Five Short Rinses, a series of side-stories to Washed Right Out. Prompts used: have a character bake a cake, a snowstorm, taxi, hand washing.
Note: contains plot-related spoilers for the previous 14 chapters of Washed Right Out.
The color of the frosting was the same as Karen's hair: pastel green. Both even had swirls running through them.
"Mmm, mint." Samantha took a big lick off the wooden spoon she’d managed to dip into the bowl while Karen's back was turned. "It tastes so... non-artificial."
"That's the magic of mint extract, babe." She stood back to examine her work. "Only the color’s fake."
"Shoulda made two."
"I'm sure he won't eat the whole cake. You'll get at least one slice."
Sam laughed. "Hey, d'you think he'll like it?"
Karen placed the cake into a pastry box. "I'm sure he will. He loves mint."
The other woman eyed a piping bag filled with red frosting on the table. "Can I write the words?"
With a steady hand, Sam wrote on the cake in big letters: Happy birthday, Riley!
Outside, the snow had started to fall.
London felt light-years away from home as Sonia sat in the back of a taxi taking her to the airport. If she was lucky, she’d catch her flight and get to town with enough time to attend Riley's birthday party.
Underneath her winter coat was the new suit she’d worn to address the board of directors. It would be the last one she’d buy on their dime.
What's so great about an American beauty parlor that you’d leave one of the most successful financial companies in London? had been the only question they wanted to ask.
Sonia could have given them a hundred different answers, and not a single one would have satisfied her, or fully explained the 'why'. She couldn't put into words the satisfaction she got from coming in every day and making people feel beautiful, a feeling she never received crunching numbers and writing reports.
It also didn't help that she’d engaged in an ill-advised sexual tryst with her boss that had ended in an awkwardly attempted ménage à trois and a restraining order—from Sonia and her boss both, against the third party.
Let it not be said that she didn't know how to leave a job without making a few waves, in and out of work.
The taxi sped by the London Eye, and Sonia blew the brightly lit ride a kiss as it disappeared into the fog. Her mind was already on better things, like Les Belles Vagues Boutique.
"Amazing spread on this issue, by the way."
Riley tried not to make the obvious joke, like the fact he was being told this while standing at a urinal at his work's bathroom. His urinal mate had trained him several months ago when he joined the magazine, a guy named Eren.
"Yeah, you're a guy who really appreciates a good variety of fonts. I'd shake your hand but my dick is in it."
"Better yours than mine." Immediately, Riley's face turned red and he stammered out an apology.
Eren banged the top of the urinal with his hand, he was laughing so hard. "Oh shit, that's a good one! I walked into that one, man."
At the sinks, Eren wished Riley a happy birthday before asking him what he was doing tomorrow morning, and if he was available to help with a photo shoot upstairs. If Riley had known this would lead to a long line of such favors, he would have said no. Maybe.
The flowering quince were coming in beautifully, a collection of vibrant red petals that were now dusted in snow. A similar breed was growing in the nursery, and would be moved into the shop before too long. But that was work and this was not.
The snow was easily dusted off. Not that it would do any good. The weather report said it would snow steadily until nightfall. It would have been worse if quince wasn't such a durable plant.
From inside the house, the sound of music drifted into the backyard. Somewhere in the house was his family, everyone except for his father. He didn't want to think about it now.
At the sound of his name called out above the music, Fiore straightened his stance. He would have to tend to the blossoms later, after the snow had stopped.
He spared one last glance at the sky before going in, and wondered if the clouds would ever break.
This was what his life had become on his birthday, Riley thought with not a small amount of bitterness: sitting in a barely warm bus which had broken down five stops from his apartment building, on a seat with a mystery stain and a weird funk to it.
Certainly, he thought, nothing great would come out of this. He watched the bus driver go back and forth via radio with the bus depot with a weary expression.
He considered texting Sam to tell her there’d be a delay when a voice interrupted his thoughts.
“Hey. Can I sit next to you? The back of the bus smells like sour milk.”
Riley looked up into the face of a man with dark eyes and long hair.
“Sure.” Riley scooted over so the other man could sit down. “Sour milk is gross.”
The other man smiled, and Riley felt his organs melt from how hot it was. “I used to work at a grocery store during the summer. The fridges broke down all the time. Tell me about it.”
Without thinking, Riley stuck out his hand. “I'm Riley.”
He shook Riley's hand. “Jonathan.”
Someone inside Riley told him this would be the start of something special.
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