Home > Surprise Delivery(14)

Surprise Delivery(14)
Author: R.R. Banks

Once you're not caught up in all the pleasure and sensations of the moment and gain some critical perspective; thought and intention have a way of changing.

“I can't do this right now,” I mutter.

I open the cabinet and throw it in, not wanting to deal with it right now. I mean, the possibility that I'm actually pregnant is infinitesimal anyway. I've got bigger things to worry about right now – like finding a job where I can make decent money and not be treated like a piece of meat every damn day. Yeah, that'd be nice.

But, now that my stomach has finally settled, the first thing I need is some food. Given all the stress and nausea, I'm shocked to find that I'm actually hungry. But, now that the cloud of sickness has passed – if only for a little while – I realize that I'm ravenous.

Nine

Alexis

I still don't entirely trust my stomach not to turn on me, so I figure I'm just going to pick up some soup and a sandwich from the deli down the block. That sounds like it'll be easy enough on my tummy. I take the stairs down – our building is old and doesn't have an elevator – and step out onto the sidewalk.

Bri and I live in a neighborhood in the Bronx that's been gentrified over the years and is now a hipster heaven. Ordinarily, I am not a fan of the hipster set – they're a little too pretentious for my taste – but even I can't deny that they've brought a lot of great things into the neighborhood. Cute little boutiques, eateries, pastry shops, coffee houses out the wazoo, and even an actual record store line the street.

As a result of the revitalization of this neighborhood, the place is crowded. Of course, that's also a symptom of living in New York. Thankfully, this small, out of the way place isn't near some of the major traffic centers, so it's not completely wall to wall people, but it's plenty crowded anyway. But then, I'm not one for big crowds, to begin with.

With a sigh, I set off down the sidewalk, weaving around people. I get to the deli, take a number, find a quiet corner and start to play on my phone as I wait. I scroll through some news and check my social media. When my number is called and it's my turn to order, I squeeze my way through the crowd, finally making it to the counter.

“Hey, how ya doin' today, Lexi?” calls Monty, the owner of the place.

“Doing good,” I reply. “How about you?”

He shrugs. “Wife's still on my ass about everything, the kids take me for granted, and the cat shit in my shoe this morning.”

“So – the usual?”

“You know it,” he says and tips me a wink.

Monty is in his sixties, has wild white hair, crystal blue eyes, and deep lines etched into his face. He's got that thick Bronx accent that matches his thick Bronx attitude. Monty's been around forever, and his deli is an institution in this neighborhood. When the hipsters started moving in, I was afraid they'd try to force him out. But, stubborn as a mule, Monty has hung in there and refuses to give in. Of course, I think there probably would have been a riot had he been forced out and whoever took over the shop probably would've had to deal with a lot of angry people.

He's a good guy and although he likes to bitch about his family, he loves his wife and kids more than life itself. He just likes putting on the tough guy act, but it's all for show.

“What'll you have today, kid?” he asks.

“A container of your chicken noodle soup and a BLT, if you don't mind,” I say.

“Chicken noodle soup, huh?” he asks. “You comin' down with a cold or somethin'?”

“I just haven't felt right the last few days,” I reply. “Stomach's been a little dodgy.”

He gives me a smirk. “You ain't pregnant are ya?” he asks. “When Muriel got pregnant, she was always complainin' about –”

“No. I'm not,” I cut him off.

Judging by the look on his face, it came out sharper than I'd intended it to. I give him a soft smile, feeling the heat flaring in my cheeks.

“Sorry,” I tell him. “I didn't mean to snap on you like that. I'm just under a lot of pressure at work.”

His face softens, and he returns my smile. “No problem, kid,” he says. “I get it. Believe me, I get it.”

“I appreciate that, Monty.”

He nods. “Lemme get you your order.”

“Thanks, Monty.”

“Anything for you, kid.”

I wait at the counter and look down at my phone, but I can't help but feel like I'm being watched. It's like a prickling between my shoulder blades or something. I glance around at the crowd and don't see anybody standing there gawking at me openly – which makes me think I'm being super paranoid again.

A couple minutes later, Monty comes back and hands me a bag. I pull out my card, but he waves me off.

“It's on the house today, kid,” he says and chuckles. “Call it the bad day discount.”

“You can't do that, Monty,” I protest.

“Sure, I can. I own the place,” he says. “I can do whatever the fuck I want.”

I smile wide and dig whatever cash I have in my wallet out, dropping it into his tip jar. “Thank you, Monty,” I say. “That was incredibly sweet and generous.”

“Yeah well, just don't let that get around. I got a reputation to protect,” he says.

“Your secret's safe with me,” I wink. “Thank you again.”

“Anytime.”

Taking my bag, I barely make it out of the way before the next person in line comes barreling up. It's like swimming upstream as I make my way out of the deli. I breathe a sigh of relief when I get back out onto the street – at least the throng of people is a bit more spaced out on the sidewalk, rather than being penned in like cattle inside the deli.

I start to head back toward my apartment when I get that itchy feeling between my shoulder blades again. I stop and turn around to find a tall man standing right behind me. His appearance is so sudden that it startles me, and I nearly drop the bag I'm carrying.

“Sorry,” he says. “I didn't mean to scare you.”

“No, it's fine. No problem,” I say, though my racing heart doesn't quite agree with that.

I look up at him and am surprised to find that I recognize him. It's been a couple of years and he's sporting a neatly trimmed beard now, but it doesn't do much to soften that baby face I recognize so easily.

“Brad Walker,” I say.

“I thought that was you in the deli. I didn't know you're a regular at Monty's too. I mean, what are the odds?” he replies, a wide smile on his face. “How are you, Lexi?”

I nod and give him a smile I hope looks more real than it feels. “I'm doing pretty well, thanks,” I say. “How about you? It's been a while.”

He shrugs. “It has been a while. I missed you after you left the program,” he tells me. “But I'm doing pretty good. Didn't know you lived in the neighborhood.”

“For a while now,” I confirm.

“Yeah, I just moved in recently,” he informs me. “I've got a great little place a few blocks from here.”

The mention of the program is like a dagger to the heart. I hate being reminded that I had to drop out. Brad and I had gone out a few times while I was still in the program, but there was never any real chemistry between us. I think he liked me more than I liked him, to be honest. I just didn't have the kind of connection with him that I wanted – the kind of connection I had with Duncan.

I push the thought quickly and ruthlessly from my mind. Duncan's gone. I can't keep thinking about him. It does me no good and only serves to stir up a lot of crazy thoughts and feelings inside of me – and that's about the last thing I want or need right now, given the fact that I already feel like I'm teetering on the edge of insanity because of my job.

“So, what are you doing now?” I ask. “I assume you graduated?”

He nods. “Yeah, I did, but I realized that I wanted to be a pharmacist,” he says. “So, I continued to take classes until I earned my Pharm. D.”

“Wow, you're a pharmacist now?”

He smiles wide. “Sure am.”

“Good for you, Brad,” I smile. “That's terrific.”

It was probably a wise move for him to make, since his bedside manner is pretty horrible. He's not a bad guy, he's just awkward and doesn't relate to people particularly well. Personally, I wouldn't have felt particularly comfortable with him as my nurse.

“Yeah, so what are you doing these days?” he asks.

Other than fending off sexual predators each and every day while working a menial job that's slowly sucking the life out of me?

“Oh, I'm working at a law firm these days,” I say.

“A law firm. Wow,” he replies. “And here I thought you'd be a nurse practitioner by now.”

Yeah, me too. The thought is bitter and resentful, so I push it away, not wanting to give in to that kind of bleak despair. I've got enough crap swirling through my head and don't really need to start feeling sorry for myself on top of it. Well – feeling sorrier for myself, anyway.

“Yeah, it's not too bad,” I say, intentionally keeping things vague, not wanting to admit that I'm a lowly secretary. “So, how do you like being a pharmacist?”

“It's not too bad, really. It's not as exciting as being a nurse, of course,” he says. “But I think it's the right job for me. I think I'm where I need to be.”

“That's terrific, Brad. I'm really happy for you.”

“Yeah, things are going well,” he continues. “Listen, we should catch up sometime.”

It's moments like these, that I wish I had the ability to teleport myself somewhere else. Anywhere else. Brad's a nice guy, but we have almost nothing in common and there just wasn't that spark the last time we dated. At least, not for me.

   
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