Rocio was relieved to have her car back. The repair had cost her most of her paycheck, and she and Luis had lived of quesadillas for a week, but at least she was free to move around town again. She hadn’t taken up Jax’s offer of help. He had come to the store a few times, but she had told him that she was happy to take the bus. She paid more attention to his purchasing habits now and she wasn’t impressed. One day it was chips with beer; another day he bought a loaf of brown bread, margarine, and beer; then a gallon of water, with chocolate bars, and beer … With every purchase beer was added …
A hard thumb woke her from her thoughts. She was glad for the interruption, because she didn’t want to think about Jax. He was always on her mind and it angered her. She didn’t want him in her thoughts. She looked up and saw a large, burly man. Since he hadn’t bought anything, she assumed that he probably wanted to make a deposit.
“Un deposito,” he growled at her.
She nodded, ignoring his rudeness, and typed on the computer to open the bank deposit service. “What number?” She asked.
The man mumbled and spoke fast. She had a hard time understanding him, and when she repeated the account number he gave her, he corrected her impatiently.
“Let’s do this one more time,” she said, and refreshed the screen. “4576 1972 …”
“Five seveight tentwev wua.”
“578 10 12 1?”
“Yes, finally you got it!” He barked.
Her colleague winked at her, smirking amused. Rocio clicked on enter and asked, “How much are you going to deposit?”
“That will be 5010 pesos please.”
He gave her the bills and the ten peso coin, and she entered the amount into the system, but suddenly the screen went blank and a message flashed annoyingly. Oh dear, not with this customer, she inwardly prayed.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “The system appears to be down. I will try again.”
He sighed loudly and hit the counter in anger. “Get it right this time,” he said, snarling.
Rocio’s colleague made a face and kept to her own customers. She definitely wasn’t going to get involved. The internet was down though, and at the moment it was impossible to deposit money into any bank that was connected to the store. When she explained that to the customer, he threw a fit. He started yelling about how urgent this payment was and how she had messed it up, because she didn’t get the numbers right.
“Señor, no hay sistema! There’s no system! There’s nothing I can do.”
He hit the counter again. “Useless is what you are! There was a system when I came in here. You put in the wrong numbers!”
“Señor, you didn’t really pronounce them very clearly.”
At this, he exploded, hitting the counter over and over. “Don’t you dare insult my speech!”
“Señor, I didn’t insult your speech. You need to calm down.”
Why did this have to happen now that the manager had gone out for his lunch break? How could she handle this angry gorilla? And her colleague was not going to be any help. Damn it! There were only two other customers in the store and they did their best to stay away from the altercation.
At that moment, the door opened, and Jax walked in. Rocio had never been so glad to see him. When he saw the scene, he walked over to the counter and stopped next to the man. The enraged bear towered over Jax but that didn’t perturb the New Zealander.
“Sir, you have to leave now.”
“Pinche gringo, speak Spanish!”
“He is telling you to leave,” Rocio translated, now growing impatient with this man.
“I must make this payment.”
“No hay sistema!” Desperately, she refreshed the screen again and again, but it remained blank.
“Vete, go” Jax said in his best Spanish, but the man pushed him backwards and said, “Make me.”
Jax grabbed his arm and dragged him to the door, showing surprising strength in his lean body. The big man struggled and then landed a fist on Jax’s biceps. At this, a young man in a suit walked out of the shopping isles, no longer comfortable standing back, and he took the man at his other arm, helping Jax to kick him out. Between both of them, they managed to get him outside, but in the parking lot the gorilla turned and smashed Jax’s nose. Blood spurted out. Rocio gasped in horror and jumped over the counter. “Call the police!” She shouted at her colleague as she rushed outside.
The big man started hitting Jax, over and over, while the customer in the suit struggled to pull him back. Jax quickly recovered and landed a hard punch on the gorilla’s jaw, and another one followed immediately after, hitting him on his temple. The angry man stumbled, then roared in anger, and threw himself at Jax again, but this time Jax was prepared and he swiftly moved aside, avoiding another blow.
“Stop it!” Rocio yelled, feeling powerless to do anything. Sirens wailed in the distance, and she hoped that they were for her, because the police wasn’t always that quick to respond. It usually took them a while to arrive. In the meantime, the man in the suit had managed to pull Jax’s attacker away, and finally a Ford Explorer tore through the parking lot, and the store manager burst out of the car.
“What the hell is going on’?” He screamed at Rocio.
“He attacked a customer,” she stammered, shocked at the rage that was directed at her. How was this supposed to be her fault? “There was no system, and he got mad. Then he …”
“Save it.” The manager walked over to the big, burly man, and asked him, “Are you all right?”
She couldn’t believe it. He hardly looked at Jax whose nose was bleeding, but he cared about the idiot who had started the whole thing? She was relieved when the police and an ambulance came onto the scene. For once, they did arrive promptly. Now, surely everything would be sorted out.
She walked over to Jax. His white shirt was smeared with blood. Remembering that she had a few tissues in her jeans pocket, she pulled them out and gently cleaned the blood from his face. He smiled at her. She stayed with him until he was loaded into the ambulance. She wanted to go with him, but her boss was so angry, she was afraid that she might lose her job if she left now …
“I call you later, OK,” she told Jax before the ambulance doors slid shut.
She turned and met her boss’s fierce gaze. The police were interviewing the attacker and the man in the suit. One officer was also talking to her colleague who had now come out as well.
“Do you have any idea who he is?” Her boss asked her, his voice quivering with rage.
“That is the regional manager and my brother-in-law! I leave the store for ten minutes and look what happened! Now he probably has to go to the police station.”
“He attacked a customer.”
“He said that you mistyped the account number.”
“I … He mumbles … It’s not clear what he says …” If that ogre was his brother-in-law, surely he would know about the man’s speech?
“Rocio,” he said with a deep sigh as if he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. “That should never have happened. I can’t let you attack the regional manager.”
“I didn’t …”
With an impatient wave of his hand he cut her off and said, “It doesn’t matter if you did or didn’t. That man was attacked.”
“He barely has a scratch. Jax’s nose is bleeding, possibly broken …”
“Jax? So, you know that guy?” She didn’t answer, not liking the accusatory tone in his voice. He let go of another sigh that bemoaned his terrible hardship with his employees, and finally he said, “Go inside, get changed, leave your uniform and your name tag behind the counter. I will pay you your wages until today.”
Was he firing her? “But …”
“You leave me no choice, Rocio. Your friend beat up the store’s regional manager. You should have known better. You should be grateful that I’m even paying you. Now, do as I said and then get out of here!”
The beach was abandoned. She liked it that way, no tourists, no locals, simply no one, just her and the immense ocean. Waves rushed in, their foam caressing the sand and kissing her feet. The water was chilly, but refreshing. Although Rocio lived in a beach resort, she hardly enjoyed the sand and the waves. Today, though, the sea had called her. She simply had to be here.
After she had left the store and pocketed her meager pay, she had called her neighbor’s wife and asked her to pick up her son from school. She was too upset and she didn’t want him to see her sad and worried. The ocean always calmed her, and also this time she felt peace settle deep within her.
The sea would give her answers, about finding a new job, solving this issue as soon as possible … and Jax. She needed answers about Jax, answers that she could only find within herself. Her hand closed around her cell phone that rested in the pocket of her jeans. Her fingers were itching to dial his number. She had to, it was the least she could do after what he had done for her. But not only that … she really wanted to call him …
She closed her eyes and felt the breeze lift her coal black hair. Such peace and quiet. The ocean always provided her with some answers, but this time they didn’t come to her. She was consumed by worry and fear. What if she didn’t find work right away? How was she going to provide for Luis? Should she contact Gustavo, Luis’s father, to ask him for help? As soon as that question popped up in her mind, she snorted in derision. Yes, sure, Gustavo would take one look at her and run the other way.
What now? What was she going to do? Her hand still rested on the phone, her fingers aching to press the speed dial.
– See? – She thought – I even have Jax on speed dial … – If there was one thing she should do right now, it was making sure that he was all right. She pulled the cellular out of her jeans pocket and pressed the button.
Thank you for following up on Rocio and Jax in part 3 of Reaching for Pearls. Stay tuned for part 4 (the conclusion) of this short story, which will be published on Saturday, 22 February – please see my publishing schedule for more details 🙂