Last year I tried my hand at Contemporary Romance, what I ended up with was a start, but I found I had some issues with making Roman likable. It’s been a while since I’ve poked at it but I think I have a vision of where I want to go with the story.
So I’ve decided to start it over. The Roman Remix, depending on how it works out might even turn into a larger work.
Just like the original, this is Contemporary Romance so there wont be any spaceships or dragons. However, you can count on a quirky modern romance with some notable twists and turns.
Chapter 1: Roman (Remix)
Chapter 1: Roman
It was a busy day in the city, the festivals always are. I muscle through the crowds, shoulder to shoulder in a sea of strangers, all just to get to the curb. The red hand of the crosswalk blinks in time with the music pumping through my headphones.
On the final pulse, a red sports car cuts the corner and clips the back of my leg. I have nothing for it but a scuff on my pants. He lays on the horn and his passenger flips a bird at me. Typical city asshole behavior– everyone’s wrong but you.
I don’t return it. Instead I step onto the curb, brush away the muddy scuff on my pant leg and savor the bitching riff on minute three.
Progressive Metal, the real stuff. Not the hollow crap they play on the radio. I’m talking about the mixture of an orchestra, guitars, and just the right balance of singing and screaming. Music you need to go to Europe for the good shit, or the internet at least. I pause at the corner, bobbing my head to track four, the undisputed best part of the album. I rock out my way– tapping into my supposed gift of inherent rhythm. Yeah, that’s right, a black dude that likes euro-metal, deal with it.
A little girl ruins the moment, staring up wide eyed and squeezing her mother’s hand. She mouths ‘You’re tall.’ I don’t read lips. But I hear it a lot. I just look away with a disinterested look. I should smile, humor her, but lack the charm to do it on the fly.
She’s shooed away by her mother and I’m left to wallow in the last minutes of the track. Normally, I’d glaze over the sub-par closing notes, but now it hits me like a bag of bricks. Click. Off goes the player and I lower my headphones to my neck.
I wander from the corner and into my usual haunt, a second hand music shop. The door chime jangles and I wave a casual hand to Chuck. Except it isn’t Chuck. Instead, I spy a brunette shuffling LPs behind the counter. Usually the store’s centerpiece does the world a favor by covering Chuck’s pot belly– better than his shirt I might add. Now, this once ally turns into a nemesis, blocking my view of a fine piece of tail.
I shift to tiptoes to steal a peek at pale skin on her lower back under a lifted black t-shirt. She’s slim, a cute rocker chick with a nice ass. I shake off my daze and step inside, reluctantly breaking my view with racks of CDs. Relax Roman, can’t stand there and gawk.
I pluck a CD I have considering buying for weeks. All the tracks on it are shit save one, but now it might be the icebreaker I need. I inhale, hold my breath, count to three, then push around the back.
She’s focused on filing away new releases, but now I get a better view. She’s a ten– slim built, only a bit shorter than me. With a sly peek, I find she’s smoking from the front too. Oranges.
A shove at my lower back slams my gut against the counter. I grunt, exhaling sharp and loud.
“Hey, loser. Stop checking out the new girl,” Chuck says. He steps past me, dropping a box of CDs on the counter.
That gets her attention. She turns, blinks and aims a sly smirk right at me. It makes my heart melt.
“Oh hey, Boss,” she says. She pulls a bud from her ear and pulls strands of hair behind it, giving a nice look at the red highlight through her hair and the row of five ear studs through her lobes.
“How many times I gotta tell you, only one,” Chuck said, jabbing a thumb back at me. “This hooligan coulda ran off with something.”
I smirk. Fuck you too Chuck. Chuck is being a dick, but he doesn’t mean it. I think. Chuck hooks me up with discounts and gives me sample stuff from the local crowds. It doesn’t improve his attitude though, or his smell.
She straight up blows him off, going back to her work behind the counter. She can probably afford to, Chuck probably cashes in on having her work here.
He’s a typical biker type. Tough looking, big-ass arms that could twist my head clean off with a keg potbelly. He sports a ZZ-top beard that looks like he could mop the floor with it, and the top of his head matches the shine of a floor polished with one. He hides it with a red bandana to spare people from the glare.
“Maybe you should change the door chime to a power chord,” the girl said.
I grin. Yeah. That’d be pimp. Anything would be better than the lame jingle bell he’s got on it now. Shit. I should have said that aloud.
“Did you need to buy that?” she says to me, locking her grey eyes on me. My gaze drifts to settle on her pierced left eyebrow. It’s all I can do to keep from gawking at the rest of her like some sort of creep.
I freeze and pour on the charm. “I uh— yeah. Totally.”
“Haberdash? Rock,” she says snaking the CD from me. She flips it over. “Funny you’d pick this one. You listen to them often? This is one of his better ones.”
“Better?” I say. “No one knows about it cause—” I hesitate. Cause it’s crap? She must like Haberdash. This crap only has one good track. Passable at best. “It’s a— different approach for them. You might not like it.”
“Oh,” she says.
Oh. Smooth move Romeo. Now she thinks you’re a dick. “So you just started here? Today?”
“Roman,” Chuck says. “Don’t even think about trying to fuck my employees. I don’t need your ass in here anymore than it already is.”
“Jamie,” she says. She smiles and time stops. No lie. Thankfully, the counter hid how much I approved of it though. The allegiance was back in full effect.
“Cool it Chuck, nothing wrong with being friendly.” I say, glancing back to her. “Roman, Nice to meet you.”
“Yeah, she ain’t deaf,” Chuck said. “I just said that, seriously. You don’t even like Haberdash. If you’re buying that piece of crap CD to impress her, hurry it up. You’re full of shit.”
Jamie raised a brow. The pierced one. “Well yeah. He said they took a different approach in this one. Maybe he just likes their other style.”
“Yeah. That’s it exactly,” I say. Did she just defend me?
“Look, fair warning lady,” Chuck says, eying me. “H may be a walking encyclopedia of rock, but he’s also a jobless loser with no future. I’ll save you the trouble.”
“Fuck you too, Chuck,” I say.
“You’re looking for work though, right?” Jamie says, fixing a lock of her scruffy bob behind her ear. She looks at me strange, like she’s working through a possibility. I might be crazy thinking it– but Chuck’s less than flattering intro didn’t phase her. One look at her milk chocolate colored hair with a stripe of strawberry blanks my mind. Her lips press together in thought, or perhaps she’s waiting for a response.
“Yeah,” I say. Now. Anyway.
“You know a bunch about music right?” Jamie says. “Work here. The other guy quit.”
Chuck lets out a derisive snort. “Hey lady. You’re not my HR department.”
“Oh come on.” Jamie says, rolling her eyes. “All the smelly geeks that roll up in here, you know I’m a gold mine for you. I got a feeling about Roman. I bet he’d be great.”
I’d considered it, but Chucks attitude was the problem. With her around though, it might have been worth the gamble. My ‘downstairs neighbor’ takes over the controls for my mouth and answers for me, though. “Yeah, Chuck. Hire me.”
Chuck raises a brow. “For real? All shits aside I’d love to, but he’s a lazy bastard. Ain’t a color thing or nothing.”
Seriously. Fuck you Chuck. What is this? Piss on Roman Day?
“But, Fine,” Chuck says, “You slack off though I’m getting’ rid of you.”
“You can start right now.” Jamie says, grabbing me by the arm.
Right now? I don’t resist though. Not like I got better things to do.
“Yeah we’re sorting out the new stock,” Chuck says. He scratches his belly, Homer Simpson style. “I’ll watch the front. You should be able to do it in an hour right?”
“Yeah,” I say. “I know your stock better than you do.”
Jamie slips the Haberdash CD onto the back shelf and drags me in the back by the arm. I get some quality time to admire the scenery. The day certainly took a turn for the better. My expectations stay grounded, I ain’t an idiot. This is just money and a view at best.
We get to work and the damn place is a mess. Sorting it takes time only because Chuck fucked up the sorting method I came up with. He did it all backwards. I came up with the system during downtime at my last call center gig. anything to occupy the time between shitty pay and shitty customers.
Jamie knew her shit too, she picked up on the order without me saying anything. She must have had a passion for the art. Another checkbox in my budding admiration for her.
“He hasn’t cleaned in here in weeks, fair warning.” I plucked a stray CD from a box. Man Cannon, a crappy indie group from the dockside district.
“You’re friends with Charlie?”
“Yeah. I’ve known him since he opened shop in Ninety-Eight.”
“He’s an asshole,” she says. She reaches high for a box, pulling down a box of stuff that belongs in a furnace, not the shelves.
“Yeah. He is,” I say, smirking. “But you probably know he’s not bad since you’re workin’ for him.”
“I need work. This has the right hours and I’m in a band.”
“Anyone I know?” I say, tucking away Man Cannon into the dollar bin.
“Maybe. Killstreak,” She says, “Vocals. My boyfriend’s lead guitar.”
I recognized the band, but the ‘b’ word jabs a whole through my chest. Figures. I never had a chance. My shoulders sag. Even in the worst case scenario, she was cool as hell. There was that at least.
“He’s an asshole, though. I’ll probably bail on him.”
I perk at that. “Sorry to hear that.” Bullshit. I’m celebrating inside.
She laughs. My cheery tone came through too much. “You with anyone?” Jamie says, offering a box to me.
I freeze, trying to work through her words. My eyes fall to the box, but the inner creeper in me lingers a bit too long on her body. I realize my error fast, take the box and try to play it cool. “N—Nah.”
“Why not?” Jamie shrugged a shoulder. “You look all right. Is it cause you’re out of work? Bitches be shallow right?”
I open my mouth to respond, but it just hangs open. Not the words I would have used.
“I nailed it didn’t I. Tell you what, drinks on me tonight. You do drink right?”
I just gape. Like a fish with no water. This smoking hot lady flirts it up with me and I’m drowning. “I— yeah. I drink.” Bullshit. I can’t hold my liquor for shit.
She lets go of the box. I stumble a bit from the weight. “Good. It’s a date. Work for now. I’ll text my boyfriend and tell him we’re done. He’s cheating on me anyway.”
“Cheating?” I say. The absurdity of it snaps me back to m senses. “On you? Nigga’s crazy. No way I’d even consider it if I was you know… with you.”
“I know right? I don’t really deal with liars very well.” She steps away, pauses then glances back at me. “You’re not a liar are you?”
Judgment Day. I swallow back a lump and decide honesty is the best policy. “Not with anything important.”
“Good,” she says and picks up a box. “Then maybe you won’t end up like he’s going to.”
She walks past me and back into the shop. Her words settle into my head as wander after her like a lost puppy.