There Comes A Time – Part Three [FICTION]

Chai latte

Deb and Carla talk seriously about the future of the store. (Photo by Nick Medina, Flickr)

By seven o’clock, Carla was exhausted and ready to go home. Once she had put aside the painful thoughts that plagued her and gotten down to business, she accomplished a lot. She’d paid the company’s outstanding invoices, placed orders to restock their inventory, and made appointments with vendors to examine new merchandise samples over the next few weeks. Finally, she turned off the computer monitor, stretched, and walked out into the store with her purse slung over her shoulder, only to find Deb perched on one of the stools at the cafe counter, sipping tea. “Where’s Sonia?”

“She left already to drop off the night deposit at the bank and get home to that sweet little baby of hers,” Deb said. She and Sonia had already said goodbye to the last of their customers an hour before.

“Oh. Well you could have left too, you know. You didn’t need to wait for me.”

“I’ve got nothing better to do,” Deb said with a wink. “Besides, I hate to let this new chai go to waste, so I’ve been ending each evening on a high note.” She handed Carla a steaming mug.

Carla lifted the cup and sipped, and her eyes rolled back into her head. “Mmm, this is heavenly,” she said. “Thanks for this. Now let’s get out of here. I’m ready to take a long hot shower and put my feet up.”

Deb reached out and put a hand on Carla’s arm. “Not so fast. Come sit down with me for a minute.”

Reluctantly, Carla sat beside her friend. The two of them had worked together for years, even before she’d opened the door to Little Things a decade before, and they’d forged a strong bond between them. However, they hadn’t talked much during Carla’s hiatus from the store. “How did the Mommy and Me book club go tonight,” she asked, hoping to keep the conversation light.

“Very well. I think I’m going to have to put a limit on our attendance, or open up a second session. But you know that’s not what I want to talk to you about.” Deb leaned in and put her hand on Carla’s knee and gave it a gentle squeeze. “How are you holding up?”

Carla sighed. “As well as can be expected, given the circumstances. Some days I think I’m going to be fine, others I feel like I’m going to come apart at the seams.”

“And what kind of day was today for you?” Deb watched her with wise, knowing, clear blue eyes. Having raised a family of her own, including five children, she could sniff out a lie a mile away, and Carla knew it.

“The latter.”

“I thought so. This place has a lot of memories for you,” Deb said.

Carla nodded and stared at the floor. “I didn’t realize it would hurt so much to come back here. I was looking forward to it before I came through those doors, but then I saw the onesies, and it triggered thoughts of the boys, and…” She took another sip of the chai to calm herself. “Once I threw myself into the work, it wasn’t so bad. Staying busy is good for me. It’s when I’m left alone with my thoughts that I really go crazy.”

“Look, I’m not going to tell you what to do. You have to decide that for yourself. Sonia and I talked about it this afternoon though, and if you need more time, you’ve trained us well and we know how to manage things around here for you.”

“I need to work,” Carla began to argue.

“No, you need distractions. You need to keep moving. You’re afraid the memories will swallow you whole, and that terrifies you. Still, you have to keep walking through the nightmare to come out the other side.” Deb’s voice was calm and authoritative, mostly because she’d suffered trauma in her own past, so she understood how Carla felt.

“I joined a gym,” Carla said, offering the information with a smile. “I even made a new friend there today.”

Deb smiled. “Trainers don’t count.”

Carla rolled her eyes. “No, it’s not a trainer. There’s a lady there named Daphne. She’s at least six feet tall and has this insane mane of curly hair. But she’s lost a hundred pounds, although she still has more to go, and she’s pretty funny.”

“She sounds like a nice person, not to mention an inspirational one,” Deb said. “And going to the gym is a start. What I was saying though is this: if you want to leave operations in my hands for a while, I am up for the task.”

“What about your grandkids?”

“What about them? It wouldn’t hurt for them to be in day care. Besides, their parents depend on me too much as it is. I never made my mom watch my kids for me.”

Carla laughed. “You were a stay-at-home mom.”

“That’s beside the point. But if you need to steer clear of here for a little while longer, you can still stay busy. Do some charity work. Plant a garden. There are lots of ways to stay busy without coming in here.”

“I’ll think about it.” She drained her cup and stood to place it in the sink. “Now let’s get out of here. My bathtub is calling my name.”

Deb stood and washed their mugs, then went to turn off the lights to the shop and set the alarm. Only the front window displays stayed illuminated at night. When they stepped out into the night air, she hugged her employer and said goodnight before she turned to walk down the street to the townhouse she’d lived in most of her adult life.

Carla stood looking at the shop windows for a moment. The girls do understand the business, she thought, admiring the display. A toy rocking horse sat in one corner beside a beautiful bassinet and a mannequin of a pregnant mother holding her belly standing nearby. It was a lovely scene. As she stared at it though, she realized she wasn’t alone. There was someone standing behind her, and she could see a reflection in the storefront window. She spun around with a start.

“Hello, Carla.”

“Oh Detective, it’s you!” She clutched her hand to her chest, the sudden fear having taken her breath for a moment.

“I’m sorry if I frightened you,” he said, wearing the kind smile she’d come to know so well. “But we need to talk.”

The Chesterfield closing went well, without any hiccups, and both Lance and Daphne were relieved. After the clients left, Lance finished out his day returning calls in an empty office while Daphne sorted the paperwork, made copies, and then packaged it all to send to the corporate offices. She was just wrapping up for the afternoon when Lance walked in and sat down in the chair across from her and crossed his long legs elegantly, making himself comfortable. “So Moretti, what’s on your docket tonight?”

“Docket? I’m not the lawyer here, you are,” she said, grinning at him. As they had closed the deal, she realized that there was more of a rapport between them than she had originally thought. Perhaps that happens over time as we grow up and leave high school behind, she thought.

“You know what I mean. Are you free? Or do you have a husband and a bunch of hungry children to go home and feed?”

Daphne shook her head, sending her curls flying. “No husband, no kids,” she said. Then, noticing the way his lips curled upward at the edges in a little smirk, she added, “and no cats either.”

He lifted his hands in truce. “Hey, I never said you were a cat lady.”

“Mmmhmm. I could see what you were thinking.”

“Am I that transparent? I thought I was better at hiding what I was thinking. I need to work on that. Could prove my undoing in the courtroom.” He grinned, and it sent the butterflies in her stomach fluttering as it always did. “So what about it? Want to join me for dinner? It would be like old times.”

Daphne laughed out loud. “Old times? We never went to dinner together! You were too busy with all the cheerleaders.”

“True,” he admitted. “So allow me to rectify the situation. Besides, I make a mean steak.”

That caught her totally by surprise. “You want to cook for me?”

“Only if you promise not to tell anyone,” he said, his most charming grin firmly in place.

Daphne sat back in her chair, her old insecurity returning. “Afraid it would ruin your reputation if word got out that you had dinner with the big girl from high school?”

Lance’s smile disappeared. “Your words, not mine. And no, that’s not what I meant. I merely meant that I rarely cook for others, and I don’t want people expecting an invitation to my home. I don’t entertain often.”

“So why me?”

“Moretti, why are you so suspicious? You’ve been like that since we were kids. I never understood it, not then and not now.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

Lance sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “I like you. We have history, maybe not a lot, but it’s there. Besides, I’ve always thought you were funny, even if you didn’t like to let others see that side of you very much. You always had a wall up. Let it down once in a while. You might be surprised what happens.” The edge in his voice sounded suspiciously frustrated, and perhaps even a little bit angry.

Daphne’s jaw tightened as she contemplated his offer. What are you really up to? Is this pity? Are you being genuine? Or do you think I’m just an easy mark and everyone in your little black book is busy tonight? She had so many questions, but the last one to cross her mind was the one that really startled her. Are I really so insecure that I’m about to turn down dinner with the one boy I had a crush on all through high school? “Okay,” she said before she could change her mind.

“What do you mean, okay,” he said.

“I mean, okay. Let’s go to dinner. May I bring some wine,” she asked.

“Really? You’ll come?” His eyes instantly brightened, and he actually looked excited that she’d accepted his invitation.

“Just don’t make me regret it,” she said as she pulled her purse out of a drawer and set it on top of her desk. “That steak better live up to the hype. I take my beef seriously,” she said as a grin once again danced on her lips.

“Oh, I have no doubt,” he said, looking even more devilishly handsome to her now than he had back in high school.

Click here to read part two of There Comes A Time or click here to return to the very beginning. 

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to There Comes A Time – Part Three [FICTION]

  1. Jathan Fink says:

    Reblogged this on Jadeworks Entertainment and commented:

    In part three of our new original serial story, THERE COMES A TIME, Deb and Carla consider the store’s future while Daphne decides whether or not she can trust Lance. Enjoy!

  2. Pingback: There Comes A Time – Part Four [FICTION] | Jathan Fink

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