Tag Archives: serial

A Story About That Guy #4

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“Are you okay, Sam?” Tracy asked.
I jumped so high I almost lost my pants. “Sure.”
“You look on edge.” Tracy started piling the dishes in the dishwasher, but her eyes rhythmically came back toward me between each cup.
“Nah. Didn’t sleep well. Bit distracted. Nothing to take note of. Or worry about. Not that I’m assuming that my state is worrying you. We’re not that close, after all. But you did ask.” I put my hand over my mouth to stop the verbal diarrhea. Nasty, nasty habit.
“Do you like That Guy?”
“Craig.” I bit my lower lip when my voice broke. “He’s not That Guy anymore.” Why did he give me his name? Craig didn’t sound very mad scientist-ish. Craig stripped part of the mystery away. I’d have to find another topic for my daydreams about Craig, and that road would somehow lead down the gutter.
“I think he likes you.”
I dropped the metal cup we used to steam the milk. It bounced on the ceramic floor, spilling droplets of its content all around and highlighting my discomfort with a loud clink! “Not for long, that’s for sure. Look at my clumsiness.” I tried for a nonchalant, dismissive of the truth, friendly smile which may have come across as a bug-eyed grimace. They gave medals for effort, didn’t they?
Rag in hand, I knelt on the ground to sweep up my mess and dumped everything in the sink.
“You like him, too.”
I shrugged. Nice noncommittal shrug. My other verbal or physical expressions had betrayed me before, and I wasn’t giving them an encore. Besides, that metal cup needed washing. Intense, purposeful, distraction-free washing.
“You should ask him out next time.”
I blew raspberries. Blew them with the intent to bury this conversation in childishness now and forever. Someone who blew raspberries at the idea of asking someone else out wasn’t adult enough for the dating scene, and Tracy would drop this line of unwarranted advice.
Someone walked up to the counter, and I jumped to provide my service. It was around dinner time so the activity picked up, and Tracy didn’t have another opportunity to meddle with the sorry life of her shy colleague.
Unfortunately, as soon as we locked the door and started on the closing routine, she poked my flank with her elbow. “So, are you gonna ask him out?”
“He may never walk back in here again so let’s not speculate.” A small jolt of pain wedged itself behind my eyeballs. It may be a symptom of my sickening hypocrisy.
“He’ll walk back.” She went to empty the dishwasher and refill all the shelves. It was my turn to empty the garbage cans so I got right on that. “Ten bucks says he’ll chat you up more the next time he’s here,” she yelled from the other side of the coffee shop.
I cringed. There was no one here to hear her, but I still felt like people would know all my dirty secrets if she kept spilling them. “Doesn’t mean anything.”
“Sure, it does!” She insisted. “Especially if he starts sitting closer to the till so he can chat you up in-between clients.”
“He comes here to work. He doesn’t want to chat.”
“Says who?”
“Says the computer he doesn’t take his eyes off of.”
“And how do you know he’s not cyberstalking you on Facebook? He could have found your name on Jamie’s page.”
I froze mid-bag-pulling and a few empty cups toppled to the ground. “You think he might be on my Facebook?” My face had drained of all blood. I could tell by the dancing stars in front of my eyes.
“I’m kidding!” Tracy laughed. “He couldn’t possibly be that guy since he’s Craig.”
I frowned. No one should be that skilled at making someone else uncomfortable.

Next (coming next Wednesday) >>

A Story About That Guy #3

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Which dumb-ass gives a guy a soup without a spoon? I knew engaging in any type of social interaction with That Guy would make me mess up.
“Just a moment please,” I told the new client at the till and picked up a bundle of utensils from the drawer. Should I lay the utensils down on the table in a proper table-setting position? That would put me way into his personal bubble. Unless I did it from the other side of the table. That should work, shouldn’t it?
As I headed toward him, That Guy stopped scanning his tray and looked up toward the counter. I thrust the utensils forward, almost disfiguring him with the fork. Holding my shame tight behind my teeth, I said, “There you go, Sir. Sorry for my mistake,” spun on my heel and returned behind the safety of the employee-only side of counter.
That Guy gave me a nod of thanks from his now-very-safe distance.
Throughout the lunch crowd and afternoon, I did my best to focus on the clients, and not let my eyes and mind wander towards That Guy. He typed away on his computer, interrupting the click-click of the keyboard for some munch-munch on his food or reading the Internet. I couldn’t think up a sound-turned-verb for that one. I missed the ruffle-ruffle of books sometimes.
What was he doing on his computer? Maybe he was indeed a student. Or a writer. Or a mad scientist plotting world domination on a chat of mad scientists. It could happen. He was That Guy, and we had free WiFi.
Four o’clock came around, and That Guy packed up his things. He brought his tray of dirty dishes to the end of my counter and piled it neatly amongst the other dishes. He then slid over to the till, which gave me no time to prepare myself since there were no other client waiting.
“I’d like another cappuccino to go, please.”
“Coming right up!” I replied maybe a tiny bit too cheerfully. Something had to compensate for my unease, and it wasn’t as if I was subtle enough to tap my foot or something as innocuous. I didn’t want this awkward situation to last, so I prepped the cappuccino as fast as the machine would allow. No fluffy foam design this time. I had to put a plastic lid over the thing so what would be the use of that.
“There you go!” I said and rang his order.
“Thanks…” He squinted to read the orange name tag on my cerulean vest. “Sam.” He handed me the cash for his coffee. “I’m—” Don’t say it! Don’t say it! “Craig, by the way.”
Damn it all to hell and back. Why did he have to introduce himself? All I wanted was to forget Craig’s name so he could be That Guy again. That Guy was safe, a simple nameless client. Craig… Craig was too real for my own good.
But I couldn’t forget Craig’s name because he would expect me to know it the next time he walked in and pretending otherwise would make me seem like I tried to avoid messaging my interest. I was trapped. Utterly trapped.
“You’re welcome, Craig. Have a wonderful evening.”
“You too!” At long last, he walked out.
I wished I could curl up in a corner and mourn the loss of That Guy. He had been here three times this week. We had exchanged first names. Obviously, he planned to be a regular and push the socialising. For good or nefarious purposes?
Why was I staring at the espresso machine? Who does that?

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A Story About That Guy #2

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“Remembering the regulars is hard,” That Guy continued. “And if they’re so regular, why can’t they remember I started two days ago and cut me some slack for not knowing their order?”
I would have to answer him, especially since the espresso machine was next to the till and I had to make his cappuccino. Deep breaths. I could do this. Only two and a half more minutes.
“It was a challenge at first,” I said as I turned and packed some grounds in the portafilter. “But I love my job.”
“Really? How so?” That Guy leaned against the charcoal Formica counter. Resting his elbow on the top, he angled himself toward me, a vintage point to take in my soon-to-return blush —I could feel it building, the traitor.
I shrugged. I didn’t trust my elocution at the moment.
“I mean, I guess a lot of people ‘like’ their jobs, but you said ‘love.’ Why love?”
Because I don’t know the meaning of the word?
“I don’t know. I like my colleagues, the people coming in.” I shrugged and cleared my throat too, packing on the awkwardness like make-up on a drag queen. “Some people we just feed, but some… you know… we smile and take the time to be nice… It makes them happy. And this place always smells great.”
I finished pouring the milk in the espresso and drew a spiked spiral in the crema before adding an extra dollop of foam in the center.
That Guy’s smile widened when I put his cup next to the soup on his tray. “I can see that happening. This makes me happy.” He tapped the side of his cup.
My face warmed up, so I spun and turned his panini to get the crisscross grill marks all over it. While it finished cooking, I dressed a plate with a bit of lettuce and vegetables, a small scoop of carrot salad and ribbon of balsamic vinaigrette. After I cut the hot panini at an angle that matched the grill marks, I laid it in the plate. All nice and harmonious.
“There you go, sir,” I said, all professional-like, as I put the sandwich on the tray. “It’ll be twelve ninety-four, please.”
He shoved his laptop bag behind him to pluck his wallet from his back pocket —ah, to be a wallet…— and handed me fifteen. “Keep the change.”
His tray firm in hand, That Guy headed to the tables lined up against the far wall. This premium place featured access to both electricity and windows onto the streets. You had to get in during the down times to snatch one of those tables, and the only one left for That Guy was in my direct line of sight from the till.
He organized his place so he could have the food on one side and his laptop on the other, which he plugged while I gave Mrs Leewood her usual moccachino, heavy on the chocolate.
That Guy sat down and looked around his tray.
Oh crap! I forgot the utensils.

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A Story About That Guy #1 (AW Blog Chain)

This month, I decided to rekindle my connection with the Absolute Write Water Cooler forums and take part in the monthly blog chain. If you’ve been reading me long enough, you know I participated in these every month a couple of years back.

The theme for this month is Romance and several writers are posting on the subject. You can find the links to their entry at the end of this post.

At first, I thought about writing a commentary on romance in pop culture these days. It seems to me like there are a lot of abusive relationships being celebrated as sexy or romantic. Fifty Shades of Grey is an example. Animals from Maroon 5 is all about sex and stalking. Take Me to Church from Hozier portrays another broken relationship. I’ve read a couple of books in which the heroine lands in the hero’s bed three days after he violently asserted dominance over her.

This trend baffles me.

After some internal debate, I decided that I didn’t want to write a whole post about that. Instead, I kicked my behind to polish the first of my new serialized short stories series.

The first of The Quirks is entitled A Story About That Guy and just so happens to be a romance. Here are the first 500 words. The next “chapter” will be up next Wednesday. 😉


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That Guy walked in Jamie’s Coffee for the third time this week. He had gotten a turkey sandwich on Monday and ham on Wednesday, each time with a bowl of our soup of the day and a large cappuccino. Brown tousled hair and blue eyes, That Guy strutted in with a laptop bag slung over a shoulder and a casual-with-a-hint-of-bad-boy vibe in his green polo shirt, jeans and leather jacket. Given today’s chilly weather, I doubly approved of the leather jacket.
I didn’t know anything else about That Guy, and I’d make damn sure to keep things like this. While he was still That Guy, he wasn’t The Ex and he could be anyone from yet-to-be famous TV star to understated millionaire to just another student.
“Next,” I said like I always did. I didn’t want That Guy to think I found him special or anything. It might lead to him ignoring me or worse, wanting to have a conversation, which always led to self-humiliation.
“Hello!” I added when he stepped up to the till. Jamie’s employees didn’t last long if they couldn’t pull off the friendly cashier smile. “What can we get you today?”
“Hi again!”
Again? He’d notice me. How? I had just been working here like many a faceless sandwich maker. Tracy had been here all three days too and he didn’t “again” her.
“I’ll have the Mediterranean Panini, please.” He ordered with the same part-absorbed, part-bland tone everyone used, but his voice had a spark, an avid taste for the world around him. Or maybe it was the hint of a growl behind the sweet caress of his tone that made me think of jungles.
I shouldn’t be noticing such details.
“Extra cheese, all veggies but the peppers? Will you get a soup of the day and large cappuccino with this?” I didn’t stutter! A part of me victory danced at my inconspicuous professionalism.
“So you do remember me!”
Damn! How did he know? I blushed beet red like the bowl of tomato soup I put in front of him. Blushed tomato red, then. Tomato red. Why am I staring at that soup?
“Well…” I chuckled —deadliest of all giveaways. “My boss…” I’m still staring at the soup, damn it!
I looked up to his baby blue eyes and warm smile. “He gets pissed when we don’t remember the regulars.”
Clean getaway or poor excuse?
“Yeah,” That Guy said.
Clean getaway. What a relief.
I gave him a quick smile and moved behind the sandwich counter. Jamie had gone Subway-style here with a long refrigerated counter of produce and deli meats for the client to choose from.
That Guy watched me assemble his sandwich through the glass protecting the sandwich bar. “I worked in a place like this for two weeks before I cracked.”
We had a somewhat something in common? Eek…
I had to find a way to discourage him from sharing more information, so I turned around to put his panini in the press on the back counter. Three minutes. I only had to hold on to my dignity for three more minutes.

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Strings of Retaliation – 24b – Spin

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The driver took a sharp left that would have made me cringe if he hadn’t been driving like he knew every alleyway. His precision and assurance went beyond what a baseline navigation chip could do. He must have one specially programmed for Dubai and optimized to get me from the Lotus Arts and Technology Centre to the bunker I’m sure I had somewhere nearby.
Her eyes unfocused, Gail sat in silence, planning, through the communication chip in her head, the next steps in my protection. Her occasional frowns didn’t bode well. It wasn’t like her to retreat to the inside of her head while I might be in shock and no one else was there to take care of me. Then again, the “threat on my life” rodeo happened before. Reports had been written about my post-Saskia behavior and I had no doubt she combed through them a few times to make up for her time sleeping through the event.
The driver made another sharp left. Third in a row. I cocked an eyebrow, wishing Vexx had hacked my music chip to check up on me. Unfortunately, MerriTech clamped down when I got in trouble. Security should loosen in a couple of hours, but in the meantime, I couldn’t subtly ask for a projected destination. Looping around or backtracking might have been an efficient way to lose a tail way back when, but it didn’t do much against today’s tech. Something was up.
When the SUV behind us veered into a side street and the rest of my protection didn’t follow, I worried about Gail’s allegiance again. I didn’t like this at all.
“Gail,” I snapped. My assistant blinked a couple of times fast and focused on my face. “Talk to me.”
“I reached out to a few trusted friends that live in these parts.” Her voice was calm and confident. “Seventy-five percent of the people who knew about your security detail for tonight also know about the bunker. I don’t like these odds.”
I paled. Maybe I shouldn’t have put so much emphasis on our mole infestation. Sure, I agreed with the problem she mentioned, but not with her solution. “So you’re taking me to a stranger’s house?”
Gail pulled her jacket straighter and elongated her spine to look confident and unyielding. “I failed you twice already.” Anger at herself sharpened her words. “Forced you to defend yourself.” That sounded like the worse thing that could happen for her, short of me getting killed. “Emma would have sacked me three times over. You’re kinder.”
Oblivious to the irony of her last statement, Gail pulled a handkerchief out of the interior breast pocket of her jacket and dabbed the corner of her eyes. “I won’t let you down again. We’re going to a friend’s and that’s that.”
Either she was a hell of a manipulative bitch or truly believed she owed me proof of her skills. I couldn’t pick one for sure. “Ditch the guards that may be corrupted and go to ground,” I summed up.
“Yes.” She folded the handkerchief on her knee before putting it back in its place. “I trust a few of them with my life. They’ll secure your belongings and meet us later.”
“What about Vincent?” I hadn’t meant to stun her but realized how odd my request sounded when her eyes widened. Officially, Vincent and I were a rather new couple, which meant that unless I was a lovey-dovey airhead, I should consider him as a potential traitor. Gail knew me better than that and I watched her lips purse and twist as she struggled with the questions she would ask any other people but didn’t want to ask me.
How do you second guess the boss who did your job better than you a mere hour ago?
“You’re right,” she said answering what my question implied and not what I said. “I’ll have him escorted to us so he can’t be used against you.”
On one hand, Vexx would be severely limited in the technological miracles he could pull while under MerriTech’s watch. On the other hand, there was someone out there trying to kill me tonight. More than one someones, actually. And I hadn’t ruled Gail off the list yet. I needed the official affiliation I cared about to be safe and sound, and in a position where he might be able to help.
My jaw dropped when my eyes drifted out the window and I realized we were steadily approaching the Dubai slums.
“I know this isn’t your usual haunts,” she said, misreading my surprise and unaware of how wrong she was. “That’s the point.”
A chill ran down my spine. I had only done a couple of jobs here. Not nearly enough to build a solid network of local contacts, but enough for a few people to know me. Though I wore my Nightshade identity every time, I never bothered altering my voice. The chances of someone recognizing me based on that were too slim to oppose Gail’s plan, but it bugged me nonetheless.
“Don’t worry.” Gail leaned forward to wrap her hands around mine. “We’ll have a nice place.”
“How is a place like this on your list of resources?”
Gail blushed. “I trained with a few different cultures to open my mind to a variety of body languages and attitudes. And I’ve always had a thing for bad boys.”
Oh! Brilliant! What better place to hide out from a killer than my deadly-secretary-and-potential-enemy’s ex?
A thought hit me so square across the neurons, it took me a moment to realize I had it. Her idea was crazy, way more out of the box than I ever considered she could reach. And proposing something like this to me —the almighty Queen who could ruin her life on a whim— took a massive pair of balls.
The same pair someone would need to kill people with a handful of beads.
Or take over a massive corporation in order to terrorize it to ruins.
Not knowing whether it made me feel more secure or deeper in trouble, I grabbed the escaping thought by its tail and dragged it back to my conscious mind.
Gail is my kind of crazy.

Next chapter Tuesday >>

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