Ten Seconds to Fall

Lucy doesn't know what to do with herself after graduation. That is, until she stumbles upon The 10 Second Fiesta.

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1. The First Ten Seconds

I skipped out on my graduation ceremony. More kids do it than you would think.

If you knew me, though, you would probably be surprised, much like everyone else in this little town.

You see, I'm the class valedictorian. I got accepted to all of my top five schools. My parents are loaded, so I can afford them, too. Even if I couldn't, I would've been given a full scholarship.

So, why did I skip? Well, I just couldn't take it, honestly. Seeing all those faces, telling them that our futures are bright in a speech I wrote last year, when, really, they aren't.

People are starving, volcanos are erupting, earth is quaking, killers are killing, rapists are raping, the climate is crumbling... None of us will get jobs. Every single little thing is going wrong and we were born right in the thick of it. Why should I lie to them? Why should we celebrate the fact that our daycare is kicking us out before we're ready, and now we have to fend for ourselves in a jungle?

So, I woke up at six this morning and just left my house.

I didn't skip town. Anyone could find me if they really wanted to look, and they probably would, eventually. My dad had ben calling non-stop, but he quit when I told him I needed time to think in a text.

I simply walked to the park and sat on the swings for a little while, then I walked towards the square in the center of town.

It was noon on graduation day in a small town, so I was surprised to see even one shop open. A cafe, which looked newly opened and, really... unfinished. It wasn't busy. Several of the chairs and tables were wrapped in brown paper and packing tape and there was no sign in sight to tell me where I was. Yet, the sign in the window was flipped to open and the smell of coffee was fresh in the air. Only one customer sat at a table by the window. She was a tiny teenager with a platinum blond pixie cut. She didn't even have a drink, just sat there pouring over a book.

"What can I do ya for?" Asked a deep, youthful voice from my right.

I turned toward the voice and froze at the sight of a tall, handsome man with blue eyes and curly black hair.

"Excuse me?" Was all I could manage.

He grinned devilishly, and I went into cardiac arrest.

"It's Texan for 'how can I help you?'" he explained.

"Oh, I'm just..." I stammered as I started to back out of the cafe.

Like an idiot, I tripped over the weather stripping and landed on my butt in the middle of the sidewalk.

He held in his laugh like a champion as he ran to my aid from behind the counter.

"Are you okay?" He asked as he helped me up.

"Yeah, I should be... Ow!" And, in true damsal fashion, I'd twisted my ankle in an impossible way.

My palms also seemed to be embedded with tiny pebbles from the burning hot concrete upon which I had landed.

"I've got a first aid kit inside," he said and tucked his head under my arm to help me into the cafe.

"Lew," he said in the direction of the pixie as he sat me at a table of my own, "go grab the first aid kit from upstairs."

She pulled herself from her chair like a sloth climbing away from its favorite limb, raising her eyes to the ceiling in annoyance, and walked slowly towards a door behind the bar.

"She doesn't do anything quickly," he said apologetically as he sat on the floor in front of me. "Which foot?"

"Um, the right one," I swallowed.

He gently lifted my right foot and untied my red PF Flyer. He loosened the laces and took the shoe off. I regretted not putting on socks, just knowing that handling my bare foot must not be pleasant after I'd walked a good three miles this morning. His handsome face never let on that he was bothered at all, so it must not have been all that bad. Or, maybe he was just superb at hiding his true feelings. I don't know.

He turned my foot ever so slightly, looking it over. I flinched because it ached and his fingers were cold.

"It doesn't look too bad," he said. "Just a little swollen. We'll keep it elevated."

He stood and moved another chair closer, then propped my foot on the seat.

"Let me see your hands, and then I'll go get some ice to put on that foot," he said and I turned my palms up so he could see. He took them in his own and brought his face close so that he could examine them. I felt jittery and ridiculous.

Lew came back with first aid.

"So, are you here about the job?" he asked as he wiped my hands with a disinfectant wipe.

I had a couple of options here. 1: Say no and continue to look completely stupid, continue to live without any direction. 2: Say yes and find some semblance of a reason to be here and a possible direction in which my life can begin to move.

"Yes," I said.

"What qualifications do you have?" he asked as he picked up my foot and sat in the chair across from me.

He started wrapping my ankle with an ace bandage.

I couldn't come up with anything to say because I didn't know the job was.

"Doesn't matter," he smiled and carefully stood back up and rested my foot back on the seat. "The ad went up two weeks ago and you're the first person who's been even remotely interested. Seems not too many people are confident enough in a brand new cafe downtown that's run by a youngster like myself."

"Oh, come on, you can't be too young," was the lesser of two evil conversational options my mind came up with and purged through my mouth.

His left brow shot up, making his face look nearly impossibly more handsome and angular.

"I'm twenty-two," he said flatly. "A regular wunderkind entrepreneur by the standards of some. Anyway, I'm sure it's difficult to respect someone that young as their boss. That's the only reason I could think of for the lack of interest."

I had a feeling I knew why this was happening. As I've previously noted, this is a small town. The square is its pride. Most of the businesses have been here for decades, if not then nearly a century. I recognized this location and I know that the previous residents went bankrupt and were forced to give up their longtime store and home. His cafe was being boycotted and bitterness was being wrongly placed on him as the new owner. It was something that had been common with new businesses that opened in this old square. They didn't last long.

This fact had been the greater of the two conversational evils. The one I opted not to divulge.

"Anyway, you're hired," he smiled and extended his hand to me.

I shook it.

"When can you start?" he asked.

"Whenever you need me to," I decided on the spot.

"How about today?" he asked. "We open tonight. I can put a barstool behind the cash register so you don't have to stand. You handle transactions and I'll handle the drinks. I'll teach you how to make the drinks tomorrow."

I nodded.

"Cool," he smiled, then glanced down at my clothes. "I don't have a dress code, but if I did, sweatpants definitely would not fall within it."

"Oh..." I sounded and looked like a complete buffoon.

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