by LARA JADE
I sat at the bar counter and rolled silverware into napkins.
“So, you and Sammy see that movie last night?” Rosemary asked.
“Nope,” I responded and couldn’t help but smirk.
“Instead?” she pushed.
“Called it!” she gushed.
“How was it?”
“Stop!” I groaned as the bell rang over the door. I paused and turned my head to see my reoccurring stalker. He sat in the booth as usual and looked at Rosemary.
“I’m taken. Your turn,” I smirked but spoke quietly.
“Fine. Suit yourself,” Rosemary shrugged and walked herself over. “Hi, I’m Rose. What can I get you?” I heard her ask him kindly. I peeked over to see he looked from her to me. I turned away and began placing the utensils I wrapped into a plastic bin.
“Um… why isn’t she taking my order?” he asked. My heart nearly fluttered at how sad he sounded.
“She had a rough night. Poor girl-,” I heard Rosemary begin. I grabbed the bin and walked over to them.
“The usual?” I asked him making sure to stop Rosemary from saying any more.
“Yep. Thanks, sweetheart,” He smiled. Rosemary frowned at me and followed as I entered the kitchen. I put away the bin and washed my hands.
“Jaz, you’re not mad. Are you?”
“I’m a little upset, my personal life is none of that guy’s business,”
“Well, maybe you just need to give him a hint?”
“He knows I’m not single,”
“How? Does he know Sam?”
“Sam came in the other day-,”
“Sam offered to take you to a movie. What’s a guy going to think about that? And the way he asked screamed, 'we’re just friends' Jaz,”
“He followed me home!” I snapped. I didn’t want to tell her, but I was getting too frustrated with her constant pushing.
“He what?” she asked with wide wyes.
“He followed me home the first night he showed up, then he followed me again, and I think he was watching Sam and I make out…”
“What a creep! Oh my god, did you call the cops? Has Sam said anything?”
“Absolutely. I was so scared the first night Sam drew him from my description for the cops. I didn’t let him take it to the station though,”
“He hasn’t tried to hurt me. All he does is look… what is he doing wrong?”
“FOLLOWING YOU HOME!” she stated.
“Shh! It will be okay. He’ll stop, or I can bring it up to him. We’ll see. Maybe he lives by Sam, and I'm paranoid,” I shrugged. She nodded when Jason shoved the man’s plate in my hand.
“Good luck,” She said.
I walked out and filled up a glass of water. I sat down the man's meal, and he peeked up at me.
“You remembered?” he asked with a sly grin.
“Hard to forget someone who waits for me to get off work,” I tried. He pulled his fork out and took a bite of his eggs.
“Making sure you get to your okay is a crime?” he shrugged.
“And following me home?” I asked. I noticed his jaw clench, and he took another bite of his food.
“This is really good. Who’s the cook?” he asked looking up at me.
“Jason Shepard. But seriously-,”
“Aye Jason!” the man yelled. I turned and saw Jason peek at him from the kitchen window.
“This is the shit, man!”
“Thank you,” Jason replied, and he looked pretty damn pleased. I rolled my eyes and looked down at the man to see him staring up at me. He winked, and I officially gave up trying to talk to him. I returned to the counter and cashed out an older woman. Time was going by incredibly slow today. I sat down and continued to wrap utensils until they were all done. The man approached me with his receipt, and he looked down at the floor instead of at me when he spoke.
“Can you cash me out?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I sighed. He handed me the cash and the receipt.
“Don’t worry about the change. But be sure to check out the back of the receipt. I think it had something on it,” He said. I watched him wave and turn to walk out to his car. I flipped the receipt over and read,
Rosemary stood over my shoulder and smirked.
“Oooh. T! Mr. Martin, what do you think his name is?” Rosemary smirked.
“I don’t know. He looks like a Tyler… maybe?” he asked.
“He does look like a Tyler… maybe Travis?”
“Eh…” Mr. Martin didn’t quite agree, and it made me giggle.
“Guys, stop. Sam and I are happy,”
“You’re back with Sammy then?” Mr. Martin asked.
“If that boy hurts you again-,”
“Don’t be so certain. You deserve to be happy, Jazmine,"
“I know. It was my fault I broke up with Sam. I was dumb,” I felt my phone buzz and I slipped it out of my apron to see a text from my friend, Jena. We went to school together and have been stuck like glue since.
“Dress shopping for my mom’s wedding. Go with me for fitting? – Jena”
I smiled and replied,
“Sure! I get off at three!"
I called Jena, and we decided to meet at Colleen’s Bridal in Silverton Outlets. A small, but beautiful outlet mall on the side of the highway. The whole small town was about ten minutes to get anywhere, but that was quite convenient. I parked in the big lot at the back and walked my way down the sidewalk to find her standing outside waiting for me. I followed her inside and sat down on one of the shorter sofas.
“I’ll go get the dress,” She said. I waited and turned to look out the window behind me. There were several people out and walked from shop to shop. However, there was one person who crossed my mind, and he just so happened to be crossing the street coming toward the store. His eyes, however, for once, were not on me. Though instead, they were watching where he was stepping.
“What do you think?” I heard Jena’s voice. I spun my head around to look at her, and I was pleasantly surprised. Her mom’s taste wasn’t as bad as I expected.
“That looks beautiful!” I complimented as she stood up on the small stool. A woman came over with a tape measure and began measuring her out. We talked a bit, the woman adjusting her dress was really sweet. Once she tried on the dress and the lady took measurements, we returned outside. I stopped when I noticed the man, “T” still standing outside the shop. Finally, I snapped.
“Excuse me a second,” I said to Jena. She nodded, but I felt her eyes on me as I stomped over to the man.
“Hey, sweetheart,” He smirked.
“Why are you following me? I want an answer this time!" I growled.
“Excuse me? I’m here to get some more work clothes,” He said motioning to the store next door which was, in fact, a men's apparel retailer.
“Wh-Well…” I sputtered unsure of what to say next. He narrowed his eyes in on me and I had to look away. Jena watched me in confusion. “Right. Sorry.” I said. Before he could respond, I walked the ten feet over to Jena.
“Who is that?”
“I don’t really know his name…” I responded and began walking into the crosswalk.
My body flew back and someone’s arm slid around my waist as I fell against someone’s chest.
“Thank you. Oh god, Jaz are you okay?” Jena asked from beside me. I turned around to see the man looking down at me.
“Jazmine?” his rough voice asked.
“I’m-I’m fine,” I responded.
“Who are you?” Jena asked him.
“Uh…” he began and turned to look down at me again. It took me a moment to realize he still had his arm around me and I was starting to fall over. “Tom.”
“I’m Jena.” She introduced herself and shook his other hand.
“Nice to meet you.” He added.
“Sam is gonna flip if you tell him you almost got hit!" Jena sighed.
“That’s why we don’t mention it.” I began and pulled myself away from Tom. I found myself missing his warmth as I felt a cool breeze blow against my face. “Tom pulled me away in time. No need to worry Sam.” I shrugged. Tom nodded in approval and we all shared an awkward moment of silence.
“Well, I’ll be on my way then.” I said. Jena nodded and hugged me, again shaking Tom’s hand. I looked both ways, then crossed the street, walking back to my car. Tom. Tom, what? I didn’t think that would be his name… but it fit him perfectly.
I drove to Sam’s and he was rushing around when I entered the living room of his apartment.
“Whoa, where’s the fire?” I asked.
“I have to pick up a shift at the store,” Sam sighed. I couldn’t help but smirk at the image of Sam bagging groceries. He was working in almost every department and was making fifty cents less than the manager.
“Okay. I’ll see you tonight,” I smiled.
“Yeah. Bye!” He responded and left with a quick kiss goodbye.
I only sat around for about an hour when I decided to walk a block over to a small dive bar named, Luigi’s. I walked in to see a group of older men playing poker and a few college kids playing pool. I smirked to myself as I made my way over.
“Mind if I join?” I asked. They looked up at me and began looking at each other with boyish grins. I rolled my eyes and held up a twenty as I removed my jacket and grabbed a que.
The door of the bar opened and I looked up to see Tom. “Seriously?” I huffed to myself. He looked over at me and walked up to the bar, taking a seat. “Finish this up then call me over,” I said taking back my twenty and grabbing my jacket. I approached the weathered wooden stool next to Tom and he peeked at me while he took a gulp of his beer.
“Are you following me?” he asked.
“I was here first-,”
“Are you a mind reader?”
“Why are you here?” I asked sitting next to him.
“I wanted a beer.”
“Right,” I sighed in disbelief as the bartender sat a drink in front of me. “I didn’t-,”
“He did,” The bartender shrugged, clearly used to the confusion. I looked down the bar to see one of the guys from the pool table smiling at me. He sheepishly looked away and I rolled my eyes, turning back to Tom.
“Guess I’ll take a rain check on playing pool,” I commented and took a sip of the drink.
“I wouldn’t drink that,” He said taking another gulp of his drink.
“Why?” I asked. Tom went to speak, but instead his eyes landed next to me.
“Hey. I’m Travis,” A man said. I looked over my shoulder to see the guy from down the bar.
“Hi. Thanks,” I said lifting the drink.
“No problem. You wanted to play?” he asked nodding his head over to the pool table. It wasn’t even the small amount of alcohol I consumed, but I felt dizzy at all the smells in the room. The smell of leather and alcohol was strong, along with an overwhelming amount of cologne coming off this Travis guy.
“She changed her mind," Tom said looking Travis over.
“I’m sorry… who are you?” Travis asked.
“He’s just some guy I know,” I shrugged.
“Okay,” Travis said and I stood up.
“I would go kick your ass at some pool, but I should probably get home,”
“I’ll take you-,”
“Her boyfriend won’t like that,” Tom smirked into his glass.
“What? Are you her boyfriend?” Travis scoffed and gripped my wrist. I went to rip my hand free, but before I could Tom stood up and took Travis’ shirt into his fists and pushed him against the wall.
“If you touch her again it’s not her boyfriend you should worry about,” Tom growled. I rubbed my wrist that twisted out of Travis’ grip. Tom released Travis and he scurried past me, over to his friends. The green tinted lighting in the bar made Tom look extremely intimidating. “I’ll walk you home,” Tom said and threw a twenty on the bar top. I slid on my jacket and walked out with him.
We made it down the street before I decided to speak.
“Thank you, for that… and this,” I said.
“Don’t mention it,” he responded with a slight shrug of his broad shoulders. I watched his features carefully. The intimidating look from the bar vanished under the street lamps. He looked softer, almost vulnerable. We walked until we were about two doors down from Sam’s apartment and I turned to face Tom.
“I can walk the rest of the way,” I said.
“Right. Your boyfriend," He said. Not in a rude way, just stating the obvious.
“Yeah. I appreciated everything today Tom. Thank you,"
“Yeah," he smiled. I nodded and walked to the apartment. As I walked up the steps and opened the door, I turned to see Tom was nowhere in sight.
Part Four Coming Soon!