The previous stuff had to have been a fluke, nothing more than a series of phrases she decided applied to her. It wasn’t like she hadn’t thought the issue through before.
Instead of dropping Justin as Nina advised, she held onto him. Yeah, it was no secret he didn’t treat her well. They never went anywhere. Instead, they hung out at her place. Nina insisted that meant he was married.
Nina didn’t know him like she did. Justin didn’t have money because he lent it to his brother to start up a pet therapy business. He didn’t like going out because he had a difficult ex who would make a scene if she saw the two of them together. While it could be true, as opposed to bull manure that Nina insisted it was.
Termite’s crew was framing up a house on her first stop. The fresh scent of cut timber caused her to inhale deeply. Construction may not have been her first job choice, but she discovered she liked being part of the creation process. Certainly better than crunching numbers for a fast food chain, which was her first job. Always working with the smell of hot grease and fries put on the pounds. Okay, she may have sampled the wares. No chance of her gnawing on brick or masonry stone, although her stomach growled reminding her one slice of toast and a cup of coffee didn’t make a meal.
A spontaneous cheer went up from the crew as she climbed out of her car. A few whistled. Her simple outfit of a t-shirt and khakis didn’t merit any adulation. Paychecks always made people happy, except when they didn’t show. At least, they had faith she’d deliver them.
The sound of hammering stopped as the crew drifted around her anxious for their checks, but pretending not to be. A few teased her about hardly working. She laughed. It was an old joke that irritated her at first. After awhile, she accepted that those who did manual labor tended to regard those who stayed behind a desk as not working because they didn’t break a sweat. Sometimes she did, especially if the air conditioner broke.
An older carpenter with graying hair waited quietly. The other men called him grandpa affectionately. He probably wasn’t that old. Some people went gray sooner than others. All she knew is he did good work, didn’t miss days, and finished on time, all important things in the construction industry and he almost never talked. Smiled, nodded, and occasionally gestured, replied in single words or phrases. Today, his brow furrowed as if he were concerned. Maybe he doubted he’d get paid today. “Here ya go.” She had caught herself before she said, Grandpa, as she handed him his check.
“Ellie, do you feel okay? You look a little peaked?”
The man spoke, and he knew her name. She didn’t know which surprised her more. The men all stared at her and Grandpa, um, make that Marvin. She made out the paychecks and knew everyone’s actual name. The day he decides to string two words together it has to be on her less than gorgeous appearance. Yes, her hair was flat and her makeup non-existent. Did he want a paycheck or her wearing eyeliner?
“Um, I'm okay. Overslept. Missed breakfast. That’s all.” She could feel everyone’s eyes on her as she stumbled through her excuse. Why did she have to be so interesting all of the sudden?
“Well, ah, time’s wasting. Got to get back to work.” She clapped her hands together without thinking it was similar to Harry when he signaled the meeting was over and the crew needed to work.
Termite gave her a sharp look, then yelled. “Stop lollygagging, girls. Time to man up and work for a living.” The men grumbled a little and moved back to whatever they had been working on.
Ellie was tempted to explain she hadn’t meant to tell the men to go to work, she only meant herself. The way the day was going, she’d mess up her apology somehow. Besides calling the men girls as an insult did not endear the foreman to her. Despite the stereotype of construction workers harassing women, they were reasonably respectful. Most were married with families. Although there were a few single fathers on the crew, only Harry and she knew whose wages were garnished for child support.
Off to the next site, where Leroy was the crew boss. He somehow got to be called by his given name, which might have something to with his massive build. The man wouldn’t make the mistake of calling the crew girls with Robby on the site. The tall woman did good work, and learned long ago not to put up with men’s crap. Maybe Robby could give her lessons.
As she drove from site to site, the radio chose not to give her any more advice than not using her lawnmower because an ozone alert was in effect. It also mentioned a shoe sale going on. That message might have been for her, but nothing about love charms. Could be she imagined it all. Yeah, that was it.