Eros – Carly Spade

My client sat across the desk, chatting away about something or other. The blinking purple notification light distracted me from giving her my full attention. It was either a text message or spam mail—the desire to know overshadowed Mae Stanford’s exclamation of finding true love. I illuminated the screen, scratching the back of my neck in an attempt to hide the fact that yes, I did check my phone during a client meeting. One text. From Dad. Not who I’d hoped yet feared it’d be. I threw the phone in my top drawer and interlaced my fingers on a stack of papers, committing my full and undivided attention to Mae. “I want to find my soulmate, Miss Stewart,” Mae said with glistening eyes. She was another hopeless romantic who believed in clandestine love. Every other week there’d be someone sitting in the same chair, declaring the same thing. “Mae, as much as I wish fairy tales were true, I built this business around compatibility. Love is a chemical reaction in the brain. My algorithm pairs you with men whom you’re the most likely to form a bond with for the rest of your life.” Clicking through several screens, I flipped my monitor to face her, revealing a pie chart and line graph.

Mae stared at the statistics in front of her. “The statistics don’t lie, I’m afraid. The blue here in this pie chart represents married couples still married as a result of the algorithm. The red shows those who didn’t follow through with the program, married, and then divorced.” I winced. Mae wasn’t paying attention to the screen. Her face focused on me with an expression bordering on pity. I clicked the pen several times, ready to continue explaining my algorithm until she leaned forward, casting an ominous shadow over my desk from the overhead light. “Do you really see love like that? Just numbers and colored shapes on a graph? You don’t believe your heart could lead you in the right direction itself?” Mae’s eyebrows rose, still staring at me. I jiggled the pen between two fingers. “Once upon a dream, maybe.” Mae sighed and sat back in her chair. “That’s a shame. I feel everyone should experience love at least once in their lifetime. Even if you don’t end up with the person for the rest of your life.

” I tapped my pen against the shiny Elani Stewart nameplate resting near my hand. “My system isn’t for everyone. I can understand why you might want to go elsewhere and would take zero offense.” A weak smile tugged at my lips. “I’ll give your algorithm a chance. If the stats don’t lie, as you say, there has to be something to it. And I’ve given up waiting for Mr. Right to waltz into the right bar at the right time.” Mae smoothed out the wrinkles of her pencil skirt as she stood. I pushed my rolling chair back with confidence, standing and jutting out my hand. “I promise you won’t be disappointed.” She shook my hand with a warm smile. “I look forward to your first round of suggestions.” “You’ll be happily engaged this time next year.” Mentally, I shrieked at myself for making such a declaration, hoping she hadn’t heard me.

Mae laughed as she exited my office. “I’m holding you to that, Miss Stewart.” Dammit. As soon she was gone, I rolled my eyes at myself and grabbed my phone from its drawer. Knowing it’d been Dad who texted me, I opened the screen without a care in the world. My throat dried. Another text. From Gary. The man I’d been seeing the past three months. For whatever reason, ninety days marked the hit or miss expiration with virtually every guy I dated. Not on my end—theirs. It was as if they had a secret club I didn’t know about and met on Thursday nights to talk about how they’d screw with me. Sweat collected at the base of my spine as I hit my thumb against the message. After taking a peek, I slumped my shoulders, seeing the words I dreaded most: I’m sorry, but this isn’t working. Not having the energy to formulate a neutral, “nice” response, I closed the window and switched to my dad’s text.

Dad: How’s my favorite daughter? I wasn’t his only daughter, and I’d confirmed with my sister Chelsea he always used the same line on her. The man could be so sweet it made my teeth ache. Smiling to myself, I texted him back and made my way to the hall. The neon “Eromantic” sign blazed from the main floor, casting a purple hue over the closest desks. Passing by row after row of employees feverishly working on keyboards and talking on phones, I shoved my dress jacket sleeves to my elbows, pausing in front of one desk in particular. Alexandra Chloros. My partner in crime and the only reason I’d been able to get this business off the ground. Her dark eyes peered at me over the rim of her coffee mug—the one I bought her last year for her birthday: WARNING. Contents do not stop this Drama Queen. “What have you been doing?” I tapped my fingernails against the metal of her cubicle wall. She sipped her coffee, purposely making it louder than necessary. “Just adding lines to my obituary.” “Could you get any more morbid, Alex?” Without flinching, she shrugged. “Either I write my own in the case of my untimely demise, or I’ll wind up with someone who barely knew me making up things like, ‘She could always put a smile on everyone’s face,’ or, ‘She could light up a room.’” I hung one thumb in the belt loop of my pleated pants.

“What about me? Don’t think I could write you a good one?” “We’d probably end up going out together.” She tapped her fingernail against the ceramic. “Thelma and Louise style, you know?” “Ha. The first wise thing I’ve heard you say all week. I’m certainly heading in that direction.” I slipped my phone from my pocket, scrunching my nose at Gary’s text. “Number thirteen.” Alex snatched the phone from my hand, glaring at the screen. “Alex.” I reached across the desk to snag it back. She rolled backward in the chair, thumb feverishly working the touch screen keypad and not setting her coffee down. “Alex, do not send whatever you’re typing.” My cheeks burned. It didn’t take much to make my skin turn crimson, thanks to my Scottish heritage. She puckered her lips as she handed the phone back.

“Oops. Should’ve mentioned that ten seconds ago.” My heartbeat thudded in my ears as I took the phone, holding it as if it would selfdestruct. “What did you type?” Alex tossed her bangs from her eyes. “What needed to be said. The guy’s been a tool since day one.” Sweet Lord in heaven. I bit the inside of my cheek. Gary: I’m sorry, but this isn’t working. Elani: I’m glad you said something first because my vagina was thinking the same thing. “Alex,” I shouted, leaning over her desk when several alarmed heads popped from their cubicles. “Yes, Lani?” “What am I supposed to say when he responds to this?” She rested her mug on the desk and grabbed a napkin, dabbing the corners of her mouth. “He won’t. Because I already blocked his number.” “You—” I glanced at my phone.

“How did you do that so fast?” She slow blinked. “This is the part where you say, ‘thank you.’” I inhaled deeply and stood straight, pulling the hem of my button-up shirt. “Thank you. I’m going to grab a snack. Would you like something?” “A donut,” she quickly answered. “And no rainbow sprinkles.” “Yes, yes. I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of your wrath when colors suddenly entered your life.” I half-smiled. Alex had exactly three colors in her wardrobe—black, grey, and brown. “I’ll be back in a bit. You good with holding down the fort?” I tapped the rhythm of the song Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar with my pen. “Aren’t I always?” I backpedaled and pointed at her. “One of the many reasons I like you.

” “Woah, now,” Alex shouted across the office as I got farther away. “Like is such a strong word, Stewart.” I snorted at her, waving her off before descending several flights of stairs to the door leading outside. The crisp Toronto air nipped my cheeks, the downtown scene in full swing. Runners pushed past me, a man in a trench coat yelled at someone on his cell phone from the parallel sidewalk, and a couple sipped from paper cups of steaming coffee on a bench, giving each other googly eyes. The CN Tower stood tall and proud over the rest of the buildings in the cloudless blue sky. I pushed through the door of Cupid’s Corner, my favorite coffee and pastry shop in all of eastern Canada. They had the best vanilla lattes—rich, creamy, and just the right amount of froth. Their apple fritters were also incredible, but I tried to eat them sparingly as I was sure every bite went straight to my hips. Inside looked like any other coffee shop —small tables bordering the surrounding windows and lounge chairs in the center. What made this place stand out was the décor. Hearts of every size and color were everywhere —the chairs’ fabric, artwork on the walls. Even their cups had a red heart where they’d write your name. It was as if every day was Valentine’s Day. As someone in the “love” business, it’d spoken to me the moment I walked past it a year and ten days ago.

Securing my hair over my ears, I bent forward, beaming at the array of baked goods on the other side of the glass. I eyed a chocolate donut with chocolate sprinkles and smiled wickedly. “You ready to order, miss?” The young barista with orange-colored hair smiled at me from the cash register. The overhead lights glinted off his braces. I spied his nametag. Liam. A heart replaced the dot in the “I.” “Yeah. I’ll have a small vanilla latte, an apple fritter, and a chocolate sprinkle donut.” My stomach did a happy dance, already thinking about the fritter. Perhaps the calories would decide to detour to my butt instead this time. He flipped a paper cup into his hand and grabbed a marker. “Sure thing. Name?” “Elani.” He stared at me, unblinking, pleading for a lifeline.

“Spell it however you like. Get creative.” He smiled and nodded his head, scribbling over the heart on my cup. Once he told me my total, I slid my card into the reader, waiting for the obnoxious sound to remove it. “Dude, did you check out the Highlander show yet?” The other young guy with a buzzcut, making my coffee, asked Liam. “Nah, not yet. I’m psyched to check it out, though. An immortal Scottish guy with a sword? Can’t get much cooler than that.”


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Updated: 18 September 2021 — 01:18

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