Ophelia dumped the ingredients to her famous buttercream frosting in the large mixer. She sighed. As much as she loved making this frosting for cupcakes, Mike only allowed her to make a couple of flavors. That was boring. She looked at her phone again and a smile spread across her face. Justin had been chomping at the bit to see her again. The thought of him and his bright blue eyes spread warmth through her chest. She saw Mike walk into the back to get something and her jaw clenched. Mike was the reason she hadn’t had time to see Justin. Part of it was wedding season was in full swing. There was always a lot of requests for her skill at delicate sugar work. But she knew Mike. He didn’t know for sure but he suspected she was seeing someone else. That’s when he loaded her down with hours to work, using wedding season as an excuse. He just didn’t want her seeing Justin. She had to have this job though. He paid the best of all the bakeries out there, though not nearly as well as she might be able to get in other parts of the country. She still paid on student loans from culinary school, still had rent to make and still had to do things like eat or have electricity. She started the mixer and walked towards the baking racks to see what needed to be put out next.
In the front of the bakery, she could hear Mike talking to someone.
“Hi,” he said. “What can I get you?”
“Does Ophelia have a minute?” Ophelia’s heart leapt a little. She knew that voice.
“I’ll go check.” Mike opened the swinging door to the back. He looked pissed. “You seem to have a visitor. This isn’t the time for socializing. You know what we have on order.”
“Yes, sir, commandant, sir,” she said.
He glared at her. “Just hurry up.”
Ophelia came out, trying to wipe herself down. She probably looked like a mess. She managed to give him a small smile..
“Justin!” she said. “I’m so glad you’re here. I have something for you.” She bent over to reach the eclairs she had just made this morning. She grabbed a mug and filled it with coffee and then had Justin follow her to one of the cafe tables in the store. She placed in front of him.
“Did you make this?” he asked.
She smiled at him and nodded. “Seems like it’s been forever since we’ve seen each other. I’m glad you came,” she said.
“So, this is where you work,” he said looking around.
“Yup, it’s been about three years now,” she said.
Justin picked up the eclair and took a bite. His eyes widened. “Wow,” he said, taking a napkin wiping some of the custard from his mouth. “It almost melts in my mouth. This is really fantastic, Ophelia.”
“Thanks!” she said smiling, unable to keep herself from peeking over his shoulder. Mike stared at her through the swinging door windows. Her stomach felt sick.
Justin turned this head to see what she was looking at.
“Is he the complication?” Justin said.
“Yes,” she said. “Seems I can’t get rid of him sometimes.”
“What’s his name?” Justin said.
“Mike,” she said. “He owns this place.”
“He’s seems terribly interested in what we’re saying,” Justin said, smirking.
She shook herself and looked at Justin. “Too bad for him,” she said. “It’s none of his business.”
“I wonder if there’ll be time this week we could get together,” he said.
“I’ll let you know,” she said, fiddling with her fingers. He reached over and took her hands in his.
“Is it because of Mike?” Justin said.
“It’s complicated, Justin,” she said.
“Is it complicated because you really like him but you don’t want to hurt my feelings, or is it because you’re afraid he’ll retaliate if he finds out you’re dating someone else?”
She licked her lips. Her heart pounded in her chest. “It’s not because I really like him,” she said.
He nodded his head. “I understand,” he said. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I don’t know,” she said. She leaned forward and rested her elbows on the table. “I wasn’t supposed to like you, Justin.”
“Small comfort,” he said, sitting back with a rue grin. “What do you want to do about it then?”
She frowned at him. “I don’t know,” she said, frustrated.
“I’m not here to make your life difficult, Ophelia,” he said. “But you don’t have to think you’re alone. I’m here if you need me.”
His offer touched her so much that she had a hard time holding back tears. She’d never had the guts to tell her family the full extent of her problems with Mike other than he was married, but Justin seemed to pick up on the situation without her having to say anything. She blinked and leaned back in her chair. “Can I text you?” she said.
“Only if you promise you will,” he said.
“I promise,” she said. “I better get back to work.” She got up from the table and went back into the back. She pushed past Mike refusing to look at him. What she and Justin were saying and doing was none of his business but knowing him, he still felt territorial. Not because he wanted her right at the moment. He was being a good boy and had left her alone for the most part when she said she didn’t want to be with him anymore, but he had this thing about anyone else trying to impede on what he viewed as his, or what was his. He exited the back around her. Fear gripped her. She hurried back to the swinging door and watched as Mike approached Justin as he was trying to leave.
“So, uh, just wanted to let you know that Ophelia isn’t available for anything you’ve got planned for her,” he said, his arm draped over the door pushbar.
“I’m pretty sure Ophelia’s smart enough to know what she wants and what she doesn’t,” Justin said looking at the other man without flinching. “I’m man enough to let her make those decisions on her own. See ya around.”
She couldn’t help the smile that came over her face. Was it just her or was Justin 1000 times sexier that he had stood up to Mike?
Grace came up to Ophelia, an appreciative grin on her face. “Who was Mr. Blue Eyes?”
“His name is Justin, and he’s amazing,” Ophelia said.
Grace gave her a hug. “Keep that one.”
Grace leaned against the cake decorating table. “So, I need some fun time this weekend. Mike’s hours are ridiculous. Should we go to that new bar on Friday? It’s karaoke night.”
“I love karaoke,” Ophelia said wistfully. “I wonder if Justin would want to come?”
“You should find out. Though I think if you asked that boy to run around Liberty Park naked for you, he would,” Grace said, pushing Ophelia.
“The one off of Main street right,” Ophelia said. She was just about to text Justin when Grace’s face changed.
Ophelia turned around and saw Mike standing there. “Karaoke night, huh? Was someone going to invite me?”
“No, your wife would get suspicious if you spent too many nights away from home,” Ophelia said.
“How many nights I spent away didn’t seem to bother you not too long ago. Don’t worry your pretty little head about her,” he said, smirking. “She’s got her hands busy with the house cleaning and the kids.”
Ophelia shuddered. It had been bad enough being his girlfriend. She never wanted to find out what it was like being his wife.
“Grace, maybe we shouldn’t go tomorrow night,” Ophelia said, giving Grace an insistent look. “Mike’s right about our order schedule being pretty full.”
“Don’t be stupid, Ophelia,” Mike said. “I can’t stop you from doing what you want after hours, but don’t be surprised if I show up. I could use a drink or two.”
He walked away.
“He’s not going to come,” Grace said. “He’s just saying that to mess with you.”
“But if Justin’s going to be there-“
“He won’t come. Besides that’s what bouncers are for.”
“Do you think we should still go?”
“Yes. Text Justin and let’s have some fun for once,” Grace said, holding Ophelia around her shoulders. “If I have to, I’ll beat the shit out of Mike for you.”
“You can’t afford to lose your job any more than I can.”
Grace shook her head at Ophelia.
A bunch of friends are getting together to go karaoke-ing after work tomorrow. Want to go?
Sure as long as you don’t make me sing.
Aww party pooper.
I’ll be your biggest fan.
Ok fine then.
Will Mike be going?
No, I don‘t think so.
Does he normally?
No but he might if he knew you were there.
I’m not worried. Meet there or me pick you up?
Meet there. I‘ll make sure to keep an eye out for you.
Ophelia put the phone to her chest. Her heart wanted to beat out of her chest. Justin was starting to become some sort of drug to her. She loved being around him and there something about him that made her feel safe. She couldn’t wait to see him. But at the back of her mind, she trembled. Mike was unpredictable. She had to believe Grace was right. He was just trying to get into her head. He wouldn’t show up because weekends were usually his time with his family. That wouldn’t stop him if he really didn’t want it to, though. She’d had firsthand experience with that. He’d show up at her house at any time during the night expecting her to let him in. He’d tried that when they first broke it off, right after the party, but she’d managed to convince him to go home. That was about thirty seconds before Justin had shown up and that still made her heart leap into her throat when she thought about the confrontation that would have happened if Mike had known Justin was coming over that day.
Regardless of what Mike or Mike wouldn’t do, she was excited to see Justin. She just really hoped she didn’t mess everything up this time.
Homesite of author Whitney Sivill. I'm a mother of three, a wife and a student. In between, I write clean romances, fantasy tales, and mid-grade & young adult fiction. I might throw in the occasional fanfiction, too.