A Romance, In Pieces Ch. 01


Lucy set the last box of cables on the floor next to the others, sliding it past the swing of the door with her foot. She took the tablet from the delivery driver, scrawled a signature across the pad and passed it back. He thanked her and darted back to his truck. Scooping up the boxes she ducked inside out of the drizzle.

She stacked the three boxes atop one another and carried them through the store to the stock room at the back. She set them on a shelf labeled ‘cables’ and cut the packing tape on the top box with a knife clipped to the edge of the shelf above. Stepping back, she ran her eyes along the row of neatly stacked boxes. Satisfied, she returned the knife, killed the lights and left the room.

She traversed the sales floor, weaving her way through the drum kits and base amplifiers to a man in a blue shirt sorting packages of guitar strings into slots on a rack near the registers. He glanced over his shoulder and saw her approaching.

“Hey Lucy,” he said, returning to his task. “You need help getting all those boxes off the truck?”

Lucy shook her head. “Nope, I took care of it. I also labeled all your shelves, replaced the studio monitors on display with the new models, and hung out the new batch of Fender basses.”

Steve laughed. He set the strings down and turned to face her. “Look,” he began, lowering his voice. “I appreciate your industriousness, really, I do. But you’ve got to slow down a little. You’re making the rest of us look bad.”

Lucy smiled. “Sorry. I’m used to running full bore.”

“I know, I get it. But if you finish everything today the rest of us won’t have anything to do.” He chuckled. “I would never say this to any other employee, but this is a temp job for you. Treat it like one.”

Lucy nodded. “Got it.”

“Take a break,” Steve instructed. “Grab a snack or something. Relax.”

He patted her shoulder and returned to his work. Lucy slipped her hands into her pockets and wandered off in the direction of the staff lounge.

Slow down a little. Not something she was good at. It was part of the reason she took this job – she needed something to do. She was a carpenter by trade. A framer. And this Toronto winter had been abnormally wet. Most of her jobs were outside. And when it rained, she didn’t work. It had been so bad that the company she worked for decided to shut down their exterior operations for three weeks, hoping things would dry out enough to allow them to get back to work.

While she enjoyed the first couple days off, before the week was out she was bored to tears, desperate for something to do. Which is where Steve came in. A high school friend of her brother, Steve owned a busy music store downtown, and needed an extra pair of hands to help recover from the holiday blitz. He said he had a few weeks’ worth of work and offered to pay her to help out. The money wasn’t very good, but she didn’t need the money. Just the distraction.

It was light work. Set up the displays, unload the trucks, pull items from the stock room to fill customer orders. Nothing like framing a curtain wall or sheathing a roof. But it kept the boredom at bay. She seemed to fit right in too. In the boots, dark jeans, plaid button-down flannel, tattoos and asymmetric hair cut she was regularly mistaken for one of the techs. Which she didn’t mind. She was competent on a drum kit and knew enough about guitars to keep from embarrassing herself. And if there was a question she couldn’t answer she simply handed it off to someone who could. It was the perfect infill gig. If she could only dial it back.

She emerged from the aisles into the clearing between the keyboards and guitars. Ahead, beyond the glass door was the staff lounge, with a couple boxes of cookies, a few bags of chips, and a fridge full of soda. She wasn’t hungry. But a cookie and a drink might be nice.

As she reached for the door handle, something flashed in her periphery. She looked left, toward the guitars. In front of the display extracting a silver metallic Paul Reed Smith from its yoke high up on the wall stood a tall African American man in gray boots, blue jeans and a white full-zip hoodie with ice blue banding around the arms. Lucy froze. The guitar had caught her attention, but the handsome stranger plucking the strings held it.

He didn’t seem to notice her. Too busy working a fingering pattern on the fretboard. She looked closer. He was probably in his late 20s or early 30s. About 6’1″, broad-shouldered and angular. His hair was cropped short, his beard gray – which struck her as odd – and well maintained. She couldn’t see his eyes from where she stood, but she assumed them to be a deep smoldering brown. She read his expression as thoughtful. But the longer she watched the more she convinced herself it was actually indecision.

She glanced around, saw no other sales associates nearby. What if he needed assistance? Sure, Steve told her to take a break, but it would be irresponsible to leave a customer floundering without offering to help, wouldn’t it? What was she there for if not to serve the customers? She tucked a stray lock of jet-black eskort bayan gorukle hair under her beanie and made her way over to him.

“Is there something I can help you with,” she asked, stopping next to him, one hand tucked nervously in her back pocket. He looked up from the guitar, smiled.

“Maybe,” he replied. “I’m looking for a guitar.”

His smile was warm and engaging. His cologne teased her senses with notes of green apple, citrus and cedar. She filled her lungs with it, tipped her eyebrows and her head slightly. “Well, we have…many of those,” she replied, waving a hand at the display wall, “…most of them…right here?” She kicked herself inside. Could she have been more awkward?

He laughed. “First day?”

She shrugged. “First week. I can…find you someone else if you like.”

“No, no, it’s cool. I’d just have to explain what I’m looking for all over again.”

She smiled, relaxing a little. He extended his free hand. “Andre.”

“Lucy,” she replied. He crinkled his forehead, mulling it over in his mind.

“Yeah,” he nodded, “you kinda look like a Lucy.”

She frowned. “What does a Lucy look like…exactly?”

“Sorta like…you,” he said.

“Well how many Lucys do you know?”

“Including you?” He shrugged. “One.”

Lucy laughed. “Well at least I’m in good company?”

“Excellent company,” he assured her. “So. Can you help me, or…”

“Yeah! I mean, what are you looking for?” She pointed to the instrument in his hand. “This one seems kinda your speed.”

“You think so?” he frowned. “It feels a little flashy.”

Lucy furrowed her eyebrows. “Says the black guy with the gray beard?”

Andre laughed. “Touché. What I meant was, our singer likes to be the shiniest thing on stage, and I feel like she would view this as competition.”

“Oh, so you’re in a band?”

“Yeah. Sorry, I guess I left that out. I have an old Fender Toronado I usually play, but it needs a truss rod replacement which can’t be done until next week and we have a show tomorrow night, so I need something to fill in. I like the Toronado tone, and the ability to switch between single coil and humbuckers. I’m not really into Gibson, but other than that I’m open.”

Lucy thought for a moment, dredging up every last note of guitar knowledge she remembered from high school and whatever she had absorbed from Steve and the others over the past few days.

“Well,” she began, “We could try to find you another Toronado, but I’m pretty sure they haven’t made one in over a decade, so the odds of getting you one today are slim. A Strat probably gets you closest to what you want in terms of tone and pickup options, but it doesn’t look as cool. To be honest, I’d stick with the PRS. The action is low, tones are crisp, sustain is killer, dual mode pickups, and waaaay sexier than your typical double cut-away. If the silver is too…loud…you could go with the flame maple in charcoal, crimson, or my favorite, whale blue.”

She scanned the wall beside her looking for the blue guitar she knew she had set out the day before. Finding it just behind her, she lifted it from the yoke and exchanged it for the silver one. He looked it over carefully, testing the action, the dials, the tremolo. He held it just below his waist, strumming it several times, changing chords as he went along, admiring the craftsmanship and the color.

“Color kinda matches your shirt,” he said finally, turning back to her. “And your eyes,” he added. Something in his voice intrigued her.

“Why do you think it’s my favorite?” she quipped.

Andre smiled. “Can I plug it in?”

Lucy flicked her head for him to follow.

She led him through the aisles to the sound-separated glass demo booth lined with amplifiers and PA equipment. Shutting the door behind them, she plucked a six-foot cable from a hook on the wall and unspooled it.

“Pick your poison,” she said, waving toward the amps. Andre skimmed the options, deciding on a 100-watt Mesa tube head set on a 4×12 cabinet. Lucy snapped the prong into the high-gain jack and tossed the other end to Andre. He plugged in, flipped on the amp and pulled the nearby stool within the reach of the cable. Digging a pick from his pocket he perched on the edge of the stool, set the guitar on his knee and strummed a chord.

An A-minor. Andre frowned. Reaching out he flicked the amp into overdrive and hit the chord again. This time, an angry, throaty A-minor snarled from the speakers. He nodded, satisfied, and launched into a familiar hard rock riff.

Lucy’s jaw dropped, eyebrows raised. This was not at all what she expected. She wasn’t quite sure what she thought he would play, but it certainly wasn’t this. Had she assumed he would play something different because he was… She shoved her hands into her pockets and leaned against the cabinet. The vibration zipped through her body, warming her chest and stirring her hips.

Andre wailed away at the strings, switching seamlessly between rhythm and solo, riff and chord. He worked the selectors, testing single coil versus humbucker mudanya escort tones, neck versus bridge pickups, harmonics and tremolo, all the while skipping through favorites of the hard rock catalog. Lucy swayed to the ebbs and flows, mouthing the words to many of the songs. But it wasn’t until he let the final chord ring out and Lucy stepped away from the amplifier that she noticed the dampness between her legs.

“You were right,” Andre smiled, flipping off the amp, “I like it. A lot.”

“Me too,” she replied, the corners of her mouth creased upward. “It suits you.”

He popped the cable from the socket and held it out for her. Her sleeve rode up as she reached out for it, exposing the tattoo covering the back of her hand and wrist. Andre immediately took notice.

“Whoa,” he exclaimed, examining the ink. “Is that a Giger?”

“Yeah,” she replied, again thrown off by a piece of knowledge she did not expect him to possess. “I mean, it’s a mechanical arm based on a Giger drawing, but yeah.”

He took hold of her hand and she didn’t resist, suddenly acutely cognizant of the contrasts – the milk chocolate hue of his skin against the ivory of her own beneath the deep blues and blacks of the ink. A shiver raced up her arm and down her spine to the small of her back. He turned her hand over in his, examining the intricacy and level of detail.

“How far does it go?” he asked, releasing her hand. She curled her fingers, catching his for just a moment before breaking away. She wished he’d lingered longer.

“It’s a full sleeve,” she said, her throat dry.

“Sweet,” he quipped. “I’d cut the sleeves off all my shirts if I had that.”

Lucy laughed. “You…are so not what I expected,” she stated, returning her hands to her pockets. Andre looked at her, confused.

“I’m…sorry?” he responded.

“No! No, it’s me. I’ve…never met anyone like you.”

“Pretty sure you’ve met plenty of musicians into tattoos.”

She shook her head. “Not like you.”

Andre shrugged. “Well, I’m cool being your unicorn.”

Lucy blushed, her heart skipping a beat. She must have heard wrong. He said ‘a’, not ‘your’, right? And even if she heard correctly, she was obviously misinterpreting. Hearing what she wanted to hear, not what he was saying. She spooled the cable and set it on top of the amp, pushing the thought away.

“So,” she said, “are you interested?”

“In the guitar?” he asked.

She nodded yes, although that hadn’t been her question.

He looked the instrument over once more. “Yeah,” he replied. “I think you sold me. How much?”

“I’m…not sure. Let me check.” She flipped over the tag tied around the bridge and noted the SKU, entering the number into her phone. She waited a few seconds for the options to load. Her face soon betrayed her surprise. “$1,999,” she reported through gritted teeth.

Andre’s eyebrows leapt upward. “Oh. That’s…a little more than I wanted to spend.”

“How much…were you looking to spend?”

He shrugged. “About half that?”

“Huh. I guess I should have asked that before I recommended it?”

She was quiet a moment, not knowing what to say. She didn’t want to lose the sale at this point – she was so close. But…why did she even care? Steve told her to take it easy. The last thing he expected her to do was sell merchandise. If it was more than he wanted to spend, there were other, cheaper options. Suggest one of those. And if that didn’t cut it then let him walk.

She looked down at the guitar. It did match the blue in her shirt. And in her eyes. And it looked so good on him. She imagined standing in a crush of people, the kick drum thumping, bass rumbling in her chest, melody ringing in her ears. She would look up at the stage, to the left of the faceless woman in the shiny dress, to find him there, holding, strumming that little piece of her.

She snapped herself out of her fantasy, hoping her thoughts weren’t written on her face. She lifted her eyes, looking him over. She realized it wasn’t the sale she didn’t want to lose. It was him.

“Well,” Andre offered finally, “this is awkward.” He turned the instrument over in his hands, rolling it in the light. “Is…that the best we can do?”

Lucy scrolled through the available options. “The gray one is $50 bucks less,” she offered.

He shook his head. “I really like the blue.”

She kept scrolling. “Well, if you take the display model, I can give you 8% off.”

Andre did the math. “So, $1,850 instead of two grand? That’s still quite a bit for a fill-in guitar.”

She shrugged. “What if you use this one as your primary and make the Toronado your fill-in? That way you’re not paying anything for your fill-in guitar, since you’ll already have one.”

His face contorted with skepticism. “I like what you did there,” he said, “but no.”

She frowned. “Yeah that was stupid, I’m sorry.”

“I don’t know,” he concluded, “maybe I should just get a cheap one and be done with it. It’s one gig, I’ll be fine.”

Lucy stared at her phone, looking for something bursa evi olan escort she knew wasn’t there. She could do better than eight percent. She wasn’t going to let him walk without trying.

“What if I umm…” She paused, having second thoughts. She quickly shoved them aside. “What if I throw in something extra with it?” she offered.

“You mean like a second guitar?” he joked.

She laughed, looking away, slipping the phone into her back pocket. “No, something else.”

“Okay, like what? What are you thinking?” When she didn’t respond he threw out a few suggestions. “Pedal board? Effects processor? What are we talking about?”

She shook her head. “No. Something else.”

Andre held up his hands. “Okay, I’m listening.”

She beckoned him closer. Confused, he stepped forward. She shivered, shoving her hands in her pockets and biting her lip to steady her nerves. She spoke slowly, her voice low. “You take the display model, I’ll give you 8% off…” Her voice trailed off as she leaned up on her tiptoes and whispered in his ear, “…and I’ll suck your cock.”

Andre snapped his head back, almost dropping the guitar. He looked at her, eyebrows raised, lips ajar like he thought he was speaking. He smiled, releasing a breath. When she didn’t reflect the gesture, his forehead crinkled, and he gripped his chin between his fingers.

“Wait,” he stammered, “for real?” She nodded. He sighed into his hand. Looked around. She suddenly became aware of all the people strolling past the windows. He turned back to her. “Here?”

She shook her head. “I know a place.”

He stared at her. “You’re serious, aren’t you.” She nodded again. He rubbed his eyes, seemingly at a loss for words.

“Do we have a deal?” Lucy asked quietly, her arms trembling. Andre drew a deep breath and sighed. He shrugged.

“Mastercard okay?”

Lucy smiled, warmth flooding back into her cheeks and chest. She lifted the guitar from his hands and motioned toward the door. “Let’s go ring you up.”

She led him through the store once more, quickly this time, the seam of her jeans molesting her every step. She glanced over her shoulder, hoping to catch his eye. But his eyes seemed focused on something else a bit lower. She chuckled to herself, swinging her hips a little further each stride.

They reached the register to find Steve clicking away at the keyboard, searching for something in the database. Lucy waved, stepped around behind the counter. Steve greeted her without looking up.

“Back already,” he said, puzzled by the display on the screen.

“I haven’t left yet,” she replied. “This gentleman needed help, so I thought I should take care of him first. Can you ring this up for him?”

Steve finally lifted his head. Lucy presented the guitar. “Mmm, the whale blue. Good choice.”

“Lucy picked it out,” Andre injected.

“Then Lucy has good taste.”

She glanced up at Andre, a coy smile creasing her lips. While Steve scanned the SKU she leaned over, resting her elbows on the counter and clasping her hands. Her eyes fell just below his waist, fixating on the bulge in his pants. She stared, wondering what he would look like, how he would feel, what would she taste. Imagining herself on her knees before him, taking him in, teasing it out. As she watched, his hands slipped into the pockets of his hoodie and pushed the fleece down over the front of his jeans. Caught, she bit her lip, blushing.

“Subtracting the eight percent for the display model,” Steve interrupted, “your total comes to $1,839.08.” Andre retrieved his wallet and handed over his credit card. “This model also comes with a complementary hard case,” Steve added, turning to Lucy. “Could you find that for him after we’re done here?”

She nodded. Steve snatched the receipt from the printer, folded it around Andre’s credit card and handed it back to him. “All right then,” he said, “you’re all set. I need to go sort out an issue with studio software, but I’ll leave you in Lucy’s more than capable hands. Thanks for coming in today!”

Steve set the guitar in a floor stand and disappeared into the sales floor, leaving Andre and Lucy alone. Lucy straightened up. Drummed her fingers on the counter.

“The cases are all in the back,” she said. “Come with me.”

She started toward the door to the staff lounge, anticipation burning inside her. Looking back, she saw Andre still at the counter, frozen in place, watching her. She backtracked the few paces and took him by the hand. “Come on,” she said softly, “I can’t wait anymore.”

She pulled him along the first few strides. After that he kept up, just a step off her right hip. Reaching the clearing she scanned her surroundings and peeked through the glass. No one watching on either side. She pulled the door open just wide enough for them to slide through. They took a sharp right, past the staff lounge and through a pair of double-hinged doors into the vast darkness of the stockroom.

Lucy flipped one of three switches just inside the door. The warm glow of the old track lighting above lit the center of three bays stacked to the ceiling with racks of instruments and equipment. She turned right down a perpendicular aisle, marching to the end before spinning right again. She released Andre’s hand, griped him by the waist and pushed him backward to the end of the row, slamming him against the wall.

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