By Martin Clement
Unless otherwise noted, this story is Copyright 2006 by Martin Clement for Clement & Boule Associates. All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, published, distributed, displayed, performed, copied or stored for public or private use in any information retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any mechanical, photographic or electronic process, including electronically or digitally on the Internet or World Wide Web, or over any network, or local area network, without written permission of the author. No part of this story may be modified or changed or exploited in any way used for derivative works, or offered for sale, or used to construct any kind of database or mirrored at any other location without the express written permission of the author. Thank you for respecting the intellectual property rights protected by the copyright laws of Canada, the United States and International Copyright Treaty.
This story is a work of fiction. All the events and characters depicted in this story are parts of the imagination of the author only. Any similarity to real people, living or dead, or any event that might have occurred in reality should be considered as purely coincidental.
Working in a corner store that is opened twenty-four hours per day is not something very interesting. Trust me, it is not. Even though the ambiance of this especially one was totally boring to the bone, there were a few positive points with working there, other than providing for my survival. During the day shifts, I was working alone. See, the store really was for convenience only. We sold cigarettes, lotteries and beer, there were a few racks of chips and magazines, a two doors fridge with dairies and pops, but that was about all. The place was very small and couldn't accommodate much more than four or five customers at a time, so there were no needs for two people working on day shifts. I could have felt lonely working these shifts since there was nobody to keep me company, but I didn't mind being all by myself. With all the issues I had in my life, it was a blessing for me not having to be asked anything about my private life by coworkers. What bothered me at first was working night shifts, since for security, we had to be two in the store in case of trouble, which had not happened yet, lucky me. So it meant I had to work with Valerie.
Valerie was this kind of girl who always appeared to be smiling. And it always seemed genuine. It was infectious and even the most grouchy of our customers couldn't help but return the smile. She was studying literature at College du Vieux Montreal and as she still lived with her mother, she only kept working at the store because it provided her the luxuries she wanted in a fake independence way (her words, not mine). She was cute, but her beauty had nothing superficial. She was actually a very intellectual kind of girl and even though she had a great sense of humor, she could handle very deep conversations as the ways some pulp and paper companies' blank cuts contribute to the deterioration of the boreal forest or the way the Bible was a poetry book written by humans that had been useful at an old time for bringing morality in a barbarian world that used to be ours. She was so intelligent and it showed in her way of speaking, and there always was this shine in her deep blue eyes when she listened that told you she really was interested in your opinion on the subject at hand. She was not conventional to say the least. The mop of caramel and pink dreads on her head going everywhere and the bright and colorful African dresses she constantly wore over her pale skin told you as much. She really was the sunshine of the store.
The first time I met Valerie was on my third shift at the store. At first I had felt a tad bit embarrassed in her presence since she seemed so exuberant and I was so plain in my beaten blue jeans and t-shirt, but she had seemed oblivious to that major difference between us and she hadn't said anything about the gaps in my shoes as she kept on cheering me as much as she did the whole customers through the whole first rush of that night. No, there really was nothing superficial about that girl.
"So, Yannick" she had started as soon as the rush had vanished and there was no customer left in the store, "I heard you come from Trois-Rivieres. What brought you to come over here?" she asked me casually. "Are you here to study?"
"Hum..." I had grunted, trying to escape from telling her the reality of my being there. "No... I'm not a student."
"Okay..." she had trailed, the glitter fading a bit from her eyes but the smile still intact on her lips. "Is there anything that made you choose to come here? A girlfriend?"
"No." I had simply said, trying to find a way to ditch this conversation by busying myself with a rag and a bottle of detergent.
"Or maybe a boyfriend?"
I had stopped dead in my track.
"I didn't mind to upset you, Yannick." she had said, throwing her hands in front of her defensively. "You know, we're in two thousand four after all."
"Sorry..." I had mumbled.
"Don't feel sorry. I was just trying to get to know you. I didn't mean to push you or anything." She smiled brightly. "Life's too short anyway!
"I know." I whispered.
"Okay. So lets do this another way?"
"Okay." I said.
"There must be something that sparks your interest."
"Yeah." I shrugged, cocking my head slightly in the process. I had been resuming my cleaning of the counter when I felt her staring at me. "What?"
"Well... I'm waiting..."
"Uh-oh!" I had thought. "What can I say? That my entire life had been screwed up all because my father wouldn't support me anymore? Yeah right! I should just undo my belt and let her sneak into my boxers so I wouldn't have any dignity at all anymore! That would be just sick!" I had chuckled a bit.
"What?" Valerie had asked me, grinning.
"Tell me!" she had pleaded with puppy eyes that didn't suit her outfit at all. "Please..."
"That's nothing!" I interjected rapidly.
"You know, I'm not trying to be nosy here." She told me defensively. "I'm just trying to hold a conversation."
"I know. I'm just trying to find something..."
She interrupted me.
"What is your favorite scary movie?" she had asked in a low and scary voice. I couldn't help but laugh.
It had been the first time I had laughed since I was in Montreal and it had really made me feel better. At first, it had been awkward for me to speak my mind about one subject or another, and over the couple of months that had followed our introduction to each other, we had become friends and I had felt I could trust in her. And I think that was mutual. She hadn't even flinched when I had told her one night of November that I was gay. And I had felt relieved when she hadn't even questioned me on that subject. As she had told me, we were in two thousand four after all, and studying in a college that accommodated over six thousand people, and the store being so close to the gay village, she was bound to know some gay guys and girls. She hadn't even tried to push me when I had dismissed her demand to see where I lived. She really was a nice girl. I loved working with her.
"Hello Yannick!" she cheered over the three customers waiting in line to be served.
"Hi Valerie!" I cheered her back, trying to unfreeze my fingers and hide the fact that I was exhausted. Every time I was seeing her smile, I couldn't help but forget about my miserable life at the room. It actually was a blessing that afternoon, considering that I had barely slept after the visit of the pig the night before.
As soon as the last customer left the store, she was by my side in a flash.
"You're early!" she said. "I thought you were not starting before five o'clock."
"Oh! I came to see if George left my pay check."
She looked at me as if an arm was growing in the middle of my forehead.
"You didn't get it yesterday?" she asked me with concern in her eyes.
"George didn't come at all yesterday. I thought that maybe..."
"He didn't say anything at all this morning..."
"Oh..." was all that could escape my lips while my eyes found interest in a spot on the floor. My breathing became heavy and I knew I was on the verge of having a crisis. I didn't even realize I was shaking from fear of what was to happen to me if I went back to the room without money to pay the rent, when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"Give me your coat, Yannick and come sit down." I let her lead me to a chair behind the counter, completely defeated. If I wasn't to pay him, the pig would be throwing me out on the street as soon as I would get back to the room after my shift. He would probably be waiting for my arrival as he had been the day before, and would not even care to pile my meager belonging into plastic bags before tossing it out the door. I was so numb Valerie had to help me out of my coat, and as soon as it was out of the way, I crossed my arms on my chest and curled over my knees, shutting myself from the world.
"Yannick," she said, but I couldn't respond. Visions of homeless people trying their best to remain warm under the vents of the Governor's hotel started flooding in my mind. "Yannick," she repeated. She tried to push the bangs from my forehead but I shook her hand off. "Sorry..." she whispered before she stood and picked up the phone.
"What are you doing?" I mumbled, but she didn't answer me. Instead, I heard her speaking on the phone, and as cheerful as this girl always seemed to be, the kind of tone she was using with the person on the other side was all but nice. It even was scary.
"George, it's Valerie... (pause) Yannick is here for his pay check. (pause) George, it's Friday! What the hell are you thinking? He was supposed to get it yesterday! (pause) No! You calm down! Don't you dare using that condescending tone with me!" She was almost yelling through the receiver. Even though George was not one to be phased by anybody, I would have been horrified to be on the other side of the line. "I don't give a shit that you... Hey! let me finish! Don't interrupt me! Yannick needs his pay and he needs to get it now! (pause) Yes he is! (pause) No! You're talking to me now! (pause) What will it change if I give him the phone? You'll tell him to lay off? It won't happen!" She was screaming in the phone and when she realized people on the street were parked in the entryway of the store witnessing her outburst, she put the receiver on the counter, grabbed her keys from the cash machine and left for the door. "Show is over," she said in a low voice before slamming it shut and locking it. Then she came back to the phone. "Now what do we do from now on?" she asked. "Yes, I locked the door! (pause) No, I won't open it back before you give Yannick the money you owe him!" There was another pause, this time longer than the last one. I was seriously starting to panic. Of course, I was grateful to Valerie for standing for me, but what would happen if George wanted to take a revenge and fire me? What would happen if Valerie was to loose her job because of me? "How much do I take from the cash to pay him?" she asked. "What? That's impossible! (pause) Jesus fucking Christ George, that's not enough! (pause) He's working sixty fucking hours a week for God's sake! How can you pay him this low? (pause) That's illegal what you're doing, George! You're fucking exploiting him! That's cheap labor! I can't believe you've been doing this to him! How long has it been? (pause) Wait a minute!" she said, putting the phone back to the counter and grabbing a calculator. She put back the phone to her ear and said "His gross salary... at seven dollars fifty-five an hour... should be four hundred fifty-three dollars..." At the mention of this amount, my head jerked up, my eyes wide opened. "Give me the charts for taxes and everything!" she commanded. "George, I won't listen to your attempt at making a criminal of me! Now give me the charts!" The silence that followed was deafening until I heard a familiar "bing!" from the cash register, shuffling hands on bills and saw a hand holding a stack of twenty dollars bills in front of my face.
"Take it." Valerie said, calm back in her voice. I just looked at the pile, not trusting myself for taking it. "Take it, Yannick. It's yours."
I timidly took the money from her hand and quickly slipped it in my jeans' pocket without even counting it. She nodded at me and went back to the phone.
"George, from now on I'll be checking on you. (pause) Don't try this menace shit with me, you know you'll lose! You have no right to fire him nor me unless you have a good reason to do so! My mother is a lawyer, do you want me to bring you in contact with her? (pause) Now you'd better pay him for every single hour he hasn't been paid, which should make a fairly good amount of cash! (pause) I don't care about you being able to afford it or not, George, that's none of mine or Yannick's business! Now I'll call Mark to see if he can come and work tonight. I can't let Yannick do this shift since he is worn out. (pause) Oh yes! You'll pay him for this shift he won't do since it is your fault he is in that state! (pause) You'd rather I let the door locked? (pause) That's what I want to hear."
Valerie hung up and made another quick phone call then squatted down in front of me. I was still in shock and my face was bright red with embarrassment. I was wishing a hole to open in the floor to swallow me whole. Valerie lifted her hand cautiously to push a strand of hair from my eyes. This time, I let her do it without flinching.
"Mark will be here soon." she whispered while stroking my hair with her fingers. It felt good even though it was embarrassing.
"You didn't have to do that." I whispered back.
"Oh yes, I did." she said calmly. "What would be friends for? Besides, I hate to see people being exploited. I think now things will be fine."
"Yeah..." I chuckled sadly.
"When Mark's here, I'll make him start right away so I can accompany you to your place."
I felt panic come back to me and I sprout out of the chair, pacing around and putting my coat back.
"You don't have to!" I quickly said. "I can manage to go back home without your help."
"Yannick, calm down..." she said, taking a hold of my coat before I could slip my left arm through its sleeve. I let go of the coat and she guided me back to the chair. "I know you don't want me to see where you live. I wonder why, since I thought you could tell that I'm not into criticizing other people's way of life. You know, I'm not that superficial."
"I know that, Valerie."
"You're not living on the street, are you?" she asked with true concern in her eyes.
"That's all I need to know."
There was a knock on the door. Valerie stood up and grabbed her key, signaling with her finger that she'd be there in a minute.
"Valerie?" She simply looked at me. "Thanks."
"Don't sweat it. No need for that. I told you, that's what friends are for." she said, putting a hand on my shoulder. Then she was up and by the door, unlocking it for the customer to enter.
"Are you closed, madam?" asked a deep voice. I felt shivers going down my spine. Four simple words out of this mouth I hadn't even seen yet, and I wanted nothing more than listening to his voice for hours. It was soothing. Enchanting.
"Not at all," Valerie answered, her usual cheerfulness back in her voice, "We just had a little break me and my coworker."
I heard shuffling on the floor and Valerie was soon back to her usual spot behind the counter.
"Hum... hi!" the soothing voice said.
It took me some time to register in my head that the stranger was talking to me. I was not working, so I hadn't worn the mask of constant happiness I kept on putting in my face while in service. But as I lifted my gaze and found this guy staring intensely in my eyes and right through my soul, I felt a shy smile form on my face. I could tell my ears were bright red and flashing so much I was afraid a plane would come and crash on the store. It seemed as his whole face was constantly in movement. He lifted one of his dark eyebrows, a smile formed on one side of his cherry lips, revealing a dimple in his cheek. He nodded, blinking once, then grinned the warmest of all the smiles I had experienced to witness in my whole life. He combed his perfect unruly hair with golden fingers, freeing snowflakes to come flying their way to the floor, leaving its spikes to find their own new places up in the air. He surely was not from here. Probably a student from the States on vacation traveling to Montreal so he could go clubbing legally. I always found it strange that our neighbors had a right to get killed at war as soon as they were eighteen and couldn't even drink a simple beer. I guess we didn't have the same vision of the word majority. But now was not the time to make spirit games. His deep brown eyes shone with the reflect of the sun through the big window of the store as his teeth appeared from his parting lips, curving his button nose slightly. His perfect skin seemed to be moving on his face, each cell rubbing it while finding a spot it hadn't touched yet, getting the best of it. His black t-shirt, that I could see through the zipper in his opened coat seemed to hug his chest so close I could see the vibrations coming from his heart and through the thin fabric. I could almost feel his breathing entering and leaving his lungs. All I wanted to do at this moment was to put my ear to his chest and let the rhythm swallow me whole. We shared that magic moment together until it was broken by a grunt from Valerie and a rolling of his massive shoulders. This eternity that must have only been a few seconds was finally broken, and I felt the cold coming back to me as an icy glass of water poured on my head and spreading all over my body. Better off that way. I didn't want to make a fool of myself more than I already had anyway. I felt embarrassed enough like that. I didn't need some stranger to laugh at myself. This I could do without.
I stood and put my coat on.
"Where are you going?" Valerie asked me.
"Just need some air," I mumbled.
"Hum... okay... don't go too far, though. Mark will be here any moment.
I grunted my answer and walked my way to the exit.
All the way to the door, I felt the stranger's eyes on the back of my head. I opened the door and went right through.
"What can I do for you, sir?" Valerie asked cheerfully as usual.
"Huh? Oh! I..." These were the last words I heard before the door went to a closure.
Outside, another guy who stood leaning to the brick wall nodded at me. He was probably waiting for the stranger inside the store to come out. His hair was spiked the same way as the other one and the golden skin on his face told me he was not from the area. His features resembled the other one, though his were smoother and he looked a tad bit skinnier. When my eyes crossed his smooth green ones, he nodded and I continued my way on the street, my eyes staring at the icy sidewalk. My worn out shoes kept on trying to go their crazy way on the ice and when the wind rose, I slipped and all my attempt at regaining control of my feet failed. I fell on my back in the middle of the icy sidewalk, my breath leaving my body in a scary woof. People went their way around me not caring to ask if I was okay. Diffusion of responsibilities seemed to be the great leader in this impersonal city. If nobody stopped to help somebody else, then the tragedy didn't exist and people could continue their precious anonymous lives without feeling any guilt.
"Hey man! Are you alright?" I heard a manly voice from beside me. I tried to stand up but my back hurt so much I thought I had broken something in it. I hissed and closed my eyes tight. The pain was so intense it went all through my body like molten lava and I clenched my teeth in an attempt to muffle the scream erupting from my mouth. "Okay, don't move. You'll hurt yourself more."
"Is he okay?" I heard a second guy asking."
"I don't think so!" the man who had probably squatted down beside me said. "Go tell the girl in the store to call an ambulance! I don't want to take any chance."
"No..." I managed to croak through painful breath, snot oozing from my nose. "No... ambulance..." I hissed, my eyes tearing up. Even though medical treatments were free services in Canada, I couldn't afford to pay for an expensive trip in an ambulance.
"Nonsense." the guy said. I felt a hand going under my head and massaging my scalp, soothing me. "There. I don't want you to freeze to death."
His hand was smooth yet strong. It calmed me enough that my whole body relaxed under the care of this hand. As my muscles were finally relaxing, the pain subsided a bit and I exhaled a long breath while opening my eyes. I was instantly pulled out of my own body and vanished in the deep brown eyes overlooking me. My face wasn't cold anymore as I felt the stranger's breath on the skin of it, so warm, so smooth, a faint mixed smell of vanilla and mint reaching my nose and intoxicating me to no end. I was back into that special place I had so briefly been a few minutes before my fall on the ice and I wanted to be swallowed completely by these eyes and the comfort of his skin. I could feel myself drifting into sleep right there in his arms. My eyelids felt so heavy from the winter surrounding the microcosm composed of me and this stranger, and my lack of sleep...
"Don't fall asleep," I heard him whisper. "Focus on me." I heard him shuffle a bit and then felt a smooth tissue cleaning the snot on my face. I felt so embarrassed I felt my face flush. Thanks God the freezing weather surely hided my blush since my cheeks probably were already as red as a fire truck. "There... all cleaned." the guy mumbled, a small smile appearing on his mouth, showing dimples on both his cheeks. He kept on massaging my head through my mop of sandy hair, the smile reaching his eyes. I couldn't help but smile also. "That's right, man. Keep on focusing on me," he continued, his smile broadening and showing his impressively white teeth. One of his second incisors was slightly turned to the outside, not quite overlapping another, his upper canines a bit longer than his other teeth. He was so beautiful...
There were quick steps on the ice coming our way and I recognized the faint squeak from Valerie's boots.
"The ambulance is on its way," she said through short breaths. "I closed the store and left a message for Mark. He has his own keys, so I will go with you." My eyes drifted from the magic ones of my smooth stranger to reach for my friend's worried ones. "Yannick, are you okay?" she asked, seeing the faint smile that was imprinted on my face and the dizziness in my eyes, or was it hunger, I don't know.
"I guess so..." I murmured.
"How's your back?"
I tried to move a bit but the pain that had silenced itself came back as sharp as a butcher's knife. I winced and screamed at the same time, biting my lips and shutting my eyes so tight I could almost see through them. Short of breath, the sounds coming from my throat went lost in the monotony of the winter surrounding us. Some passers stopped to see if I was doing alright, crowding me and sending me into a panic fit. Diffusion of responsibilities had stopped as soon as a caring hand had come to the rescue.
"Move away!" I heard my stranger say. "Give him some air to breathe!" He really was my knight in a shining armour all through these eyes.
The sound of the sirens and the bright red flashes told me that soon, my savior would leave me to lead his own life. When the sirens stopped and the paramedics told my stranger to move away so they could work on me, I closed my eyes and I felt a tear slipping from my eye.
To be continued...
Note from the author
This story is treating about friendship, romance, betrayal, forgiveness, acceptance, pain and healing. There might be some intense scenes of passion but you won't find any explicit scene. I don't have anything against eroticism in itself as I have read a lot of very nice erotic stories on Nifty and elsewhere. As the main characters will try and survive their pain, trying to lead their lives into a world full of resentment, I rather give them the peace and privacy of a closed door than failing at the attempt at explaining a theory of their sexual intercourses. That way, as this story will be told at the first person, if you feel as immersing yourself inside the head of the characters, you'll be able to forge your own version and images of their sexuality without me interfering with my own generic ideas about eroticism.
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