Here’s the third post to end my term AND this guest fiction challenge. Thank you, Everyone. Thank you!
A fire you had to put out this week? Relationship issues
Where do you go for peace? My apartment
Favorite relative? Twin sister
Best gift or surprise you’ve given? Valentine’s care package to a long distance boyfriend
A food you won’t eat? Octopus. Too slimy
A city you’re curious about?Athens
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Doctor
Something you have that’s broken? Communication with my boss
Describe your favorite boss.Worked at JC Penney’s in college. The store manager could get us riled up and eager to do well. He made little competitions and made us want to do well.
Describe your least favorite teacher. Unapproachable. Didn’t have compassion for students who didn’t grasp or enjoy his instruction
How will this character resolve things? It should definitely work out. I like stories that work out. She’ll struggle at first, then realize that what she wants she’s always had it inside her or around her.
Corinne spun around on her heels, the key to her car still aimed for its lock. She heard the grunt before she could make sense of the surge of adrenaline pulsing in her ears and the man’s blazer doubled over in front of her.
“Shane, you scared the shit out of me,” she said, taking a step back to rest against her car as her heart beat steadied.
Shane slowly stood to his full six feet. His hand was pressing against a phantom wound in his side. “You stabbed me!”
He made animated faces and exaggerated pains. Corinne let a smile unwind in the corners of her mouth.
“You stepped into my weapon, pal,” she said. “Where’s your coat? What are you doing creeping up on me in the dark?”
“I was trying to catch you before you flew out of here,” he said, relaxing his face and rubbing the spot where Corinne’s car key had jabbed him. “I wanted to ask you to meet us at Treetop tonight.”
Corinne folded her hands under her elbows, tightening her arms around her. Treetop? Her?
“Who’s ‘us?’” she asked.
Shane chuckled. His crooked eye teeth pushing past his smile. Corinne hadn’t noticed his dimples before. They’d worked in neighboring stores for nearly five years now. She’d never understood how anyone could be devoted to selling mattresses, but she guessed people might say the same of the quiet jewelry shop.
“The ‘us’ who’ve been your retail neighbors for almost a decade,” he said.
“You’ve only been here five years, Shane,” Corinne said.
“Ahh, so you have noticed me lumbering around here,” he said.
“I’ve seen you once or twice,” she said.
Shane smiled his crooked, dimpled smile. “You should make it one more time,” he said. “Around eight o’clock.”
Corinne raised herself from the car and moved toward her store again. She’d forgotten her cell phone inside. “You should have on a coat,” she said.
“Yes ma’am, I should,” he said, not moving from watching her.
He kept his eyes pinned to her when they shared a basket of nachos two hours later at the Treetop. Corinne had arrived to the bar and grill to find that the only “us” Shane had planned for was the two of them.
“You didn’t leave me any choice,” he’d said. “I’ve been trying to get your attention for two years, but you weren’t very –uh- approachable until recently.”
Corinne looked down to her beer glass. She thought about how her fists unclenching and her heart unzipping while hiking through the mountains of Buenos Aires. She’d spent three weeks roaming the countryside, drinking at festivals, reading graphic novels on the beach. She’d tried to take an online Spanish course, but the instructor seemed offended that she wanted to collect a few quick phrases and had no compassion for her abbreviated learning needs. Even without a functional grasp of the language, Corinne felt instantly connected to the people she met there. They were warm and inviting and especially friendly once she told them her father was native. As always, Aunt Vanda had been right. Seeing her homeland was powerful, in spite of her storied and painful disappointment with “homes” and family. She’d come back to the states feeling whole.
“Was I mean to you?” she asked, raising her beer to her lips. He was handsome, in a boyish farmhand kind of way.
“Naw, not mean,” Shane said. “You weren’t standoffish, either. You seemed, I dunno, oblivious.”
Corinne raised her eyebrows. “That’s an interesting choice of words.”
Shane smiled. “I know even bigger words than that,” he said, waving away her protests about what she didn’t mean. “I sent you a care package for Valentine’s Day because I figured you’d be swamped in there. You sent a thank you card from the store.”
Corinne lowered her beer and blinked at him, remembering the box with exotic candies which included jellied squares of octopus. “I didn’t realize it was from you to me,” she said. “I assumed it was from your store to my store. To all the stores, actually.”
“Why would I–”
“I mean, I just thought you were playing retail block captain,” Corinne cut in quickly. “I didn’t know. Thank you, for then and for now.”
“My father has since passed, but my mother is doing okay,” he said.
“How are you?” Corinne asked, searching for sadness in his face.
“Pretty good most days,” he said. “I spend a lot of time at her house, but I’m able to regenerate and regroup at my apartment. I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy my quiet time.”
“When you’re not studying the dictionary, what are you doing?” Corinne teased.
“Collecting bottle caps and bird watching,” Shane said with his boyish grin. He seemed pleased to hear her laugh.
“What are you doing when you’re not guarding the diamonds?” he asked.
“I’m finally going to try and figure that out,” she said.
“I’d like to help you out, if you’re looking for a tour guide, or something,” Shane said. Keep you riled up about your new man and your new options.”
Corinne liked the way Shane talked to her, certain and soothing. She liked how the dark clouds that had begun lifting away from her since making her trip coming home had not been a figment of her storytelling.
“New man? I’d ruin this peace of mind with relationship issues?”
“Absolutely not,” Shane said. “I plan to help you keep the peace.”
Corinne shook her head. “Not with those jokes,” she said.
Corinne liked the feeling of a smile stretching across her face. She allowed herself the flutter in her stomach as Shane looked at her and imagined them exploring his family’s legacy in Athens, hand in hand.