6. *Losses*

6. *Losses*

A Chapter by Lynaelee

Sometimes you have to backtrack to fill in the gaps and create a more rounded story. Point of view change. Annette's story does not move forward. There is explicit wording

Pat quickly found out that public schooling wasn't for him. He got his GED when he was 16. After his 17th birthday in December of 2000, Joanna allowed him to sign up for basic training to start at the beginning of the new year. Pat excelled and flourished in the army. On May 12, 2002, he was offered the chance to join the elite force. He earned his place on that team, so Pat eagerly took it. He was never one to settle for the simple; he looked forward to the action, and took great pride in his accomplishments. He lived for the thrill. He quickly climbed the ranks and earned his title of Corporal Miller. On September 29, 2003, his platoon stumbled across a cell activated minefield. His 25 man team took turns in all positions. This time, he was closing up the rear. Off to their right, gunshots were fired. All men turned to the sound. Per their orders, Pat was one of seven men to go down on their knee; his left leg behind him. Four seconds later, the minefield blew. His leg was the only part in field; he was the only one not fully in the danger zone. Shrapnel pierced half his body as the blast threw him in the air and he landed seven feet away, breaking his right arm. Still conscious, he braced his leg against a rock and maneuvered himself into a bush that was just above his head. Trying as best he could with his two unusable arms, he blended into the background blacked out. Enemy insurgents soon came by; they checked each body part they came across. Pat had lost enough blood that it appeared that the bush was just the resting place for a right leg and pelvic bone and a quarter of the left leg. He was lucky that a large piece of shrapnel had sealed his artery on his leg. Blood was not gushing when he was searched. Satisfied there were no survivors, the insurgents moved on. Half an hour later, reinforcements came unto the scene. Instructed to grab all body pieces, the men slowly began making a pile. Tears and anger were not lacking. When they came to Pat's bush, the private noticed the leg was still bleeding. Immediate action was taken, and he was medically evacuated. Left with scars from his neck and down and all nerve endings shot in his left side, he began to lose hope. His arm had minimal scarring, but the damage was done and he could no longer hold a pencil with that hand, which meant he couldn't use crutches either and he was fitted for a prosthetic leg. After a long, intensive thirteen months in the hospital and therapy, Pat was finally making progress on using his prosthetic leg and was able to move his arm but still couldn't use it properly. Much to his dismay, it wasn't enough as his commanding officer reluctantly handed him his discharge papers on October 12, 2004. With a heavy heart and no longer of use to the army, Pat returned home. 

Unknown to him, his mom had been suffering with bone marrow cancer and was given less than six months to live. When Pat arrived, she had already made it through four, but was deteriorating quickly. She refused to tell her son; she wanted him to enjoy life and not worry about her. She found happiness in knowing that he was happy and doing what he loved. Torn by her decision to keep this news from him, but grateful for the extra time to spend with her, Pat decided to stay put in this little town. He took care of her until her final day on November 9, 2004. The only other thing his mom cared about was the restaurant and those who ate there. 

Pat decided although the pace wasn't his speed, he loved the restaurant too. Linda had always felt like a second mom to him. He felt he owed her too. When he wasn't working out, strengthening his muscles, he came in regularly to say hello to the staff and look for potential threats. It wasn't a combat zone, but there was someone new all the time. He noticed which staff were stealing from and hurting, or helping and improving the business. He filled in where needed. He reported everything to Linda, not to snitch, just to protect her and her business. He was hard wired for that; it helped with the grief. 

Saturday, May 21, 2005, Annette started her first day at the restaurant. Pat was immediately drawn to her. Since she was still in school, he only saw her on the weekends until the summer when she took on more shifts. Shy and quiet but she demanded attention when she entered a room. She was a quick study and was the only one who tipped everyone who worked with her: the till worker, the buser, the dishwasher, the cook, and the cook's assistant. She claimed she couldn't do her job without them and that's how she showed her gratitude. Pat knew this meant she probably only took home less than half of her earnings, but she never complained. She worked hard, was smart, and great with the people she served. Although he could've helped her advance through the ranks, he refrained and she progressed on her own. She brought sunshine into everyone's life and proved to be a trustworthy employee. Before the end of that summer, Linda trusted her to open and close the place down on her own. At first, it terrified Annette, but she never complained. 

Always one to observe others, Pat could tell she had secrets but he never approached the subject. He found himself drawn to her shift, but forced himself to come to half; which was hard because her shift was never the same and he couldn't cook. He tried to have somebody else wait on him or he'd call in his orders, but he couldn't stay away from her. She baffled him, and he loved talking to her. Within three months of her employment, he was able to talk to her about anything; words just tumbled out. She helped him with continued therapy, and showed him ways he could improve his strength and balance; her lessons were never very long, but they were effective. By Christmas 2005, he had full use of his left arm again. She was the first one who he told about overseas without feeling guilty. She didn't look at him with pity; she simply squeezed his hand and gave him a sympathetic smile before returning to her customers. She was often cold and dressed in multiple layers, and always made sure she had plenty of elbow room. She never said much about home, but always put a smile on when asked about it. She would give a short answer and immediately change the subject; usually by telling a joke or asking to be told one. Her laugh was contagious, so Pat never let her down. Dimples became her work nickname, and it fit. A lot of the truckers she waited on made him jumpy, but they never made her falter and he trusted her judgement. After talking to her for over a year, he couldn't stand to be away from her. Every day, she gave him another reason to smile. He loved how she couldn't sit still and always shifted her weight when she took an order or poured coffee. 

After her shift on Tuesday night, Pat was more on edge than ever. So he made a point to observe those who came in daily, grateful she wasn't scheduled to come in, and he paid close attention to several people that came in. Out of the seven he had his eyes on, only two came back before Thursday. Knowing that she opened, Pat had a feeling that she would be in true danger today, so he planned on being there from the beginning and was glad when he trusted his gut. Her outfit of choice today had him biting his knuckles. While it was modest, it hugged her curves in just the right way, and he knew he'd have issues watching others try and flirt with her. She had no idea the impact she could make on someone. She denied how beautiful she was. Of course her first guest, as she called them, was one that he had been watching the past couple days. As she came over to fill his coffee again, Pat watched the guest act suspiciously with his napkin and move what looked like a syringe. Pat shook his head and thought, "it's probably just a pen. You're overly paranoid, Miller." Then he looked at Annette. She shifted like she always did, but then she swayed - something that he had never seen her do. Immediately he moved in and heard the man insist that she sat down. She of course had the perfect response, even if it was slower than usual. Pat grinned. She was always quick on her feet, but she still swayed, like she was losing her balance. Quickly he dialed Linda and hid the phone in his right pocket. His concern grew but he didn't let it show, especially when the guest acted disappointed that she was still standing. Annette turned into Pat, spilling the coffee. Not much spilled on him, about three ounces only on his rib cage. He couldn't tell if it was hot, but assumed it was. Most of it covered her left shoulder and dripped down her side and arm. She was embarrassed for him, but didn't seem concerned about herself. She needed some self preservation lessons, but for now reassurance was his game. He had to get her out of there, safely. When she was out of earshot, he turned to the guest and threatened him with a even but firm tone. After telling the guest off about insisting the staff do anything specific for him, like private sit down meal, or anything else was disrespectful to the establishment and he was henceforth banned. He no longer had the right to finish his meal. He was to pay his bill and leave the premises immediately. Pat finished his speech as Joe brought the ticket out. Pat then escorted the guest to the counter watched as he paid the bill and walked out the door. Confirming that Linda heard everything, he hung up, looked at Vanessa, looked towards the bar, and finally rested his eyes on Vanessa again. "We may need your help later. Please see if Max is up for taking some tables. If so, direct ½-¾ of the guests that come in there. That man that just left, did something, and I'm not fully sure of what, but Annette's going to need help. I'd rather play it safe," he murmured, looking over his shoulder and making sure Annette wasn't within hearing distance; thankfully, she was still out of sight. Vanessa nodded and agreed to help out with whatever was needed. "Thanks, Vanessa," Pat said sincerely as he walked back over to the counter where Joe was filling up his coffee again. Pat sat down and Joe poured him a cup too. Both men quickly explained their side and sighed. Pat would be extra vigilant with Annette today. How could he tell her? Would it she feel as if she was always in danger? Would she let him keep her safe? He had to try and informed Joe of his decision, just as Annette came back out in a pink shirt that made it look like her cheeks flushed. Unfortunately, she was still visibly pale and shook up, but according to Joe, she had no idea what was wrong. She grinned and picked up her order pad then walked out to take a table's order. The men exchanged a knowing look. Joe and Pat agreed; they had to protect her. "Pat, she looks like she's going to fall. This may be worse than we originally thought," Joe noted quietly. Pat nodded.

"I'll help out in whatever way I can," Pat promised as they watched Annette make her way back. Joe nodded and ducked into the kitchen again. Pat sipped on his coffee, but didn't take his eyes off the small girl in front of him. "Are you okay, doll?" He asked to be polite, but he knew that he really needed her reassurances. She offered a half smile, but her eyes still shifted and looked around the place in a panic. Only when she met his eye did her smile broaden. "Atta girl. It's a start. I'm glad to see that full smile," he thought then told her to go take another round and take care of her guests. "Hey, Joe!" Pat called softly. Joe met his eye. "Make her something to eat. She needs to sit." Joe nodded as Annette came back and put the coffee away, dipped her hands in the hot, soapy, bleach water and dried them off, and came over to take Pat's order. "So, slow morning, huh?" He quipped before she could say anything; he wanted to make sure she was taken care of before he was. Once they finally got her to sit down, Pat gladly took food out to a few tables and orders from the others for her.

Vanessa waved him over. "Max will happily take some tables and his assistant will cook for him," she spoke softly. Pat nodded and looked back at Annette.

"Perfect. Thank you. Excuse me. I need to go make sure she remains sitting," he replied as he walked back over to the counter and put his hand on her back. She jumped but relaxed back into the seat. While he was getting another bucket of ice, he checked on Max -the bartender- and his assistant. They were supposed to deep scrub the bar this morning, but both agreed to help out. Neither were too happy about working so early, but it was supposed to be done before they started serving liquor at 11; it would take four or five hours. 

"I'd rather be doing this," Max admitted as Pat nodded and headed back out to the floor. Max kept one-third of the tips for his assistant, and put the rest aside for Annette. Later, those tips would put in her jar that was stored under the waitstaff counter. He didn't need the extra income, and he could tell she was saving for something. Max's assistant used the back kitchen and prepared all the meals for the bar. Pat kept a close eye on Annette and when she looked like she would bolt, he gently reminded her to stay put with a hand on her shoulder or a stern look. Linda texted Pat asking who he recommend to fill in. He chose Bertie and Kevin to come in; they were among his list of loyal workers. Linda agreed and brought them both in within half an hour. Kevin manned the kitchen and Bertie took care of the tables. She was told she could keep any tip she earned. Hearing that, Bertie happily relieved Max of overflow duty. 

Together, Pat, Joe, and Linda explained why they were so nervous. Unfortunately, they weren't able to scare Annette off the floor for the day as she hesitated and thought it over; she didn't want cause problems and was trying to think of ways to help Linda out. Linda told her not to worry about it, but Pat figured she would still fret; it was just her nature. When Linda and Joe finished talking to Annette, Pat just couldn't walk away to let her process the information alone. Linda gave him a motherly smile and left him alone. "I don't need to be baby-sat, Pat," she had told him in a joking tone.

"I don't care. I'm not leaving your sight unless I know you're safe. Even if Linda didn't order me to stick close by, I wouldn't be okay with the fact of you trying to work through this alone. Something is seriously wrong," he thought as he looked upon her. After she tried to convince him that guys were never serious when they looked at her, she began to nervously pace the room while she bit her lip and her hands twitched quickly as she crossed her arms. "Talk to me, doll," Pat begged mentally. He needed to know where her head was. She wasn't talking, and her pacing was starting to make him anxious too. So he stood up and wrapped her up in his arms.

Shortly after, she murmured, "guys don't notice me." He stared at her in shock. Did she really not know her power? Was she really that naïve? How could she not see the lustful looks she got? Pat shook his head.

"Don't count yourself out, doll. You're more intriguing than you know," he whispered as he gazed tenderly upon this small girl in his arms. He loved how perfectly she seemed to fit, but it didn't escape his notice as her body tensed. Without thinking, he kissed the top of her head. She immediately relaxed into him and wrapped her arms around him. She was definitely his to protect now, and he couldn't let her down. He rested his chin on the top of her head while her small frame quivered in his arms. He felt her deeply inhale and almost missed it when she said she'd keep working. He smiled. She was truly fearless. He stopped himself from saying "that's my girl" but knew she in his mind she always would be, even if she chose another guy. He kissed her head one more time and left before he insisted that she left work for good. He headed back out to the front room and gave her a minute alone. Linda looked at him and he walked over to her. "She wants to stay and work."

"Okay. You'll be staying close to her, won't you?" Linda asked. Pat nodded. "Good. My staff needs to feel safe. You're the best person to look out for her. Let me know if her symptoms persist or she decides to call it quits."

"Yes, ma'am," Pat replied as Annette emerged again. Once again, she had a bright smile and interacted with the guests in a pleasant manner; he couldn't tell that she was just recently rattled. "Wow. That's impressive," he thought as he began to follow her. "Most people can't bounce back that quickly. I'll be damned! There's more to you than I ever thought, and I love it."

This was Pat's hardest assignment to date. Overseas, if he had to protect an asset, he was encouraged to use force before questioning them. He hated remaining several steps behind her. He hated the fact that he couldn't punch every smug guy that eyed her. A quick talk with Josh, the waiter who had been here the longest and Pat's best friend, took care of tables of guys. Pat wanted to protect her more than just at work, but knew she wouldn't agree to him following her home. His place had too many weak points and was too close to the restaurant; one road in, very little cover if they ran out the back, and he wasn't sure if she was a sprinter. So he came up with camping. He knew of a secluded place off the beaten path. That would be perfect! Ever the gentleman, he tried to think of her needs first; he would give her privacy. So he asked, but tried not to get his hopes up. He quickly realized she had fully captured his heart, but wasn't sure if he could earn her's back. He would be her friend, brother if she preferred, and he wouldn't press her for more. Pat tried to keep up with busing tables, but was grateful that staff member wasn't called off too. He got concerned when he saw the color drain out of her face again when she realized that she'd be taking care of her classmates. Peers were threats too? Pat found that hard to believe. She was far too lovable to make enemies. He had to get closer. The next time Annette went over there, he followed, busing a table diagonally across the way so he could watch their faces. Indifference was the emotion mainly shown on the faces. Disgust from the brunette, and lust from the burly guy. She could easily handle those. He concluded she just didn't like being around people. She really was full of surprises. After she brought food out to them, and he thought she couldn't have gotten any more pale, her color completely drained and she flashed Pat a defeated look as she dug out all the tickets in her apron pocket. He immediately stopped what he was doing and made his way to the kitchen to inform Joe while dialing Linda. What did they do to her? Sure they were impolite and obnoxious, but guests like that never bothered her before. 

Pat's heart wrenched as she curled up against the wall. He felt like he was witnessing a flower wilt before his eyes. When asked what she was going to do, his heart skipped a beat as her head picked up and she looked at her boss and confirmed that normally when she got off, she went straight home. "You shouldn't do that today, doll!" Pat pleaded internally. Then she looked at him and a hint of amusement flashed in her eyes as she finally confirmed to camp with him. Thinking quickly, he made a proposition. The sooner he could get her out, the better. He needed to fill his truck up with gas and get a few things to eat. The best place for her to be was in this break room with a locking door. As he left, he realized he didn't even mention the lock nor did he ask her to shut the door for her own safety. Hesitating for a second he pressed onward. He wasn't planning on being gone the full 20 minutes. He started his truck and looked at the time. 13:47. He should be back by 2pm easily. She could help him pack the camping gear and borrow some of his clothes. Pat drove down the block to the gas station. He filled up his tank then went shopping. Realizing he made an error by not paying closer attention to what she ate, he was stumped on what to get. Deciding on several bottles of water, bags of chips, and m&ms he made his way to the counter to pay. They would just have to order some food to go before they left so he could make sure she had something she liked. With his groceries bagged, tank full, and his anticipation of no prying ears, he was hopeful this would be the start to a new relationship. He got back in his truck and turned back to the restaurant, a grin tugging on his lips. He looked at his clock as a white van pulled out of the parking lot. 13:56. He was faster than he thought he'd be causing him to break out into a huge smile. 

He pulled up right beside her little red Subaru. "Red and green vehicles," he chuckled to himself as he walked to the back entry. "Christmas. Best time of the year, only pleasant surprises," he thought with a smile as he made his way through the dry storage area and poked his head around the break room door. He was surprised to find it empty. He noticed the apron and name tag on the table and walked over to it: it belonged to Annette. "Keep calm," he reasoned mentally, "she always takes her apron off to use the restroom." So he made his way to the front counter. She would have to pass through here to get to the bathroom. Joe gave him a weird glance. "I guess, she had to use the restroom," Pat offered. Joe's face went ashen. Pat turned to Josh and Linda, pleading with his eyes for answers. "Did you see her?" He asked earnestly. They both shook their heads with solemn looks. Pat ran back to the break room, searching for a sign. Her blue shirt was still hanging in a bag on one of the coat racks. She wasn't one to leave things behind. He went back out to the front counter and collected her tip jar, and went back to the break room. It was full to the brim. No way she would've left that behind. He emptied it recalling a few times she dropped her car keys in there. He then searched her apron. There were no keys, just her tips, a handful of pens, her order pad, and her driver's license. She had no pockets on her shorts, where could they be? Now more than ever he wished she had a cellphone he could call. He needed to hear her voice, to see her. He left her items scattered on the table and walked slowly through dry storage, then he went outside. Their vehicles we less than 100 feet away. Then he saw it. A single pair of keys were on the ground, 10 feet away from her car, close to the building. In front of her car was the through traffic lane. Somebody easily could have done a snag and grab; this was the delivery truck lane and always left open so if someone parked beside the front of her car, blocking the delivery lane, all visual line of sight would be lost to the parking lot; people wouldn't be able to tell if there was a problem. He picked up the keys and walked to the Subaru, praying for they wouldn't belong to this car. He slid the key into the passenger door with ease, then he turned it and it unlocked. 

Pat's breath was caught in his throat and silent sobs shook his whole body. How could he have been so careless?! Especially when he knew the threat was real and that she wasn't out of the clear. She was unsteady on her feet, she was rattled, and she was in danger even though the only person Pat deemed a threat was long gone. Of course he was even more on the edge and he studied everyone closely that came into contact with her today. "I'm sorry, doll. I didn't protect you," he cried in a whisper. He climbed into her car as his sobs became wails. The car was practically empty, but Pat found a sweatshirt in the backseat and grabbed it. Balling it to his face, he openly wept into it. Never had he felt so emotionally raw; not even when he lost his combat brothers or his mom. He didn't pay attention to the time. After a while, Josh, Joe, and Linda knocked on the window; their shift was over and now they were concerned about him. They had collected Annette's things from the table and combined them all in one bag. Noticing her things and their concerned faces, with red, swollen eyes, Pat told them everything and admitted failure. "I couldn't keep her safe. I left her," he choked out, sobbing into the sweatshirt again. After convincing him to go back inside, Linda ordered everyone two beers. She brought them to her office upstairs where they rewound the cameras. She then put Annette's stuff in a cupboard above her desk and shut the door. 

"We'll find her," Linda said as convincingly as she could as she pushed play. Josh paced behind everyone, chewing his nails. Joe sat quietly in his chair, but created some new finger holds in the armrests. Linda's hand flew to her mouth and she sat there stunned. 

Pat was the only one who vocalized anything and became more miserable when he noticed the team job by her classmates pulled. He stroked the sweatshirt draped over his knee for comfort, her keys jingling in his pocket. "Why are they holding her down?! Are they trying to kiss her? Please, what are they doing? No! That van! They let her go! She could've run! Why? Don't get in. No! I passed that van as I came in! I missed her by seconds. Why oh why?" He cried, his voice slowly becoming no more than a whisper. Josh looked at him in pity, Joe stared blankly at the screen, and Linda called the police. Pat downed another beer, finally able to see why being intoxicated is comforting to some. "I gotta find that van," he remarked and ran downstairs, unsure of his next move.

"You aren't f*****g thinking straight. You gotta talk to the cops," a voice said behind him. Pat slowly turned and looked at Josh. "You can't protect her if you don't speak up and tell them everything you've noticed. EVERYTHING. She'll come back to us. I don't doubt it at all. So get your head on straight, sober up, and get something to eat," Josh instructed. Pat knew he was right. He needed to be there to talk to the cops. He had to make sure they knew everything. Morosely, he joined Josh at the counter and ordered some food and another beer while he waited.

© 2017 Lynaelee

My Review

Would you like to review this Chapter?
Login | Register

Share This
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Added on November 1, 2016
Last Updated on August 4, 2017

If only



Sometimes I feel like I need an outlet to express myself. I have never been good with verbal communication, but I have always found an out in writing. I hurt. I bleed. I make mistakes. I cry. Yes,.. more..

If only If only

A Book by Lynaelee

1. *Prologue* 1. *Prologue*

A Chapter by Lynaelee