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Back You are here: Home Stories Words for the People Short Stories With All the Romance
Tuesday, 29 May 2012 00:56

With All the Romance

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Saturday afternoon, things were about to pick up, she could feel it. He was sitting at the counter, next to the first seat, leaving room for someone to sit next to him. Dark hair, turtle neck sweater, new jeans, black boots, it was like he’d been picked out of a line up, sent in, the perfect bait, precisely her type but there was something off. She would to talk to him, of course. She knew him from somewhere, couldn’t place him. The other gals had chided her about it but she never did understand them, the way they were about things like that, the guy was a customer in the restaurant where she worked, what was the big deal? Shy was never a problem of hers.

“Need a refill?” She lifted the coffee pot, nodded at him, could hear her co-workers giggling.

“I’m not drinking coffee.” He didn’t tell her what he was drinking, didn‘t volunteer anything else.

Okay slickster, she thought. “Tea?”

“Or me, or you?” He smiled, killer grin. “Or…me and you?”

“Want to try that again?” Smiling back at him, what a goof. He was good looking enough to get away with it, really, and he wasn’t being completely serious.

“Hot chocolate, they said I get one refill. I don’t drink coffee, never learned to like it.” He was looking right at her, damn.

“So I gather you never worked in a restaurant or a bar. I’ll get you that refill.” She moved around the corner to the chocolate machine, the whispers of the others.

“Thank you.” He sipped at it. “I was supposed to meet my family, my brother, his wife, doesn’t look they’re going to show up.”

“You look familiar, I don’t know why but I want to say Ghost Busters.” She had a good memory. She knew his face from somewhere.

“Parapsychologist. I investigate haunted houses, psychics, things like that, really. My names Bill Lee Bennet. Not Billy, Bill Lee.” He extended his hand to her. “Lee is fine.”

“Lucid Apparitions, that’s it, you were on that show.” She knew it, nodding at him.

“I didn’t think anyone saw that. You watch those shows?…Holly?” He was looking up at her, his chin tilted down, running the tip of his index finger around the rim of his cup.

“I record that one.” She knew better, she never told customers anything. Why was she thinking that she knew better?

“Do you believe in magic, Holly?” Picking up a quarter from the counter palmed it, closed his palm, opened it, nothing in his hand.

“Sure…may I have that quarter?” Lee slid the coin across the counter towards her. “It isn‘t just that I believe in magic, it‘s what I can do…” Picked up the quarter, palmed it, dropped it into her pocket.

“If you give that back to me, I’ll turn it into something bigger.” No smile on his face.

Holly pulled a quarter from her apron, put it down. Lee put a five next to the cup.

“That’s really nice, I’ll make sure your server gets it. I had just wanted to talk to you.” It wasn’t her section, Holly wasn’t his waitress and she was glad.

“Let me pick you up later, we can keep talking?” Lee was smiling again. He put the five back in his pocket.

At the register he palmed the quarter again. Holly smiled and was angry at herself for it but hadn’t been able to keep from it. This was not smart. One of her great grandfathers had had a wooden leg with a hole drilled through it that he used to push pens and nails through to mess with the kids, called it magic. There was something, it wasn’t chemistry…just…a feeling. Lee was about an inch shorter than her, maybe five foot eight, that always threw her off, that and guys whose legs were too thin. Holly had spent way too much time observing people. She told herself she was getting too picky.

Years of slinging hash, she knew better, wise to every pick up angle, how stupid was this going to get? Magic? She was falling for it, on purpose somehow because wanted so much to believe again, go somewhere with him and believe in magic.

Holly had been relieved when he’d gone, that should have been enough.

Eleven o’clock he was sitting at the counter, waiting for her. The strains of some strange holiday muzaked version of, Hey 19 skipping in static refrain. In Lee’s car the sounds of What a Fool Believes, The Doobie Brothers, crackled forth from the local station, and it bothered her, the tension through her shoulders, tightening her jaw line. She wanted to smoke, the Lucky Strikes in her purse seeming to call her name.

Black Suburban, loaded down with heavy black cases in the back, he said they were equipment, mostly video stuff, for work, on his way to the Winchester Mystery House, for another show. Holly had the urge to tell him that he was never going to get to San Jose. Lee said he had just gotten back from Nebraska, said they were investigating the Temple Building there, at the University. Charming and warm, he said he was a Capricorn but right on the cusp, did she knew what that was? Did she believe in it? Did she know about the new sign, Ophiuchus ? Lee had studied how it was that people became interested in occult subjects, astrology, he said was usually the “gateway” subject. As a child he had seen a ghost, had been trying to understand it ever since.

“Well, a see…Ophiuchus isn‘t actually a sign, it‘s a constellation…that‘s a misnomer…that it‘s a sign.” Holly’s was uncomfortable in a bad way, were they actually talking about astrology? Holly liked Capricorns, as much as she hated to admit it because she didn’t really believe in that any more but it was in there, in her head, from all those years of study. Earth signs were good, solid, warm she knew all about them, her daughter had been one. Holly had secretly wanted to be a parapsychologist but after the accident the idea of ghost chasing didn‘t have the same appeal.

“Yeah, yeah, astronomy, just seeing if you knew that. You’re smart, real smart.” Lee drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “I walked in there and saw you, man, so glad my family didn’t show. Prana, you know, energy. I stay there sometimes, with my family, when I’m on my way to a job, I grew up in Wynette, can‘t believe we never met before. There’s no budget for this sort of thing. We sleep, the crew, wherever, usually cheap motels, this isn’t my car, studio loaner. I’ve got a room this time because they had me bring the equipment. You read on those topics, the occult, superstition, what about symbolism?”

“The Cross of Lorraine. I…” There was a knot, suppressed want, in her chest, having trouble swallowing, she realized she hadn’t actually talked to anyone in a long time. “ I saw it somewhere, looks like a…”

“A telephone pole.” Lee sort of bit the words off, his tone suddenly exacting, impatient.

“It was used by the French Resistance, in answer, opposition to…” She stopped herself, of course he knew that or should have. His sat rigid in the seat, all his “aw shucks” charm left behind at the restaurant . Why did she want to cry? She was realizing she had misread something about Lee, with the right guy this could have been a great conversation, if it had been real but she didn’t believe him. Holly hadn’t been listening to herself. She had been relieved when he had left the restaurant…What she had felt hadn’t been anticipation, it had been apprehension.

They were on the main road but he was heading out of town, toward the back roads.

“Hey, I…hey…I need to use the rest room, there’s a Crest Station on the corner.” All those years of slinging hash…Holly was a go with your gut kind of gal, she had known better. If only he had been true.

“Sure, sure.” He pulled into the parking lot. “Maybe I can get a cup of coffee.”

“You said you didn’t drink coffee.” Holly quickly closed the door, turned back to look at him. “You’re not a parapsychologist are you?”

“Hey, you saw me on that show…my buddy, he grew up in Wynette.” Lee called after her, laughing. “So I’m not a Capricorn…I’m the sound guy for the show, Lee interviewed me, I saw a ghost… Hey, come back…do you like horsies? Maybe I’m a horsey…Holllly…” He was still laughing, the way he was saying her name it sounded like the word Holy.

Holly was walking away, fast, towards the gas station, phone in hand. Whatever it was, something wasn’t right. Hearing the wheels of the Suburban grinding in the gravel, she thought to turn around, get the license plate, J771TV1. From inside the door of the station, she watched the tail lights roll into the dropping mist, a distorted carriage disappearing into the night, she watched them fade, to feel like she was safe. Glad he was gone.

The song that was playing from an FM channel somewhere on the other side of the hill, static, skipping again, the lyrics garbled. Why did the attendant leave it on?

“My name is Holly Southerly would you please call the Sheriff for me? Or let me use your phone.” She said her name so he would know it later, in case someone needed to know it. Her braid had slipped from the elastic band, she could smell the nights orders cascade loose around her shoulders in the most awful mix with her stale perfume. What the hell had she been thinking.

“Ma’am…why?” His name tag said Paco Rabanne. He was tall, taller than her, good looking.

“It’s important, I think, I took a ride from someone…Your name can‘t be Paco Rabanne.” There was a circular hanging behind the register, sort of on the side of the cigarette rack, Holly pointed at it, “What, is that?” She was agitated, jumpy.

“I get bored.” He shrugged, gestured toward the circular. “Something the cops left, some guy they’re looking for, drives a black Suburban.” He shrugged. “Can my name be Angelo?” He smiled, relaxed, easy smile, distracted her.

“I…wha- huh?…Call the Sherriff please, I think…I got a ride from that guy…that guy they‘re looking for.” Holly was dialing the Sherriff too, writing her name down on a piece of paper, transferring the license plate number from the pen scrawl on her hand. “Where’s your rest room?”

“There, on the dark side.” Angelo motioned to the side of the building that suffered from a lack of exposure to the lone street light which otherwise illuminated the lot. “You want the key?”

“No thanks, I’ve seen that movie.” Holly slid a Lucky from the pack, “This okay? Angelo?” He nodded at her, smiling more. She lit up. Her phone wasn‘t holding a signal. “So you‘ll call, for me…?”

“Seen that movie?”

Angelo smiled at her again…way too many teeth.

“I’ll call, for you, Holly.”




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Last modified on Tuesday, 29 May 2012 01:14
Kathryn Soverane

Novelista. 

Moon, spells WRITER.

Poetry, prose, the macabre of suburbia, noir, dark fiction, stream of consciousness, romance and horror,  good writing is the thing.

 

Kathryn currently resides in California.

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