"So, you got the job?" asked Terri as she hovered over Sheree.
A muffled groan was the only response she got in return. Sheree was currently lying face down on the couch in the living room with her feet hanging over the armrest and her sister crushing her lower back. When she had applied to the coffee shop, she hadn't expect it to be so physically taxing.
Yes, she knew she would be required to be able to stand and walk for long periods of time as well as lift, push, and pull up to 40 pounds. That was a given. They also needed to occasionally use ladders and step stools. It depended on the workplace. What she didn't expect was to be timed on how fast she could get things done. It didn't seem humanly possible to be able to run into the back to get supplies and run back to the front in under a minute.
She wasn't normally clumsy, but she had bumped and tripped who knows how many times. There was no doubt she would wake up tomorrow black and blue unless she used some kind of concealer or medicine to get rid of them. At least her boss didn't laugh at her pain. Well, she hoped he didn't. She'd look in the library later for books on how to understand a skeleton's body language or search for it online.
Terri looked towards her sister. "Kristi, do you think that was a yes or a no?"
Kristi shrugged her shoulders as she poked at Sheree. Sheree whimpered. Taking pity on her, Terri lifted Kristi up by her armpits and set her down onto the floor. She earned a glare for her efforts, but Kristi didn't attempt to get back onto the couch to sit on her sister again. Instead, she scurried away in the direction of their shared room.
"Should I get mom and dad?"
This time Sheree lifted her head up to say, "No, I'm just tired."
"I got the job."
"Then why do you look like you got hit by a train?"
"He had me go through training right away."
"I'm guessing it was painful."
"How did you guess?"
Ignoring the rhetorical question, Terri said, "I'll ask mom if she stills has those healing salves."
Sheree watched her friend leave the room before faceplanting into the couch. She knew she had to get up soon with dinner being practically done, yet she couldn't bring herself to move. If this was how it was going to be every time she worked, she wouldn't last the week. The worst part about it was her first day would be tomorrow. Her boss expected her to be there in the morning, and she hadn't been able to say no. Well, it couldn't be that busy, right? She ate those words.
The boss needed her to show up at 6 AM? No problem. She got up at five in the morning anyway to do her daily run before breakfast. Of course she'd make it. Well, jokes on her because she was still stuck in bed at 5:23 AM. Her body ached all over even with the healing salves covering everywhere. She couldn't summon the energy to move. It was as if it was sucked out of her.
At this rate, she would be late for her first day on the job. She would be fired for certain. As luck would have it, Terri was here to save the day once more. Sheree couldn't be happier being blinded by her friend's glowing white hair and antlers. She didn't stop to consider why her friend would be up so early in the morning when she typically got up closer to eight.
"Sheree, why haven't you gone on your run already?"
Terri raised an eyebrow as she shot a look at the clock. "Aren't you going to be late for work? Should I ask my mom or dad to take you?"
"No, I just need something for the pain."
With a nod, Terri vanished from the doorway only to reappear with a jar containing more healing salve. Sheree sighed in relief as her friend rubbed it all over. She could get addicted to this. Why did she want to get out of bed again?
"You know using this much healing salve isn't good for you." Sheree did know, but at that moment, she didn't really care or mind that the healing salve had addictive properties like causing euphoria among other things. "I don't understand how you could be in so much pain. You didn't do anything dangerous, did you?"
"No. All I did was standard coffee shop work."
Not that she knew from experience. All she had to go on was from what employees posted online, and what she saw in tea shops. Terri did have a point though. There should be no reason for her to be in so much pain even with the whole clumsy act she pulled yesterday. Maybe the shop or Dan was cursed to inflict pain on everyone around him. It would explain why he never hired anyone before.
"I think something's up with the coffee shop. Can you come with?"
"Sure. It's not like I have anything to do in this morning, but will your boss allow that?"
"If he's as likable as people say, I'm sure he won't mind if a customer shows up this early."
"If you say so. Don't blame me if your boss throws us out. If that happens, you're buying me breakfast. Actually, you'll have to buy me breakfast whether or not he throws us out."
Several minutes before she was supposed to arrive for her shift, they found themselves standing outside the shop. Sheree had already explained her theory about why she was in so much pain. Terri mused that it was possible especially given that her boss was a skeleton. Depending on the reason he was a skeleton–being naturally born one or made into one or any other number of possibilities–there could be various curses that could cause Sheree's pain.
Unfortunately, Terri was no witch so she couldn't say for certain. On the upside, she did have magical healing and protective powers since her other form was a white stag. Sheree didn't know how that worked. She simply accepted it as a trait of shifters to have secondary abilities along with being able to change into an animal. If there really was something going on, Terri would be able to protect her from it.
The bells on the top of the door rang as the door swung open. A few of the customers glanced up at them before returning to their business. None of them seemed to notice Sheree wearing a yellow apron bearing the coffee shop name she received the day before over her black blouse and black dress pants she had borrowed from Terri's mom; she really lucked out that she had clothes her size.
Whether it was too early in the morning for them to notice or no one cared, she didn't mind either way. Her boss waved at her, and she maneuvered her way around the customers. Terri trailed after her with her eyes pealed for anything suspicious. Despite being a regular, she had never noticed anything off about the place. If Sheree hadn't mentioned anything, she probably never would.
Even now she couldn't sense anything strange or dangerous. When they got closer to Dan, however, she detected something lingering on him. The problem was she couldn't determine if it was bad or good. She should have gotten more training to use her powers in her human form. It was easier when she was a stag, but she doubted she could get away with shifting without some kind of explanation and she would rather avoid any misunderstandings.
For now, she would keep quiet and stay close to Dan. That would prove difficult considering how busy the place was, not that it was surprising. With how popular the place was, it would be unnerving if it wasn't especially since it was the morning. A coffee shop being empty in the morning could only mean the place was closed or no one liked the place.
"So, you're Sheree's friend?" asked Dan, and she nodded. She must have missed some of the conversation. "Take a seat right here." He indicated to an empty spot next to the front. "It's good to have some emotional support on the first day on the job. Just as long as it isn't distracting support."
"Don't worry. I'll make sure to stay out of the way."
As soon as Dan turned his back on them, Sheree shot a look at Terri. At the shake of her friend's head, she could only assume either that her theory about the curses was wrong or she hadn't discovered anything yet. She would have to leave Terri to investigation. Right now, she had a job to do.
A job she was grateful to say wasn't turning out as bad as she thought it would be. After the disastrous training, she thought for sure she would screw it up majorly in front of the customers. Sure, she did stumble over the names of a few of them–you couldn't blame her considering how out of this world some of the names were; one of the customers even used symbols normally used to replace cursing as their name–and got a bit turned around, but Dan was there every step of the way.
He didn't mock her or berate her for messing up. Instead, he would calmly point out her mistakes and let her know it was natural to make mistakes on the first day on the job even with training. He even let her and Terri have breakfast on the house. She really hoped she was wrong about the curses because she already found herself liking her boss and the job.
By the time it hit noon though, she found herself aching all over again. She didn't get it. There was no crashing or bumping into things and no tripping or falling. It didn't make any sense. Her legs shook as she forced a smile on her face. The customer frowned as they accepted their coffee but didn't say anything. Terri, on the other hand, had no problem pointing out something was wrong.
"Sheree, are you okay? You don't look so good."
"Yes, no, I don't know." She groaned as she balanced herself against the counter. "I think I need to sit down."
Dan was immediately by her side. "Sheree, what happened? Do I need to call an ambulance?"
If she wasn't in so much pain, she would raise an eyebrow. Calling an ambulance seemed a bit on the extreme side. Was it a common occurrence for someone to fall ill? She hadn't heard anything about it. If she had, she doubted the place would be so popular, and she would have thought twice before applying to such a place.
"No, I'm fine. I'm just kind of sore."
"Take a break," he said as his empty sockets focused on the clock. "On second thought, you're off. You've been at it for six hours. You should have said something."
She had forgotten about that. He had mentioned he wanted to put her on four hour shifts in the beginning until he was certain she was comfortable with the job. Then again, she did take a break earlier when he found out she hadn't eaten breakfast. Technically, she did have a bit of toast before rushing here which he didn't accept as an acceptable meal. He even asked if that was what she normally ate every day. Of course it wasn't. Today just happened to be turning out to be a bad day.
Stumbling away, she barely managed to reach her friend before collapsing into the seat next to her. Instantly, everyone's eyes were on them. At the moment, she didn't care if the whole world was staring. Currently, her own world was spinning around her, and she would like it to stop. She was beginning to feel nauseous, and she wanted to avoid spewing her breakfast everywhere.
Terri turned on Dan as she demanded, "What did you do to her?"
"She's been like this ever since she came her yesterday."
Whispers started up around them. That was quite the bold claim since Dan's coffee shop had such a clean record. If word got out that his first employee he hired fell ill because of him, his business would surely suffer. Neither of them paid any attention to them, focusing on each other instead.
"I don't know where all these accusations are coming from, but I suggest we call an ambulance for your friend."
"I'm fine. I really am," Sheree mumbled.
Terri felt her forehead. "Sheree, you're freezing."
At her words, a fire elemental popped up beside her. The heat radiating from his body seeped into Sheree's bones, and she sighed in relief. While her aches hadn't vanished, the heat eased the pain.
The fire elemental nodded his head in acknowledgement. In the mean time, Dan was already on the phone calling for the paramedics. Despite several of the customers being finished with their food, they stayed to watch things play out. It wasn't every day an employee collapsed, and the boss was accused of being the cause. The paramedics soon filed in on the scene. Terri reluctantly stepped aside so they could help Sheree.
Suddenly, they were ordering everyone to give them room as they rushed her out of the building. Terri's eyes widened as she followed after them. They refused to allow her in the ambulance since she wasn't family–being close friends wasn't enough reason for them to let her on–and she was forced to watch her friend being carried. What was she supposed to tell her sister?
Her gaze turned towards Dan, and she stormed her way towards him. The customers backed out of the way, not willing to get in her way. That didn't mean they were going to leave. They all wanted to see what was going to happen next. He didn't resist as she grabbed him by the collar of his shirt.
"You better fess up right now. I know you did something. I can sense something not right about you."
"I assure you that I would never hurt my own employees. This is the first time I've hired anyone. Why would I want to hurt her?"
He had a point. "Are you saying it's a coincidence that she collapsed? She's healthy as a horse."
"Instead of point fingers, shouldn't you be heading to the hospital to check on your friend."
Terri scowled as she released her grip. While she wanted to continue interrogating him, she knew she had to go tell her parents what happened and pick Kristi up later. She'd contact the police later with her concerns and let them handle it. For now, she was going to find out which hospital Sheree ended up.