The Good Girl

The Good Girl

A Story by Here's What I Say

"Life's too short...Everyone's fighting a hard battle, so be kind." --Ryan Barry


All that I’m after

Is a life full of laughter

As long as I’m laughing with you

I’m thinkin’ that all that still matters

Is love ever after

After the life we’ve been through

‘Cause I know there’s no life after you

            --“Life After You” by Chris Daughtry



When I started my shift at work in the dark hours of the early morning, I always knew that Halla would always come through. I never needed to tell her to do anything�"whatever I needed her to do, she did. I would still have to wait that first few hours without her, and that meant I had to take care of the coffee bar and the customers too. But I knew once Halla arrived, I could take it a lot easier. I always entrusted her with the work because she could actually do it and I never had to worry. She just wordlessly came in, except to say good morning (never did think it was polite to not say good morning), and she went right to work. She was a good girl.


I always noticed her hard work and dedication, and this once when a friend, also a very loyal customer, came to say hi to me, Halla immediately took care of her and made her drink to order (it took a while for Halla to get that complicated order down, but now Halla makes the drink perfectly the way I do). By the time Sadie gets to the juiciest part of her stories, Halla would arrive with her 140-degree latte with one shot of peppermint and three pumps of mocha. It would always annoy me when Halla just always seemed to arrive at the best part, but at least she never interrupts verbally.


One day, a year ago, I noticed Halla’s performance wasn’t quite up to standards, so I gathered my courage and told her what I thought.


“You used to be so good,” I told her. “Why can’t you do what you used to do when you first got hired?” And of course, Halla agreed to step up her game, and she was back to normal. That’s the key: be firm, ask for what you want, and when you demand respect, you get it. I was pretty sure that distressed look was simply from being reprimanded, especially since I rarely had to do so. The first time I had ever had to do that was this once when she was unusually sullen and not smiling or talking to the customers, right after I hired her.


“Whatever is wrong with your personal life, you need to put it behind you and be professional,” I told her. “You can’t let your personal problems get in the way with your professional life.” I told her about how when I got divorced that I never let it get in the way of my job�"though I did have to take about two weeks off from work to get through it. Luckily, we had enough people at the time to cover my shift, and the rest of the employees were able to help cover for me when I was still grieving when I got back to work. Once again, up to standards, like usual. All I had to do was ask, and I received.


It always irked me when people said that Halla was a little offbeat and hyper, especially since she was so quiet behind the bar. Halla never seemed to me the kind of person to make any dirty jokes and I stood up to whoever said things like that.


“Halla is a very upstanding girl, and she would NEVER say things like that,” when one of the boys from the meat department regaled a very dirty joke, and claimed that Halla was the one who shared it with him�"gestures and everything. I stood up for Halla as I would for a friend�"not taking any insults lying down. Halla just was not that kind of girl.


But one day, Halla behaved very strangely. One morning, I asked her to trade shifts with me and I needed her to open the coffee bar and I would come in after her, in her place. Halla didn’t seem too excited by the idea, although having the option of leaving early must have been something she’d like to try. I had a friend and her husband coming in and they wanted to meet at a certain time, and since I lived fifteen minutes from work, I really did not want to leave work and then drive back so I took the later shift to save gas. Halla came in at five-thirty and opened the bar and was alone for three hours until I came in�"I totally forgot that I had scheduled myself her usual time�"seven in the morning�"and when I clocked in at two minutes past eight, I realized my mistake. Halla was, once again, quiet and did what I told her to do, but she was sadder than ever. Even when she smiled, you could tell that it didn’t quite reach up to her eyes, and it was taking me all I could not to tell her to pull herself together and that the customers can notice it when her smiles are fake. The last thing I needed was losing more sales by having a rude employee.


I was able to get through most of the day working without having to correct her about anything, although I did tell her that her opening wasn’t quite as nice as I would have expected, but at least I didn’t have to do any of the opening duties for her when I arrived. The closer was scheduled for a full eight hour shift, so when the third person showed up, I decided that I needed to go to the closet and get a few supplies, and since some of them I couldn’t carry myself, I had her help me. I also figured that maybe I could throw in a comment or two about her strange behavior and how it could hurt the department, but then I looked over my right shoulder, past Halla, and realized the Laurie and Frank�"my friend and her husband�"had both arrived, very early�"almost three hours early, as Halla was supposed to go home in about fifteen minutes (Halla’s shift ended around two-thirty, but I was pretty sure she wouldn’t mind staying an extra few minutes). So I decided to save the conversation for later (and it would give me time to think about specific examples of her behavior that day that told me she wasn’t acting professionally), and I walked to my friends and began a conversation with them about the movie we were planning to see and that maybe we could have dinner at that one Italian place I loved and that my ex-husband used to go to. When I was about to tell them about that once my ex dropped his plate of fettucine alfredo on himself, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Halla had stopped dead in her tracks and her eyes were frozen to a fixed point ahead of her. I turned fully around to see what exactly she was staring at, and I could see out of the left hand corner of my eye that the line of customers was growing, and that the closer was having to deal with more work and pressure. I began to tell Halla to get moving and help the closer until I saw the boy who was staring right back at her.


He was wearing a soldier’s uniform�"camouflage, khaki combat boots, matching, camouflage hat, and the words “US AIR FORCE MAYNARD” stitched onto it, which I figured was his last name, and he had a huge green duffel bag slung on his right shoulder. The grocery store continued like normal�"checkers scanned items, people wrote in their checkbooks, courtesy clerks loaded the bags and walked customers to their cars, but Halla and the soldier kept standing where they were with locked stares. People walked past and around them like they were statues, but then, suddenly, they weren’t anymore.


Halla ran full force for the soldier, throwing off her Starbucks cap, and her hairnet fell off, her long, dark brown curly hair bursting out like water from a balloon on a hot summer day. Her eyes were lit up and were wet with tears, and the soldier was running very fast towards her too, dropping his cap, revealing light brown hair that was just beginning to grow back after being shaved so many times and his duffel bag, and I think I saw what looked like a medal slip out of the slight opening. For a second, all you could hear were the sounds of her slip-resistant shoes and his boots scraping against the linoleum, and still, nobody noticed until the sounds of their uniforms and bodies hitting each other and their loud sobs filled and echoed around the store. The soldier held her tightly against him, spinning her around like a carousel spinning to the beat of a Chris Daughtry song.


“I thought you were dead, Amick,” Halla sobbed. “You stopped sending me letters over a year ago, and nobody knew what happened to you!” Unconsciously, I did the math in my head, and realized that I had hired her around August of the previous year, and now it was December a year later.


“I know, I know, baby,” the boy cried, definitely getting attention from the other customers, who were just mesmerized. “I know. My commanding officer kept all of the letters from our families because the dick thought it would distract us from our work.”


“I thought you died,” Halla repeated, crying into his shoulder. “I thought you were dead, and I felt like I died with you. I spent this whole past year, moping like I was the living dead. I didn’t feel like laughing or singing or running or ANYTHING! There wasn’t anything for me to live for. I just went through the motions, trying to get by, just praying there was a mistake.”


“There was a mistake,” he said, putting her down and wiping away her fresh falling tears. “I didn’t try to contact you. I thought if you didn’t send me letters, why bother, right? But I didn’t realize what I was doing to you. I killed you, babe. I killed you by letting you think for one second that I left you. But I didn’t. I may have served my country with honor, but among other things, I did it for you. I did what I did because I love you enough to get out there and protect you and be able to live with you in a peaceful world. But it doesn’t count for peanuts if we don’t enjoy it together. It doesn’t mean as much if to do that, I have to break your heart like I did. I’m done with it, though. I did my part to protect our country and everything it stands for, and now I’m going to cash it in by living my life with you. My life isn’t really living if it doesn’t include you. I love you, Halla. I’m sorry I hurt you. And I’m going to make it up to you any and every way I can. Please give me a chance. Please?” I was waiting for Halla’s response too�"predicting that she wanted him to wine and dine her back into her good graces, continually begging her forgiveness everyday for hurting her and leaving her alone. After all, how do you ever recover when someone you love, someone you thought was the one and you were meant to be with forever, hurts you like that?


“Let’s just go,” Halla said, untying her apron and grabbing his hand. “I don’t care where. Let’s just get in the car and drive. Let’s see where we go. Where we end up. We don’t need to go anywhere specific. Just as long as we’re together.” The boy picked up his duffel bag and ran with her, out the sliding doors as people applauded and cheered after them. I stood there, gaping at what Halla had just done. Didn’t she realize what she was leaving behind? Didn’t she remember her responsibilities? Wasn’t she afraid that she wouldn’t have a job to come back to? Even when my friend and her husband took me out to the movies and then dinner, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head, which was later confirmed, that I would never see Halla again and that I lost such a good girl. Work just isn’t the same without her, and it’s a lot harder now that the closer had to take over her morning shifts.




© 2009 Here's What I Say

My Review

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hi, steph! remember me? anyway, I just read this story, and though i liked it, I have a few suggestions.
As it is written, from a first person peripheral, I feel like I can't get into Halla too much, and the narrator crowds the writing. I think the style of the piece is amazing, and I don't know if you could achieve that in a different voice, but you might want to try this from Halla's view. That way, more info on her background and why she's there could fit in easier. Also, you have a Daughtry song in there once, and once at the beginning... you could keep coming back to the lyrics, like a recurring theme, or something... maybe it was their song?
Except, one thing... agggghhhh. I can't believe that the soldier just isn't a jerk.. I don't think commanding officers are allowed to keep their men from writing letters, since their men do get to go on leave, and he could have written a letter then... so, that part, for me, wasn't convincing.
Other than that, this story was really strong on style. i've missed reading your stuff.. good job, buddy.

Posted 14 Years Ago

This is one of the best reads that I have seen in quite awhile. You have a wonderful ability to keep the reader interesting as well as inspired.
This moving account is very thought provoking, as we will always wonder what happened, or could have been for Halla.
A a library favorite. Thank you for sharing ! ~ Judi :-) xo

Posted 14 Years Ago

Great story. I think a lot of people can really relate to it, to being a different person to different people. I like that you used a narrator who wasn't the main character - it was a really nice objective point of view. Thanks for sharing.

Posted 14 Years Ago

i missed so many good stories while i was gone from writerscafe. this is a nice first story to come back to. :D

Posted 14 Years Ago

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4 Reviews
Added on December 26, 2009
Last Updated on December 26, 2009


Here's What I Say
Here's What I Say

Torrance, CA

I was born on July 3rd 1986 in Torrance, California, and grew up there all my life. I had a hankering to start writing when I was eight, but didn't start actively pursuing it until I was thirteen and .. more..