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Written in the Stars

 
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Trick
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Adult Wyrm
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:33 pm    Post subject: Written in the Stars Reply with quote

Chapter One



“Dude. You look like you’re going to be sick.”

Patrick Richie breathed in deeply through his nose. He ignored his teammate and best friend, Conrad Haynes, whom everyone affectionately called Connie, and focused on a spot in the distance while attempting to quell the queasiness currently rocking his stomach. Nerves had gotten the best him; they always did, especially before a television interview. He imagined the makeup melting off his face as he sweat bullets in nervous anticipation of the big announcement he planned to make on air, live in front of a studio audience.

“Chill,” Connie directed, trying to be helpful. He was a couple years older than Trick on the far side of twenty, with an entire year and a half more experience in the racing business than him. Taller and broader, he easily fit his arm around the younger boy’s shoulders.

Finally, Trick turned his head to look at him. Connie looked put together for once. The styling team had trimmed his beard and tamed his hair; he was less burly lumberjack now and more bearded hipster thanks to the blazer and tie they’d put him in.

“I am chill.”

Connie barked a rough laugh, sounding skeptical. “Just think: you’re almost out of here. No one’s going to stick a camera in your face again after this.”

“I know. I was talking to Penny the other day and I think it was the first time I said out loud how many days I’ve got left. It was like reality smacked me hard across the face. I remember when I thought I was going to lose my mind having to wait so long, but now it’s here.”

“Penny, huh?”

Someone wearing a headset ushered them toward the edge of the stage. The studio was buzzing with activity, just minutes away from going on the air. Mark Kurily, one of the show’s hosts, was already on stage. The pretty, leggy blonde who’d done Trick’s makeup was busy applying another dash of powder to his face. He stared at her for several seconds until Connie elbowed him lightly in the ribs.

“What?”

“Nothing. At least it wasn’t Ed.”

Patrick grimaced, but his expression was colored by a hint of guilt. “I almost called him last night.”

“If the stylist didn’t look like she’d kill me for getting blood on your snazzy suit, I’d punch you. The **** are you doing? You’re almost free, man.”

He didn’t answer.

Connie turned to look at him seriously. “It’s a bad idea.”

“I know, I know,” Trick sighed, rolling his eyes. “I only thought about giving him a heads up about this.” He gestured vaguely with one hand, indicating the stage and implying everything that was to come out during the interview.

“He doesn’t deserve a heads up about anything. I hope he sees it and feels bad.”

“I hope he doesn’t see it at all,” Trick countered. “After I thought about it, I just don’t want him to know anything. I don’t want to see him. I just want to get through the next week and a half and then…” They both allowed the sentence to trail off into silence. It was just as well since a moment later someone announced--

“Quiet on set!”
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Previously...

“These shoes are killing me.” Shifting her weight from her left foot to her right, Nohemi Henaghan leaned against the dressing table where her friend and associate Richa Banerjee was sifting through a photo album of sample styles for their latest clients.

“You’re a nightmare in heels, ‘Hemi. You know that don’t you?” By that, Richa meant that Nohemi was already tall at six foot one. Adding an extra few inches made her an intimidating giant, especially to someone like Richa who was only five foot five. When she wore heels, she still did not meet Nohemi eye to eye.

“She’s a sexy, fierce, jaw-dropping nightmare,” Simone Carrington said, adding a growly purr to the end of her statement. She was Nohemi’s loudest advocate and had been since they were children, but never so thunderous in her support since they were teenagers. Nohemi smiled her gratitude at her friend as she came to perch sideways on the other side other dressing table.

All around them, the studio was only starting to stir. People were shuffling in from all angles, chugging down extra large paper mugs of coffee. Nohemi still could not believe that they had been hired to work this event. August Ellington had called them up personally to request their services at a press conference for Bluestar Racing, all thanks to an unexpected drop-in appointment from his wife several weeks ago. She had been so impressed with their work that she had insisted her husband call. Now here they were, preparing to meet the team and make them camera ready.

“I feel like I’m going to throw up.”

Richa lifted a waste bin out from under the dressing table and plunked it on top. “Please use this,” she said. Simone laughed as she circled round to rub reassuringly between Nohemi’s shoulders.

“Oh, honey. It’s nerves. Sit yourself down and let me fix up your hair.” She pulled a chair out. Nohemi smoothed her hands over the back of her skirt and sat carefully. Her spine was rigid with the anxiety she was feeling.

Simone set to work pulling a comb through her long blonde hair to gently work out any tangles. As she did so, she hummed a soothing melody, something she had always done since they were young. She had a way of boosting Nohemi’s confidence without having to say much at all. Just making her look pretty seemed to do the trick. This time was no different than any other. As she looked up at her reflection in the mirror, Simone was just adding the finishing touch of securing the loose bun she had created with a pair of decorative chopsticks. Nohemi smiled at her own reflection.

“Thank you,” she said quietly.

“Think nothing of it,” Simone said, primping her own short, glossy black curls. Their reflections shared a smile with each other before they both looked away, and then Richa shooed them from her work station.

“When shall we three meet again?” she called.

“When the hurly-burly’s done,” Simone replied.

Laughing, Nohemi finished the line. “When the battle’s lost and won!”

They parted ways to their own separate workstations. Looking back, Nohemi could see Richa making animated gestures at her two assistants. Eric Diaz was of a nearly level height with the Indian woman, with maybe an inch or two extra. His complexion was lighter than hers, and he had a tendency to flinch any time she looked at him. Shane Hunter was taller even than Nohemi with broad shoulders and fair skin that he put time into tanning. He was not quite as skittish as Eric, but he jumped to Richa’s commands with the surety that he shared his co-worker’s crush. That was her secret to keeping them in line.

Simone had no assistants, but she took great pleasure in terrorizing the media interns who scurried about fetching lattes and bagels for all the celebrities in the building. The woman had a mouth on her that could subdue even a honey badger, she was certain. Though it was detrimental to one’s health to cross her, Nohemi knew, underneath it all she was a truly caring person. She was the gentlest and most proficient hair stylist too.

Nohemi’s work started after Simone’s was done. Hair first, then makeup, and then clothes. They had a small selection of novices on loan from the beauty institute to assist them as needed, but they worked best as a trio, aiding each other. Nohemi would hand Simone combs and clippers that she requested, and vice versa Simone would help sort out her brushes and applicators. In the meantime, she set up her kit on the table and got things organized.

They clustered together in the middle of the room as the Bluestar Racing team filed in. Polite introductions were made, hands shaken, names mostly forgotten. Nohemi felt herself blushing at how overwhelming it was to be in the face of celebrity. Simone nudged her, making a sly remark and pointing out the beefy ones. Richa played along, only to frustrate Eric and Shane, and knowing this made the three of them share a giggle. Then they got to work.

The morning went by so quickly that she hardly remembered most of it. As Nohemi applied the foundation and powder so that the men did not appear washed out on camera, Richa lifted fabric samples besides their faces and compared to make the best choices in wardrobe. The photo samples were not good enough, in her opinion.

When Patrick Richie took his turn in her chair, Nohemi introduce herself again. She was unsettled by his lack of a response until she saw the earbuds in place. Then, she angled herself until their eyes met, locked, and held. The surrounding world faded as the blue depths of his eyes swallowed her up. She smiled and touched a finger to her own ear.

“Oh,” he said, startled, and pulled the earbud free. “Sorry.”

“It’s all right,” Nohemi assured him. “I was just saying hello. I’m Nohemi Henaghan. I’m going to do your makeup. Okay?” She tilted her head in the way that Richa called ‘charming anime girl style,’ and kept her smile strong.

“Er. Yeah okay,” the young man replied. He squirmed a little on his seat.

Nohemi laughed lightly. “You can put those back in, but could you turn the wires back over your shoulders and behind your ears, please? I wouldn’t want to get them messy.”

“Oh yeah. Yeah sure.” With a nervous smile, he did as she requested.

“Thank you,” she said, and tapped her ear again. Patrick smiled as he put his earbuds back in.

Using mostly pantomime, she directed him to close his eyes when she needed him to, and worked silently on his face so as not to disturb his listening. It was not music. The dull murmur she could barely hear under the hustle and bustle surrounding them had no discernable backbeat. Whatever it was, he clearly enjoyed it, and she did not want to disturb him. Though she did ask him to remove the earbud one more time to wish him luck on his interview. He stopped to just look at her for a long, awkward moment, and the only reaction she felt compelled to give was another cartoon pleasant smile. He blinked, thanked her, turned, and left.

Later, when the whole team was polished and dressed, they were allowed to stand backstage and watch from a shadowy alcove. Simone nudged her and leaned close to her ear, saying, “He’s cute, huh?”

“Hm?” Nohemi, startled, stood straight and too tall. Her eyebrows lifted. “Who?”

“Their star poster boy. The young one. Richie.”

“Oh sure. Yeah,” Nohemi replied cautiously. “I guess he is.”

“Are you trying to hook her up again, Simone?” Richa interjected with a scoff.

“Me? Never! Wouldn’t dream of it!”

A passing intern shushed them, though they had not actually raised their voices. That was enough to end their conversation, but Nohemi shifted nervously from one foot to the other. These heeled boots really had been the worst choice in footwear for the day.

They watched the rest of the interview in silence. This was a ritual they indulged in whenever given leave. Their gazes roamed, examining every little detail, taking in the lighting and how well they had managed to combat the glare. The lot of them were spotless, perfect, not a wrinkle in their temporary suits nor a hair out of place. Before it was over, they turned to silently congratulate each other with a three-way fist bump and shared their smiles. They packed up their kits, their bags, and their wardrobe boxes. Eric and Shane lugged the heavier trunks down to the van with their logo printed on the side: Weird Sisters Inc.
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Trick
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

They were flanked by their teammates Jesse and Balfour, one on each side, and together they all watched as the set came to life with lights and music alike. Soon cameras were rolling and wild applause filled the studio as audience members cheered for the appearance of Rhydin’s favorite talk show duo as they strolled out to center stage.

“Thank you!” Mark said over the dull roar of the crowd. He was a charming fellow with a killer smile who stood head and shoulders over his co-host, Leslie, a perky brunette wearing bright red lipstick that matched her dress. She smiled graciously at the audience, waving to their adoring fans while Mark tried to quell the noise. “Thank you very much, all of you. Thanks for being here everybody.” It took another handful of seconds for the applause and the hollers to die down. He and Leslie took their seats in a pair of low, plush chairs on the dais.

“Leslie and I would like to thank all of you for joining us on this wintery Friday morning, both here in the audience and at home.”

“We have a fantastic lineup for you all today. You all know what we like to do on this show; we like to entertain, which is why we’ve got rising stars Epsilon In Overdrive performing their newest song later in the segment.” Leslie smiled prettily at the response from the audience, waiting a few seconds before continuing. “But we also like to inform. Because we don’t want you to just be entertained, we want our viewers to feel like they’ve got their fingers on the pulse of all the latest news and gossip. So we have a trick for you all this morning--”

“A trick, Leslie?” Mark interjected. “Don’t you mean a treat?”

She smiled broadly. “Oh, I’m sure he’s a treat, too, Mark. But I’m talking about Bluestar’s Patrick Richie.”

Mark chuckled at their scripted joke, even as members of the audience catcalled in anticipation. “In fact, we’ve got the entire team here with us this morning.” He nodded along as another wave of applause crashed through the studio. “Here to give us the skinny on the their upcoming season, as well as let us in on the details behind their most recent press release, please join us in welcoming Bluestar Racing team members Jesse Chandler, Balfour Hellcast, Conrad Haynes, and Patrick Richie!”

That was their cue. Trick sauntered out with the others, smiling and waving, and took their seats. He could hear the strident screams of female fans calling his name. Through the glare of the spotlights he could see one particularly exuberant fan holding a handmade sign with a picture of Connie’s face surrounded by a glittery heart.

“Hello, gentlemen!” Leslie greeted, pulling Trick’s attention back from the audience to her smiling face. “It’s good to have you with us today.” She reached out, touching Trick’s knee as he was nearest and giving it a fond pat.

“I’d say our audience agrees,” Mark chimed in. The audience swelled with another round of screams and catcalls, but they quieted more quickly this time than before.

“It’s great to be here, Mark,” Jesse drawled politely. The rest of the men bobbed their heads in mutual agreement.

“We’re just gonna dive right in,” Leslie gushed, scooting to the edge of her seat and locking her gaze on Patrick. “Because I’m sure the audience is dying to know. I know I am.” She tittered a lyrical laugh, taking her hand back from the boy’s knee to lean on the arm of her chair instead.

“All right,” Patrick replied easily, smiling handsomely. This was it. Announcing it to the world somehow made his decision feel more real than ever.

“Earlier this week, AERA made a press release announcing that you, Patrick, would not be in the racing line-up this season--or any season for the foreseeable future. Your fan base exploded with the announcement. Were you expecting such an enormous response?”

“No, honestly, I wasn’t. It kind of blew me away -- how fast news traveled. We’ve had to keep it all under wraps until it was a sure thing, and then the press release dropped. By that night my inbox was flooded with hundreds and hundred of messages.”

“And I bet the overwhelming question on everyone’s mind was ‘why?’, am I right?”

“Yeah. I guess I owe it to my fans out there, but before I get to my reasons, I’d like to just talk a little bit about the things that are important to me. First of all, actually, I want to say this is terrifying, even talking about the process. It’s a huge decision that has weighed on me for months and… you know, I’m not afraid to admit that it’s scary. So bear with me on that.” He chuckled nervously, adjusting his position in the arm chair to angle himself toward the hosts.

“I’ve been racing for a year now. I never thought I’d trade it for anything; it’s changed my life in countless ways and I owe my thanks to a lot of people. My sister, Mallory -- she’s been there for me through everything. Always supporting me and pushing me to do more, do better. Mr. Ellington for his faith in me, the time and attention he’s poured into helping me become a better racer. My pit crew for always having my back and for being a seamless team. And these guys here,” Trick said, gesturing to the three men seated beside him. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. It’s been an absolute blast to be part of this team, this family. There are no better men in the world, and I’m glad to have been around them.

“I also want to thank the fans out there. Without you, we’d all just be flying around in circles with nobody watching. That’s not any fun. The fans are what make this sport truly great. On the one hand, I’m sorry that the decision has come as such a disappointment to others. I’m honored, really, to have so many wonderful people out there who idolize and look up to me. But that’s actually part of the reason I made the decision to step away from racing.”

“So is this an announcement of retirement?” Mark asked.

“No. No, we’re not going to say that word. In fact, Mr. Ellington has very generously assured me that I’ll still have a spot on the team when I’m ready to come back.

“Look. As much as I love racing, and love the family I’ve built, I know there’s more that I can do for the world out there. I’ve been… struggling, I guess you could say, with some personal stuff and haven’t been too happy with myself over some of the decisions I’ve made. So I had a choice: do I continue on this path of questionable decisions or do I take a leap of faith and apply myself to something that I know will help me make the kind of difference in the world that I want to? I want to be a better person, a stronger person. A better competitor, a better teammate, a better friend to people. I think this next chapter of my life will help me do those things.”

“And what does the next chapter look like for Patrick Richie?”

A frisson of nervous excitement zipped down his spine in the face of finally making everything public. Trick’s smile for the camera’s was dazzling. “You all here,” he began, nodding to the hosts before turning his attention to look squarely at the cameras, “and everyone watching at home are the first to know, officially, that I have joined the Rhydin Air and Space Guard.”

Each of his teammates leaned in to clap a supportive, congratulatory hand on him. Patrick didn’t think his smile could get any bigger; his cheeks hurt for smiling so much. He couldn’t remember the last time anything had made him quite so happy.

“Wow,” remarked Leslie, unable to contain her shock. “That is a big move, Patrick, going from Fame to Fleet. Am I right in guessing you’re wanting to become a pilot?”

He nodded enthusiastically. “The flight program at RASG is a prestigious program; I’m honored to have been accepted. I honestly can’t wait to get started.”

“How did this all come about?” Leslie interjected. “There’s been some speculation that your decision to leave the team wasn’t really your decision at all. Anything you’d care to clear up about that?”

Conrad scoffed, rising from his seat to reach into Trick’s space and gather him into a tight bear hug. “Like we’d let him leave for anything less important.”

The two grappled with one another through the display of affection, Patrick choking on a laugh as, finally, Connie released him and they both sat back down. He brushed a hand through his hair, trying to fluff it back into some semblance of respectability. “Thanks, bro, I love you, too.”

Connie playfully mouthed the sentiment back at him while forming the shape of a heart with his hands.

Everyone chuckled, including Trick, who refocused his attention on Mark and Leslie. “I know that gossip and stories getting twisted comes with the territory. I’m honestly used to it by now. But this really was all me. Honest! Sometimes you just need to get away and do something completely different. Like a life cleanse. I think everybody who knows me knows I’m a fairly private person, so no… I’m not going to go into explicit detail here. But I’ll say this: I’m working on who I am as a person. And I’ve always said that if you want to help yourself, you’ve got to help others first. Joining RASG, I’m going to be able to help other people. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Mark sat forward in his seat, leveling Patrick with a serious expression. “That’s a really noble stance to take. It’s admirable -- what you’re doing. And quite the commitment, too.”

“It is a big commitment. Yeah. Four years.”

“You said Bluestar’s team owner has every intention of welcoming you back later on… so is that the plan? To make a return to the circuit when your military contract is up?”

“I can’t--” Trick shook his head and crossed his legs, ankle to knee. “I can’t predict the future, so I don’t really know how to answer that question.” A crooked smile made an appearance. “I had my sister read my cards for me, though.”

“All fame and glory, I hope.”

“No, that was my fortune,” Conrad piped up.

Balfour snorted, punching Connie in the shoulder. “Mine, you mean.”

Everyone was laughing, even the people off-stage. “I’ve already got fame and glory, Leslie.” He flashed his megawatt smile, making her sigh. He wished he could be this charming in real life, but this persona did not exist beyond the glare of stage lights and camera lenses.

“Yes!” she exclaimed animatedly. “You certainly finished the season with a bang.”

Jesse, seated just behind Trick on the dias, clasped a hand down on his shoulder and gave Trick a shake. “I’ve got no doubt in my mind he’s going to go on to do even greater things. I, for one, fully support him in this. If there’s anyone I want up there keeping us all safe, it’s this guy right here.”

“Hear, hear!” Balfour boomed.

Trick flushed, directing a mildly self-conscious smile at his lap. The rest of the interview was a blur. The topic of conversation veered away from Patrick and his big announcement, focusing more on his teammates and their own accomplishments as seasoned AERA racers, and what the team had in store for the upcoming season.

--

When they were finally off the air and within the safety of their dressing room, Trick heaved a dramatic sigh of relief. He clawed at the necktie that was choking him to death and began to undress, his fellow teammates doing the same.

“You made it! Your last interview.” Connie grinned at him.

“Thank God,” Trick said, casting his clothes aside. “You lied to me when you said I’d get used to them. I never did.”

“Kid, I’ve been doing this for two decades. It never gets easier,” said Jesse. “You got played.”

“Obviously.” Patrick pulled his own clothes on. He disliked suits. They didn’t offer him the kind of comfortable freedom that a pair of jeans and a t-shirt did. And now he’d signed away the next four years of his life to wear a uniform 24/7. It was a tiny entry on the list of cons, vastly outweighed by the biggest pro: becoming an actual pilot. Having that title under his belt covered a multitude of inconveniences; it was worth it.

“It’s too bad, though.” Balfour stood in the middle of the room in just his boxers. “I know something RASG ain’t got. Hot girls.” Trick and Connie both snickered. Jesse, older than them all and happily married, gave a dignified snort. “Like them ones that got us ready today?”

“There’s women in the military, Bal.” Trick argued.

“Not like these! Did you see the ass on that hair stylist?” The half-dwarf brought a gnarled, meaty hand to his mouth, kissing his fingertips as though she had been a delicious dessert.

The grating sound of Balfour’s voice faded into white noise as Patrick’s mind drifted to several hours earlier when he’d locked eyes with the makeup stylist. He could still picture her smile and the two, tiny beauty marks near the corner of her mouth, and the way she’d tilted her head while looking at him. She’d bewitched him without ever uttering a word. It was while he was daydreaming about his imaginary, more confident self having made a good impression by introducing himself to her properly that Trick realized both Connie and Balfour were staring at him with stupid grins on their faces.

“What?” he asked cautiously.

Both men erupted into raucous, amused laughter and descended upon him like a plague. “Which one is it?”

“Is it ass girl?”

Patrick grimaced, shoving Balfour out of his space. “You’re such a pig, man. She has a name.”

“Do you know it?”

“No,” he admitted, ducking when the half-dwarf tried to get him in a headlock. “But I know it’s not ass girl.”

Connie swooped in from behind, preventing him from escape. “I happened to really appreciate the aesthetic appeal of that Indian chick.”

“You have a girlfriend! I’m telling Océane,” Trick threatened.

Connie shrugged. “She’ll forget to be mad at me when I tell her you’ve got the hots for someone.”

He was right, Trick knew. Océane was even more ravenous in her attempts to set him up with people. He’d been dragged along on several double dates with her friends. None of the pairings ever went anywhere. It wasn’t that they were bad matches, he just didn’t have a desire to start dating someone he knew he’d have to leave behind when he went to flight school.

Long distance was a scenario he intended to avoid at all costs. That’s how his first serious relationship turned sour. Two weeks and hundreds of thousands of miles between him and his boyfriend, Ed, had been a recipe for disaster. That story ended in bloodshed and tears and a yet wounded heart a whopping nine months later. Whether or not he’d ever fully recover from the ordeal was still up in the air.

“Help me out here, Jess’.” Patrick pleaded.

“You’re on your own, kid. Besides, you could use a date.”

Connie and Balfour whooped with glee.

“That is the exact opposite of helping!” he complained loudly as the man left the room.

“C’mon, Trick.” Connie herded him toward Balfour, who was still in boxers. “Which one is it?” he asked with a sing-song lilt to his voice.

“Nohemi,” Trick sighed in defeat. “The pretty blonde. But I swear to God if you do anything--Connie!”

But the older boy had already darted out of the room. Balfour made sure to block the door so that Trick couldn’t pursue.

“I hate you both,” he lied.

Balfour smiled at him smugly.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the way home, Simone insisted they stop by for a bottle of champagne. None of them felt like cooking after such a long day, either, so they picked up carry-out from their favorite shawarma place. The first thing Nohemi did when they got home was kick off her shoes and sigh with relief. She slumped sideways onto one of the kitchen chairs.

Eric and Shane toted their bags upstairs and set them by the door. Richa gushed with gratitude and stroked one man’s arm and then the other. Nohemi barely managed to suppress the laugh that bubbled up into her nose. It came out as a snort, which made Simone laugh. Both of the men were clueless to the cause and gave them puzzled looks. Of course they invited them to stay for dinner. There were two chairs at the breakfast bar overlooking the kitchen that seemed to have been placed just for them. After they ate, Richa shooed them out to their own homes with an exaggerated explanation of just how tired she was.

Free to be themselves, Nohemi started stripping out of her clothes on her way to her bedroom. Her purse buzzed. Simone took her phone from it and tossed it across the room. Nohemi caught it deftly, this being another ritual they had practiced a hundred times together since they were young. What caught her off guard and made her run clumsily into the door frame was what she read on the screen.

“Whoa, honey,” Simone called. “Watch that wall.” She and Richa laughed, but quieted as they saw the stunned look on Nohemi’s face.

“Who is it?” Richa asked.

“You won’t believe it,” Nohemi said, turning and rubbing her collarbone. She was sure she was going to bruise there.

Looking up, she discovered that her roommates were staring at her expectantly. It was Simone who flailed her hands at her with wide eyes and high brows. “Well? Spit it out!”

“It’s Patrick Richie.”

“Bluestar’s golden boy?”

“Yeah, but… I don’t remember giving him my number.”

Richa looked at Simone with what they classified as her mom face. She crossed her arms and tilted her upper body, waiting for an explanation. Simone smiled slyly, saying, “Well. I might have had something to do with that.”

“Mhmmm,” replied Richa with a rising inflection in her tone.

Nohemi looked down as another text buzzed through. “Oh,” she said, feeling suddenly disappointed. She had not realized there had been a rising bubble of giddy hope developing until that moment.

“Oh?” Simone and Richa asked in unison.

But Nohemi did not reply. She turned into her room and shut the door behind her.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He expected to be set up with Nohemi by the time they left the studio, but nothing ever came of it. Patrick couldn’t help but feel a sense of disappointment, but told himself it was for the best. After all, he was leaving in 9 short days. That didn’t leave much time for really getting to know a person. The last time he’d rushed through things, it had all blown up in his face. Not at all eager to have that happen again, Trick put Nohemi from his mind and tried to focus on things that really mattered, like spending as much time with his friends as possible before he left.

With his sister and confidant no longer living at home, Patrick found himself taking advantage of any excuse he could to avoid the manor house in the evenings. That night it meant accepting Connie’s offer to celebrate the last interview required of him by having dinner at their house.

Océane made his favorite: breakfast, specifically pancakes and eggs that were to die for. They drank mimosas because no meal was complete without alcohol, according to Connie, and orange juice was part of the breakfast club. By the time they’d eaten their fill and moved into the living room, they skipped the OJ mixer completely and just started passing around the bottle of champagne.

“Hey, did I tell you Trick’s got a crush on some girl?”

They were all three of them playing drunk Mario Kart. Océane was kicking ass and taking names, currently in the lead.

“Do not distract me,” she warned her boyfriend seriously. “I will red shell your ass so hard.”

“No, it’s true,” Connie swore, not taking his eyes away from the screen. He had no hope of winning, but if he could make Océane drop down from first place, then it would be worth it. “Her name’s Nohemi. She did his makeup this morning for the Early With Kurily show.”

“You cheater!” Trick bellowed. “Ignore him. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

“Oh yes I do,” Connie sang.

“I can hear a blue shell. Which one of you ****ers sent that?”

“Not me,” both boys said simultaneously. One of them was lying, but neither was going to dime the other out.

“You bitches are so slow. I’m still gonna win,” she boasted.

“I got her number.”

Océane looked as if she might use her controller as a weapon. “Excuse me?”

“For Trick!” Connie cringed away from his girlfriend, laughing. “One of her friends gave it to me and said Trick should ask her out. Stop shooting me, goddamn it!”

Patrick cackled. “Serves you right! I can’t believe you actually got her number. Did you forget I’m leaving? Do not call her. Oh, and sorry about this.” Except he didn’t sound sorry at all. Both Connie and Océane groaned in unison as Trick used a lightning bolt in the game.

“You made me fall off the track!” Océane used the brief timeout to hit Trick several times with a pillow. “I made you dinner, asshole.” The second her character was back in the race, she stopped hitting him and put her game face back on.

But it was Trick who crossed the finish line first. He whooped loudly, leaping up from the couch to take a couple victory laps around the living room. Océane came in second, sighing dramatically while flopping over into the empty space Trick just vacated. It took a minute for him to notice that Connie’s character had yet to cross the finish line; it was sitting idle in the middle of the screen.

“What’re you doing?” he asked, looking over at the older boy to find him texting.

“I’m texting,” he said, stating the obvious.

“Conrad!”

Trick’s eyes widened. Océane’s reproving screech helped everything click into place. Connie had somehow gotten a hold of his phone. “What are you doing?!” he asked again, diving toward the couch to wrestle his phone out of the other boy’s hands. But it was too late. The damage had been done.


Trick (6:39pm): hey beautiful. this is trick from the studio this morning. whats up?


“You only said not to call her!”

“I’m gonna kill you.”

“You’ll thank me later,” Connie insisted, flinching as Trick cocked an arm back and punch him in the leg. Fortunately, he found the situation too amusing to be put out and laughed through the pain.

“How the hell do I fix this?” Trick motioned wildly at the screen, turning it to show Océane in the hopes that she might know what to say.

“I don’t know,” she replied, shrugging helplessly. “Just tell her Conrad’s an idiot and… and that he’s drunk?”

Trick sighed, racking his brain for the right words, but could only come up with:


Trick (6:41pm): Holy ****. I’m so sorry. My buddy stole my phone while I was out of the room.
Trick (6:41pm): He’s mentally unstable and about to get his ass kicked.
Trick (6:41pm): I told him he wasn’t allowed to do this. It’s so rude. I’m sorry.



Once the texts were sent, Trick abandoned his phone in favor of wrestling Connie off the couch to make him suffer. Océane watched them roll around like cavemen on the floor from her corner of the couch, entirely unconcerned and maybe even a little bored. She took it upon herself to finish Conrad’s lap, thus finally ending the race for real. Trick was too busy brawling with Connie to notice when his phone received a message, so she picked it up and read it herself. The text that came after that one put a sly smile on her face.

“Hey, Dumb and Dumber. Knock it off.” One of the couch pillows went soaring across the room to get their attention. “She texted you back.”
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hemi (6:46pm): Hello, Trick. I remember you.
Hemi (6:47pm): Are you telling me you wouldn’t have texted to tell me I’m beautiful on your own? ;)

Trick (6:48pm): I find that these things have a more powerful impact when done in person. Face to face.

Hemi (6:50pm): So you *do* think I’m beautiful. :)
Hemi (6:50pm): Smooth recovery, Romeo. ;)

Trick (6:52pm): I’d even go so far as to say enchanting.
Trick (6:52pm): That’s why I was so quiet this morning. Speechless.

Hemi (6:53pm): Keep this up and you’ll earn enough points for an upgrade to Casanova.
Hemi (6:53pm): You’re pretty stunning yourself, you know.
Hemi (6:53pm): You have very nice eyes, and one heck of a smile.

Trick (6:53pm): {blush emoji}

Hemi (6:54pm): I’m glad I got to do your makeup today. It was a real treat.

Trick (6:55pm): Cuz I was quiet the whole time, right? ;)
Trick (6:55pm): I bet people end up telling you all kinds of weird stuff while sitting in the chair.

Hemi (6:56pm): Not really. Most people hold their breath, afraid I’m going to poke them in the eye with a mascara brush. {lol emoji}
Hemi (6:56pm): But no. It was a real treat because you’re The Famous Trick Richie. And you’re cute, too. ;)

Trick (6:58pm): All this flattery is gonna go to my head.

Hemi (6:58pm): I should hope so. I *did* say I think you’re cute.

Trick (6:59pm): You’re making it very difficult to stick to my plan.

Hemi (6:59pm): And what plan might that be, hm?

Trick (6:59pm): The one where I make sure I don’t have anyone to miss when I leave.
Trick (6:59pm): Something tells me you’re the kind of girl I’d miss.

Hemi (7:02pm): Cute *and* sweet. Congratulations! You’ve just been leveled up to Prince Charming.

Trick (7:02pm): /winning
Trick (7:02pm): {GIF}

Hemi (7:02pm): {lol emoji}
Hemi (7:02pm): Cute.
Hemi (7:03pm): I keep saying that!

Trick (7:04pm): I don’t mind. It’s a lot nicer than the things that flood my DMs.

Hemi (7:05pm): I can’t imagine anyone ever saying anything bad about you.

Trick (7:06pm): Not bad. More like… gross?
Trick (7:06pm): Nasty *** that gets people blocked.
Trick (7:06pm): I’m actually not sure if anyone’s ever told me I’m *cute*
Trick (7:07pm): Congratulations! You’re the first. And not blocked.

Hemi (7:07pm): {super smiley emoji}
Hemi (7:08pm): I feel like this is cause to celebrate.
Hemi (7:08pm): Care to find out?

Trick (7:09pm): {party emoji}
Trick (7:09pm): Find out what?

Hemi (7:09pm): If I’m the kind of girl you’d miss. ;)

Trick (7:10pm): Oh, Nohemi. Why do I get the feeling that I already know the answer?
Trick (7:10pm): We’ll hang out and you’ll bewitch me even more. We’ll have a great time.
Trick (7:10pm): I can see the future.

Hemi (7:11pm): I promise to leave my enchantments at home. ;)
Hemi (7:11pm): Is that a yes?

Trick (7:15pm): What exactly do you have in mind?

Hemi (7:18pm): A date somewhere nice. Nothing formal.
Hemi (7:18pm): Think of some place that you feel will show me who you really are inside.
Hemi (7:19pm): I want to get to know the *real* Trick Richie.
Hemi (7:19pm): The cute one who looked me in the eyes today and made me smile.

Trick (7:20pm): That’s good, because the one on TV doesn’t exist in real life. So be prepared to have your mind blown, beautiful. I’m so much more boring than you think. ;)

Hemi (7:20pm): {blushing emoji} {lol emoji}
Hemi (7:20pm): I can’t wait. When?

Trick (7:21pm): I’d say *now*, but that would make me look too eager. How about tomorrow night?

Hemi (7:21pm): Tomorrow night would be great. {happy blushing emoji}

Trick (7:22pm): 6 oclock? Where should I pick you up?

Hemi (7:24pm): 6:00 is perfect.
Hemi (7:24pm): You can pick me up at my apartment, if you don’t mind meeting my nosy roommates.
Hemi (7:25pm): Between you and me, I think I can hear them breathing outside my door.

Trick (7:25pm): lol
Trick (7:25pm): Between you and me, I had to lock myself in Connie’s bathroom so his girlfriend would quit trying to read over my shoulder.

Hemi (7:25pm): {lol emoji}
Hemi (7:26pm): [address]
Hemi (7:26pm): We’re on the third floor. The door with the paper cauldron taped on.
Hemi (7:26pm): See you tomorrow night, Prince Charming. ;)

Trick (7:27pm): Does this make you Cinderella?

Hemi (7:27pm): Only if you bring me a glass slipper to try on and it fits. ;)

Trick (7:27pm): Don’t underestimate my levels of cheesy romanticism.
Trick (7:27pm): See you tomorrow.
Trick (7:27pm): Have a good night.

Hemi (7:28pm): Sweet dreams, Patrick. :)

Trick (7:28pm): Sweet dreams, Nohemi. :)

Trick (7:42pm): Look at ths face. Hes so happy
Trick (7:42pm): {IMG}
Trick (7:42pm): Hes killkng mebyee

Trick (8:01pm): Goodnight for real this time. I have to go bury a body. ;)

Hemi (8:02pm): {lol emoji} {kiss emoji}
Hemi (8:02pm): Goodnight. :)
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

“I have a date!” Nohemi burst out her bedroom door, entirely unsurprised to find Simone and Richa awkwardly arranged on the sofa pretending to watch the television, which was not even turned on. They both instantly leaped from their seats to cheer for her. The three of them bounced as a unit to the middle of the room, clasping hands and jumping up and down in communal excitement.

“I’m so happy for you!” Richa exclaimed.

“Which one is it?” asked Simone. “The big guy with the beard? The movie star looking one? The sweet young thing…” She trailed off as she saw Nohemi’s expression morphing to one of pure joy. Her cheeks hurt from smiling, and she was sure they were tinged pink. “The young one,” Simone said with villainous certainty. She only needed a maniacal laugh to go along with her grin.

“When is it?” Richa asked, quickly changing gears for her benefit.

“Tomorrow night!” Now the nerves were awake and gnawing at her soul. She felt a little woozy. Her friends, sensing her feet giving out on her, guided her over to the sofa to sit her down. “Oh my God,” Nohemi groaned. “Tomorrow night.” Why had she agreed to something so soon? Was she even ready for this?

Richa sat down next to her, clasping her hands. Their knees touched, keeping her grounded. Simone went to fetch a glass of water. When she brought it back, she sat perched on the edge of the coffee table in front of them, close. Releasing one of Nohemi’s hands, Richa took the glass from Simone and gently guided it into her grasp. Nohemi’s hands were shaking. Disinclined to letting her friend spill water all over herself, Richa helped hold her hands still.

“It’s going to be fine,” Richa reassured her. “You’ll go out, have a good time, get to know each other. Remember, it’s the first date. One date.”

“If it turns out you like him and go for a second,” Simone added on, “you still don’t owe him nothing.” She sniffed haughtily, lifting her chin as she inspected her nails. Always the tough one, the way she curled in her fingers was nearly a fist, and it was a gesture made to remind Nohemi that her friend was willing to bust the nose of any jerk who thought otherwise. It was enough to make her smile, albeit still nervously.

“One date,” Nohemi echoed quietly. She took a deep, brave breath and nodded.

“You can do this,” said Richa.

“You can do this,” said Simone.

“I can do this,” said Nohemi with a feeble, uncertain smile. She lifted the glass of water as she exhaled and took a soothing drink.

Now that that was settled, Richa let go of her hands and launched herself off the sofa. “Where are you going?” Nohemi knew she was asking because her friend’s mind was already racing with wardrobe ideas.

“Oh God. I don’t know. I told him to pick so it’ll be a surprise.” Quickly, she added, “But I did tell him nothing formal!”

“That narrows things down a bit.” Richa stepped around the coffee table and prowled to her room. She had the biggest closet full of the most clothes. Her collection extended even beyond her own sizes, for versatility, she said, and because she thoroughly enjoyed dressing up her roommates whenever they let her get away with it.

“You want him to like you?” asked Simone.

“Oh I don’t know. I think he’s cute, but he did announce he’s leaving to join the army.”

“Air and Space Guard,” Simone corrected her gently. Bless her for paying more attention to the interview and what they all had actually been saying.

“Right.” Nohemi nodded firmly, forcing that information to sink itself into her memory. “Air and Space Guard,” she repeated aloud, and then ran it over a few more times in her head.

“That doesn’t answer my question, though,” Simone scolded just as gently.

“No, it doesn’t.” Nohemi fidgeted, turning the glass around on its base, on her knee, and smiled secretively. The one thing that stuck from all that their text conversation had entailed was Trick telling her he suspected she was the kind of girl he could miss. Those words had given birth to the butterflies that were tumbling around in her belly right now.

Reading deeply into her silence, Simone prodded her knee. “Well?”

“I don’t know,” Nohemi sighed, hanging her head. “I want him to like me, but I don’t want him to like me too much if he’s going to be leaving. On the other hand a long distance relationship might be the safest. You know, if it even turns into a relationship.”

“Girl,” Simone drawled, reaching out to clasp one of her hands. Nohemi looked up to see her sympathetic pout, and then her friend lifted her head to yell toward the bedroom on the other side of the wall behind them. “Scoop neck!”

“Scoop neck,” Richa shouted back. “Check!”

Nohemi blushed. Taking her hand from Simone’s she touched herself on her chest just along her collarbones. She did not have much at all in the way of cleavage.

“It’s fine,” Simone assured her. “We’ll stuff your bra with extra padding. He’ll never know.” Her smile was exceptionally sly and Nohemi couldn’t help but giggle nervously.

“You girls are the best.”

“We know,” Richa said, coming back down the hall with an armload of selections. She held up a choice between a super low scooped white v-neck and a gray top with a tie-back. Nohemi pointed to the second and Simone pointed to the first. Richa held them out, turning her head to consider one and then the other. She shrugged indecisively, saying, “We’ll figure it out tomorrow. Either one can pair with jeans. Wait!” Tossing her choices onto the loveseat, she turned and dashed back into her room. A moment later she returned with a third option, a beige shirt with triple shoulder straps. “There’s also this.”

“That one,” Nohemi and Simone said in unison. They shared a smile.

“Perfect. I know just the thing.” Running back into her room, Richa fetched a pair of tight, dark blue jeans. When she returned she held the two items paired together for display, and awaited their approval. They nodded, looked at each other, kept nodding, and looked back at Richa, who was smiling her pleasure at a job well done.

“I have a necklace you can borrow that’ll go perfect with that,” Simone added.

“No heels, though,” Richa insisted. “You’re already twelve feet taller than him. Don’t push it.”

“Fine,” Nohemi sighed dramatically. Her smile, however, was playful. Richa was right. “I have a pair of sneakers I think I can wear.”

“That’ll be perfect,” said Richa, “especially if you don’t know where he’s taking you. For all you know it’ll be a five mile hike up a mountain. You don’t want to try that in heels.”

“God no!”

They cleared away the clothing selections. Nohemi took the decided upon outfit into her room to hang it on the door of her closet. Richa took the others back to her room to put away.

“Let’s watch something sappy tonight in celebration of Nohemi’s date-to-be,” Simone called from the living room.

“Just nothing that ends in tragedy, please,” Nohemi said through her open bedroom door. The last thing she wanted were nightmares involving the love of her life dying horribly. Not that she had a love of her life, yet, but she did not want to jinx the possibility of there ever being one. Possibly one that would blossom starting tomorrow night. She silently chided herself for getting her hopes up and changed into her pajamas.

Simone and Richa, similarly dressed for sleep, were waiting for her in the living room. One of them had already made popcorn by the time she had finished washing her face. They scooted aside, making room for her to squeeze into the empty space between them on the sofa. Smiling, she snuggled in between them, feeling safe and accepted as she always did. Richa pressed play on the remote and began the wind down of their evening with a film.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Two



“Are you done yet?” Patrick asked impatiently.

Connie’s live-in girlfriend, Océane Moreau, a lissome blonde of average height, huffed with no small amount of annoyance. “If you would just hold still…”

Patrick squirmed in his seat at the table out of spite. Connie, lounging on the couch nearby, snickered at him like a jerk. “Why did I agree to this?” An edge of nervous tension had crept into his tone.

Océane leveled him with a serious stare, her wide eyes earnest and intense. “Because your eyebrows were starting to rival shrubbery.”

“You’re exaggerating.” Trick rolled his eyes at her, scowling.

“Tell him!” Océane demanded, brandishing a pair of tweezers at her boyfriend.

Connie held his hands up in mock surrender. “I’m not getting involved in this.”

Trick sighed, capitulating to Océane’s terroristic demands that he hold still for torture. He closed his eyes, allowing the woman to tilt his head back as she resumed better defining the shape of his eyebrows.

“How’d you get this scar?” she asked.

He raised a hand, touching the tip of his finger to the scar that slashed through his right eyebrow. Océane swatted it away and continued to work. “There’s no exciting story there. I slipped on some ice and bashed my head against the corner of a crate when I worked at the docks a couple years back. It bled like a mofo; I thought I’d split my head wide open. But it was just a cut. Probably needed stitches, but that would’ve taken too much time and I needed to get back to work, so we superglued it shut and I went on with the rest of my day.”

“You’re such an idiot.”

“I know,” Trick replied, smirking. “So now I’ve got a wicked scar there. The end. I should start telling people it’s from a bar fight--ow!” He jerked away from the tweezers, opening his eyes. Océane looked far too amused at his pain. “That hurt! Why do girls do this?”

“There’s a price to pay for beauty.” Gently grasping him by the jaw, Océane tipped his head back once more. “And it’s not just girls. Proper grooming habits are for all genders, Trick.”

“Do you shave your legs when it’s cold outside?”

“Of course.” She snorted as though it was absurd for him to even ask.

“Lies!” Connie exclaimed.

“Shut your face!” Océane shot a withering look over Trick’s head at her boyfriend. “I thought you weren’t getting involved.”

“So why can’t my eyebrows look like a forest?” Trick argued.

Trust me. Girls think it’s sexy when a guy puts a little effort into his appearance. Me not shaving my legs during winter is completely a different topic of discussion.” Finally finished, Océane tossed the tweezers onto the table where they landed with a clatter. She traded them for a large, handheld mirror and positioned it in front of Trick’s face so he could admire her handiwork. “See? Isn’t that better?”

Patrick stared skeptically at his reflection. Unable to see a difference, he leaned forward to get a closer look. As far as he could tell, the only difference was that the skin around his eyebrows and between his eyes was a bright, angry red color. Clearly she’d done something, so he nodded a couple times and flashed a there-and-gone-again smile at her.

“Thanks, Océane.” Maybe he couldn’t see it, but she’d spent her time and energy on him. In Trick’s opinion, that was worth more to him than looking good.

She beamed at him. “You can thank me when you get a second date because of it.”

The prospect of a second date sent a flutter of anxiety rolling through his stomach. Trick wasn’t sure he wanted a second date. No -- that wasn’t true. Nohemi was gorgeous and seemed like a nice girl; he’d love a second date. What he didn’t love was starting a romance that would be forced to stand the test of time and long distance a mere two weeks after it began.

On January 21st, he’d be saying goodbye to his old life and starting a brand new chapter in the military. He’d board a transport and be flown into orbit four hundred miles away to the RNSV Meridian where he would undergo fifteen weeks of strenuous physical and mental training known as flight indoctrination, the culmination of which would place him on the path to piloting his own ship for the Spaceguard. Even after the instruction period, he’d be stationed at Fort Sirius in Stars End for the foreseeable future, which was a two hour one way trip from the city by repulsor rail.

Creating a new attachment when he couldn’t be present in that person’s life was the very last thing he should be doing.

Trick’s stomach was in knots by the time he got up from the table. Ignoring Océane’s concerned expression, he excused himself from the room by explaining, “I need a smoke.”

The couple’s apartment had a small balcony just off the living room that was large enough to accommodate a pair of deck chairs and a small table. He dropped heavily into one of the seats and lit a cigarette -- a bad habit he picked up from his ex while they were dating and had been unsuccessful in kicking when they broke up.

“They gonna let you smoke up there?” Connie, no doubt sent out to check on him with Océane’s instruction, joined Trick on the balcony a minute later. He lit up similarly while easing himself into the chair beside him.

“Nope,” Trick said, punctuating the end of the syllable by making a popping noise with his lips. He puffed at the cigarette thoughtfully. “The recruiter warned me about that when I signed. ‘No luxuries during training’. I think they’re just trying to get people to snap; see what they’re made of, you know? I get it. Not looking forward to it, but I’ll manage.”

Connie grunted at him in acknowledgement, but didn’t say anything. Trick knew he was waiting for him to explain what was wrong, but opening up had never been one of his strong suits. It wasn’t until he was almost finished with his cigarette that he cleared his throat.

“I feel like I’m making a mistake.” The quiet confession was directed toward the ground between his feet.

“Dude. It’s just a date. Don’t psych yourself out.”

Trick shook his head, leaning back to sprawl himself out in the chair. “It’s not just a date. Not to me.”

Connie didn’t immediately reply. He’d been down this road with Patrick before, but his friend’s reluctance to date wasn’t entirely because of his upcoming departure. It went a lot deeper than that. Leaning aside to crush the butt of his cigarette in the ashtray on the table between them, he sighed. “Not everyone’s like him.”

It required real effort to suppress the physical response that threatened to darken Trick’s expression when Connie brought up his ex. What Ed had done was something that pained him even still to this day. “I know that.” Now he frowned, examining his cigarette. The ash that had collected at the end fell away, tumbling noiselessly to the ground. He watched it during those last few seconds as the bright, cherry red embers burned right up to the filter. This is exactly what had been done to him: used up, discarded, and stepped on. Just like a cigarette.

Trick dropped the filter in the ashtray and got up. “I just don’t want to hurt her. She seems really nice. What if--”

Connie cut him off. “That goes both ways, bro. ‘What if this?’ ‘What if that?’ Yeah well, what if she’s who you’re supposed to be with? What if this is it? You could be missing out on something great. The majority of the population out there aren’t douchebags like your ex. Go have fun with her! You’re not signing up for marriage; it’s a date.” He didn’t exactly subscribe to Trick’s somewhat Old World views on relationships and sexual morals.

“I know, I know.” Trick scrubbed a hand over his face. It was too cold to linger on the balcony much longer, but he wanted to finish their conversation first so it didn’t carry over inside. He tucked his hands under his arms and pinned them to his ribcage to warm them up. “It’s just a date.” It sounded more like he was trying to convince himself rather than agreeing.

“One you want to work out, right?”

Trick shrugged. “I think so.”

“She’s hot, man.”

That was the sort of typical response that made Trick roll his eyes, but he was only human, so he smirked as well. “Drop dead gorgeous.”

“Right, right,” Connie said dismissively, as though there was no distinction between the two. “So she’s already hot. Now you’ve got to make sure she’s nice too, which I’m sure she is, otherwise you’d never have agreed to the date in the first place. But you’re gonna blow it if you’re holding back on her.” He reached over to punch Trick in the shoulder. “Don’t blow it.”

Don’t blow it,” Trick repeated. The smirk stretched into a fleeting smile. “Best pep talk ever.” Connie barked a rough laugh and turned to head inside, deeming his work done. “Your future kids are doomed.”

“Océane will balance out whatever crap I tell them.”

“What am I doing?” she asked, poking her head around the corner from out of the bathroom.

“Being awesome,” Connie replied. She beamed at him, crinkling her nose before disappearing from view again. This time the bathroom door shut, too, and a second later they heard the shower come on.

After pushing the sliding glass door shut, Trick caught up with Connie and punched him in the shoulder on his way to the front door. “Thanks, man. For real.”

“Anytime. And let me know how it goes.” Connie resumed his boneless sprawl across the couch while Trick put on his jacket and pulled on his boots. “Océane’s going to bug me about it until she gets an answer.”

“Yup. See you guys later.” He let himself out as usual. Océane’s interest in his love life had the tendency to manifest in misguided ways, but Trick saw through to the true intention of her concern. Conrad had himself a true gem of a girl who was considerate of others and truly cared about her friends. He admired that about her. As he climbed atop his motorcycle, Trick found himself hoping Nohemi was thoughtful and kind, too.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Later...

The Weird Sisters had a strict dating protocol. Whenever one of them went out on a date, the other two stayed up with their cell phones close at hand, just in case an emergency coded text or call came in. Therefore, Nohemi was not the least bit surprised to discover her roommates lounging around the living room when she came in the front door. Simone paused the movie they had been watching to kill the time and Richa rearranged the scattered notes they had assembled on the coffee table. They both smiled at her expectantly.

Nohemi decided to leave them hanging in suspense for a few minutes while she went into her bedroom to dress down. Fortunately, her roommates were patient enough not to chase after her, but she could feel them coiling in anticipation to spring upon the latest gossip.

Who was Patrick Richie? Was he good enough for their sister to date? Or would they have to paint a black mark over his face in their communal file like so many disappointing others before him?

The three of them had made a pact a few years ago. One failed suitor had rightfully accused them as dating as a unit. It was almost as though to date one of them was to date all three of them, because they were very open with each other about their personal lives. Each of them made their own personal observations about a person and later they compared notes. If someone made one wrong move that one of three of them witnessed, the other two heard about it immediately.

Nohemi closed the door to her bedroom and set her purse on her bed. She stripped out of the extra tight jeans Richa had loaned her, and the blouse. She dumped them both in a hamper she kept in her closet and tucked her shoes into the rack. Disposing of her bra and its extra padding, she changed into a pair of satin pajamas, the kind with a button-up top and long baggy pants, super comfortable and relaxing. She put away her jewelry and washed her face, and then decided she was ready to face the jury waiting for her in the living room.

Richa sat up straighter as she joined them. The pair scooted to opposite ends of the couch, making room for Nohemi between them. Three cups of freshly brewed hot tea were arranged on saucers among the collection of clippings and Post-It notes. Nohemi was equally unsurprised that a full color print out of Trick’s face, taken straight from the pages of a sports magazine, was among the assortment.

“Okay,” she said, nestling back into the sofa. “First thoughts.”

“I can’t tell yet if that boy’s a genuine Beaver Cleaver or if it’s all an act.” Simone volunteered her first impressions immediately. Nohemi nearly inhaled her first sip of tea due to the giggle that assaulted her. Remembering how he had politely kissed her cheek and so sweetly said good night caused a tingling flush to develop.

“He’s definitely a gentleman,” Nohemi said. “He pulled out my chair for me, opened doors for me, and did not slobber all over my neck trying to pressure me to come upstairs at the end of the night.”

“He has to be a space alien,” Simone commented.

Richa scoffed and made a note reading “gentleman” that she stuck to the rest of their presently slim collection of observations. “He’s not a bad dresser,” Richa said, adding her first impression. “I can tell he put some effort into it.”

“But you think he could do better,” Nohemi said. Amusement touched her smile. Richa always thought everybody could do better when it came to dressing themselves. She was kind of a snob that way.

“Of course I do,” her friend said, sniffing indignantly. Among the other notes was one that simply read 7/10. Nohemi knew that was the score Richa had given him on his wardrobe.

“I told you we weren’t doing anything formal,” Nohemi argued lightly.

“Yes, well. He could do with more color.”

Nohemi found she could not much argue that observation. Her thoughts wandered back to his eyes, how blue they were. A little more color would have definitely helped them pop more. She had carefully chosen her cosmetics to help with that, actually, for yesterday’s interview.

“All right,” she conceded. “What else?”

“He drives a death machine,” Simone commented scathingly.

“You saw that?”

“Of course we did.”

Of course they did. Nohemi could imagine them huddled together on the balcony looking down at them as they came out of the building. She had not even thought to look up. Strangely, it was as if she had forgotten that they were there. She had been so engrossed in the few short minutes of conversation she and Patrick had shared in the elevator, in her excitement about going for a ride on a motorcycle. She smiled at the memory of the roaring engine, the feel of the machine between her legs, her arms wound tightly around his waist. The only downside to wearing the helmet had been an inability to stick her nose in his neck and get a whiff of him. That opportunity had come at the end of the night when he had politely kissed her on the cheek, just before they parted ways.

“He smells a bit like cigarettes and coffee.”

“So he’s a smoker.” Richa wrote up another Post-It to stick to the table on what they had designated as the cons side. Death machine, done in Simone’s handwriting, was among those notes. Beaver Cleaver was somewhere closer to the middle of the table, a clear indication that neither of them were certain yet whether that was a good quality or a bad one.

“Where did he take you anyway?” asked Simone.

“Some book, coffee, and game shop called The Wheelhouse,” Nohemi said. “Heard of it?” Her two friends shook their heads, brows lifted with interest. “It’s a pretty neat place. There’s a bar when you walk in, manned by some guy named Benny. Upstairs there’s a small library of comics and books for browsing and purchasing. Downstairs are tables, some of them with boards carved right into their surfaces. There are shelves of board games, and pool tables.” A dash of mischief colored her smile when she remembered how Patrick had bent over the table to demonstrate how to play the game. “He tried teaching me how to play pool.”

“Ugh,” said Simone. “Sounds like a nerd’s paradise.” But she was smiling, because she knew it was just the kind of place Nohemi would enjoy, and had.

“What else?” Richa asked.

It took Nohemi a moment to clear her head of the pleasantly recalled daydreams of her evening. She shook her head and blinked a couple of times. “He’s got a nice butt,” she said wistfully.

Laughing, Richa wrote up another Post-It and added it to the pros side of the table. Nice butt it read. Nohemi blushed, but also joined her and Simone in a laugh. “Okay, okay,” said Richa. “Besides that.”

“Oh. Well. Let’s see. We ordered pizza.” She wrinkled her nose. Pizza was not one of her favorite foods. She had politely chosen a few toppings she could tolerate, and had mostly picked at the pizza as well. When they skimmed over the menu, the choices seemed limited. Complaining and suggesting something else felt rude, so she had suffered through with a smile.

“Pizza,” Simone repeated, turning up her nose.

“There’s a shop next door he said that partners with The Wheelhouse,” Nohemi explained. “Coffee and pizza don’t really go well together, but I couldn’t bring myself to order a second drink.”

“You had coffee?” Richa said in disbelief.

“No. I had a chai latte.”

“That doesn’t go very well with pizza either.”

“No,” Nohemi agreed.

Richa wrote another Post-It reading bad dinner choice and put it on the cons side of the table.

“Oh it wasn’t that bad,” Nohemi argued.

“Yeah, but you’re probably starving,” Simone countered. She got up from the couch and went into the kitchen to scrounge up a late night snack for her. Nohemi smiled at her thoughtfulness and tried to ignore the tight feeling in her stomach that indicated she could indeed due with a little something extra to eat. Returning with a bag of carrot sticks and bowl of hummus, Simone rejoined them on the sofa and dug in to help Nohemi snack.

There was a moment of silence while they crunched and reviewed the notes spread out on the table. Richa added a few more, including did not pressure for sex and shows interest in friends. Those two were big factors in the positive column. She added a couple of stars and smiley faces to the mix. “So, all in all…?” she asked.

“I had a good time,” Nohemi said. She felt at ease and the smile she wore was making her cheeks ache. The good vibes she felt told her she would sleep well tonight. Nothing about her date had set off her anxiety about what could happen, the potential nightmares that made her reluctant to date most of the time in the first place. No. This date had gone very well.

“Second date worthy?”

“I think so.”

Nodding, Richa stretched out her legs and propped them up on the table. They all leaned together, Nohemi bookended and squished companionably into the middle of the couch between the other two. Simone picked up the remote to resume the movie they had been watching before Nohemi got home. Fortunately it was one they had all watched a dozen times together before, so she did not feel as if she had missed anything, except perhaps her friends.

“I still say he’s a space alien,” Simone remarked belatedly. They all laughed.

“Well,” said Nohemi, “maybe space aliens are just my type.”
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Trick
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Trick’s mind was in the clouds the whole way home. His brain must have been on autopilot, because the only thing about the trip he could remember thinking about when his bike finally came to a stop in front of Wayside Manor was the scent of Nohemi’s perfume when he kissed her cheek and the way her hand had felt in his. It was a miracle he’d made it back alive instead of laying his bike out on some busy road.

The crumbling brownstone known as Wayside Manor stood alone on a narrow lot, modest and somnolent in comparison to the great, pontifical cathedral across the street. It was difficult to look at, not for its degenerate physical condition (warped siding, the two boarded up windows on the third floor, an unsightly foundational crack across the lower right quadrant of the brick), but because Mallory St. Martin, Trick’s magically inclined sister, had warded it to be that way.

They’d come across the abandoned manor home as children and staked their claim. Though blessedly located within the very edge of the city’s temple district, Wayside was not all that far from the various gang controlled blocks of Dockside’s eastern border. Between the surrounding tumbledown neighborhoods, the high volumes of petty crime and violence, and their mutual desire to remain out of a system that was stacked against them, Mallory made sure no one unwelcome would ever be able to find them. Her magic drew the eye away and could induce a serious headache if one tried to focus on the building. It was, effectively, invisible to the unwanted.

It was for this reason Trick was comfortable leaving his motorcycle within the magical boundary of the house without fear that it would be stolen in the night -- no one could see it! Due to the late hour, he let himself in as quietly as possible so as not to disturb the other inhabitants.

Besides himself, and excluding Lucifer, four others called Wayside home. Mallory had recently moved out to live with her girlfriend, which left Trick in charge. Next there was Aurora Grace Spencer, who was a year younger than Trick and had been with them for a little over three years. She was a tiny girl who could pack a punch; she needed to be strong to carry around the massive chip she had on her shoulder. After Spencer came Rob Jensen and his eleven year old sister, Haley. Everything Rob did, he did to protect Haley, a budding psionic with control issues, who had more than once fallen under the scrutiny of the medical community’s curious and meddlesome eye. And newest to their ragtag bunch was Jakob; he’d only been around for a few months and worked nights. He reminded Trick of a Golden Retriever in terms of perpetual buoyancy.

Others had come and gone over the years, staying for days or weeks at a time. Wayside was something of a halfway house; though hidden away from the prying eyes of others, its doors were always open for those in need of a helping hand and the rules for living there were simple: everyone pitched in as best they could. That was it.

None of the lights were on, so Trick assumed everyone was asleep. The gentle flicker of orange firelight made the doorways to both the office and living room glow eerily, but it was hardly enough to light the steep staircase that led up to the top two floors of the house. He was about to head up to his bedroom on the top floor when the door to the office creaked the rest of the way open. A little surprised that anyone was still awake, Trick lingered on the landing to see who it was.

A tall, lanky figure with a mop of dark blonde curls emerged from within.

“Rob,” Trick greeted quietly.

The older boy lifted his chin in greeting. “Thought I heard someone come in. It’s late. Everything all right?”

“Yeah,” he said, shrugging his shoulders with nonchalance. “You know. Just out making bad decisions.” He was trying to poke fun at himself, but it had been the wrong thing to say.

“Oh?” Rob’s eyebrows lifted, expression clouding over with suspicion, and he drifted closer, presumably to see if he could smell alcohol on Trick.

He grit his teeth together as a wave of irritation rolled through him. He didn’t like when Rob played concerned parent; Rob had no right to lord over anyone in this house besides Haley. Then again, he knew the other boy’s concern stemmed from the fact that Haley’s room was right next to Trick’s and he had come home drunk on more than one occasion. Rob’s disquiet was not unwarranted. Trick still struggled to keep from rolling his eyes at him.

“I went on a date if you can believe that.”

Rob crossed his arms over his chest, relaxing after coming to a stop beside the banister next to Trick and knowing, for a fact, that he was not intoxicated. “I assume it went better than the last one.”

This, too, was a mild dig at Trick’s poor decision making skills. The last date he’d gone on three months earlier involved running into his ex, having a mental breakdown, and then spilling his guts to his unfortunate date about how he wasn’t over stupid, lying, cheating Ed. All of which was followed by a weekend bender.

It was his tendency to make choices like that which Trick was attempting to change. The military would give him purpose and direction. Or so he hoped.

“It did,” he confirmed smoothly, ignoring the jibe. “It probably helps that I didn’t have to see Ed at all.” He and Rob both smirked. “But there’s a real connection, I think. She’s… amazing. We talked forever.”

“The stupid smile on your face says as much. I fail to see where the bad decision is in all this.”

Having attention drawn to his face only made his smile grow. Embarrassed, Trick scrubbed a hand across his mouth while making a strangled noise of indecision. “I’m leaving, man. In like… nine days.”

Uncrossing his arms, Rob shifted his weight from one leg to the other and scratched the back of his head. “Oh, right. Yeah. Your timing’s pretty ***. Does she know you’re leaving?”

Trick nodded. “She was there in the studio when it got announced to the world.”

“And she’s cool starting something?” An edge of doubt, or maybe suspicion crept into Rob’s expression. He shook his head, clapping a hand on Trick’s shoulder. “Be careful. Sounds like she’s just trying to get in your pants.”

“No way, man. We didn’t even kiss tonight. It’s not like that.” Patrick hoped it wasn’t like that, anyway. Why was it so hard to find a nice girl who didn’t immediately want to jump into bed with him? He wasn’t so much of a prude that he planned to wait to have sex until marriage or anything, but it was a big deal to him and he intended to wait until he knew whether or not his partner was deserving of his heart. The two things went hand in hand for him.

Some lessons were hard learned.

Rob laughed at him, turning to leave. “Good luck. Hey--” He paused in the office door to glance over his shoulder at Trick. “The big send-off dinner is still set for next weekend, right?”

“Yep.”

“A’ight. Cool. Hales and I will be there for sure.”

“Cool,” Trick echoed, bobbing his head in a brief nod.

He was halfway up the first flight of steps when the office door clicked shut.

When he got to his room, Trick threw himself down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling as the the evening’s memories coalesced in his mind’s eye to form Nohemi’s perfect, beautiful visage. Lurking somewhere behind her was Rob’s warning, floating around like a tiny, negative thought balloon. It joined the others that hovered in the wings, altogether forming a dark cloud of doubt. Ignoring it, he concentrated on Nohemi’s face and the memory of her body pressed against his on the way to their destination.

“Where we’re going isn’t that far. We could walk, if you really wanted. But I was hoping you wouldn’t mind going for a spin.”

“Oh no,” Nohemi insisted. “I mean yes, let’s do this! I wouldn’t mind at all!”

Excitement churned within him at the prospect of having her close to him again. Trick nodded, stepping closer to the bike. He inserted the key and pushed a button that opened a compartment under the seat where the passenger helmet was stowed.

“Safety first.” Trick helped her put it on; he tucked her hair behind her ears and gently fit the helmet over her head, making sure the strap was secure with a few light adjustments. He marveled inwardly at the feel of her skin beneath his fingertips, so smooth. Then put his helmet on as well. “Can you hear me?” he asked. The helmets both contained a mic and speaker system that would allow them to communicate without having to resort to wild hand gestures.

“Oh!” Nohemi’s surprised exclamation rang through loud and clear. “Yes, I can. This is neat. Is there somewhere I can put my purse?”

Trick pointed to the open compartment. “Toss it in!” And she did. He climbed onto the bike once he got the seat locked in place and looked over his shoulder at her. “There’s footrests for you behind mine; just climb on and put your arms around my waist. Keep your knees tucked close and hold on tight.”

“Okay,” she said, with only mild notes of uncertainty. Nohemi took a deep breath, zipped up her coat, and climbed onto the bike behind him. She set her hands on his waist hesitantly and seemed reluctant to wind her arms all the way around. It took another couple of steadying breaths before she worked up the nerve to scoot up flush to his back and do so.

Trick pressed his hand over one of hers, jostling it lightly to make sure her grip was sound. “Here we go!” It was the first of two warnings Nohemi got before they took off. Following his words came the rumble of the bike as it roared to life. He cranked the throttle back, making it scream, and then they shot forward into the street like lightning. Nohemi instantly shrieked with delight.

If there was ever a time to be keenly aware of one’s own mortality, it would be on the back of a motorcycle. For Patrick, it was one of the few times he really felt alive. There was a mix of physical and emotional pleasure, underscored by layers of anxiety, exhilaration, and adrenaline rushing through his veins.

Their destination was not too terribly far away, but Trick took a roundabout route to lengthen their time on the bike for purely selfish reasons. It felt nice to have Nohemi’s lithe body curled around his. He took the opportunity to show off a little, but refrained from taking the risks he usually did. Gambling his own life was one thing, jeopardizing another’s was simply out of the question.

At last he drew the motorcycle to a stop in front of a yarn shop that was closed for the night. “So what’d you think?” Patrick asked curiously.

Nohemi’s laugh pealed like a bell in his ear through the helmet’s speaker. “That was so much fun! Better than a roller coaster.” She unwound her arms from his waist and climbed off the bike after Trick lowered the kickstand. He dismounted immediately after, pulling off his helmet to reveal a shy, but charming smile that matched hers when he helped remove her helmet next.

Unable to stop himself, Trick brushed a bit of her hair back over her shoulder, smoothing the flyaways caused by static electricity. “I’ve never been on a roller coaster, but I’m glad this was better and that you liked it.”


He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had such a great time with someone. Well, no. That was lie. Of course he could -- he remembered every little thing about Ed. They say that time is the only healer, but right now he’d give anything to forget. The pain of betrayal and the regret of lost love continued to ring in his ears even now, its ripples spreading to touch even the new things in his life. As always. Trick couldn’t even daydream about the best first date he’d ever had without his thoughts bringing him back to Ed.

For one short, heart stopping moment he couldn’t breathe. Trick’s heart leapt into his throat; he had to swallow hard to dislodge it. So what if Ed still managed to infiltrate his thoughts unbidden? This date had been better. He’d gone so long believing that all his time spent with Ed was the best there could ever be and unable to be improved upon. To finally experience living proof that that belief was wrong was absolutely liberating. It was as though one of the many chains that kept him tethered to his ex snapped in that very moment.

Trick relished in what felt like a turning point, however small it might be. He smiled to himself, rolling over to stare at the wall instead of the ceiling. The paisley wallpaper had been haute couture at one point in time, but now it was faded and peeling. Nothing stays the same, he thought to himself. Time changes everything. In this case, where Ed was concerned, it was a good thing.

That night he had vivid dreams of flying, having fallen asleep feeling lighter than he had the day before.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 7:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The next day...

The morning routine often consisted of dancing to the music on their favorite radio station and bumping hips in the kitchen while they cooked breakfast. Simone fried the eggs, over-easy, while Richa dumped frozen fruit into the blender to make smoothies. Nohemi smashed an avocado into a paste to spread over toast, and once the eggs were done Simone topped them. They ate quickly, but not in a rush, and then parted ways to primp and prepare for the rest of the day.

They took turns in the showers. They swapped clothes. Simone helped them fix their hair and Nohemi helped them apply their makeup. Richa gave the final seal of approval, or any instructions for necessary apparel changes. Once they were ready to face the day, the three of them marched down the street, heels clicking and hips swaying.

Their first stop was the local LGBT center where they perused the bulletin board in search of any fun activities. “Oh, look at this.” Nohemi’s eye was instantly drawn to an advertisement for a local art studio that hosted painting events. This one night in particular was meant to specifically host the LGBT community. “This is perfect.”

“Perfect for what?” Richa asked.

“For my second date, of course.”

Simone and Richa exchanged briefly uncomprehending glances. With a sigh, Nohemi took a picture of the flyer with her phone. Saving the image to her photo album, she then explained.

“I told Trick to choose a place that would reveal to me the real Patrick Richie for our first date, right?”

Her friends nodded, understanding slowly dawning.

“So it’s only fair for date two to be my choice, and show him the real me.”

“You’re testing him,” Simone said, realizing first.

Nohemi smiled and nodded. “We’ll be in a room full of other people in the community. Who knows? There may be some pretty obvious sorts.”

“Chances high if Jermaine Daniels is in attendance,” Richa said. They all laughed, but fondly. He was the most flamboyant gay man they knew.

“Hell,” said Simone. “Maybe you should call him up and arrange for him to be there.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” said Richa. She was already pulling his number up out of her contacts.

“Tell him to bring his own date, Richa,” Nohemi hissed. “Not you.”

“Ugh. Fine,” her friend sighed, rolling her eyes.

“You’re no fun,” Simone argued playfully, nudging Nohemi with her elbow. “But you’re kind of a genius. Great way to suss out whether or not he’s a homophobe.”

“Or a transphobe,” Nohemi added with a firm nod.

Jermaine answered the call from Richa and she was forced to turn away from them so that her bright and clearly loud voice did not disturb them too much. Simone was wearing a conspiratorial grin of approval. Nohemi first texted Trick to ask if he was free Wednesday night. After his affirmative response, she dialed the number on the flyer to make a pair of reservations.

“He’ll be there,” said Richa when her call ended.

“Great.” Nohemi felt a little less nervous about it knowing there would be an ally present. Something told her she had nothing to worry about, but she had endured those misguided and hopeful sensations before. She did not think that Trick was a bigoted and hateful sort, but more often than not the sweetest and most sincere men she had tried dating turned out to be real nasty pieces of work once they had accomplished the first steps of wooing her. None had come off quite as genuine as Trick, though. Maybe Simone was right and he really was a space alien.

Shaking away her misgivings, Nohemi made the reservation and then texted Trick with instructions on where to meet her, when, and what to wear. She had to fight Richa off and keep her from stealing the phone to make the instructions on the last more precise than necessary. Nothing formal, Nohemi added with a winking smiley face. But wear something nice. Richa gave a heaving, exasperated sigh, saying, “Tell him to wear some color.”

Nohemi laughed, shaking her head, and hooked her arm through Richa’s to lead her back outside and down the street. They had shopping to do, themselves. Makeup and hair product supplies needed replenishing, and it never hurt to spoil themselves a little too.

“I’m wearing heels this time,” Nohemi said firmly.

“Ugh,” Richa protested. “At least you’ll be sitting down most of the time.”

“Listen, if he’s intimidated by a little extra height, that just adds another couple of black marks in his cons column,” Simone said.

“Even with sneakers on I’m already taller than him,” Nohemi pointed out. “He didn’t complain about it last night. Didn’t even say anything about it at all, which was so nice. Most guys, that’s the first thing they comment about, trying to joke about it.”

“Which just shows how insecure and skeevy they really are on the inside,” Richa said, nodding.

They passed by a small group of men huddled over a steaming vent. Of course one of them had the audacity to wolf whistle and tell them, “Lookin’ fine, ladies!” They all three looked back over their shoulders to smile politely at them. Nohemi added a wink for good measure. Cat-calling was so annoying. If she had been alone she would have been terrified of them following her to accost her further. But they were moving in a pack and she felt confident in their ability to defend themselves better as a group. It also, admittedly, flattered her ego to be acknowledged as a beautiful woman, even by strangers.

“He may be a space alien,” Simone said, once they were out of earshot of the men and back on track, arm-in-arm, “but so far he hasn’t tipped off any alarm bells.”

Nohemi was suddenly stricken with an idea, and laughing pulled her friends into a shopping center. Coincidentally, it was the same one they had intended on visiting anyway, but instead of heading directly to the cosmetics, she detoured to a shop specializing in nerdy merchandise. Richa asked her what in the world they were doing in here, and Nohemi told her she was looking for something specific. She smiled when she found a metal lapel pin of a classic bug-eyed green skinned alien head.

“Is it too forward to be buying him a gift so soon?” she asked, turning to show it off to her friends.

Simone laughed. “Hell no, girl. Especially not if you’re getting him that.”

“Do you think he’ll wear it?”

“Who cares? It’s hilarious, and another great test. If he doesn’t laugh, you should dump him right away.” Simone valued men with a sense of humor.

So did Nohemi. She made her purchase, small as it was, and tucked the tiny package into her purse. As they passed by a bookseller, she said, “He’s a reader, too. I forgot to mention that last night.”

Her friends fixed her with interested side stares as they walked along.

“I told him we started our own business together, how we met in beauty school, and mentioned the name of our company. I said we’re all sort of nerdy for Shakespeare, and he quoted a line from Macbeth.” Nohemi smiled very fondly at the memory.

“He’s a keeper,” Richa said instantly.

“Whoa now,” Simone said, lifting her hands. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.”

“How many men have you dated who can quote Shakespeare at the drop of a hat?”

“Uh. None?”

“No kidding, none. I don’t care if he’s a space alien. Nohemi’s keeping him.”

“Oh my God, Richa! He’s not some stray cat I brought home!”

“He might as well be. He’s damn cute.”

Nohemi blushed, laughing. On the topic of Trick being cute, she could not argue.
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