Chasing Vivi

By: A.M. Hargrove

Chapter 1





Vivienne





Even though it’s only October, the frigid New York air razors straight through my coat, chilling me down to the marrow. No matter how many layers I add, it never keeps the wind and dampness at bay. I’m already sick of this weather and winter hasn’t even hit yet. Why the hell did I decide to make a new life here? Why not Texas or South Carolina? Or anywhere with year-round warmth? I walk the rest of the way to work, huddled deep into my coat.

And speaking of work, my job sucks. My boss is a deceitful bastard. When I interviewed for the position, he made it sound as though I’d be in charge of IT and the business was on the cusp of exploding. I foolishly believed him. My lack of research into Java Beans & More, which is nothing more than a glorified coffee house, should’ve had me tying up my running shoes and hightailing it out faster than a space shuttle at launch, but every ounce of energy had evaporated from me after Mom’s death. Cleaning out the house, putting it up for sale, and taking that huge loss, had zapped me. That and the mountain of debt I was currently facing, which was why I snapped up this job, thinking it was a great opportunity.

Breaking away from Virginia, getting a fresh start, and making a new name for myself initially had me pretty damn excited about moving to the Big Apple. It hadn’t mattered then that I’d be living in a space not much larger than a closet, cooking on a portable countertop burner and microwave, and using a space heater to keep warm, because my fucking landlord would turn out to be a crook. I also hadn’t cared much that there were sketchy people hanging out in the building and on the stairways at all times of day and night, making drug deals or prostituting themselves. Okay, maybe I did care a little. Make that a lot. But I’d hurry past them, telling myself it was fine. Thankfully, they didn’t bother me much after I made it plain I wanted nothing to do with them. Now, I wanted to beat myself over the head. I should’ve been more diligent when the offer came through, instead of leaping at it like a yapping puppy in search of attention.

The bell rings as I push the door open. Vince’s cheerful greeting has me waving back, even though I’m still shivering and hunkered down in my jacket.

“You in there, Vivi?” I hear him laughing from behind the counter.

“Y-yeah.” My teeth chatter from the cold.

“You need a warmer coat. Like one of those Canada goose coats.”

“Ha-ha, aren’t y-you th-the f-funny one? Th-they o-only c-cost a w-week’s s-salary.”

“Not quite, but close. Maybe you need some fat on your bones. That’d warm you up.”

If only he knew. I’d spent most of my life trying to get rid of extra fat. Of expunging those nasty ViviVoom comments in my head from Crestview Academy. Girls are so fucking mean. No wonder it was always difficult for me to develop deep friendships. Trust didn’t come easy because of what I’d been through. Being called “ViviVoom” for six years of my life was the least of it.

“Nah, I just need thicker blood,” I call out to Vince.

Rubbing my hands together, I hug myself for a few minutes, trying to warm up. Then I unwrap the scarf from around my neck and face, but refuse to take my coat off. “Was the early morning busy?”

Vince, who is tall and lean with sandy brown hair and hazel eyes, glances at the coffee cup clock on the wall. “Uh-huh. We’re in the lull now. But it’ll perk back up in about ten minutes or so.”

“Good. I’ll get to work then.”

I’m upgrading the software in all eight shops and integrating everything into one system. Whoever originally set them up was an idiot. Each shop had its own package and nothing synced. It was a nightmare. I designed a new program for the company and am now in the implementation stage. I get seated at the other computer stationed at the counter.

This is a far cry from my days in the Silicon Valley when I worked my dream job. And this was supposed to be its replacement. What a joke. Then I think about Mom and how I spent her final years taking care of her. Yeah, I gave up my career, but I wouldn’t have traded that time with her for anything in the world. When her diagnosis of ALS came, it mowed me down like a tank, exactly like Dad’s death in the car accident did when I was twelve. After she died, I sold everything and decided to start over. Make a clean slate. That’s how I ended up in New York. I’m still facing a mountain of debt, and this job was supposed to be a stepping stone to get rid of it, but I can see now it’s not working out that way.

“How do you like working for Joe?” Vince asks out of the blue, breaking the silence.

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