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Wishful Thinking

Wishful Thinking

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Published by Bookworm-93

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Published by: Bookworm-93 on May 25, 2010
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03/28/2011

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Wishful Thinking byMindy KlaskyChapter OneI was in the weeds.I'd only been working for two hours, but Mike's Bar and Grill was packed. My father hadnamed his restaurant after himself, but everyone called it "Mephisto's." With Dad's redhair he looked like the devil, and his burgers were good enough to lead anyone down the path to Hell.Tonight, I felt like I was halfway there, myself.I should have chosen an easier career path. I never should have become an actress.Dropping off a round of Cold Spring Ale to one of my tables, I barely resisted the urge tocrash my tray against a customer's creeping fingers.
 I 
had to mind my manners, even if hedidn't. He was a director. He might cast me in a play one day.Me, or my boyfriend, Rob Cornell.Speaking of whom… I craned my neck to find Rob in the crowded dining room. The onlyother waiter that Dad had scheduled to work that night, Rob had spent most of his timeserving customers in the private rooms at the back—the Shakespeare Room and theMamet Room.Frustrated by my demanding patrons, I was ready to quote some choice Mamet linesmyself.Before I could put together a string of perfect curses, though, Rob emerged from thecurtained party space. My annoyance immediately turned to a smile, an automaticresponse to Rob's unruly black curls, to the banked fire of his cobalt gaze, smoky evenacross the crowded room.Without conscious thought, I raised a hand to wave at the only guy I'd ever kissed. Hehad the power to make my entire disastrous night one hundred percent better, if only Icould lure him into the pantry for about thirty seconds of stolen kisses.Rob ignored me.I'd like to say that he didn't see me, but that was impossible. He'd been staring right atme. And let's face it—my flame-red hair makes me sort of hard to miss.
 
 No, the kid I'd pushed down the slide when we were both three years old, my gradeschool sweetheart, my high school boyfriend, my college beau,
 Rob
pretended that I wasnowhere in the room.Just as he had when he came on for his shift. When we'd passed each other going in andout of the busy kitchen. When I'd caught him talking with Dad at the restaurant's bar.Before I could name the knot tying itself in my stomach, I turned toward my father. I wassurprised to see his features creased into a frown. Mephisto Mike never frowned. Henever had a care in the world.Except, tonight he did.He gestured me over with a flick of his head. In response to my questioning look, thatrare frown turned into a scowl. A scowl that was tinted by something…sadder. "Kelly."He sighed. "Something tells me you're going to need this."Before I could respond, he set a cardboard box on the edge of the bar.Chapter TwoI turned on the overhead light in the pantry, looking over my shoulder as if I hadsomething to hide. Dad had shoved his cardboard box into my hands, telling me to take it back here, to the closest thing the restaurant had to a private space.Sighing, I pried open the flaps of the box. Crumpled newspaper nestled around a gleamof metal. Puzzled, I lifted out a brass lamp. Its sides swelled gently, tarnished in the lightfrom the bare bulb. The spout was delicate, almost fragile. I held the oil lamp above myhead, looking for some mark, some explanation, some
reason
that my father would havegiven me such a gift.Before I could find anything, though, the door to the pantry opened. Without consciousthought, I shoved the lamp onto a high shelf, hiding it behind a row of industrial-sizecanisters of salt.Rob ducked in. "Oh," he said.Trust me. He's usually much wittier."Hi," I said, suddenly feeling like we were back at the eighth grade Harvest Dance.Except I didn't have braces. And he had grown into his comically huge puppy-dog handsand feet. And there was something wrong, something way beyond typical tweenembarrassment.
 
"Your father sent me to get a bottle of Grey Goose."I wrinkled my nose, more at my father's interference than at Rob's gullibility. "This is ahamburger joint," I pointed out. "Dad doesn't stock Grey Goose." Nevertheless, Rob seemed determined to find the vodka on the shelves. He lookedintently at every horizontal surface in the pantry. Looked intently, in fact, at everything but me.I stepped toward him and settled my fingers on his wrist. Maybe it was my imagination, but his pulse leaped like a team of wild horses. "Hey," I said, forcing myself to smile."It's okay. Whatever's wrong, it's
me
you're talking to.""That's the problem," he said, and he didn't need to use his superb acting ability to conveythe fact that he was miserable. Honestly, totally miserable.A shiver crept down my spine, as if someone had opened the door to our first Minnesota blizzard of the season. "Rob, are you all right?""I'm fine," he said immediately, with the same gruff disregard for his own well-being thathad served him so well in our high school production of 
South Pacific.
He had playedEmile de Becque (with a lot of makeup.) I had played Nellie Forbush."What's going on, then?" I forced myself to sound like the incarnation of reason."Kelly." He finally met my eyes for the first time. "I am
 so
sorry." He raised a hand to mycheek. I knew what his palm would feel like against my skin. I knew exactly how hewould cup my face, just before he leaned in for a kiss. He shook his head, though, and backed away, dropping his hand awkwardly to his side. "You're going to hate me for what I have to say."Chapter Three"What is it?" I asked, my voice sharp. Rob's grim look alone would have frightened me.But combined with the stress I'd seen on my father's face? And the strange brass lampthat Dad had given me? What was going on here?Rob took a deep breath, counting to five before exhaling. The action was achinglyfamiliar—I'd seen him do it hundreds of times, warming up for a play. I half expectedhim to launch into one of the tongue twisters we used to further loosen up."Tomorrow-morning-I-leave-for-New-York-to-play-the-lead-in-
 New-Day-Dawning.
"

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