With one month to go before the release of Raven’s Rest, I thought I’d give another snippet to hopefully entice readers. Here’s Michael meeting Trey for the first time.
The sign outside told me that this was the Coffee Cafe and that everyone was welcome. Encouraging sign. I liked encouraging signs. Another told me they served breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. I envisioned some motherly type as my waitress, who would call me “hon” and dispense worldly wisdom.
The Coffee Cafe was just what I expected—small and cozy, with tables scattered haphazardly around the room, covered with white-and-red checkered tablecloths. Most of the tables were occupied by farmer types who were probably taking a break from their morning chores to suck down some caffeine before heading back out to the fields. Or maybe they were just townsfolk enjoying some breakfast, and I was romanticizing the farmer thing.
As I sat down at the closest available table, I noticed a young man sitting near the back counter, strumming a guitar. He was dressed all in black—T-shirt, jeans, socks, and sneakers all the same shade. Even his long hair was black. He was too engrossed in his playing to have noticed my entrance, and the woman behind the counter scowled at him when he continued to strum.
“Trey! You’ve got a customer!”
The young man ceased his playing and looked up in surprise. “I guess I do.” Reluctantly he set the guitar against the wall and rose. With a smile on his face, he approached my table. “Sorry about that. I was in another world.” Not a motherly type, but I wasn’t about to complain.
“A nicer one than this one, from the sound of it.”
He seemed to like that comment. “Hey, can I get you a menu? Or do you know what you want?”
What did I want? Well, I never wanted to see Kevin again. I wanted to start living again. Would those things be on this magical menu? “I’ll just have some scrambled eggs, some bacon, toast, and a coffee, if that’s possible.”
Trey grinned. “Not only possible but probable. I’ll have that out for you in a moment.”
I’d brought my Samsung tablet along with me, and I fired it up so I could read while I ate. Trey wasn’t kidding about my food arriving quickly. I’d barely read a paragraph before he returned with a tray. As he set the plate in front of me, he eyed the tablet. “What are you reading?”
I was sure I flushed a little with embarrassment. “Um… believe it or not, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I’ve been rereading them.” I wasn’t sure why I was hesitant to reveal that I was reading one of the most popular books ever written. Maybe it was because I’d been a kid when I’d first read them, and now I was an adult who was finding out that he still loved them.
I shouldn’t have worried. Trey nodded eagerly. “Oh yeah? They’re great, aren’t they? Have you read Philip Pullman? The Dark Materials trilogy?”
Oh my God, Trey was a reader. Beautiful, and he read. “No,” I said, “but I’ve heard of him. I’ve been planning on getting his books soon.”
“You should. They’re fantastic.”
After making sure I had everything I needed, Trey went back to his guitar, although I would have been just as happy if he’d stayed with me while I ate. As it was, I found it hard to concentrate on J. K. Rowling’s words. My gaze kept straying over to the young man with the long black hair. He was slouching in his chair, his dark locks sometimes obscuring those gorgeous eyes (which were pale blue) as he looked down to find the right chord. I got the impression from his starting and stopping that he was composing something, creating a new song right there as I ate. None of the other diners seemed to mind his strumming. Maybe they were used to it.
I dawdled over my breakfast, and by the time I took my last sip of coffee (which Trey had refilled twice), nearly all of the other tables were empty. Only one guy and I were left, and he was perusing the local newspaper, every now and then sharing remarks with the lady behind the counter. He called her Gloria. She emerged occasionally to clear a table, glaring at Trey as she did so. I gathered busing the tables was his job, and he was neglecting his duties to concentrate on his playing.
Trey seemed to be adding words to his tune, and he sang as he plucked the strings. His voice was thin and reedy, but it suited the tune. I couldn’t hear all the words, as he was singing quietly, but I caught enough to know it was a love song. A love gone bad. The story of my life. Every now and then I’d catch a line or two.
“It’s a small town, baby,” Trey sang, “but why’d you have to give me these small-town blues?”
The woman, Gloria, seemed like she wanted to give him something, namely a smack. She’d been wiping some gunk off a recently vacated table, and she turned to him, hands on her hips. “If the next Bruce Springsteen is quite finished, maybe he could start on that stack of dishes in the back.”
“I’ll give you almost done. Trey Ramsey, you’re the laziest son of a bitch I’ve ever known. Now get to work.”
Trey looked up at her with a cheeky smile. “I’m not lazy, I’m inspired. Honestly, I’ve got to get this last verse fixed in my head. Then I’ll get to work.”
Gloria sighed with exasperation. “Okay, but just make sure everything is ready by the time the lunch crowd gets here.”
“Sure thing, Ma.”
So Gloria was his mother. That explained why she was putting up with his procrastination. She went back behind the counter and through a door to the kitchen area. Trey saw that I’d followed their conversation and winked at me.
“Some people just don’t understand artists,” he said. I gathered from his tone that he was gently mocking himself, as if he didn’t think he deserved the title of artist. I begged to differ.
“I liked what I heard,” I told him. “It was lovely.”
“Yeah? You think? I’ve been saving my dough, and when I get a few more songs ready, I’m going to book some studio time and record them.”
I smiled. “I’d buy it.” Was I flirting? Oh my God, I was flirting!
But why shouldn’t I flirt? I was single now, after my emancipation from Kevin.
Trey leaned back in his chair so that it was perched precariously on only the back legs and gave his guitar a few more strums. “Better than the last piece of shit I wrote, anyway. Had a great title, just didn’t come together, if you know what I mean.”
“What was the title?”
“The Penis Conversations.” His eyes were twinkling, and his smile was crooked as he waited for my reaction.
I laughed. I hadn’t done much laughing lately, and the sound almost frightened me. I cut it off and said, “That’s some title.”
“Yeah, well, the little bugger has a lot to say.” Trey moved the guitar aside so he could look at his own crotch. “Don’t you, you bastard?” He propped the guitar against the wall and settled the chair back down on four legs. “Anyway, it was a song about my last boyfriend and how he fucked me over.” Trey emphasized the last three words, even adding syllables to the word fucked.
Beautiful. Gay. A musician. And he read. I’d have to stay away from Trey Ramsey or I’d fall in love with him, and falling in love wasn’t on my list of things to do, not for a long time yet.
His mother returned from the kitchen, looking harried. Still with the rag in her hand that she’d used to mop the tables, she pointed at Trey. “Work,” she said. “Now.”
Trey winked at me again as he stood up. Turning to his mother, he presented an attitude of mock obeisance. “I’m all yours, milady.”
“Well, milady requests that you wash those dishes and help her get lunch ready.”
“When are you going to hire another slave?” he asked as he reluctantly made his way back to the kitchen area.
“When I can find someone fool enough to work here,” she replied.
I found myself raising my hand as if I was a kid in a classroom. “I’ll take a job, if you’re serious.”
Both Gloria and Trey turned to stare at me. “You’re joking, right?” Gloria asked.
“Not really. I could use a job.”
It was true. I had some savings, but extra cash could come in handy. Plus, I didn’t know how long I could stay at the Raven’s Rest. I’d have to start searching for a place to live if I was going to make Banning my home.
Gloria Ramsey broke into a smile. “When can you start, and what’s your name, you angel?”