Yours Forever – K. T. Quinn

I straightened the banner in front of my table at the Columbus Small Business Expo and frowned. “Does this look crooked to you?” Lizzy, my best friend, glanced over. “It looks fine to me.” “I think it’s crooked. Nobody will invest in my company if I can’t even set my table up properly!” Lizzy came around from her table and put her arm around me. “Erica, sweetie? Listen to me. You need to relax. The sign looks perfect, and you have a great corner table right next to the main aisle. And all of that is secondary to the fact that you have a great business pitch.” “You said that about my last two ideas,” I pointed out, “neither of which attracted any investors. I really need this one to pan out.” This was my third year at the Columbus Small Business Expo, and the first two visits were spectacular failures. Renting a table at the expo was far from cheap, and I had emptied my checking account to get this table for my newest business venture. I didn’t know what I was going to do if I didn’t find any interested investors. “Yours looks so much better than mine,” I said to Lizzy, gesturing at her table full of CBDinfused beauty products.


“Should I have gotten a backdrop banner too? I don’t think the one draped in front of the table is enough…” “What’s enough is this insecurity.” Lizzy took me by the shoulders firmly. If she had been born five centuries earlier, she surely would have been a no-nonsense tavern keeper, dispensing blunt opinions and smacking unruly guests on the side of the head. “Investors want to see confidence, Erica. Stop moping about the table! Stand up straight! Act like the bad-ass business girl I know you are!” Her pep-talk succeeded in lifting my spirits a smidge. “Thanks, Lizzy.” “What are best friends for?” “Excuse me?” a man said over my shoulder. “Is that CBD shampoo?” A potential investor, I thought when I saw him. They must have opened the doors to the expo. Lizzy’s face brightened. “Yes it is! We have a full range of CBD-infused products…” She trailed off and glanced at me. “But my table doesn’t open for another five minutes. Why don’t you check out the other neighboring tables in the meantime?” She elbowed me painfully in the ribs. “Right! Yes!” I scurried back behind my table and cleared my throat. “My business venture is called Yours Forever Gemstones.

We have partnered with a local laboratory to distribute custom- made gemstones directly to customers.” The man, who wore sweatpants and a stained T-shirt, frowned. “What makes these gems special?” “I’m glad you asked!” I handed him a flier from a stack on my table. “Normal lab-created gems, like diamonds, are basically pure carbon. What makes a Yours Forever gemstone special is that the carbon comes from a loved one!” I dramatically plucked a strand of blonde hair from my head. “Simply send in a sample of your hair, or your wife’s hair–” “I’m not married,” the man interrupted. “Wife, or mother, or any loved one,” I quickly added. “The laboratory will make a custom gemstone using carbon atoms from the hair. It will be like wearing your wife—or other loved one— on your finger forever!” The man scanned the flier I had given him and tossed it back on the table. “Not interested in gems. Let me know when the CBD table is open.” I sighed as he walked away. “That was terrible.” “You did fine!” Lizzy insisted. “That was a good warm-up for the better investors.

You know it’s a numbers game. A thousand rejections don’t matter as long as they lead to one person who likes your idea.” “I’m not going to have any hair left after a thousand rejections,” I muttered. People started trickling into the big convention center. I put the discarded flier back onto the stack and smiled brightly at everyone who passed. She’s right. One good pitch is worth all of the rejections. A little old lady with a cloud of white hair squinted at my booth. “Yours Forever Gemstones?” “Yes! The way it works is you send us a hair sample from one of your loved ones, and we create a gemstone from it! That way…” I trailed off as a man suddenly appeared in the aisle and unfolded a table next to mine. “Morning,” he said. I blinked in confusion at him. “Excuse me, I think you have the wrong spot.” He began unpacking a box onto the table. “This is where the coordinator told me to set up.” “What about dogs?” the white-haired lady asked.

“Can you make a diamond from my Yorkie’s hair?” “I suppose you could…” I turned back to the man next to me. “I paid extra to be next to the aisle. You can’t put your table there!” “Look, I’m just doing what I’m told, lady.” He began arranging homemade beer bottles on the table. The labels said Bacon-Flavored Beer. This can’t be happening. I felt all my hopes slipping away. This guy’s table was blocking a view of mine. Nobody walking down the main aisle would see my display. “I’m sorry, but I’ll be right back,” I told the little old lady while handing her an information flier. “Lizzy, can you watch my table until I get back?” “I’ll guard it with my life.” She glared at the new guy. “Bacon beer? Seriously?” “What? People like beer, and they like bacon. Now they can have both…” “I work at a brewery,” Lizzy replied, “and I can tell you right now people don’t want bacon beer.” Their argument faded away as I wove my way through the growing crowd to look for the expo coordinator.

Having been to several of these events before, I knew that the biggest rush happened right after the doors opened at noon. If I didn’t get my table situation fixed quickly, I would miss out on most of the potential investors. The expo coordinator was a painfully-thin man in a bow tie, and I found him standing by the entrance. “Hi, excuse me?” I said. “There’s a problem with my table. I’m supposed to have a corner spot, but somebody selling bacon-flavored beer just set up a table next to mine, right on the aisle.” The coordinator frowned down at me and squinted at his clipboard. “What is your table’s name?” “Yours Forever Gemstones,” I said impatiently. “Let’s see. Hmm. Right, here you are. I have you at table one-oh-six. Unfortunately, that’s not a corner spot.” Oh no. “There must be some kind of mistake! A normal table was five hundred dollars, and I was charged an extra hundred for a corner spot.

I can show you the receipt…” “I see your transaction information here,” he replied. “You purchased your booth after April first, which was when the price rose. That’s why you were charged an additional hundred dollars, not because you reserved a corner spot.” A knot tightened in my stomach. This was my last chance, and I could feel it slipping away from me. “You don’t understand,” I begged. “I’m broke, and I spent my last six hundred dollars on this table! If I don’t find an investor for this idea I’m going to have to sell my house…” I trailed off as someone walked into the convention center. Someone I recognized. From a long time ago. Hunter Cade was the kind of guy who looked dashing even in jeans and a muscle-gripping Tshirt. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and lean—just like I remembered him from high school. A tussle of caramel-brown hair fell across his dark eyes, and he brushed it back while gazing around the room with an intense, confident stare. My heart fluttered at the sight of him. He was somehow even sexier in person than in his YouTube videos, and so much hotter than I remembered from high school. What is he doing here? Hunter paused in the aisle to look at his expo map, then his head swiveled as he scanned the convention.

Before he could see me, I quickly said goodbye to the coordinator and scurried away. “What’d the coordinator say?” Lizzy asked when I returned. “Hunter is here.” “Hunter? Hunter Cade?” “Yes!” I said. “Your brother’s best friend? Your old crush?” “Also yes! He’s here, in the expo!” Her eyes began searching. “As a vendor, or investor?” “I don’t know! An investor, I guess?” “I thought he lived in Portland,” Lizzy said. “Doesn’t he run that YouTube channel about cars?” “I think so,” I said, which was a lie. I knew so. Hunter released a new video every Tuesday, and I looked forward to every single one. “When was the last time you saw him?” Lizzy asked. “When he left Columbus. Five years ago.” “Maybe he’s here to see you!” Lizzy said. I scoffed. “Fat chance.

” “You never know! Maybe he…” Lizzy trailed off as Hunter came around the corner, saw us, and then approached. His handsome face was lit up by a big smile, the same smile that used to give me butterflies all those years ago, and the effect had only grown with time. “Erica? Erica Porter?” he said in his charming voice. “I thought that was you. I’d recognize your blonde hair anywhere. Wow, you look great.” He thinks I look great. It was a small compliment, but it turned my insides into a tornado of emotions. I wanted to hug him, but the table was between us, keeping us apart. “Thanks, Hunter. You look, um, great too.” Someone approached Lizzy’s table, but she waved her hand and shooed them off while conspicuously watching our conversation. “Hey, bro,” the guy at the table next to me said. “You like bacon and beer, right? Well, what do you think about them together?” Hunter glanced at him, firmly said, “No,” and then turned his smile back on me. “It’s so good to see you.

” You have no idea. His unwavering eye contact was turning my brain to mush, and I struggled to think of what to say. “I can’t believe you’re back in Columbus. Is this the first time since you moved away?” “Actually, I was in town last month for your dad’s funeral.” I gave a start. “You were? I never saw you.”

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Updated: 14 January 2022 — 11:27

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