"Ten... eleven... twelve... thir- Fuck!"
I fell to the floor painfully and grunted. I stood up slowly, ignoring my personal trainer's laughs. I stretched, lifting my arms over my head.
"Shut up," I snapped at Mike.
"Sorry, Art," he snorted. "You should've seen the look on your face!" I glared at him until he calmed down. "Anyway, you did all right this time. But how about you actually powder your hands like I told you to?"
I rolled my eyes. "I don't need powder I just got distracted."
"By what? You own reflection?"
"No. Your hideous odor!"
Mike laughed and shrugged, looking at the clock. "Well, that's all for today. Hit the showers and I'll see you on Friday."
I nodded and wiped the sweat off my neck as I walked towards the gym showers. In truth, I was still thinking about the girl at the diner. She had fallen asleep in the chair and didn't even wake up when my mom and I left. I couldn't imagine what she was doing there. She looked like she had been through the mill, though. Her clothes were tattered and she was incredibly pale and thin. Dangerously thin, in fact.
When I got home, it was around noon time and I made myself some lunch. My mother was in the kitchen going over some documents. She sighed, rubbing her eyes.
"I'm getting too old for this," she mumbled.
"So pass it on," I pressed and she narrowed her eyes at me.
"You know I can't. Not until-"
"I find a good girl and settle down," I finished, shaking my head. "When will you accept that it's not going to happen any time soon? Besides, you've been running it on your own for the last 15 years!"
"Only because your father passed away," she pointed out. "If he was still here, he would be telling you the exact same thing."
"Why is it so important?" I demanded, sitting to eat my salad.
"A business like Kilgore Productions needs to be seen in a respectful light. If they see you going to the clubs and chasing skirts, they won't want to work for you! Think about our clients!"
"I don't chase skirts," I defended myself. "I haven't had a girl in over two years."
"And look how well that one went." I shook my head. "You're 27 years old, Artemis. It's time to start seriously thinking about your future."
"Whatever you say," I muttered and finished my salad. "I'm going to go get some coffee. Do you want some?"
She shook her head and went back to the documents in front of her. I picked my keys back up and got in my car. I was annoyed with my mom. It was all well and good for her to talk about getting married. My father had inherited Kilgore Productions after he was already married to my mom.
Kilgore Productions was a fairly old business. We started off with musicians but we've branched out to filmmakers, video games, and books. It was an overwhelming amount of work and you needed some knowledge of everything. I was more inclined to the film and music parts, though. They held my interest much more than video games and books. After my father passed away from cancer, my mom took on sole responsibility. It was driving me insane. She was only 50 but she looked like she was in her 70s from the amount of stress she was putting on herself.
If only she wasn't so stubborn....
I pulled into The Wholly Grind. I hadn't been there in a long time. I really enjoyed their mochas and muffins. I got out and locked the door. Before going in, I saw a rusted white van. I wrinkled my nose. Who would own such a disgusting looking vehicle?
I walked in to the delicious smell of coffee beans. Behind the counter, Larry was talking to a girl with her back facing me.
"Artemis!" Larry cried. "It's been a long time, my friend!"
I smiled at him. "Yeah, it has."
The girl turned and I hesitated. It was the girl from the diner. The door behind me opened and I shivered at the cool air. She cocked her brow.
"You should get a decent jacket."
"Deidre," Larry snapped.
"Ah, don't worry about it," I waved my hand. "At least it's not a tattered piece of-"
"What can I get you today?" she interrupted.
"Just a mocha latte and a blueberry muffin," I said, getting my debit card out.
She entered it into the computer, yawning as she did so. While she was distracted, I took her appearance in a little more. She was still thin but looked a little less peaky than she did last night. There were dark circles under her eyes and, even though she looked young, she had worry lines on her forehead. For some reason, I felt compelled to know more about her.
"Are you going to give me your card or just stare at me?" she asked and I jumped a little.
I tried to hide my embarrassment as I passed it over. "Don't flatter yourself," I said smoothly.
She scoffed. "Sure."
She swiped my card and handed it back. She pulled the muffin out and passed it to me on a plate. While she made my coffee, I chose a seat by the window, getting my phone out. I sighed at the background. It was a silly selfie of me and my mom.
Larry hurried over.
"I am so sorry about Deidre," he whispered. "She's not normally so rude!"
I chuckled. "We had a run in last night. I promise it's okay."
He relaxed and sat across from me. "How's your mom?"
"As annoying as ever," I muttered as the girl, Deidre, placed my coffee carefully in front of me.
"I'm sure she's just looking out for you," Larry reasoned.
"Why does everyone keep saying that?"
Larry smiled. Deidre was back behind the counter, her eyes closed. I wouldn't be surprised if she had fallen asleep on her feet. I gestured at her.
"What's her story?" I whispered.
He glanced at her. Someone else had come in and she was taking their order.
"Not mine to tell," he said finally.
I took the hint and we talked instead about how business was going. The whole time I was there, Deidre looked dead on her feet. She always sharpened as soon as someone walked in, though, and put a smile on that thin face.
As I left, I shook myself mentally. Why was I so concerned about a stranger? Sure, she was good looking but not enough for me to obsess over her. I did my best to put it out of my mind and took the long way home to clear it and focus on my mom.
By the time I got home, my thoughts were on the business and different arguments I could make to convince my mother to pass it along. It's not like we were some fancy company or royalty, after all.
I walked in and frowned. My mother was leaning against the counter, a smirk on her face. I knew that smirk and it never boded well for me.
"What is it this time?" I asked cautiously.
She held up her cell phone. "I just got off the phone with a very... concerned mother."
I sat at the table. "What kind of concerned mother?"
"One worried about her daughter's future," my mom said. "Very worried, in fact. It turns out that they're poor and her daughter is doing too much to provide. I've been friends with the mother for several months."
"You've never mentioned her," I said slowly.
She rolled her eyes. "I don't need to tell you every woman I know."
"Where is this going, Mom?"
She leaned forward, her eyes glinting. "I've found you a wife."