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“He’s a nice guy!” Genevieve insisted.
“They’re all nice guys,” Maylene replied with a coy grin as she leaned against the bar counter.
“Yeah. Right.” Her friend shook her head unconvinced.
As the two women waited for their drinks at the bar, Genevieve, a taller honey-blonde, was running the two-minute drill on Maylene. Genevieve and her other friends had met up with a couple of guys at The Red Rooster, the local pub, before she had arrived and, of course, one of them was just perfect for her.
“I meant, you always try to match me up with the ‘nice guy’,” Maylene, a younger Chinese student, remarked as she swept aside her shoulder length black hair.
“Because you’re the sweetest little girl that I’ve ever known,” Genevieve replied half-jokingly. She patted the shorter woman on the top of her head. “Can’t set a baby seal amongst the sharks.”
Maylene rolled her eyes and brushed away her friend’s hand with a laugh, “Oh, shut it! Baby seal, my arse. I’m quite capable, thanks.”
“Oh come on!” Genevieve continued as she looked back at their table, “He’s actually not that bad looking, either.”
Maylene glanced back as well but quickly returned her attention to the wood-grain pattern of the bar counter. She shrugged.
They gathered up their round of drinks and headed back through the crowded floor to their table. The group made space for Maylene to sit beside ‘nice guy’, Peter.
“Heineken for you, right?” she asked him as she passed over a bottle.
“Thanks,” he said with his perfect smile and shiny blue eyes, “Next one will be the guys’ round.”
Maylene nodded politely.
Peter took a sip and then asked her, “So your background is Chinese?”
“Mum and Dad are from Hong Kong.”
He nodded. “And the accent?”
“Brit,” she said. She took a sip of her Long Island Iced Tea then continued, “Londoner. The green and pleasant land. Born there.”
“Ah. Cool,” he remarked as he flashed a perfectly acceptable smile, “It’s a really attractive combination.”
Maylene smiled softly and rocked her head side-to-side as she stared at her glass. “Well, maybe here but it’s fairly commonplace back home.”
Peter squinted as his smile widened. “I would never say you were ‘commonplace.'”
Maylene’s dipped her chin downward. Her eyes rolled up to look at her friends. Though they were all seemingly talking amongst themselves, it was obvious that their attention was on her. Matching up their young friend with every decent guy they could find had become a spectator sport.
Maylene had been in Canada for two years, living in Toronto to study interior design at OCAD. She really never got into the dating scene. She had promised her parents that when she moved abroad, her priority would be studying so she wasn’t actively searching for male companionship. Not that she was closed to the idea but, honestly, she seemed to attract and be setup with one cookie-cutter guy after another.
She looked at Peter with her enticing slender eyes as he talked. She smiled her pretty smile –flashed those winning dimples- and nodded but didn’t really hear what he was saying. Listening wasn’t her strongest suit. The guy was indeed good-looking with his short, curly black hair and blue eyes. He was well-groomed, and held an air of professional confidence. Not the least bit sleazy or lecherous. Who’s to know? He may well have been good for a bonk or two but then after that? Let’s exchange numbers. I’ll call. Want to meet up for dinner? What are we doing for the weekend? Want to meet my folks? Maybe we should move in together? Why not? I want to see you. When?
Agh! Give me my space, goddammit!
Maylene shook her head, closed her eyes and pressed her palms against her temples. “Why in heaven do you do this to yourself?” she thought, grimacing. Relationships were so life-sucking.
“Um, is something wrong?” Peter asked.
Maylene opened her eyes slowly -left one first then right- and looked up. All eyes around the table were on her. She blushed as she sat up. She brushed down her long black hair trying to compose herself. “Ehm, sorry,” she said as she looked aside sheepishly, “I was just thinking about an assignment I have to do for school.”
Genevieve gave her a look, partially one of bemusement, mostly frustration. From past experience, she had an idea of what Maylene was thinking.
Maylene offered her an apologetic shrug. She pursed her lips, puffed her cheeks and rolled her eyes coyly.
The young woman took another sip from her straw and sighed. Her evenings at The Red Rooster always seemed to go this way. She enjoyed being with her friends but sitting around in the pub felt like it was becoming a chore. She’d have much more fun just playing darts. In truth, rather than because of her friends, there was one particular reason she was coming to the pub lately.
The front door opened and Maylene turned towards the entrance. Her sleek, dark eyes immediately widened as she sat upright.
There he was. Wearing his heavy, brown leather trench coat, running his fingers through his short rusty-blonde hair, he slowly made his way into the tavern. He always had that same look about him: lowered brow, his square, stubbly jaw set, his pale lips drawn to a fine line. He was a brawny, tall man and would almost be described as lumbering if not for the cool confidence he exuded. Not that he seemed to be the type who actually cared what other people thought of him.
Maylene’s eyes, as always, followed him as he moved.
“Hey Anton,” Peter called out to the man and raised his hand.
The man’s step didn’t slow down as he passed the table. He did turn his head though and nodded toward Peter. Then he made his way to his usual spot around the corner of the bar counter, sat on a stool, and then pulled out his Blackberry.
Maylene continued to look at him. Then she blinked and turned to Peter. “Um…You know him?” she asked, unable to hide her surprise.
Peter nodded as he drank from his bottle. “Anton does some security and surveillance work at my company,” he said.
Peter shrugged, “We talk.”
Maylene had the sudden urge to pester Peter even more but she realized how obvious she would appear. Instead, she just returned to discreetly watching the man named Anton seated alone at the bar.
He had ordered a beer and sat silently working on his phone. Alone but not actually appearing to be lonely, people always seemed to give the man a wide berth. No buddies slapping him on the back, no women hovering around the rather handsome fellow in his dark corner of the bar. His focused demeanor and unmoving expression sent out a silent signal that he should be left alone.
As her friends continued to talk amongst themselves and Peter’s unacknowledged attentions slowly drifted elsewhere, Maylene allowed her gaze to linger longer on the solitary man.
At first glance, it would have appeared to most that the man sitting by himself at the bar was indiscriminately thumbing the little buttons on his cell phone. Anton didn’t seem so much absorbed in the little gadget as he was just killing time or else it was an excuse for him not to bother with other people. For whatever reason, people did leave him alone — usually.
“Not doing anything dodgy now are you?” a playful, female voice spoke into his ear.
Anton frowned slightly and looked up from his phone. A young woman, Chinese, shimmied herself onto the stool beside him. She smiled. He eyed her.
Maylene had prepared herself for that. He looked like he may be the mysteriously churlish type. In fact, part of her had anxiously anticipated that reaction. As he continued to look at her silently, Maylene cleared her throat and spoke through her smile, “Is that the latest model? I’ve been wanting to have a look-see at one.”
Anton realized she was asking about his phone. Without speaking, he switched it off and put it down on the counter, pushing it slightly away to his side. Then he returned to staring at Maylene, his frown settling lower over his green eyes.
Maylene twisted her lips to the side, her own brows arching upward. Okay. This was going to be a bit more difficult. “On the other hand,” she thought to herself, “He hasn’t told me to go away.”
She brushed her straight hair behind her ears with her fingers. It was her ‘stall tactic’ as she thought. “My friends and I are over there,” Maylene thumbed over to the table behind her, “With Peter. You know Peter? He said your name is Anton. That right? Would you…would you care to join us?”
She saw his eyes shift past her for an instant towards the table before they reset their cool gaze upon her.
“I mean, you always come in here and sit by yourself at this stool,” Maylene rambled on, “Not that I’ve been watching…I mean there’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Sitting here on your own, is what I’m implying.”
Her hands started to wave around as she spoke. It was a terrible habit, she knew…always happened when she grew anxious. And she was desperately anxious now. It was increasingly difficult to keep looking into his narrowing eyes as she spoke.
“I mean, I’m not watching you all the time,” she closed her eyes and pressed her palm against her forehead, “I’m not a stalker! I just noticed you alone and….uh…”
Great. She was babbling now.
Anton took a long sip from his bottle, staring at her as she slowly disintegrated.
She chewed on her lower lip and looked at him with an anxious grin. She could feel that she was blushing. Finally she looked down towards the floor and muttered, “Um, can you say something? Please? I feel like I’m talking to the wall like a prattling auntie.”
There was a brutally long pause. He was still frowning at her albeit not as harshly as before when she had spiraled into her yammering. She could see him sigh.
Maylene was about to slide off her chair and skulk away in defeat when the man finally http://www.izmirlitv.com/ spoke. “Load me up again,” he said in a dry, low voice.
She blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
Anton finally pulled his stare away from her and looked at the bartender. He pointed to his bottle and said, “Another. I’ll be back in a sec.”
The man got up and headed to the washrooms leaving the young woman staring at the empty barstool. After a long moment, Maylene smirked to herself. She thumped her forehead with her palm and hissed, “Stupid cow.”
Dejected, she stood up and was about to turn and face the inquisition of her friends when she noticed the man’s Blackberry cell phone sitting on the bar counter. Pursing her lips, she glanced towards the washroom doors then back at the little device. She repeated this twice more before grinning and picking it up.
Anton was at the washroom sink when he suddenly patted down his pockets. He closed his eyes and spat quietly, “Fuck.”
Quickly he went back into the bar. Two stools sat empty beside the bar where he had been sitting. On the bar counter his cell phone rested by itself beside a freshly opened bottle of beer.
Anton was exhausted by the time he returned to his apartment building, the 4 Corners Residences. It had been another long day and, even though he lived only on the second floor, he grumbled about making his way up a flight of stairs. Half way up, he heard someone charging up behind him. Quickly he turned around, his fist clenching.
“Oh hey! Uh…hi!” A decidedly nondescript guy came up behind him. Anton squinted. John Smith. Apartment 301, directly above him. The guy was like a tepid glass of water.
John offered a nervous grin and anxious look. He waited patiently behind Anton as the bigger man stood in the middle of the stairs. Anton just glared at him. Lately John had been pretty eager to get back home after work. He had a good idea why.
Without a word, Anton moved to the side of the stairs. Glancing at him, John cleared his throat and slowly stepped past by, careful not to even brush against the man’s coat. “Thanks,” he mumbled softly before raced up the rest of the stairs.
At a more laboured pace, Anton made his way up to his apartment.
Inside apartment 201, Anton removed his coat and tossed it onto his futon. He switched on a lamp in the studio apartment before pulling out his phone as he stood by his window facing the street. He thumbed the keys, scrolling through names and numbers and files. All that information seemed to blur into one another in the little glowing window, but it all sorted itself out in the man’s mind, even if he was tired. Everything had its place, everything had its association. So as he scrolled through his screens, it was easy to spot something new, something that didn’t belong in there.
Anton frowned. There was a video stored in the memory, something from that evening. The man’s jaw tightened as he pressed play. The poorly lit image of a grinning young Chinese woman appeared on the little screen. Her melodic English accent was barely audible over the background din of the Red Rooster Pub.
“Hi there. Me again. Hope you don’t mind. I just wanted to check out this gadget of yours out. Very cool, I must say. I forgot to mention to you my name, by the way. I know, I know, you didn’t ask, but…anyway, it’s Maylene. ‘May’ like the month and ‘lene’ like…ah…Lean Cuisine! And just to prove to you that I’m completely mad, here’s my number: 416-###-5115. So you could call me and tell me off. A-a-and…I can’t believe I just did that! Sorry! Sorry! How do I delete this?”
The image on the screen jostled about for a couple of seconds, several indecipherable curses from the woman being captured by the phone’s mic, before the video stopped.
Anton stared at the screen, his jaw fixed firmly and eyes set as a deep sigh rumbled up through his chest. *********
Maylene stared into her bottle of beer. For the next several days, it had been a struggle between wanting to go to the Red Rooster and wanting to stay as far away from the pub as possible.
Her friends had chided her endlessly when she had returned to the table that evening she had “introduced” herself to Anton. She couldn’t stomach looking Peter in the eye either. And then of course, there was that stupid, stupid idea of leaving the video message on the man’s phone…
Those thoughts along with contemplating how Anton would react to finding her message made her queasy. And yet, she also really wanted to know what he was thinking. The big, silent man had intrigued her, damn him. That nagging thought was enough to pull her back into that pub.
Unfortunately in the ensuing days, Anton never made a follow up appearance. And he never called. At first it was more than she could endure, the anticipation, the anxiousness. But as the days went by, she began to realize that nothing was likely to come of it. And why should it anyway? The message had probably been deleted into electronic oblivion the moment he viewed it, if he had even bothered to watch it at all.
On this night, Maylene had been determined to go into the Red Rooster, get soused, and wholeheartedly accept the consoling and counseling of her friends. She had barely glimpsed the bottom of her first glass, however, when her cell phone rang. She glanced at the screen: an unregistered number.
“Hello?” she answered.
“Meet me outside,” a serious voice droned through the receiver.
“What? Who…” Maylene furrowed her brow. She paused for a moment, blinked, and continued, “Who is this?”
Her friends immediately stopped their conversations and turned their attentions upon her. Maylene looked at each of them guiltily.
“I said come outside,” the voice reiterated.
Her eyes still on her friends, Maylene replied, “Outside? Where…?”
“I’m not saying it again.”
“Outside…” she repeated. Still holding the phone at her ear and without saying anything to her friends other than a silent apologetic look, Maylene simply stood up, grabbed her coat and made her way towards the front exit.
Once outside, she fumbled to put on her coat as she continued to speak on the phone. “Where are you?” she asked as she looked around the empty sidewalk.
A horn honked twice. Maylene followed the sound to a minivan parked on the street a few meters away from the Red Rooster’s door. She switched off her phone as she leaned down and looked through the passenger window. Seated in the dark interior of the minivan, she could see the silhouette of a large man sitting in the driver’s seat. He sat quietly, looking away from her, staring straight ahead over the wheel.
“Get in,” he said flatly.
Without a second thought or breath, the young woman did as she was told.
For the short ride a few blocks away from the pub to a corner donut shop and for a few minutes while seated across from one another in a booth, Maylene and Anton didn’t exchange a word. The only time either of them had spoken was when they each ordered for themselves at the counter.
He stared in cold silence at her as his finger slowly tapped the table but, for whatever reason, Maylene didn’t feel exactly uncomfortable as she sipped her coffee. How she had mustered this strange sense of security, she didn’t know, but she was actually feeling a little amused. The man, for all his unfazed coolness, was fuming deep within. It was sort of funny thinking that she was the cause of that.
“I never would have expected you to be the strawberry-jelly sort,” Maylene finally broke the silent stalemate.
Anton’s eyes narrowed. “What?”
She dipped her head towards the powdered donut sitting on a saucer in front of him. “I would have thought you would stick to the plain style, or perhaps the chocolate dipped,” she grinned, “You know, the macho donuts.”
The angle of his frown seemed to actually deepen as he shifted in his side of the booth. Under the glare of the cheap fluorescent bulbs lighting up the shop, he looked a bit tired.
“Not that I’d be one to judge your manhood by some deep-fried cake,” Maylene added, “But people do talk.” She curled her lips into her mouth and looked up at the ceiling.
Anton slid his jaw to the side, dragging his teeth against one another. After a moment, he finally spoke, “What’s with you?”
Maylene looked at him, arching her brows. “Hmm? What do you mean?” she asked innocently, “Do you mean my accent? It’s British…Londoner. I’m Chinese but I was born and raised in London. I’m studying here to be an interior designer.”
Usually this explanation about herself had to be dragged out of her. Why she was so forthcoming with him, she had no idea.
It was clear from his bothered expression that Anton had no idea either. He shook his head and reached into his coat pocket, the leather of his jacket creaking. For a moment, Maylene actually thought –still amusedly- that he might pull a gun on her to shut her up. Instead, he leaned forward and put his cell phone on the table.
Maylene stared at the device with a coy grin then looked up, fluttering her eyelashes.
Anton was leaning back in his seat awaiting some sort of response from her. Almost 30 seconds of silence went by before he realized the woman was going to play dumb, blinking and smiling at him. He should have exploded all over her. He usually would have.
Instead, he felt the skin on his face relax a bit as he leaned forward, folding his fingers together on the table. “What,” he said with a purposefully slow voice, “Did you do with my phone?”
Maylene thought better of continuing her silent treatment. “Nothing,” she replied.
“You know, there’s a lot personal stuff on people’s phones,” Anton continued, “Stuff that can get people into trouble, legally and not so legally.”
She opened her mouth to say something but paused. As she looked into his green eyes she saw the seriousness in his expression. Her smile weakened. She said, “I…I didn’t go through it. Really.”
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