Joelle’s bold attempt at cheerfulness assumed the look of a constipated mannequin, only she had a jacket at her feet and a warm body squirming underneath it.
The guy with the baseball cap nosed around the store, pausing at the intersection of each aisle, looking left to right.
“He’s coming this way,” Joelle reported, although mystery man was simply making his way to the end of the store where Joelle stood in the corner. Having just opened, the store was mostly empty of guests.
“Does he know where you work? Hmm? He doesn’t seem interested in purchasing any products. What am I asking? You don’t even know if you had sex with him.” She lightly kicked Tessa’s side with the toe of her shoe to warn her, “Here he comes.”
The guy with no name played it cooled with a delicate smile. He carried himself like a trained athlete, not someone who had been up half the night. Joelle watched with suspicious delight. He took a bigger step to greet Joelle, as if had attained his final destination.
“Can you please tell me if Tessa is working this morning, and if she is, where I might find her?” He said, his head poised for an invisible pillow, and then his eyes shifted to her feet.
“Huh?” Joelle said. “I don’t know.” The morning’s events unfolded at an alarming rate for a Saturday.
“Strange. That clump on the floor,” he waved to her feet, “appears to be breathing.” He took off his shades, and looked directly into Joelle’s eyes, leaving her breathless. Joelle envisioned hopping on the back of a motorbike with him and shooting down the highway with the wind in her hair, her body snug against what could only be taut muscles under his button-down shirt. Certainly Tessa could forgive a little sightseeing.
A click, click, click invaded her morning daydream. It was Bianca’s heels forecasting doom, or at the very least, her presence.
“Hmm,” Joelle shrugged, and a smile spilled across her face. “So it is.”
“And this is a common?” he played along. A wave of hair hung over his dark eyes, framed by long lashes and a hint of wrinkles that endeared Joelle to him anymore. She placed him at late twenties, so he was older, and she reasoned, more mature.
“Um, yeah. It happens. I don’t know. It’s strange,” she nodded. “I usually don’t question it.” Tessa stirred.
“Joelle, I need you at the register,” Bianca walked by, clicking on the tile, without missing a beat. “Tessa, off the floor.”
Tessa sat up, the jacket draped around her head like a veil, exposing Joelle’s before and after makeover visage smeared to a non-distinctive mess.
“Ah, Miss Tillsdale. I had a feeling you were near,” said the stranger before her. Tessa ignored his outstretched hand, and pushed herself off the floor.
“Joelle,” her roomie eased in. She had a knack for good timing, and shook his hand. “I’m sorry we haven’t met. And you would be?”
“Layne,” he said, with eyes only for Tessa. “Ring a bell?”
“Of course,” Tessa shook his hand, but it was as if she was meeting him all over again.