A Lifetime Supply of Mustard - Elizabeth Delayne - A Must Read Story

Nearly a decade ago the office consisted of an old dusty desk, three rattling computers, two for Jason and one for his two employees to share, the computers maxed out with the best software on expanded hard drives. Their best piece had been their scanner, now long retired, but top of the line and taking up a good portion of their precious desk space.

Time had changed things, opened up unbelievable doors of opportunity. Today the computers were hidden away in adjoining office space, over an expanse of three floors. This old room had been transformed into a conference room where potential investors and clients were gladly welcomed. Their company name was equated with advertising capability and proficiency. Polished award plaques lined the conference room wall, honoring great moments of brilliance and the steady, enduring hard work his employees put in behind him.

Jason Smitz had some of the best advertizement minds working under his company name, clients in 12 states, money in the bank and a new house for his mother-yet, he felt torn, tired. There was a hole in his heart about the size of a tuna sandwich, with the crust cut off and the mayonnaise light, missing the sweet words "MADE" on one side and "4 ME" on the other side of the bread, browned with butter gently warmed on the frying pan. The rolling discussion mumbled through his mind as his advertisement team bartered and debated over advertisement lingo and the current advertizing semantics.

Jason leaned back from the conference table and stared out the window and into the city scape that surrounded him. He wondered where Susie was, and a feeling close to jealousy arose as he tried not to think about who's bread she was buttering now . . . .

He hadn't been able to sleep in a week, hadn't been able to slow the rolling wheel of uncertainty and confusion. The details were blurring, the reasoning dull.


"His mind's not here-it's on his stomach."

"Or in the kitchen."

Irritation swelled as he heard the snickering behind the words, "Yeah," he muttered, refusing to acknowledge their comments, "sorry. What did you ask?"

"Among other things?" Rudy Roberts, in his seventh year with the company, smirked as he shook his head, "We were wondering when lunch would be here."

"He's joking," Betty Lee jumped in, shooting Rudy with a strict glare. She sat at Jason's right, and reached over and touched his sleeve with a hesitant hand. The perfected french manicure made her hands look pasty against the white sleeve of his shirt, "but really, Jason. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"Susie-Q really hit you over the head with her frying pan, huh?" It was Dave Schlotsky's turn. Tall, skinny as a pencil, and half bald, he was about as close to the father figure as their office had-but as young as he was, he rarely pulled the part off. He'd been Jason's first full time employee, outside of Mary, his receptionist. "Or maybe her rolling pin?"

"She could really do things with that butter, though," Rudy jumped in.

"Mmm," Dave leaned back in his chair and rolled his hands in his lap, "and we don't even know about the after hours cooking lessons."

"Guys, please!" Betty broke in. She looked back at Jason, measuring him with her eyes. Her dark hair was pulled away from her face, revealing large, concerned eyes and a forehead worried over by her frown, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"It was just kind of sudden. You were together, then you were a part. You haven't said much about it."

He hadn't spoken because it was hard to talk about it or around it and Susie was none of their business, anyway. Maybe it had been sudden, he thought, but the three months seemed more like a lifetime now. It was hard to think back through his memories without remembering her, molding her own recollections with his. They'd been able to talk about everything, to share. She had a spiritual center, a focus on God that strengthened him. He'd thought they were molding, forming, growing together. He hadn't noticed the cracks until it was too late.

" . . . kind of weird, you know. She could stand out like a clown in a crowd without the big red nose and multi-colored hair."

He'd liked her individuality, he thought, immediately bristling at Dave's statement. He supposed not all girls could handle the bright colors or the flowing fabrics, colorful rings of plated gold and silver on every finger, and nails painted in intense, vibrant shades, but he thought she radiated in the rainbow of her wardrobe. And not everyone was blessed with a job that allowed them to cater to their personality.

"And that hair!" Betty chuckled, surprising him. She was usually the serious one, not lowering herself to what she called messy gossip, "I just want to get my weeding sheers out and get to work."

Spirals, he remembered, miles and miles of spirals that his hands would always ache to touch. He rubbed his hands together roughly, even now. It was red, and brightened under sunlight. Her eyes were green, expressive . . . happy and sad. Confused, hurt, as he'd last seen her. Deep pools of emotion.

"And what did you say Jason? She ate mayonnaise with her fries, ketchup with her eggs, and dipped her pickles in mustered? How ordinary is that?"

They certainly had it memorized-things, moments he'd known only because he'd been able to share them with her. Had he really addressed her in such a way to his piers? There were reasons for it all. She'd grown up poor with her mother working at a grocery store, bringing home the odd items that she could. She had adapted, learned to like and to eat whatever had been placed before her, including a countless supply of mustard and mayonnaise her mother had won a lifetime supply of.

Had he been looking for ordinary, uncomfortable with the extraordinary, and blown his chance at happiness?

His hand clenched into a fist as he pushed away from the table. "Let's table this, why don't we? Betty see what you can do for the Rochester account-"

He stopped at the brisk knock on the open door. Mary held out the familiar white plastic bag with a bright orange sun over the name Susie's Place. The look on Mary's face was hard, disappointed. He swallowed, hearing the word of his piers replayed in his head. "Susie-"

"She heard everything," Mary confirmed.

"Kendra?" he asked, speaking of the delivery girl that usually brought up their lunch. He was already moving toward the door. Mary stopped him, placing his sandwich in his hand.

"She let her go yesterday. Apparently the girl was given to running her mouth about Susie's eccentricities."

He swallowed over the growing knot in his throat, looked down at the sandwich glossed over by cellophane. He pulled off the wrapping. Same tuna, low on mayonnaise. Browned slightly, but no words written in butter, nothing but his quality, somewhat redundant, made to order sandwich . . . and the words playing in his mind, that Susie had heard, that she had already known were being passed around, even as he denied it.

He handed the sandwich back to Mary and pushed passed, his world spiraling out of control.
God, he prayed as he leaned against the back of the elevator. Help me make this right.

The little sandwich shop at the bottom of the office building had always been there, but had been transformed into a blossoming store when Susie took over a year ago now. When he'd first moved into the building, it had been a greasy looking hamburger restaurant, followed by an even messier Chinese place. The Italian owner had attempted to clean it up, but his heart problems had already lost him his own restaurant and the whole deal was too much for him.

But Susie ran a tight ship. Until today, she employed one clerk full-time and one delivery girl during the lunch hours. She kept special orders in a file beside the phone so anyone in the surrounding three office towers could simply call in their name and the time they would be hungry.

Her place was clean, the walls white and decorated in framed pictures of flowers, the old tile floor glossy under the florescent lights. Jason smiled as he passed by Megan, who was stocking the potato chip holders as she waited for a customer to decide. Her look was none to friendly and it followed him as he walked into the back as if he owned the place.

The kitchen was empty, but as neat and as clean as the front area. A few sandwiches were stacked, wrapped already and labeled with the orange sun sticker. On the cutting board was another sandwich, sliced into two triangles, this one with words written with butter, like his had been.

Jealousy reared all over again. Without thinking he reached for the sandwich, a tuna sandwich. The word on top was "WERE," but the sandwich was a little cold, a little stale, probably her lunch, that she'd had yet to eat. He turned it over, placed the two pieces back together, saw the word "YOU," and felt the panic rise.

Had she meant this one for him? A message-"WERE YOU" what I thought? "WERE YOU" all you promised, all I hoped you to be? or "YOU WERE" past tense-sliced in half?

"That's not yours."

Her voice made his heart leap, made it come down with a hard, thud of dread because of the hard, defensive tone. He turned, found Susie standing in the doorway coming in from the back storeroom, clear signs of panic in her wide green eyes. Evidence of tears, laced the red rimmed edges.

A yellow ribbon held the tail end of her french braid. Her hair was covered with an old baseball cap of her brother's that she always wore to keep hair out of her face. Despite the bright orange and red striped long sleeve, practically transparent over shirt, the rest of her wardrobe consisted of plain jeans and a white tank top. She was a sudden splash of life in the stark white, clean kitchen.

"Too much mayonnaise," she said and walked over, took the sandwich and tossed it in the garbage.
'We need to talk."

"It seems that enough has been said."

"Too much," he agreed and stepped toward her only for her to retreat. "You let Kendra go."

She clasped her hands in front of her, squared her shoulders, a look of defiance in her eyes, "I don't need an employee that's going to run around laughing at me with every delivery."

No, he thought, and she hadn't needed a boyfriend that had been an extension of such betrayal. How many times had Kendra been in his office, before and while he was seeing Susie, telling about all the quirky things her boss had done? How many times had he laughed, tuned it out, sat blindly in the middle of the whole thing?

It had all led down to last week when Susie had accompanied him to a benefit that his company had helped to sponsor. Maybe he'd questioned her more then once, suspiciously, about what she would wear, translating in her mind that he was a little embarrassed by her in some way. She had noticed him watching her eat, had cringed enough for her to see when she slipped the pineapple off her chicken, when pineapple in mustard was one of her favorites . . . mustard with everything.

She hadn't done anything out of the ordinary in the presence of the town elite and his business associates and potential clients, not to his surprise, necessarily, but to his relief-a relief she'd obviously noticed. She'd worn a somewhat reserved silver gown and had gone to the expense, one he knew would tear at her pocketbook, to have her hair and nails professionally done.

And then when tears threatened, she'd risen from the table as other guests stood to move toward the dance floor, and tugged him discreetly to the door where she'd asked for a cab and said goodbye with tears running down her cheeks. He'd been alarmed, a little angry, and had missed the hurt, the plea in her eyes.

Was it too late, now, to make amends?


"You've made it clear how you feel about me, Jason," her voice was soft, her eyes downcast.


"Actions usually speak louder the words, but this time, words were just as strong," she looked up then, tears running down her cheeks. "You expect me to be some sort of fool, some type of embarrassment. I didn't think it bothered you, and then I saw it did-"

"No, Susie, bothered isn't-"

"You never stood up for me. I thought you might be a little in love with me, care a little, just a little, about me, and there your were laughing behind my back. I was some joke the whole time. 

Some cruel, cruel joke to you. I don't even known why you bothered, why you kept coming back, taunting me with . . . even when you knew who I was, knew where I came from. Even when you snubbed me."

She turned away, wrapping her arms around herself, defensively, protectively. He watched as her hands rubber her arms. She shivered a bit, cold. He wanted to reach out and sooth, protect, warm her.
She'd cared for him so, giving smiles and hugs freely, leaving his paper messages in his lunch bag, writing the same message over and over on his sandwich . . . 

MADE 4 ME . . . .

Making her own sandwich to say WERE YOU . . . or YOU WERE.

You were made for me. The words twisted together in his heart. Had she really felt that? And had he damaged such faith, such trust? She hadn't been able to give him both sandwiches and he'd missed it-missed out on the full extent of the heart placed behind his daily, very redundant, sandwich.

But he had hope, he thought, this time reaching for her, holding onto her shoulders when she tried to step away.

"I'm sorry."

"You never supported me. You didn't defend me."
"No," he said, turning her, watching her eyes look up at him, "I never let myself believe that you were so important to me. I didn't notice how all the gossip and the laughter affected me."
"You think I'm weird."
"No," he denied vehemently, pulling her closer, wrapping his arms around her, "Quirky, maybe, but that's not a bad thing. It isn't," he insisted, tightening his hold. Her back was ridged, the look in her eyes still accusing and skeptical,

"I promise, but it will take a little time for me to explain. Can you give me some?"
She was doubtful, and he didn't fault her for being so, but lifted a heartfelt praise to God when she nodded, a little numbly, her permission. He dropped a kiss on her forehead, letting his lips linger over the soft skin for a grateful moment, warming him, hopefully warming her.

She had been to Jason's apartment before, so she was a little surprised to be led up two flights of stairs past his floor. It was an old building, old enough not to have an elevator, one he'd chosen when money was tight and convenience to his office building had been necessary. The stairs creaked under their weight, and on days they were talking freely, their voices carried up and down the stairwell, even when they whispered. He could afford more now, she knew, but it was clearly his home and he needed little else.

She said little, crossed her arms across her chest, and waited. It was still hard to talk around the knot in her throat, still difficult to understand why he had pursued her when he thought so little of her. She refused to blame herself, or her mother for having to grow up in difficult circumstances. Each of the oddities he saw, she'd learned to view as blessings. Winning a lifetime supply of mayonnaise and mustard was like the widow's jars Elijah filled. They sold some of it off, gave plenty away, and still were inundated with mustard. God blessed her by giving her a liking for

the stuff, so it was hard to fault Him.
They stopped at the top of the stairs at an old metal door. He took out a key from his pocket and slipped it into the old metal lock. He jiggled it just a bit in the slot, tugged the door, sending a rippling echoes of metal against metal down the stair well, and finally pried the door open.

Her hair lifted in the night air as Jason led her onto the roof of his ten story apartment building. She took a deep breath of the cool evening air and readjusted the old army jacket around her shoulders. Underneath she wore her prettiest dress, a loose fitting sundress of splotchy green leaves, yellow and electric blue flowers on a candle-flame white background.

"This is it."

She looked around, finally resting her gaze on his. It was so hard to read him, to understand him, 


"Hopefully where you and I can finally meet," he reached out his hand, and watched as she considered it for a moment before unwrapping her arms from around her and placing her hand in his. He led her to the edge to look down at the city below.

"I moved here after college, started a business, in a new town, with new business associates. I knew so few people. At night, when the city would grow dark, I would come out on the roof and watch it come alive. You can see it's other side, what you don't see in the day. You can watch it dance, here it's subtle movement as it slowly moves to rest. It never sleeps."

"I liked to come out here and stand under the door frame and watch the rain fall. Relax in the sound, in the rebirth, the coolness of it. I would stand there, up here, and pray, just talking to God about anything and everything, not just during the rain, but all the time. It was just that, when it was raining, it was like everything but God was locked out of my vision, as if this curtain had been dropped down to surround us."

He laughed when he saw the look on her face. Definitely perplexity, more than a little skepticism. "My first year, I just . . ." he looked out into the city, his dark brown eyes searching for what he had seen then, "I was different, but so in tune with where I wanted to go, what I needed to do, where I thought God wanted me. I tried everything to find the advertisement focus that my company needed. Riddles, songs. There was always something new and odd popping out of my head. When bagged our first big client, when we saw his profits soar, my small staff threw a party. And they gave me this."
He released Susie's hand and reached in the pocket of his leather coat and pulled out a plaque, handing it to her. She tilted it to catch the light that lined the rooftop.

"To the quirkiest man alive," she frowned over the words, but made herself read the rest of the inscription, inscribed underneath, in smaller print, "A boss that runs after the odd and finds gold, pushes past the everyday to find brilliancy."

She looked up at Jason, for the first time seeing past the mask she had always seen, to the expression of need.

He turned, reached out to frame her face with his large, artist hands, "You're the best thing that has ever happened to me, Susie. You're everything I've searched for, everything I've prayed for, everything I've dreamed of. You're reminding me of who I was, who I wanted to be, the man that I prayed that God would sustain. The passion for Him, for my work, the love of life, of people. Things I let get buried under power and control and . . . paperwork, bills."
"I didn't-" she turned away, focusing on a blinking theater light as she fought against the tears. She didn't want him to touch her, to be so close that he could see the confusion and pain, "I so wanted to fit into your world, but I was unhappy-"

"You do fit into my world," he said gently, turning her to face him. "Don't you see what I'm trying to tell you, Susie? It's who you are, who God created you to be, that's attracted me to you. Your vibrancy, the color your bring into my life, the faith, and the reminder that the best things in life don't have to demand the public's approval." 

He closed his eyes slowly, and dropped a kiss on her forehead, gently reminding her of how precious she was to him, "You, were indeed, made for me," he said, drawing back so he could see the look in her eyes, a look he would cherish for the rest of his life, "Designed for me. Forgive me?"

Unable to say the words she would have said if she'd even known what they were, Susie leaped toward him, throwing her arms around him and holding on to her gift, her man. She smiled against the warmth of his leather coat, then looked out into the city, where this quirky man, her quirky man, had begun building his dreams long ago, where God had led them both.

Two months later, during an hour long ride on a carousel that Jason had paid for in advance, with children and couples getting on and off at every stop, and a beaming teenage attendant watching the entire time, Jason asked Susie to marry him. With the high pitched sound of the music of dancing horses and laughing children surrounding them, and colors bright as a rainbow swirling and framing the moment, what else could she say, but "yes" with butter, and some sugar, on top.