“You, Me, and Everybody Else”
To Kayla and “Johnny Bravo,” our fuzzy lil’ man peach, who is a sweetheart, really! Most of the time 😉
Our tale of love, woe, and flying noodles begins with a misunderstanding. At this rate, it will most likely end with one, too.
Moira-Selene Thomas considered herself an unlucky girl, though, if you were to ask anybody, they would tell you that her point-of-view was slightly skewered. She was, to most, a pretty girl with glasses and a dazzling smile—when she showed it, that is. Mostly these days, if she wasn’t dealing with people, Moira-Selene shelved her trademark smile. And the reason for her upside-down smile? A man. No—a boy. (At least that’s the way her big sister Jessica put it.)
Moira-Selene’s misfortune was that she loved too deeply, and she had given all of her love to her last boyfriend (extra emphasis on boy here) who had ended up cheating on her. And to top it all off, the asshole had the nerve to deny their relationship, which still infuriated Moira-Selene to no end. No matter how many darts she threw his picture.
So this girl, this twenty-five-old college graduate unattached nerd, was living through a big shift in her life. She had been happy, attached to our aforementioned asshole and believing that it would morph into something resembling a romance out of a Nora Roberts book. Instead she got the Aaron Spelling version.
In the midst of this uproar, her older sister Jessica had drafted her to work at her restaurant during Moira-Selene’s leave of absence from being a doctor. “It would be a welcome diversion,” Jessica had promised. Of course, she had been right, given the fact that Moira-Selene’s ex-boyfriend maintained his employment at Bellshire Memorial where Moira-Selene had worked, and she didn’t want to go to jail for sticking a syringe in his testicles. (Could you go to jail for that? Was that assault with a deadly weapon? She didn’t know, wasn’t going to find out.)
So now, after two-and-a-half months of Belvidere’s, Moira-Selene found that she was nearly healed. Nearly. The new surroundings helped her heal, and she found solace in new friends and co-workers.
But what of this misunderstanding? you say. Oh yes. On to that bit of business.
Cassandra, Moira-Selene and Jessica’s cousin, managed the restaurant while Jessica stayed in the background. Or, if you want to precise, the kitchen. She cooked extremely well, so she mostly stayed in the back and Cassandra in the front. Underneath Cassandra, however, were three other people, and they had specific areas of the restaurant to worry about. We need not worry about all of them, just one. And his name was Clark Ryan.
Clark Ryan was Belvidere’s Romeo. His European upbringing (he had been born in England) blessed him with exceptional grace with the opposite sex, and he could juggle several women with surprising (and in most cases, infuriating) ease. His urbane manner was difficult to deny—that is, if you were not Moira-Selene Thomas.
Moira-Selene vowed to stay away from him. If she was a witch, he was water. If she was gasoline, he was a spark. If she was good health, he was herpes. Or something. Well, you get the point.
Unfortunately, one day, Moira-Selene had made the mistake of being too nice to him. Now, with a guy like Clark Ryan, it can be assumed that the young man possesses a great big…ahem, ego. So Moira-Selene smiling at him was like Come hither! in huge flashing lights.
It was after the lunch rush, and Moira-Selene was doing some bookkeeping. Most of her duties at the restaurant consisted of money handling and number crunching. In the middle of updating ledgers, her pen ran out of ink.
She cursed under her breath and started looking for a new one when…
“I think you might need this,” said a voice from behind her. She knew it was Clark immediately. He was the only one who had a bit of a British accent at Belvidere’s.
The short-haired twenty-eight-year-old held a pen out for her to take, smiling in a way that said to Moira-Selene, I won’t bite you—much. She had seen more innocuous smiles on pedophiles.
Hastily, Moira-Selene took the pen from him and smiled gratefully. “Um, thanks Clark. I appreciate it.”
“It’s no problem,” Clark assured her. “If you ever need my help, all you need to do is ask.”
Since she hadn’t exchanged more than a few pleasantries with him, the statement was unexpected and nice to hear, but she still regarded it warily. On the inside, of course.
The second smile—uh oh—came, and she said, “I’ll be sure to do that, Clark. Thank you.”
He walked away, and for a moment it seemed that was that. Until he looked back, a smile on his lips. Moira-Selene politely smiled back, because she was trained in the art of politeness.
And so it all began with a smile…
Megumi Takumi-Hill was Moira-Selene’s partner-in-crime of sorts. The half-Korean, half-Japanese young woman was a person with immense personality and vibrancy, but, as Moira-Selene talked with her more and more, she realized that underneath the façade there was one tiny imperfection. And his name was Miyori Arashi.
The aforementioned Miyori wasn’t as nefarious as Clark Ryan (that status was quite hard to achieve, no matter how many notches you had in your bedpost) but he was making Megami’s blood pressure rise by his mere existence.
“What’s wrong with him, Megami?” Moira-Selene asked one day while in the midst of setting up table placements in the nearly empty dining room.
“He acts like he doesn’t know my name,” Megami lamented. She flicked a lock of ebony hair away from her forehead and sighed. “He’d rather go out with girls who will paint the town red with him and cause him no brain strain whatsoever because they have the IQs of goldfish.”
“Well,” Moira-Selene began diplomatically, “at least goldfish make good pets.” That made Megami smile a little. But the smile faded a moment later, causing Moira-Selene to frown. “What?”
“Not what,” Megami responded bitterly. “Who.” And she pointed.
Moira-Selene looked in the direction of her finger and simply stared. When you were looking at a girl as striking as Ginger Harlow, you could only watch and be awed.
Ginger was a young, beautiful waiter on Jessica’s payroll. The ginger-haired girl had better aspirations than being a waitress at a restaurant, and that she shared in common with Miyori Arashi. Of course, that is not to say that everyone there was satisfied with their jobs; everyone planned to move up and away whenever they got a chance, but Ginger and Miyori both made the fact quite clear more frequently than others.
Ginger passed them at that moment and flicked a glance their way. Moira-Selene offered up a polite smile, and her lips twitched but she said nothing. She was soon gone, leaving a trail of perfume in her wake…
…And right to Miyori, who hoisted a tray of wine on his shoulder and said something to make her laugh as she passed by. See why Megami’s blood pressure was so high?
Megami indeed saw the whole thing and muttered under her breath, “Bitch.”
“Oh Megami,” Moira-Selene began, “is it really so bad? She’s not a bitch.”
“I have known Miyori since we were in training pants, and he’s going to go cavorting with the likes of Ginger Harlow over me?!” Megami’s face reddened when Miyori passed without a word. “See what I mean? Baka. Hanging out with that bitch.”
“Megami,” Moira-Selene chided, more firmly this time.
Megami huffed, chastised, and placed a salad fork quite loudly and violently down on the table in front of them. “Fine, dammit, it’s not her I should be mad at. But still. It makes me so pissed.”
“What about…well, some other guy?” Moira-Selene offered futilely, hoping it would help.
“There are some possibilities out there,” Megami admitted, “but I…don’t know. What if Miyori—?”
“Screw Miyori,” Moira-Selene interrupted. “Screw him. You don’t need him, Megami. If he wants to act like a stranger, then you need to move on. Easy as that.”
Megami’s eyebrows rose as she folded a crisp maroon table linen. “And thanks for the advice, Miss Lonely Hearts. When was the last time you went out with someone who wasn’t named Microsoft Excel?”
Moira-Selene squirmed a little. It was no secret that she was meticulous about her spreadsheets. It had become a sort of joke around the restaurant that she planned to find Bill Gates and marry him. Perhaps he would be a better boyfriend than…well…her last.
“Well, I like being single,” Moira-Selene insisted.
Megami rolled her eyes. “Uh yeah. And that’s about as true as Ashlee Simpson’s new nose being hers.” As Moira-Selene reached across Megami for a fork, Megami added, “And we know that you’ve got that mad crush on Clark.”
The dinner fork didn’t fall from Moira-Selene’s hand as much as it squirted out of it. The involuntary spasm in her hand had made it suddenly difficult to grip a silly piece of metal.
Through her shock, Moira-Selene could only manage, “Huh?”
“Uh, hello? You on Earth, girl? I’m talking about you. And Clark Ryan.”
Her…and the Belvidere Lothario? Moira-Selene blinked, dumbfounded, as her mouth opened and closed like a guppy’s. Either they were giving out free samples of crazy pills at the grocery store…or they really really thought Moira-Selene Thomas had a crush on Clark Ryan.
Moira-Selene gave Megami a long, searching look. Nope. She wasn’t kidding.
“Who told you that?” Moira-Selene demanded.
Megami paused thoughtfully. “I don’t know. Can’t remember. But I did hear it.”
Judging from the fact that Megami had heard, it probably meant that everybody knew. Moira-Selene sighed, filled with dread. She did not have a good feeling about this…
So two days later, when the little revelation in the dining room had traveled to the back of her busy mind, Moira-Selene was in the back office, crunching the lunch numbers for the day when the rather urbane Clark Ryan strolled into the office. She didn’t even look up from her calculator as she addressed him with an occupied hello.
“Hello, love,” he greeted her.
Again, she didn’t look up from her calculator and ledgers. She said nothing after the initial greetings, and neither did he, so the click-clack of her fingernails on the calculator keys filled the quiet. Moira-Selene was immune to the crushing, debilitating embarrassment that came with the long hesitation between them because she was otherwise occupied. If she had been in her right mind (or merely paying attention to the dynamics of this particular male-female interaction), she would have been fidgeting—and asking herself why Clark Ryan had decided to stop in and talk to her…!
“Moira-Selene?” Clark inquired. Ah, so he was the brave one.
With a tap on the plus key, Moira-Selene replied, “Yes, Clark?”
“So…when are you going to go out with me?”
Moira-Selene paused, blood running cold. She hated the way that question sounded, as if somewhere, somehow, she had given him the impression that she would actually go out with him. As her ire rose, that same blood started to warm, then bubble, then boil.
She lifted veiled green eyes to his blue ones. “Going to go out with you?”
“Um yeah. Go out with me. Would you?”
Okay, she could handle this one of two ways: she could turn back to her work, not looking at him, and tell him in a voice that implied that she wanted him to go screw himself that she had better things to do. Or…
Or she could be totally unpredictable and accept his offer—ahem, of sorts—for a date.
Which one would she use?