Chasing Vivi(2)

By: A.M. Hargrove

“Just wondering. You seem to have your shit together. I’d think someone of your caliber would be working for a bigger company.”

Me too, I want to say. But I never talk about my personal life with anyone. Even though Vince is a nice guy, he’s young, only twenty-three, and I don’t trust him. I remember when I was his age, only a few years ago, but it seems a lifetime ago. He might get drunk and run his mouth to his buddies about how I thought our boss was a dickface. And there’s no way I’m going to dump my shitload of issues on his shoulders either.

“Thanks. I do have my shit together. This job presents a challenge, which is why I’m here.” It’s a bullshit answer, but I go back to working, hoping it suffices. I’m busy, my nose buried in the screen, keyboarding away, when the bell rings at least a dozen times, but I ignore it.

Vince interrupts me, asking if he can log on. Without breaking concentration, I tell him to go ahead and keep working. I’m on the back end of the program, so it won’t affect anything he’s doing.

Reaching over with my left hand to grab my coffee, I accidentally knock my cup over, creating an epic mess. I scramble to clean it up. When I finally glance up in search of more napkins to mop up the spill, I’m staring into the most gorgeous set of golden eyes, the exact ones I’d always dreamed about, the ones that made me do things at Crestview I told myself I didn’t agree with.

Standing before me is Prescott Beckham—the boy of my teenaged fantasies. He sat next to me in a lot of classes. We ended up as lab partners in chemistry and that was when he proposed the deal. Could I please, oh please, with hot fudge on top help him out with his homework? At first, I didn’t respond, but then he said he’d pay me. That grabbed my attention. I was desperate, broke, and didn’t have an extra penny to spend.

“I know you don’t have any cash. I’ve watched you at lunch. You eat cheap junk. Not even high dollar stuff. You like Oreos, but you eat those shitty fake kind. I’ll pay you. I have a lot of money, Vivi. Please?”

And those damn eyes. Oh, God, his gold-hued irises nearly buckled my knees. I caved and said I’d do it. But I made it clear it was only for the money, not because he’d asked nicely or I agreed with it. The truth was, the money was great, but I would’ve done it for free. He was that kind of guy—so persuasive, so difficult to say no to, so everything. Not to mention I was secretly in love with him.

I often dreamed about how one day he’d announce to the world that he didn’t mind that I was fat and unpopular, that he’d fallen for me anyway—me, in my too-tight skirt wrapped around my pudgy thighs, which certainly rubbed together. Why? Why did I torture myself like that? Why did I let myself believe a guy like him could fall for a girl like me?

Now, here he is in the flesh, all six plus feet of tall, dark, and insanely sexy. And it pisses me off that someone can look so damn edible. Dressed to kill, he’s wearing a lovely black coat, which I’m sure is toasty warm and probably cashmere. Peeking from beneath it is a crisp white shirt and striped blue tie. He’s come a long way from his Crestview uniform.

“Vivi? Vivienne Renard?” He squints. It’s the same face he sees but definitely not close to the same body. This is a common reaction with people I run into who only knew me in my school days. I’m sure he still pictures me in that old pleated skirt where I looked like I swallowed a gigantic balloon. I hated those awful uniforms.

My face remains impassive, or I hope it does, as I answer. “Um, yes?”

Maybe if I pretend not to remember him, he’ll go away.

“It’s me, Vivi. Prescott. Prescott Beckham. From Crestview.”

Dammit. Well, it was worth a try.

“Oh, right! Hi! How are you?”

“Fine, but wow. You look … amazing.”

And then I really study him for the first time. He doesn’t look so good. Okay, that’s not quite true. He’s gorgeous. He just doesn’t look as good as he used to. He looks … rough. That’s it. Prescott, who was always perfectly put together, is rough and edgy. The years seem to have taken a bit of a toll on him.

“Thanks.” I jerk my gaze away from him, because suddenly I’m uncomfortable. I don’t want to talk about anything to do with my personal life and I have a feeling that’s what’s coming.

“So, you work here?”

“I do.”

“Hmm. I’m surprised I haven’t run into you then. I’m in here every so often.”

“I guess our timing was off,” I say. Damn, I wonder how many times he actually comes in here. It’s a good thing I’ll be rotating to another coffee shop.

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