After Barbara paid the bill, Ambrose walked her out to the parking lot. “I had a good time tonight.”
She smiled. “So did I. Even though, we sure covered a lot of heavy topics. Next time, we’re going to spend the whole date talking about fluff and nothing but fluff. Deal?”
He laughed. “Deal.”
“I’ll let you pick the next time and place. Not now. Just think about it and let me know.”
“Are there any cell phone stores open this time of night? I need a new phone.”
She giggled. “You definitely do. All of the standard big box places are closed. But I do know of one place that caters specifically to late nighters like you. It’s called the Cardboard Box.”
“How do you know about it?”
She stopped under a streetlight. “How do I know? I do work with extraordinaries. It’s my job to know these things. Its address is…”She squinched her face up in concentration. “…8448 Hyacinth. It’s on the right side of the road. Third building down.” She opened her eyes. “And it looks like a giant cardboard box.”
“Who knows? As soon as you get your new phone, give me a call. Oh! I guess I should give you my number.” She pulled a pen and paper out of her purse and frantically wrote it down. “Here you go.”
He took it.
“Now, don’t you go spamming me with twelve million phone calls. I like to sleep at night.”
He looked at her, standing in the streetlight’s spotlight. For the first time, he saw her as more than just the physical and emotional opposite of Elsie. He saw her as just herself. Barbara Addleston. Wavy blond hair. Blue eyes. And a face that was created for smiling and laughing.
He kissed her.
It startled her. He could feel it.
But she gladly kissed him back.
And he didn’t think of Elsie at all.
It was until after he bought his phone and returned to his hotel room that she returned to his mind.
“To set up your contacts, press…Contacts.” Ambrose raised his head. Contacts.
Elsie’s number is still on the other phone.
He walked over to the desk where he and Barbara had abandoned the smashed and bashed phone.
It was gone.
He exhaled sharply. “What? No. No! NO!” He looked under the table. He checked the garbage can. He checked the garbage can in the bathroom. He checked the table again just in case he somehow overlooked it.
It wasn’t overlooked.
It was gone.
“Who would have taken…Housekeeping. Of course! Who else would take that piece of junk?” He rushed out into the hall, all ready and set to give the first housekeeper an earful.
Of course, there were no housekeepers anywhere in sight.
Ambrose snarled. That just figures. He returned to his room and slammed the door.
“—FIGURES!” Door slam and kick.
He pressed his forehead against the door. “It doesn’t matter.” So, why does it hurt? “She’s gone. I can’t call her. I can’t talk to her.” It hurts so much. “I don’t need her number. I don’t. I don’t.”
He clenched his teeth. Why does it have to hurt so much?
Why doesn’t she come back and haunt me? Why? ELSIE, WHY?
Barbara is not Elsie. She can never be her and she never will be her.
And she doesn’t have to be.
She’s her own wonderful self. A creature of darkness and light. Giggles and tears. Stubborn. Willful.
“And quite the kisser.”
Peace descended on him and the hurting went away.
He returned to his phone.
“To set up your contacts, press Contacts.” He smiled.
Where should I take her out to eat next time?
I want to surprise her.
I want to hear her giggle again.