Working on a new project, which is taking up the time and energy I would normally devote to writing short stories. In the meantime, please enjoy this short story, which was originally published in February 2015.
“Seriously? Girl, didn’t I tell you to find a beach and never come back?”
Megan laughed. “I found the beach,” she said, laying a hand on Alex’s shoulder. “It was fun, but not for me. And it turns out I really don’ like those drinks that come with little umbrellas.”
“You can’t tell me you missed this place.”
“Kind of. That sounds weird, right?”
Alex lowered her eyes and didn’t answer.
“Look, I really thought you weren’t coming back, and we need all the help we can get around here.”
Megan took her hand back and stepped away from Alex. “So?”
“So … I told Diana about the money.”
“You had no right to do that.”
“What was I supposed to do? Keep covering for you when you didn’t come back after two weeks? Three? Unlike you, I need this job. So does the girl who took your place.”
“So, I was being selfish by trying to keep my job, is that what you’re saying?”
“Maybe.” Alex’s guilt was replaced by anger in an instant. “Selfish and stupid. Who would want to hang around this place when they could go anywhere they want? Do anything they want?”
“Because this is all I’ve ever known.” Megan’s anger dissipated as quickly as it had appeared. “I don’t know how to be rich and order other people around.”
“How hard could it be? You want something, you take it.”
“And if I want my job back? Am I supposed to just take that, too?”
“Megan?” Diana’s voice came from the back of the diner. “We didn’t expect to see you again.”
“So I’ve been told,” Megan said as she glared at Alex. Then she turned and left.
She was still crying when she got home.
“What are you doing home so early?”
“I was going to ask you the same thing, mom.”
“I called in sick to work. I was going to surprise you by trying to make real meatloaf for dinner tonight.”
Megan smiled. “Aw, you didn’t have to do that, mom. I should be the one treating you. We could go out to most expensive restaurant in the city.”
Her mother looked down at her dirty T-shirt, torn jeans, and sneakers. “I don’t think they would let me in.”
“I could buy us both new clothes. A whole wardrobe.”
Her mom laughed. “Is that what you’re going to spend all your money on? New clothes and fancy meals?”
“I actually made a decision about that. I want to open my own diner.”
“Yup. I have to do something and waiting on people is the only thing I know how to do, but if it’s my diner, then I call the shots. I get to decide what to serve, who to serve, and make other people do all the stuff I don’t wanna do.”
“When did you decide all this?”
“Just now. On the way back from work.” She lowered both her head and voice on the last statement.
“Speaking of which, you never did tell me why you came home so early.”
“They fired me.”
“Alex told Diana about the money. They figured I wasn’t coming back, so they hired another girl to take my place.”
“And this upsets you?”
“Yeah, it upsets me! I mean, I know I don’t need the job, but for Alex to go behind my back like that … I trusted her.”
Her mom reached across the table and took Megan’s hands in her own. “Look, I’m happy you got this money. I really am. It means your life is your own. Nobody can tell you what to do, but it’s not all gonna be a walk in the park. There will always be people you can’t trust, and that’s even more true when you’re rich than when you’re poor.”
“Well, fuck, then what’s the point of being rich?”
Her mom smiled. “Like you said: you get to call the shots.”