• Prologue: The Dream
    Chapter 1:
    Ch.2 Part 1
    Part 2
    part 3
    part 4

    Chapter II: Final

    CHARLIE’S PIZZA was amazing as usual, and after dropping off Jeff, Julie and I headed off to work. Both of us have been working at my parent's music/coffee shop since we were fourteen, and I was promoted to manager just last year.

    “Hey, Ju, did we get that new shipment of CDs in?”
    Julie was seated at one of the tables in the coffee area reading a magazine. Not that I cared. After all, we didn't get many customers, and those customers we do have are all regulars made up of mostly college kids who don't bother showing up until later hours. Sighing theatrically, she set down her magazine and rolled her eyes.

    “Yes,” she said wearily. “Do you want me to go get 'em?”
    I chuckled at her enthusiasm and nodded my head. “Yeah, we need to restock some of the shelves. And while you're back there could you get some more coffee beans? I need to refill the canisters.” She gave me a thumbs up and a sarcastic smile and dragged her feet to the back room.

    SINCE WE weren't getting any customers, Julie and I decided to go ahead and start restocking the shelves. And just my luck, not ten minutes after we started, I heard the bell ding as someone walked in. Julie and I rolled our eyes at each other and standing on our tip-toes, glanced over the CD rack to see who'd walked in. I gasped involuntarily when I saw Vincent browsing through some music.

    “Hey, isn't that—”
    Grabbing Julie by the shoulder, I quickly jerked her back down behind the CD rack, cutting her off mid-question. “It's Vincent!” I whispered vehemently.

    Julie looked at me, interested, and lifted an eyebrow. “And?”
    Pursing my lips, I peered once more over the top of the CD rack and met eyes with Vincent. My heart jumped excitedly, and I swear it almost made a hole right through my chest. I jerked back down and prayed that Vincent didn't actually see me spying on him like some little middle school girl.

    “What!?” Julie whispered pryingly. “Did he see you?” I nodded my head yes, face buried in my palms. “I wonder how Vincent found this place?” she asked curiously. I raised my head from my palms with a quick jolt, suddenly realizing the question at hand. “What now?!” I shushed her with my finger and looked very quickly over the CD rack to see Vincent browsing casually through the music.

    Lowering back toward Julie, I gestured her forward, suddenly feeling sick to my stomach. She must have noticed the pale expression on my face. “Kida, what is it? You look like you've just seen a ghost.”

    After recapping the entire conversation I had with Vincent to Julie, I half expected her to look as distraught as I felt, but she simply gazed lazily at me as if saying, “Why should I care?”

    “And?” she asked impatiently. “Was there a point to that long story?”
    Swallowing the huge knot forming in my throat, I whispered, “Julie, have you ever felt like you were being…followed?”

    Heaving both eyebrows, she rubbed her chin thoughtfully and shook her head. “No, I can't remember ever feeling that way. Why?” I looked conspicuously in Vincent's direction, and she finally caught on. Her jaw dropped to the floor and with a gasp she asked, “You think Vincent is following you?!”

    “SHHH!” I said covering her mouth with my hand. “Yes!”
    She rolled her eyes and pulled my hand away. “Kida, that's ridiculous.”
    “You heard what all he asked me!”

    “Kida,” she said matter-of-factly, “did it ever occur to you that maybe he likes you? And maybe you working at a CD shop is just a major convenience to him since he might actually want to buy a CD?” Once again, Julie made perfectly logical sense, but it still didn't relieve the sneaking suspicion that Vincent was following me.

    I growled and narrowed my eyes, looking over toward Vincent as if I could see through the CD rack. “Maybe you're right.”

    “I am right. Now come on, let's go talk to him.” My eyes widened whenever she grabbed my arm and started pulling me toward Vincent. I ground my feet into the floor and resisted as best I could, which was enough since I was significantly stronger than Julie.

    “Nooo,” I whispered pleadingly. “Are you out of your mind?”
    “Are you? Hey, Vincent!” She yelled looking over the CD rack, waving as she jumped up and down. He looked up and acknowledged us both with a nod of his head—obviously he knew that we were back here—and raised a finger that I assumed was some form of a wave.

    Julie nodded in return and grabbed my arm. “Come on, he wants us to go over there.” What part of a nod and a finger meant “come over” was beyond me, but I decided to concur with Julie's infallible logic and follow her over to Vincent.

    Reluctantly might I add.
    “Hey, what's up?” Julie asked as we stood right in front of Vincent. He looked up at us with a lethargic gaze.

    “Julie,” he acknowledged with a nod, and then looked at me from the corner of his eyes. “Kida.” The way he said my name caused a chill to run down my spine.

    “So,” Julie began. “Looks like we have a costumer over there.” That was my opportunity. Right as I opened my mouth to offer to help the customer, Julie interrupted. “I better go check him out.” Although I wanted to object, Julie silenced me as soon as I started to say something. “See you later, Vincent.”

    He nodded at her with a half-hearted smile, and then averted his striking blue eyes back to me. It was so awkward with Vincent, which is why I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

    We stared at each other apprehensively for a few seconds before I let out a huge sigh. “So...you like music, huh?”

    His face suddenly went from bored and slothful to surprised and slightly amused, as if he hadn't expected me to actually talk to him. And to be completely honest, I was pretty shocked that I had the guts to talk to him, too...and so casually. Averting to the same cold expression on his face, he shrugged and looked back at the CD's. “Yeah.”

    Determined to make conversation, I dug through my brain to come up with some questions to ask him. There was no way I was going to be defeated by this guy. “Do you play any instruments?” This time there was a bit of emotion on his face, but I couldn't read exactly what it was.

    “The saxophone,” he said carefully, slowly facing me.
    “Really? Cool! We've got a really good school band.”

    Shaking his head, he casually picked a CD from the rack and began reading the back. “Nah...I don't do school bands.” Lifting an eyebrow, I looked at him vindictively.

    “Whatever” is what I really wanted to say, but instead, “Well what kind of music do you like?”

    Shrugging—he seemed to do a lot of that—, he placed the CD back on the rack. “Jazz...blues...swing...stuff like that.”

    “So you don't listen to any modern music?”
    His eyebrows pulled together as if he just came to a realization. “Well, I suppose I've never really listened to anything modern.”

    I gaped mockingly and said, “Hold on,” and walked over to the rap/rock section, picking up the latest Warped Tour CD. I walked back over to Vincent and held it out to him. After he stared cautiously at it for a few seconds, I said reassuringly, “Here...take it,” and he reluctantly accepted the CD. “It's a Warped Tour CD, so there are a variety of modern bands on there. I can give you a discount if you're interested.”

    He looked thoughtfully at it for a few moments and nodded. “On one condition.” Great...what kind of “condition” could Vincent Balentein possible have.

    “Okay,” I said warily. With a slight hint of success on his face, he picked a CD off the rack and handed it to me. “King Oliver's Creole Jazz band?” I read aloud. He nodded with crossed arms and a crooked smile. “I don't know if I can afford—”

    “I'll buy it,” he shrugged.
    “Okay. I guess it sounds like a fair trade.”
    “Great,” he smiled, actually showing his teeth. And I couldn't help but notice how perfect they were. “What's wrong,” he asked noticing the frown that formed on my face.

    “Nothing.” I couldn't believe that I was actually jealous of him.
    Walking over to the cash register, I did my best to avoid Julie's sly smile. “Checking out?”

    “Yeah,” he said handing her the two disks. After buying them, he handed me the Jazz CD and pocketed his inside his leather jacket. “We'll exchange CD's tomorrow.”

    “Okay,” I said noticing the questioning look on Julie's face out of the corner of my eye. Inside, I was rolling my eyes.
    “See you tomorrow then.”
    “Bye!” Julie waved, unnaturally cheerful.

    After Vincent walked out of the store, I asked, “What are you so happy about?”
    “Oh nothing,” she said smugly.

    Rolling my eyes, I walked over to the coffee area. Right...nothing.

    Chapter 3