Madeline leaned back against the counter as she lifted her toes to alleviate the ache in her calves. Pre law or not, she still bore the burden of working, vainly chipping at a monolithic block of student debt, oftentimes running on fumes from the vague fear that she didn’t actually want to be a lawyer at all.
All her other classmates were interning at firms over the summer and she had applied for as many positions as close to home as possible.
She got two mornings at Morrison and Ellis which believed in the power of the law but not in air conditioning and that had turned out to be amiably challenging. Morrison was a lean, bald man with a melodic voice with knobbled wrists and eyes that glowed with an amused light as he gave soliloquies on the travails of the criminal justice system.
Ellis was a heavy set garrulous woman with a honeyed voice and an ability to think around arguments in a sharp hard sentence.
Although she hustled and ached from the hustle, Madeline had found that if she was going to continue to study, then it wouldn’t be the brutal glamour of the big firms or angling for a six figure swinging cock to get her pregnant. No, it would be here, a simple earnest practice that she’d go for.
She told herself stories like this all the time. They were analgesic and narcotic, different types during the day and at night.
Different sorts of tales altogether.
Avery came in to Pot Of Joe and she blushed as she stood up. He wore a grey t shirt and olive cargo pants, walking with a slight hitch as he smiled at her. His eyes were sharp,clearest blue and his hair had been buzzed to stubble. He had the kind of packed, lean muscle that came from hard work and as he drew close, she caught the scent of him, a faint musk that made her damp and conflicted. She had been with the Henrys of the world, tepid, desperate boys without opinions expressed that wouldn’t pass muster outside of a message board or a campus. Updike wrote about a man who knew how to fuck women and made it hurt. Henry had made a scene about how misogynistic it was but looking at Avery, she knew that Updike was speaking to a primal truth about women.
He smiled at her.
‘I didn’t know you worked here.’
His voice was low and soft. A man who thought more than spoke and acted more than he thought.
‘College is expensive. I’m trying to save a little.’
He gave a short nod and she looked past him.
He shook his head and gave a tight smile.
‘Left her at the house. Her name is Buttercup. Not my choice but I promised I’d keep it.’
She noticed through the raw fog of attraction how his voice softened when he spoke the word ‘promised’.
‘The dog or the name?’
His smile widened.
‘Both. She belonged to a guy I served with. He couldn’t keep her so I said I’d take her on.’
There was a worn neatness to him, exceptional posture and she had heard that was how he’d lost his leg. Then she corrected herself, he didn’t lose his leg.
It got taken.
‘Eyes up here, you know?’ he said.
She blushed and shook her head, stammering an apology but he smiled and put a hand up.
‘Don’t. I’m happy to talk about it.’
The shop was quiet and she bit her bottom lip, feeling a girlish recklessness at war with the weariness of the day.
‘Only if you wanted to. I don’t want to pry.’
‘You do. But I won’t here. Dinner?’
Her throat went tight and she nodded quickly as George came in. Skinny latte with a shot and hazelnut syrup but only when he was on his own. Avery turned and grinned at him before looking back at her.
‘I’m sorry, I never took your order.’
He raised his eyebrows and turned to leave.
‘Wednesday night at seven thirty. Are you still at June’s?’
She frowned and he stopped. She leaned forward and confirmed that.
‘Then you did take my order, didn’t you?’
George shook his head as Madeline started to make George his coffee without spilling any of it. Her hands shook and her mouth had gone dry with a want that was almost maddening.
He did call her, though.
To ask for her help.