Chapter Ten

    Mitch sat in the deafening silence of his office, and realized it was gone - his dream was gone. As easily as it had come to realization, it just as speedily vaporized. The door squeaked open, and Kelly bounded in and climbed up onto Mitch's lap.

    Mitch quickly wiped his eyes dry and pulled Kelly up to him. "Hiya Angel."

    "No, I'm Kelly!" she giggled!   

    Mitch smiled and hugged her. "Yes you are."

    How funny Mitch thought, that the only woman he could love and would love him back unconditionally and not hurt him was his own daughter. I just hope nothing takes her away from me, Mitch prayed.

    Just then, Sally popped her head into his office. "Mitch?"

    Mitch looked up at the door through misty eyes, still cradling Kelly in his arms. "Yeah?"

    "Tonight?" she whispered.

    Mitch looked confused, and it showed on his brow.

    "Do you want to come over and talk?" she said, "I think you really need it."

    Mitch shook his head. "No. Besides, I have a friend coming over later anyways.."

    "Excuse me," Lynn said, coughing and pushing past Sally into the office.

    "Mommy!" Kelly giggled, bounding off Mitch's lap and running to Lynn.

    "Your friend that redneck is here," Lynn hissed, walking over to Mitch and taking Kelly from him.

    "Mommy, why is daddy crying?" Kelly asked.

    Mitch rubbed his eyes. "The smoke honey, it hurts my eyes, and sometimes I have to come back here to make them feel better," he said, getting up and kissing Kelly on the forehead.

    Lynn snorted. "Right." It's not fair, Lynn thought. Why am I chasing this loser, who only owns a hole in the wall by the beach, when that bimbo Jessie has Zach, a mover, a shaker, and a moneymaker? Why is she getting a diamond ring and all I'm getting is a hassle? How stupid could I have been thinking I was going to get some decent money, chasing Mitch, who just runs a bar. I should be chasing this Zach guy, she thought.

    Lynn looked at Mitch once more, as he walked out the door to go see Krystal. How pathetic. Jeans, sneakers, and a collared shirt was as fancy as he got. It's not fair. Suddenly, the Dusk to Dawn seemed like the grungiest, most claustrophobic place on earth. "Let’s go sweetie," Lynn, said, sweeping her daughter up, "Mommy needs to get some air.."


    Mitch saw Krystal, who hurried her way up to him and hugged him tightly. "From what you sounded like on the phone, looks like you need one these bad."

    Mitch smiled and nodded. "You have no idea.." His eyes shimmering with tears.

    Nick saw Krystal as she came in and hugged Mitch. What's with this guy? he thought. Jessie, and now this girl? Maybe it was good thing, Nick thought, ole Mitchy would be distracted. Jessie's engagement would definitely put a crimp in his plans to hook up with the delicious Miss Reynolds. No matter, he thought, once he set his mind on something he usually got it, and he definitely could get into a night with Jessie. Mind wandering, Nick missed a beat and cursed himself, as he turned his attention back to the drums, quickly getting back into sync with the rest of the band.

    Krystal motioned towards the band, catching the snaffoo. "Not too good are they?"

    Mitch shrugged. "They're okay. He probably just lost his concentration when he saw you walk in."

    Krystal blushed and smiled. "Well it's too loud in here. Let's go outside and talk somewhere."

    Lynn blew by the two, only giving Kelly enough time to wave her goodbye to her father.

    "Sure," he replied, scratching his head at the thought, squinting and doing his best James Dean. "Where to?" he said, distracted. But just as fast as the urge for spontaneity had appeared, it disappeared, when he looked around and noticed how busy the place was. "But I have to stay here with the bar," Mitch stammered.

    "I cleared it with Angel," Krystal answered, matter-of-factly, pulling him by the arm towards the front door. "Trust me," she laughed, "it’ll be fine.."

    "What a shame," Krystal sighed, seeing Lynn’s car pull out of the parking lot, noticing that Mitch’s smile had left with Kelly.

    "What a bitch." Sally said laughing.

    Mitch rolled his eyes and Krystal laughed with Sally.

    "Yeah," she sighed, "I met her before.. she can be," Krystal said. Krystal pulled her hair out from her face and held her hand out to Sally. "I'm Krystal by the way."

    "I'm sorry," Mitch coughed, embarrassed, putting his arm around Krystal. "Sally," Mitch smiled, "this an old friend of mine from school - Krystal Neil. She owns a ranch and raises Arabian horses."

    "Really? I love horses!" Sally said, genuinely impressed.

    "And this is Sally, my best waitress."

    "Maybe you can come riding with us one afternoon," Krystal said.

    "I'd love to, Krystal!" Sally smiled.

    "Call me Krys.."

    Sally stared at Krystal. Maybe she wasn't a bad person after all, she certainly wasn't an out and out flirt like Jessie. Flirt.. that was too nice a term for Jessie, slut was more like it. Sally thought of how Jessie danced with Paul. She had almost flipped when she had overheard Mitch and Angel talking about what had gone on in Mitch’s office between he and Jessie. And the show she had put on with Nick for Mitch’s benefit.. All this had gone on when all the while Jessie had a boyfriend, who she whined was cheating on her. Whore, Sally thought. Better watch your step. That’s a big fall you’re gonna take..

    Turning her attention back to Krystal and Mitch, she couldn’t help but notice how relaxed he was with her. One chance, she said to herself. One chance only Krystal.

    "C’mon. Let’s get out of here already," Krystal said, tugging on Mitch’s arm.

    Mitch nodded. "Sure.. okay, I’m game," he said. "Where we headed? The city?"

    "No. Move it or lose it," Krystal laughed, swatting Mitch on the ass, to hurry his departure.

    Don’t hurt him, Sally thought, watching them go. He's been hurt enough already by Jessie and Lynn.

    Angel waved Sally over. "Betty has no problem working?"

    "None at all," she said. "Betty said she'll be here in a few minutes, ‘cuz she needs the money." Sally grabbed four mugs, waiting for Angel to fill up two more to take to a table full of rowdy young men.

    Angel pulled back on the tap and watched the beer pour into a glass. "So – what’d you think of Zach?"

    Sally rolled her eyes. "What a waste of a tuxedo."

    "You looked impressed to me."

    "Never insult a man who thinks he looks good while he's handing out money," Sally laughed, flashing the hundred dollar tip Zach had given her earlier.

    "Wow," Angel laughed, handing her the two mugs.

    "So what did you think?"

    Angel chuckled under his breath. "He reminds me of a gold ring that turns green within two weeks."

    "Gold covered tin?" Sally laughed.

    Jessie would never leave Zach, she was too smart for that. By marrying Zach she was assured a life of luxury, even if she ever decided to get divorced. Sure, Zach was no sweet prince, but to Sally, Jessie was no innocent princess either.

    "All that glitters isn't gold," quipped Angel.

    Sally smiled, as she gathered up the mugs. Let Zach and Jessie glitter all they want. Maybe Mitch needed something less showy, like a certain waitress..


    Mitch couldn't stop laughing, as he and Krystal were trying to dance.

    "No," Krystal said, rolling her eyes, "like this.." she said, pointing down at her feet. "Now watch me."

    Mitch watched Krystal take a step to the side, then swing one foot behind the other, then the other foot crossed, she kicked her heel, did a quarter turn on the floor, and faced Mitch once more. "Got it?"

    Mitch shrugged. "I think - show me one more time."

    Krystal smiled at him, and as she looked up, the wind kicked up, blowing her hair into her face. The Johnson Street Amphitheater's back was to the Atlantic, a stiff wind was blowing in from the north chilling her. "Okay, last time," she shivered, her bare legs covered in goosebumps.

    Krystal started to dance again, her feet shuffling and spinning. "1 step, 2 step, 3 step.." she said, her eyes on Mitch.

    Mitch smiled. He was watching her alright, but he was just enjoying watching her dance. He kept his eyes on her feet for a few seconds, then shifted his gaze up her long, slender legs, noticing the way her tight hips swayed. His eyes tilted up to her face. Mitch remembered her face being smoother and paler when she was younger, with a lot more makeup.

    Her face was so different from what he remembered, yet it was still wonderfully the same. The same soft cream color he remembered, the only difference was a few brown spots and freckles here and there across her high cheekbones. Krystal's hair was still golden blonde and straight, spilling over her shoulders, no change there, and her eyes were as expressive as ever, accentuated by her long, full brows.

    But her smile was still the best of all. When Mitch saw Krystal smile he couldn't help but smile himself, her thin peach colored lips, wonderful enough with no lipstick, and lots of teeth. When Krystal smiled her grin reached to her cheeks. All in all, her face didn't need makeup - her simple outdoorsy lifestyle in the sun giving her a healthy glow.

    "You're not watching me," she said.

    "Oh yes I am," Mitch laughed, as he got up from the shabby wooden seats to join Krystal up on stage. Krystal smiled, laying a small soft kiss on his lips. Mitch didn't move. "What.."

    Krystal put her finger over Mitch's lips. "It was a kiss Mitch. Just a kiss," she smiled.

    Mitch smiled back at her. "Scoot back a little so I can get up there!" Mitch said.

    Krystal crossed her arms, and shivered.

    "Cold?" Mitch asked.

    Krystal nodded. "I forgot that it gets nippy in October," she laughed, "it sneaks up on you so quick."

    "Yeah, it does," Mitch nodded, "and they say Florida doesn't have seasons.."

    They both laughed. An uncomfortable silence followed, as both snuck looks at the other, then looked away, both feeling awkward.

    "I'm cold, Mitch."

    Mitch smiled, and pulled Krystal close to him, wrapping his arms around her. "Better?" he whispered in her ear.

    "Much."

    Mitch was shaking, but he was nervous.

    "What's the story with Lynn, and Kelly?"

    "She broke my heart."

    "How?"

    "She let others do her thinking for her."

    "Oh," Krystal said, "and Kelly.."

    "She's a surprise. Lynn disappeared right after we broke up, I guess we now know why."

    "Mitch, what's with you and Jessie?" Krystal asked.

    "I don't know," he sighed.

    "Do you love her?"

    Mitch couldn't look at Krystal, staring blankly at the amphitheater's back wall. "I thought I did."

    "Why?" she whispered.

    "Because I knew her for so long I guess. I've known her since school." Mitch looked back to Krystal. "I used to fantasize about her in school. I guess maybe those feelings still bounce around."

    "It's what we tell ourselves sometimes, that what we found is what we were meant to find."

    Mitch laughed. "You won't believe the things a heart could tell a mind.. somehow we sell ourselves on love."

    Krystal smiled. "Still listening to country then I take it?"

    "Some things never change," Mitch laughed.

    "You've known me since school too."

    Mitch nodded. "Yeah."

    "Ever fantasize about me?"

    Mitch blushed and turned away.

    "Well?"

    Mitch nodded.

    "It's okay." Krystal took a free hand and brushed Mitch's hair aside, behind his ear. "Why didn't you ever tell me?" she whispered.

    Mitch shrugged. "I don't know. I was afraid."

    "Of me?"

    "Of rejection, period. I didn't tell anyone."

    "Shame.."

    Mitch slowly met Krystal's eyes. "I never knew if.."

    "Never know if you don't try, Mitch.."

    "Coulda, shoulda, woulda," Mitch mumbled.

    "You think too much Mitch, I think that's your problem. You need to act on what you feel more."

    "I don't think so," Mitch sighed, "I tried that, and look what happened."

    "Right idea, wrong woman."

    "Think so?"

    Krystal nodded. The wind picked up and started blowing sand around. "I think we better leave."


   Krystal pulled the pickup to the Dusk to Dawn. The lights were out, since it was after 4 a.m., and all was quiet.

    Mitch leaned over to Krystal. "Thanks."

    "No problem. You needed a good time."

    Slowly, Mitch leaned forward, and Krystal did too, their lips were just inches apart from each other. Krystal gazed at Mitch, as he averted his eyes. "Free tomorrow?"

    "I have a lot of work tomorrow.."

    Mitch shrugged. Oh well.

    "But for a friend, I think I can make the time," she said, smiling.

    "Call me then," he smiled, stepping out of the truck, and shutting the door.

    Krystal started the truck up. "What?" she said, "I didn't hear you!"

    "Call me I'm.."

    The truck revved again and Krystal shrugged.

    Mitch took a second to think. "I can call you then?" he yelled.

    Krystal smiled and nodded, pulling the truck away slowly, and waving as she drove away.


   Zach watched Jessie as she stared, still stunned at the rock on her finger. You out did yourself this time Zach, you really did, he thought. Zach smiled, he couldn't help it, nothing he ever planned had ever turned out this well. Sure, maybe Jessie was the true brains behind the Wave - she was talented. But let's face it, he grinned to himself, I have the money and the power to make it all happen. Without him she'd be working harder for less money. Without his equipment and all the prime assignments he tossed her way, Jessie would be nothing. Maybe she had helped the Wave become South Florida's top society page, but without him, she would have never gotten the chance. No woman, not even Jess could head the magazine's staff as he did.

    As they silently left the restaurant, arm in arm, Zach smiled, checking out the Miami skyline as the glass elevator made its descent. Miami, a city with plenty of money, and an adequate social scene - for the South - glittered below them. Goodbye Miami, he thought. The city had been his playground, a mere thirty minutes away from their apartment in Fort

    Lauderdale, the site of his tropical yet cosmopolitan love nest. Zach was ballsy, making Chez Henri's a favorite night spot, since his hideaway was in the very same building. Tipping the restaurant's owner and waiters well, he was assured discretion. They had served him many an evening, when he had brought one of his many tristes for a late night rendezvous. Gorgeous models he met through the magazine, high priced call girls with sophisticated sexual prowess.. he had brought them all to the seclusion of his apartment for a steamy evening of sex.

    He had kept it a secret from Jessie, who was sometimes too smart for her own good, for he realized he couldn't trust her, not completely. Zach almost admired her for it, because he certainly couldn't be trusted. He knew that Jess was always on the lookout to catch him cheating, and that's why he had his accountant establish a private account where he listed the apartment as a business expenses - a stopover for business clients. Well, it was almost true, for monkey business, he grinned. Besides, even though he knew Jess enjoyed visiting the city to conduct photo shoots, to shop and dance occasionally with her female friends on trendy South Beach. Other than that, Zach knew Jessie preferred that casual, familiar atmosphere of the Dusk to Dawn.

    Yet soon they would leave South Florida behind, to head off to the most happening city in the world, New York, New York. Finally, he'd be where all the real money, power and fame was, and Jessie would come with him, a bright bauble on his arm. She would never doubt him again, ever. For in New York he'd make his own mark away from his father's influence. The diamond was his insurance policy. She had to come now, for she would want the success he so desired too, in a city that set the standards for the publishing industry. Soon they'd be wining and dining with a real skyline as their backdrop. With his father's money and Jessie's talent, he'd soon be the toast of the town.

    Jessie went on and on about their trip to St. Maarten, as the Miami skyline started to diminish into the horizon. Zach let her talk, too wrapped up in his own thoughts. "You'll love it," he said, reaching for her hand, and squeezing it affectionately, unable to contain his good mood, as they headed towards home.

 

* * * * *

Copyright 1998 Susana Audrain and Richard Tingle All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this novel or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law.

 

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