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Octavia didn’t shut off the alarm quickly enough, and all three of them woke up. Mary said, prying her eyes open, “It’s her last day, and I have to leave anyway, let’s go help her celebrate.”
Octavia pulled on her clothes and gave her a look. “You’re not used to being awake at this hour. Sure you can handle it? I’m pretty sure Asch would be willing to keep you company here.”
Asch chimed in, “Ah, I’d most prefer to keep you both company! I’m game to celebrate.”
They all headed for Anchovie’s, arm in arm, taking turns being in the middle. Octavia went in the back door and Mary and Asch walked around to the front. She nodded toward the alley across the street. “So that’s where you two had your alley rendezvous, eh?” She grabbed his hand and dragged him across the street. “I wanna go check it out.” As soon as they got into the dark, she grabbed him and pushed him against the wall, then pressed herself against him. Through gritted teeth, she said, “When we get a chance, I want to play this game, too.” Then she kissed him fiercely, backed away with a schoolgirl smile, and they walked back into the light.
Octavia apparently didn’t notice the slight delay for them to get into the café. She sidled up, leaned her arm on the counter, and said, “What’ll ya have? Yer early, so we ain’t outta nuthin’ yet. I recommend the scrambled eggs and bacon with hash browns. And coffee before it gets bitter.”
Mary batted her eyelashes and pretended to be timid. “May I have that please?—Only with sausage?” Her eyes got big, and she put an intense look on her face. “Nice big, round sausage, like this!” and she motioned something the size of a male private part.
Asch started to smirk, but Octavia kept a straight face, “Arright, arright, I git yer drift. Big sausage it is. I suppose you wants yer coffee hot, light, and sweet, right?”
“Yes! yes!” Mary exclaimed, pumping her fists and arching her back.
All this conversation was loud enough for the other three people at the counter to overhear, and their attention was riveted on the two women. One of the men muttered to the guy next to him, “Man, I’d like to meet her at a bar sometime.”
His buddy replied, “You got that right.”
Their looks turned from interest to disappointment and almost jealousy when Mary started to neck with Asch right there in public.
Asch absently put his arm around Mary and said, “Fix me up with something hot and slippery, um, eggs over easy, and toast with lots of butter.”
Mary blinked and said, “Bring the butter separate. I want to butter him I mean it for him,” and she leaned over and breathed into and nibbled his ear, then retreated with a satisfied smile.
The buddy muttered, “Is she sober? If she is, I’d sure like to see her drunk!”
“You got that right,” the first guy said out of the corner of his mouth.
The third guy was sitting a couple stools down and was trying to look like he wasn’t paying attention, but he was squirming and he had a fist jammed in his lap.
“Coming right—up!” said Octavia with emphasis on the “up.”
Asch stayed straight man through the whole thing.
After breakfast Asch walked Mary to the jitney and they headed for the airport. After they got settled, Mary said, “Did you recognize that third guy?”
Asch looked at her sideways. “How do you think I was able to keep a straight face though all that? It was the guy on the roof, right?”
“Yup!” And she sat back with a satisfied smile. “I’ll bet he camps on that rooftop for a month.”
When they got to the airport, Asch offered to keep her company. “Nah—I’ve got paperwork to do, and if I get groggy, they have a cot in the ready room, which they won’t let you into. But thank you, though, a lot,” and she gave him a nice smile and a quick, deceptively passionate kiss. “I’ll see you when I see you. It’s fun sneaking up on you guys. I’m always welcomed so enthusiastically.”
“That’s how glad we are to see you,” Asch smiled back.
There being no flights in, and no shift change, the bus back was empty except for Asch and the driver. Asch sat up front next to the driver so they could converse if he wanted.
“Didn’t I see you coming into town a couple days ago with that dame? The day they took that guy out of here in handcuffs. You hear about that?”
“Yeah, I did,” said Asch. “The ‘dame’ has come and gone since that day, though. You must have missed her.”
“She comes and goes a lot. A week or so ago I took her and some guy to the airport. She gets around a lot, eh? The guy acted pretty interested in her, but she was only polite. He was definitely friend zoned. She seems to like you pretty well, though, if I may say.”
Asch smiled to himself. “I bet you see a lot, driving this bus.”
“Man, you got no idea. The things I could tell. Everybody thinks the driver’s not payin’ no attention to nuthin’ but the road, so they act like they’re in private, especially this being the late run. I can’t hear much, but see a lot!” They arrived pendik escort at the stop closest to Anchovie’s, so Asch paid the man and took his leave.
“I’m glad Mary didn’t have to use her judo,” he thought to himself as he headed for Anchovies. Anchovie’s was at least half full. Asch had never been there this late—or early, depending on how you looked at it—the crowd was noisy, almost a party atmosphere. Asch took the seat at the far end of the counter and the guy next to him leaned over confidentially and a little bleary eyed, “Hey’d you hear? Tonight is Octavia’s last night. Apparently she fell for some guy and he’s stealing her away from us.”
“Oh really?” Asch feigned surprise. “I’m usually here later in the morning, but isn’t she kind of a cool cucumber?”
The guy hiccupped. “Oh sure, no touching, no dates, but she gives a good show, and we all love her.”
Just then Octavia came out from the kitchen, her arms laden with plates and one on her head. Her blouse was down to three buttons fastened. “Okay, guys, who’s gonna help me unload here?” she called out. Everyone volunteered. “Well I can’t have you all help, so I’ll just pick—” She surveyed the eager men at the counter and spotted Asch, who saw her flicker of recognition as she pretended to ignore him. “—you!” and she held her arms to the fourth guy from the end, squeezing her breasts together to emphasize her cleavage. He stared only a little, then eagerly and carefully took the two end-most plates. “Table two,” she called out, and the guy got up and with a great flourish placed the plates in front of the couple at table two. “And you,” she stopped at guy number five, who took the next two plates. “Table three!” To the next guy at the counter, “Also table three. Are those guys getting good service or what? Guy number six got the last two plates, and Octavia gave him a big air kiss. “Mmwah! Thanks, you sweeties. Wait! What’s this? Oh yeah!” and she reached up and took the last plate from her head and plunked it in front of the guy on the first stool, with a big wink. “I bet you thought I forgot you, didn’t you? Well, I could never forget you, sweetie,” and she blew him a kiss.
Asch watched the show with utter fascination.
Octavia wiggled her eyebrows. “Be right back!” and she dashed into the kitchen. In a couple moments she was similarly laden, only none of the buttons were fastened, her bikini top—and cleavage—in clear evidence. She expertly set a plate in front of each of the guys at the counter, elbows at her sides for best effect. The guys all ate it up. When she got to the last man, next to Asch, she came up short, pretending to see him for the first time. “What’s this? a new guy!
Asch nodded enthusiastically.
“Did you know tonight is my last night?”
Asch said, “The guy next to me just told me.” It wasn’t exactly a lie.
“You want the special, too, buddy, right?” She nodded her head. Before Asch could respond, Octavia half turned. “Hey Jimmy! One more special,” she yelled.
She reached into the pocket of her apron and pulled out a stack of restaurant checks. “Okay, guys, time to pay the piper—after you’ve eaten, of course,” she toured the counter, then the tables, slapping down a check at each. Everyone was separate checks except the couple at table two. Asch realized with a start that it was the fellow he and Octavia had conversed with several days ago. A look of recognition appeared in that fellow’s eyes, too, and he smiled quietly. Asch knew there’d be a conversation later.
Asch’s plate arrived, and she presented it with some extra wiggles and a spin, “Because this is my last night, and you missed all the other shows.”
The room settled down a bit as everyone dug into their bacon, eggs, sausage, and hash browns. Several men finished at about the same time, and a line gathered at the cash register. They looked mostly like blue-collar salt-of-the earth types, hardworking, honest, and with simple tastes. It was pretty clear that Octavia liked them all, and they liked her.
Octavia started to ring them up. “I just want you guys to know,” she announced as she worked the register, “that’s it’s been nothing if not nice—and it certainly hasn’t been nothing, has it?” Everyone cheered, and they individually gave her their best wishes as they paid. A couple had tears in their eyes. One old guy even got a kiss on his cheek. Everyone cheered at that, too. Eventually the place pretty much cleared out, except for Asch and the couple at the table.
The man called Asch over, timing it so Octavia would be nearby as she bussed the tables. “Sir, it’s Asch, right? I’d like you to meet my colleague, Sarah Clemens; my name is Oliver Brown, by the way. We went to a lecture on mycology at the college tonight, and thought we’d stop here for supper. This is her first time here, and (ahem) my second. We had no idea tonight was a special event, but we certainly had fun.
Sarah’s eyes twinkled, “Ollie was chagrined when the, um, show started, sefaköy escort but I calmed his fears—told him I wanted to pick up some of Octavia’s technique. Much to his relief.”
Octavia stage-whispered to Sarah, “Call me sometime and I’ll give you some tips.” Her voice returned to normal. “I love it here, but the schedule is killing me. I’m glad to have met you, by the way. I remember Ollie from a few days ago. He came at a decent hour, and he seems to be a nice guy.”
“Well, he’s pretty quiet at work, but it turns out we’re both amateur photographers. He concentrates on mushrooms, I do insects. The lecture was pretty interesting but now we’ll have to look for one on entomology.” She looked at him and smiled.
“The music store likes to post local photographs on the walls. Maybe you could do a two-man show,” Asch chimed in. That started an animated conversation between the two, and Asch retreated back to the counter.
Octavia came by. “Look, Asch, why don’t you head for your room and I’ll come kick you out of bed when I get out of here. Nothing’s gonna happen between now and when my replacement comes in, and you have to be pretty tired.”
Asch reluctantly acknowledged the wisdom of her words, protesting that he enjoyed her company even when he was tired, but agreeing to let her kick him out of bed later. He headed out, wishing the couple success with their photo show as he left.
Asch lay in bed with his fingers laced behind his head. He had been here only a little longer than two weeks, but the future looked pretty interesting.
It would be the last night for Octavia to have to sleep during the day… No doubt it would bring some changes to their relationship…Mornings might not be so available for chores and writing, though the two of them might enjoy working on projects around the place together…On the other hand, maybe they wouldn’t want to spend every last waking moment together, either…On the third hand, maybe they would!…Maybe he should talk to Lydia about something like renting two rooms and inviting Octavia to bring her possessions up…He and Octavia hadn’t had a single argument, and they enjoyed each other’s company…Scuba was in the offing, the upcoming concert was not to be missed, and he had some money that might be fun to invest in a boat, or a brewery…Except for the garden club meeting in Easthaven, he hadn’t even been to the other side of the island, in fact anywhere on the island, except the airport…And he had made a pile of friends…Maybe he wouldn’t check out the other islands just yet…Maybe after he got a boat and learned to navigate. Of course he’d need a crew…And beer is basically fermented plant matter. He wondered if you could make beer out of seaweed or something else from the island; he’d have to ask Clay about that. Then he could deliver their local brew to the other islands in his boat. Hmm.
He hitched himself up, stuffed his pillows behind his back, grabbed his laptop, and got to work on his writing.
He startled awake when Octavia crept into the room. The sun was just beginning to lighten the sky. He looked at his screen to see pages and pages of semicolons where his hand had rested on the keyboard when he dropped off. He didn’t get a chance to clean it up, though.
Octavia came over, shoved the tablet aside, and kissed him soundly and celebratorily. “They let me off early. I’m done with Anchovie’s! And I’m happier about it than I thought I’d be!” She climbed onto the bed and began to undress, straddling his knees as she did so, while he came fully awake and watched. “I get to sleep like a normal person! I’ll see more of you! We can build stuff! Go exploring! Have sex! What do you think Lydia would think about me renting that other room and me just moving up here? Would you like that?” Now she was naked, and she fell forward, rolling to one side and enthusiastically pulling him to her for some kissing.
He propped himself on an elbow and caressed her cheek. “I’ve been thinking some of the same things. I think we have a lot of adventures coming up.” He smiled, admiring and running his fingers over her contours as she lay there. “Not the least of which will be to have you around more.” He circled her breast with a finger. “Around, get it? Yuk yuk.” He made another circle and she rolled her eyes, then closed them to enjoy the sensation of his touch. “That was quite a show you put on at the café tonight.”
“Liked that, didya?” She smiled “Those guys are mostly the second shift at the power plant, plus a few from the water treatment plant. They got to be pretty regular, and the ‘show,’ as you put it, sort of grew. Last night was far and away the most, uh, theatrical, though. They’re good, hardworking, decent guys. I’ll miss them.” She sighed. “But not as much as I missed my sleep.” She rolled toward him. “Would you be willing to do me a favor? Entertain me when I wake up. I’m about to collapse; think of it—the last time!” She closed her eyes for a moment, then her silivri escort whole body twitched. She opened her eyes. “Somnambulant jerk. G’night, handsome.” Then she was asleep.
Asch waited a few minutes to let her slumber deepen, then he slipped out and tucked the cover around her. He gathered her clothes and laid them at the foot of the bed, dressed himself, then grabbed his laptop and went downstairs.
Lydia was just coming out of her bedroom. Rover bounded up to him for some pats. “What?” She looked at him mock-sternly. “You’re just going to let your guest sleep? You’re getting to be like an old married couple! Sleeping instead of doing the creature with two backs.”
“You never know what goes on around here when you’re out running your errands,” Asch grinned and waggled his eyebrows at her suggestively.
She rolled her eyes.
“You heard the news, right? Last night was her last night at Anchovie’s. Starting today she joins the regularly scheduled human race again.”
Lydia wrinkled her forehead. “I think I knew it was going to happen. Last night, eh?”
“What would you think about her becoming a renter here? Move some of her stuff up.”
She brightened. “Does that mean I’d get both of you for slaves I mean helpers around this place?”
“Well, I think she might like to help out. Some of my projects could use two people, and she’ll have to do something with all that spare time.”
Lydia snorted. “That’ll be the day when I see her with nothing to do.” She sobered. “I’ve known you for only two weeks, Asch, but it seems like it’s been our whole lives. I would be honored to have the two of you share this house with me.”
“And with your kind permission, I want to pay the rent for both of us. She already asked me if I’d like it if she moved up here, and I feel like it would be a nice way to make her feel welcome.”
Lydia opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. “I’d feel funny charging Octavia to live here, but she is a big girl now. On the other hand, I’m always willing to take a guy’s money.” She tried to look greedy, but didn’t succeed. Asch did a quick calculation and gave her enough to bring things to the end of the month. “That’ll keep me on the monthly schedule,” he said.
Asch went out to take care of the livestock and Lydia went to work on breakfast. “The goats are getting pretty used to me,” Asch remarked when he came in. “They keep checking my pockets for treats. I think I need to build some nesting boxes on one side of the garage. You okay with that? I’ve found about three nests along the edge of the yard; we might get more eggs if they have classy hen apartments.”
She looked at Asch thoughtfully. “Tell me when you decide to live on the island permanently. Maybe we can talk about you just buying this place. If you’re interested when the time comes.”
Asch raised his eyebrows. “Hmm. Hadn’t thought about that. It’s a thought, though. We’ll see. Don’t you like it here? Maybe we could work something out where you manage the place even though I own it.”
“Well, Gus and I got the place when we were a lot younger, and I don’t seem to be doing as many projects as I used to. And I’m getting more and more connected to the east side. So put it on the back burner,” she said, “we’ll see if I still like you when the time comes.”
He helped clear the table and load the dishwasher when they had finished, then settled down to write. Time flew, and before he realized it, Octavia was coming down the stairs in her work clothes sans underwear. “I’m gonna have to stay up late tonight to start getting on a normal schedule. Think you can keep me up?” She sat next to him. “Say Lydia. What would you say to me renting your other room? Mom was actually hinting about converting my room at home into a classroom sometime.”
“Nope. I just rented it.” She paused long enough to let Octavia do a double-take. “I rented it to Asch,” she snickered. “I think he has plans to let a friend use it. You’ll have to talk to him. Well, I’m gonna go grocery shopping. You two work out the housing details. See you in an hour or two.” And she headed out, still snickering.
Octavia turned to Asch. “You mean we can do it? Now? For real?”
Asch stood up. “Shall we take a look at that room, see if you like it? You can always stay where you are, you know.”
She jumped up and hugged him. “You’re fast, you know that?” She ground herself into him. “But not too fast. Yes, let’s go look!” She fairly dragged him upstairs. “It’s been more than a year since I’ve looked in here. I see it hasn’t changed much.” They poked around. “Plenty of closet, nice dressers, closer to the bathroom than your room, not too bad a view, though your room’s is better.” She plumped down on the bed. “Do I have to use the bed, though?” She screwed up her face in an exaggerated scowl.
“Not unless we have a fight, or we decide to have an adventure. I suppose I could rig up that rope in here for when you’re feeling kinky,” he grinned.
“Now there’s a thought!” She sighed, “I don’t know whether to tumble now or go get my clothes first!”
Asch leaned toward her and pushed her onto her back. “If we tumble now, we can borrow the truck and pick up your stuff after she gets back,” he suggested, leering at her and reaching for her top button.
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