This is a spin-off to Strictly Business and takes place in the same time period so some events will coincide. It might help to read Strictly Business as well but there might/probably will be spoilers for both stories in the other. This picks up after a scene in chapter ten (which has yet to be posted but yeah).
“Lesley, you’re doing that thing again where you’re thinking hard enough to rupture several brain cells.”
I blinked and staggered backwards when a hand clapped onto my shoulder. My gaze traveled up the length of the petite limb to see Yvette raising a finely plucked blonde brow at me.
“You’ve also just made a big red circle over what was supposed to be a sunset,” she added.
I looked back in front of me and groaned at the canvas. I could fix it once it dried, but it would still be a major pain.
I placed the paintbrush into the bucket of water I had set on a stool and decided to take a quick break. With the studio’s reopening on Monday, Xiaoling, the owner and mine and Yvette’s boss, decided she wanted new display pieces by the fine arts teachers to hang around.
I loved Xiao, she was great. She gave me a job I loved to death that also paid pretty well and she’s helped me out a lot over the years in general. But sometimes her demands were borderline ridiculous. I had four pieces to finish by Monday that she only told me about while I was at lunch with Jack, Carson, and Tim via text. Thankfully, I already had a watercolor painting almost done that only needed a few more touch ups to be at an acceptable standard. The acrylic painting was the one I was taking a break from to let my stupidity dry so I could fix it later. I had an oil painting in the works which wasn’t going to be too bad since it was one of my favorite mediums. And then I had a pencil sketch to start which was probably going to be a portrait of Yvette working at her potter’s wheel. I’ve drawn her enough to be familiar with the lines of her body.
I walked over to Yvette’s kitchen and dug around her fridge for a can of Red Bull, grabbing her one when she called, and then headed back to her art room. It was originally the master bedroom of her two bedroom apartment, but she set her bedroom up in the other one so she had more space to work.
“So, what were you thinking so hard about, mon chou?” Yvette asked as I gave her, her drink. I still couldn’t get over how ‘my cabbage’ was supposed to be a term of endearment in French. And she had been calling me that even before I had dyed my hair green.
“Nothing much,” I replied, settling into the old couch that Yvette used as a bed more than her actual bed. “You know how I went out for lunch with that guy I met when we went to Hung?”
“Jack, right? The brunet you ditched me for?” she said, pretending to glare at me.
“Like you didn’t hook up with that chick you were dancing with,” I retorted. “But yeah. So it was a double date of sorts with his other two friends and we left those two alone and went to the bathroom. We were joking around and then the door opens and this guy walks in, sees us in a compromising position, and is halfway through an apology that wasn’t even needed before he turns whiter than teeth in a toothpaste commercial.”
Yvette raised a brow, “I don’t know what to question first. The fact that you were getting it on in a public bathroom at a restaurant or where the point of this story is.”
“We were not ‘getting it on’. We were actually joking around. Jack and I are likely never going to fuck again unless we’re both completely out of it.”
“Fiiiiiiine,” Yvette sighed exaggeratedly. “Then what is the point of this short retelling?”
“I was getting there,” I rolled my eyes. “Patience, woman, you asked. Anyway, it was the guy that walked in. He was just… there was something about him.”
I didn’t know how to phrase it but Yvette seemed to pick up my meaning when she groaned, “Oh, mon petit chou, not again.”
I frowned, “What do you mean ‘again’?”
Yvette gave me a pointed look, “Ryu? Francesca? Wallace? What about Julio and Dalia? Those names ring any bells, Monsieur I Need to Save Every Marginally Broken Soul I Meet?”
“I do not,” I argued, albeit weakly.
“You, Lesley Malone,” Yvette pointed her can at me, “have one serious case of a hero complex.”
I pouted and sipped my drink, refusing to say a word. So Yvette may have had a bit of a point. I liked to help people and that guy, Dan, he just looked so hurt. I felt horrible even though, logically speaking, I shouldn’t have. I wasn’t helping Jack cheat or anything, and he said they had split a while ago. But shit, Dan looked so heartbroken when he saw Jack and me leaning onto each other. Jack being shirtless and flushed from laughter certainly didn’t help matters.
I leaned back in the couch and tilted my head to look at the ceiling that somehow got splattered with clay. Jack was another question on his own. I know that there’s something behind him and I wasn’t blind to the concerned looks Carson gave him when he started drinking during lunch even though he was still hungover.
I sighed heavily and closed my eyes. I heard Yvette move until she was sitting next to me, pulling my head to rest on her shoulder, being careful of my mohawk.
“So what are you going to do?” she asked, gently rubbing the side of my exposed neck.
I shrugged, “Not much. Doubt I’ll ever see him again. And we’ve got work to do or Xiao’s gonna hang our rotting carcasses decorated with maggots up.”
Yvette wrinkled her nose in disgust at the idea as I pulled away from her and got to my feet, “Thank you for that mental image, Lesley.”
I looked over my shoulder and winked, “I live to please, Evie.”