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Cynique

The Only One Chapter 13

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The Only One

Chapter 13

Time passed, the second week being a replay of the first one, - Tuesday a replay of Monday, all to the chagrin of Carole Everly who was forced to watch Troy Briggs and Debbie Marlowe play out their mating game. Then, it was Friday again and, with her being a glutton for punishment, Friday wasn’t something Carole was inspired to thank god for since this one would be Troy Briggs’ last day at her branch office.

A study in wistfulness, Carole sat there in the bustling cafeteria of her work place, the setting that had been the backdrop of a drama which for 6 weeks had played itself out around a table top littered with crumbs. Her role in “the-special-of-the-day” chronicles” had been that of a character who was the object of rejection, and with the final curtain about to drop, it was all she could do to keep from taking a bow for doing a stellar job of playing the part of a silly fool.

Munching on a cheeseburger, digesting her thoughts, she couldn’t help but wonder for the umpteenth time why she had let herself go so ga-ga over Troy Briggs? Why had she allowed him to sweep into her life and brush her off?? Why???

Then she regurgitated an explanation. It wasn’t really that complicated. She just happened to be a - practical romanticist, something that happened to make her an easy mark for Troy Briggs who just happened to be a complete package. He was fine, sexy, smart, witty. Had a good job. A college degree. A nice car. No kids. And he was eligible.

He was also something else. Intriguing.

Sending out just enough vibes to let her know that he was aware of her, she was intrigued by how she could tell when he would momentarily check her out from a distance because she would suddenly become electrified. And then on the times when their eyes actually met, how entranced she was by the indefinable glint that always flickered in his. This was what had really hooked her!

Unfortunately, the chemistry wasn’t mutual, and the bottom line was that this intriguing, eligible, lightning rod with the glint in his eyes was just not that into her. She didn’t have to read the best-selling book on this subject. She had lived it, wallowing in her state of denial, victimized by her overreactions.

So here she was, wracking her brain. Sorry she had let the black sisterhood down, sorry for not being able to turn Troy on, sorry for wasting her time on a delusion, sorry for being sorry.

She was also weary, weary of - beating a dead dog to death. Let the mutt rest in peace with his shaggy bitch. It was time to end the pity party and accept that she was not the cure for the Debbie Marlowe virus that had infected Troy with jungle fever.

And that was that, she mumbled, washing these words down with a swallow of diet coke.

Unable to suppress a sigh, she then half-heartedly reached for her James Patterson book, hoping to be rehabilitated by an Alex Cross visual.

“You look like you just lost your last friend,” a familiar voice said a few minutes later, and Carole looked up to see Troy Briggs standing there, turning her into a sucker for eye-candy.

Almost as if deliberately providing a final impression for the benefit of her desire, he was impeccably attired, rockin a charcoal grey suit, a pale blue shirt, and a striped burgundy tie, - well-tailored and well-groomed, the facets of his gold cuff links radiating beams of reflected light! SuperBro, himself, irresistible in all of his buffed, square-jawed, cleft-chinned resplendence! Be still, my heart.

“On the contrary,” she said in reply to his comment, forcing herself to smile, glad she had also made an extra effort to look her best in the slim jeans that hugged her curves and a frilly chiffon blouse in a shade of lavender that flattered her coloring. “My friends are all alive and kickin,” she assured.

"Never at a loss for words, are you?” he asked and much to her surprise pulled out a chair and sat down.

“What can I say?”

“That I’m right.”

“You’re right.”

He chuckled and took note of her book cover. “I’m a fan of the Alex Cross series, too,” he said. “I like a good mystery.”

“I’m surprised to hear that.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“I’m surprised you’re surprised.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

He took a deep breath. “Today’s my last day,” he said, after an awkward pause.

“I know,” she replied.

“Just wanted to say, - it was nice workin with you.”

“Same here. Thanks for not writing me up when I had a run-in with that crazy customer.”

He grunted. “That was just you being you,” he mocked, surveying her as she picked up a white paper napkin and tossed it at him.

Keeping her eyes lowered, she was titillated as usual by his visual inspection.

He cleared his throat then and stood up. “If you wanna give me your phone number, - write it down,” he instructed.

Not liking his cavalier attitude or - his snide remark about her reaction to the irate customer who had called her a “nigger”, she retreated.

“For once, - I’m at a loss for words,” she heard herself drawl, biting her lip, as she watched him shrug and walk away, the door to his bedroom eyes slammed, the entrance to Debbie Marlowe’s boudoir opened as he headed for the table where she had just shown up and taken a seat.

Driving home from work, blasting an urban contemporary radio station instead of the smooth jazz one she usually cruised along to, Carole was in the process of convincing herself that as far as the Troy Briggs fiasco was concerned, time would heal all wounds, and tomorrow was another day.

In the meantime, all she could do was dry her tears and hit the “delete” button on her Troy Briggs link...even as she continued to wonder if the reason for his ignoring her the rest of the day was because her lunch-hour rebuff had gotten to him…

But, wondering was all she could do because Troy Briggs was now history, and…

…she flipped open her singing cell phone, before dropping down on her bed. When she heard Albert’s high-pitched monotone say “good evening”, Carole experienced mixed emotions. “How ya doin?” she responded to his greeting.

“Not too bad,” he said. “And you?”

“Okay.," she replied. " ‘Just thinking about you earlier, wondering if you knew that Esparanza was due in town the first week-end of next month.”

“Yes, I read it in the paper. Do you still want to catch her engagement?”

“For sure.”

“How about we set a tentative date for the Saturday night show.”

“That would be great. We can get back in touch before then and make specific arrangements.”

”Good enough. But the reason I’m calling tonight is to see if you might want to take in a blues club this evening. If you like jazz , you should appreciate blues.”

“Right, they’re - comparable in certain ways.”

“Exactly.”

“I‘m just sorry that - I have previous plans, and have to turn down your invite,” she said, hating herself for lying.

There was a deathly silence at the other end of the line and Carole felt uneasy.

“Well, maybe another time,” he finally said.

“Yes,” she concurred, “Another time will be good.”

“Hopefully,” he said, his voice suddenly taking on an edge. “Enjoy your night out and I look forward to seeing you later,” he added before the phone went dead.

Carol kicked off her shoes and sat there, staring into space. Poor Albert. She could certainly empathize with him. And gradually she began to feel contrite. It really wouldn’t hurt to have accepted his invitation What did she have to lose? Being nice to him wouldn’t kill her. Maybe she should call him back...

- to be continued as this slice-of-life urban tale draws closer to a conclusion which results in the unexpected…

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