"Are you sure about this Krista?" Sam asked, his brow furrowed, looking down at the scrawny girl standing on the other side of the counter, a determined expression on her face.
"I am Sam. I think it's the only way."
"It just seems kind of cruel to blurt it out like that. I mean, don't you think you should tell your mother and your friends quiet like, you know, break it to them gently..." Sam drifted off when he saw two spots of color rise on Krista's otherwise too pale face. The color drew attention to her overly bright eyes, cracked lips and hollow cheeks. Sam was not a dense man, and the trembling in Krista's hands which were not quite hidden by her oversize shirt, telegraphed to him her emotional vulnerability on the subject at hand. He'd noticed that she'd been dropping weight and seemed distracted, but before she told him what she wanted him to print on a tee shirt this morning he would never have imagined that her world had been turned upside down like this by the cruelty of fate.
"Will you at least have a donut and some tea while I get it ready and think about what I said?"
"I can't eat Sam. I can't eat, I can't sleep. I just feel so restless. You hear about things like this happening, but I never thought it would happen to me. I've been so careful."
Sam handed her a tissue, patted her hand and turned away so she could compose herself.
He chose an extra small tee from the rack, in midnight blue, her favorite, and started laying out the letters. He was pleased to see Krista sipping a cup of tea and picking at a donut while she waited.
"I know this old joke Krista. It's about this guy who is left to tend to his friend's mom and cat while the friend is away. When the friend phones to check on his mom and cat, the minder blurts out that the cat is dead. The owner of the cat is naturally upset and tells his friend that he could have broken the news in a gentler way. He suggests starting out with the cat's on the roof and working in small steps up to the news of the cat being dead. The friend learns his lesson and they hang up. A couple of days later the absent friend calls and they chat and then he asks how his mom is. The friend says oh, your mom's on the roof…"
Krista laughed her tinkling laugh and Sam smiled.
"So what you're saying Sam, is the front of the tee should say The cat's on the roof, and… with my news on the back?"
"I think that would be less shocking to your nearest and dearest, especially if they've heard the joke. Then they can brace themselves for whatever is coming."
Krista nodded at Sam. He chose the appropriate letters and got the tee shirt ready for her. When he handed it over she asked if she could step in the back and put it on. He held the counter gate open for her and she stepped through. He noticed her empty cup and plate and smiled to himself.
Krista came out of the back wearing the shirt, hugged him, squared her shoulders and headed out of the door.
The last thing he saw was her tiny back emblazoned with the words:
"God help me, I'm in Love."
Link to Mad Utopia and the master list of this week's 89! #fridayflash stories including enough #zombieluv contest entries to make you hurl