Dark Blue Ink

She watched the young service attendant’s grease scarred hands do things to her engine she only vaguely knew about. He swiftly and effortlessly moved from one engine part to the other, his hands oddly separated from his body and seen only through the small space between the hood and the engine, checking fluid levels and refilling when the mark showed empty or low. She wonders how he can do it with such casual ease and yet be far too young to have any real experience. He just carries on his work as if everything is normal, wiping his dirty hands with a blue rag and chatting with the other attendant working in the next bay of the Fast Change oil changing place.

The hood slams and the young man picks up the clipboard with her invoice and scribbles on it with one of those pens that strip a sexy lady of her swim suit when you hold it upside down. He tucks the pen under the clip, looks over both shoulders as if he doesn’t want to get caught and hands her the clipboard.

“Just sign the bottom” he says in an forced and too loud casual tone. His eyes dart to the scribbles on the invoice and quickly back to her. Holding the young mans gaze, trying to see through his acting and figure out what he’s after, she snaps the sexy pen out from the under the clip. He looks again at the invoice, this time with a slight and almost imperceptible nod, and pushes the clipboard a little closer. His forehead leaks a drop of sweat and he shifts nervously, looking over his shoulder again. He’s definitely up to something, she recognizes the suspicious behaviour. She’s still staring and clearly making him nervous, so she apologizes and signs the invoice. She pulls off her copy and just as soon as she hands the clip board back, the young man disappears to the next bay and she zips up her window quickly and tightly.

She signed too quickly to notice it and he clearly wanted her to read it, so stopping before the entering road she grabbed the invoice. In dark blue ink, the words ‘you’re being followed’ we’re printed across the centre of the page, forcing the details of her purchase to take second priority. Oh god, this can’t be happening again. Can it? She scans the street, a side road in a busy commercial area close to where she works, and spots a dark pickup truck idling at the curb near the exit of the Fast Change. The glare of the sun off the windshield shielding her view of the driver.

She pulls out into the street. She should go back to her office, although she’s not sure what good it would do. Whoever it is that’s following her most likely already knows where she lives. It doesn’t matter; better safe than sorry, right? The headlights of the idling pickup occupy her rearview. He’s right behind her. She takes a few unnecessary turns, hoping to shake him off. He stays with her, pulling right up behind her at a red light.

She’s in the centre lane and will need to cut out in front of someone in order turn and loose the pickup. There’s a lot of traffic and she doesn’t have many choices. A man in a hunters jacket and ball cap stands on the corner, just standing there. He doesn’t cross, instead he looks straight at her and makes a phone call on his cell. He sees her checking him out, and without hanging up turns and walks back from the direction he came. Did he come from that direction? He must have because he’s part of it.

At the changing light she drives through the intersection and the pick up turns right, a delivery van swoops in to take its place. Thats three following her so far; this is bigger than she thought. She turns down an alley and sure enough the delivery van follows. Knowing what she has to do, she grips the steering wheel with sweaty and shaking hands, hits the gas and squeals out of the alley straight into traffic and heads for the Fast Change.

The young attendant is the one who tipped her off, he has to know more and she’s going to find out what. There’s no lineup, she pulls right in. The attendant recognizes her and nervously approaches as she rolls down her window.
“Is everything ok”
“I want to know why you wrote this message on my invoice”. She grabs the paper off the passenger seat and takes another look before handing it over. The dark blue ink letters were still there clear as a bell, but before she looks away the letters begin to vibrate and move, mixing themselves up on the page. Her heart stops and she holds her breath. A tiny smile threatens her shocked face.

The terrifying realization that your mind no longer belongs to you, for most unsuspecting people, marks the beginning of a long and frightful journey through the dark halls of denial, fear and self loathing, but for the woman in the Fast Change the fear of the journey itself, having taken it a number of times in the past, consumed by the choking maw of crazy and then spewed back into sane, the dancing letters are a clear blue reminder of the real nemesis that follows her.

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Mansion in the Sky

Dawn, as in Delta Dawn, the prettiest woman you ever laid eyes on, like the lady from the song, is going to meet her Mr. Right today.  She’d heard all about him: how he’s from France and exotic and real handsome to boot.  He’s been opening the CoCo Nouveau for only a few weeks, but Dawn can’t waste any time and risk loosing him to one of the town hussies.  Not that she’s a hussy, she just knows this is the one for her; she can feel it.

‘Hold up.  I’ve gotta check my makeup,’ says Dawn, stopping at a shop window, taking advantage of the reflection.  She always has her makeup case, a boxy vintage suitcase loaded with all her makeup and beauty products. 

‘Image is important,’ she says, ’You’ve gotta look good if you’re gonna find a good man.’

‘Mom, jeez…you look beautiful as ever.  Let’s goooo.’

‘Be quiet, Dharma, this is important.  You want me to find you a new daddy don’t cha.’  Nine year old Dharma puts up with her mom’s antics about finding a husband and a daddy for her because, even though she loves her crazy mom, she’s tired of looking out for her and she’s ready to let someone else to do it.  Dharma takes care of everything while her mom stays focused on getting more beautiful and finding a husband and living happily ever after in a mansion in the sky, just like in the song.

‘Neither of you are gonna find a man if you keep gawking at yourself or whining about it.  I’m hungry.  There better be real food at this chocolate place,’ Nanna grumbles as usual.  Nanna is Dawn’s grandma and she’s the grumpiest old lady in town.  If she’s not at the post office screeching at the clerk for folding her mail you might find her chasing Mr. Chester’s cat out of her garden with a broom.  Nanna came along today out of pure curiosity.  She doesn’t understand why Dawn wants a man anyway; they’re not really good for anything.

Dawn straightens her blouse and flattens her skirt, checks her teeth for lipstick and… ‘Oh fudge, I don’t know if I can do this.’

‘Mom, jeez…Yes you can.  Just like last time.’  The always supportive Dharma takes her mom’s hand and leads her the rest of the way to Coco Nouveau.

The shop door is all glass with brand new hand painted lettering reminding anyone who enters what they’re there for.  The side window has painted images of chocolate candy and the red and white checkered tables cloths could be seen through the unpainted portions.  How french indeed, thought Dawn, I wonder if he speaks english.

After a short pause and a very deep breath, Dawn opens the door to a tiny ringing bell and takes a step inside.  She doesn’t notice the café music playing in the background, the tiered plates of chocolates or the shelves filled with cakes.  She doesn’t notice the other patrons have stopped chatting and eating to look at the spectacle that is her; a thirthy-something woman dressed to the nines: tight leopard print mini, three inch red heels, lacy white blouse with boobs bursting out the top, big hair (coifed and sprayed) and bright red lipstick.  The only thing Dawn sees is the beautiful man working behind the counter.  In slow motion he looks up from his work to gaze straight into her eyes. Dawn realizes that she’s holding her breath and lets out a big sigh. ‘He’s perfect’ she says in a whisper.

‘Outta my way, missy,’ Nanna barges past Dawn, snapping her out of her daze, and makes her way to the only empty table.

‘Go get him, Delta Dawn‘ Dharma says, scooting by her mom.

The man grins at the commotion and Dawn is sure he’s smiling at her.  Embarrassed, she blushes a hot pink, fluffs up her hair and walks as alluringly as she can to sit with Nanna and Dharma.

Nanna’s cranky voice carries, ‘He doesn’t look french.  Where’s his striped shirt and that neck scarf thing.  He doesn’t even have a moustache or one of those funny french hats.’

‘It’s called a beret, Nanna, and not all french men wear them,’ Dharma says.

Looking over the menu Nanna protests, ‘Just like I thought, no real food.’  She reaches into her wicker handbag and pulls out a cold piece of fried chicken. Dharma doesn’t seem surprised at all, but Dawn is annoyed.

‘Put that away. You’re embarrassing me’ says Dawn

Refocusing her attention, Dawn scopes out her new husband as he works behind the counter.  He is beautiful; short, but beautiful.  His skin is the colour of carmel and his eyes are as dark as tar.  A thick mop of curly black hair is netted in place and he wears a crisp white chefs coat; the kind you see the professionals on those TV cooking shows wear.  He checks the thermometer sticking out of the pot and pours some of the dark shiny thick chocolate all over his marble counter and using a big spatula he smears it all over.  Dawn can’t stop staring at him, watching him work.  She’s awestruck by his strange talent and imagines him creating their own wedding cake.

At the counter, Dawn stands silently dreaming.  She envisions the man, shoulders sprinkled with cocoa and fingers sticky with chocolate, reach across the counter puckered up to give her a big juicy passionate carmel kiss…

‘Miss…Miss, what can I get you?’ says the mysterious dark haired man.

‘Oh, can I have two of those?’ says Dawn, ‘Please,’ she adds in her best I-want-to-marry-you voice.  The man passes her the chocolates with the faded rose candies on top.

‘They match the flower in your hair,’ he says.

Sitting with her family, Dawn gingerly holds the flowered chocolate and says dreamily, ‘I’m in love.’

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