Love Behind the Mask Part Two
By Trish Hubschman
The restaurant was super busy, and we were short on help. Me and another girl, Rose, were waiting all the tables in the place, what seemed, around the clock. The tips were adding up nicely, but my feet hurt from standing on them for so long. My manager, Ben, was in the kitchen doubling for our cook, Victor, who wouldn’t work around the clock. I got off on Tuesdays sometimes because that day seemed slow. Rose got Thursdays off, for the same reason. But waiting all the tables in the place, even when we were slow, was too much for one person.
“As you can see, ladies, I have Help Wanted signs taped to the front door and windows of this place,” Ben said whenever Rose or I showed signs of wearing down. “I’m sure plenty of people are looking for work, but no one’s applied.” He shrugged. “Guess folks would rather eat the spaghetti, then serve it to someone else to eat.” He was right and it was frustrating.
Tony came in at least twice a week. He always sat in my station, but, since we were so busy, I couldn’t spend extra time with him. I’d point to my notepad to indicate I wanted to take his order. He’d either respond or point to something on the menu. The second was kind of fun. I’d slide up behind him to look over his shoulder at the menu.
We were emailing each other nightly. It was wonderful! When I finally got home from work, I’d feed the cat, stick whatever leftovers from Marco’s I brought home for dinner in the microwave, and then sit down at the kitchen table to check my email on my laptop computer. Tony told me about himself. I told him about myself. It was run-of-the-mill stuff, but it was so, I don’t know the right word for it, special. I was getting closer to a customer from work on a really personal level via email. He was deaf. There was a pandemic out there. Tony had already been vaccinated. I was working so hard at Marco’s; I hadn’t had a chance yet.
“Have you been checking the sites to see if there’s a free spot for you to make an appointment?” Tony wrote.
I nodded as I read his email. “I do, every night when I get home and before I go to work,” I wrote back. “Even if I do find one, Ben will never give me off to go.” “I was frustrated.
“We’ll see about that,” Tony said. “Just keep looking.”
I finally lucked out and found a drive-thru appointment for the Moderna vaccine on Saturday at ten in the morning. That was before Marco’s opened. We were open from one to nine on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Eleven to seven the rest of the week. A Saturday morning appointment was perfect! I emailed Tony.
“I’ll take you on Saturday,” Tony offered. “Be at your place at nine-thirty.”
I wanted to clap my hands and jump up and down. How I would love to be with this very nice man outside of the restaurant. “How will we communicate?” I had to ask.
“We’ll manage,” Tony wrote. “We can keep the car windows open. We won’t have to wear masks. Besides, I want to teach you Sign Language.”
It all sounded perfect. “I couldn’t wait to tell Ben.” He was my boss, yes, but still a friend.
Dana was coming down the path as I pulled the Hyundai to the curb. She wore jeans and a white t-shirt. Her blonde hair was down and cascaded to her shoulders. And her face, she was as lovely as I had imagined, fresh and wholesome.
“Hi,” she said, climbing into the car. “I have a mask.” She held one up. It was blue. “I know I’ll have to put It on when we reach the vaccine place, but I’m thrilled I don’t have to wear it now.”
I was happy about that too. “I couldn’t stop staring at her and I think I was making her uncomfortable. “You’re beautiful,” I said, putting my closed hand beneath my chin, then opening it and making a circle in front of my face. “I want to kiss you.” She giggled. I was embarrassing her. I turned and started the engine. “We’ll be there in ten minutes. You’ll get your shot, then we can go back to your place and talk.” A few minutes later, I pulled my vehicle through the gates of a community college and stopped at the first checkpoint. I leaned out my window to talk to a young man. We all had masks on. “I’m deaf,” I said, pointing to my chest, then my right ear. “I already got the vaccine. My lady friend is the one getting the shot today.” I pointed my thumb over my shoulder at Dana. I think the kid rolled his eyes. He handed me a form. I handed it to Dana. I pressed down on the gas pedal and pulled away. “See, stop one was easy enough.”
We stopped again a few seconds later and her door was opened by a medic. Dana grabbed my hand. “It won’t hurt,” I told her. “I promise.” And it didn’t. Her door was shut a few seconds after that, and we pulled away. ‘Now we have to let you rest fifteen minutes before we take you home. Give us more time to chat.”
“I can’t believe how fast that was,” Dana said.
We were facing each other. “You were right, Tony. I didn’t feel it and I’m okay.”
“You might feel sleepy,” I said, putting both my hands beside my head and tilting it. “I did after my first shot. I think that was the only side effect I had.”
“That’s good,” she replied. “I have to be at work in a few hours.”
I turned the key in the ignition, and we drove out of the college. When we got back to her house, I insisted she take her shoes off and lie down on the sofa. “I’m a good doctor and know what I’m doing,” I told her.
She yawned. “A good friend too,” she added, making the sign for friends, clasping her index fingers, one way, then the other. With her sneakers off, she pulled her legs up on the sofa and lay back down on the pillow as I suggested. I pulled an Afghan up to her chin. She closed her eyes. I knew she fell asleep. Leaning over, I kissed her forehead. That would have to do for the next thirty days. I settled myself in a comfortable chair and took out my cell phone.
I texted Ben. I told him all went well with the vaccine today. “Dana’s asleep on the sofa now,” I wrote. I glanced at her, like Sleeping Beauty, I thought.
Ben’s response came quick. “Let her rest for a while. The shot wipes people out sometimes,” he replied. “Just make sure she’s at Marco’s by twelve-thirty. Saturday’s our busiest day.”
Annoyance welled up in me. I wanted to bark at Ben, but I didn’t. Friends or not, Ben had a business to run and that came first. I didn’t want to push Dana though. An idea hit me! “I’m looking for temporary employment,” I lied. “How about I take over Dana’s shift at the restaurant just for today?”
I didn’t know what Ben would say. “Well, if you’re really serious,” he wrote. “Maybe I can come up with a suggestion that’s more doable than that. Hm, how about you work in the kitchen helping Victor and I’ll wait tables, but only if Dana isn’t up to it.”
I thought about it. It seemed like a fair bargain, and I wouldn’t have to keep track of all the customers and tables like Dana did. I glanced at the sofa again. She was still sleeping. “If this works,” I teased. “I’m going to ask for a raise.”
“Don’t push it,” came Ben’s response. “And, by the way, bring your new girlfriend with you when you report for work. You might need her to give you pointers on how to do the job.”
I was laughing hysterically. “Will do, boss.”
Dana was looking at me. She was sitting up on the sofa. “What’s that all about?” she asked.
I looked over at her. Ben just called you my new girlfriend.” I liked the sound of that. I think Dana did too. She blushed.
Trish Hubschman is the author of the Tracy Gayle mystery series: Tidalwave, Stiff Competition and Ratings Game. Tracy is a Long Island private detective. Her sidekick, Danny Tide, is the leader of the rock band, Tidalwave. Tracy is hired to find out who set fire to Danny’s tour bus. While doing this, more dangerous things develop.
Trish is a graduate of Long Island University’s Southampton Campus and has a bachelor’s degree in English-Writing. She is deafblind and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, author Kevin Hubschman, and their dog, Henry.
Her website is www.dldbooks.com/Hubschman/