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Cynique

The Only One Chapter 19

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The Only One

Chapter 19

Chicago's summers were always slow in coming, mainly because its cold winters were so reluctant to defer to the tentative little episodes that passed for spring. But somehow the luke warm Junes showed up, hinting at better days ahead when July caught fire and August waited in the wings.

Weather aside, the passing months had been a productive time for Carole Everly, a period of growth and change. And the first thing change involved, was realizing that she needed to stop making book covers the parameters of her world, needed to cease relying on fiction to escape reality. So, getting up off her ass and becoming a more active participant in life was what had topped her to-do list.

Motivated by the promotion she had earned on her job, with visions of other opportunities to advance, she had finally gone back to school, enrolling as a part-time student at the city college near her apartment, once again pursuing the degree that would enhance her resume. Spiritual renewal was also among her goals and she was deep into the practice of Yoga, embracing the disciplines that put her mind and body in sync. For 2 hours every Saturday morning she volunteered as a reading tutor at an inner-city youth center, fulfilling what she felt was her duty to try and uplift her race. With that in mind, she’d also become a patron of black community theater, thoroughly enjoying the productions of talented unknowns. And as a seeker of wisdom, she figured she could broaden her perspective by joining a Bible study group, which she did. She had even decided to learn Chess, courtesy of her brother, Bobby, the family backslider who also happened to be a whiz at the game. “Go ‘head on, girl,” Bobby had laughed after being checkmated during one of their matches.“You gettin them queen moves down pat!”

Of course, she and Wanda still hung out from time to time at the clubs, and they still got together for bid-whist games with Andre and Roderick, still gossiped every night, though not about Troy Briggs, or Debbie Marlowe, either, since Debbie had quit her job at City Wide and was presumed to be somewhere spreading her cheer in private industry, or at least in the privates of Troy Briggs - if rumors were to be believed. But, those were the breaks, Carole told herself as she attempted to get on with her life, occasionally going out on dates that went nowhere for all the familiar reasons. And how she missed Philip Atkins who had left the police force and relocated in Atlanta, pursuing his luck by going into partnership with an investment group that had purchased a fried chicken franchise. She’d never heard from Albert again, and her enthusiasm for jazz had receded. Not to be denied however was, that between it all, books still had their say.

So, seated there in the busy employee lounge of City Wide Utility’s main headquarters, was the evolved Carole Everly, doing great justice to a coral-colored wrap dress that was set off by a chunky beaded choker and small gold ear loops.

In her capacity as one of her district's representatives, she was there to take part in the big rally being held to announce that the company was “going green” and had a brand new logo.

Waiting for her office mates to rejoin her, she was in a familiar mode. Trying to get into Toni Morrison’s latest, she wondered why her mind kept wandering, and then she knew.

“Still hooked on books?” were the words that rang familiar in her ears, and she was helpless to do anything but slowly lift her head and greet the coochie-coaxing personification of virility who smoldered there, rockin a navy blue pin striped suit, gray button down shirt, and a red paisley-print tie. Six months had not dulled his sheen. He was as fine as ever.

“Yes, Troy Briggs, I’m still addicted to the printed word,” she responded, thinking that she was apparently still addicted to him, too, considering how her heart had just stuttered.

“What is that? A Nook or a Kindle?” he asked.

“A Kindle, but I haven’t abandoned hard copy books. I alternate, depending on the situation.”

“I can dig it,” he said and proceeded to change the subject. “I thought I might see you at this kick-off session after spotting your name on the promotion list in last quarter’s newsletter. Congratulations, and welcome to management.”

“Thank you,” she nodded.

“You got a new ‘do’,” he said, casting a look of approval at the sleek style achieved by her hair being tucked behind her ear on one side and curved around her chin on the other, framing her face in such a way as to create a very flattering effect. “I almost didn’t recognize you.”

“I finally realized that I diluted my strength when I cut off my mane,” she smirked.

“So now it’s longer and you’re stronger, and - I’m in trouble,” he said.

“Meaning?”

“My chances of conning you into an invitation to a home-cooked meal just tanked.”

“The Bulls season is over. But, - I guess the bull shit game is never ending.”

“Ouch.”

“Sorry.”

“So am I.”

“For what?”

“Nevermind. Are you a White Sox fan?”

“Kinda. My Dad likes ‘em. Why do you ask?”

He shrugged. “Just a thought.”

“Am I supposed to read your mind?”

“If you can.”

Puzzled, she shifted her focus to the gold bracelet that was coiled around her wrist, and his eyes immediately mounted her, stirring all the old feelings, almost as if she had bent over and he had entered her from the rear. Electrifying the atmosphere even more was how when she faced him again, instead of quickly looking away, his gaze remained steady, leaving her unsteady.

“Seen Debbie Marlowe lately?” she blurted, thinking his answer would jolt them back to reality.

“No,” he snapped and turned to leave. “I’m late for a briefing,” he said over his shoulder as he walked off, leaving her to invoke the Yoga techniques that would allow her to relax and try to sort things out.

What were Troy’s reference to the White Sox all about, she wondered, taking a deep breath. Was he actually hinting for a dinner invitation if they lost their next game? Or won it? Maybe so, since he claimed to not have seen Debbie Marlowe lately. What was that all about? What was going on? Would he approach her later? Shit. Just when she thought it was safe to go back into the water, “Jaws” had reappeared, flicking his fins, and baring his fangs, and fuckin her susceptibility.

But she had to get a grip. She could not let Troy Briggs play her again! Fool me once, shame on him. Fool me twice, shame on me, she repeated to herself, trying to ignore how the possibility of seeing him at this meeting, had been in the back of her mind all week long.

Putting her Kindle aside, she dug out her cell phone and began to text Wanda.

  • to be continued as the final 3 chapters unfold -

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