Sometimes a scene interrupts the flow. Here’s one between Derron and Sofia that ended up on the cutting room floor (NOTE: Bonus content typically doesn’t make it to our editors, so please forgive any typos and/or errors).

Derron

I’m scheduled to work a 72 hour shift, but two of the crew call in sick and it’s my turn to stay over, so it is almost four solid days before I crawl back into my apartment and the comfort of my own bed. I lie there under my soft billowy comforter expecting to fall asleep immediately, but my mind won’t go quiet and I run the events of the last few days in my head:  a small fire at a business park on the East end of town, three separate traffic incidents and two gas leak inspections. I toss and turn a bit remembering things I should do over the next few days such as go through my mail, pay bills, groceries, tidy up the apartment, call my mom. What I’ll probably do is watch football, order pizza and hang out with Tony.

My mind keeps wandering back to Sofia and the plan she’s hatched. I’ve gone through it a million times since she left the station, why do I give in to that woman so easily? I imagine her pretty face and big brown eyes looking at me intently like she does when she’s trying to get me to do something I don’t want to do. I love to watch her full lips move as she talks and have caught myself on more than one occasion wondering what they’d feel like against mine. One night in the shower I couldn’t help myself and wondered what those perfect lips would feel like elsewhere too. I tried to think of anyone but her, it was no use. It would be foolish to try and start anything with her as much as I’d like to. Her boss and my boss both have other ideas and now is not the time to rock the boat. Maybe after all the craziness settles down I could try but it is really worth it? She’s trying to set me up with another girl. I imagine that Sofia’s best-case scenario is I fall madly in love with Amber and then she can go about getting back to her normal routine and never have to see me again. Perhaps that would be for the best.

I’m just about to finally drift off when the buzz of my phone jolts me back to life. I reach over and look at the bright screen to see a text. It’s Sofia. What are the odds?

Are you busy?

Am I busy? Nope just trying not to think about you so I can fall asleep is what I want to reply, but instead I hit the dial button. She answers almost immediately.

“Hello?”

“Hey, sorry, I’m too tired to type so I figured I’d just call. What’s up?” I congratulate myself for sounding casual, if not tired, even though hearing her voice sends a chill down my body.

“No worries, I just wanted to talk to you about the arrangements I’ve made. Were you sleeping?”

“No,” I lie. “What did you have in mind?”

She hesitates again, “I could call back later.”

“No!” I say the word a little too sharply. “I mean, I might be busy later. I’d rather talk now. In fact…” I glance at the clock on the wall and see that it is only 10 am and swear under my breath. Its too late for breakfast, too early for lunch and too much of a weekday to go for brunch. “Why don’t we meet up for…coffee.”  Yes, coffee. Lots of strong, dark coffee to keep me awake.

“Ok.  There is a coffee shop across the street from City Hall. It will take me a while to get there though, I just got out of a meeting in Chinatown and I don’t have my car.”

“Where at in Chinatown?”

She names a Community center a few streets away. “You’re actually not too far from me. Why don’t you just swing by here?”

“To your apartment?”

I try not to read too much into the skepticism in her voice. “Sure,” I read off my address. “There’s a bakery just across the street.”

“I could meet you there.”

“It can be hard to find,” I lie, trying not to think too hard about the urge to have her here, in my space.

“Ok,” I read off the address and then get off the phone. My first emotion is euphoria, but it quickly fades into panic as I look around the apartment.

I’m not exactly known for my housekeeping.

Okay, that’s an understatement.  At the firehouse, everything is maintained in perfect order. At home I don’t keep up with things like I should. It isn’t dirty, but cluttered would be an understatement.  I tend to strip off my clothes as soon as I walk through the door.  A pile of discarded jeans and T-shirts is crumpled just next to the front door, and empty beer cans are strewn across the couch and coffee table and I don’t want to think about how long the dishes have been sitting in my sink (come to think of it, where did all those dishes even come from, given the amount of takeout that I eat). I kick the dirty clothes with my shoes, debating whether I have time to start a load laundry (since I don’t have time to drive them to moms which, I admit is pretty sad for a 27 year old man, but is damn convenient), or if it would be better to hide them inside the oven. I yawn and rub my eyes, too exhausted to make up my mind. With effort, I do a quick mental calculation in my head.  It should take Sophie at least twenty minutes to walk over to my apartment. I only need five to sweep away the part of the mess that she will see when I open the door. I sit down on the couch and lay my head back on the pillows, deciding to indulge in a ten minute nap. I close my eyes. When I open them again, my apartment is bathed in darkness.

“What the-?” I mutter, fumbling in the dark for my phone.

I find it on the coffee table and push the home button.

6:45 PM.

It takes me a minute to realize where I am and what happened.

I swear under my breath and scramble to turn on a light.

I’m disoriented again.

I’m in my apartment…only, something has changed. It takes me a minute to realize that the crumpled beer cans are gone. The dirty clothes are gone. I look into the kitchen and see that the dishes are washed and neatly stacked on the counter.  Come to think of it, the countertops look suspiciously clean.

“Mom?” I call out warily, but there isn’t any answer. That’s when it hits me.

Sophia.

I pick up my phone and check for messages.

There are several. The first set began  a little after eleven AM.

Hey, I’m downstairs. Do you want me to come up?

I’m outside. Can you hear me knocking?

You alive?

And then, at one:

Let me know when you wake up.

And finally, at six:

Seriously. Worried about you.

I hurriedly type in a new message.

Awake now. So Sorry! I don’t know what happened.

I’m worried that Sophia will be annoyed, and I’m relieved when a new message pops up almost immediately.

There you are! Sleep well?

Yes. Sorry. Long night.

I figured.

Really sorry that I missed our coffee.

Me too.

Let me make it up to you?

I hold my breath as I wait for the three pulsing dots that indicate Sophia is typing to turn into words.

Sure, she finally writes. You owe me dinner.

I hesitate for just a moment. I don’t want to read too much into the comment. She probably just needs to link up and finalize things for my date with Amber. Still, fortune favors the bold. I type a word. Push send, and then hold my breath:

Tonight?

There is a long pause, but finally she replies.

Sure. I’m already out though. Aren’t you watching the game?

Truth be told, I had completely forgotten about the football game on tonight. I’m usually a huge Philadelphia fan, but I always lose track of time after long shifts, and I’m still groggy from my overlong nap.

Where are you at?

Sophia texts me the address of a sportsbar on the west side of town.

On my way.

Chapter 13

Sophia

“I can’t believe that you invited a guy to crash football night,” Bobbi says in a joking-but-not-really voice during a commercial break. I can tell that she’s legitimately peeved.  But for the fact that it is the third quarter and we are absolutely crushing Indianapolis, I would probably get a piece of her mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our team, but Philadelphia football is Bobbi’s religion, and McTavick’s Bar is the church where she worships, along with other members of the faithful. Inviting an outsider is almost unthinkable.

“He’s just coming to talk about his date with Amber,” I say, but my voice can’t quite hide the shred of hope I hold that I’m wrong. After all, talking about Amber could wait until tomorrow, couldn’t it?

“Sophia?”

I’ve been stealing glances at the front door for the last half-hour, but somehow Derron sneaks in without my notice. I hear him speak my name and I feel a shiver down my back.

I turn toward him, hoping that he attributes the flush on my cheeks to the heat inside the bar.  I’m suddenly self-conscious of my appearance. I’m wearing distressed jeans, a T-shirt that I’ve had since high-school and my hair is clipped up in a messy ponytail that I had to manage in five minutes so that we didn’t miss kick-off.

Derron doesn’t seem to mind. I feel his gaze rake over me, almost like a physical touch. Then, he looks up again and our eyes lock.

His eyes are brown, like mine, but with tiny flecks of gold around the edge of the iris. They are fringed by dark lashes that, frankly, make me jealous. I can’t pull my gaze away, but then I feel a sharp jab in my ribs and hear Bobbi cough, bringing me back to my senses.

“Hey, Derron,” I finally squeak out. “Uh…glad you could make it.” I nod toward my friend, “This is Bobbi.”

He looks over my shoulder. I can’t fight back a twinge of jealousy about the appreciation in his eyes when they skim over Bobbi’s perfect face and figure. She gets that a lot. It usually doesn’t bother me, but I’m feeling possessive. After all, I’m already competing for attention with Amber.

“It’s nice to meet you,” he says, jerking his chin in Bobbi’s direction.  I’m amazed when his gaze returns almost instantly to me. “Sorry about earlier,” he says. The bar is noisy, so he leans in close. I shiver again when I feel the puff of his breath against my ear.

“It’s nothing.”

_________________________

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