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Runaway Rose

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“Don’t look so sad, David.”

“I’m not sad, I’m frustrated.” The last thing David needed in this stressful time was his sister thinking she could manipulate a situation into good PR if she just smiled and lied enough. This wasn’t the Chilean embassy. “Why on earth would you even pick the motel as your fake law office address? And how did you even find that stupid article so fast?”

“I needed an address for the fake website and the motel is the only one I’ve memorized,” Alexis said as if that was the most obvious explanation. “And Mom had me put up a Google alert for her months ago, and one night I got bored so I put one up for all of us. You should be grateful or I never would’ve discovered the ‘Runaway Rose’ story in time to act.”

She resumed her version of helping unpack products which amounted to moving a single bottle at a time to the other side of the counter she sat on whilst filing her nails.

David loudly dropped a box next to her. Far too many were still left in the back room. “Again, Alexis, I really hate that nickname. And for the record, this entire thing is going to blow up in everyone’s face and then I will be the one sifting through the ashes trying to salvage a business AND a wedding!” He could feel his stress level rising. He was already further behind on prepping the store than he would’ve liked. It was clearly for the best that he hadn’t selected a definitive opening date because there was no way he’d be able to meet it.

Alexis gave him a bemused look. “David, wait and see. With my brilliant negotiating and your... candor, we’ll be able to completely clear your name in no time.”

“My god Alexis, I’ve told you I don’t care what some tiny tabloid said about me.”

“You should care. You’re opening up a store and you need to have a good reputation with your customer base in order to ensure your brand’s success.”

Apparently his sister could read one textbook and decide she was a master marketer. He would love to have that kind of confidence. “My reputation here is fine. Sure Roland puts in a couple of extra barbs my way, but I’m pretty sure Ronnie actually respects me more.”

“And according to Mom, Gwen was obsessed with finding out the details on how someone can disappear without anyone finding out,” Alexis added.

“Who the fuck is Gwen?” David asked even though his question went unanswered. “Listen I don’t care that this guy wants to ‘fix’ things because the man only wants to protect himself and his own self interest. As far as I’m concerned, Patrick Brewer can suck my—“

“Is this a bad time?”

They turned to see Patrick holding a small paper bag and propping open the door. David really needed to hang a bell for that door.

“Patrick!” Alexis hopped down from the table and rushed to greet him. “Glad you could meet us here. Now you can see how much of an entrepreneur David is. He’s starting his own business. Isn’t that amazing?”

“That is pretty amazing,” he said quickly. “Um, David I wanted to formerly apologize for what I wrote. I am sorry and I know it doesn’t change what happened, but I’m here because I want to make this as right as I possibly can. And that starts with telling the whole story.”

David was not in the mood to deal with this man. “Did you practice that on the way over?”

“Uh no, but I did buy you a blueberry muffin.” Patrick placed the paper bag on the table in front of David. “Stevie said you liked them and I wanted to come in with a bit of an olive branch.”

David snatched the bag and peeked inside. He felt Alexis put a hand on his shoulder. “Isn’t that the sweetest thing, David. Patrick wants to make things right.”

He had to admit he was getting a little hungry. But there was no way he was going to make things too easy.

“Seeing as there’s no beverage to go with it, this sweet gesture is going to have to be enjoyed at the café. I’m taking a break so thanks for the excuse Patrick.”

“Oh how about I come with you then?” Patrick quickly asked. “If you’re hungry I don’t mind buying you lunch. We can iron out how you want to do this....” He hesitated at David’s hostile glance. “Or we can talk about whatever you’d like. No pressure.”

Before he could respond, Alexis intervened. “I have an idea. Why don’t I head back to the motel and get Patrick set up with a room? That way you can lock up and he can drive you back once you two are done?”

“I’m not interested in talking to him,” David said. “But you can leave Alexis since you’ve been useless the entire time you’ve been here.” He used his hands to encapsulate the meaning of ‘entire time.’ Alexis rolled her eyes, but he thought he saw Patrick grin at his hand gesture. He chose to ignore that.

“Well since you’re closing up shop for lunch anyway, I think I’ll grab a bite to eat for myself,” Patrick said. “I’m not following you or anything. You don’t have to interact with me in any way. I just happen to be going in the same direction as you.” He looked like it was taking everything in him to keep his face impassive.

“You’re either very impatient or extremely sure of yourself,” David said.

“Threw you a bit of a change-up there, huh?” Now Patrick wasn’t even bothering to hide his grin. It seemed...somehow more playful than the knowing smirks David was used to seeing in his former life.

He pulled the store key out of his pocket and grabbed his bag. “I don’t know what that means. I don’t play cricket.” Patrick’s grin got annoyingly wider. “Now everybody shoo so I can lock up.” He gave the corresponding hand motions and the others quickly cleared out. Once the door was locked, Alexis fluttered her fingers in farewell at them and headed to the Lincoln parked outside. “Enjoy your lunch boys!” She then gave her attempt at a wink and turned away.

“Well I think I’m going to walk in the general direction of the cafe,” Patrick said. “Care to wander in that direction too?”

“I’m not doing any interview with you.”

“Who said anything about an interview? I’m just trying to find some good food.”

David let out a sardonic laugh. “Then you are definitely going to the wrong place.”

“And yet I think I’ll still enjoy the company.”

As much as David fought, he couldn’t completely tamp down a slight lift in the corner of his mouth. He refused to call it a smile. What was this guy’s deal? And why was David indulging it? He halfheartedly mused over those thoughts while munching on his muffin on the short walk to the café.