EXPOSURE TEASER, or a very small peek into P.O.’s head while the scene above is taking place in APPREHENSION. Enjoy! 

P.O.

I check out the terrace through the bay windows, looking for someone on a hot date with a computer. There is a god after all. I locate her four tables down in a straight line from ours, her back to us, facing the linear park her small bistro table overlooks. She wears an oversize black woolen hat pulled low over her ears and a glacier-blue fleece scarf wrapped a few times around her neck, but the long strands of hair escaping from underneath are definitely strawberry-blonde.

And already, I breathe easier.

I open our regular private chat window.

I’m not out of nowhere. I’m from somewhere. Besides, I don’t drop, I follow. Big difference.

Clément hands over my alibi and I step out, cup in one hand, phone in the other, hard pressed not to detour and stare at her, face to face.

Better the back of her head than nothing at all, I suppose…

“Would one of you mind switching places?” I ask Magali and Zac, sitting side by side. That is, if we can call arms and other body parts all over each other, sitting.

I almost feel sorry. Almost. But not quite. Desperation will do that to me.

Zac raises a brow in disbelief. “Why?”

Bloody hell. Why, indeed. I’d scratch my jaw but my hands are full.

“I’d like to face forward and drink in the view… You know, before I’m cooped up in a flying can of sardine hurtling through the sky at three hundred fifty kilometers per hour.” Brilliant, convincing, and truthful, if I do say so myself.

“This should be interesting,” Leo mutters into his mug, and Yann’s green eyes widen behind his lenses.

“Never bothered you before,” Zac argues, unmoving.

“Sure,” Magali says, talking over him while trying to wiggle out from under his arm, but Zac keeps her firmly by his side, effectively putting a stop to her efforts.

“You’re not going anywhere,” he says to her. “Don’t mind him. It’s just his caffeine withdrawal symptoms talking. Besides, his eyes are always glued to a screen anyway, so he can’t possibly miss any view.”

Well, shit. He has a point. My eyes beseech Magali in a last ditch effort.

“But look at those sad puppy eyes,” Magali says to him quite convincingly, I might add, her head darting between the two of us. I knew she’d bite. She’s my new favorite person.

Zac shoots me a glare all Theo-like over Magali’s head for plucking a sad-puppy-eyed concerto on her soft-hearted strings. Ask me if I care, I’m ready to beg if I have to.

Leo puffs out his cheeks in exasperation. “He’s been a pain in the arse all morning.” He rolls his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest. “Want mine?” he asks me pointedly from his perch at one end of the two little round bistro tables tucked together. Sandwiched as Leo is, in between three tables full, I won’t see a thing.

“Nope. Same difference.” I slide my tiny cup of dark ambrosia on the table, and tip my chin toward Zac. “So?”

“Here,” Yann offers them, getting up with alacrity before Zac can open his mouth and tell me to shove it where the sun never shines. “Take both our seats. Problem solved.”

Magali beams a smile, pulling Zac up by the hand. “See? Everyone happy,” she says to him and he follows without a single complaint, shaking his head at her before dropping a kiss on her temple.

I fist bump Yann before plopping down on the bistro chair vacated by Zac. “Thanks, man.”

Yann snorts, pushing his tortoise-shell glasses up his nose. “No need. I should be the one thanking Zac.”

“If I didn’t mention today that you guys are weird, consider it done,” Magali deadpans.

“And I owe you two a solid,” Yann salutes them with his cup. “I’d have been stuck on a regional flight from hell with his bloody grouchy-arse, otherwise…”

“Nothing caffeine can’t cure.” Leo practically shoves my cup up under my nose. “Come on, man. Do us a solid and be done with it.”

“Appreciate your concern.” I salute them before swallowing my first sip, smacking my lips to an all-male chorus of relieved sighs. Go figure. But then again, my addiction has been such a catch-all excuse, you won’t see me complaining.

I stretch my legs out diagonal to the table, sighing contentedly, the view so much better from where I sit. Now if only Zac could move his newly appointed seat six inches or so to the left, it’d be a perfect one. As he’s whispering something in Magali’s ear with a wolfish grin tacked on his face, I wisely decide not to push the issue.

I crane my neck to the side instead, and take a discreet peek at Aurèle over the heads of the coffee drinking crowd standing between us. Hunched over Harry, she’s totally focused on her screen, as usual, unaware of her surroundings. And to be perfectly honest, I love that, for now, I’m the only one seemingly having an in with her… I pick up my phone, a slow grin crawling up my face as I read her latest comment.

Cyber stalking is more your thing, then? Got it. =) To what to I owe your follow this late, today? I’ve been here for ages. Bad day at the lab?

Nope. Not in the lab today. A lazy Sunday is to blame.

“With a little help from my friends,” I mumble under my breath, totally ignoring Zac pointing out to Magali that, as predicted, I don’t give a shit about the view.

Wonders never cease. =) If not holed up in your lab, what are you up to on this lazy Sunday? Writing a letter and surfing the net (like someone else you follow)?

Writing a letter… It explains her lateness in booting up Harry, my only direct link to her, but not the electrifying flood of warmth those three little words of hers light up in me. I dial down my hundred megawatt grin with great effort.

Nope. Just chilling on a café’s terrace with some of my mates.

Cool! With a side order of (much too) early frost in the air, I’m chilling myself (quite literally) on a café’s terrace. But like any good (eccentric) natives, loving it. We’re either born with penguin genes or we have a thing for popsicles. Fatal attraction. =D How’s the weather in Boston?

I … have … abso-fucking-lutely no idea. Christ. That really makes me wish to be over there already, if only to stop fudging around the truth at the drop of a dime, giving me less rope to hang myself with. Not taking any chances, I open a browser to go check on the weather channel but it takes forever, the café’s internet slower than slow right fucking now. My phone, unfortunately, doesn’t pack Lucie’s giga power. I curse under my breath as I stare at my frozen screen, my palms growing sweaty. I should be typing a fluid reply to this innocuous question,  like I’d normally do … if I were in Boston. I look up from my phone, fretting a new one.

“Hey, Yann? What’s the temp in Boston right now?” I ask him with some urgency, talking over their convo about Porter Airline and the fifteen-passenger regional jets used for our direct flight, which happens to be the maximum-sized planes Mont-Tremblant Airport can accommodate.

“Overcast and a balmy twenty-two degrees Celsius, or seventy-one point six degrees Fahrenheit, with a fifteen percent probability of precipitation upon time of landing.”

I knew I could trust him to know. “Thanks, man. I owe you,” I say with heartfelt relief, my thumbs already flying over the keys.

“Since when does he need reassuring?” Zac says but I don’t look up, too busy typing my reply.

“Since you’re not flying us back,” Yann deadpans.

With that one, Yann singlehandedly launches a discussion they all get engrossed into without requiring any input from me. I owe him another one. At this rate, I’ll owe him a kidney by the time we land.

Zac pilots his own twin-engine Piper Comanche, which is a pretty damn cool six-seater plane, and he used to fly us all over. But now, he’s more often than not talking house plans and home decor, both feet firmly on the ground. In between Liam and Zac, of all people, domesticated to the hilt, and Leo who’s halfway there with his farmstead, it’s a wonder Theo, Yann and I are not in a perpetual state of shock.

I keep hitting ‘escape,’ but I’m still here, frozen. =O Twenty-two Celsius, Olivier?!! Not following (unlike someone we won’t mention ;-)). They’ve let you out of the lab on such a gorgeous day to boot!!!!!! Program not responding… Get out from behind your screen this instant and get back to your other friends. And whatever is your sujet de l’heure under discussion. Enjoy the tropics for me! Ctrl-Alt-Del. @ bientôt.

Ctrl-Alt-Del? Shit. With her program not responding comment, using that chain of command means she’s forcing the program to close up, or in other words, she’s signing off… I type as fast as I can in case she disconnects completely, knowing I can’t really tell her we—meaning they—were discussing the merits of Porter Airline direct flights into Boston from Tremblant in under an hour right now as opposed to Zac’s much smaller plane, taking longer. But at least, I can share ‘live’ what was discussed not two minutes ago. Or the two minutes prior to those, and the two others before that… Hoping to reel her back in.

Don’t go yet (please!). Truth? I’d rather chat with you. Believe it or not, I’m suffering from TMI syndrome right this minute. Thanks to three of my mates, you can now ask me anything about woodscrews versus nails. Even things you never knew you wanted to know…

(lol) One too many screws loose between you? What happened to them?

Ha! (You nailed it, but that’s between us). One is living in a disaster waiting to happen, holding up with duct tape. One is building deep into the woods halfway through a two-year project using a wheelbarrow and a shovel, and the other is building as fast as he can get away with.

Building a home…

My mind goes a mile a minute in a quantum leap to next summer. And woodscrews and nails no longer sound as boring as I wrote, all of the sudden. I sigh longingly, looking at the tip of Aurèle’s cute-hat-covered head over Zac’s shoulder. Sign me up on the Domesticated List, please. I sigh once more, deflating a bit. For now, I’ll have to be content to stay put on the Waiting List.

“See anything of interest?” Zac asks me drily.

I jerk back, wrenching my attention from Aurèle. “Nope.” I’m quick to deny, straightening from my slump. “I just thought someone looked familiar, that’s all.” A rush of heat spreads like wild fire on my cheeks that the wind chaffing at my skin has nothing to do with. More’s the pity.

Leo and Zac share a knowing look.

Oh, joy. Here it comes.

I fiddle with my cup, and brace myself for a merciless ribbing that might even alert Aurèle. The guys can be kind of loud when it suits them. I should know. I’m one of them… Not to say, they’re not above walking up to her table to invite her over on my behalf, charmingly insistent. It’s been seen before. Which is kind of ironic, really. Here I sit, probably busted at the very last hour before I’m out of here.

Awesome.

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