Re

Read by Melanie Mallozzi

Melanie Mallozzi has been a vocal music student for over 15 years and has sung for small audiences. She is developing a plan for an online baking enterprise, getting inspiration from her extensive cookbook collection. Melanie loves to travel and learning new languages. She has Williams Syndrome.

Starr Excerpt 

Something’s wrong when I arrive at Fresh Us because Riley's at my table and he’s never at my table.

“Hi, Riley. That’s my station.”

Again, Riley says nothing back.

I go right away to tell Martha. She’s talking with Chef and they’re planning out today’s deliveries. Chef winks when he sees me. “Did you need something, Starr?”

“Riley is in my spot.”

Martha looks annoyed.

“Are you upset, Martha?”

“No, Starr, I’m fine. We’re just busy. Can you switch with Riley, just for today?”

This is one of those things Cynthia and I try to practice, saying no. It’s easier at home, when it’s a made-up situation and Cynthia’s smiling, trying to be encouraging. Because now I can see that Martha’s irritated and it’s impossible.

“Okay. But can we switch at lunch?”

“Let’s see how it goes.”

She hands me the order sheets for the day.

Normally, I make the sandwiches and arrange the trays and Riley does the shrink wrapping, labelling and inventory sheets. He has very neat handwriting. It’s one of his strengths.

I hand Riley the order sheet again and sit at his table. I don’t like it at all. The chair is at a different height but I can’t adjust it in case it drops all the way to the floor. Even the gloves are a different size, so I have to go back to my desk to get the right ones. I don’t want to switch the box because this is not a permanent change. We’re just going to see how it goes.

I have to wait quite a while before Riley puts the first cheese tray on the rack. He should be doing the sandwiches first because we need them in a few hours. But I am trying to be a team player, so I bring the trays to my bench.

“We are going to switch at lunch,” I say. It’s not fair that he’s messed up the routine.

Riley's still putting squares of cheese next to rows of crackers.

“Riley, we need to start the sandwiches.” It’s already nine-thirty. “Do you need me to show you how to make them?”

His hand is deep in a box of Triscuit. “Stop being bossy.”

 

There are four trays of cheese and one tray of bread ready to be wrapped. The bread is much harder to wrap because the buns stick up too much. I tear off three pieces of saran but it still doesn’t cover everything. The cheese trays are also loaded with too much product and each time I lift them they get heavier. I get the front end of the third tray wedged in the rack when it gets jammed.

“Riley,” I say, “I need you to come help me.”

He takes his time walking over.

Now I can’t get the tray back out. The saran on the bottom is making it stick.

“Let me do it.” I don’t want to be bumped so I let go of the tray and step aside. The tray flips back and bangs to the ground. “Ow!” The noise hurts my ears and I clamp my hands over them. Squares of cheese fly all over my shoes.

Martha sticks her head in the door. “Everything okay?”

Riley kicks the tray out of the way and it bounces against the wall.

“Stop it!” I don’t want the metal to hit my ankles.

Riley points to me and marches back to his table.

“Accidents happen,” Martha says, even though it’s Riley’s fault. Then she sees how few trays are in the cart. “Where are the sandwiches?”

 

Chef helps us out for the next two hours. I get to go back to my station and Riley wraps everything up. Martha isn’t happy. She keeps checking in on us to see how the order is coming along. It makes me nervous. Each time, I want to ask her if she still likes me but I can’t ask her at work. Not professional.

Chef whistles as he spreads mango mayonnaise on the ciabatta buns.

“Is that a Frank Sinatra song?”

He pushes his glasses up to his nose with the palm of his hand. “Yeah. My fiancee is making me take ballroom dancing lessons before the wedding. They were playing it last night.”

“Did you see Ocean’s Eleven?” Riley asks. “It’s good. The new one is okay too. Frank Sinatra is the man.” I’ve never heard Riley talk so much.

“Dance lessons sound romantic,” I say.

Riley makes a face.

“Riley, you’ve got to give it a chance.” Chef’s got a nice smile. He’s bald, which makes his smile look like it’s swallowing up his whole head. “You could take Starr out dancing.”

No thank you.

“How about it?” Chef repeats. “You two would make a good couple.”

“Take it back!” I yell. “Take it back!”

“I’m just kidding around.”

“Take it back!”

I’m too mad to talk to him anymore. Riley's only 21—he just got out of high school. And I don’t find him handsome and we don’t get along. Just because he has Down Syndrome and I have Williams doesn’t mean that we are going to date.

Chef nudges my elbow and nods at Riley, who is bright red.

“You’re being a total jerk,” I shout.

Martha walks back in. She doesn’t even ask if I’m okay. Instead, she asks again if the order is done.

“Almost,” Chef lies. “Almost.”