By Joe Kaiser
A growl of frustration sounded from Mark’s throat as he sat back in his chair with harsh force. The laptop on the table before him was displaying the latest story idea which he thought would be a definite blockbuster. It was just like any ideal tale: a sudden earth-shattering plot that promised to break Mark into the literary market at long last. But when he started writing it, the story simply would not develop in the perfect manner it had in his mind. There was always one little thing he was missing…
McAfee’s Coffee House was bustling with noisy activity. It had grown to be a popular place for writers and poets to boast about their skills. Not having anything to brag to his colleagues about, Mark traditionally sat at the same small table in the corner, working hard on his most recent attempt at publication.
As Mark’s eyes were focused on the computer screen, a waitress approached the table unnoticed, placing his coffee on the table without a glance from her customer. She was and attractive blonde: her short hair was elegantly curled around the ears. Mark’s boyish features were detected instantly by her bright green eyes.
This guy is different from the wrinkled deadbeats I usually see in here, she thought.
Struck with curiosity, she peered around the side of Mark’s computer, trying to remain inconspicuous. Her mission failed; he sensed a presence over his shoulder.
"If you don’t mind, Miss, I’d like to be left alone," he grumbled, his eyes still not leaving the screen.
"I-I’m sorry, sir," the waitress stammered, surprised at his discovery. "I just. . . I mean your coffee’s on the table."
Mark turned around, impatient with her ignorance. Intending to tell her off, he instead found himself surprised at the lovely face he had turned toward. Her lips were full, cheeks perfectly curved, and although she wore no makeup, she was an absolute beauty.
"I’m terribly sorry, Miss," he said. "Would you like to sit down for a minute?"
The waitress could not believe this opportunity. "As a matter of fact, I was just about to go on break." She pulled up a seat next to Mark, and the two sat silent for a moment, allowing the attraction to set in.
Mark broke the ice. "So, what’s your name?"
The waitress was beaming, pulling a stray lock of hair back behind her ear. "I’m Stacey. And you?"
"Name’s Mark Wright," replied Mark. They gently shook hands. "Where you from, Stacey?"
"Palo Alto, just a few miles from here." Stacey was quickly falling in love. "What’cha working on?"
Mark inhaled deeply and smiled. "Oh, just another flop. I can’t figure out what to do with the damn thing."
"C’mon, it can’t be that bad," Stacey contested. Her eyes were slowly unbuttoning Mark’s blue shirt.
"Trust me: it’s horrible," replied Mark. He was indulging as well, noticing Stacey’s slender figure.
Dishes could be heard spilling in the kitchen, and their conversation was paused for a minute. A mocking round of applause broke out among the patrons. Turning around, Stacey knew she must take the chance while it still remained. "Well, I get requests all the time in here to read over pieces from all sorts of people. Maybe you and I could go over your story sometime."
Mark’s heart stopped for a moment. "Sure," he gulped. Both of them laughed at the awkwardness of the moment. Tearing a page from her notepad, she wrote down her phone number and gave it to Mark.
"Call me after four, okay?" she requested.
Mark took the paper and placed it in his pocket with a shaky hand. "You got it!"
Not quite sure of her whereabouts, Stacey got up and excitedly walked into the kitchen. With his day made, Mark returned to his computer with a smile, ready and willing to fix his broken story.
Walking through the narrow hallway, Stacey hoped she could remember the number to Mark’s apartment. With the strange scents emitting from other rooms as she passed them, she also hoped he wasn’t a slob. Far too many of that type had entered her life and exited just as swiftly.
At last, the number "336" was seen on the door, and was recognized by Stacey. Clearing her throat and smoothing the wrinkles from her slacks, she knocked on the door.
Why did I wear heels, she asked herself, looking down at her solid black pumps in a moment of trepidation. Are they too much for just reading over a manuscript?
Before Stacey could consider running in a blurry panic, Mark opened the door, eager of her arrival.
"Welcome," he greeted. "Won’t you come in?"
"Yes, of course," Stacey smiled anxiously. "Do you think I overdressed for the occasion?"
Mark took an instant to check her over, noticing the shoes and the lovely, white blouse. "No, I love it. It shows you care about how you look. I adore that in women."
Stepping over the threshold, Stacey sighed inwardly. This man was almost too perfect for her.
"Take a seat on the couch. I’ll be back in a minute with some drinks and the novel," said Mark. Using the opportunity, Stacey looked all around the living room, admiring the paintings hanging on the wall. Outside the window was a perfect view of the sun going down on the California horizon.
"What do you do for a living, Mark?" she called into the kitchen.
Mark returned with two full glasses of champagne and a manuscript, which was tucked under his arm. "Oh, I was an English teacher for about five years. Thought it was what I’d spend my life doing until I realized I couldn’t put up with the kids’ crap." He handed a glass to Stacey, who graciously accepted. "I’d been writing part-time, making some money off the short stories I’d written. This is the first big project I’ve had since I quit at the end of last year." He showed her the thick manuscript.
Taking a sip of the divine champagne in her glass, Stacey was amazed at the size of his story. "Wow! You’ve already written that much?"
Mark chuckled, reflecting on the effort he’d put into his work. "It’s only about half done."
Stacey began flipping through the pages, setting her glass on the stunning coffee table in front of her. "What’s it about?"
Mark blushed, unsure of the quality of his work. "It’s one of those romances where a guy hopelessly falls in love with the woman of his dreams, but keeps coming up short of what she’s looking for."
The emeralds in Stacey’s eyes lit up, and her smile was just as large, looking at Mark. "Oh, I love those stories! Those are my absolute favorite!"
"Really?" Mark asked, also enjoying the vintage champagne. "Then you should be able to tell me what I’ve been doing wrong. It certainly isn’t publishable."
Stacey took a few moments to read, showing an intent smile on her face. Mark watched with apprehension, awaiting her laughter at the poorly constructed plot. Skipping to random places in the story, Stacey analyzed what she’d taken in as best as she could.
"As far as I can see, you just need to make the main character more active," she said, nearing the end of the story. "So far, everything’s happening to him."
"Hmm. Never knew that," replied Mark. "Anything else?"
"Well, I like how you’ve shown his emotions in the parts that I’ve read," Stacey answered. "But if he really wants her, you’ve gotta make him do more to win her over. Like right here," she pointed to one page, and Mark got cheek-to-cheek with her. The smell of her perfume was mesmerizing. Stacey paused, seeing that he was not paying attention. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," Mark replied, returning to his end of the couch. "I love your perfume."
Stacey melted. No other man had appreciated such a small detail. "You know what?" she asked, "you’re cute."
Mark’s heart was fluttering. "And you are very beautiful." Just by looking into his eyes, Stacey could tell he wanted her. Mark’s expression was one of deep, brazen desire; something no one had shown her before. It was at that moment that Stacey knew she was his.
They met each other in the middle of the couch with a passionate kiss, which seemed to last forever. When their lips finally separated, Mark scooped Stacey’s legs into his arms and picked her up, walking toward the bedroom.
"Take me to Heaven, Mark," said Stacey, knowing of the great experience in her near future.
Stacey awoke in the middle of the night feeling an empty space where Mark had been sleeping. In her state of half-consciousness, she could vaguely detect the sound of computer keys being struck.
"Mark, Come on back to bed," she pleaded.
"Hang on a sec," Mark replied, staring at his computer screen. "I just figured out how to make this chapter sound decent."
The digital clock beside his P.C. read 2:38 A.M, yet he felt like it was midday. The idea that had taken his mind captive served as a stimulant, and Mark knew his eyes would not shut until the final word had been punched into his computer.
"Finished!" he exclaimed, jumping out of his chair and jolting Stacey awake again across the room. Clicking the "print" button on the toolbar, he saved his work and turned off the monitor. He then took two steps and bounded back into bed. Stacey laughed loudly at his antics.
"You sure are happy!" she said.
"I know this book will get published!" replied Mark, still quite excited. "Now let’s celebrate!" He rolled on top of her, aggressively kissing her neck.
"Oh, baby, please," Stacey protested, "I have to work early this morning."
Mark looked into her deep green eyes. "What would be better than going to work happy?" The gentle touch of his tongue on the nape of her neck was too much to resist. Stacey’s soft moans signified her change of mind.
He entered her with ease. Wrapping her tanned legs around Mark’s waist, Stacey’s primitive noises grew louder as he rocked back and forth.
Steven Collins, Stacey’s ex-boyfriend, had been following her around at work all morning since he’d heard the news of her new mate. Growing tired of even his voice, Stacey was ready to turn around and punch him in front of the large crowd at the coffee house. Several customers scowled at them, watching them argue all the way across the room.
"Stace, he’s bad news. All those writers are, and you know that," he reasoned. "You found that out before: he’s going to ignore you every time he becomes ‘blessed’ with inspiration."
Stacey dropped off some dirty dishes in the kitchen. "What would you know about work? You haven’t had a job since you got fired here three weeks ago!"
"I’m just making my point." Steven replied. "And I’m looking out for you."
Stacey scoffed, returning to the dining area to clean abandoned tables. "That’s funny; you looking out for me. I think you mean you still want the only piece of ass you’ve been able to get lately."
"I care about you, Stacey."
Walking past him, Stacey didn’t even make eye contact. "You only care about my vagina!" Everyone in the coffee house stopped what they were doing to watch the climax of the dispute. "You know what? Just go. I’m done listening to you bitch because you’re jealous of what I have!"
Some of the less prudent patrons gave her a round of applause, heckling at Steven to make his exit.
Running a nervous hand through his thick, dark hair, Steven gave up and walked through the glass door. "You’re going to be sorry you didn’t listen to me."
Returning to her duties, Stacey withheld the temptation to scream every curse word in the English language. Instead, she settled for mumbling words under her breath; the ovation continued until her ex disappeared around the corner.
The clock on Stacey’s apartment wall read eight o’clock. She was supposed to go to the movies with Mark, but he had caught a case of the Writing Frenzy, working feverishly on his book. Tapping the toes of her flats against the linoleum floor in the kitchen, she spoke with growing impatience on the phone with her boyfriend of two months.
"But Mark, this is the third time in a row!" she said. "Can’t you give that computer a break for one night?"
"I’m sorry, Stacey, but I’ve got this excellent idea racing through my head," replied Mark. "I’ve found a new direction I could go with my book."
Biting her lip, Stacey looked out the window into the fading sky, fearing Steven had been correct. "Why can’t you jot some notes on a pad and work on it later?"
Mark sighed into the phone, realizing that she had not yet become used to his habits. "I’ve tried that. It ends up coming out flat and dull when I actually write it." He could sense Stacey’s stinging disappointment. "I’m sorry. I’ll take you tomorrow night."
"All right," replied Stacey with a quivering voice. "Talk to you tomorrow."
Returning her cordless phone to its base, she quietly walked to her bedroom. Sitting on the edge of her waterbed, she began to sob quietly, pondering her lifetime of misfortunes in romance.
The rain poured like Noah’s flood outside on that humid Thursday night. Mark wished he could be out there, drowning in blissful ignorance. Instead, he was seated on his couch. Stacey paced around the room in random directions, thinking of different angles from which to attack him.
"I just don’t get it, Mark," she vented furiously. "At first, you were all about making me happy. I thought I had finally found a guy who’d put me first." Mark looked at his feet. "It’s like your married to that damn word processor!" Mark only looked at her, dumfounded. Stacey continued her rant. "You don’t even say ‘I love you’ anymore!"
Mark took a wild shot at defending himself. "Stacey, you’ve got to understand that it’s a job for me; like you wait on people at McAfee’s."
"I don’t work twenty-four hour shifts!" Stacey came back with a shout. "I try to spend every free second I have with you, not a computer!"
"Sweetie, you know how I love to write. I just can’t help it sometimes. Please try to understand."
"Understand?!" retorted Stacey. "Do you think I serve cappuccinos to hags and Beatnik wannabes because I love to do it? Hell no. It’s because I need money to support myself. Plus, I have a life outside of work. Once I take off that uniform, I go out and mingle with society." Stacey’s emerald eyes were now Hellfire red. "I’m giving you a choice right now: it’s either me or your ‘masterpiece’."
Mark finally had enough. In disbelief of such an ultimatum, he retreated toward his bedroom.
"That’s right! Hide behind your precious computer!" Stacey said to his briskly moving back. "That book will never be worth one shit!"
Mark stopped in his tracks, returned to stand face-to-face with Stacey, and pointed a long finger at her. "Listen. Insult me all you want, but don’t you dare insult what I do for a living. You have no room to talk when you serve three dollar coffee that tastes like rotten crap to homeless crack heads!"
Saying nothing more, he stormed to his room and slammed the door with a booming WHACK! Scurrying out of the room, Stacey was failing miserably at hiding the onrush of tears from the world around her.
Stacey allowed the white, velvet spaghetti-strap dress fall over her bare hips. With silk stockings of a perfect ivory hue, she hoped to impress her new date. She was bound and determined to get over Mark, who had been out of her life for a week, still trying desperately to finish his book. It was still sad to think about; nobody had ever given her such a look of desire.
Perhaps if he’d put as much into his words as he had into that look, he’d be making millions, she thought.
Her doorbell rang, and Stacey took a deep breath. Pulling it open, she greeted her beau with a smile.
"Steven! Hi!" she greeted her ex. They gave each other a peck on both cheeks. Spending much of his time in the California sun, Steven’s tan was highly prevalent. He presented to Stacey a dozen long-stemmed roses.
"A gift for you, my dear," he mused. Stacey hummed pleasantly, giving the bouquet a deep sniff.
"They’re lovely, Steven," she said. Wrapping her arm around his neck, Stacey planted on his lips a gentle, sensuous kiss. Stepping back, she was pleased with the result shown in Steven’s expression.
"Mmmmm…" he mumbled, his eyes still closed. "What’s for dinner?"
Putting the roses on the sofa, Stacey grasped his hand and whispered, "Actually, I didn’t have any dinner in mind." In a flash, her lips were on his, with her tongue trying assertively to penetrate his mouth. Pulling away, her hands found the buttons of his shirt.
Steven stood amazed as he gawked at Stacey unbuttoning his shirt, kissing and licking every part of his chest. Peeling off her lover’s shirt, Stacey attacked his sculpted frame with blind lust. Steven complied by stroking her silk-clad thighs, discovering not only the stocking tops, but also her lack of underwear.
Hungrily craving his body, Stacey deftly unzipped Steven’s pants, dropping them to his ankles. Steven, sensing her urgency, kicked off his shoes and rid himself of the Dockers. Sliding the straps of Stacey’s dress off her shoulders, he let it fall to the floor, admiring her golden body. Stacey completed her task by yanking off his boxers and hopping onto his hips, with legs wrapped around him, gasping as Steven’s thick staff delved into her. Their lips met once again, with both parties trying to capture the other’s tongue. Steven’s hands remained on her thighs, his mind going wild over the feeling of pearly silk on her goddess-like legs.
Holding her against the door for support, Steven began with slow, deep strokes inside her velvety walls. Stacey had forgotten how massive he was, and how hard he could go. As his pace quickened, her whimpers of pleasure became groans of passion, sounding off with each breath. Steven, too, was clearly having a great time, proven by his grunts to match every thrust. He was in a state of euphoria; feeling her legs encased in silk, looking at her gorgeous body, and the sense that making love to her was the only thing he was put on Earth to do. The door felt as though it would shatter off its hinges momentarily.
Steven now reached his utmost speed; one Stacey thought to be humanly impossible. Both were sure they could be heard across the state line, but neither cared. They could feel themselves erupting, ready to reach Paradise.
Eat your heart out, Mark! thought Stacey as both her lover and she screamed in final ecstasy.
The computer desk in Mark’s room wasn’t as special to him as it used to be. Now that the one person who meant something in his life was gone, the altar was no longer sacred. Though he had sent his manuscript to a publisher after infinite amounts of toil, he did not expect the story to be worth more than expensive toilet paper.
His once spacious apartment was now cluttered with countless bills and various invoices. By way of borrowing money from several friends, he had managed to keep the main utilities running. But if he waited any longer, he would be evicted, losing all that he owned; as if Stacey’s departure had not sufficed.
Sitting at the keyboard for the first time in a week, Mark wanted desperately to find the muse which had inspired him to write most of his first novel. The I-bar blinked patiently on the screen, awaiting his keystrokes. Mark’s concentration, however, was elsewhere. It was reminding him of the endless list of unpaid bills, and of Stacey’s angelic face.
Irritated, Mark stood up to retrieve his cordless phone. He anxiously dialed Stacey’s number, saying a prayer upon hearing dial tone.
"Hello?" answered Stacey, her breathing noticeably heavy. Steven could be heard nuzzling her neck.
"Stacey, I know this is a bad time, but I need to borrow some money." Clenching his fist, Mark was quickly getting annoyed by Steven’s sound effects.
"Don’t you already owe me fifty? Ohhh…" Stacey reacted to Steven’s affectionate descent on her body with his kisses.
"I’ll pay it all back as soon as I get the advance from this book…" Mark was interrupted by Stacey shouting into the phone; Steven had found her favorite spot. "…but I need to take care of those bills before I get kicked out."
"Ahh! How…much…do you need?" Stacey asked between gasps. She could tell by the vibration moving throughout her body that she was ready to explode.
"A couple hundred."
Stacey struggled to speak. "Come…get it…later. OH GOD YES!" she screamed, reaching her peak. Not bothering to hang up the phone, she tossed it across the room as Steven climbed on top of her. Mark slammed his cordless onto its base, hearing bedsprings singing stridently and quickly.
Unable to remain still for even an instant, Mark wandered randomly around his room, venting his anger by having a colorful conversation with himself. Looking at his computer, he suddenly realized what he must do. Rushing to the plush leather chair, he quickly pulled up a new blank page. Using the conversation with Stacey as inspiration, Mark’s fingers punched the keys in the rapid flurry they had once known.
"Dear…Stacey…" he thought aloud as he typed.
In the month that had gone by since Stacey and Steven began dating again, it had been made clear why the former had originally left the latter. Every waking moment that wasn’t spent at work was spent in the bedroom, or the shower, on the countertop; anything that could support their weight. They had sex in every position imaginable, and did everything together involving sex. But while Stacey enjoyed good lovemaking as much as any woman, she was by no means an addict. To her, it was good to be with someone who was skilled in that department, but not when the entire relationship consists of nothing but romance.
Stacey regretted wasting the entire day in bed before getting ready to work the afternoon shift at McAfee’s. It had been enchanting, but she could have run a ton of errands earlier in the day and made life much less stressful. Steven was further complicating her troubles by trying to remove her work slacks as she struggled to put them on.
"Steven, not now," said Stacey, succeeding in pulling up the zipper.
"But baby, I want you," coaxed Steven, speaking with a low, husky voice.
"I’ve got to get ready for work!" Stacey shoved him across the room. "I’m not your sex toy, Steven!"
"Oh?" said Steven, unafraid of her anger. "You seem to want it an awful lot."
Stacey stared at him peculiarly, unbelieving of what she had heard. "Is that all I am to you? A good lay?"
Silent, Steven stood with his arms folded across his muscular chest. He foolishly waited for her to return to her senses. In his mind, he was waiting for Stacey to return to her senses.
"Get out!" Stacey ordered, searching for her name tag. "I don’t need this!"
Complying, Steven put on his clothes and prepared to exit. "Go ahead. Go back to your writer boyfriend who doesn’t pay a damn bit of attention to you."
Pinning her name tag to her shirt, Stacey watched him leave with a harsh scowl.
"Everyone wasted their applause on the last one," she said to herself, taking her keys off of the dresser.
After an hour on the job, Stacey was still tempted to tear Steven’s head off. Slamming cups and saucers into the sink, unintentionally being rude to several customers, Stacy walked throughout McAfee’s Coffee House with an obvious chip on her shoulder. Glancing to one corner of the serving room, she found Mark sitting at his regular table, sipping a cup of black coffee. He had the same look of frustration which she had noticed the first time she had seen him. Almost in relief, she hurried over and sat beside him; even Hitler would be better company than Steven.
"What’s going on?" she asked politely.
"Nothing much," Mark replied sarcastically, "I’m about to evicted, that’s all."
Stacey’s eyes opened wide; the green jewels showing great pity.
"Don’t worry, I don’t blame you," Mark smiled. "You were right. I got so involved with writing my book that I forgot to go out and live my life."
Stacey nodded. "My day’s been peachy, too. Told Steven to get lost because I was tired of being his whore."
Taking a sip of his coffee, Mark looked to the horizon outside. "Well, it looks like Fate found us both today, hasn’t it?" Mark quickly reached the bottom of his ceramic cup while Stacey and he enjoyed each other’s silent company.
Getting up, Mark pulled out his wallet to find money for a tip. Once that was completed, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out an envelope, handing it to Stacey.
"This is for you," he explained. "Read it when your shift is over."
"Okay," answered Stacey, folding the envelope and stuffing it into the pouch hanging around her waist. After watching Mark leave the coffee house, Stacey sat at the table for a few more moments and stared inwardly at herself.
Stacey could not believe the words that had been written on the page. Reading them many times over, she made sure she was not mistaken. Not only did Mark want to reunite with her, but he was willing to do whatever was necessary to make the relationship a happy one; even give up writing, if that’s what it took. Hugging the letter to her chest, she looked to the ceiling, thanking God for this occurrence. During her moment of happiness, a chill swept through her skin upon hearing a knock on her door.
Hurrying to answer the soft knocking, Stacey found that the night’s surprise was not yet complete. Mark was standing in the doorway, with one arm leaning against the wall, the other in his pocket.
"Read the letter yet?" he asked, his mahogany eyes wide with anticipation.
Stacey smiled, almost unable to speak due to the pending tears that were forming. "Yes, and I loved everything that you wrote."
"Can I come in?" asked Mark, removing the arm from the wall, but keeping the other hand in his coat pocket.
"Please do," answered Stacey, almost performing a long jump to get out of his way.
"I applied for another teaching job," Mark informed her. Stacey gasped sharply, not at all expecting the news. "I’ll be teaching high school English again this August."
"You did this for me?" Stacey asked in a whisper.
"Absolutely," Mark replied. "There’s more where that came from, as well."
"Oh my…" Stacey forced a short laugh, taking a step back. Her head was now swirling with emotion.
"I got a call from Rudolph Anderson Publishing. They’re interested in publishing my book, but I won’t sign their contract just yet."
Stacey could no longer speak. She was not yet crying, but her throat was closed from all the welling emotion. It was difficult to breath. "Why not?" she asked.
"I told them that I wouldn’t sign anything until they agreed to a one-book deal," he said. "I’m going to dedicate all my free time to you from now on."
Stacey was nearly ready to faint. She was beginning to wonder why his hand had not left his pocket.
"I love you, Stacey," Mark said, "and I’ll do anything to make sure you never leave again."
Pulling his hand out of his coat pocket, Stacey noticed a small box held tightly within it.
"Here’s why I’m being evicted," he explained. "This is where my last few months’ rent went."
Mark dropped to one knee, making her heart race at light speed. Opening the box, he pulled the diamond-studded gold ring from the box