In Chapter 1, My Precious Left Me, Traveler stumbles on a cave and meets the Man. You can find and read Chapter 1, on the pull-down bar, Precious’ Journey.
Chapter 2: Traveler goes to the city
Now the traveler had become curious to know more about Precious. He was heading through the City anyway, so he stopped at the bakery to inquire if anyone remembered her.
He could hear the chatty voice before he pulled open the heavy glass door. “Yes, it was a trunk showing and everything was half off! Half off, I tell you! And they wouldn’t take a credit card.” Obviously, she caught sight of him because she turned away and checked her hair in the reflection. “ Te he. Isn’t that awful? Well, gotta go. Someone’s coming in. You know how Mr. Baker gets if I don’t greet the customer right away. No, it’s a he not a bride. Call me later.” She whirled her chair around, and stood, self-consciously smoothing a skirt that would not have been out of place on a high school ingenue – or perhaps just two inches longer.
“May I help you?” she emphasized each word separately.
“Ah, yes. I hope so,” said the traveler. “I am looking for information about someone who used to work here – a woman named Precious.”
“She left her Man.”
“So I heard.”
“I knew him first – before he met Precious. He was pretty good looking in high school. Hey, but that was 20 years ago. I’ve been thinking about running up to the cave and checking on him – seeing if he needs anything. ”
“Do you know why she left him?”
“I don’t know. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t any of the reasons I wanted to leave my man.”
The raised eyebrows of the traveler gave her permission to continue.
“No. Precious didn’t think I had grounds. It was something about tough love. Oh, she listened to me; I mean she listened to me on break. Precious frowned on girl talk when we were supposed to be working. Said something about an honest day’s work for wages or excellence and best effort – those kinds of words. I didn’t get how not talking was honest. I like to get it all out there. I’m honest about my feelings. She must have been on the side of the boss. Come to think of it, I think she was in cahoots with the boss. Cause she got the boss man to give me a second chance after I messed up on the wedding cake orders. She must have sweet talked him something fierce. Anyway, Precious, she says, ‘Phyllis, I talked to the boss. I told him I thought you would be a fast learner if I took a little time before work each morning to show you how cake decorating and ordering work.’
So, I asked her, ‘how do you know all that? About sugar cane and powdered sugar? And white cake flour coming from wheat? Did you learn that because of your man being a horror culturalist?’ She said she learned all that – that she learned how to cook and how things work when she was still living at home in high school. Can you believe it? She actually cooked while she was in college. And, she baked bread to earn money while her man was in grad school! That’s how she landed the job at this bakery. I guess she even did a wedding cake for one of her friends.”
“Did you say the husband of Precious went to grad school?”
“Yes, that’s what he did. In high school, he always wanted to be a botanicalist. But then he changed his mind and became a horror, horror…” “Horticulturalist.” prompted the traveler.
“Anyway, but, he didn’t finish. At first, I thought Precious said he didn’t finish grade school. I knew that wasn’t right on accounta me knowing him in high school. She explained to me the different levels of schooling.”
“So you met Precious at this job?”
“Hey, it is just about break time now! I’m really glad that phone hasn’t rang while we were talking. I’ll take a smoke break even though I don’t smoke. But you could buy me coffee. I don’t have any money – my man took away my debit card – but you can buy. You don’t mind, do you? He didn’t say I couldn’t drink a latte, he just said I couldn’t buy more than one a week.”
“And ya know,” she said, patting the traveler’s arm. “It would be good for me to be seen with you. I wouldn’t mind, not one little bit.” The traveler acquiesced.
Tall latte. Short iced mint. The traveller collected them from the counter and sat down in the moulded booth across from Phyllis.
“So, you don’t think Precious left her man for the same reason you wanted to leave yours?”
“Nope. No way. My man took away my Old Navy and Macy’s charge cards!”
“You don’t say.”
“He told me I had to quit shopping and start cooking.”
“You didn’t cook?”
“Are you kidding? I went to secretary school. I know how to type. I was trained about proper office at tire. Then, of course, I have to have something fun to wear when I’m not at the office. We go to baseball games on the weekends. So I was always busy shopping the sales for the best deals. I didn’t have time to cook. I work so I can shop. After the stores close, I stop for carry out on the way home.”
“Your husband got tired of carryout?”
“Yeah, I thought that was the real reason. I think he was trying to control me into coming home after work and cooking dinner. He said it was because I had charged more than I made that month. My Old Navy card was maxed out. He said he had paid my store cards. But if they were paid, what’s the harm in me shopping? I think he just wanted a homestyle meal.”
“So, he took your charge cards and insisted you come home after work and cook?”
“Can you believe it? Always before he was okay with having dinner late. He didn’t get home until nine anyway because he was working an extra job. I was ready to leave him. Next day, I was asking around work for a roommate. Then me and Tiki and Precious went on break. Tiki, she’s the one that got me this job in the first place.”
“So you met Precious at this job?”
“Well, yeah, we came at the same time, but, I really got to know her better when they were going to fire me.”
The traveler raised his eyebrows quizzically.
“Hard to believe, isn’t it, since I had been to secretary school?”
The traveler nodded just enough to nudge her forward.
“It was the wedding cakes. I still don’t see why they should be so expensive. I was just trying to help out the brides.”
The traveller murmured appropriately.
“The wedding cakes, you know, with three tiers? Well, they are three or four hundred dollars.”
Again the traveler nodded.
“But, on the next page over – it’s the third pull down tab on the website – there are all these cakes separately. 6” two layers for $10. 8” for $12.00. 10 inches for $18.00 and that big one on the bottom? only $30 bucks for the round one or $35.00 for the square! So, this one bride came in, and she was really on a budget, poor really. And I added up the total and was telling her to buy them all separately for under a hundred dollars!” She laughed.
“Did they have frosting on them?”
“Now how did you figure that out? Are you a baker? That’s exactly what Precious explained to me. I don’t know how she did it, but Precious knew how to do just about everything. She could type and she didn’t even go to secretary school. She could write the wedding cake orders and she wasn’t a baker.”
“So, Precious was pretty smart?”
“Yeah, Kiki said she was fastididus, fastdious,
“Yes, only in a good way, not a bad way.”
“So, Precious thought it wasn’t a good idea to leave your husband?”
“Not Precious and not Kiki. Kiki said you’re just supposed to stay together no matter what. Marriage is for life. The only reason you should leave your husband is if he hits you or if he is, you know, having an A-fair with someone else.”
“Many people feel that way.”
“Precious said it sounded like maybe my husband was doing an invention, an indevention,”
“Yeah, that’s the word, tough love or something.”
“He paid off your cards?”
“And then he said you couldn’t use them anymore?
“Yep. Boy, was I mad. I said I wasn’t going to live anymore with a man that mean.”
“What did Precious say about that?”
“She said maybe he really did love me, cause after all, he paid off my charge cards. She said maybe he just wanted to get my attention about overspending. I said I didn’t see how taking away my charge cards was loving. She asked did he give me some grocery money for the cooking.”
“Not any cash! All he gave me was a grocery card with two hundred dollars on it.
A grocery card! Just thinking about it made me so mad I started bawling again. And then Precious said, she said it was a waste of energy to cry.”
“So Precious didn’t show any sympathy?”
“She said, ‘why cry when you can do something about it?’”
“Did she want you to get back at him?”
“She said I should do an experiment.”
“A science experiment?”
“Yes, sort of. She wrote me instructions. Go to the Grocery store. A list of things to buy. How to mix the ingredients and put them in the oven. There was supposed to be enough for that dinner and some left-overs for my lunch the next day.”
“Did you do the experiment?”
“Yes, and I gotta say, it tasted real good. My man thought so too. ‘You did good babe, real good,’ he said. He said he was proud of me. He called me his little kitten. Then he told me some other things that would make you blush if I repeated them. And we, well, we kissed and made up.”
“So, he wasn’t being mean after all?”
“Naw, he said he was sorry he had to take my charge cards and I couldn’t have them back, but he would try to make it up to me by adoring me,” she giggled delightedly. “So Precious, each day she wrote me an easy recipe. She told me I could still keep on shopping as long as I did it in the grocery store.”
“So, you said Precious didn’t ever cry when she could do something about it?”
“I only saw Precious cry just that once.”
The traveller raised his eyebrows.
“It was that same week.
We were on break again and Kiki was saying how married people should always stay together no matter what. She started telling a story about how her parents stayed together. And Precious, she acted really funny.”
“Did Precious agree with Kiki’s story?”
“No, I don’t think so. But, I didn’t really get why Precious was crying. It was just a story, something about a man who ate and ate. It reminded me of the joke where the doctor tells a man to watch his weight and the man says, ‘so I just got my weight out here where I could see it,’ he he.”
“So, a story about a fat man made Precious cry?”
“It was Kiki’s dad. He got fat while her mom was getting thinner and thinner.”
The Traveler tipped his head to the side and waited.
“Kiki was home-schooled. That way her mom saved a lot of money on clothes. They were poor so her mom cooked a lot of beans. Kiki says her mom was a self sack official for the kids.”
“Yes, that’s it. So Kiki’s mom just ate a little bit and she divided the rest between the kids and made sure there were lots of beans in her husband’s lunch. Later on they found out Kiki’s dad was just going to McDonald’s and buying himself a hamburger for lunch after he finished the beans. Then, at night, he would run errands and buy himself another hamburger.”
“He was starving his wife and kids and getting fat himself?”
“Yes. Isn’t that awful?”
“What did Precious say?”
“That’s what was so strange. ‘Cause Precious, you know, she’s the one who says, ‘There’s no use crying over something if you can do something to fix it.‘ She was crying. Without making any noise. The tears were just running down her cheeks.
”And then she said, real quietly she said, ‘I think neglecting someone to the point of starving them while you got fat – might be a good reason for leaving.” Kiki and I both stared at her. Then she stood up because it was time to go back inside. And she said something else, but it sounded like maybe she was talking to herself.”
The traveller leaned forward attentively,
“Do you remember what else she said?”
“‘It’s not always about food. There are other ways to starve a person.’ What duya think she meant by that?”
The traveler stroked his chin thoughtfully, and rose.
“Say, it’s about time for me to get back to the office. Would you mind getting me a refill? One for the road, so to speak.”
He walked Phyllis back to the stoplight, saw her safely across the street.
“One more question,” he said.
“Do you think Precious left her man to become a Goblin Princess?”
“What? Precious?” she sputtered. She tossed her head coyly, “Well, now, I might think of becoming a Goblin Princess – ‘specially if someone was to give me all the gold and jewelry I wanted. But Precious? What would the men see in her? Precious is more steady and self-sackaficial like Kiki’s Mom – only she dresses nice.”
Note: in Chapter One, the Man accuses Precious of leaving to become a Goblin Princess. You can read the first chapter by choosing, Precious’ Journey from the tab at the top of this page.