The floorboard of the '06 Ford pickup had taken so much wear and tear that the angry assault of a woman's sneaker made little difference. Es grimaced, rubbing her toes, as she glared resignedly at the digital clock on the dashboard. 5:17 pm. Phoebus' shift should have ended 17 minutes ago, and at this rate the movie theater would be closed by the time she and her boyfriend could make it to the other side of the town.
Her fingernails dug into her palms, leaving tiny crescent moons on her soft hands. This would be the third date this month that had fallen through. Angrily, Es grabbed her purse and jumped from the pickup, slamming the door behind her with a fury that rattled the chassis. Stabs of pain shot through her stubbed toes as she tore through the parking lot to the door of the hardware store, serving only to fuel her anger.
"I want to speak with the manager." The boy at the service desk shied a little from the intensity of her voice. "This way, ma'am," he said quickly, eager to palm the angry woman off on someone else.
Es yanked open the door to the manager's office and stomped in. The man behind the desk exuded a calm that starkly contrasted her anger. It surprised her-Phoebus had taken great care to impress upon his girlfriend that his boss was the worst possible human being on the surface of the planet-but sitting in this immaculate office in his perfectly ironed button-up shirt, his cool demeanor unnerved her more than anger ever could have. Es was suddenly very aware of her plain red t-shirt and black leggings. If only she were dressed more professionally to complain to the store manager.
Sucking up her courage, she planted both hands facedown on the desk, leaned over, and glared at the stonefaced fifty-something man. "Where is Phoebus?" she huffed.
"Quiet down," the manager chided, "before someone in this office calls security."
Furious at his calm dismissal, Es stomped to the other end of the room to close the door before turning back to the desk. "So sorry I disturbed anyone," she hissed. "Now I want to know why you keep holding my boyfriend at the store after he's supposed to get off. This is the third date you've made me miss, Bat Head."
"Bat head?" he repeated. Es bit her lip at the mistake. Phoebus rarely spoke of his boss by name, preferring to use numerous derogatory terms, to the point that calling him rude names was second-nature to both of them. Frantically, she glanced over the desk in hopes of finding the business cards-"Mister Frollo," she corrected herself. "You...um...you made me miss my date with Phoebus, Mister Frollo."
"You are dating Phoebus," he repeated.
God, this man was every bit as difficult as Phoebus had led her to believe. "Yes, Bat Head," she snapped. "And I want to know why you keep working him overti-"
"Phoebus clocked out twenty-three minutes ago," Frollo interrupted her calmly, pulling up the timesheet on his desktop computer. Es turned red as a tomato, purse slipping from her slackened hands and clattering to the polished floor. The sound snapped her from her daze and she bent over to gather her belongings. She took a good look at her cellphone before stuffing it back in her purse.
No new messages from Phoebus. No explanation whatsoever for his absence. None.
"I'm so...so sorry," Es mumbled, barely realizing that Frollo had risen from the chair. "I'm a complete idiot. I'll just leave your office right now..." she began to awkwardly step backwards "...just forget that you ever saw me-AIYEE!" Es screamed when her foot shot out from under her, flinging her body back against the wall. A tube of lipstick rolled across the floor and under the manager's desk. I'm such an idiot. She attempted to vent her embarrassment by flinging her purse back upon the floor.
A hand clamped her shoulder, and she instinctively looked. It was Frollo's left hand. He had such long, thin fingers...no wedding band either...why am I noticing stupid details like that? Looking up, she gasped at seeing his face so close to hers. "I can't," he said lightly.
"Can't what?" Esmeralda's brain was suddenly short-circuiting.
"Can't forget this." The hint of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. Damn, he had teeth worthy of an Invisalign commercial.
Es felt her face growing warm again, and not just because she could feel his breath against her nose and cheekbones. "I've been told that I make unforgettable first impressions."
Her eyelids drifted shut as he closed the gap between them. Electricity shot down her spine when his lips fastened onto hers. Heart hammering, she responded in kind. His body pressed her more firmly against the wall; she allowed herself to become limp, felt her shirt ride up when gravity pulled her farther down the wall. She arched into him when he deepened the kiss, lifting her hands to slide through his hair...
Meanwhile, Phoebus scowled at hearing his girlfriend's voicemail greeting for the second time in a row. He knew that he was over 30 minutes late and couldn't fathom why Es hadn't attempted to contact him, let alone why she inexplicably refused to answer her phone! He could have taken-heck, he had been expecting-her furious tirade, but this unprecedented silence disarmed him completely. Swallowing his tension, Phoebus forced himself to pocket his phone-he'd just have to try again later. He'd get to the bottom of this...