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Authors: Zoraida Córdova

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Luck on the Line

BOOK: Luck on the Line
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Luck on the Line
On the Verge: Book One
Zoraida Córdova

Diversion Books
A Division of Diversion Publishing Corp.
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 1008
New York, NY 10016

Copyright © 2014 by Zoraida Córdova
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
Cover Designed by Najla Qamber Designs

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

For more information, email
[email protected]

First Diversion Books edition November 2014

For all the lost girls searching for the right place.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1

The universal rule of servers is: the bigger the order, the bigger the prick.

It was true during my year of “soul searching” after high school graduation, bartending at El Gallo on Espanola Way, when sunburnt moms sent back LITs for being
too strong

It was true the year after that at the Old Post in Missoula, Montana, when diet-obsessed sorority girls asked for the Country House Special Sauce Deluxe burger, but, you know, without the onions and tomatoes and, oh, no special sauce.

And it was true, when I made health shakes at Super Green Joe’s in Brooklyn the year after that. If I hear “is that protein gluten-soy-dairy-free
fair trade?” one more time…

Now at The Red Cup, Mr. Tall Vanilla Latte No Whip, No Foam, Extra shot, Half Skim, Half Whole, Pump of Hazelnut is a pretty big prick.

I’m next in line. I cross then uncross my arms, shift the weight of my duffle bag, then check my phone for the time. I should have been at my mom’s ten minutes ago.
minutes ago, this guy started ordering his drink. My mom might be a lot of things, but late is never one of them.

He leans forward at the barista, making his triceps flex. He has broad shoulders. His white t-shirt hugs every lean muscle. I can see the shadow of a tattoo barely visible under the thinning cotton of his too-many-times-washed shirt, and a tendril of black ink peeks above the collar. He has the kind of back that begs to be touched and caressed like it’s solid ground after being lost at sea. If he weren’t holding up the line, I’d be more than tempted to try.

Or, maybe it’s just been too long since I’ve had a man this delicious.

The shuffle of feet behind me announces a new round of customers. They cock their heads from side to side like the hands of Kali to see what the hold up is.

Shuffle, shuffle, grunt, sigh

Mr. Tall Latte says something that makes the barista giggle. I can practically hear his eyelid wink.

Holding my camera around my neck, I adjust the lens. Just because he’s annoying doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a beautiful specimen when I see one, and his shoulders frame the art deco coffee shop just right. I wonder if his face is as wonderful to look at as his back. I catch a bit of his strong jaw and high cheekbone. During my internship with fashion photographer Louis Devereux, I got to shoot lots of beautiful guys. They had sultry pouts, skinny muscles from Pilates, and hair so slick that when I touched it, I needed rubbing alcohol to get the grime off. They were pretty men. Lovely men. This guy, Mr. Tall Latte, in worn jeans and scuffed leather boots, is a manly man. And my camera loves him.

But even with the manliest of men, something ruins it.

When he purrs, “You can sprinkle some cinnamon on top,” I want to gag.

I catch a peek of the barista. Her long curls are tamed under a duck billed cap that is unforgiving on everyone else who works here, but on her, it’s fitted. Flattering even. Her tan skin and apple cheeks are red and welcoming, like the summer blossoms blooming all over Boston. I catch my hangover-green pallor in my camera screen, unwashed brown hair probably full of leaves from trying to walk off the drunk with a photo shoot in Boston Common, and I realize I need my coffee as much as I need fresh air and a shower.

The barista takes Mr. Tall Latte’s money and her eyes dart to the counter of condiments and coffee fixings. “The cinnamon is over there, sir.”

“Jay,” he says. “Sir is my Dad.”

“Jay,” she repeats.

Behind me the long line is getting longer. I need my coffee. Need the caffeine to clear my head of the mess I’ve made, and not just in the past 24 hours, but in the past four years. Maybe even before that. Something to wire me up and get me to think about anything, anything but my yearly migration back to my mother.

Someone behind me mutters a curse and the line shifts in the way caffeine junkies have. Shaky legs, jittery arms that can’t even text right, pronounced sighing, and eye rolling. I am
about to get trampled by a lunch-slump, un-caffeinated work crowd. I peek-a-boo around Mr. Tall Latte and wave at the barista, breaking up their love connection.

“So, do you want her to put frosting and birthday sprinkles on it, too, or are you going to move it along?”

The line snickers and when he turns to face me, I’m affronted by the full force of his angry sea-green eyes. I hate when I’m right. His face doesn’t just match the perfection of his back—it’s better. The skin under his five o’clock shadow hardens when he clenches his jaw. His nose, which looks like it’s taken a few beatings in the past, scrunches up in a way that would be cute if we had met under different circumstances. I can practically
his irritation radiating like a tanning bed. Or perhaps he’s thinking, “who the hell are you?” I bet girls don’t talk to him this way. His eyes go from my eyes, to the tiny silver star around my neck, to my messy clothes. He parts his full lips, ready to counter my insult. But then he notices the disgruntled others behind me, and with a grimace mutters, “My birthday’s not till next month, Princess,” then walks passed me to the drink pick-up station.

My face is on fire, like the heat of his hatred seared my top layer right off. The barista isn’t happy to see me and the crowd has easily forgotten my heroics because now
the one holding up the line.

“Venti. Black,” I say and when she asks my name, all traces of her smile are gone from her rosy cheeks.

“Lucky,” I say.

She arcs an eyebrow as if to say, “Yeah right.”

But I get that all the time. Lucky Pierce. No, it doesn’t come with any luck or significance, other than that my dear old dad must’ve indulged in a little more than a cigar while I was being born.

I pay and step to the pick-up station. In the afternoon flurry of the coffee shop with girls on their laptops churning out their feelings and hipsters bopping to music, I fiddle with my camera and tap my shoe while I wait for my coffee, and try not to glance at the guy I just cock blocked.

“Small, black.” The pretty barista lands my drink on the counter as if it say, “Now get out.”

I should correct her. I should tell her that I’m having a case of “what is wrong with my life?” and she should feel some sort of female solidarity, but then she turns her back around and busies herself making drinks. She chicken-scratched a LUCY on my drink. That’s me, Lucy.

“Right.” I take my coffee. The lid is faulty and my grip squeezes hot black liquid down my hands, soaking into my jeans and the black cloth of my Chucks.

Mr. Tall Latte chuckles, then covers his mouth in a mock apology.

“Nice,” I tell him. “You’re a real gent.”

His smile makes my stomach heave like a balance weight and I grind my teeth, wishing I could punch my subconscious for its poor choices in men.

He bends down to read the name on my decrepit cup and says, “Well Lucy, I’d say it’s been a pleasure, but my friend Karma disagrees.”

“Somehow I doubt you and Karma are on friendly terms.” I grab a bunch of napkins and clean the coffee that’s rolled down to my elbows and the surface of my camera.

He shrugs and glances back to the barista suddenly making drinks like the world depends on it.

“You know,” I start, “I probably did her a favor.” I shake my hand and droplets of coffee pock the pristine white of his shirt.

“Aren’t you a good Samaritan?” He licks his finger, pulls on the cloth and dabs at the stain but it won’t come out. He mutters, “Great. Just what I needed. Who does that?”

I was going to apologize, but I won’t let myself. I dry my hand on my duffle bag. “Who wears ripped jeans like it’s 1989?”

“Who wears a Yankees cap?” He takes it, and holds it over my head. I have to hop a bit to snatch it back. “Are you lost or something?”

Lost is one way to put it…

My reaction to him is more physical that I’d like. I can smell his freshly washed skin with something that reminds of warm beach days and suntan oil. Heat spreads from the pit of my belly like an unwatched fire. I should slap him. I should curse him out. Wipe the smirk off his face. Just when I decide to leave, his phone rings. He sticks a finger in one ear and turns his back to me. The comeback is lost on my tongue and I tell myself it’s not worth it.

The counter is full of drinks now and disgruntled people reach over me for their orders. Then I see it. The name on the drink—Jay—written in perfect black marker. Beside his name is a heart and a phone number.

His back is still to me, and before I can rethink it I grab his vanilla latte no whip, no foam, extra shot, half skim, half whole, pump of hazelnut and dash out the door. My heart is racing in my chest as the sweet, hot liquid dribbles down my hand.

He shouts, “Hey!”

But a new crowd rushes into the Red Cup, and I’m out and around the corner breaking into a jog onto Seaport Blvd. I’m blind to traffic, the trucks and cars honking as I jaywalk. I jump over a toy dog that barks and tugs on his pink leash after me. I turn sideways so I fit between a couple of girls giggling behind pinks manicured hands, and finally land at the shiny entrance of my mother’s new apartment building. In the wide open space of the Waterfront, new condos create a shiny new skyline along the hulking ships on the harbor.

I take a sip of the sequestered latte in my hand, burning my tongue and forcing it to go down. Then I summon all of my energy, because I’ll need it all to get through this. I haven’t seen my mother since this same exact time last year when she still lived in Cambridge, unless you count seeing her every week on TV.

I let myself into the lobby, where a pale and freckled young doorman smiles and buzzes me up. I take another sip, but this time, the sweetness just won’t go down. I chuck the wasted caffeine into the nearest trashcan. Damn, that was nasty.

Chapter 2

When you haven’t seen your mother in a year, you expect more of a welcome. Fake
like I’d get from this French roommate I had in the Village once. Maybe even a one-armed hug, because nothing says “we are family” like a one-armed hug.

Instead, my mother swoops down the coiled carpeted steps (she timed it, I swear) and takes my hands in hers to examine my appearance. My unwashed hair, my unkempt clothes, and the dark circles under my eyes.

That’s okay. It’s only June 10
. We save our once-a-year hug for June 24
, the day when ten years ago, both of our lives changed. Now we’re here, in a room so white it hurts my eyes. So white, I already notice the trail of Boston rain and dirt I’m trailing in. The exposed brick of the fireplace wall is painted gold. White stag antlers hang above the mantel. I guess Mom’s not a proud member of PETA anymore.

A white carpet that looks soft to the touch is carefully, artfully thrown across the floor, surrounded by white leather couches. The walls, the floors, the designer tailored suit hugging my mother’s surgically excavated curves. After four years of apartment hopping and near-homelessness, I always return to my mother’s life and feel like a bit of coal in a stash of diamonds. The only sign of life in the Home & Garden ad that is my mother’s new pad is a half-empty wine glass on a red ceramic coaster.

BOOK: Luck on the Line
2.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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