Today’s snippet is part of a new WIP, tentatively titled ‘Starting Over’.
The story of Victoria and her little shop in Oak Grove Square continues. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘bloom’.
Enjoy – and feel free to leave a comment. Click the link here to go back to the main Tuesday Tales site for more entertaining story snippets.
Victoria struggled to get her weary body in motion. A stop at Java Time was just what she needed today. It was ten o’clock. She should be at Serendipity opening up. She glanced out the front window to where her shop was, kitty corner from the coffee shop. There certainly wasn’t a line of people banging at the front door to let them in. If she arrived a few minutes late, no one would even know.
Dark haired Carmen stood behind the counter looking a lot perkier than Victoria certainly felt. “Honey, I think you’re going to have to break down and do the coffee bit this morning. I don’t think your Chai tea is going to touch that shade of drag ass you’re wearing this morning.”
“Ugh. No. No thanks.” Victoria stuck out her tongue in response to the coffee suggestion. “Not for me. I’ll stick to my Chai Tea.”
“I thought you liked coffee. You always take a deep breath when you walk in here.”
“I like the smell of coffee. I adore the aroma. It’s the taste I can’t abide.”
“Oh. You’re one of those.” Carmen filled a cup with a hot, frothy concoction and scooted it across the counter. Victoria clutched a handful of single dollars and was busy searching for change in the bottom of her purse. “Forget the change. You’re good. Besides, the sooner you get this in ya’ the sooner you’ll become human again.”
“Thanks.” Victoria started to take a sip of the steaming beverage and jerked her head back. “Ooops, still too hot. Guess my return to humanness will have to wait a few minutes longer.”
Carmen wiped the counter between them. “You worked late last night. When I closed up there were still lights on over there. How late did you stay?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Too late. I got caught up reading an old journal and lost track of time.”
“From those boxes that hunky guy carried in yesterday?”
“Ha! Blond and hunky maybe, but he was a cold and arrogant jerk. Looks are deceiving on that one. But yes, it was in one of his boxes. You sure don’t miss anything, do you?”
“Oh honey, if you only knew. I know everything that goes on in this square. Anything you want to know, you come ask me. Except for Marie, over at Three Tarts bakery. I don’t have any dirt on her, she’s too squeaky clean.”
“I’ll have to keep that in mind. Note to self … watch yourself around Carmen. She knows all.”
“Hey, it’s not hard to do. I watch. What they don’t tell me – and a lot of ‘em spill the beans right to me – I see. I just keep my eyes open and find out all kinds of delicious secrets.”
Victoria gave a wave and wandered off across the street, carefully carrying her caffeine fix. Her hands wrapped around the disposable container, glad for the warmth to counter the frigidness in the air. She wasn’t sure whether to be glad that people noticed what happened in this small little sphere, or to be annoyed that she’d apparently nestled right in the midst of a bunch of busy bodies. She stopped to look at the bedraggled planters in front of Serendipity, filled with dead, brown plants, a casualty from the ice storm a few weeks earlier. The square was prettier when she’d first looked at the space, with bright blooms gracing the planters spaced around the four sides.
As she unlocked the front door, a voice called out from across the street. “Helloooooo.” Victoria turned to see a woman carrying a folder headed her way, blond hair bouncing and a bright red scarf flying behind her.
“I’m Heather, from City Hall.” She stepped inside behind Victoria and gazed around the space crammed with antiques in every spare space. A smile filled her face. “This is just delightful. Look at all this loveliness,” she gushed.
“Am I missing a form, or late with something?” Victoria inquired.
“Oh no! Goodness no.” Every word from Heather’s mouth came out with a soft, breathless quality. She turned back towards Victoria and aimed her megawatt brilliant smile in her direction. “Not at all. I came over to introduce myself and ask about a little project we’re trying to get going. We’re forming an Oak Grove Merchants Association with the businesses, to join together as a coherent team to enhance the retail opportunities here. Kind of like a little Chamber of Commerce in a way, with monthly activities planned for the town square. I wanted to see if you’d like to join.”
“What’s involved with joining? It depends on the requirements. And the cost. I’m barely keeping my head above water right now.”
“That’s exactly why the City wants to take a more proactive step towards bringing business here. To help out our merchants.” More breathy commentary followed as brochures were eased into Victoria’s hands.
Too smooth, Victoria thought. She really does belong in City Hall. Heather had a way of focusing in on the subject of her conversation, making them feel as if they were the most important person on the planet at that moment, all the while silky utterances falling from her lips.
When they got to the one meeting each month and only $25 a month, Victoria readily agreed. After her guest left, she wasn’t sure if she complied because she really wanted to, or whether she just gave in to get Heather out and on her way. Victoria felt a little confused. She really wasn’t sure what had just happened.
She spent the rest of the morning dusting, sorting, and rearranging. The jingle of the bell interrupted her busyness two or three times, but the small purchases didn’t even begin to cover what she needed to bring in each day to pay the rent. Maybe it’s a good thing I did join the merchants group, she thought. We all need some extra business. Not that January was a blockbuster month for most businesses, with most customers spent out from the frenzied buying the month before.
Another jingle at the front door alerted her. She turned and opened her mouth to say ‘Good Afternoon’. Who stood centered in the open doorway surrounded by a gust of cold air? The man she hoped that she’d never see again. He stood there clutching a manila envelope.
She felt the sudden sting of irritation rush through her whole being. “You going to stand there all day letting all the warm air out?”
“Sorry.” He stepped inside and closed the door tightly behind him. He glanced back towards the corner display – filled with Fiesta Ware – with a distracted look. A softness filled his face, making Victoria’s heart unexpectedly flutter. Then the shutter came down, leaving a cold stony glare behind.
“I found these today during our demo. I thought you might want them.” He held the mysterious envelope out towards Victoria.