Bonnie dropped into her chair, and flipped on her computer. Seven thirty, and already she was hot. She unbuttoned her sweater, flicking errant lint and hairs from her front as she did.
“Why is it always so dang hot in the morning?” she said to herself, whipping her sweater onto her chair.
Bonnie went to the break room and saw no one had made coffee. As usual, she had to make it. She thumped around, mumbling about the sorry state of things until she realized she was the only one there.
“Of course no one made it, ding dong,” she said out loud. “No one’s here. What a goofball!” She smacked her forehead and snorted a small laugh. Still, she looked around to make sure the office was empty. “Fresh coffee, and then I can see how he’s doing.”
“State of Florida SunPass” read her monitor. “Admin login.” Bonnie began looking in this morning’s photos. She quickly found him at his usual tollbooth, waving to her on the tollbooth camera, big smile for her, eyes twinkling. She waved back, and saved the photo to her phone, plugged into the USB port.
She switched to Sunday, 8:15 a.m., and searched. There he was, holding a cup of coffee and smiling.
And there she was again—Sheila!—rolling her eyes, looking annoyed. Bonnie could imagine what she said. “Why do you always do that? No one can see you.”
Bonnie saw her disgusted look every Sunday morning, first at 8:15, then again two hours later. Sheila, always with the eye rolling, or they were arguing, and he couldn’t wave. Bonnie would crop her out of these photos. No point in letting that … nasty b-word ruin his nice picture.
Bonnie assumed they were going to church. He was in a tie, she was in a pretty blouse. Sheila was so slender and willowy, her hair perfect. Bonnie felt like a frump in her cat-hair-covered sweater and the frizzy hair she could never quite tame. It didn’t help that the HD camera always captured Sheila’s beautiful blue eyes; Bonnie’s were hidden by a clunky pair of glasses.
Bonnie chanted an affirmation her therapist had given her: “I won’t compare my daily life to someone else’s highlight film.”
Next, she switched to Saturday. He usually ran errands then, and got a little more inventive with his greetings.
She could have set an alert for his license plate, but that’s how she got caught last time. Her supervisor, Tracy, saw the alert, and began asking questions. When the truth came out, Bonnie was given six months probation, and ordered to see a therapist. She had stayed clean for three years, until she spotted David.
There was something about David’s mood that caught her eye five months ago. It made her feel, well, better about herself. The way he smiled and waved at the camera, as if he was pleased to see her. He had dark hair with some gray at the temples, deep crow’s feet around his eyes. Laugh lines, her grandmother had called them. I’ll bet he loves to laugh, she thought. That day, she spent twenty minutes staring at his picture, and had tracked him ever since.
He caught her attention because he was a toll violator. The expiration date on his credit card had changed, and he had several unpaid tolls, but apparently wasn’t aware of it.
She felt so overjoyed that day. His big wave and smile had made her happy. So she cleared his unpaid tolls, and credited $10 to his account. The staff did it whenever drivers had problems with their accounts, so she knew it wouldn’t trigger any alerts. Finally, she copied his name and address, and hid it in her purse.
After ten minutes, she couldn’t find any Saturday photo. Oh well, she didn’t have to see him every day. Five or six times a week was plenty. As long as he waved at her, she was pleased as punch, as her grandmother used to say.
And today was a good find: today’s, plus two on Sunday. If she got lucky, she’d catch him after his Wednesday night outing downtown. He always seemed relaxed then. Like he was happy about whatever he was doing. If only she could figure it out.
She knew his work and family stressed him out. She could see it in his face, especially on Sundays. Even when he smiled and waved, she could see it. But on Wednesday nights, he gave her his true smile.
Bonnie closed the photos file as everyone else began showing up.
“Thanks for making the coffee, Bonnie,” called Lydia. “I wasn’t going to make it without my morning jolt.” She laughed at her own joke.