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The Plaice by the Sea

I awoke at some time past seven, the nasal blare of my alarm pounding in my ears. Great… it meant I had work.

Jesse wasn’t in the studio with me, most likely having gone to work himself – he started really early – so I was free to roam around for a handful of minutes before I had to leave.

In the past eight months, he hadn’t changed anything, nor thrown sentimental items away. My stomach fluttered at the thought.

But I couldn’t linger on it, so I threw on one of his black long sleeves, using an elastic band to tie my hair up. Writing him a quick thank you note, I made my way to work.

One thing I truly missed from my time staying at Jesse’s on weekends? His loft was literally a corner away from the woods, where the Shell Shack resided, in all of its yellow and royal blue glory.

“Hey, Ash, good to see you looking good!”

Flashing my co-worker, Ramsey, a small smile in response, I continued to head for the staff room. Upon doing so, my boss was already making herself a cup of flavored tea. My guess would be honey and ginger, she hadn’t drank that one in a while.

“Good morning.”

“You too, sweetheart. Did you have a good Founder’s Day?”

I kept my head low, pretending to be busy with my bag.

“Um, yeah, it was…” I spun, tying my apron as I looked up, meeting her wide and inviting eyes. “Something.”

Clearly done with me already, Maureen raised her drink to her lips and began humming. She was in a good mood today, and I thanked her.

My shift carried on like every other before it, Desmond, the cook, crooning as he whipped up salty grub, conversing with Ramsey in between waiting the tables, the regulars coming in for their breakfast catch-ups and being stingy with the tips. That’s the problem with working in customer service, not every day is glamorous.

In between cleaning and grinning so sweetly my mouth should surely fall off, I received a text from Lu.

"Babe, we need a sit down asap."

I wanted nothing more than to relax with my best friend, exchange gossip and pamper ourselves until nightfall. For some reason, it seemed so far away.

The fact is: I didn’t even know if my best friend was even that.

I didn’t know if I could trust anyone.

There was a brief, sharp pain in my side. I turned, almost whipping Ramsey in the face with my ponytail.

“Look, Chief Gilbert is in.” They pointed the back corner where, true enough, the man of the town was scowling down at his menu. “You take it.”

“What? That’s not fair!”

“Oh shush, you know he’d choose you.”

“Fine,” I dramatized, grabbing the decaf. “But I choose your next table.”

Laughing because they knew I wouldn’t, I stalked towards the man. From far away, he didn’t seem so intimidating. Wearing all beige, a little brown and some black shoes that had seen better days, people would be right to assume he worked hard. But then you got within arms distance – and the beige became camel with a shiny gold star studded into the breast, the brown got creased due to the inability to rest for more than ten minutes at a time, and the black shoes you knew would be spotless again in the morning.

I respected Mason, as a pivotal member of our task-force, our community, as a person…

But there were some things I couldn’t let him get away with so easy. Perhaps it had clouded my judgement, and I slept well at night thinking what I did about him. He didn’t stir me.

“Good morning, Chief! Same as usual?” I gave my best smile.

“Thank you, Ashley, that would be amazing.”

I’m going to say it: good genes definitely ran in the family. There was no doubting Fletcher was sex on legs, so it’s only natural that his father be the same. And that he was.

With dark, unblemished skin, full and plump lips, he was edible to his core. What most women (and men) wouldn’t give to devour all his bitter goodness.

So, it came as no surprise that I found it hard to remain standing. He must know by now the effect he had on people.

“Did you kids have a good legal night?”

Laughing because he expected it, I poured his coffee and didn’t connect eyes. It’s what he wanted, he was anticipating on me surrendering.

And believe me, I could have. So easily. It would be easy. Everything would just be so much easier if I gave in now… wouldn’t it?

“Yes, sir.” Noting down his order, I turned to walk away when his arm struck out and he suddenly had a hold of my frail wrist.

“Good, because I’d hate to think you ever felt like you couldn’t trust me.” He was staring at me.

I licked my lips.

“That’s definitely not the case. I’ll, uh, get your order ready for you.”

Quickly and gently slipping out from his clutch, I headed for the main counter, where it seemed like Ramsey witnessed the entire exchange. To say I was humiliated wouldn’t fucking half cover it.

I was about to claim that I was going on break when the door chimed.

Instantly, I pinpointed pineapple, a scent that could seem so innocent that in itself was deceiving. It led you into believing that what you’d be searching for was pure, cheerful and sickly sweet. Instead, it paved the way for a complicated young girl, with a beauty that resembled Vanessa Hudgens, except without the cute factor. Trade it in for a sour expression and harsh, dark make-up and it spat out Ciara.

I observed her silently as she entered with her collection of friends, demeaning some unnamed victim.

Before they plopped down at a table, Ciara’s grin faded, gradually. She placed her sunglasses atop her hair and steadied herself, completely transfixed on something else that was not her reflection.

I followed.

To where I noticed the Chief Gilbert was staring at her, too, albeit with a stonier face.

How… odd. And amusing.
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Apologies for this chapter going up now! I meant to upload before Christmas, but you know how hectic it can be. Anyways, hope you all had a lovely holiday and a happy new year :D