Written by: TVM (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"Why did we have to get up so early," Annie grumbled as I opened the door to the shop at it's usual time. This was the Monday after our Saturday night fun with Alex upstairs and both Annie and I were still sore back there (if you know what I mean) though it was noticeably less on this morning. Funny how the first time didn't really cause soreness but the second time it sure as hell did. "I wanted to sleep some more."
"Always do," I said as Annie gave me a frown. "I'm sorry. Douglas said we've been slacking on our duties and we needed to open the shop on time today."
"He doesn't have a sore butt," Annie said as I laughed. She gave me a hurt look (trademark Annie).
"Don't give me that look. I have one too," I replied.
"I'm never speaking to Alex again," Annie grumbled as she gingerly sat down on the sofa and winced before laying down and curling up and trying to go back to sleep.
"Annie, you can't go back to sleep you're at work," I said as I sat down (also gingerly) behind the counter.
"Watch me," Annie said as the door clanged with the arrival of Alex. A happy, Alex. Wearing a button up (think business suit shirt) and tie that looked so adorable on her, with a bag draped casually across her shoulder.
"Speak of the devil," I said as she came in and smiled as she spotted me. She stopped at the counter with a nervous smile as I joined her. I took hold of her tie and pulled her to me as she giggled and leaned across the counter and I gladly kissed her. "Morning sexy."
"Takes one to know one," Alex said as I smiled. "You're not a member of the hate Alex club now?"
"I'm sore but I don't hate you," I said.
"I do!" Annie announced from the couch as Alex and I laughed.
"You two are just so hot I couldn't resist," Alex said as I kissed her again.
"Did you have that morning wood problem again?" I asked.
"Yes I did," Alex said seriously as I laughed. "But no one was there to take care of it for me."
"Gimme a few days and me and Annie will take good care of it," I cooed.
"No we won't," Annie declared.
"She is a huge baby," I said as Alex giggled.
"No she's not," Alex said. "Just doesn't have experience enough to know a lot yet."
"I am not a baby," Annie said as she looked up at me. "It hurts."
"And for that, I'm sorry," Alex said as she moved over to Annie and knelt down in front of her. "Forgive me?"
"No," Annie said firmly.
"I'll give you some of my morning muffins if you do," Alex offered as she unzipped her shoulder bag and took out two fresh blueberry muffins (inside a stay fresh Ziploc bag) that smelled heavenly, and offered one to Annie.
"That smells really good," Annie said as she reached for it and found it moving away until she was almost sitting up and giggled when Alex snuck a kiss before giving her the muffin. "You're almost forgiven."
"Really am sorry about the soreness," Alex said as she fed a bit of the muffin to Annie. "K?"
"Impossible to stay mad at you," Annie said as she half-smiled. "Is it always this bad?"
"Tends to get better each time you do it," Alex said. "And no I won't pressure you to do it again."
"Hey gimme some," I said as Alex tossed me her other muffin. Annie was now feeding Alex part of the one she had.
"Anyone have any idea what we are now?" Annie asked with a worried look. "Girlfriends?"
"Friends with benefits," Alex said.
"Three very confused and very horny little bears," I said as both of them laughed. "Ya think?"
"I agree," Annie said. "The three of us was just lots of fun."
"Well I know this..." Alex started to say before pausing and coming back over to the counter and taking me in her arms. "... I love being with Liz. And the more time I spend with you, Annie, the more I feel the same way."
"I love being with you too," I said to Alex.
"What about me?" Annie asked with a worried look.
"You, Annie Parks are my best friend, my rock," I said as she smiled. "I couldn't make it without you."
"I love you too," Annie said simply as I smiled. "And Alex..."
"Yeah?" Alex asked as she joined Annie on the sofa.
"You've been nicer to me than anyone, except Liz, in my entire life," Annie said. "Thank you for including me."
"You are so sweet," Alex said as she kissed Annie's cute lips. "I am so gonna fall in love with you if you give me a chance."
"Maybe I will too," Annie said with a wide smile.
"That goes for you too," Alex said to me.
"Girl who has problems with morning wood say what?" I asked as Alex fell back on the couch laughing.
"Maybe next time you get morning wood you can just come over and let me and Liz help you out," Annie offered as she laid back behind Alex on the sofa and wrapped her arms around her. "Huh?"
"You both take such good care of it," Alex said as she rolled over and kissed Annie for a long moment. "And it's your fault it gets that way. You're both so sexy."
"Love your morning wood," Annie moaned as she kissed Alex again. The clanging of the bell above the door signaled the arrival of Danny (Clinton's friend) as he came into use the internet. Annie reluctantly let Alex slip from her arms.
"Long time no see," I said to Danny. "How's the class work coming?"
"Oh, I'm done for the year," Danny announced. "But gearing up for sophomore year in a month or so. Registration and all."
"Don't I know it," I said. "Annie and I gotta worry about that too."
"Pain in the butt," Danny said as I covered my mouth to keep from bursting out laughing. Danny gave me a strange look as he handed me the money for 3 hours of internet time. I logged him as he took his seat and quietly went to work. Annie joined me at the counter.
"What are we gonna do about school?" Annie asked. "I don't wanna leave Douglas hurting without a staff."
"Me either," I said as I covered her hand with mine. "Maybe something will pop up."
"You do still wanna go right?" Annie asked.
"Yes I do," I said. "And I was thinking that we could just move into the dorm to save money."
"Leave our apartment?" Annie asked.
"We can't pay for both," I said. "Be cheaper if we lived on campus."
"Not to butt into your business or anything but you need to call and make sure you can guys can get a room together," Danny advised. "Reserved rooms are going fast."
"Thanks for the advice," I said as Danny smiled.
"Remind me to do that on my lunch break," I said. A tall gangly black guy came in the door at that moment with a box under his arm, looking to be in search of someone.
"Can I help you?" I asked him.
"I'm Arty Fleming and I'm looking for an Elizabeth Waycross," he said.
"That's me," I said and showing him my name tag. "How can I help you?"
"I have a package for you," he said as he handed me the box and I damn near pissed myself as I saw that it was a laptop computer. "Someone must love you."
"This is for me? How much do I owe you?" I asked.
"Nothing," Arty said. "Some dude in a black caddy rolled up to me and my friend Kristina and handed me a hundred with a note to deliver it here."
"Black Cadillac?" I asked as Arty nodded. "What did he look like?"
"White dude... bout... 50? Looked a lot like you," Arty said. "Your Dad?"
"My father has been missing for years so it's highly unlikely," I said. "Seems someone is trying to play mind games with me."
"You think it's Duncan? He drove a Cadillac," Annie pointed out. "Black too. He was also just like the guy described him."
"Dude trying to hurt you?" Arty asked.
"No not trying to hurt me," I said. "He's just acting weird is all."
"And you do look like him," Annie said as I looked back at her. "You do! Those same laugh lines and around your mouth."
"This guy is not my father," I declared. "I don't know who my father is but he's a low life son-of-a-bitch with no redeeming moral values."
"So he's a Republican?" Arty asked with a big smile as everyone laughed. "Kidding."
"Nice computer," Annie said.
"Sure is," Arty commented.
"Do I owe you a tip?" I asked Arty.
"Nope, the Caddy dude paid me already," Arty said. "Was kind of wondering something though..."
"Liz, these boxes in the back are not movable," Alex complained. "They weight a ton."
"Can't budge them?" I asked. "Maybe if me, you and Annie try it?"
"Maybe," Alex said with a shrug.
"I'm pretty strong," Arty offered. "Maybe let me give it a go?"
"You're a life saver," I said as he smiled. "What did you need to ask me?"
"If you needed any help," he said as I laughed. "Seems you do."
"WOW!" I said as he muscled the boxes off the floor and set them down exactly were Alex needed them. "Thank you."
"No problem," Arty said. "So you do need some help?"
"You need a job pretty bad?" I asked.
"Ahhhh hell, I'm just gonna come out with it," he said as he stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Me and my friend Kristina are both homeless. She's pregnant and can't handle these cold nights in Philly. If you've got any kind of work I'd sure be willing to do anything."
"I'm sorry about your situation," I said. "But..."
"We could use someone to clean out the alley out back," Alex chimed in from her new position on the floor unpacking the boxes Arty just moved. "Douglas said he wants to do an outdoor room so he can host cocktail parties."
"I heard that too," Annie chimed in from her position behind the counter.
"I'm good with my hands and I'm honest," Arty said. "My friend Kristina is too. She's an artist and we could paint the walls after we clean it out."
"I'll have to talk to the owner and he won't be in till around three," I said.
"You're the manager, Liz," Alex said with a smirk. "Hire him for the day."
"I can only pay you for one day if the boss says no," I said as Arty smiled and started jumping around excitedly.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," he said with a man-size hug. "I'll work so hard you can't let me go."
"Hey there you are," A pretty girl with dreadlocks said as she popped her head inside the door. "Find her?"
"This is her," Arty said as he put his arm around me and made me blush. "She's my new best friend. Gave me a job on the spot."
"Doing what?" the girl asked.
"It's not much, Kristina, just some clean up work," he said. "But at least we can sleep some place dry tonight."
"Lots of clean up work," Alex said from the floor. "Place is filled with crap. Unless you burn the joint down you got a job for weeks I bet."
"There's a shelter down the road..."
"Full up," Kristina said. "Bunch of thieves stay there anyway."
"We got a place tonight though," Arty said. "It's indoors, dry and warm."
"Hey I found my movie," Annie announced from the front counter. "My Tarzan movie."
"I guess you can get to work in the back and when the owner comes in I'll have him talk to you," I said as Arty flashed me a thumbs up and headed off to the alley.
"Anything I can do to help?" Kristina asked. "Anything at all?"
"Yeah you can tell me how to use Excel," Danny griped. "Liz, help me?"
"I used to use Excel all the time," Kristina said. "Can I?"
"Feel free," I said as Kristina smiled and pulled up a chair next to Danny and started teaching him the basics of Excel as I returned to the counter. Annie happily showed me her movie.
"It was under the counter the whole time," Annie said.
"Kinda like your bedroom huh? Don't know what's there until you move a few things around," I said as she giggled.
"You know finding this does bring up a question," Annie said.
"Stop that," Annie said as I giggled. "This is a good one."
"So was the one you uncorked about African-American cows," I said as she blushed.
"Seriously," Annie said as she showed me the DVD. "Tarzan is clean shaven in this."
"He lives in the forest," she pointed out. "How do you think he shaves?"
I simply had to laugh. But on this one she was right.
"Ma'am," A gentleman said as he came to the counter with his selection.
"A book about old ships?" Annie asked as she looked at it. "We got a bit of everything here."
"You sure do!"
"From the days when fog horns saved lives to the present day," Annie read from the cover as she rung up his total and took the money, giving him his change and his book in a bag as he exited.
"No, it's like a tin whistle," Kristina said to Danny as she pointed at the screen. "It makes the same sound. Trust me."
"Do you think they make tin whistles out of tin?" Annie asked me after hearing that.
"Probably," I laughed.
"So you think they make fog horns out of fog?" Annie asked as I started laughing and had to hold onto the counter at that point. That one even topped the cow question from a few days ago. Everyone within earshot laughed at that one.
"No more questions," I said as Annie giggled. "Get back to work."
"Yes Boss lady," Annie said with a salute as I rolled my eyes and spotted Arty out back and hard at work on the trash heap that was the alley. I made my way to the back door as Danny and Kristina giggled in their quest to master the Excel program.
"Looks a lot better already," I said as Arty stopped to smile briefly. "You need something cold to drink?"
"That'd be nice," he said without stopping. I had Annie bring me a cold water from the fridge. He took only a moment to stop and take a long drink before he went back to work.
"Boss man is here," Alex said as she arrived at the back door a couple of hours later and I made my way back into the store to find Douglas dressed in a riding suit and bicycle helmet and looked to see a bike now sitting in front of the store.
"You rode down here today?" I asked Douglas as he breathed ragged and took the cold water that Annie offered him and drank nearly half of it.
"Damn near... killed me," Douglas said between breaths as everyone in the place laughed. "Thought I was... in better condition."
"Guess not," Annie giggled. Douglas giving her a stern look as she tried not to laugh.
"You OK?" I asked as I followed him to the office or well, we almost made it there, before he noticed Arty in the back alley hard at work. "That's my new hire for the day. Arty. He's cleaning out the alley like you wanted?"
"I had considered it," Douglas said. "Alex's idea really.
"So you don't need it cleaned out?" I asked as we walked towards the back of the store and I gave Alex a determined look.
"Well let's see what kind of job he's doing before judging," Douglas said as we arrived in the alley. Arty stopped and wiped away the sweat from his forehead. He smiled when I tossed him his water. "Well young man I'm very impressed."
"Thank you sir," Arty said. "You're Douglas?"
"I am," Douglas said as he shook Arty's hand.
"Arty Fleming!" he said. "That's my friend Kristina Jorgenson in there helping out at the net café."
"Most impressive," Douglas said. "An excellent bit of management on your part, Liz."
"Thank you sir," I said with a smile.
"So how long do you think this will take?" Douglas asked Arty.
"Two weeks minimum," Arty said. "And then you got all of the repair work and building of whatever built-ins that you require."
"Seems like a fair estimate," Douglas said. "I assume you're hired for that amount of time already?"
"I was leaving that to you," I said to Douglas. "You being the owner."
"Well I don't see anything wrong with hiring him for the duration of the project," Douglas said. "I assume you've worked in construction of some kind?"
"Lowenstein Brothers construction," Arty said. "The company failed last year and I've been in a bad position since then."
"He's homeless," I inserted. Arty simply nodded to confirm. "But he sure is a hard worker."
"Honest day's pay for an honest day's work?" Douglas asked.
"I think we'd all be better off if we lived by that standard," Arty commented.
"If you don't mind me asking where are you staying tonight?" Douglas asked with concern.
"An empty room above the Chinese restaurant bout a half mile from here," Arty said. "It's pretty warm where it's over the kitchen and all... this is my friend, Kristina, and her upcoming attraction."
"Hi," Kristina said as she joined Arty. "Anything wrong?"
"Just discussing our living situation with Douglas and Liz," Arty said.
"And how is it that you came about being out of a place to stay?" Douglas asked Kristina.
"My worthless father is a bible thumping zealot who was embarrassed by me getting pregnant," Kristina said. "So he kicked me out. My Mom still sneaks Arty and me some money but it's not much."
"What a horrible human being," I said and covered my mouth as that popped out without consent of my brain (as usual). Kristina just laughed.
"Are you two dating? Was that a part of the problem?"
"No, we're just friends," Kristina said. "My Ex-boyfriend from the church my Dad attends is the father of this one."
"Another horrible human being," Arty said.
"Don't you talk about my love that way," Kristina said with a poke to Arty's chest.
"Yeah he might have God smite me," Arty said as everyone laughed. "Some big Christian."
"And what about you and this help you offered in the net café?" Douglas asked Kristina.
"Oh yeah, Danny, he's really nice, he asked about Excel," Kristina said. "And I volunteered to help."
"Not tending to your duties?" Douglas asked me with a smirk.
"Don't start with me Douglas Stone age," I said as he laughed.
"I'd be willing to offer any help if I could hang out with Arty during the day," Kristina said.
"I think that sounds OK," I immediately offered.
"Of course that means you'll have less work to do," Douglas said to me.
"And the downside of that is?" I asked as Douglas laughed again and shrugged
"More time to use that new laptop of yours," Arty said.
"New laptop?" Douglas asked.
"Yeah, that's how I met Arty," I said. "And he said some dude in a black caddy gave it to him and said to give it to me."
"Very unusual," Douglas said.
"Gave me a hundred bucks to deliver it," Arty noted.
"From the way he described it sounded like Duncan," I said.
"He also looked a lot like you," Arty said to me.
"I noticed a resemblance between the two of you also," Douglas said.
"I know, he's my father," I said sarcastically "Annie, Arty and now you think so. Pretty pathetic attempt at being a father if he is."
"Well that I will agree with," Douglas said as everyone laughed.