By 7:45am the break room was already filled with staff waiting for the start of their 8:00am shift. Courtney hesitated in the doorway before committing herself to the day. At a table in the back of the room several employees stooped over their coffees in preparation for ‘senior’s day’ at the store.
“Courtney, you in or out?” said Paula. She sipped a coffee large enough to drown a horse.
“I’m not sure,” said Courtney.
“Ain’t we all,” said Bev.
“Come in and enjoy the calm before the storm,” said Paula.
Courtney stepped inside, letting the staff room door latch behind her. “You call this calm? I had my morning stillness sitting in my hot tub before breakfast.”
“Dang. This here’s my quiet time,” said Riley. She turned to face Courtney. “You obviously don’t have kids.”
“That wouldn’t make a difference,” said Courtney.
“Honey, it makes all the difference,” said Maggie.
“Nuh uh. You just get up before them.”
“My three year old was up at 4:30,” said Paula.
“Then train ‘em to leave you alone for a few minutes.”
Bev shook her head and looked at Paula. “Ain’t it funny, eh? It’s the one without kids that’s the expert. Teach us, oh wise one.”
“Just ‘cause she had a dog once,” said Riley.
“Maybe you should write a book. Go on Dr. Phil,” laughed Paula.
“I didn’t mean to insult you. I was just sayin’,” said Courtney.
Maggie got up to refill her coffee. “Look, quit while you’re behind, Courtney. When you got kids o’ your own, come back and talk.”
“Tellin’ me about kids. What does she know?”
“Paula, let it go,” whispered Bev.
“Smack her in the mouth if she does that again.”
“It’s over, Paula,” said Riley.
Courtney ignored the whispers behind her and joined Maggie at the coffee maker.
“Didn’t mean nothin’ by it,” Courtney whispered.
“Shut up already. Today’s hard enough. We don’t need a fight breakin’ out,” said Maggie.
“I’d kill that…”
“Morning ladies. Don’t you all look radiant this morning,” said Brad as he burst into the break room.
“Look what the cat coughed up,” said Paula.
“Whoa, steer clear of Paula. Obviously she’s enjoying Mr. Cranky’s monthly visit,” said Brad. He was the only one in the room to laugh.
“You sexist pig! I’ll knock that stupid grin right off your face you stupid idiot. Not like it’s any of your business, but she’s been up since 4 chasing her little boy…”
“Her little girl, got her family off for the day and still made it early to work. She doesn’t need some arrogant pig shaming her character. She should charge you with harassment. Even better, she should kick your butt. You know what? I’ll start,” shouted Courtney. Maggie held her back.
Brad held up his hands. “Hey, look. It was a little joke. I’m sorry, alright?”
After Brad made a hasty retreat, the break room went still.
Paula broke the silence. “Courtney, thanks.”
“Still, tell me how to raise my kids and I’ll rip your hair out.”
“Fair enough. Just don’t let Brad know. We can’t show weakness to the other side.”