It’s been a long, dry spell for my poor blog. Nearly a month, with no posting. I’m ashamed of myself. I had such noble intentions: a post a week, I told myself, was do-able. Little did I know that real life and my muse would step in, and prevent that from happening. It’s not that I haven’t been productive. I’ve been writing like mad! Just…not on my blog. Oops. I’ll also admit that Twitter may have had a thing or two to do with that, even though I’ve exiled myself from that, as well, as of late.

Much has been going on in the Witch’s life. I’ve switched jobs, which is probably a good thing. I start the new one Monday. Better hours, better money, greater potential for advancement, yada-yada. I’ll miss the restaurant, but I won’t miss the hot kitchen. Also, divorce-papers got filed last month. My divorce hearing is set for August 4th. It’s PIMA’s birthday. How amazingly apropriate.

So, I had this idea running around in my head, and it wouldn’t leave me alone. It kept poking at me with a rather sharp stick, whomping me in the head when I was trying to sleep, whispering things in my ear at work, etc. I sat down with my trusty MSWord program, and began to write. 22K later, it’s kind of taking on a life of its own. I’m in a sharing mood, so I thought I would share an exerpt from the first chapter of Reflections of Who We Become. That’s the working title, anyway, although I’ve been toying with changing it.  There’s a quote at the beginning of the chapter–one of my favorites–that I thought apropriate.  

Let me know what you think! I’m happy to improve myself, and my writing, however I may, so con-crit always appreciated:

“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in it’s proportion.” — Sir Francis Bacon.

It started like any other, ordinary Tuesday morning. Nick crawled out of bed at 5:30, when his alarm went off, and let the shower and the promise of caffeine wake him sufficiently to make his way from the dorms, across the quad, to the SUB’s coffee-bar. His first class didn’t start until 8 a.m. and Mocha Joe’s had just opened, so there was a dearth of customers. It was a perfect start to a beautiful spring day. Except…

What the hell was behind the counter? It looked like the SUB had hired a new server, because he’d never seen anything like that behind the counter before.  Nick scowled. It looked like some guy had had relations with a peacock, and this was their love-child. It smiled. Yep. Newbie. It would learn Nick didn’t do smiles before 10 a.m., at the earliest. He strode purposefully up to the counter, model-perfect face set in what his acting professor called neutral-face, except for the quirk of one eyebrow, which clearly asked ‘who the fuck are you?’

“Good morning.” A shy dip of his head (yes, it appeared to be a man…that mystery was solved, at least), accompanied by a brilliant white smile framed by full pink-lipsticked lips. Now that Nick really had a chance to examine the guy, he was kind of hot…if Nick swung that way, which he didn’t, thank you very much. Nick’s cheek-muscles pulled the corners of his mouth up in a small flash of a return-smile, before he got them back under control, and schooled his features back into the neutral expression of earlier (minus the quirked eyebrow, because…well, just because).

His voice was still rough from sleep, when he spoke. “’Morning. Extra-tall cappuccino, double espresso.”  

Lipstick-boy stood there, the silver bangles on his wrist clinking together and still smiling brightly, as he tapped on the counter with his black-lacquered fingernails. Nick frowned in confusion because he was pretty sure he’d spoken English, well, with possibly a smattering of Italian coffee-speak, but the guy should’ve got the gist of what he wanted. It was too early in the morning for anything beyond that handful of words, and Nick hadn’t had any coffee, yet. And smiley wasn’t moving, just smiling and drumming. Nick tried again, scowling. “Extra-tall cappuccino, double-shot of espresso.”

“I heard you, doll face.” His voice was pleasant—slightly raspy, not too deep, and not too high-pitched, either. He had a nice face, and a beautiful smile…Nick shook his head, not going there. It was the make-up the guy was wearing. Had to be. It was throwing him off, seriously, because he wasn’t into guys. Consequently, he didn’t generally notice when a guy was attractive and smelled nice. What the fuck? Where had that come from?

Nicked rubbed his face with one hand, frustrated, and seriously in need of caffeine. “Uh, then what are you waiting for? Christmas?”

Mr. Lipstick actually had the audacity to giggle. And seriously? It would’ve been a nice sound, if Nick had had a coffee in his hand—which he didn’t. At his bewildered look, Lipstick smiled even wider. “No, doll face. I’m waiting for the magic word.”

Magic word…what? What the hell was the magic word? Was it something he was supposed to know, and didn’t? His sleep-addled brain attempted to come up with something suitable. “Abracadabra?”

That giggle came again, musical and pleasant, his eyes crinkling as he shook his head, longish blue-black hair swishing against his collar. “Nope. Didn’t your mama ever teach you about the magic word?”

Nick was even more confused now, his voice taking on a pleading note. “Um…no?”

Lipstick threw his hands up in the air in a dramatic gesture of exasperation that clearly stated the Nick’s mother had failed him completely, as a parent because she had failed to clue him into the magic coffee-getting word. Hands on hips that were slender, but not skinny, Lipstick huffed out an irritated breath, “Please. The magic word? It’s ‘please’.”

Nick wanted coffee. Lipstick was not gonna give it to him. This was irritating, to say the least. But if ‘please’ would cause coffee to magically start being made, he’d give it a shot, because seriously? He’d already wasted fifteen important minutes of prime coffee-drinking time. Jaw clenching, he glared at Lipstick-boy, in an attempt to convey just how un-amused he really was. “Fine. Please? Coffee? Now?”

Lipstick smiled again. “Sure thing, doll face. If you’ll have a seat, I’ll bring it right out.”

Nodding, because this was the strangest conversation he’d ever had in the SUB, he turned to find a seat, when Lipstick’s voice sounded again. “Thank-you? Seriously, pretty-boy, your social skills are lacking.”

Nick, caffeine-deprived and feeling picked-on, stiffened, whirling around with an ease he wouldn’t have believed himself capable of at this ungodly hour, immediately on the defensive. “Dude, what the fuck? Of course my social skills are lacking! It’s 6:45 in the fucking morning, I’ve been awake for approximately an hour and fifteen minutes, without coffee, I might add. Then, I come in here and find Miss Manners is now working here, and is keeping me from said coffee, because I have no social skills. Jesus H. Tap-dancing Christ! Just give me my fucking coffee! My manners will improve exponentially with coffee. I promise!”

Mr. Lipstick had the nerve to actually look shocked, and a bit frightened at Nick’s tirade, kohl-rimmed blue eyes wide under the fall of deep-blue bangs (they were black with a blue rinse on them, not that Nick noticed this sort of thing, because he so didn’t, but he had considered doing something similar to his own hair a time or two. Perhaps it bore more serious thought…). Silently, the younger man turned and began to make Nick’s coffee.

Walking toward a nearby table, Nick kicked himself, mentally. He had sounded a little frightening. But damn it! How much was he expected to have to put up with on a Tuesday, anyway? And where the hell was Shelby? She was scheduled to work this shift, he had thought. He sighed, disconsolately. The day had started with such promise.

As if on cue, two things happened. His cell-phone buzzed and Lipstick-boy brought a hot, extra-tall cappuccino with a double-espresso shot. Face sober, instead of wearing that smile that Nick could write sonnets about (if, you know, he was into that sort of thing), he carefully placed the cup, in its cheerful, bubble-gum pink cozy, on Nick’s table, and turned to walk away, shoulders set in a defeated posture.

“Hey…uh…” Nick realized, as Mr. Lipstick stopped, but didn’t turn around, he didn’t even know the man’s name. Couldn’t very well call him Mr. Lipstick forever, “Look, I’m sorry for going off. I just…I don’t do well without coffee, y’know? I’m Nick Holt.” He peered at his cell-phone…Shelby. It figured. Boy was she in for an ass-chewing!

Lipstick-boy turned, and his dazzling smile pushed all thoughts of how many ways he was going to ream Shelby far from his mind. The cell-phone continued to buzz, as the prettiest man in Nick’s acquaintance practically skipped back to the table. He held out a hand, and Nick returned the handshake, which was reassuringly firm. “Drew Lawson. And I apologize for sounding like Miss Manners. I’m nervous, I guess. First day on the job. And, well, I kind of have this way of calling a spade a spade. ” Lipstick—er, Drew had a pleasant voice, Nick decided.

Nick nodded. Bluntness was a quality he could appreciate. The two men stared at each other, the silence becoming increasingly uncomfortable, as they searched for something else to say. Nick’s cell-phone started buzzing again, he saw it was Shelby calling back, and thanked whoever was listening for her perfect timing. “I’ve gotta get this. But it was nice to meet you, Drew. I’ll see you around?”

“I’ll be here every morning, Monday through Wednesday, and Friday. Nice to meet you Nick.” He walked away, Nick staring at his departing figure appreciatively. He’d forgotten all about his phone, until the maddening buzz stopped. Crap. Shelby. Taking a long drink of his cappuccino, he sighed, and dialed her number.

“How’s he doing? Is he doing alright? Do I need to come in?” Shelby’s voice in his ear was slightly panicked.
“And good morning to you, too. How’s who doing?” He loved Shelby, but her habit of jumping into a conversation right in the middle, leaving the other half wondering what the hell she was going on about could get annoying, at times. Like now. When he was one sip shy of coffee-less. Once he had himself completely caffeinated, he could usually keep up. But he wasn’t. And he couldn’t.

She let out an exasperated breath that reminded him of Drew’s irritated huff earlier. “DREW! How’s he doing? Do I need to come help him? How’s his coffee? Because if he sucks? Martin trained him. If he’s the best barista on the planet? I taught him everything he knows.”  He could hear the grin in Shel’s voice. He took another long sip of coffee.

“Drew? Who’s Drew? And why is the coffee-bar still locked up tight? I’m in the cafeteria, forced to drink the swill that passes for coffee, to the unwashed masses.” He managed (barely) to keep from laughing at the loud screech that came from his phone’s speaker, causing Drew, who was only a few feet away, to look up, concerned. Nick held a finger to his lips, in a shushing gesture, and winked, gaining him an uncertain smile.

“I’ll kill him! I’ll be there in two minutes. That cafeteria shit will kill you, and then I’ll be friendless!” The line went dead, before Nick had a chance to tell her that everything was going fine. He bit his lip, a guilty look crawling across his face.

From his spot behind the bar, Drew frowned slightly. “What happened?”

“Prepare for world-war-Shelby. She called to check up on you, and I kind of maybe planted the idea in her sweet little head that you weren’t here? She’s on her way.” Nick and Drew shared a grimace. This would not be good.

Ten minutes later, Nick was well into his second cappuccino when a short, blonde hurricane stormed into the coffee house with murder in her eye. She pointed at Nick. “Nicholas Aaron Holt! I am going to kill you, you asshole! I looked all over the cafeteria for you, and you’re here? Do you have any idea just how little sleep I got last night, worrying about how Drew might oversleep, or might have some problem? And then you show up, and I call to see how it’s going, and you pull this shit? I absolutely hate you! Buy me coffee. NOW!

Nick took another calm sip of his cappuccino as Drew looked from Shelby to him and back again, finally managing to squeak. “How do you want your coffee, Shelby?”

“Strong, black, with as much caffeine as you can legally force into it. And if you were in on this, so help me!” Her words were for Drew, but her icy blue gaze was all for Nick who refused to cower under her surly, blonde presence. He absently picked some lint from the sleeve of his shirt, calmly took another sip from his cup, and smiled his most winning smile at the angry woman glaring daggers in his direction.

“Good morning, Shelby. How’s your day, so far? I don’t know where you found Drew, but you definitely need to keep him around a while. He makes the best cappuccino on the planet. Even better than yours, and that’s saying something.” His relaxed voice only served to further infuriate his friend to his great amusement. Shelby had been his girlfriend once upon a time, for about three months, so he understood well the delicate process of talking her down when she was in a snit. He continued, voice still soothing, “By the way, where did you find him? I thought you were supposed to be here this morning.”

Drew carefully set a steaming cup in front of Shelby. This display of anger was so far from anything he’d seen from the tiny blonde in their brief acquaintance that he wasn’t sure how to take it. He walked away deciding it would be better to let Nick handle her, which he seemed to be doing rather well. He’d have to ask her about Nick later, because the tall, muscular frame, dark blonde hair and hazel eyes were pushing every button Drew had. He wanted this pretty man, and it’d been a long time since he’d felt such a strong attraction so quickly. Checking to see that the other two or three customers were settled, he busied himself behind the bar where he could keep an eye on the proceedings at the front table, as the friends spoke in now-hushed tones. Nick winked at him conspiratorially, and the bottom dropped out of Drew’s stomach. Did he even know how hot he was? Drew suspected the answer to be a resounding ‘yes’.

Taking a careful sip of her hot coffee, Shelby sighed in contentment. This was what she needed to calm her nerves. Nick had scared the hell out of her but now the adrenaline was fading and she felt the anger fade along with it. She still might kill him, but not right this minute. “So, I didn’t want to tell you until I was sure I had the job. You remember the strip club on the edge of town, Caprice? I got hired as a bartender, there. I had to cut my hours here because I’m there mainly on weeknights. I met Drew there, and he was looking for a second job. He applied here and he is taking over my weekday hours, since he mainly works weekends.”

Nick nodded. “That’s great, Shelby. Congrats on the new job. So that’s how you met Drew, then? He works there with you?”

“Yeah, we sort of work together a few nights. But I actually met him in my dance class last semester. If you’d bothered to come to the final show, you’d have seen him. He’s an amazing dancer. I’m surprised you haven’t seen him around. He’s a double major—dance and theatre. I figured he’d been in a few of your classes too.” Shelby was nursing her coffee like it was mother’s milk, as she spoke. Their shared caffeine addiction was one of the things that had drawn them to each other, at first. Neither of them were morning people, per se. They just got up early to feed the caffeine-junkie that lived deep in their souls, which didn’t make a great deal of sense to anyone except them.

“I don’t think so. He’s kind of hard to miss, so I think I would’ve noticed.” They shared a laugh at this. Yes Drew was kind of hard to miss. Shelby had lamented, in her journal, many times that it was really too bad he was gay.

Checking the time, Nick rose to pay his and Shelby’s tab. Drew smiled as he walked to the cash-register. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah. You just have to know how to handle Shelby first thing in the morning. The coffee was great, by the way.” Nick pressed a couple of dollars in the tip jar. “So you’ll be here tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I will.” Nick smiled broadly at the news, and Drew felt his knees grow weak.

Not sure why this news made him so cheerful, Nick nodded. “Good. I look forward to it, then. Have a great day, Drew. It was nice meeting you.”

“You too, Nick. See you in the morning.” Drew returned Nick’s wave, and the butterflies in Drew’s stomach fluttered at a fever-pitch as he watched the blonde-haired man walk away, making a mental note to grill Shelby for information later.

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