Bishop: A True Love Story
“You all straight, dude?” The kid intercepted him when he was walking towards the checkout. Bishop was feeling elated with his new audiobooks, his own books. Now all he had to do was keep making strides to better his life.
“Actually. I am looking for one more thing.”
“Sure. Come on over here.” The young man swerved through the maze of tables and counters until he got to a customer service station in the center of the store. He pecked some keys on the keyboard and brought the monitor to life then asked Bishop what title he needed.
“I don’t have a title. What section is the… learn-how-to-read books?” Bishop had lowered his voice on the last part of his question, even though there was no one else at the counter.
“For what grade?” The guy asked.
Bishop grimaced. Dammit. His mind was already screaming for him to run, abort. Bishop felt someone approach on his right side waiting for service, gaping right at them. Was there no privacy with counter transactions anymore? Or did he just feel as if everybody was watching him.
“For elementary school?”
Bishop’s throat suddenly felt as if he had a block lodged in it. How’d he not think of this first? He couldn’t start with anything too heavy. It also didn’t help that he was now close to the children’s section of the store, and the sight of babies who looked no older than five or six were sitting at little tables and flipping through their books. Yeah, he needed to leave now. “I um. Thanks. I’m just gonna take these.”
The kid’s eyes widened then lowered as if he’d realized what Bishop was saying. First the audiobooks, now he was asking for a book on how-to-read. The guy wasn’t dumb. Then right on cue came the pitiful, I-feel-so-sorry-for-you expression.
“Good night,” Bishop murmured and turned to leave.
“Over there under the hanging unicorn in the far corner is something you might be looking for.”
Bishop followed the guy’s gaze and retreated to the, thankfully deserted, section of the store. He checked out the books on the shelves under the glittery stuffed animal and immediately felt like melting into the floor. And just that fast, his elated mood collapsed to his dirty boots. Most of the books had colorful pictures of smiling children on them, holding up books in victory. There were also flash cards and lesson books. All of them appearing to be for grade school. Bishop cursed under his breath then hurried and grabbed the one that said easy and had the number one in the top left corner, assuming it was a beginning level. He almost changed his mind again when he got to the front of the store and saw the line had backed up and there were only two cashiers working the registers. All these people in here on a Friday night and they’re not better staffed than this?
Bishop had his first-level lesson book tucked under his arm and the audiobooks in his hand while he slowly spun a carousel of bookmarks to avoid eye contact or idle chatter in the line. The sudden blare of a high-speed blender made him glance in the direction of the busy Starbucks. Bishop’s tongue caught in his throat when his eyes landed on the overly helpful man who’d approached him when he’d been surveying the Town Center property. Light eyes that brightened even more when he saw him. Shit. Bishop hoped like hell he wasn’t going to come over and try to… fuck.
Bishop panicked when the guy threw a finger up in his direction and stood from his round table, hurrying to gather his books and drink. He’d been sitting with someone, but he didn’t even bother to acknowledge his friend before he left him and came towards the front of the store.
No, no, no. Bishop hurried and untucked the workbook from his armpit and slid it underneath a stack of calendars on the table beside him. His hands almost shook as he made sure no parts of the elementary school book could be seen. Bishop looked up just in time to see Mr. Helpful entering at the opening of the line, making his way towards him with a surprised but slightly nervous expression playing over his face.
Bishop tried not to study him, but it was hard. The guy had a certain interesting quality to him. He was younger than him for sure, because his face was as smooth as silk, but he didn’t talk like it. He also didn’t dress like it. He had on slacks that fit his thick legs well and Bishop liked how they hugged him in all the right places. He had a slight pudge pushing against his nice leather belt and his chest was full, not broad and not ridged with definition either; but Bishop found he liked the way the whole package was put together.
“Hello,” the guy said in a pleasant tone, the word leaving those smiling lips on a winded breath.
Bishop nodded his head once then croaked, “Hey.”
“I’m um. I’m Edison. Do… do you remember me from the other night? I work at the—”
“I remember,” Bishop said, not meaning to cut him off, but he was nervous and pissed he’d almost got busted. Not only was Edison quite attractive up close and in all this bold lighting, but by-god he brought an amazing scent along with him. Clean, cool and inviting.
“Oh. Yeah, of course.” Edison laughed. He rubbed his hand down his sharp, black tie then glanced around as if he was searching for more words.
Bishop didn’t come to his rescue either. Instead, he continued to study Edison, not sure why he was so wound up around him. He was sure he was nothing but a laborer to this guy. However, he needed to play nice, he couldn’t jeopardize his job for anything. Bishop thought he’d done a good job on appearing less intimidating and not so ‘scowly’—as Mike had put it—however, Edison still wouldn’t meet and hold his eyes for long. When Bishop was able to remove his gaze from Edison’s soft-looking skin and full lips, he noticed he had two thick paperbacks braced in the crook of one arm.
Edison glanced down at his own selection then over at what Bishop had his hand. His face broke into a megawatt smile that almost blinded him. “Audiobooks. Nice. I love those, I have at least—”
“Man. Not cool, Edison,” A guy said rudely, talking over Edison’s calm voice. He’d come from out of nowhere. Or maybe Bishop just hadn’t bothered to notice anyone else. The guy Edison had been sitting with in the café was standing behind him practically frowning at the back of his skull. “You could’ve waited. I said I was wrapping up an email.”
Bishop watched Edison take a deep breath before bothering to turn and acknowledge his friend. “Wait for what, Skylar?”
“It’s just Sky. I told you that a million times. I know you hate nicknames, but mine makes me sound sexy.” Skylar smirked.
“And as your boss that’s the opposite of what I’m going for… I told you that a million times.”
“Look. I’m not interested in standing in this line. Pay for these for me,” the man had the audacity to request.
Bishop didn’t know what to make of this arrogant prick. He stood there perplexed that they even made guys like this anymore—whiny, self-important and vain. As if he was a wannabe copy of one of the men in the GQ magazine he was holding.
“I think you can manage that yourself,” Edison said coolly, then turned back to Bishop. “So, anyway. I was mentioning my love for audiobooks too. I have so many I had to buy a separate bookcase just for those.”
Prick must not have noticed that Edison was interested in something else besides him, because the second he did, he tucked his phone into his designer jeans pocket and folded his arms over his chest to observe. Bishop didn’t like the irritated expression he bored into Edison’s head or the repulsed look he gave him.
“I really like this place. Barnes & Noble, I mean. Not Starbucks. It’s really amazing and I could probably sit in here all night. So do… do you come here often?” Edison seemed to grimace at his cliché line and the awkwardness of the delivery, then tried to recover by smiling. “Not like… that. I mean to read… like on a Friday night?”
“Smooth,” Edison’s friend crooned before releasing a hushed round of giggles.
Bishop felt his frown had dug firmly back into place. His forehead felt warm and his left temple pulsed as his impatience crested.
Edison seemed to bristle at his friend’s comment, but didn’t bother to acknowledge him. Instead he pointed at Bishop’s CDs. “For a while I was on a straight audio kick, but it wasn’t long before I went back to hardcopies and my Kindle.”
Bishop nodded, wishing he had more to say but he didn’t. He literally had nothing to add because he wasn’t entirely sure what Edison was talking about. He watched him nibble on his bottom lip, his skin pinking slightly around his jaw. “They’re nice to listen to when I cook.”
“Which is all the time,” the prick muttered behind his fist then looked off in another direction as if someone else had said it.
“Skylar. Can you…?” Edison huffed and turned towards the taller man. “Just give me your magazine, I’ll pay for it.”
Bishop could only imagine the glower he was wearing. He wanted to call this guy out so badly, but he knew better. It wasn’t his place. And this store certainly wasn’t the place. Bishop was far from his world. Though his and Mike’s trailer in Norfolk was only twenty minutes away from Virginia Beach by Interstate 264, it might as well have been twenty days away. Hampton Roads was a big, rich community, but unfortunately he lived in the poorest parts.
“Oh no, that’s quite all right, Edison. I think I’ll stay and watch this.” Skylar laughed again, and Bishop thought it sounded like a witch’s cackle.