Early Access: The Taste Of A Smile Part 35 ‘Uncomfortable’ Excerpt

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Hi,

I was running on 2 hours of sleep last week and I accidentally shared the full excerpt I had planned for today! Woops.

I didn’t want to miss Wednesday Excerpt Day, though, so I’ve added a few more paragraphs below.

I don’t think you’ll have to wait for the full episode much longer either… (Let me just share it with Muriel as a final check first ;))

 

Sigrid

 

Mary’s eyes were burning. She had only gotten a few hours’ sleep and her body was clearly running on empty. Her shirt stuck to her back, which was clammy, and her cheeks were glowing from exhaustion despite the cold.

The back door of the store fell shut behind her. Mary unzipped her coat and considered what she should do next. Probably have some more coffee. She didn’t know how she would make it through the day without it.

It was only Wednesday and Mary was already desperate for the weekend. She wanted some time to be alone. Some time to think. Her conversation with Milly last night had turned her head upside down.

Was Milly right, Mary wondered? Should she have given Lex the benefit of the doubt? Should she have given her a chance to sort things out? And what role had her own insecurity played in her decision to end things between them?

Mary didn’t have the answers to any of these questions. She wasn’t sure if she ever would. Maybe that didn’t matter. Maybe Lex would soon disappear from her life. What if she didn’t, though? What if…

Mary sighed. This is what had kept her up all night. The endless ‘whats ifs.’ Her heart ached for Lex, that much was clear. Now that Mary’s resolve was shaken, it was almost impossible to will it into silence.

Mary lay her hand on her stomach. It was churning. She should have grabbed some breakfast before downing two espressos on her way over here. She’d make a bowl of oats and fruit upstairs before the store opened, she decided.

Turning the corner, Mary noticed that the door of her office was wide open. She stopped and frowned. Karen had the day off and she was the only other employee who had a key to that door.

Mary held her breath and tried to pick up any sounds coming from the office. She briefly considered going back outside. If there was an intruder, she should probably get out of the building until help had arrived.

But there had been no other signs of someone breaking into the store. Maybe Karen had just forgotten to close the door last night? Mary wrapped her fingers around the keys in her pocket. She took a hesitant step toward the door.

“Hello?” she asked, trying to keep her tone confident.

Lex stuck her head out of the door. “Hey!”

“Fuck!” Mary gasped, jumping back.

“Sorry, I just got here,” Lex said, stepping out of the office hesitantly.

Mary covered her heart. “You scared the shit out of me!”

“Sorry,” Lex replied, scratching the back of her head. “Karen gave me the key so I could get some work done before the store opens.”

“R-right,” Mary stammered. “That makes sense.” Her heart was thundering in her ears and her hands were shaking.

Lex pointed over her shoulder. “I’ll grab my stuff so you can sit down.”

Mary shuffled her feet. “No need. I’m going up to the café first.”

“In need of an espresso?” Lex asked, smiling. There were dark circles under her eyes.

“Yes,” Mary said, surprised. “Very much so.”

Lex took a step to the side. “Don’t let me get in your way then!”

“Probably best not to,” Mary mumbled as she walked past Lex. A grin was tucking at the corners of her lips.

She dropped her bag onto the chair by the desk and slipped out of her coat. She hung it next to Lex’s on the coat rack. Mary was super conscious of every move she made. She could feel Lex’s eyes on her back. It made her skin tingle.

“Hey, eh, Mary?” Lex asked.

Mary’s heart skipped a beat. She smiled but straightened her face before turning around. Lex stood in the middle of the office. It would only take either of them two steps to reach the other.

“Yes?” Mary asked, her voice a bit hoarse.

Lex held her gaze. The muscles in her throat shifted.

“I saw Hannah earlier today,” Lex finally said.

Mary blinked. This was not what she had expected to hear. She quickly started calculating. It was only around 7.30 AM. How on earth could Lex have seen Hannah already? And more importantly: why?

“I stopped by her apartment before coming here,” Lex explained. “I felt like I needed to come clean with her.”

Mary blinked again. Her mind raced from one thought to the next. She had never thought Hannah would be an early riser. She didn’t seem like a morning person at all. Wait, what did Lex mean by coming clean?

“I told her that we got involved briefly …” Lex stopped for a moment, clearing her throat. “But that it’s over now.”

She focused on the desk as she continued, “I told her that we went to see the opera together and that I tried to hide your identity from Milly.”

The mention of Milly’s name startled Mary out of her stupor. She blurted out, “I saw Milly again!”

Lex’s eyes snapped back to Mary’s face. “What?!”

Mary shook her head in an attempt to wake up her sluggish mind. “Last night,” she said, more calmly. “I bumped into her on my way home. She was running in the park.”

“Aha,” Lex said, as if all of this made perfect sense.

It didn’t make sense to Mary. “I told her about what happened,” she squeaked. “That we broke up and why.”

“Yeah, that explains a lot,” Lex said, smiling now.

“It does?” Mary asked, utterly confused.

Lex nodded. “Yes, I’m guessing you also told her I was sick?”

“Yes, I’m sorry, I …” Mary started saying but stopped when she heard the back door fall shut in the distance. Another store employee had arrived. Shit.

“This is important. Can we talk about this later?” Lex asked softly, her eyebrows dropping.

Mary’s pulse picked up. “Yes, please,” she agreed eagerly.

“After work? Tonight?” Lex’s voice sounded unmistakably hopeful.

An idea popped into Mary’s exhausted mind then. It was a silly idea. No, actually, it was a stupid idea. It would make things even messier than they already were. But Mary didn’t have the clarity of mind nor the will to stop herself.

“How about at my place?” she asked.

****

Mary paced around her living room. She had tidied up the place over an hour ago but kept checking if she had missed something. Her clothes were all tucked away in her closet and even her bookcases looked somewhat orderly.

She stopped and took in her living room for a second. Everything here was the exact opposite of Lex’s living room. It was small. The furniture was worn. The walls were covered with bookcases that reached the ceiling.

It was cozy. It was warm. It was hers. The room reflected who Mary was in more ways than she could count. This basement apartment was her safe space in a big and busy city. She rarely had visitors.

But now she had invited Lex over. She had spent the rest of the day thinking about why she had done so. It was pretty simple, she had concluded. This was a test.

 

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