• Arthur Ni

The Hurtful Truth

I walked in the back door of Mugs, the smell of coffee filling my nose, and was greeted by Alexis before the door even shut behind me.


“You will not believe what happened last night.”


Everything Alexis said was attached with a smile that displayed her white teeth that lit up the rest of her slender face.


“I got some news for you as well.” I made my way towards the front to say everything that was on my mind. Once upfront and clocked in, I noticed the manager wasn't there.


“Hey, where is John at? Call in again?”


“No, he got another DUI so they locked him up. It's just the two of us today, how freaking awesome is that?”


No manager on duty, working with my best and only friend, it didn't get much better than that. I tied up my apron that must have been worn by twenty employees before it was given to me and helped set up before the morning rush.


“How did the date go?” she said.


“Not great. Stood me up and wouldn't return any of my texts. I don't understand why no one wants to stick around for more than a couple of dates.”


I could feel Alexis’s eyes staring at me.


“Once you stop being so prudish and let someone get further than first base, they might stick around.”


I shrugged the comment off and before I could give my rebuttal, the first customer of the day walked through the doors. Every day without fail the same lady came in as soon as the doors unlocked and placed an order for a large black coffee. Most days we would have it ready however with my mind on other things I forgot to get her cup ready. Although the lobby at Mugs only had a few chairs and tables, the woman stood at the counter in silence waiting for her coffee. Alexis broke the awkward spell that filled the room as she rushed the order and placed it down.


After the woman had left, customers came in one after the other and placed their orders. A few students worked on their computers only drinking water that they brought. Although the manager would make them place an order, I did not care enough and let them work.


I wanted to continue my conversation with Alexis and defend myself about her comment, but once our doors opened, there was never a moment without taking or making an order. I would migrate from the register over to the espresso machine and start the fancier drinks while Alexis steamed milk and added flavor shots. The workspace was cramped but it kept us from having to run back and forth to make orders.


Once the mid-shift crew arrived, all I wanted was to go somewhere to unwind. I told Alexis to meet me at the bookstore as we walked to our cars. I sat for a moment without turning on the ignition to enjoy the silence. I closed my eyes and could have fallen asleep but Alexis knocked on my window. I looked up at her through the glass and saw tears running down her face. I wasn’t sure what could've happened in a short time from walking to our cars.


The last time I saw Alexis cry was when Jordan cheated and instead of taking my advice and ending it, she went right back to pretending nothing happened. I motioned for her to get in the car with me before someone came out and saw her.


“Jordan dumped me.”


“What? How?”


“In a text!”


I watched as the tears continued with sobbing following shortly after. I knew what I wanted to tell her. She should have listened to me before when he cheated and it was only a matter of time before he did it again. She should have left him back then and as much as I loved her, she was an idiot for sticking around. I wasn't the most experienced in long term relationships, but I knew that if someone cheats, you leave.


The last time I tried to take things to the next level with someone, they pointed out the scars on my upper thigh from when I had fallen onto a fire pit as a kid. It took me out of the moment, but more so when they continued and told me I should keep it covered due to it being a huge turn-off. Memories from the other girls in gym class filled my head as they teased me in the showers calling my names like Frankenstein.


“Listen, Alexis, I want you to be happy, but I think you need to get over Jordan. He hurt you before and you should have ended it then.”


The crying and sobbing had almost stopped as I waited for a response not sure which way it would go.


“I know, you’re right. You always are. I just wanted to be happy, feel like everything was normal, and keep on going.”


“Well, it's not. It sucks, but it's true. Let’s go get smoothies from the bookstore. I'll drive.”


As much as Alexis needed to escape away from problems, I needed to distract myself from how my own love life was going. It didn't help that Alexis reminded me that it was my fault. The reason I didn't let anyone get past first base was simple, if my pants stayed on, the topic of my scar wouldn’t be an issue and I could just get to know the person. After that, I would figure it out, but I didn't need someone that early on judging my body and not knowing me for me.


***


Tiny Treasures Bookstore was only a short drive from work and was the only place I spent almost more time than work. The store wasn't large and luxurious, but it was filled top to bottom with every genre of book anyone could want. The best part was the basement lounge that had a smoothie bar and bean bag chairs to hang out in while reading. While the upstairs was filled with books, the basement was a place set apart from the rest of the world.


The walls were covered in posters from different books, the teal carpet hadn't been updated since the place was built and the bean bags had holes in them patched with duct tape. It was not a glamorous place, but it felt like home. The small smoothie bar was less of a bar and more a mini-fridge filled with premade smoothies in bottles. It wasn't required to buy anything to sit and read, but I felt it was the right thing to do, often buying books I ended up hating.


When we walked into the store, the fresh paper of the new books and the musk smell of the old brought a calmness that washed away my stress. I knew it helped Alexis as well as that wonderful smile came out as soon as we entered.


“I'll be over at the fantasy section and meet you downstairs,” she said.


Before a response could come out of my mouth, Alexis ran off. I went straight for the mystery section myself. I enjoyed trying to figure out the mystery before it was revealed. I grabbed the first book that caught my eye, checked out, and headed down to grab a banana strawberry smoothie before joining Alexis in the worn-out 1970s-esque basement.


“Ok so I was thinking, I am always reading fantasy, and you're always reading mystery, how about we switch it up, see what each other's favorites are really about.”


“I don't know, I mean the book I picked out sounds like a good one.”


“You think all of them are great, just trust me.”


Alexis snatched the book out of my hands and placed the fantasy novel in its place. I looked at the cover that had a dragon shooting flames from its mouth and my gut turned. It wasn't that I disliked fantasy, but it always felt like too much was going on and the story was all over the place.


Although we had planned to distract ourselves by coming to the bookstore, being stood up the night before was still racing in my mind.


“Alexis, why is it so hard for me to just trust someone enough to see me naked?”


“That's a hell of a topic change ain't it?” She said as she set her book down and turned her full attention to me.


“I was just thinking about what you said earlier.”


“I didn't mean anything by it.”


“No, but it's true.”


“Clearly I don't listen to good advice when it's given, but I know what your problem is.”


“Oh yeah? And what exactly is my problem, know it all?” I said.


“You think because a few kids in middle school and some jerk in college were weirded out by your scar that everyone is going to be. I hate to break it to you, but I have seen it, and I couldn't care less.”


I knew it was meant as a compliment, but it did hurt hearing it first hand. Ever since the first time someone said something about it, I hated it and hated myself for having it. Plenty of people have scars, many much worse and more visible than mine. It didn't stop me from believing the few amongst the many.


“It's easy to say it doesn't matter when you don't have any flaws.”


“Mariah, I let someone get away with cheating on me so I could pretend everything was fine, and look where that got me. No one is perfect, not me, not you, and I promise you aren't special either. So drink your smoothie, read about those dragons, and keep feeling bad for me for at least a little longer?”


I never thought I was special, not in a good way at least, but Alexis did make me realize that I needed to stop chasing the perfect loving partner and accept what I had, good and the bad. I opened up the book and let myself go into a world of cliche dragons burning down a small village.


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