It was after six pm when Dan stored his bike in the side garage. The Mazda was gone so he knew that Sanjay wasn’t home. He couldn’t recall if Sanjay had said he was working that night or not. After the unusually busy day he’d had Dan was okay with a quiet night on his own at home.
One side door in the garage led directly to a short flight of stairs into kitchen, the other side door opened onto the backyard patio.
“I’m home!” Dan called out as he put his shoulder bag on the kitchen table.
There was no answer. The TV was on in the living-room. He turned it off. A timer would have turned it off at 7:30 and then again at 8:30 if there was no one home. There was a message by the remote.
“Forgot I had a night shift at Pa’Pappa’s. I’ll be home at the usual time. Sanj.”
Pa’Pappa’s was one of the restaurants Sanjay worked for. The other was Zephyr. Both owned by Sylvan Papoulias. Zephyr was the fine dining establishment that regularly made the Michelin’s list of top North American dining experiences.
Pa’Pappa’s was at the family-oriented end of the spectrum. The difference, according to Sanjay, was in price and paper quality for the menus. Desserts for the family spot would be served at the the other but instead of grated dark chocolate they’d have shaved white chocolate. Both paid him the same but at Zephyr’s he got his name on the dessert menu there.
Dan went to the fridge and took out the remains of the pizza they had ordered on the weekend. A squirt of hot sauce and thirty seconds in the microwave and it was ready to eat.
He took it out to the back patio and ate while watching the sun setting. The various solar lights began to glow as it got darker.
This was a good life.
He was washing the plate he had used for the pizza when his cell rang.
“Good news Dan.” It was Cyrtys. “I just spoke to the big wigs and they are truly excited by your proposal.”
“Why yes, to do a special on this missing children from an almost-abductee’s point of view. You’ll have to tell them how you evaded his grasp and all that. It’ll be so dramatic.”
“I was not almost abducted.” Or was I? Maybe that’s what my mother was holding back. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember that week. What do they call it – post traumatic shock?
“I don’t mean literally. Can we take a meeting tomorrow. We have so much to discuss. So much.”
“I’ll have to check my schedule. I do have a business to run.”
“But Daniel this is your business, isn’t it. Seeing what others don’t see in a simple set of photographs.”
Dan woke in the morning with the naked Sanjay spooning him. He reluctantly disengaged himself careful so as not to wake his lover. Sanjay smelled of vanilla and chocolate. Dan sat at the edge of the bed. Did he want to start something this early in the day? If he didn’t there might not be another opportunity.
He scratched his balls, head and then stretched his arms to work out the sleep kinks. Bladder pressure pulled him off the bed and to the toilet. As he was relieving himself he heard music in the bedroom. That meant Sanjay was awake and had turned on his mp3 player.
The music was a gentle sitar with tabula and distant vocalizing. Soothing for morning.
Dan rinsed his mouth with water and went back to the bedroom. Sanjay was on the floor doing yoga. Dan sat on the floor and began copying what Sanjay was doing. He knew the routine of movements and closed this eyes to flow more consciously into his subconscious. As the exercises moved to a finish the music built up in speed and complexity. Then there was silence.
He opened his eyes and leaned back on his elbows watching Sanjay’s hair stomach as his breathing became more regular. Dan was never able to slow his down as well or as much as Sanjay did.
Over breakfast he was telling Sanjay about the ‘offer’, as he called with with air quotation marks, from Quintex, when his phone rang. He unplugged it from the charger to answer.
“Linda.” Call display told him who was calling.
“Daniel we have to talk.”
“You mean you talk and I listen.” He replied holding the receiver away from his ear.
“I’m not in the mood for your wise cracks this early in the day.” Her voice seemed to echo off the kitchen ceiling. “I’ll expect you at the FairVista store by ten.”
He brought the phone to talking distance. “Not unless I teleport. I’ll be there when I get there. Eleven at the earliest.”
“Get your houseboy to drop you off.”
Dan rolled his eyes to Sanjay’s frown. “She’ll never forgive you, will she.”
“I can hear you.” His sister said.
“Well, Sanjay can hear you, too. Trying using your inside voice. Oh I forgot, you don’t have one.”
Linda had never learned to modulate, as his mother called not shouting. Even quiet conversations ramped up to her shouting. He often wondered if she has some sort of hearing problem but the one time he had suggested she get her hearing checked she went even more ballistic than usual.
“I’ll be expecting you.”
The line went dead.
“Fuck, you’d think she’d learn to say hello and goodbye.” Dan shook his head.
“Family is like that. I don’t think my mother ever asked me how I was doing before she launched into how my sisters were doing.”
“I’d better get going if I expect to be at the big shop by eleven.” Even if he caught the right transit connections travel time was nearly forty minutes. A trip he would make no more than twice a week. Despite her brusqueness his sister did run the business well. She enjoyed the interaction with customers much more than he did.
“Not going to bike out there?” Sanjay asked.
“No thanks. The war on cyclists is as bad the city’s supposed war on cars.”
The door bell rang.
“Who could it be at this time of the morning?” Sanjay asked as he went to answer it.
“Is my brother decent?”
“Good morning to you too, Linda.” Sanjay said as she brushed past him.
“I was outside already Daniel. I knew you’d dawdle.”
She took a mug out of the sink, rinsed it and poured herself a cup of coffee.
“I don’t suppose you don’t have real cream in here do you?” She pulled the fridge open. “I guess this’ll do. Not two percent I hope.” She took two swallows. “Not half-bad. You ready yet. I don’t have all day.”
Daniel put his loafers on, checked his shoulder bag to make sure he had the photos he’d printed off the TV of all the missing children. As expected the quality wasn’t great but would do for now. He followed her out to the car.
“New?” He ran his hand along the hood.
“Don’t give me that look.” she opened her door. “Yearly lease means I can upgrade the Lexus every year. Why own anyway? You should try it. Tax deductible.”
He got in. “Bike styles don’t change that rapidly.”
“Tell me about it.”
She turned at the end of the street and headed to the Expressway.
“What is going on Linda?”
“Those pricks at FairVista say we aren’t making a large enough profit for them. Look, you know we are breaking even at least. It takes a few years for a business to really get established. I’ve explained all that to them. Even their accountants say we have a sound business plan but to them sound means bigger profits.”
“Uh huh. Tell me something you haven’t told me before. I warned you that the profit clause might bite us in the ass one day.”
“Who expected it to bite us so soon. That’s what I’m saying. But I have an opportunity that may increase profits for a minimal outlay.”
“Linda we’ve spent enough getting the new shop set up. I’ve already split off the best selling stuff to you. Or is this another attempting to pressure me into setting up shop with you?”
“No, nothing like that little brother. The people from Cuppa’s has approached me.”
“What? You want to start a coffee shop somewhere?”
“In the store. It’ll be like Starbucks and Indigo. Timmie’s and Shoppers.”
“How much of an outlay?”
“For the two locations a couple of hundred grand.” she said quickly.
“FairVista and Queen.”
“What about the Classic?”
“That lease is coming up soon. Daddy always said follow the money. Cuppa’s is the money.”
“Classic is doing fine. Better than ever in fact with the new condo complex.”
“Why do you always fight me Daniel?”
“I didn’t fight you on the new shop did I?”
“I’d call refusing to move all the business to it, putting up a fight.”
“If I remember correctly you thought having too locations would reflect what a success the business was. The big expansion. Right? Once FairVista was established then there’d be franchise opportunities to sell.”
“Daddy said you have to dream big to get big. Besides Peggy thinks it’s a great idea. She’s already signed the agreement.”
She pulled into the mall lot and parked behind the shop.
“Mom would sign anything you asked.” Dan wanted to get angry but he admired the way his sister often went ahead and did the ground work. “But …”
“I know you have the final say. If Daddy knew …” she trailed off.
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