Thursday, 12 April 2012

Doorways (F is for ME!)

I couldn't find a decent author who's last name started with F, therefore you're all getting subject to my writing today. My last name does start with F anyways, even though I use my mum's last name (yes, she and my father are still married, she's just didn't change her last name because she's badass, which means that I have a second hidden last name legally) as my pen name. I don't know if any of you remember that story I wrote/posted back in December, but this story is the actual story. It took a long time to write, and I quite like it :)


Dierdre woke to the sound of her dog, Tobey, barking. Squeezing her eyes shut, she ignored him, knowing her alarm would go off at the appropriate time, and that Tobey’s barks were pre-emptive. The silence that followed the abrupt interruption of her dreams was blissful. As she finally began to drift back towards the lush green landscape of the dreamlands, she was jolted awake again by the static of her un-tuned radio alarm clock. Groaning, Dierdre threw back the covers to begin her day, even though she had no interest in leaving the warm nest of her bed.
            Still bleary and half-asleep she stumbled the two steps to the dresser table that held the cause of her aural annoyance, rubbing her eyes to clear away the lasting sandman’s dust. Something hard bumped into her leg, startling her momentarily before the sight of Tobey with his food dish in his mouth penetrated her foggy brain.
            “That vet was full of lies,” Dierdre admonished her dog, more amused than annoyed, “Telling me that you would start to settle down once the ‘terrible twos’ were over. Totally full of shit.”
            Tobey just wagged his tail, and trotted happily back to the kitchen now that he knew his person was awake and aware of his demand for food. He barked once again when Dierdre took a minute to start her pot of coffee, but he settled down once his bowl had been filled as well.
            “Half an hour, pups, then we’ve got to get going.” Dierdre said as she threw on the outfit she had laid out the night before. Glancing in the full-length mirror she admired the green and blue psychedelic swirls of the dress' pattern as she spun in a quick circle, thinking that it was the perfect outfit for the first open day of her shoe store. Opening a tube of liquid eyeliner, Dierdre slowly exhaled to stop her hands from shaking. Staring at her reflection in the mirror her mind wandered momentarily, running through a checklist of tasks. She shook her head and dropped the eyeliner back into her makeup case, forgoing the possibility of a smudged line, for a quick brush of eye shadow and mascara.
Glancing at the clock on her left, Dierdre hurriedly zipped on the black over-the-knee boots that completed her ensemble. Grabbing her travel mug she filled it to the brim with hot coffee and called Tobey, who had wandered to the living room to look out the window. Her coffee in one hand and Tobey’s leash in the other Dierdre glanced around for her purse, finally locating it hanging from the door handle of the hall closet.
Throwing it over her shoulder, Dierdre was almost out the door when she realized she hadn’t grabbed her cell phone off the charger. With Tobey still trying to pull her through the now open door and her already full hands it was a momentary tug of war and a long stretch to the counter where her phone rested.
“Okay, OKAY, we’re going!” Dierdre exclaimed as Tobey grabbed the slack in his leash in his mouth, re-doubling his tug of war efforts to get outside.
The door slammed behind them, causing Dierdre to wince, and hope that her neighbours wouldn’t complain about all the early morning noise, but before she could dwell for too long on the potential consequences Tobey was dragging her down the 3 flights of stairs to the main floor, and her mind became preoccupied with keeping a hold on her coffee and Tobey, and with not tripping over her own feet in their mad rush outside.

The sky had only just begun to blue, so when Dierdre saw the light spilling from the front window of her store a touch of panic met the nerves that she was already feeling and her pace unconsciously quickened. Her thoughts reeled, coming to evermore frightening conclusions as to why the lights in her shop would be on.
Maybe I forgot to turn the lights off last night before I left. I was pretty tired after checking in all that inventory.
Maybe I left the door open and a hobo is now using it as a crash pad and a meeting place for the city’s disenfranchised.
Maybe a bunch of teenage runaways broke in and are just winding down an ecstasy- and booze-induced rave.
Maybe a blonde-obsessed maniac has been scoping the place for days, and is waiting to kidnap me into a life of slavery.
As Dierdre opened the door to her shop she was relieved when no crazed drug addict surfaced to accost her, but she was puzzled by the site of a take-out bag sitting on the main counter. In the lack of sudden attack Dierdre had relaxed her grip on Tobey’s leash, which the energized dog took full advantage of by bolting for the back room to explore.
“No, Tobey!” she hoarsely whispered, not wanting to alert whomever was in her store to their presence yet. But Tobey’s curious nature had taken over, and he had gone to seek out the unfamiliar smell in the store.
After a few long moments Tobey returned to the front room, and to Dierdre’s relief he had no stranger in tow, just her store assistant, Craig.
‘Oh, thank GOD,” Dierdre gasped, “I totally forgot that you had a key! I thought a deranged kidnapper with a fixation on blondes had broken in!”
“Haha, no, I just thought I would get here early for the big day, since I woke up really early anyways. And I figured someone should pick up some breakfast on the way, so we all know how good your are at planning food.” Craig laughed and flourished in the direction of the takeout bag, “No kidnappers, just McMuffins!”
Dierdre laughed along with him as she began to relax from the previous tension. “I’m so glad I hired you instead of that girl who knew everything about designer brands. She may know fashion, but you know the way to my heart!”
Dropping his lanky frame onto the stool behind the cash register, Craig rolled his eyes at his boss’ typical quips and reached into the takeout bag to withdraw his breakfast sandwich.
“I’ve already counted up the float in the till,” he said, pushing his unruly hair behind an ear before taking a bite. He chewed and swallowed before continuing: “The sample sizes are out, the floors were done last night, and I just finished unpacking that last box of Jeffrey Campbells we didn’t add to the inventory lists yesterday. Stop worrying, sit down, and eat your breakfast.”
Now it was Dierdre’s turn to roll her eyes as she responded with mock consternation: “Okay, mother.”
Tobey was lingering beside the counter where the two shared a quiet moment, his eyes glancing hopefully back and forth between the delicious smelling sandwiches in each of their hands. Even though he had just been fed he was pretty sure that he could fit some more in, especially when it smelled like bacon and cheese.
“I’m not giving you any, dog,” Dierdre teased before popping the last bacon-and-egg-filled bite into her mouth.
Pretending indifference in an attempt to negate his previous behavior and save his pride Tobey scampered across the floor to settle himself in the display window to watch the morning commuters who were now starting to pass by the store on their way to the downtown business district. This pass time was less rewarding than the potential for a tasty snack, but the ever-curious dog quickly forgot the temptation of food in the distraction of movement beyond the window.
“I still can’t get over the way you talk to your do like he’s a person. It’s just too cute!” Craig teased.
Dierdre blushed, having forgotten that she wasn’t at home, and having become comfortable in Craig’s presence after the last week of manic preparation before the store opened today.
“Sorry, I’m just used to it being just me and Tobey. It’s not like I talk to him any differently than I talk to you!”
“Ah, so that’s why you never share your food with me! Sheer force of habit.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. You’re so funny. Though you are kind of a dog sometimes,
 what with your destroying those packing boxes and playing with the styrofoam thingers because you got bored!”
            Pretending shock Craig mimed falling off his seat, but only managed to keep a grin off his face for a moment before bursting into laughter.
            “Now why don’t you go switch the open-closed sign around. We might as well open officially since we’re both here and I’ve spotted some curious glances from the commuters.”
            “Anything for you, Madame Director. I am but your humble slave!” Craig bowed sarcastically before waltzing over to the door and flipping the sign with a flourish of the wrist.
            Dierdre laughed as she walked towards the back room, getting in a last jibe before she disappeared from sight, “Call me Mistress, you useless cretin! It’s much more magical-lady-of-darkness, and a scary German Nazi lady wouldn’t wear a dress this colourful!”
            Tobey barked twice in Craig’s direction, as if commenting on the conversation.
            “She’s crazy, I know,” the bemused shop assistant chuckled in reply, “But we might as well make the best of it, because we’re stuck with her!”

“Hey Dee! The phone’s for you!”
Dierdre was in the midst of talking a woman out of a pair of sensible Hunter rainboots and into a pair of mint green Jeffrey Campbell Litas that were all the rage for spring, so she held up a finger ward him off.
“She’ll be just a minute,” Craig said into the receiver, “It’s a shoe emergency!”
“I know we just opened today, but trust me, in two weeks we won’t have any more of them! You should see how quickly any of the Litas are moving in the online stores.” Dierdre explained to the woman, a teller at the bank across the street who was taking a late lunch break and had noticed the new store beside the café she normally ate at. “The Hunters are great, but we’ll always have them; the Litas – especially in mint green – are not going to last because they’re limited edition and one of the hot colours this year.”
“Well… when you put it like that…” the woman hesitated and glanced at her watch before she was drawn back to the shoes in her hands.
“Here. Craig will grab your size from the back room so you can try them of – a size seven I’d say, but we’ll go seven-and-a-half because JCs run tight – and I’ll take that phone call while you think about it!”
“Well I guess I can try them on. Might as well; I have another 15 minutes of my break left.”
“Awesome! Craig: size seven-and-a-half!” Dierdre said in triumph as she grabbed the phone, the contact high from being surrounded by so many shoes and from the first morning’s success giving her voice an extra note of cheer as she chirped “Hello, Divine Shoes, Dierdre speaking, how may I help you!’ into the phone.
“My, my, my, aren’t you enthusiastic today cupcake,” came the distinctly male voice through the speaker, dripping with false charm and sincerity.
“Jake. Hi.”
‘It’s one-thirty,” Jake’s voice cut in to fill what would have been an awkward silence,” The store – haha DIVINE shoes, hilarious little name – can spare you to have lunch with me.”
Oh God, here we go again, Dierdre thought. Not knowing how to politely decline she stalled for time: “Well… it’s our first day open, so I really shouldn’t –“
“Oh, come on! You can spare half an hour – just for me – for old time’s sake. You know you want to.”
Dierdre could feel the familiar echoes of his tone creeping back into her mind to re-establish an influence over her. Even though she had finally gotten him out of her life – it had taken 3 changed phone numbers and a move to a new apartment over a six month time period – she could feel her stomach begin to knot with nervousness. Before she had left him she would have equated these emotions as the normal feelings of liking someone: never quite knowing what to say or do, wanting to impress them, and constantly wondering if the other person liked you as much as you liked them. Dierdre knew now that feeling nervous around Jake was was a result of his constant judgmental attitude and unpredictability that came hand in hand with his endearing charm. This deadly combination resulted in an emotional abuse that became the reason she had ended their relationship and cut him out of her life.
“Jake, I really shouldn’t. The store is my responsibility and –“
“Excuses, excuses. You know, it really hurts me that you don’t even have time to have lunch – just a quick bite to catch up really – with a dear old boyfriend.”
There’s the guilt card. Typical. Dear old boyfriend – my ass! But if I don’t agree to see him then he’s just going to keep pestering me, and he’ll start coming by the store, and UGH. Fine. Whatever.
“Okay, meet me at the –“
“- the Blue Moon Café. Always the same place. You’re so predictable Dierdre-darling; that’s what I always liked about you.” Jake’s voice once again interrupted her, forstalling any control she had over the situation. “I’ll see you in a bit.”
Before Dierdre could get another word in there was a click, and then the dialtone buzzing in her ear. She growled softly as she put down the receiver slightly harder than necessary before taking a deep breath.
“Craig, I’ll be back in about 20. Just something I have to take care of.”
The bell over the door jangled dischordantly as the strap of Dierdre’s purse caught on the door handle on her way outside.

         Dierdre had been waiting for 10 minutes at the Blue Moon Cafe before Jake finally swept through the door with his usual panache.
         Did I really expect any different, she thought with a rueful smile. He'll never change.
         "Have you been waiting long, my dear? I got held up, so forgive me." said Jack when he noticed the frown line that was already puncturing the skin between Dierdre's eyebrows. She shook her head, deferring the question, and tried to smile at him so that they wouldn't start this lunch off with an argument.
         "I don't have very long before I have to get back to the store," Dierdre said, "Tobey still wants to chew the shoes when he gets restless, and Craig is too sweet to stop him."
         "Already trying to get rid of me, are you. Tsk tsk."
         "I'm not-"
         "Whatever, it's fine. I'm chained to my desk as always, and we're preparing for another big case - you'll never guess who it is this time-"
         Why does he still think that I care when he name drops? So he's a bigshot lawyer, who gets to hobnob with minor celebrities. That just means he gets paid to be an asshole.This is going to be the longest 20 minute lunch if he keeps going on like this.
         "You're being awfully quiet, for once." Jack's commanding voice broke into Dierdre's reverie of complaints.
         "I'm just thinking about all the things I have to do at the store. It's kind of a big part of my life right now, if you hadn't noticed." Dierdre could feel her latent anger at the situation creeping into her tone, and consciously unfolded her arms, which had been crossed protectively infront of her as her levels of stress began to rise in Jake’s presence.
         "Oh, come on!" Jack exclaimed in a derisory tone, "Like it's difficult to run a shoe store? Any barbiedoll with two braincells can do it. But really, you couldn't have chosen a worse time to open a shoe store, with the economy the way it is here. If it was me I would have -"
         I'm not going to rise to the bait. I will NOT rise to the bait. Do not respond to him. He's just being childish because that's what he does. He takes anything that anyone is happy about and tears it apart, because that's what he's was trained to do in law school and by his overly agressive boss. He's like a shark, no a barracuda. No. He's like a
social-ladder climbing highschool girl, who knows that emotional scars do the most damage, and last far longer than a black eye. With the right information she can take out anyone, no matter who they are. All it takes is the right poisoned word, and they're out, while she's been dubbed the blue ribbon bitch.
         “Can I get you folks some drinks started while decide on your order?” The cheerful voice belonged to the waitress, whom Dierdre had begun to recognize after many lunch breaks here with Craig and business associates during the set up stages of her store. Dierdre smiled back at the girl, but before she could reply that she would have her regular iced tea with raspberry, Jake’s condescending tone caused her frown lines to return.
          “I don’t know: Can you get us some drinks? Just because you’re a waitress doesn’t mean you have an excuse not to use proper grammatical form when you speak.”
         The girl’s smile didn’t even waver at hearing Jake’s rebuke, but when she met Dierdre’s smiling gaze there was a look in her eyes of tempered anger that betrayed her sunny disposition.
         “For you, ma’am? Your regular iced tea with raspberry?”
         “Did you not hear me? I was talking to you.”
         The waitress slowly turned to face Jake, her smile still in place, but the look in her blue eyes now resembled the glacier quaity of polar ice caps: cold, imposing, and impermeable by man. “Yes, sir, I heard you, but I do not respond to negativity. What would you like to drink?”
         Dierdre quickly cut into the dialogue in an attempt to delay a further confrontation: “He’ll have an iced tea as well, but with lemon instead of the raspberry, and crushed iced instead of cubed.” She tried to catch the girl’s eyes again, and quietly signal for her to escape while she had the chance, but the waitress stood her ground, eyes locked with Jake’s in a vacuous silence.
         After a full minute of silence it became apparent that the waitress was not going to be cowed by Jake’s arrogance, and he glanced away.
         Dierdre silently began to laugh, That’s got to be the first time he’s caved! I knew that girl had balls!
         The waitress gave one last smile to Dierdre, and walked away from the table, presumably to get their drinks.
         Jake’s gaze had refocused on Dierdre, and by the look in his eyes she could tell he was not happy. Being put down, and in front of her, was not something he was used to, so when a half-smile twisted his lips upwards she knew that he was gearing up for another lecture.
         “Could she have been any ruder? I hate power-tripping waitresses who don’t deseve respect from anyone, much less from me…”
         Here he goes again. Dierdre thought, Everytime he goes off on some poor person in the service industry it becomes even more obvioius that he’s never had to work a shitty job in his life. He’s never had to scrap pennies together to make the rent, and skip meals because he has to pay his bills instead of buying enough groceries. Thank god I spent those years in highschool working at DQ to save enough money to get out from under my parents’ roof when I was old enough. And then budgetting everything from day one so that I wouldn’t end up selling it on the street. Putting myself through those business courses when I had managed to save enough, and then applying for the small business loans to get the store started.
         In a few seconds he’s going to go back to criticizing the store again, just wait for it, yup there he goes. Now it’s all about how much interest I’m going to be paying on the loans, and how in debt I’m going to be. Who really buys shoes he asks? Duh. Women. Is it SO HARD for men to comprehend that women need more than 3 pairs of shoes? Who cares if it’s practical; we buy them because we like them. We shouldn’t need any other excuse. Do guys need an excuse to buy another car? They buy them regardless, and at least shoes aren’t as expensive as a midlife-crisis-Porsche! Well maybe if they were custom-made Swarovski-encrusted Louboutins… Mmm sparkles. See that’s why women buy shoes: because they’re sparkly and pretty and make us feel awesome. Just like men and their cars. But we’re not really compensating for anything, because we can also get boobjobs pretty easily. Hahaha oh god why am I thinking about this? Oh yeah: money.
         Great. Now he’s going on about my parents again. How I shouldn’t have moved out so hastily, and how I should try to reconcile with them. If he likes them so much, maybe HE should go live with them. I sure as hell won’t be! Traditional family structures are so over-rated, and I can’t be confined to the suburbs. But the parentals would have just looooved it if I had stayed with Jake. They adored him because he was a perfect country-club specimen in an Armani suit. I would have ended up married to him, knocked up with 3 kids, a white picket fence, and  trapped in a loveless marriage. No thank you!
         “Where is that flake of a waitress. Two iced teas shouldn’t be taking her this long. I have half a mind to –“
         “Shut up.”
         Jake’s self-satisfied tone had finally wormed it’s way so far into Dierdre’s mind that she couldn’t take it anymore. Like the enamel of a rotten tooth being worn away one micromillimeter at a time by a steady diet of chocolate bars, the steady flow of too-sweet charm had broken through to the nerve, and had woken a pain and anger that Dierdre hadn’t realized she was able to tap into.
         “What did you just say to me?” Jake countered.
         “I said: shut up.” Dierdre’s voice was steady, as she looked him in the eye and repeated herself without a smile on her face. The time for placating him was over. “I’ve had to put up with your whining, your bossing, your bitching, for years, and I’m done. Done with listening, done with putting up with it, done with you.”
         Dierdre delivered this tirade with a well-placed glare, and before he could respond she grabbed her purse from under her chair and stood up. She placed her hands on either side of the small table, and leaned over Jake, who was still seated in stunned silence.
         “I’m only going to say this once, so pay attention. Don’t call me. Ever again. If you dot I’ll get a restraining order. You know all about those, don’t you, lawyer-boy. We’re done here.”
         As Dierdre walked out the door of the Blue Moon Café, she smiled. It was a smile fueled by post-fight adrenaline and happiness, a heady mixture that she couldn’t contain. Her future was here, and she was as ready for it as she would ever be. Taking one booted step at a time away from her past was all she could do, and even though she knew that she might be on the edge of a cliff, flight was as big a possiblity as falling.

- Fin - 

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