When her cousin said she had a job for her in the states, this was not what she had expected. She wasn’t in a place in her life that allowed her to be picky, though. And after everything that had happened, there wasn’t time to argue. So here she was, ringing up items one by one, each costing only one American dollar.
She started memorizing the totals for certain numbers of items. For example, two items would always come out to $2.16. It was a silly game she played during the more boring hours of work, seeing how long she could go without having to actually look at the register to announce the sale total.
It was also a good way to keep her mind clear and at peace. Unoccupied, her mind would wander to places she’d rather not be and so she kept busy. If it wasn’t number games it was memories of her family or her small hometown in France.
“Earth to Elise, come in Elise!”
She shook her head as the vision of her life left behind was shattered by her cousin’s abrasive voice.
“Hey Alice. Why must you be so loud? You know I am not a night owl like you.”
“Don’t go falling asleep behind the register, love. I just got you this job. Besides, it’s only 10 o’clock.”
Alice was an indiscreet woman; she was loud, fierce, and deathly afraid of finally turning thirty. As Elise’s only friend and contact in America, Elise clung to her, trying desperately to assimilate herself like Alice had.
“Is it that late already?” Elise asked as she closed her register.
“Time flies,” Alice teased. Elise didn’t acknowledge that anything Alice said was funny. She was still getting used to the odd things her cousin said in English.
Alice drove her home and asked if she needed to come in to keep her company tonight. Elise shook her head. “I’m fine,” she said and waved as Alice took off down the old country road.
She was renting a room from a friendly family of four; they called it the “mother-in-law apartment.” Elise had smiled but wasn’t sure why the man of the house found it so funny.
She would have stayed with Alice but her cousin’s extra bedroom was now occupied by her daughter, Gabby. Elise didn’t mind, she valued her alone time. At this point, curling into bed and watching television until she fell asleep sounded heavenly.
American TV had a lot to offer, and even after seeing so much of it back home it surprised her with its willingness to resort to the grotesque. Lately, she was enthralled by a reality show involving a beauty pageant of cross-dressing men. It felt like an intimate view of human life, and she loved it.
As her head nodded and her eyelids grew heavy, her focus shifted from the television above her dresser to the small night light plugged into the wall. It looked old and frail, as if it had travelled a long distance in its lifetime.
Her eyes fluttered once more, and she fell quickly into sleep.