A Christmas Void, Chapter 8- The Handyman

Okay, deep breath!” I definitely tried, but my nerves pretty much just allowed me to wheeze. “Work isn’t for six hours,” I thought out loud. “I don’t have to think about him for six hours. It’s okay. Oh, I can’t stop! I need to do something to keep my mind distracted…” I noticed little things around the house that needed some attention, so I decided that sprucing up my new house would do well in keep my thoughts elsewhere. It didn’t always work though. I found myself having a difficult time concentrating, I had to keep stopping to give myself notes. When I was nailing down a loose floor board, I stopped hammering and said, “It’s just a crush, it’ll pass!” When I screwed in the stopper to my bathtub, I paused to say, “You’ve only known him for one day! It’s natural to run wild with what you think you know about someone! Get to know him and it’ll pass.” As I unclogged the kitchen sink, I assured myself, “You’re just a little excited because you’re a little lonely and he showed you some attention. If you just dated more, it would mean nothing! This feeling will pass!” This strategy would keep my calm for, like, a half hour tops, but longing and guilt would always swirl back.

The last task I had time for was repairing the top of this glass-pane shelf that Aunt Sabine had rooted against the wall that I shared with my neighbor in the living room. The top had this decorative trim that started to separate from the rest of the piece, so I figured that I would nail it back on real quick. I grabbed a small ladder that I borrowed from my dad, and as I climbed it, I remembered that dream I had, and I joked, “See, this is what you should’ve used to screw in that light bulb, Isaac!” As I nailed, I reminded myself, “Wait, stop thinking about him! Stop! Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t stop! That idea about just rolling with this crush isn’t going to work. If I’m going to stop thinking about him, I need to avoid him. Out of sight, out of mind!”

For a brief moment, I thought I had licked this problem, but soon, I noticed a sadness gnawing at the pit of my stomach. “No, no, no! Don’t start missing him! You don’t really know him! You can do this! You CAN do this! YOU CAN DO THIS!” As I ranted, my concentration slipped more and more. After that last statement, I missed the nail completely! I missed the entire shelf, actually! I lost my balance and fell hammer first into the wall! I literally mean into the wall- I could see pipes and everything!

I saw Miss Allsburg, who had previously been hand stitching a garment on her cushy chair, stared at the wall in shock. Once she absorbed what just happened, her beady eyes started to cloud in anger. I picked myself up and took a look at the damage. The hole was as big as my head! Pressing her eye against the wall, Miss Allsburg sneered, “Drinking in the afternoon, are we?”

I was offended at first, but I thought about it and realized that her question was totally valid since that was a really stupid thing to do. “No, ma’am! I was just trying to hurry since I have work soon, and I got distracted…”

“You met a boy?” she asked with a bit of curiosity.

“How did you know?” I answered her question with one of my own.

“I heard you saying ‘You can do this!’ Are you going to tell him how you feel?” she inquired.

“Oh, god, no! He’s married!” She gave me a look of disgust and walked away. I yelled, “No, no, no! It’s not like that!” I paused and groaned, “Yes, it is!” I could see her purposefully avoiding my gaze, sitting back in her doily-covered living room and sighed. I couldn’t keep the hole there and watch her judge me constantly. I glanced at my phone and realized I needed to start getting ready for work, but I couldn’t leave the hole there. I ran to my room and dove into this box at the foot of my bed. I had framed some of my favorite photos that I’ve taken over the years, so I grabbed the first one I saw that looked big enough to cover the hole. As I nailed it up, I noticed that I had picked a picture of a rock formation known as Kissing Camels. “Ugh, it’s a Colorado picture!” I wasn’t ready to think about Colorado right then. I didn’t want to get reminded of failure in the middle of another, but I didn’t have time to choose something else. “Oh well, it’ll have to do for now!” I ran to change for work.

I really regretted doing all of that manual labor before work because I came to my job already sore! Millstone’s wasn’t crowded when I got there, but apparently it was earlier because the go-back shelf had a high pile of stuff on it! Hanina helped the sole customer on our side of the store, so I decided to tackle the mountain of merchandise left behind from the earlier shift. I sorted through it to find stuff that all belonged in one department, which prompted Brennan to come up to me and yell, “What are you doing? Don’t just stand there! Grab a bunch and go!”

“But I-!” I wanted explain how I thought that sorting them by department would get things put away faster than bouncing around between areas, but I never got a chance to get it all out.

“How does that look to customers? Hanina is working and you’re just standing there?” He argued. Finding it thoroughly difficult to hide my annoyance, I grabbed an armful of things and started to leave until he stopped me. “Oh, Tiffany!” I turned to him, hoping that whatever he had to say wouldn’t take long because the clothes became kind of heavy in mass quantity. “Smile!” I think I smiled, but I don’t think my mood allowed me to deliver a genuine grin. I’m pretty sure it just looked like I had a toothache. Nonetheless, I got on with my task.

I never realized how large department stores actually were until I had to put away go-backs! Since I couldn’t sort anything out, I had no choice but to dart from one area to the next. For a while, I felt so exhausted and perturbed that I forgot about Isaac. It hit me when I went to the women’s department and saw him there! I stopped dead in my tracks as our eyes met. He looked just as dreamy today as he did yesterday! He smiled at me- man, he had a gorgeous smile! I had to shake myself out of this reverie and kept working.

On my break, I sat at the tables trying not to fall asleep. I nearly had a heart attack when I suddenly saw him sitting before me! “Long day?” he conversed.

“You must be psychic!” I retorted in a playfully sarcastic way.

Isaac laughed, and then he related, “Yeah, me too. I must’ve stuffed hundreds of envelopes today! Ugh, I can’t wait ’til this wedding is over!”

That last sentence intrigued me. He talked about his wedding like it was a tedious chore! Complaining about wedding planning was one thing, but I thought most people held some excitement for the actual day. After all, this is the day a person marries the love of their life! Unless someone got forced into a marriage… Could it be possible that he didn’t actually love her? I stood up. I couldn’t let myself run wild with that notion! Isaac stared at me curiously, and I realized I had to come up with a reasonable explanation for suddenly bolting out of my chair. I fibbed, “Sorry, I just remembered that I need to call…” I flipped through my phone and opened up the call list for ideas. “Dad! Excuse me!”

I dashed to the ladies room, and it occurred to me that I needed a reason to call him right now. I last spoke to him a couple of weeks ago to borrow the ladder, but I wasn’t ready to give it back yet, especially now that I had a new project at hand. I remembered falling and creating that hole right when he picked up, “Hello?”

“Hi, Dad! Listen, I gotta get off my break soon, but earlier today, I fell and made a huge hole in the wall. Could you stop by and help me fix it tomorrow?” I felt proud of coming up with that excuse under pressure.

“Sorry, Kitten!” He truly did sound sorry. “I would normally come over, but I’m out of town right now. We’re working on a project down in Angels Camp. But I’d be happy to help you find a handyman!”

“That sounds great!” That did not sound great. I wouldn’t have minded spending time with my dad, but I was not in the mood to make small talk with a stranger. But, what choice did I have? “Thanks so much! I love you!”

“Love you too!” he chimed.

I didn’t have time to sit there and dread the handyman coming because I got too busy dreading Millstone’s. Mallory scolded me for not sorting out the go-backs before putting them away, and I didn’t bother to point out the conflicting instructions that one of her supervisors gave me. Instead, I took an armful of children’s clothes, and as I arrived in that department, guess who was also there? Of course, Isaac! He held up a onesie and asked me, “Do you know where this goes?”

“Oh, all of the Bouncing Bug products are over here.” I led him over to that section, but neither of us could find the print we were looking for. “Oh well, I guess I don’t know. I still haven’t totally figured out where everything is yet.”

“Well, it appears we’re equal competitors then!” He smirked mischieviously.

“Competitors?” Whatever response I expected him to give, it wasn’t that!
“Yeah,” he embellished, “first one to finish their pile wins!” He darted off and scoured the racks like he was on a ravenous scavenger hunt. I couldn’t resist and joined in. We kept peeking our head over the racks to check each other’s progress and even jokingly smack-talked each other’s progress. Just as I was about to finish, he butted me out of the way, put a garment on the rack, and declared, “I win!”

“You probably cheated, rookie!” I pretended to sulk as I put my last piece of clothes away.

He heartily chortled, and then he told me, “Good game!” He raised his hand for a high five, and I accepted. As I walked away, I was surprised to realize that I actually had fun with a menial Millstone’s task!

I was scheduled to leave an hour before closing, and they had to let me clock out because I was about to hit my sixth hour- meaning I needed to take a lunch or clock out. At my locker, I saw that my dad had texted me, “Mister Fane will be there at eight.” I groaned, so early!

Before I headed out the door, I had to pass Isaac at the women’s side register. He pretended to become upset. “You’re leaving us here to deal with this mess?”

“Yeah, have fun, winner!” I smirked. He chuckled and said goodbye. I couldn’t motivate myself to smile when Brennan ordered me to, but I didn’t have a problem now!

I didn’t have time to think about Isaac for the rest of the night. I rushed to get home and get to bed so I could get a decent amount of sleep before Mister Fane arrived. I was so exhausted that I got knocked out all night. I slept so well that I slept through my alarm! Or did I forget to set it? I heard loud knocking at the door, and I absentmindedly stared at the clock. When I saw it was eight, I bolted out of bed. “Just a minute!” I had planned to look like a functional adult for the handyman, but at this point, Mister Fane would have to see me in my robe, which I quickly threw on as I rushed to the door. I opened the door expecting to see a man my dad’s age in grungy work clothes, but I was way off! “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” I cried out wildly. Mister Fane was none other than… Isaac!

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