Making Ends Meet

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I hit Smushy's gas pedal and careened into the parking lot, all the way to the very back where the employees were supposed to park.

"I can't believe I'm actually gonna be late on my first day. Go figure! Why do things like this always end up happening to me?" I said to myself.

I put the car in park and grabbed my purse before speed-walking all the way to the front entrance. My feet weren't killing me as much today, so that helped.

"Hey, there she is!" Linda said, clapping her hands. She was waiting for me as I walked in the door.

"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry I'm late, Linda! I had a sudden bout of morning sickness that came totally out of nowhere and—"

"It's okay honey, no worries! You can follow me. I'll take you into the training room and you two can get started," she said. 

I walked with Linda to the training room and looked around for Mom. Her and her team were probably off somewhere else in the store, working on their next big project. The cashiers were peeking over each other's shoulders, trying to get a good look at me. They were all staring at my bump.

The store was loud and the front end seemed really busy. There was something going on in every direction. Across from the front end was the paint desk, where a girl was rushing around mixing cans of paint, then smacking the lids of the cans closed with a hammer.

I could hear the horns of big machines honking on the other end of the building, where they kept all the lumber.

I took a few breaths and tried to calm down. This place was beyond different from the Hetcher mansion. I already felt completely out of place, and on top of that, being late on my first day was literally my worst nightmare, and now it was happening.

I walked into the training room, which had bright blue walls, a big square table, and a row of computers on the other side of the room, underneath the big old TV that was mounted to a bracket in the ceiling. Each wall had a poster about either safety or signing up for health insurance. Something about the room felt eerie.

There was only one other girl sitting at the table. She had her hair back and was wearing a bright pink t-shirt. I could see her bump, but it looked a little smaller than mine.

"Okay, I'll have you take a seat right next to Miss Julia here and we'll get started," Linda said. "Since you're both going to be cashiers, you'll be on the same training program."

I sat down next to Julia and she smiled at me. Linda put a DVD into the old TV and it started playing a training video. I sighed. I knew orientation wouldn't be super fun, but I didn't think I'd get stuck watching a bunch of lame training videos. Why did I need an extensive program to run a register, anyway?

Once we were about thirty minutes into the video about preventing employee theft, Linda left the room.

"Having fun yet? Because I'm having a blast," Julia said sarcastically. I laughed under my breath. I was worried about Linda coming back and getting in trouble. "I'm Julia, but I didn't catch your name."

"Oh, I'm Chrys," I said.

"Just Chrys? Come on, that's got to be short for something! Let me guess. Is it Christina? Chrystal? Christin?"

I laughed, a little louder this time. "It's actually Chrysanthemum."

"No way. Stop." I showed her the name written on the notebook Linda gave me. "Wow. I wish I had a name that was that cool."

"That's a nice way of putting it," I said. "So, how far along are you? I'm at seventeen weeks. Twins, if you can't tell by how huge I already am!"

"Shut the front door! I'm having twins too! I'm fourteen weeks, though. This is so crazy. It's like...fate that we met or something."

"Yeah, I'll say."

My heart was fluttering with excitement. In a way this was really amazing but also kind of weird at the same time. What were the odds that two young girls who were pregnant with twins were starting a job at the same time?

"Do you know if yours are identical or not?" Julia asked.

"Nope. They're fraternal. You?"

"Oh yeah, I've got look-alikes! I'm so worried that we won't be able to tell them apart when they're born, but we'll figure out some kind of system," she said, looking down at her bump. 

We. I looked down and noticed a promise ring with green stones on her finger. It tore me up inside, but I smiled through it.

"So, are you still in high school?" I asked.

"Me? Nah. I'm way past that, but I unfortunately got stuck with a baby-face. I turn twenty-one next week. I was supposed to finish my bachelor's in fashion design this year, but—"

She paused, pointing to her belly. "Life clearly had other plans. So, my boyfriend and I are going to be parents earlier than we wanted. I wouldn't change a thing though. Except for the morning sickness. I'd totally change that."

We started laughing together, right as Linda walked back in. We quickly pretended to still be paying attention to the video. Thankfully, Linda went into her office and shut the door.

"What about you?" Julia whispered.

"Huh?"

"Teen mom or unprepared young adult like me?"

"Oh. I'm eighteen. I'm a senior."

"Ah, I remember those days," she said, sinking into her chair.

"They weren't that long ago," I said, giggling.

"Hey, three years is a long time."

We spent the rest of the day watching videos and learning about the store. Linda gave us a tour. I saw my mom in the distance working with her team. It was only August and they were already taking apart the patio furniture displays to prepare for Christmas.

Linda sent us home after the tour. Julia and I talked all the way to our cars and she put her number in my phone. We'd be back the next morning to actually train on the register, which was going to be great for me: a total hermit.

I waved goodbye to Julia as she climbed into her car, which was an old, pale green station wagon that had a brown stripe going across the side. I mean, it was an old car but everything looked shiny and new, almost like it was custom.

I didn't want to think all that far ahead because we just met and everything, but I could see us becoming close friends, and for a long time.

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