I opened the thin glass door to escape the humidity of Texas, and swung a hard left into the Chick-fil-A line. I leaned onto the pole which held the plastic sign, Line Starts Here. Thomas, the cashier, waved and ordered me the usual—They classified me as a frequent customer. My staple: A number three eight count Chick-fil-A nugget meal with a large Sprite.
Thomas, around nineteen, wore long choppy hair that swayed a bit below his ears. Dressed in perfect uniform, he clothed himself in a red polo, embroidered with the Chick-fil-A logo. A cross necklace dangled from his neck as he drummed his fingers along the counter. His blue eyes glanced at me, and his bottom eye bags pushed up because of his smile. He greeted me and asked about my day, and I replied with the usual “okay”.
Bright red tiles lined the back of the counter. Behind Thomas, three women put together my meal and handed me a white bag with the logo on it. I smiled, put my headphones on, and I filled my cup halfway with ice, and then with Sprite. Thomas stumbled behind me, handed me a straw, and we laughed as I forgot to grab onto it. As usual, I thanked the crew and walked home while snacking on salty waffle fries. Today, tomorrow, and for the next few years. Every evening, I strolled through the door and talked to the cashier. I was almost certain they had a button specifically for my order. Even in pajamas and with a messy top-knot, Thomas smiled as I entered the door.
Instead of going alone, once my girlfriend Samantha and I walked through the doorway while holding hands. Thomas froze—his face pallid. I waved my left hand out at him, but he had yet to move. No other customers ate in the restaurant, so I called out his name. His breathing accelerated, and he stepped away from the cash register as if I had a gun in my hand—I only had her hand in mine, which to him might have been the same thing. He held onto the counter and his knuckles turned white. I told him I'd have the usual, but he still had yet to move. Still shaking, Thomas closed his eyes and stepped to the cash register.
“And what does that Sinner want?” My eyes widened. I shook my hand away from Samantha's and placed them on the counter.
“The usual.” I noticed Samantha—almost crying. She grazed my shoulder with her clammy hands. The tendons in her neck pulsed out. Thomas pressed the buttons on the cash register, and he told us our order would take longer than usual. I shuffled away and grabbed Samantha's damp hand. I snatched the Styrofoam cups and went to the drink dispensers. I filled the cup with Sprite—no ice. Samantha murmured that we should go, but I waved her away dismissively.
We waited thirty minutes for a meal that usually takes two to make. I kept holding Samantha’s hand as I walked up to Thomas. I watched the women in the back as they continued to try to put together the meal, but Thomas continued to hold his hand up behind him, delaying the assembly line.
“This is so immature, Thomas. It’s just a meal.” I rolled my eyes at him. His hand had yet to move. I sneered and turned my body at an angle instead of facing him head on.
“This is completely inappropriate. Completely against restaurant policy. Leave now.” Samantha tugged at my sleeve, guiding me towards the door. I glanced back at her, and her eyeliner slid down, pooling in her eye bags. She mouthed please. Thomas raised his right eyebrow at me, and I followed Samantha out of the restaurant. I pushed open the glass door, and it hit the outside handle, scratching the surface. I held Samantha to my chest, feeling her breath dance along my skin. My hand stroked through her hair as she cried. We walked back home while balancing ourselves along the pavement—without fries in hand, but the warm touch of Samantha was still there.