Malcolm reaches into his bag below the counter for one of the dreadfully terrible fantasy novels he enjoys so much. However, as his hand falls upon Claw of the Dragon by A. A. Tamerson, he remembers that he just finished the book—8th of the 9-book series—last night and he currently has no reading material. He’ll have to find something else to do during the stretches between waves of customers.
He glances over at his coworker at the next counter. Carrie Langford is a tall woman, a few years older than Malcolm, with a confident smile. Malcolm’s always been impressed with how she handles children of customers and their younger customers. He’s always liked kids, but never been particularly good with them. Carrie, though, Carrie just has this way with them. She’s not even really like a mother to them; just a cool big sister. She’s cut her hair, Malcolm notices. He’s generally fairly dense when it comes to picking up details like this, but her normally long brown hair has been cropped short. It’d be hard to miss such a drastic change. The change suits her, though.
“I like your haircut,” he says without thinking.
She turns and smiles at him. “Really? Thanks, Malcolm. I needed a haircut and I guess I just got tired of having to deal with it all the time.”
He nods stupidly. “It looks good on you.”
She smiles. “So no book today?”
“Nah, finished another one up. I’ll have to pick the next book up soon.”
The two chat for a while. They’ve always gotten along pretty well, and something about her cute new haircut is…encouraging. I mean, it’s not like he was serious about that Canadian girl, right? It was just some harmless flirting between them. I mean, he should maybe ask Carrie—
Nope. Noooooope nopenopenopenope. Uh-uh. Not happening. No way. He couldn’t.
Or could he?
Fortunately, customers have started coming in, giving Malcolm an excuse for being a complete and utter pansy. He focuses on working for a while until lunch break.
When his lunch break comes, his boss comes up and congratulates Carrie and him for their fine work. The simple compliment overjoys Malcolm for some reason, and he pulls his Boss into a hug.
“Mr. O’Neil,” he says, “I appreciate your enthusiasm. However, I feel it would be much better applied to dealing with our customers.” The man pauses, then adds “Although it would be best if you didn’t hug them. We don’t want to risk harassment charges.”
Malcolm pushes his glasses up, embarrassed, and looks down as he apologizes.
“You’re a strange one, Malcolm,” Carrie laughs as they head out the door for their lunch break.
Malcolm hastily apologizes, and is met with a rebuttal. “Don’t apologize for who you are. Nothing wrong with being a little strange every now and then. The world’s too serious, anyway.”
It’s then that Malcolm blurts out a question before he has the chance to think about it and inevitably reconsider. “Hey, you want to grab some lunch together?” It’s not too drastic of a question. After all, they’re co-workers who get along. Nothing suspicious about that. They’re not friends, but they’re friendly.
Carrie smiles. “Sure.” Malcolm manages to hide his relief at her answer as they walk down the street to a local deli.
Malcolm prays he doesn’t look nervous during their lunch conversation. he suspects that he does, though. Carrie casually tilts her chair onto its back legs as she takes a sip of her tea, appraising Malcolm. “So what’s up?” she asks finally. “Any particular reason you asked to eat together?”
He shrugs. “Uh…just trying to be more outgoing, I guess. You know.”
She nods. “Well, in that case, how’d you like to visit a club with me tonight? That’d do you some good, right?”
Malcolm freezes. Was she asking him out? No, of course not. That’s ridiculous. She sees his hesitation and misinterprets it. “You’ve never been to a club before, have you?”
Malcolm shakes his head. “No, not really.” She laughs and gives him some instructions, telling him when and where to show up. The two then finish their lunch and head back to work.
---Night has fallen, and Malcolm finds himself outside The Diamondback, wearing a pair of jeans and a blazer. He can faintly see lights coming from the cobblestone building’s giant glass windows, and he starts to panic a bit. He’s overdressed, he just knows it. No, wait, underdressed. No, no, totally overdressed. Unless…damn it, he can’t even tell. He looks around, feeling very out of place, until his eyes rest on a woman a few yards away waving at him. Carrie walks over to greet him, dressed in heels a sleek black dress that comes about halfway down her legs. It’s not a date, Malcolm tells himself over and over. It’s not a date, it’s not a date, it’s not a date….
“Hey!” Carrie says with a grin. “You ready to go? Trust me, it’ll be tons of fun!”
Malcolm swallows, pushes his glasses further up his nose, and nods, forcing a nervous smile.
And here is where we leave Malcolm O’Neil: outside The Diamondback, attempting to go clubbing for the first time. What sort of occurrences or surprises await him?
Comments close 2/27/12