The new receptionist is useless; this was the third complaint she had received from a customer today. It was as though she had selective hearing, and no matter how many times a person was to repeat themselves she would still perceive what they said incorrectly. She was so fired when Bea got her hands on her.
“I can’t express how sorry I am, Mr-” She sighed as she was yet again interrupted by the seething man on the other end of the line. “Yes, I understand, sir, and I can assure you that this will not happen again...” The handle of one of the shopping bags she was carrying decided to break, and before she could comprehend anything her perfectly skilled juggle with her phone, paperwork and groceries disintegrated, leaving just her phone pressed to her ear. It took all her strength to not scream and swear in frustration as she knelt to stop tins and bottles from rolling away, as well as putting everything in their designated bags. She silently cursed the new slim phones – the older bulkier mobile phones used to fit nicely between her cheek and shoulder; these smartphones were simply a nightmare at times like this, and she couldn’t reach out in time with her free hand to catch the watermelon that rolled down the slight incline. And just like that Darren seemed to appear in time to pick the melon up. She looked up to see that lopsided smirk on his face, contemplating whether she should hit him – knock that look off his face. But since he was helping her...
By the time the phone call had ended with a happier Mr Penhall, Bea turned around to see that Darren was still standing there, looking at her expectantly as he held the shopping bags. “Hey,” he smiled.
“Thanks,” Bea sighed, pushing her long hair out of her eyes in frustration. “Today has been so hectic! That was yet another customer complaining on the phone. It’s that new receptionist; she needs to go. I don’t know how she got the good references she did – paid for them no doubt – since she is so crap at her job! And...” she paused. “Why am I telling you all this? You don’t care.”
“I do care,” Darren smiled slightly, seemingly nervous. Bea expelled a heavy sigh as she, again, pushed her hair out of her eyes. “Come on, I’ll help you carry these,” he offered gently.
“No, it’s fine thanks. I got these.”
The look in Darren’s eyes was the reason for Bea to accept his help. It had been a look she couldn’t place; one of determination, concern and...something else. “Okay,” she said. “I guess I could do with the help.” The way his eyes lit up made her heart melt, but she snatched two of the bags, hitched her messenger bag on her shoulder and walked ahead of him, shaking thoughts of her ex out of her head. They were over. This was just a favour.
“You know,” Darren commented mischievously, “there are these wonderful inventions for times where you have a fair way to go with so much stuff to carry. They’re called...erm...I can’t actually... Ah yeah: cars.”
“Don’t be a jerk, Darren. I’m not in the mood.”
They arrived at her apartment within half an hour without saying another word to one another. “Okay,” Bea concluded. “Thank you for the help, but I can take it from here.”
“I can help you put everything away,” Darren offered hopefully.
“It’s fine, really. I can do it.”
“No. You go sit down – I’ve got this.” She tensed slightly, a sign of her anxiety that didn’t go unnoticed by Darren. “Don’t worry. I remember the way you like things put.” She visibly relaxed sitting on the sofa as she watched Darren put the fresh herbs in the alphabetical order on the windowsill, and stowed the tins in the cupboard in order of size with the labels facing him. Fruit went in the fruit bowl in their respective groups, and vegetables went in the fridge drawers in the same way. As much as he’d like to have thought that Bea had stayed living in their apartment because she was hoping they could try again, Darren realised that it was probably so that she wouldn’t have to face getting stressed at home trying to sort out the disorganised “mess” the rest of her family made.
“Thank you,” she sighed as he came to sit next to her. They sat in silence for a moment, only for Bea to suddenly jump up off the sofa.
“What’s wrong now?”
“I forgot to buy chicken thighs,” she groaned. “I was going to make some Spanish chicken stew. How stupid can a person get?” She hastily walked over to her discarded coat.
“Well, I can get it. You just relax a while.”
“No!” she objected, her back to Darren. “I need to go get it. I can go see Kris as well, make sure that he’s cop...ing...” She exhaled the last syllable with pleasure as skilled hands kneaded the tense muscles in her shoulders. Her eyes slid closed as his fingers worked their magic, and she found her body leaning backwards into him slightly, head soon resting upon his shoulder. She could feel his warm breath spreading along her neck, gently tickling her fluttering pulse. She could feel his stubble rubbing against her cheek as he moved in closer...
“I have to go,” she whimpered all of a sudden, quickly creating space between them.
“I think now would be a really good time for you to leave.”
“This is a mistake. You shouldn’t have helped me; you should’ve just carried on walking past me.”
“Bea, listen to me.”
“What do you want?” she snapped. Her eyes were wide like a deer in the headlights. “What do you want from me?” she whispered desperately.
Darren smiled as she gasped for air. “You,” he said simply.
Before she could comprehend what he’d just said, his lips were upon hers.