Violet Ugly(The Granite Harbor Series Book 2)(2)

By: J. Lynn Bailey






One





Merit


Monterey, California


July 2019


Present Day


“You’re late.”

Abbey’s feet against the cement floor are at a quick pace. She throws her bag on the chair and runs to our clock-in machine. A machine that Eddie, our boss, still insists we need. A machine from circa 1960. A machine, he claims, that is still valid and relevant even though Abbey has somehow enabled it to work to her advantage, so every morning she runs in late, it inaccurately reflects her arrival as on time.

She pops her gum in her mouth, grinning from ear to ear. She clocks in at 9 a.m. even though it’s clearly 9:37 a.m. The collar of Abbey’s lab coat is coiled, twisted, as if her attire is an afterthought, pulled out of the bottom of her drawer, even though our lab coats are a requirement for the job, per Edith in Human Resources. Eddie doesn’t give a shit.

Pencil in hand, writing up lab notes from yesterday’s observations from Lucy’s and Ethel’s eating patterns—two of our resident river otters here at Monterey Bay Aquarium, I watch as Abbey pours herself a cup of coffee, grabs a doughnut, and sits in the chair next to mine.

“What?” she asks with a mouthful of doughnut after placing her gum behind her ear.

Abbey got me the job at the aquarium. Fresh out of graduate school with motivation to do well in this world, we both left our pasts behind. She’s also been my roommate for the last eight years. And, if I were to give her a classification in the friend arena, I’d say she’s a close second to Eli, my younger brother by a year and a half. But Abbey and me, we couldn’t be more opposite.

She’s late.

I’m always fifteen minutes early.

She’s messy.

I’m neat.

She’s a night owl.

I’m an early bird.

Raised Mormon with a secret penchant for one-night stands, Abbey is uniquely her own character.

Raised without religion, I haven’t had sex in … well, I’d rather not go there. Let’s just say, I’m a thirty-something single woman still weighing my options.

“So, did you call him back?” She licks her fingers.

“Who?”

Abbey pulls her chair forward, so she can see the face of my phone that sits on my desk. “Ryan Taylor. See where it says Missed Call?”

Abbey O’Brien is a smart ass.

“No.” I flip the phone over, so I can’t see the missed call.

“Come on, Young, you never talk about this guy. You never have. But I see he calls you every now and then. I’ve read through the texts he’s sent you.”

I look back to face Abbey. “You have not.”

She shrugs. “No. No, I haven’t. That would be an invasion of your privacy, and I would never do that.”

“Liar.”

“It was only twice, Mer. He seems like a nice guy. He seems like he’s really into you.”

I laugh. “You don’t know Ryan Taylor, Abbs.”

Abbey’s phone starts to ring. She leans back in her chair, grabs her bag, and pulls out her phone. “Oh, for Pete’s sake. It’s Andrew. From four nights ago.” She rolls her eyes.

“Toe fetish guy?”

“That’s the one.” She hits Ignore.

“You never give out your number.”

“Hey, if you’d had three Long Islands and he whispered the lyrics of Color Me Badd’s ‘I Wanna Sex You Up,’ you’d have given him your number, too.”

“I highly doubt that. Wait, can we just go back to that for a second?”

“Morning, ladies.” Eddie’s lifestyle, an old surfer from Santa Barbara, slowly drags the sentence out. His smooth steps make it look as though he’s floating around the aquarium, like the fish we keep. The swoosh of his board shorts is the only indicator that he’s actually walking. “Glad to see you’re on time, O’Brien.” His tan, a collection of years spent waiting for the perfect wave, is resilient, waterproof even. His silvery-white hair is still thick and full.

Abbey looks at me as Eddie saunters to the copier. She leans in and whispers, “So, does he know I’m always late and that I’ve fixed our clock-in machine?”

“No idea. But I think I know how to fix the situation,” I whisper back.