You Don't Have to Work So Hard (Part 3)
Originally Posted on: May 24, 2022
Part 3 (3/3)
Photo: "Pink Flowers"
Picture by: Serena
“Good work this week, Oleander. Make sure to rest well and relax on the weekend.” These were the farewell words the owner of the small café gave me. She had very warm orange hair and her personality was just as warm-hearted, if not even more. She and her husband were co-managers of the place, and they were both very nice to work with. Looks like I won’t be having too hard of a time in the future.
Today is Friday, the first Friday since I got this job. Since that day, I made sure to always tell Fuchsia I would be coming back at 6:00 PM, as that is about the latest the café couple would let me work. It works out well enough, though, because this way I can come back in time to help out with the dinner rush. Also, the couple has made it clear that they will be basically barring me from working on weekends, so I received my first payment today. You know what that means.
My mind is still anxious as to how Fuchsia will react, though. However, as nervous as I am, there is a warmth in my chest in knowing that I can go out and earn some cash myself. Clutching the envelope carrying my pay in my hand, my pace sped up in my giddiness. I couldn’t wait to tell my brother the news.
Finally, Fuchsia, you don’t have to work that hard anymore.
In my excitement, I didn’t even bother going through the side entrance and simply opened the front door. The melodious ring of a bell sounded through the bistro, causing the only person inside to raise their head and pause their actions of wiping the table. I curiously looked around; usually, there are at least one or two tables occupied at this time yet today there seemed to be none.
Fuchsia gave me his signature smile and greeted me. “Welcome home, Oleander.” This time, probably the first time this entire week, I gave him a sunny grin in return. “Fuchsia, look!” Bouncing over to him, I proudly thrust forward the envelope that the owner gave me to show him. “I got a job a while back and got paid today.”
His hand patted my hair in a soothing manner. Fuchsia himself seemed to have not reacted negatively, lamenting “I see, you got a job huh? I guess this was what you were doing after school the past few days?”
“Well, yes. I wanted to keep it a secret at least until I got my first pay.” Scratching the side of my neck, I readily admitted it. Fuchsia hastily dried his hands and cupped my cheeks in his cool palms, rubbing at the corners of my eyes with his thumbs.
“Make sure to not put the cart before the horse. Right now you should still focus on school instead of making money. You’ve been working too hard lately, take care of yourself more,” he gently urged.
I looked up at him. Despite my height already being nothing to scoff at, he still stood slightly taller; always someone I saw as greater than mountains, larger than life. At least, that goes true for my younger self. But humans are not perfect beings, even when they put up a picture-perfect front.
No matter how grand, mountains may still fall, and people, crumble.
Right before my eyes, I witnessed Fuchsia’s collapse. His tired yet bright eyes dimmed, his strong arms slackened and he crumpled onto me. My hands clumsily caught his body and desperately gripped his clothes so he wouldn’t slip down to the floor. Through the fabric, I could sense the scorch of his body temperature. Fuchsia was burning up.
At that moment, my mind stopped functioning. I didn’t know what to do. This sudden responsibility for a sick person was suddenly dropped into my open palms, but I didn’t know what to do with it.
“Ah. I just got. . . momentarily dizzy. Thank you for. . . catching me. I’ll get off of you now.” I heard his weak voice seep out and felt him attempt to exert some strength to lift his body away. Even when his façade had obviously already fallen apart, he still tried to pick up the broken pieces and be ‘strong’.
Before he could gather enough strength to pull away, my arms hugged him tighter and pushed his head back down into my chest. His beautiful fuchsia hair was slick with sweat, and the long strands fell between my fingers.
“Please,” I practically heard myself beg, “please just take a break. I’m not a child anymore, can’t you see? I- I can make money too! I can help you now. Why won’t you let me help you?
You don’t have to work so hard anymore.”
My throat felt sore like I had been crying for days. All my pent-up anxiety and dissatisfaction drained out of me while my voice grew smaller and smaller. By the end of it, there was just silence. A mutual quiet, besides the sound of both of our breaths and the occasional rustle of clothes. Finally, Fuchsia broke the stalemate by raising his hand to ruffle my hair again. In the seconds of my surprise that followed, he gently moved away from my arms.
“I think you misunderstand something, Oleander. Our financial situation really isn’t bad. That’s why I say you don’t need to get a job and should focus on school.” He patiently explained.
“But then why do you still work from eight in the morning to ten at night?” I questioned in return. I let the backs of my fingers press against his forehead, “You have a fever right now; don’t tell me you’ll just continue to work as if nothing’s changed.”
“It’s really not that serious-”
“You dare say that when you literally fell on top of me?”
“. . .” Fuchsia didn’t continue to push that point, very clear that he was fighting an uphill battle. Nevertheless, he argued. “It’s still better to have savings for the future. If all it takes is me working a couple more hours every day so that you don’t have to feel pressured financially, then that’s something I’ll happily do. I’m not tired anymore; I’m used to it now, so don’t worry about me.” His expression contorted into that faint smile.
“But you’re sick!” I cried out, frustrated, “Do you really expect me to ignore the fact that you are working yourself to the bone, through a fever, just so I can spend frivolously?! Is that really the type of person you want me to be? I don’t care that you’re used to it; in fact, that just makes it ten times worse!”
I grabbed his shirt sleeve, “ If you want to save, we can do it a different way. I can cut down on electricity use, I can take shorter showers, and I’ll reduce my use of the air conditioning and heating! I don’t want expensive things; I just want to see you less tired. This time might just be a fever, but what about next time? You’re not getting any younger, and it’ll only get worse if you don’t let it get better. Saving can take longer, luxuries can come later, but-”
I paused, twisting the fabric between my fingers. Changing the direction of my words, I continued, “But I don’t want you to overwork yourself anymore; ten years is enough.”
Fuchsia gave a helpless sigh, “You don’t have to go to such extents; the savings were primarily intended for you. It’s not as if I have much use for extra income. But are you sure you don’t need the extra money? It’ll be useful for things like tuition and school materials.” He gave me a doubtful look. “Don’t be embarrassed to ask me for help, okay? There’s so much I haven’t been able to provide you growing up.” Once again going back to treating me like a child, he smoothed the messy hair he had only a few minutes before completely wrecked.
“I should be the one saying that to you.” retorted I, completely exasperated. “And don’t say that, you’ve given me a lot more than you realise” Letting out a deep exhale to calm myself, I clapped my palms together. “Alright, sick people belong upstairs in bed. Come on, Fuchsia.”
And he gave me the most uncomfortable, reluctant and disturbed face I have, in my ten years of knowing him, ever seen.