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The Only One Chapter 10 Troy Briggs looked down at his plate, at the juicy meat loaf, the buttered string beans, and the fluffy mashed potatoes puddled with a scoop of gravy. Then he glanced up at Carole Everly who sat across from him, trying to hold his gaze, wishing she stimulated his appetite as much as the food seemed to. “If you hadn’t gloated so much about the Knicks getting their butts kicked, I wouldn’t have held you to our bet,” he said, “A loyal Bull’s fan is allowed to gloat,” she smirked, “thanks to D. Rose.” “Yeah. And thanks to you for buying my lunch. That’s what I call taking a charge.” “Don’t mention it," she said. "Lucky Chicago didn’t lose, cuz my fixing a home-cooked meal might’ve resulted in an - alley oops!” He grunted. “I had no intentions of making you honor that stipulation of this sucker bet.” Carole’s smile faded, and she reached for her trusty book to fidget with. “What the heck are you reading now?” he demanded to know. “Just for a change of pace, - I’m checkin out some Jean-Paul Sartre.” He stopped in the middle of his chewing and gave her astonished stare. “I can’t believe you!” “Existentialism is a very interesting concept.” “Who needs that fatalistic shit?” “Anybody who believes in controlling their destiny,” she replied, impressed that he was familiar with this philosophy, ready to expound further when Debbie Marlowe popped up, pert and smiling. “Hi guys,” she chirped. “Mind if I join you? My gang went out to lunch today.” Troy was immediately transformed. “Have a seat,” he invited. “The more the merrier!” “What’s Carole doing?” Debbie asked. “Giving you a book report?” “Yeah,” he groaned. “Stating the case for - pessimism.” “Bummer,” Debbie said. “Just the thing to discuss on a gorgeous day like today!” “What’s so gorgeous about more snow?” Carole grumbled. “Oh come on, ‘Gloomy Gus’,” Debbie reproached, “It’s that time of the year. What’s winter without snow?” “Right,” Troy agreed. “How could anybody not at least appreciate the beauty of something as pure and white as snow?” “I’m a winter baby,” Debbie bragged, “born in February, - the reason I love this exhilarating weather!” “I was a cold weather baby, myself,” Troy said. “Born in January.” “Oh really!” Debbie gushed. “What’s your sign?” “Capricorn.” “Capricorn! I love Capricorn men! I should’ve guessed what you were. You’ve got Capricorn eyes.” “Capricorn eyes?” "Bold and expressive.” “Bold and expressive?” “Oh, yes,” Debbie assured, returning Troy's bold and expressive gaze. “How about you?” he asked. “What’s your sign?” “Aquarius. The water bearer.” Reaching for his glass of water, Troy raised it in a toast. “Here’s to the Age of Aquarius.” “And all the good things that come with it,” Debbie responded, smiling coyly. “I’m all about good things that come,” Troy winked and stood up. “Hate to rush off, but I have to head out for a meeting at the west side branch.” “Drive carefully,” Debbie urged, her lips coming very close to being a pucker. “And don’t get stuck in all of the beautiful white snow,” Carole muttered, feeling like an intruder, as once again she had been left in the lurch by … … “Troy!” a male voice yelled. “Wait up for me.” Hearing that name, Wanda Ewing’s ears perked up and she stopped dead. Quickly she peered down the aisle and spotted a male figure who, from the way Carole described him, had to be Troy Briggs! He was probably at her branch to attend the staff meeting scheduled for that day, and if she had to spend the rest of her break loitering by the water cooler, there was just no way she was going to pass up this chance to finally see if Troy lived up to the twat-twitching effect he had on Carole. Fortunately Troy Briggs and Stan Kowalski who had just caught up with him were headed in Wanda’s direction, strolling along, talking. Glad that he was preoccupied in conversation, Wanda scoped out the object of her curiosity through lowered eyes, sizing him up as he walked by. Still staring at Troy’s back as he and Stan dwindled into the distance and disappeared around a corner, Wanda stood there, slowly forming her opinion. Yeah, she had to give the brotha his props. Troy Briggs was a “dime”. But… was there something significant about him being in lock-step with that white boy he was walking along with? Bending down to quench the thirst that was the original reason for her being where she was, Wanda smacked her lips. She could hardly wait to hear from… …Carole sighed. “And just as soon as I feel like I’m making a little headway, I get shot down,” she said, wrapping up her phoned-in report on the latest episode of her Troy Briggs soap opera. Wanda gnawed on her apple core. “That damned ‘water bearer’ is puttin your fire sign out!” she assessed. “You gotta re-group, girlfriend. You can’t let that Aquarian bitch get your Capricorn goat!” Carole broke into laughter. What would she do without her confidant to remind her how depressingly hilarious the situation was! And from an existentialistic viewpoint, what difference did anything really make, she brooded after ending her phone conversation. A moment later, recalling how her response to Albert's suggestion to go see Jill Scott had been rather vague, she decided that if he did call back like he hinted he might, maybe she’d just say ‘yes’ - go along with an interested party who didn’t mock her and wouldn’t - stiff her. Ready to call it a night, Carole crawled into bed and… …curled up in a fetal position, the sofa occupant was a man-in-motion, his busy hands at work between his legs. The lights were off but the TV was on, re-running the 10 o’clock news showing an avid reporter thrusting a microphone into the face of the cop who was explaining how the "MO" of the suspected serial killer on the loose was always the same. Always the same is right, the jack-off seethed, glaring at the television screen. Turning him on…turning him down… turning him off, leaving him no choice but to turn the knot…turn the knot…turn the knot… - to be continued -