Home > Surprise Delivery(15)

Surprise Delivery(15)
Author: R.R. Banks

He's a good guy and although he likes to bitch about his family, he loves his wife and kids more than life itself. He just likes putting on the tough guy act, but it's all for show.

“What'll you have today, kid?” he asks.

“A container of your chicken noodle soup and a BLT, if you don't mind,” I say.

“Chicken noodle soup, huh?” he asks. “You comin' down with a cold or somethin'?”

“I just haven't felt right the last few days,” I reply. “Stomach's been a little dodgy.”

He gives me a smirk. “You ain't pregnant are ya?” he asks. “When Muriel got pregnant, she was always complainin' about –”

“No. I'm not,” I cut him off.

Judging by the look on his face, it came out sharper than I'd intended it to. I give him a soft smile, feeling the heat flaring in my cheeks.

“Sorry,” I tell him. “I didn't mean to snap on you like that. I'm just under a lot of pressure at work.”

His face softens, and he returns my smile. “No problem, kid,” he says. “I get it. Believe me, I get it.”

“I appreciate that, Monty.”

He nods. “Lemme get you your order.”

“Thanks, Monty.”

“Anything for you, kid.”

I wait at the counter and look down at my phone, but I can't help but feel like I'm being watched. It's like a prickling between my shoulder blades or something. I glance around at the crowd and don't see anybody standing there gawking at me openly – which makes me think I'm being super paranoid again.

A couple minutes later, Monty comes back and hands me a bag. I pull out my card, but he waves me off.

“It's on the house today, kid,” he says and chuckles. “Call it the bad day discount.”

“You can't do that, Monty,” I protest.

“Sure, I can. I own the place,” he says. “I can do whatever the fuck I want.”

I smile wide and dig whatever cash I have in my wallet out, dropping it into his tip jar. “Thank you, Monty,” I say. “That was incredibly sweet and generous.”

“Yeah well, just don't let that get around. I got a reputation to protect,” he says.

“Your secret's safe with me,” I wink. “Thank you again.”


Taking my bag, I barely make it out of the way before the next person in line comes barreling up. It's like swimming upstream as I make my way out of the deli. I breathe a sigh of relief when I get back out onto the street – at least the throng of people is a bit more spaced out on the sidewalk, rather than being penned in like cattle inside the deli.

I start to head back toward my apartment when I get that itchy feeling between my shoulder blades again. I stop and turn around to find a tall man standing right behind me. His appearance is so sudden that it startles me, and I nearly drop the bag I'm carrying.

“Sorry,” he says. “I didn't mean to scare you.”

“No, it's fine. No problem,” I say, though my racing heart doesn't quite agree with that.

I look up at him and am surprised to find that I recognize him. It's been a couple of years and he's sporting a neatly trimmed beard now, but it doesn't do much to soften that baby face I recognize so easily.

“Brad Walker,” I say.

“I thought that was you in the deli. I didn't know you're a regular at Monty's too. I mean, what are the odds?” he replies, a wide smile on his face. “How are you, Lexi?”

I nod and give him a smile I hope looks more real than it feels. “I'm doing pretty well, thanks,” I say. “How about you? It's been a while.”

He shrugs. “It has been a while. I missed you after you left the program,” he tells me. “But I'm doing pretty good. Didn't know you lived in the neighborhood.”

“For a while now,” I confirm.

“Yeah, I just moved in recently,” he informs me. “I've got a great little place a few blocks from here.”

The mention of the program is like a dagger to the heart. I hate being reminded that I had to drop out. Brad and I had gone out a few times while I was still in the program, but there was never any real chemistry between us. I think he liked me more than I liked him, to be honest. I just didn't have the kind of connection with him that I wanted – the kind of connection I had with Duncan.

I push the thought quickly and ruthlessly from my mind. Duncan's gone. I can't keep thinking about him. It does me no good and only serves to stir up a lot of crazy thoughts and feelings inside of me – and that's about the last thing I want or need right now, given the fact that I already feel like I'm teetering on the edge of insanity because of my job.

“So, what are you doing now?” I ask. “I assume you graduated?”

He nods. “Yeah, I did, but I realized that I wanted to be a pharmacist,” he says. “So, I continued to take classes until I earned my Pharm. D.”

“Wow, you're a pharmacist now?”

He smiles wide. “Sure am.”

“Good for you, Brad,” I smile. “That's terrific.”

It was probably a wise move for him to make, since his bedside manner is pretty horrible. He's not a bad guy, he's just awkward and doesn't relate to people particularly well. Personally, I wouldn't have felt particularly comfortable with him as my nurse.

“Yeah, so what are you doing these days?” he asks.

Other than fending off sexual predators each and every day while working a menial job that's slowly sucking the life out of me?

“Oh, I'm working at a law firm these days,” I say.

“A law firm. Wow,” he replies. “And here I thought you'd be a nurse practitioner by now.”

Yeah, me too. The thought is bitter and resentful, so I push it away, not wanting to give in to that kind of bleak despair. I've got enough crap swirling through my head and don't really need to start feeling sorry for myself on top of it. Well – feeling sorrier for myself, anyway.

“Yeah, it's not too bad,” I say, intentionally keeping things vague, not wanting to admit that I'm a lowly secretary. “So, how do you like being a pharmacist?”

“It's not too bad, really. It's not as exciting as being a nurse, of course,” he says. “But I think it's the right job for me. I think I'm where I need to be.”

“That's terrific, Brad. I'm really happy for you.”

“Yeah, things are going well,” he continues. “Listen, we should catch up sometime.”

It's moments like these, that I wish I had the ability to teleport myself somewhere else. Anywhere else. Brad's a nice guy, but we have almost nothing in common and there just wasn't that spark the last time we dated. At least, not for me.

“As friends,” he quickly adds. “I mean, just go get some coffee and catch up or something.”

I've never been good at letting people down. Sometimes, I wish I could be that cold, heartless bitch who'd laugh in his face and walk away. But, that's just not me. I'm sometimes too nice for my own good – especially when they're standing there looking at me like a lost puppy dog like Brad is currently doing. It'd certainly make a lot of things in my life a lot easier. Or, at least, a lot more tolerable.

“Yeah,” I say, trying to be as non-committal as possible. “That'd be great.”

“Great,” he says excitedly, as if he really had expected me to laugh in his face and walk away. “I'd really like that.”

“Yeah, me too,” I tell him. “Listen, I should probably get going. I've got a lot to do –”

“Oh, sure, sure,” he says. “I get that. Can I just get your number?”

Damn. I was hoping that in his excitement, he'd overlook that. Apparently, luck is not on my side today. But then, is it ever really? Obviously never, since in a borough of a million and a half people, me and a guy I'd rather not see go to the same damn deli.

“Oh right, what was I thinking?” I say and laugh. “Sorry, a thousand things going on in my head today.”

Brad takes his phone out and keys in my name, then looks at me expectantly. The idea of giving him a fake number crosses my mind, but with my luck, I'd run into him again and things would be incredibly awkward. I'd probably have to stop going to Monty's altogether to avoid the off chance of him being there at the same time I am again. I almost feel like I have no choice but to give him my number just so I can keep eating at Monty's.

Maybe I'm being paranoid again. Or maybe I really am a cold-hearted bitch. It's possible that he really means it when he says he wants to get together and talk, just as friends. For all I know, he's involved with somebody. Hell, for all I know, he could be married right now.

Even though we didn't click on a romantic level, he and I used to have some pretty good conversations. He's odd and quirky, but we do both enjoy a few common things – books and movies, mostly. Things like that. So maybe I'm jumping the gun with my assumptions and should throttle it back a little. After all, you can never have too many friends, right?

“Awesome,” he says as he finishes with his phone, then looks up at me. “It was really nice to see you again, Lexi. I'm looking forward to getting together.”

Something about the way he says that sets me on edge and casts doubt on my hope that he's talking about getting together, ‘as friends’, like he claims he wants to. It's nothing quantifiable, but there's a tone in his voice and a gleam in his eye that makes me throw my guard up even higher than it usually is. A wan smile touches my lips.

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