The story so far:
Riley planned to prep for finals today. Instead, Zoey dragged her to a cave where her parents’ initials were carved. Rose called Riley to have her pick up Connor’s new meds. When she gets there, Ethan quits the general store. Louis returns, and is eaten by a shadow. Riley defeats it, and needs to accept that reality now has monsters in it.
Ethan raked his fingers through his hair and tried to steady his temper. “I do my fair share, and everything you don’t want to. Which is everything, Parker! You haven’t shown up for a week!”
The owner stood by the register – a thing he probably hadn’t looked at in over five years, Ethan thought bitterly. “I wasn’t here ’cause I trusted you, kid, and I had shit to do. You and me, we had a real simple deal you shoulda been able to understand. I pay you under the table, no taxes, and you keep your tips. I don’t owe you any more’n that.”
Ethan threw his hands into the air. They were going in circles again. “And that worked fine when I was a teenager! I need a real job.”
“You think you’re a man now or somethin? Try’na bully me into a fatter paycheck?” The older man snickered with derision. “Let me tell you how the real world works: you don’t jump from intern to VP.”
Outrage crept back into Ethan’s voice. “It’s just me and you, guy. How am I supposed to move up the ranks? The Gennie doesn’t have a career ladder! It’s got a .. a chair on the porch!”
“Two chairs,” Parker corrected him smugly, “and I bought ‘em both! Along with that porch they sit on, and everything else here. That was my sweat and savings. So what, you carry some boxes and think you deserve half?”
“I’m not even asking for half.” The younger man clenched his jaw to hold back words he would regret. Some slipped out anyway. “And you know damn well I didn’t just carry some boxes. I never missed a day, and I worked hard.”
“I know damn well, huh? You watch your tone with me, kid.” Quieter, with a hint of disgust, Parker added, “I gave you a job cause your daddy skipped town, and we all knew you was in a bad way. I saved all your hides. I’m not the bad guy here.”
“And I said thanks! More times than you can count.” Ethan needed to pace, or hit something. He couldn’t do either one right now. “But I’m not being unreasonable, and you can’t bully me into working for cheap anymore.”
“Then go,” Parker dared him. “I’ll have you replaced before you can crawl back to your trailer.”
“That’s it?” Another long pause. “Ten years and you’re just going to let me walk over minimum fucking wage?”
“I’m telling you, I can’t afford it!” Parker roared back at him.
Ethan laughed, but nothing about it was pleasant. “And I’m telling you, you’re full of shit. I keep the Gennie’s books, remember?”
Parker slammed his fists against the counter so hard that the heavy, metal register bounced. “So? What are you going to do, Ethan? I’m sick of talkin about your feelies. Gonna make a little sign and protest? Or get your ass back to work with the fair deal you had when you came in this morning?”
Ethan shook his head and glared at the floor. He saw something move through the doorway, and hated that one of his neighbors caught them in this fight. He shot a warning glance their way, and saw Riley standing at the bottom of the steps.
She was soaking wet, and her legs were covered in mud. That meant Zoey wasn’t at school today, either.
He closed his eyes and swore to himself. He’d reached his limit.
“You’re right. It’s my choice now.” He turned his back on Parker and started walking. “I quit,” he said as he passed through the door.
He crossed the porch in two steps, and passed her on the stairs without looking up. He couldn’t say anything. There was a hurricane roaring inside of him, held in check by a spider’s web. He had to put space between himself and the rest of the world before something else happened. His hands were shaking with the effort of holding it all in as he popped open the door of his truck.
“You entitled little prick!” Parker bellowed from the porch. “Ungrateful bastard!”
Ethan’s truck roared to life, and he drove away without looking back.