Lucienne stepped out of the door and onto the familiar sandy concrete. The street always felt nostalgic to her, simply because her feet had lead her down it so many times, whether that be going to school, Church or the cemetery. The town of Fort Wheeldon was small, laying on the outskirts of Texas and Arkansas, meaning there was a single road laying the way with a few tributaries where people her Pa referred to as "The Well Offs" made residence. The only real place of life was the Off License, where Lucienne scraped a living under the aging eye of Rajeesh Mahalia.
Mr. Mahalia was a man of whom a life is built around his business, and that business was very simply the converted barn of his shop. 79 in body, yet 25 in mind, he was nothing short of the town's wisest, most respected man. He'd lived in the States for over 50 years, and his English was impeccable, yet he still held dear to the Indian accent which was commonplace to his hometown. Like every other resident in the town, he spend his days labouring away to scrape a living, and the only interaction he had outside of working hours was with the delivery man who came once a week, and that was simple and unimportant. small talk. Both his children had fled to Harvard, studying what they wanted, and this little place was all he had to support them, and now he had to pay Lucienne...
"Good morning Mr Mahalia!" Lucienne yelled as she waltzed into the store, hiding the crucifix that hung round her neck, not wishing to disturb her Hindu boss. "Hello? You there?"
"Good Morning!" Came the bubbly reply from her boss, "Ever so sorry, it appears my hearings now going amongst everything else. Don't ever grow up child. Now, I could do with the delivery being unpacking and sorting because my knees can't go to the bottom shelves any more, just what I need."
"Erm... Mr Mahalia sir," Lucienne quivered again. Going back to her school days she knew that every other kid tried to smuggle sweets out of this place , and every time Rajeesh had unleashed his meaner streak, but there was no turning back now. "My Pa was wondering if... Well... Possibly, I could..."
"What? Spit it out, please"
"Well, my Pa says I'm not getting enough, so would a raise be out of the question"
"Look, I'm sorry, I truly am, but this is all i can afford to give you, what with me having to pay this place off, and my stock prices are forever climbing, and there's... Other expenses. So, I'm sorry again, but i can't give you a raise, and I would if I had the means to, you are a lovely girl, and I cannot say how much I value your input to the store."
"That's okay, thank you. I'll go get the stock from the yard" And with that, Lucienne walked out, her footsteps echoing around the large barn. Really, only a third of the place was the shop, the rest was empty hay shelves and disused holding spots for cattle and horses, but the town had nothing better.
Out in the yard, something caught her eye - it was a mirror. It hadn't been there yesterday, but who was she to pry into her boss' life. Gazing into it, Lucienne realised how much she'd aged over the past few months. Her short blonde hair had swept over in the wind, revealing her comforting brown eyes. They had seen so much. Her skin and lips were still fair and flawless, but it was the look she held upon her that showed the age. A mix of fatigue, worry, beauty and hardship lingered in her smile, and from that everyone knew her story.
"Better grab that milk crate before the sun claims it" Lucienne mumbled to herself, knowing the routine by now. Then, with a sudden clinch of every muscle in her body, she realised that the courtyard wasn't empty...