Fool's Gold (Contemporary Romance)

BOOK: Fool's Gold (Contemporary Romance)
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Fool's Gold

by

Clara Frost

Copyright 2013 Clara Frost

All rights reserved

Dedication

To my readers. Without you, none of this would be possible.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 - Date

Chapter 2 - Singing

Chapter 3 - Parents

Chapter 4 - The Show

Chapter 5 - Day Job

Chapter 6 - Time Slips Away

Chapter 7 - Charlotte

Chapter 8 - Trailers

Chapter 9 - New York

Chapter 10 - Trent

Chapter 11 - Beta

Chapter 12 - Sailing

Chapter 13 - Jazz

Chapter 14 - Omaha

Chapter 15 - Audition

Chapter 16 - Friends

Chapter 17 - Interview

Chapter 18 - Victoria

Chapter 19 - Fired

Chapter 20 - Pretenses

Chapter 21 - ER

Chapter 22 - Beta

Chapter 23 - Hospital

Chapter 24 - Jerome

Chapter 25 - Fox Creek

Chapter 26 - Mom

Chapter 27 - Christine

Chapter 28 - Sol's Girl

Chapter 29 - Vidya

Chapter 30 - Christmas Party

Chapter 31 - Drinks

Chapter 32 - Office

Chapter 33 - Beta and Vidya

Chapter 34 - Finished

Chapter 35 - Meetup

Chapter 36 - Friends

Chapter 37 - Museum

Chapter 38 - An Offer

Chapter 39 - Nightcap

Chapter 40 - Rockefeller Center

About the Author

Chapter 1
Date

T
HE knock at the door was the last thing Victoria wanted to hear. She knew it was coming. Knew it had been coming for hours. For days. Ever since she’d finally caved and told Beta she’d go out with him. Again.

Sighing, she set her straightener down on the bathroom counter and headed for the door. There wasn’t much space to cover in the one bedroom apartment, but halfway there the doorbell rang. Someone was eager. Victoria rolled her eyes and shot the bolt open.

“Hey, Vicks,” Beta said, peering around her into the apartment. “Are you ready?”

He smelled like he’d showered in cologne, and he had the red rash of a shave with a cheap razor all over his neck.

“Can you give me five?” She backed up, letting him inside.

“Sure.”

Victoria retreated back to the tiny bathroom as Beta sat on the couch. Chuckles, formerly the kitten from hell, and now the fairly-relaxed-in-middle-age tomcat wound his way into the living room and hopped up on the couch beside Beta. The cat hated practically everyone, so it was a surprise to see him sniff the intruder rather than hiss.

“I didn’t know you had a cat,” Beta said.

Victoria pulled the straightener through her hair. “Things change.”

Chuckles purred as Beta raked his fingers down the cat’s back.

Hair adjusted, Victoria grabbed her purse from the bar that separated the kitchenette from the living room. A quick peek inside confirmed that her wallet and phone were still where she’d left them.

“I’m ready,” she announced. Beta was already on his feet, Chuckles weaving between his ankles. “Where are we going?”

“I was thinking Appleburys.”

It took an effort not to laugh. He bugged her about a date for months and then he took her to Appleburys? She looked him over more carefully as they left the apartment. His shirt still had crisp folds in all the wrong places, as if he’d just taken it out of the package. His khakis had that new Dockers shine.

“Beta, I think you missed a sticker.”

“Huh?”

“On your leg.” The sticker marking the size of his pants ran all the way down the back of his thigh.

“Uh...” He peeled the sticker off and jammed it into a pocket. “New pants.”

“Yeah?”

“I wanted to look nice, you know. Work is pretty casual.”

The lights on his Civic flashed. It was the same car he’d been driving when they were in high school, but with a few more dings. He opened her door for her.

“Thank you,” Victoria said. She settled into the seat and took stock of the car, seeing if anything had changed. It was as old as his clothes were new. The fronts of the seats were pale gray, long since worn down from their original black. The backseat had different, newer upholstery. He had taken care of it, but it was still nearly worn out.

When he started it up, Lana del Rey was playing on the stereo. Beta fumbled with the controls, trying to turn it off. Victoria tried not to laugh. It wasn’t that he was listening to Lana, it was that he was embarrassed by it and making a hash out of trying to hide it.

They pulled out of the apartment complex and headed down Dodge Street toward downtown. Beta kept shooting her glances, but it took him a couple minutes to find the courage to speak again. “You, uh, you still playing with The Real Girls?”

“Not exactly.” She didn’t even cringe when she said it.

“What’s that mean? You go solo?”

“The band decided to go a different direction. They wanted someone else to be the singer.” Victoria flipped down the visor and looked at herself in the mirror. “Put a couple margaritas in me and I’ll tell you all about it, but the wound is still a little raw right now.”

“Alright.”

She wasn’t sure if he meant about the wound or the margaritas. The drinks sounded better than reliving that little piece of misery. People always said that misery loved company. Not true. Misery loved Jack Daniels in a water glass and Etta on the stereo. Company could go play in traffic.

“So anyway,” Victoria said. “How’s the job? Still digging code or whatever you called it?”

“Slinging code? Or digging in the code mines?”

“Whichever.”

“I haven’t done much since I graduated. I thought this job was going to be more programming, but I spend most of my time helping middle-aged women fix their spreadsheets.”

“Computers are hard for most people, Beta. You should be happy you have a gift.”

“I guess. It’s not very fulfilling, though.”

Neither was singing for podunk garage bands that couldn’t tell the difference between talent and auto-tune. Or working at the same waitressing job she’d had since before college.

They pulled into the Appleburys parking lot. It was three-quarters full. Mini-vans and SUVs. Mom boxes. A couple jacked up 4x4s. Typical Nebraska fare.

The restaurant was full of cheap posters in tacky frames, manufactured antiques and  overalls.

“Just two?” the hostess asked.

Victoria couldn’t blame her for the pasted-on smile or the dull eyes. Restaurants seemed to suck the life out of everyone eventually. The hostess led them to a booth near the back of the dining room and left them with a pair of menus.

Victoria looked at the drink menu and waited for Beta to break the silence.

He didn’t.

“So you still play many computer games?” she asked, at last. If she had to sit there and be stared at all night, she was going to stick a fork in his eye just to get a reaction.

“Yeah, still playing EVE.”

“The spaceship game?”

He scratched at the razor burn on his neck. “Yep.”

He seemed proud of himself, as if playing one stupid game for six years were an accomplishment, and not the most pathetic thing she’d heard all week. She felt sorry for him, more than anything. He was Beta. Playing games was what he did, going back to the first time she’d found him sitting in the corner with a Gameboy in second grade.

She smiled, and his face lit up when he saw it. “How’s that going?” She asked. “You guys take over the galaxy yet?”

“Well, you can’t exactly take over the galaxy. In the middle of the universe there are high security areas and...”

He got so animated when he was talking about his games, but it was hard to follow him. The words flowed in one ear and out the other. Something about mittens and delving and then the waitress took their drink orders and then came back with a tray balanced on her palm and he was still going.

The waitress put a pint of beer in front of Beta and a fishbowl of icy green goodness in front of Victoria. “You folks ready to order?” She had a drawl from somewhere further south. Oklahoma or Texas, maybe.

Beta ordered some potato skin appetizer and a steak. Victoria just asked for a hamburger, no tomato. The waitress scratched it down on her pad, gave them a nod, and wandered off.

The margarita went down smooth and cold, and the second was half finished by the time the appetizer came out. Beta didn’t seem to mind. He was still talking about robots and spaceships and lag. Whatever those things were. It wasn’t that she didn’t care. Well, she didn’t. She vaguely wanted to care, in the same way that she cared when her grandma talked about her soaps, but it was like having someone talk in another language.

“And that’s how I ended up in a pod with plus fives still in my head,” he finished.

“Sounds exciting.” She stirred the margarita with her straw.

“So how about you? Tell me about the band.”

She really didn’t want to talk about it, but he’d help up his end of the deal with the drinks.

“Ah... well, they decided they wanted a different sound. Something more punk. I wanted to go more jazzy, so we parted ways.” There was more to it. There was always more to it. Bickering and screaming and broken instruments. Broken hearts. But Beta didn’t need to hear about it. “And now I’m just looking for the next big thing.”

“You, like, got any shows yet or anything?” He took a bite of his potato skin and seemed oblivious to the grease running down his chin.

“I’m playing at Mario’s this Saturday, actually.”

Beta’s face perked up. “Really? I’ll come.”

Victoria took a gulp of margarita, the glass covering her face and her look of panic. “Yeah, that would be great. I’ll text you when I know the time.”

Beta grinned. “Awesome. You going to play guitar or anything?”

“We usually have a couple musicians, so the plan is for me to work a few hours and then sing for a couple more. It’s going to be a long night.”

“I bet.”

Their food arrived, and Beta carved into his. Victoria checked her burger for tomato, and once she was satisfied the waitress had gotten the order correct, took a bite.

It was overcooked on the outside and half raw in the middle

She set it back on the plate, appetite lost. Beta ate on, oblivious.

“So are you looking for a better job?” Victoria asked Beta.

“I don’t know,” he said around a mouthful of steak, then paused and actually chewed his food. “Sorry. I don’t know. The market isn’t great. I’m hoping to get more programming experience to put on my resume.”

Victoria picked at a fry. “At least you have options. The jazz scene in Omaha is terrible. It’s all rock and country.”

“So why not sing rock? You’ve got a killer body.” Heat rose in his cheeks, giving him some color. “I mean voice.”

Oh Beta, always so blunt. Victoria shook her head. “It’s just not my dream, you know?’

By the time the waitress finally made another appearance, Beta was finished with his steak and all the fries on Victoria’s plate had vanished. She wasn’t sure exactly where they’d gone, but her fingers were suspiciously salty. The waitress dropped off the check without asking how the food was or if they wanted dessert.

“I’ll cover my half,” Victoria offered.

“No, you won’t.”

“Come on. It’s the twenty-first century.”

“Vicks, I may not be much of a gentleman, but I’ve been bugging you for a date forever. I’ll take care of this.”

She thought about that for a second. He really had been. She’d agreed to go to a dance with him in high school, and then had done dinner and a movie once or twice in college, but that had been when they were freshmen. “Alright, Beta, you win.”

“So do you want to go do anything else?” Beta asked after he’d stuffed some cash in with the ticket. “We could catch a movie, go play putt-putt or get some ice cream. Or all of the above.”

What she wanted was to go home, put on some pajama pants and spend a couple hours on the couch with a good book, but at the same time, she wanted to let him down easy. “How about the ice cream?”

That would be quick enough, but let her escape without two more hours of awkward conversation.

“Awesome.”

***

The ice cream was delicious, even if the conversation remained slightly painful. It wasn’t until they reached her apartment complex and Beta turned off the ignition that it got weird.

Victoria unbuckled her seatbelt. “It’s been fun, Beta. Thank you.”

He reached for his keys and paused, as if he was expecting her to invite him for a nightcap. Victoria pushed open the door, then leaned back inside. “Really, thank you.”

“No... no problem. Glad you liked it.” He seemed to deflate as he realized that they were through. “I’ll call you, okay?” he said as she closed the door.

“Okay.”

Victoria made her way back up the stairs to her door. Beta was still Beta. Boorish and considerate and clueless and trying. It was going to break his heart when she turned him down the next time.

BOOK: Fool's Gold (Contemporary Romance)
12.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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