It was so terribly cold. Snow was falling, and it was almost dark. I was finishing up for the day. I was alone. I looked at the clock and picked up my phone. I texted both my parents. “I love you both.” I whispered. As I hit send, I went to the bathroom. I looked into the mirror, and my eyes were red and puffy. I washed my face and my hands. When I got back, the tears fell into the sink as I got a rag wet. I wiped off the counters of the Starbucks slowly, trying not to get tear stains on the counters.
The bell above the door rang.
“Hey Babe, how was your day?” My boyfriend, Brady, walked in.
“It was terrible!” I said.
“What was so terrible about it? And why do you look like you’ve crying?”
I started crying even harder. My hand shook as I held the rag. My other hand flew up and covered my face. Brady flipped up the counter and walked over to me. My face was buried in both hands as he hugged me. After several minutes, he said,
“Do you want to talk about it?” I nodded my head, peeking out at him from between my fingers. All I could see was the concern in his eyes.
“Just, always say ‘I love you,’” I said, outing my hands on the counter slowly.
“Where is all this coming from?” He asked.
“Are you sure you want to know?” I asked, looking him in the eye. He could tell I was really upset. He looked thoughtful.
“Why wouldn’t I?” I was silent. I looked away from him. He just cuddled me.
“Yes. If it’s important to you it’s important to me.” He said after a few minutes.
“So, earlier this morning…”
I was making a latte for this lady, it was about the work rush. 8 O’clock in the morning. The bell for the door rang and I looked over and saw a little boy crying. He had his backpack and school clothes, and he dropped them right just inside the door. He just fell against a table and slid rim to the seat. He put his head down, and I could see his back shaking with sobs. After I was done making that latte, I checked with George to see if he could run the counter while I went over to the poor boy. I flipped up the counter and my high heels clicked as I approached him. He looked up at me wordlessly. His tear stained face had a look of absolute horror.
“Where are your parents?” I asked.
“Home.” He choked out. “Well, one is. The other is at work.”
“Why aren’t you at school?” I asked.
“I got off the bus here. I made them let me off.”
My blood ran cold. Something terribly awful happened to that boy. I didn’t really know what to say, so I bought him some hot chocolate. As he drank, the tears came even harder, until he could barely swallow. I sat with him for about half an hour. Then, he spoke.
“My Dad and I had a big fight this morning because I’m failing math.”
”Oh. Are you ok? Would you like help on math?” I was decent enough at math. The boy wiped his nose.
“No, thanks. Dad used to help me, but now mom will.” Maybe his parents got a divorce? I thought.
I sat in silence until he was ready to talk again.
“We yelled at each other. He said that he just wanted to help me. I said I didn’t want his help. He said he was just wanted me to do my best. I asked why I get grounded for failing a test. I asked him if he was really proud of me. He said that he’s always been proud of me. He just wants me to succeed. I got really mad.” He looked thoughtfully at his hot chocolate. “You know, he used to take me here and buy me hot chocolate when I was sad.” The boy picked up the cup and tilted it.
“That’s nice.” I said. I didn’t really know what to say.
“He had to leave for work.” The boy said. I didn’t respond. I felt this poor boy’s pain just radiating off of him.
“He grabbed his brief case and opened the door. He looked back at me, and I was still mad. He said, ‘I love you.’”
The boy was crying so hard at this point that I gave him time. 15 minutes later, he hiccuped himself into silence. “I-I scre-eamed ‘I HATE YOU!’ Out the d-door after him.” The tears were flowing. I grabbed a couple tissues and had him blow his runny nose. “I was on the bus, and m-mom called my bus driver. He picked up and then called me to the front. He said she needed to talk to me.” He blew his nose again. “I said ‘hello?’ And she said, ‘Honey, I’m so sorry.’ I said ‘What’s going on?’ She was crying, I could tell. And she said ‘Your father..’.” The boy was shaking with regret. “She said that my Dad…Dad got hit,” he buried his face. After a breathe, he lifted his face and a look of pure regret came over it. “My Dad got hit by a drunk driver and died.” My hand flew up over my mouth. I started to cry. I went over to the other side of the table and pulled the little boy on my lap as he cried his heart out.
“The l-last th-thing I said t-to h-h-him was I-I hate you!” He was crying so hard. I stayed with him for a couple hours while he cried.
Brady looked pale. His eyes glistened with tears.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Imagine what that little boy must be going through.”
“I know. It’s awful.”
We just sat in silence, Brady still holding me.
“Always say ‘I love you.’”