To celebrate the release of my new book, Stay With Me, as well as commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, I will be posting articles and links on the subject through the month of May. Please share this with your friends and family. Today, though, I’ll be posting another excerpt of my book – Chapter 3. You can go to Wattpad (https://www.wattpad.com/myworks/65358773-stay-with-me) to read the first two chapters. Visit https://ruthegriffin.com/home/bookshelf/stay-with-me/ for more information about the book and where to purchase it.
#mhm2016 #MentalHealth #StayWithMe
“It’s just scribbling. None of it makes sense,” Jada stated as she examined the list. Her boyfriend stood beside her, reading over her shoulder. “Except, of course, for this part about you,” she added.
Her tone was playful, cheeky.
“Really…,” he muttered and snatched the paper from her hand, unappreciative of the attention he was receiving. Still, there was no denying it: he was on top of the list, the mystery woman’s intentions plain as day.
Part of him swelled up with pride to be ranked so high. But it bothered him that a stranger was making lists that included him. And what about the other stuff?
Talk to Finn
Send Book de la vida
Extra whipped cream and sprinkles
Go see Rosa
Present for Zoey’s birthday
Yarn for crochet
Get a dog, name it Rick
Pick up paycheck
Pick up milk and cereal
Pick up cake and ice cream
Do something normal
All the items were scribbled across the page, this way and that, written in different inks, some of it obviously rushed, some of it thought out. It was a list for certain, but it offered no clue as to the woman’s identity.
Noah sighed. Everyone present was adamant that he should pursue the matter. And sure, he’d like to know who she was, but this was an impossible task. He was neither Sherlock Holmes, nor Hercules Poirot. If there was a clue somewhere on the list, then he was missing it.
I guess there’s no career as a detective for me, he thought, as Cass joined them. She had been assisting a customer who was looking for a particular book in the romance section – a popular subject today.
“Did you figure it out?” she asked hopeful.
Before Noah could answer, Jada replied, “Nope.”
Cass sighed loudly and returned to her place behind the counter.
“Pity. I bet you would have liked to see her again.”
Again, before Noah could even open his mouth, it was the boyfriend who spoke up.
“Hell yeah. That’s a sure thing right there, am I right?”
He raised his hand to high-five Noah, but Noah simply glared at him until he dropped his arm. The boyfriend had disappeared for a while after Bill inquired about him, but he was back now, hanging around Jada and interjecting his opinion into the conversation.
“Be nice to Pete,” Jada chastised, wrapping her arms around her boyfriend’s waist. Pete turned back to Jada and kissed her gently on the lips, apparently grateful for the rescue.
Noah rolled his eyes.
“Besides, if she’s such a ‘sure thing’,” Jada continued, “Why did she leave?”
The question of the hour. But if their silence was any indication, no one had an answer.
“Maybe she changed her mind after kissing Noah,” Jada suggested in her usual smarmy tone.
“Jada!” Cass’ jaw hung open, offended on his behalf. “Noah’s a great kisser. Right, Noah?” She turned to him to respond, but he only blushed.
“And how would you know?” their younger coworker challenged.
“You two got something going on in the storeroom?”
“Of course not! I’m just saying. Maybe this chick had other reasons for leaving. Maybe Noah was too much man for her and she got intimidated.”
Noah could feel his face grow hotter.
“This is Noah we’re talking about! He’s not a man, not like Pete. He’s like…like…my brother. Eww.”
“Well, just because you wouldn’t do him, doesn’t mean other women don’t want to. She obviously did…in the beginning there…”
Noah decided then he’d had enough of the conversation.
“I’m leaving now,” he interrupted, turning on his heels.
Cass ran over in front of him and pressed her hands to his chest, stopping him.
“Don’t go. Jada will stop being mean.”
“Hey, what about you?” Jada insisted, hands on her hips.
Noah took another step towards the storeroom, pushing Cass with him.
“Come on, Noah,” she begged. “Let’s just try and figure this out, okay?”
As much as Noah hated being the center of attention and the butt of Jada’s jokes; and as much as he wanted to extricate himself from the conversation, he desired to know who the mystery woman more, which meant he was stuck. With a sigh of defeat, Noah did an about-face and returned to his former position – facing Jada and her barrage of smart-ass comments and questions. Cass walked back around the counter and grabbed the list.
“Okay, what do we know for certain?” she asked, perusing the note as the others had already.
“She’s a stalker,” Jada remarked.
Cass didn’t even look up at her coworker, as she advised, “Jada, if you’re not going to help, kindly excuse yourself.”
Jada rolled her eyes.
“Now we should start with the obvious. Maybe we missed something,” Cass continued. “Let’s see, she’s Latina. Pretty.”
Very pretty, thought Noah.
“She’s old,” Jada said.
Both Noah and Cass gave her a sharp glance.
“I mean, she’s old-er,” she clarified. Then with a shrug of her shoulders, added, mostly to herself. “Well, older than me.”
“Okay, then…,” Cass said and paused, trying to come up with another detail…
Apparently though even the obvious was not so obvious.
“She’s overweight,” Jada suggested.
“What does that have to do with anything?” Cass retorted, obviously offended.
“I thought you wanted the obvious. She’s overweight, isn’t that obvious?”
“To who? You? Just because you’re a size four? That doesn’t make her any less pretty.”
“I never said she wasn’t. I was just pointing out what was…”
“Yeah, obvious, I get it. I always knew you were shallow, I just never figured…”
“Don’t turn this round on me. I won’t be disrespected just because I’m honest and tell it like it is…”
“You just use that as an excuse to be mean and put people down.”
Jada gasped and Cass exuded attitude. Noah couldn’t understand how they had arrived at this point, but he had a sudden urge to flee. And he might have, had Bill not appeared as he did earlier.
“What’s going on? Doesn’t anyone work here anymore?”
The women looked away from each other, tight-lipped and upset, which left Noah and Pete to answer for them. Or maybe just Pete.
“Seriously, who are you?” Bill asked him, with exasperation. “Don’t you have a job? Or a life?” He paused and turned his attention back to Cass and Jada. “I’m running a business here, something all of you seem to have forgotten. Now stop the bickering and get back to work!”
No one said anything else. Bill seemed satisfied that the arguing was done and turned around to leave, but not before he addressed Pete one last time: “And get out from behind there. You don’t work here.”
With Bill gone, silence encompassed their little group. Silence but also fury as Cass and Jada stared each other down. Neither was willing to concede defeat. Noah didn’t care either way who won the fight – the purpose of the gathering had been lost in the aftermath. Not that there was even a shot of him finding out who his mystery woman was; with their ranks divided, the task had become impossible.
Oh well. At least she had given him a moment he wouldn’t forget.
Leaving the list on the counter, Noah turned around, already focused on the storeroom. There were books to sort through and boxes to pack up. Bill accepted donations from anyone, but not all materials were shelf-worthy and the ones that weren’t usually went to thrift stores and other nonprofits. The work wasn’t very glamorous, but it was a job.
“She had a tattoo…”
Pete’s voice stopped him in his tracks.
“I didn’t see a tattoo,” Noah said cautiously as he turned back.
“That’s because you were too busy sucking on her face,” Jada said.
Cass narrowed her eyes and gave her a hard look.
“Alright, sorry,” she told Noah, throwing her hands up. “But you were. That’s probably why you didn’t see it.”
“Where was it?” he asked suddenly hopeful.
“On her neck,” she said, indicating the spot. “Her hair got pushed back when you two were suck… I mean kissing. It was a hummingbird, I think.” Jada again pointed to where it was. “There was a floral design, really intricate. It looked like it wrapped her arm maybe.”
Noah couldn’t believe he had missed all that. He could picture her face, her hair and her body, but the details surrounding everything else were fuzzy. Still, this was information he could use.
“What?” asked Jada.
“If she got the tattoo here, one of the artists will know her,” he said.
Cass clapped her hands and smiled.
“Ooh, so we’re going to keep looking for her then?”
“Do you know how many tattoo parlors there are?” Jada asked soberly.
The four looked at each other, no answer to give. Surely, there couldn’t be that many.
Jada pulled her phone from her back pocket and opened an internet browser. She did a quick search and seconds later, a list appeared – a rather long list. For a moment, Noah was discouraged. Then Cass, ever the optimist, suggested, “Let’s split it up and start calling. What do you say, Noah?”
Noah pondered the situation. He was supposed to be working. He was supposed to be leading by example; he was the store manager after all. He was supposed to do right and not chase after a woman he didn’t know. She could be certifiably crazy, psychotic even. At the very least, she was impulsive, impetuous, maybe even rash. Someone like that could be trouble. However, when he recalled the way she felt in his arms, the warmth of her body connecting with his, he knew he had to find her.
“Alright, let’s do this.”