Overcompensating Your Self-Hate
“Ellie, you got an order for table four!”
Looking around, Adiel was lost for a moment before realizing she was in the diner in the middle of the lunch rush. Tugging quickly at the hideous orange outfit she wore for work, she rushed over to the kitchens and grabbed a plate with a burger and fries balance precariously on top of it. Ellie grinned her thanks at the cook who waved her off, turning towards where table four was and practically dropping her tray when the assistant manager of the diner was in front of her.
“Ah…’lo, Mister Steven, can I help you?”
“Just come by my office once you’re done with this,” the tall, weasel-looking man tapped Ellie’s tray before moving past her. Thin, twitchy hands trailed over her shoulder and through the ponytail in which she tied her hair back, before disappearing just as Mister Steven did.
Ellie shook her head, shaking the feeling of fingers out of her hair, before dropping the order off to a thin man who nodded his thanks and immediately dug into his burger. Seeing that she was no longer needed, Ellie turned and made her way towards the back of the diner where the offices were – the manager’s (a man who was barely there) and the assistant manager’s (Mister Steven).
Knocking on the door, she heard Mister Steven call her in. She stepped inside, walking towards the desk and stopping when Mister Steven lifted a hand to halt her movement.
“Close the door, would you?”
“Ah…sure,” she complied, confused as she shut the door quietly behind her. Usually they didn’t need to shut the door if it was a quick word. Turning around, she squeaked when the assistant manager was right there, curling a finger around a lock of long, black hair.
“How’re you holding up, Ellie, working so hard on weekends despite being a student?”
“Uhm,” Ellie swallowed, looking at his hand uncertainly before looking up at him. “It’s fine, Mister Steven! Not hard at all. I really actually like it, and I do my homework every night so it’s not like I have to worry about being overworked or anything! Was, ah, was that all?”
Mister Steven made her nervous. He was thin and greasy and had hair that fell to the middle of his back that made him look like what Momma called ‘a slime ball’.
A hand on her leg made her twitch, and she looked down at it blankly before looking up at Mister Steven again. He was smiling at her – leering, more like – and leaning far too close to be work appropriate.
“Is that all you want it to be?”
“Ellie opened her mouth to answer, falling back when the door was suddenly opened and falling back against someone’s chest. Looking up, she saw Theresa Walker staring at Mister Steven with blank eyes before looking down at Ellie.
“…You disappoint me, Ellie-belly.”
She shoved her daughter forward, back towards Mister Steven, but there was no one there to catch her and Ellie fell to her hands and knees. Crying out, she lifted a hand to see that she had scraped her hand badly; it was red and raw and bleeding.
A Thor bandage settled onto her palm easily, and Ellie looked up to see Allen kneeling down in front of her, gentle grey eyes focused on her hand.
“Allen!” She was suddenly glad to see a friendly, known face, the image of her mother’s blank eyes and Mister Steven’s lewd grin being pushed out of her mind. “Oh, am I ever so glad to see you! I think something weird’s happening, I saw my Momma and I saw my old assistant manager, but I haven’t either of them in like a year and it’s just weird –”
Ellie snapped her mouth shut, watching Allen as he looked up at her with the same expression as her mother.
“…Why did you f-find Zebediah? Ever since you’ve come around…n-nothing’s been the same.”
“Adiel, you’ve ruined everything.” Allen stood up, towering over her, pale face blank and eyes far away from her. “You ruin everything. Everything bad that happens to others is your fault. I…I wish you hadn’t come to Westfield.”
He walked away from her, then, leaving Ellie alone in the room. She stared down at her hand to see the scrap growing and festering, crawling along her skin and up her veins, wrapping around her neck and heading straight for her heart –
– and she woke up crying.