A stern looking woman patted the adjacent seat. It was the only one left. I had no choice.
“I was savin’ it just for you,” like a cougar licking its chops before devouring her unfortunate prey.
“Uuh thanks,” hesitating, I didn’t like the idea of being lunch.
“Name’s Loretta, hon, What’s yours?” Hours old smoke and coffee breath assaulted my senses. I just wanted to get the test over with and go home. I didn’t need a new friend.
“Uuh, Joy Lewis.” I examined a run in my stocking, wanting to avoid more forced conversations with this Amazon.
“Bashful, huh? Well that’s OK, I can talk enough for the both of us. Here for the civil service exam? Well, it ain’t too hard I took it about thirty five years ago. Cecil was laid up on disability and the kids were hollerin’ about being hungry. I studied for a week and aced the test. Got my first Postmaster position when I was forty.”
Wondering why she was here, but not wanting to hear the whole story, I smiled weakly, “That’s nice.” I busied myself with gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe.
“Loretta Drumler?” called the clerk from behind the smudged glass.
“Good luck,” she mouthed over her shoulder.
Silence reigned until it was my turn. I hoped my two weeks of studying would be enough to pass. If that old windbag could do it, so could I.
Excited to begin my first day of work at the post office, I had stepped in more gum. Sitting on the edge of the planter, I scraped at it. The oddly familiar smell of smoke and coffee interrupted my work as Loretta put her face down to mine, “If it isn’t little Joy. Didn’t know we’d be working this window together. My, oh my.”
My oh my is right. This is going to be an ordeal. I’ll have a headache by lunch. “Uuh, what a surprise.”
“Here, put your coat in this closet. The fridge is in the back. You can put your lunch next to mine.”
Loretta had taken a leave of absence when her oldest daughter had a premature baby, so that explained her presence at the terminal annex when I met her. She had to re-certify to get her old position back.
The first week went well. Loretta knew her stuff. She trained me. As I got to know her, she started to grow on me. I actually looked forward to our mutual lunch breaks. She told me all about her kids and her husband. It sounded like holidays were a blast.
She talked about Thanksgiving as if it was all the holidays rolled into one. When she asked about my plans, I told her about watching the parades in my robe and slippers. After a lengthy nap, I enjoy a turkey sandwich. I might as well have smacked her in the head.
“Well, there is just no way, I’m allowin’ that. You’ll come over and meet the brood and you will have hot turkey with us and if you help with the dishes, maybe I’ll give you some leftovers for your old sandwich.” It was useless to argue with this matronly figure of a woman.
I’d missed an exit getting to her house, so I was late. A young good-looking male version of Loretta led me to the dining room. The meal was underway and Loretta patted the chair next to hers, “I was savin’ it just for you.”
Amid the bustle, my host introduced me to her husband, four sons, two daughters, assorted spouses and the sprinkling of grandkids that graced her table. I felt welcome. As we pushed plates away, it was time for coffee; her son Kenny did the honors. His eyes met mine as he poured. Brown and bottomless like the coffee, I felt drowned in their depth. Family chatter faded into the background. Wedged between Loretta and Kenny I was a captive audience as he told stories about his mother. She rolled her eyes and scolded him. It was good fun and helped to make a memorable day.
Kenny called me the next night. He was a talker like his mom and there wasn’t much sense in trying to get out of seeing him again. He wouldn’t take no, just like his mom.
I don’t know if she positioned Kenny in that chair on purpose, but I do know that I fell for my mother-in-law before I fell for her son.
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