This story is far too long to have posted here; it simply wouldn’t have been fair to you or the other Hoppers to expect you to read it. I’ll clue you in to the fact that this is an apocalyptic piece with some obvious subgenre work going on. Enjoy, my friends…
Dr. Calvin Dent rested his chin on his elbow and stared through the window at the front of Marie’s Coffee Emporium. It was a quaint little shop known for serving half-priced drinks to college students and weekly poetry slams, affordable and atmospheric, but not so much so that it would seem cheap or overpowering.
He watched vehicle after vehicle pass by without so much as slowing, then bit his lip and whipped out his phone. It was 9:20 in the morning, an early time for her, so she was probably running late. More importantly, it was her, so she might not show up at all.
Then she did. Jewel Alvarez stepped out of a beaten-up taxi and onto the cracked sidewalk. It had been two years, but he’d recognize her anywhere. Her light brown hair was stacked in a bun, but she’d left just enough free to frame her angular face. She had sunglasses on, even though the coffee shop’s side of the street was shaded. Though now into her mid-thirties, her body retained the lithe shape she’d developed in her youth, partially because she was athletic but also because she would often get so wrapped up in her work that she’d forget to eat. Jewel was the type of girl some men spent their lives dying for: shapely, exotic and out of their league.
Calvin enviously wished he could say the same. Though not particularly heavy, he had no muscle to speak of. His skin had a pasty hue from having spent the majority of his life inside. Add glasses to the mix and you’ve got the spitting image of a man whose mind was his greatest- and only- weapon. He wore a light jacket over a long-sleeved shirt, despite the temperate weather. No one had any idea how he’d managed to wind up with Jewel in the first place- he was almost certain he couldn’t pull that trick off a second time, but he was ready to try.
The tinkling of a bell announced her entry. She spied him and walked over. Jewel was dressed in her signature paint-stained jeans and a black t-shirt. Calvin had already pulled her chair out prior to her arrival. She smiled and removed her sunglasses as she sat across from him.
“Hello, Calvin.” Her voice was by no means melodious, but he could listen to it for hours.
“Hi, Jewel.” He realized with abject horror that he had no idea how to conduct such a meeting and fumbled for something to say.
“Thanks for the coffee,” she said, wrapping her hands around the steaming cup in front of her.
“N-no problem,” he chuckled nervously. “Do you still take it the same way you used to?” He paused, then stammered, “No! I mean, take your coffee? Do you like, you know, two creams, one sugar, in your drink, like before?”
She laughed as he blushed. “Yes, I still like it just like I used to.”
“Oh, good!” He breathed a sigh of relief. “Some things never change, huh?”
They stared at each other for a dangerous minute. For a moment, Calvin was sure she’d get up and walk off. He’d come on too strong, he was sure of it. He hadn’t meant to, but some things just slip out. Then again, she wouldn’t have met with him if she didn’t have SOME kind of feeling for him, right? But even so-
“Yeah, some things don’t.” Her voice was almost quiet enough to hide her feelings- but not quiet enough. “…I’m… glad you called, Calvin.”
He gave a half-smile. “I am too. …I guess I have trouble letting go, huh?”
“Sometimes, it’s ok to not let go,” She laid her hand on his, her thumb gently stroking the top of his palm. “How’s work been going?”
“It’s… oh, you know… space. It doesn’t change much, so… Well, actually, the sun has been giving off some strange readings lately, but we’re not sure what they mean yet.”
“Really?” She arched her brow and, to his shock, seemed genuinely interested. “I’d love to hear more.”
“I’d love to tell you,” he stared into the pools of amber and, like a prehistoric mosquito, found himself trapped by their depths. “How… is work, for you?” he managed to whisper. Her perfect lips curved up in an all-too-recognizable expression. Whenever something really, seriously great was happening, her face would inexorably shift to show off an impish grin.
“I’ve actually published two books: my first is on painting with ash, the second is on the human body as a canvas for artistic expression.”
“Painting with ash?” he tilted his head.
“Ash is… often overlooked. It is uniquely beautiful; it’s the remains of something that has perished in flame, but isn’t really a symbol of destruction. It’s a symbol of making way for something new, something greater, that will soon come to be. It’s like with forest fires; those fires only occur so new life can spring up in their wake.”
Walk with me from October 24-31 as I post some of my work in honor of Coffin Hop 2013. Some of this is quite old, some of it not–guess which is which, Traveler. Perhaps a right answer will earn a stroke of fortune for you…
For this tour, I’ll be giving away one signed anthology in which a story of mine has been featured. Which anthology is up to the winner. Keep in mind, I reserve the right to award additional gifts as per Coffin Hop rules. Who knows–if I get a lot of hits, you might see a lot of rewards in the future. Be sure to click the badge at the side of my page and visit the other Hoppers!