Helen and Irene

 

 

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St.Michael’s was a modern church its minimalist design aiming to appeal to a more youthful generation of church goers. Thin slices of onyx, replaced the more traditional stain glass windows. This allowed the sun light that shone through to be dispersed, filling the whole church with light. No images of saints resided here.  Colourful and airy paper sculptures floated down from the church ceiling to give the illusion of angels floating through the sky. An illuminated cross dominated the front of the church sans the crucified saviour. A lone figure sat contemplatively in the front row.

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Helen liked to escape to St. Michaels, its beauty, silence and tranquility restoring her being. She was a writer for a fashion magazine and was constantly trying to keep up with deadlines and fashion trends. She loved beautiful clothes and today was wearing Diane Von Furstenberg . The v neck, solid blue,  knee length dress perfectly complimented her 5’8” slim figure. She had a guilty secret laying beneath her dress. One lonely Wednesday morning she was pushed to do something daring and so decided to acquire a tattoo. Locating a clean, respectable looking tattoo parlour she had a china tea pot with two tiny tea cups engraved on her right shoulder. She also had the word Wedgewood italicised just below the tea cups. Helen had refined taste. Her husband Jordan was absent a lot, his job as vice president of a hedge fund causing him to be constantly on the move seeking the next big investment. She adored her two children, fourteen year old Max and ten year old Lauren and could refuse them nothing. She gave a deep sigh and tried to centre herself and forget the world for a moment.

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Was that a baby’s cry she heard.  She felt a surge of irritation. For God’s sake doesn’t the mother know this is a place of prayer and contemplation and not a place for a baby’s howls. Helen tried to compose herself but her peaceful mood was broken, the baby’s persistent cry grating her nerves. She glanced at her watch and noting it was 9:20 p.m.  decided to pick up her daughter from dance lessons. She passed the haggard looking mother rocking her five month old baby back and forth and gave her a withering look.

After picking Lauren up from dance she proceeded to the Soccer Dome to gather Max  from practice.  ” Can we go to Tim Horton’s ” queried Max as he entered the car, “I’m starving after soccer practice”. Helen just wanted to get home but not wanting to refuse Max she acquiesced and proceeded to the Tim Horton’s drive through. As usual there was a long line-up and Helen was tempted to just drive home but curbing her frustration she waited patiently.

Finally it was her turn to order and she waited in expectation for the server’s voice from the speaker.  But she was greeted with silence and it was a very long three minutes before a voice echoed, “Welcome to Tim Hortons how can I help you”. Helen ordered a chipotle cheddar chicken, potato wedges and chocolate chill for Max and just a chocolate chill for Lauren. She drove around to the pick up window where she again waited impatiently for her turn, her fingers continuously drumming the steering wheel of the car. Finally she was at the pick up window and received her order. She was just entering the parking lot at the front of Tim Hortons when she heard a shriek.  “It tastes like coffee” screamed Lauren, in a disgusted voice,  ” I can’t drink coffee I asked for chocolate”.    Helen’s whole being clenched as she shouted   ” For God’s sake can’t anyone do anything right” and grabbed the coffee from Lauren. In her haste she grabbed the top of the cup which caused the lid to fall , the contents distributing themselves evenly, on the inside of the car,  and Helen’s beautiful Von Furstenberg designer dress. Impotent with rage Helen whipped the car around and pulled into a parking spot in front of the door at Tim Hortons.

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Irene had just finished her shift at Walmart and was on her way by bus to Tim Hortons for her third job of the day. She was tired and hoped that it would be a quiet evening. She arrived at work to be greeted by the manager with ” We’re two short today so you’re gonna have to hustle”. Irene gave a deep sigh and went to change into her uniform.

Irene had become pregnant at seventeen, her last year of high school. Joe had told her how much he loved her and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. They had married in a registry office and one month after Richard was born Joe just disappeared without explanation. She never saw him again. She lived with her mother until she met Peter and married him after a year of dating. Richard, her son,  was seven years old when they married. She and Peter moved into a relatively cheap two bedroom apartment and were happy for a while. Two years later her daughter Teresa was born. It was shortly after that she found out Peter had been cheating on her. They had a violent quarrel and Peter walked out never to be seen again. Apparently he had no interest in children. Irene purchased all her clothes, second hand, at the Good Will store. She only wore pants never dresses, for she too had a guilty secret. She was usually too tired to shave her legs and the pants were the perfect cover.

That evening Irene was constantly on the go completing the customer’s orders,  moving between the front counter and the drive through window as circumstances dictated. It was a busy few hours with no breaks. A customer ordered an Iced Capp from the drive through and then a group of young teenagers started causing a disturbance at the front counter. She quickly went over and sorted out the disturbance. She than finally managed to speak through her headphones addressing the next customer, ” Welcome to Tim Hortons how can I help you”. She punched in a chipotle cheddar chicken with potato wedges and two chocolate chills and proceeded to fill the order. She placed the food by the drive through window and prepared one chocolate chill.  She saw a second cup by the window and asked Grace if she had prepared this. Grace said yes and so she placed the second cup with the current order and gave them to the customer. She then returned to the counter to greet the next customer who she quickly served. She looked up and saw a very fashionable woman with a stain down the front of her dress striding towards the counter.

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” I want to speak to the manager” Helen demanded, which prompted Irene to flutter to the back of the store to locate the manager Henry in his office. Henry was gathered and he led the way to the front to face an irate Helen. Helen and Henry went back and forth for about five minutes. There were accusations of incompetence and trying to poison a child with coffee,  followed by monetary demands for a new dress and a complete car detailing. Henry responded with spilling the drink in her car was Helen’s responsibility. The argument became circular and very tiring for both parties and no happy conclusion was reached. Helen stormed out of the store shouting that the franchise owners would be hearing from her with perhaps legal proceedings to follow. Helen was finally gone.An irate Henry now turned to Irene and accused her of not doing her job and upsetting customers. He vented his frustrations for a minute and then stalked back to his office. Irene fighting back tears continued with the business of a fast food franchise.

At last Irene’s shift was finished and she caught the last bus back to her apartment. She entered and noticed that the elevator was once again under repair and so commenced to drag herself up to her sixth floor apartment. She smelled the unmistakable tang of weed on the second floor and passed a group of teenagers with a case of beer, playing hip hop on the fourth. Entering her apartment she first checked on Richard and Teresa in their bunk beds. She then collapsed on the arm chair thinking she would just close her eyes for a minute. A minute later she was wrapped in an exhausted sleep, body twitching as the events of her late shift involving that formidable, fashionable lady played in her mind.

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Helen arrived home in an agitated state. After seeing Max and Lauren to their respective bedrooms she turned on the built in stereo sound system to play some soothing classical music. Entering her bedroom she escaped from the sodden dress and kicking it into the corner went to retrieve her night gown.  She proceeded to the living room poured herself a glass of red wine and started to relax, She still frowned as she thought about the crying baby and incompetent worker but the frown soon changed to a smile as she remembered the peace and tranquility of St. Michaels. She determined to forgive them as was her Christian duty and relaxed deeper into the chair.

 

 

 

 

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