who usually works here?”
“Oh, you must be Nick. I am grateful for what you did for my daughter. She is at the university,”
“On a Saturday?”
“Yes, she spends all her time in the library. When it closes at six, she comes back here and helps me clean and stock the shop.”
“Thank you,” I said, and drove to uni.

Running through the labyrinth of bookshelves, I finally found her hunched over a desk, neck deep in a pile of physics books.
“Hi,” I said. “You know, you don’t have to study this much, I can help you,”
“I’m okay.”
“Well, you don’t have to work at the deli anymore. Your dad can hire someone else. I’m paying for this semester, remember?”
“I don’t need your help, Nick! When will you realise that? I am capable of doing things myself! Sure, you helped me in the beginning, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you, but I don’t want to be relying on you for the rest of my life!” I stared at her, stunned. Never had I seen her innocent face filled with so much anger.
“I just...miss spending time with you…I never see you anymore…”
“Well, that’s your problem.”
“Don’t you miss me?”
“Sure, but I don’t need a social life. My time is better spent becoming the best I can be. That’s what you always said to me, Nick, to be the best I can be.” I stood speechless. What had I done? Just a few weeks ago she was happy and beautiful and she thought I was amazing. Now she didn’t need me anymore. She didn’t even want me anymore.

For selfish reasons, I changed who she was. I wanted a girl of my calibre. And now I’ve lost her.

LBlack406   LBlack406 wrote
on 9/17/2011 9:47:17 AM
Wow. I liked the combo of mostly dialoage, I teared up at the end.... where'd you get the idea for this?

roadtripper523   roadtripper523 wrote
on 8/21/2011 9:04:34 PM
reminds me of a john updike story. similar realization for narrator but not so emotional.

Short Story
writing Rinskinski
"Painters paint their pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence." - Leopold Stokowski

"Do you know that our soul is composed of harmony?" - Leonardo da Vinci
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Don't try to change people to suit yourself.