We are fast approaching the end of the old work, and this segment had large sections that had been skipped and needed to be filled in. Soon we will be in the land of all new writing! Hopefully I can maintain this update schedule!
The Arms of the Ocean, cont.
As Marius lay down to stare at the ceiling for an indefinite amount of time, Rilla tossed in her sleep. Fitful and moaning, she seemed unable to sleep peacefully yet at the same time too tired to truly wake. When the alarm finally went off, she sat up with a jolt, panting and disoriented. Blinking and shaking her head, she fell back against her pillows again and took a deep breath, staring at her darkened ceiling and trying to focus.
“No more alcohol and sushi on weekdays,” she muttered, reaching a hand up and rubbing her face. “Though I sure hope sushi by itself is still okay.”
Dragging herself out of bed, she stumbled into the shower and continued through her morning routine largely on automatic. So much so, in fact, that she didn’t properly come to awareness until she was getting off the bus downtown.
“Well,” she said out loud as she looked down the street. “I believe a visit to the All Seeing Siren is in order.”
Adjusting her bag and her scarf, Rilla headed down the street towards the shop but turned right a block early, making her way to that most infamous of coffee shops. She wished she could support more local businesses, but the truth was that she was in it for chai not coffee, and if she wanted chai that was consistently good and made the way she liked it, local shops just wouldn’t do. Not to mention the fact that the baristas always glared at her when she asked what brand of chai they used. And technically it was a local business. Technically.
Rilla looked up as she walked in and found herself smiling. The hail had come from a rather lean, athletic individual done up as smartly as their company dress code allowed. They waved to her from behind the register, briefly ignoring the businessman in front of them, then returned to their original task with a friendly apology as Rilla came around the display of cups to be next in line.
“Hello, Jacob,” Rilla said, still smling, when it was her turn in line.
“Precious, you came back to us,” Jacob exclaimed, leaning forward on the counter. “I was afraid you had abandoned us for another.”
Smirking, Rilla put a hand on her hip. “Jacob, it’s been less than a week.”
Jacob stared at her, aghast. “A day is too long! Who is he? Who is your new favorite? Does he remember to put the cinnamon on the top just how you like?”
Giggling, Rilla lost her stance and brought a hand up to her mouth. “Oh, Jacob, stop. You’re the only one. Sometimes I just go without.”
“A clear sign that you’re mad. Your usual, darling?”
“Yes, but in a venti today. I need the caffeine.”
“My, my,” Jacob admonished as they rang her up then moved to fulfill her order themself, letting someone else take the register. “That’s quite unlike you, precious. Were you up to something last night?”
“I had a show, thank you very much,” Rilla countered, but was unable to hold out under Jacob’s knowing gaze. “And I was perhaps persuaded to go out after the show because of an interest in one of the people going.”
Smiling almost smugly, Jacob motioned for her to continue. “The milk’s not done, keep going dear.”
Marilla sighed. “Oh, Jacob, I don’t know. It was a lovely night, but he didn’t seem all that interested in me and he brought this gorgeous tall blond creature to the show with him. He introduced her as his friend, but that can mean anything. Then, after I’ve decided that he’s definitely not interested and I’m just going to go home and get over it, he not only offers me a ride home but asks me out to dinner on the way!”
“So what did you say,” Jacob asked as they spooned off extra foam.
“Huh,” Rilla replied intelligently.
“To dinner. What did you say to his invitation to dinner?”
“Oh.” Rilla shifted her weight from foot to foot, and looked down. “I said yes. That I was most likely free and I would love to go to dinner with him.”
Grinning, Jacob picked up the cinnamon. “Well, precious, it sounds like you want him to be interested. So maybe you just get to doll yourself up for dinner and be your most charming, and then see how things go. And then come back and tell me everything.”
Smiling and letting out a small laugh, Rilla picked up the drink that Jacob set on the counter. “I imagine there’s no hope for it. All right, I will heed your wisdom. For now.”
“There you are,” Jacob said magnanimously as they moved back to the register to return to work. “And come in more often or I’ll think you’re cheating on us again.”
Giggling and warm, mood much improved and steaming beverage in hand, Rilla hurried to the shop and quickly let herself in. It was the usual morning routine, with no new shipments today, so from in the door to lights on took only moments. Settling in, expecting another slow day, she picked up the book on romantic traditions of the Victorian age and sipped her chai contentedly. She made it through flirting with fans and was halfway through the language of flowers (specifically, that of roses) when the bell on the door to the shop chimed and the rush began.
Thursdays are not high traffic days, particularly in the winter, so it was very surprising when one customer after another filtered into the store for the better part of the morning and afternoon. For the first time since she had become employed there, Rilla had to actually call the owner because they had run out of supplies for hot chocolate by two o’clock. Her brief hope that the owner would stick around and help for a while was quickly squashed as her teenage son ran in with a box of chocolate and cream then ran right back out again.
Come closing time, Rilla had to gently shoo a few people out of the shop, but that actually wasn’t all that uncommon. They closed about an hour after most people got out of work, so they would pick up the odd foot traffic from people who weren’t in a hurry to get home. Most of them didn’t buy much, though, so Rilla felt no guilt in telling them they needed to leave. Besides, after the day’s record sales she felt a little more justified in ousting a handful of people that might have bought something but likely wouldn’t.
It seemed particularly dark and ominous as she locked up the shop. The roads were busy, but the sidewalk was rather clear, and for some reason the lack of people always left her a little rattled. Rilla walked towards the bus at a faster than usual clip, unable to shake the sense of trepidation that seemed to cling to her like a preteen to her first boyfriend. Soon enough, irrational fears aside, she was scooting in her front door and headed up to her room to deposit her things.
Rilla sighed in the silence, pulling free of her coat, scarf, cardigan, gloves, and hat. Across the room, Marius’s business card glowed against the dark wood of her dresser. She walked over and picked it up again, turning it over in her hands. It was a heavy cardstock, with a distinct feel to it. Someone who handled paper as often as Rilla did developed an appreciation for the differences it could contain. It was the card of someone who took their presentation very seriously. Setting the card down again, she swore softly under her breath, and proceeded to while away the rest of her evening more than a little distracted.
The dreams Rilla had that night were strange. She couldn’t remember much about them, other than music that seemed to call to her, and the ocean. Though not so much seeing it as a sense of it, overwhelming and awe inspiring. She passed her day at work in a similar state of distraction, leaving stacks of inventory not checked in and only barely minding customers. The owner would forgive her – Rilla was her best employee. Finally, day done, she headed home and began the long process of spending entirely too much time getting ready for a date she was entirely too excited about.