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Cherry Land Chapters

Illustration by Nik Garvoille

“What can you do for this company that other candidates can’t?”

Amber bit her lower lip, coughed and pulled at the hem of her borrowed black skirt. “Well, I am very friendly and motivated and work really well with others.”

“Okay.”

“And I’m organized.”

The man’s pinky ring clicked against the glass surface of his desk. A faint scratch whined through the office as he scribbled on a notepad. Amber bit her lower lip.

•••

Flames lick the sides of a massive log resting atop a heap of split wood and glowing embers. Amber holds her knees to her chest in the dewy grass, fixated on the wisps of yellow and orange, “He wore this obnoxiously tight polo,” she says, “and was totally nipping out.” Katie laughs. Brian sits up from a white plastic lawn chair, “Wait…who was nipping out?”

“Matthew. He told me to call him ‘Matty.’ He’s like 50. What 50-year-old man wants to be called ‘Matty?’ It was horrible.” Amber pulls a handful of grass from the dirt and tosses it to the flames. “I had to sit there and tell him why I wanted to be his receptionist, like it was the greatest job in the world, like he was offering me the chance of a lifetime.”

“When is everyone else coming?” asks Brian, rising and fading into the shadows to retrieve more wood.

“What’s wrong with your job now?” asks Katie, tossing her gray hood over her black bangs, “You make a ton of money waitressing.”

“Yeah…I don’t know,” Amber inhales the breeze, cool and fresh as Lake Michigan. “I thought I should try something more grown-up.”

“You don’t need to up here,” Katie turns her gaze to the car lights streaming through the narrow birch trees. “None of our friends have grown up jobs.”

“None of our friends are grown ups.”

•••

“Where do you hope to be in the next five years?” Matty asked, rolling his office chair back and leaning forward in anticipation of the answer. Amber swallowed.

“You’ll be what, 30?”

“Yeah,” Amber glanced at a framed picture of Matty, his golden tips gleaming in the sunlight, as a teenage boy with over-sized teeth and black sunglasses holds up a silver salmon. “Well, I hope to have a stable income.”

“Okay.”

•••

“Ladies,” Tyler slams a car door. “I am now officially a kite surfer!” Casey stumbles towards the fire with a 24-pack of Miller Lite. Dustin follows with a guitar.

“I wiped out only like 20 times.”

“That sounds like a lot,” laughs Katie.

“You try it and then tell me it’s a lot,” Tyler cracks open his beer and wraps an arm around Katie’s shoulders. “I am going to be so sore tomorrow.”

Brian tosses another log on the fire. Sparks fly from the embers like miniature fireworks.

“That log is huge,” Casey adjusts his Green Bay Packers cap.

“I’m a man,” Brian says in a deep voice, sinking into his lawn chair.

“Dumb as hell,” says Dustin under his breath, sitting beside Amber.

“What’s wrong with you?” Amber whispers.

“I’m just kidding,” Dustin runs a hand over his beard. “So, you gonna sing along tonight or are you still too good for that.”

Amber rises. “I’m just kidding,” says Dustin. She circles the fire and perches herself on the grass, between Brian’s knees.

“How did your interview go?” Dustin asks across the fire, strumming a few cords.

“Fine.”

“You can’t leave the restaurant,” says Casey. “Suzanne never pours enough whiskey…or gives me free cheese curds.”

“Boohoo,” says Amber.

•••

“What would you say is your biggest weakness?” Matty smirked.

Amber tucked her blonde hair behind her ears. “These are tough questions.”

“Well, I’m thorough,” laughed Matty. “You’d be my right hand man…I mean girl, woman.”

Amber glanced at the slow moving ceiling fan, turning round and round and round. ‘Not knowing what I want,’ is on the tip of her tongue.

•••

“Brian, you ever try kite surfing?” Tyler buttons up a green flannel shirt.

“No, sounds crazy.”

“So are you going to call Matty?” asks Katie. “Or just wait for him to call you.”

“If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” says Amber.

Dustin hums and bobs his head as he strums his guitar. “Any requests?”

Casey shakes his head and opens another beer, “I don’t even care.”

Amber’s phone vibrates. ‘1 Text Message.’ She flips open her phone, a series of unfamiliar numbers shine on the screen followed by a bubble of text: “I saw a piano with missing keys. I wrote a poem about it, how you’re my missing keys. You’re the only notes I want to hear. I’m such a cheeseball.”

Amber exhales, wonders how sincere Martin’s abrupt end to months of silence could be. Brian pulls at the beaded hemp necklace around her neck, “You’re a wannabe hippie,” he laughs. She smells something earthy on his worn jeans – manure and gasoline – and pats the top of his threaded boots. “You’re a wannabe cowboy,” she says. He laughs and sips his beer, setting a hand on her shoulder.

“Would you ever write a poem about me?” she asks.

“No,” Brian laughs.

“Good, that’s why I like you.”

To read previous chapters visit http://www.cherrylandchapters.com.