A Short Story –
Darrin Phillips fiddled with the strap of his second-hand, hand-me-down digital camera, wondering what the hell he was doing here at dawn on a Sunday, when any normal person was either getting ready for church or sleeping off last night. He wondered, as he stared out at the empty, abandoned beach-side forest, why the hell he’d let himself get talked into this. He wasn’t a photographer. He wasn’t even an amateur or a hobbyist.
He was an idiot with a camera he barely knew how to use and a handful of pictures his friends had convinced him were decent enough to post online.
“You have an eye, Dare,” Hayato had told him when the man had first proposed the offer. “A way of looking deep into a person and bringing out their essence and beauty. Of seeing what’s beneath the surface.” Then he’d snorted—an odd sound to come out of the prim, proper man. He’d shot Dare a scoffing look before adding, “Plus, you’ve a reputation of handling even the most stubborn subjects.”
At his job, maybe. Dare worked at Patty’s Playhouse, a children’s arcade and restaurant known for its singing waiters. He wore a stupid toy soldier costume with mitten-hands and sang six-year-old’s burger and pizza orders back to them. He dealt with temper tantrums and crying fits on the daily. Whiny complaints—from parents as well as children—had become the vernacular of his life.
So he’d learned early on to cajole. How to use compliments and distractions as verbal shields against the never-ending assaults. He’d learned how to watch for signs of stress—a wobbly lip from a child, a clenched jaw from a parent. Even in his fellow wait staff, he’d learned to tell when the noise of it all had become too much.
Like he had with Wendy—the rag doll waitress—who’d almost slapped a bratty birthday guest armed with spitballs and an early curiosity about that sacred space beneath a girl’s skirt. From across the room, he’d seen the exact minute her temper flared. The second her rouged cheeks flushed with embarrassed anger when the precocious fourth-grader lifted the hooped tulle. In flash, he’d rushed over in time to grab her pulled-back hand and lead her into a waltz out of the party and into the break room, where he’d poured her a coffee and let her finish her shift unmolested.
It was a shit job and Dare knew it. It wasn’t where he’d planned to be. Wasn’t where he wanted to be for the rest of his life but, he supposed, with working all day with rowdy, hyper kids and tired, on-edge adults, yeah, he’d built a tolerance to stubborn.
He just hoped that carried through to today. The couple approach, strolling the park’s path in the early dusk light. He watched as Hayato and the woman walked, her fiery hair glowing in the climbing sun’s rays as it waved in the chill morning breeze.
Max Wells. Queen bitch of the publishing world. The cocked harpoon in shark-infested waters. Dare wasn’t above admitting that she scared the hell out of him.
Or, at least, he thought she should.
He’d heard rumors about her being a ball-busting ogress. There were legends abound about her shredding grown men with manicured nails before grinding their bones into dust to powder her face.
When he’d imagined her in his mind, whenever he’d listened to those stories, he’d always imagined a giantess. An amazon. A hard, coarse cyborg of a woman built to destroy a man.
Not this woman, who laughed deep and throaty as she and Hayato neared him. She was small. Not even five and a half feet, she wouldn’t so much as brush his shoulder. She was lush too. Softly rounded, curved and full. And she smiled.
Smiled! With her whole face, from her glossed lips to her dimpled cheeks to her crinkled nose to warm, brown eyes.
She was gorgeous. She didn’t look like a ogress or a harpoon or even a bitch. Dressed in a long, tan sweater dress and tall boots, she looked like a nymph in the woods. An angel bathed in golden morning light...
Read Part Two Here