Monday rolled around after a quiet Sunday at the store and it started the same: a run, coffee, shower and off to the store. Today’s look was a little more to Christina’s liking- I put my long deep brown hair in a bun, threw on some mascara and lip gloss and my go to outfit which consists of a pair of dark wash denim trousers, a silky blouse, a cardigan, and a pair of flats. It was going to be a typical Monday.
When I got to the store, I went straight to my office to check my email. 100 of them today. I read through more suggested specials for the Black Friday. There there was one from a guy named Cooper O’Neal from my biggest supplier, Fox and Hound Publishing House. He was the new sales rep for the area and he wanted to try and schedule time to come and meet me and show me some new titles. This was strange because I don’t usually deal with the sales rep, I simply order from their online listing if I want anything new and they auto ship anything else. Even though I don’t really want to make time for this, I now how this works. If he’s anything like a typical salesman he’s going to bug me until I agree to meet, so I guess I will try and make the appointment.
Thank you so much for reaching out. I am excited to see the new titles that you have to show me. I am always looking to widen the selection of titles and authors available to my customers. Feel free to stop by anytime on Tuesday or Thursday. I am here all day.
I hit send and went back to checking the rest of my emails. As I got ready to log off of my computer, I got a response from Cooper.
I look forward to meeting you this Tuesday at 10 am. I will bring some samples of new books that I think you will enjoy for your customers. Does that time work for you?
Man that was a fast response, I thought. He must have been sitting around just waiting for me to set up the time to come out to the store. I quickly typed up a response so that I could move on with my day.
That would be fine. I have put the time you will be coming by the store into my calendar. I look forward to meeting you as well.
Now I can get to the floor. I love interacting with my regular customers. The age of the customers shifts as the day goes on. Early in the day I get to see the coffee and newspaper crew. I call them the newspaper crew, but really they are all of the retired folks that come to socialize over coffee or tea. Mr. Brown is a widower and he is one of my favorites. He makes it to the store from the retirement home by taking the bus since he isn’t allowed to drive anymore. He likes to tell me the story about how he and his wife met and how their relationship survived his deployment to Europe during World War II. It was such an amazing love story that was typical of the time- they met and fell in love and he shipped out a week later to storm the beach in Normandy. By the grace of God he survived the beach unharmed and they wrote letters to each other everyday about their plans for the future and how they couldn’t wait to see each other and start their life together. Whenever he talk about his wife, he lights up and I think about how much I wish I could have that kind of a connection with someone, even half of that type of a connection. It’s the type of connection that no matter how much time passes we always just get each other and are there for each other until the absolute end. I thought I had that with Trent. Well, at least it was like that on my side of the relationship. Usually after Mr. Brown tells me about his wife he talks about his rambunctious great-grandsons. Even though I have heard his story a million times, it’s still one of my favorite ways to start the day. Coffee and a story of true love.
Around 11:00 on Mondays I have story time with a puppet show for the little kids in the area. They are my absolute favorite. I had actually considered becoming a preschool teacher before I decided to go into the book business. I usually pick a story linked to the season or holiday of the month. We sing songs and dance. Today’s story and puppet show are about apples and the change of the leaves for fall. I even went out to the craft store and bought a bag of leaves to have the kids toss up in the air in a fun version of “Ring around the Rosie.” For this edition of story time, I like to pull out the big parachute to put the leaves on so that it’s easy for the kids to toss the leaves up really high. This is how it works. I dump the bag of leaves into the middle of the parachute then the kids grab one of the rings around the outside of the chute. The walk around in a circle and when the song is over, they throw their hands up in the air and the leaves fly. Then lots of laughter ensues. Deep belly laughs. I have the best time with them.
Afternoons are when the high schoolers and college kids come in to hang out at the coffee bar or study. Since I offer free wifi I almost always have Alabama students in the shop until close. I enjoy hearing them talk about the changes to campus and about their different classes and professors. I had contemplated going back to school to get a Master’s in Media Specialties (librarian stuff), but my schedule wouldn’t allow it. Bullshit. The ghost of Trent was the biggest hurdle that kept me from even stepping onto campus. I wasn’t ready to see all the places we spent time together at. I know it seems dumb, but I associate campus with my failed relationship and that was still too painful for me to face. Just as my mind started to drift, my phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out and read the text:
Practice got done early tonight! Let’s get a drink lady!! Usual place- I’ll have your martini waiting!
Thank God for Christina. I responded back, 6:00, I will be there.
I met Christina at our go to place. The name of the bar is The Juice Box. It’s a little hole in the wall country bar with great beer and the best pomegranate martinis on the planet. They have live music and line dancing. They even have a mechanical bull out back. It’s a great place to unwind after a long day at work. When I got to the bar I saw that Christina was able to get us our usual table and had two martinis waiting. I downed one and grabbed the other from her hand.
“Woah! This must have been a bad day,” Christina said with a look of awe on her face. The martinis at The Juice Box are very strong.
“I wish that I could get Trent out of my mind forever. Everywhere I look I still see him everywhere and it sucks.”
“You need a good one night stand to take your mind off of that asshole.”
“I’m not saying just anyone. I’m saying some cute guy that can distract you. What about Jake? Isn’t he your no strings attached guy? He seems to be a great guy. Maybe you could give him a chance. He’s nothing like Trent.”
“He’s not exactly a one night stand. He wants us to have a deeper relationship. But I just like sleeping with him.”
I looked over and Christina was pointing out that my go to fun guy Jake was at the bar. Jake. Where do I even start. Jake looked like your typical cowboy. Tonight he had on a green plaid shirt, jeans, and his boots. He had dark hair and light blue eyes. He caught us looking at him, smiled at us and walked over.
Great, I thought to myself.
I met Jake about a year ago here at the Juice Box. We had a few laughs and some drinks. He likes to line dance and there is almost nothing sexier than a cowboy. He was the first guy I had been with since Trent. The first time we met was a totally random encounter. Christina and I were sitting at the bar taking a break in between dances, kind of like we were tonight, and I fell off the bar stool. I was that girl falling down after a few too many martinis. As cliche as it sounds Jake caught me. I will never forget the sexiness of the southern drawl as he said, “I gotcha pretty lady.” It was the lamest thing I had ever heard, but the accent made it less hokey. I said hello back and I have to admit he was really cute. His arms were very well defined and he looked like he didn’t have an ounce of fat on his body. That night I thought I was ready to move on from Trent and Jake looked like a fun way to do it. No commitment, just sex. I decided to go for it. We talked for a while and had a few more drinks. I didn’t care to know too much about him. I didn’t want to get invested. We had nothing in common. He was in computer software and he worked out of Birmingham. He was over here installing some program for the Tuscaloosa Admissions Office. Before I knew it, we were kissing. And just like that he became a friend with benefits. Anytime he showed up at the Juice Box we would hook up. I can’t count how many times over the past year he has asked to take me on a proper date or even just for coffee, but I was afraid to let anyone in again so I kept it very casual. I told him if he ever met anyone else and wanted to get serious with them that I would totally understand but that we could never really be more than whatever this was. Tonight would be no different.
“Hi ladies,” he said with a super thick southern drawl. He motioned to the bartender to get another round for us.
“Hi,” Christina said enthusiastically. I attempted to hide my eyes rolling.
“Hello.” I said with a smile as I raised my glass to him.
“What’s goin’ on tonight ladies?”
“Not much. I was just trying to help our girl Emma here get her mind off her shitty day.”
“Oh darlin’ what happened?”
Ugh. He knows that I melt every time he says that.
“Just a long day at the store. No big deal. Christina is making a bigger deal out of it than she needs to.” I wasn’t lying, but I didn’t want to let him in. I tend to speak in big general statements with Jake. It helps me keep him out of my heart.
“Well you know I can help you with a bad day,” and then he smiled. His smile was nice.
He was the complete opposite of Trent. He was attentive and sweet. Jake always made me feel like a queen. Sometimes I wish that I could open up to him. I think that he would get it. I felt bad that I treated him like an afterthought, the same way that Trent used to treat me. But we had an understanding. This was a friends with benefits situation- and we were not close friends. The deal didn’t keep him from trying to get closer as often as he could.
“I know you do. That’s why I am glad you were here tonight. Wanna dance cowboy?”
“Yes m’am.” He extended his hand, took the beer out of my hand, placed it on the table and took me out on the floor for some two-steppin’.
“What’s buggin’ you lady? I hate seeing you down.”
“Nothing a few more beers and two-steppin’ wouldn’t fix. You gonna dance with me or what?”
“Of course. If you need to talk to me, you can.”
“I don’t wanna talk. I just wanna dance.”
We danced a few line dances and he spun me around for another couple of songs. During the last dance he pulled me close and I whispered into his ear, “Wanna get out of here?”
I shot Christina a quick text telling her that I hoped that she was ok and that I was bringing Jake home. Her response was Have fun! I know I will. See you tomorrow.
We walked into the door of my apartment and we began making out on the couch like a couple of teenagers. His brute strength was such a turn on. He was so strong that he had no problem picking me up and carrying my 132 pound frame around. And that’s exactly what he did. We ended up in my room and then the shower.
We got out of the shower after we cleaned up and collapsed onto my bed. Jake wanted to snuggle and I was too tired to care so we did.
“I wish you’d open up to me.”
“I just can’t Jake. That wasn’t part of our deal. I can’t give that piece of myself away again.”
He kissed my forehead gently and I nuzzled into the space under his arm and put my head on his chest and fell right to sleep.
When my alarm went off the next morning, I realized that Jake was gone. He left a note on my night table next to my phone that read:
Thanks for a great night. Hope to see you again soon.
I was grateful he was gone. I didn’t want to deal with his questions or him trying to get me to talk about stuff. I got out of bed and I was so incredibly sore. Today was going to be hard physically. I took Caraway for his walk and then got in the shower and went to work.