V. Special Delivery
Malcolm sat at his desk, an envelope in his hands. It took Romeo almost two weeks to compile all the data he thought his boss would need. He dropped the envelope off at Malcolm’s office in the Vermilion Hotel & Casino.
Malcolm palmed the envelope. “It has some thickness to it, Romeo.”
“Because there are photos.”
“Really now? I didn’t expect you to go that far.”
“You said you wanted to know who she is. I wanted to be sure that it was her, Mr. Sullivan. I can’t have your faith in me waver. Anything else, sir?”
“No. Thank you, Romeo.”
Romeo left, closing the door. Malcolm opened the envelope and tipped out the paperwork and photos. He found himself staring at a copy of Shantreyl’s driver’s license and a copy of her teacher’s ID:
TROY, SHANTREYL DENISE
38 FALLON STATION
WEST SIREN HEIGHTS
SUVA ORIANA, 74567
Shantreyl D. Troy, Ed.S
Heather Hills Academy
“Miss Troy,” he said, smiling at her driver’s license. “Nice to meet you.”
Malcolm flipped through the photos. There was a photo of the townhomes at Fallon Station. There was a photo of Heather Hills Academy in the district of Paradise Park, where a lot of Suva Oriana’s wealthy citizens resided. There was a picture of Shantreyl’s Lex in the parking lot of Heather Hills and another picture of the Lexus parked in front of one of the townhomes in Fallon Station. There was a picture of Shantreyl getting into her car at work, and there was a picture of Shantreyl entering the school.
Romeo was efficient and thorough, which were two of the reasons Malcolm employed him and paid him a generous salary.
Satisfied, Malcolm put the information back into the envelope and placed it in a drawer with the plan to dispose of it later. He spent the past week thinking about how he was going to reach out to her once he knew her contact information. He wondered how to go about it without coming off like a creep.
Perhaps it was best to keep things simple. Send a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates to her job. But what if she didn’t like flowers? What if she was allergic? What kind of candy to send? What if she didn’t like chocolate? What would be the safest thing to send her? He didn’t want to fuck things up for himself before he got a chance to get to know her.
Malcolm pulled up a Google webpage and started researching. Soon, he had four viable options: a bouquet of tulip cookies, an edible fruit arrangement, a basket of bath products and a candy bouquet. Which one to send? What would she like?
I’ll send them all, he decided after a few minutes and set about ordering the presents.
He included the same note for each gift:
I had a very good time that night and would like to see you again, if you’re interested.
* * *
Thursday was her busiest day; she had three 90-minute blocks back to back with the last block free for that particular week. Shantreyl was in the middle of a short lecture on synthetic routes in organic chemistry to her higher-level grade 12 chemistry class when someone knocked on the door.
She waved one of her students towards the door. “Keisha, will you get that?”
Keisha did and smiled when a student aide from the front office wheeled in a cart laden with gifts.
“Miss Troy, these were just delivered for you!” the aide said, a big smile on her face.
“OOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!” the class chortled in unison.
Shantreyl gasped. “All of them?”
“At the same time?”
“Within a few minutes of each other, I think.”
“Wow,” Shantreyl said, looking at the gifts. “Okay, just put them on the lectern. Thank you for bringing them down.”
When the aide left wheeling the cart, one of her students, Brinton, said, “Those from your maaaaan, Miss Troy?”
“Brinton, that is none of your business and an inappropriate question.” She knew the boy had a crush on her.
“Who are they from, Miss Troy?” another student, Laurie, asked.
“Laurie, you heard what I just said to Brinton. Let’s focus, all right? If given the alkene butene, determine the synthetic route to produce a carboxylic acid. I’ll give you three minutes to answer the question.”
While her students were bent over, focusing on the problem, Shantreyl walked over to her gifts and plucked the cards from the baskets. Each card said the same thing and she was surprised. It’d been almost two weeks since that fateful night at the Zodiac and she truly never thought she’d hear from Malcolm again; especially since she believed she didn’t give him the information or means on how to contact her. But he found her anyway. She was extremely curious on how he was able to do so. The most she’d given him was that she taught chemistry and physics at a private school…and there were plenty of private schools around the city.
She looked at the gifts, a small smile on her face. “How did you find me?” she said to herself, in a low voice.
“Miss Troy, I got it! I got the answer,” Brinton said and Shantreyl turned around, focusing on her students.
* * *
When her last class was done, Shantreyl sat at her desk with her shoes kicked off. She removed her hair combs and massaged her scalp for a few moments, closing her eyes. After a minute or two, she pulled out her phone, took a picture of her gifts and sent the pic to Jaya and Renee, with the text: Guess who sent me these, knowing that when she got home, Renee and Jaya would be waiting for her to spill the tea.
Someone knocked on her door. Shantreyl slipped her shoes back on and went to answer it. To her utter dismay, it was the bottle-blonde bitch. Shantreyl opened the door just enough to see her face. She wasn’t about to let that whore in her classroom.
“Hi. What do you need?”
“I heard that you got some gifts delivered and wanted to stop by to see them.”
Shantreyl was on a mini-high and didn’t give a fuck. “Why? Am I not allowed to have gifts delivered?”
The bitch said, “Of course not! I was just curious. I want to send a gift basket to a friend and am not sure what to purchase. Dee Dee said you got cookies, candy, bath goods and an edible fruit arrangement.”
Nosy-ass bitches. “She’s right.”
“So, can I see them?”
“Why? So you can use it against me?”
The bitch sighed deeply and said, “No.”
When Shantreyl made absolutely no move to let her in, the bitch said, “I know that things have been rough between us this year, Shantreyl, but it’s only because I see your full potential. Your role here is so important. I would like it if we could get along.”
That was some grade-A fresh horseshit and Shantreyl was already tired of the conversation. “You have deliberately been on my case since the day you arrived and now you want us to be friends? Forgive me if I find that a bit hard to accept.”
The bitch nodded. “Well then. Have a good afternoon, Shantreyl.”
Shantreyl replied curtly, “Same to you,” before closing the door. As she walked back to her desk, she knew that within another week, the bottle-blonde bitch was going to find a way to get back at her for the slight. She wasn’t entirely sure if she cared.
* * *
About 10 minutes after Shantreyl entered her house, Jaya and Renee were ringing her doorbell. She greeted her friends with a huge smile and pointed towards the dining room table, where the gifts sat. Renee and Jaya made a beeline to the table.
Jaya said, “These are huge baskets. Malcolm spent a lot of money on these.”
Renee replied, “As he should. Shan’s worth it. Not that it matters how much he spends.”
“I’ve already begun snacking on the fruit,” Shantreyl said. “Help yourself to some goodies.”
Jaya asked, “Can I have a cookie?”
Renee was munching on a watermelon slice from the fruit arrangement. “So…he sent you…all these presents? Was…there a note? What…did he say?”
“Assuming that it is him, since he didn’t leave a name, he said he enjoyed that night and would like to see me again. Then he left a phone number.”
Jaya’s eyes were as wide as her smile as she unwrapped a tulip cookie. “Assuming that it is him…girl, you know good and well that it is him! Quit playing games!”
Renee said, “Did you call him?”
“No. I’m more interested in how he found me, since I didn’t tell him where I worked.”
“What exactly did you tell him?”
“That I taught chemistry and physics at a private school. That was as much detail as he got.”
“He could have gotten your license plate number when you followed him home,” Jaya said.
Shantreyl paused. “I didn’t think of that. But unless he works for the DMV, how would he flip that into figuring out where I worked?”
Renee pulled out a skewer of strawberries. “This fruit is amazing. Girl, there’s no telling what he did or how he did it. The point is that he did it. You did something to that man, something so good that he had no choice but to find you. Now the question is…what are you gonna do?”
Jaya sat down on the couch with two cookies and Renee sat next to her, giving her a melon skewer. Shantreyl sat in her chair and ShoNuff hopped in her lap.
“What are you going to do, Shan?” Jaya asked, biting into the cookie. “Mmmn, these are good.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “What do you think I should do?”
Both Renee and Jaya gave her a look as if to say, For real sis?
Shantreyl smiled. “I don’t even know why I asked that.”
“Take a chance, Shan. Call him, go out to dinner or something. You ain’t trying to marry him, but ain’t nothin’ wrong with having a friend,” Renee said. “We all need a friend.”
“I just don’t want to be hurt again.”
“We get that,” Jaya said. “We understand. You’re not about to let that happen, but there’s no reason for you not to go out with Malcolm. If it turns out there’s nothing there, then you haven’t lost anything. If it turns out that there is something, then take it slow.”
“Fair enough,” Shantreyl said. “I’ll call him.”
“Now,” Jaya said.
“Are you serious?”
“I am. Call him. It’s 4:30; he should be off work or damn near.”
Shantreyl nodded. She got up and went to her bag where the cards were. She pulled one out, picked up her cell phone and called Malcolm. The phone rang four times and he didn’t answer, so she hung up.
“He didn’t answer. I’ll call back around 5.”
“Make sure you do,” Jaya said. “Oh, the possibilities!”
“Guess what happened after I got my delivery. Guess who had the nerve, the caucacity, to show up at my classroom door, wanting to see my gifts.”
Renee, with a mouthful of food, said, “No she didn’t!”
Jaya rolled her eyes and Shantreyl said, “Yes she did. I refused to let her in. This bitch talkin’ about the only reason she’s been so hard on me is because she sees my full potential and get this, wants to be friends.”
Renee looked at her friend with a Get the fuck outta here expression.
Jaya was more vocal. “Did she actually part her lips to say that?”
“She actually parted her lips to say that. As if I’m one of the kids, and as if she hasn’t been all up my ass this year.”
“What is wrong with that bitch?” Renee asked. “She really tried to be nosy real quick. Did you let her see them?”
“Nope. I didn’t let her into my room. We did all that at the door. I wasn’t about to let her ruin my moment with her fuckery. But I know she’s gonna find a way to get back at me.”
Jaya laughed. “You didn’t let her in?”
“Nope. The fuck for?”
Renee nodded. “I don’t blame you. So anyway, Jay and me are gonna get out of your hair, let you unwind, but best believe one of us is gonna be calling your ass in an hour or so to get the update.”
“Fair enough,” Shantreyl said.
* * *
Shantreyl called Malcolm again at 5:15 and he didn’t answer. She sighed. He did say he managed casinos, so there was no telling what his work hours were like. So she decided to take a bath using her new bath products.
About twenty minutes later, Shantreyl sat in a hot bath, eyes closed, surrounded by lit candles and thousands of fragrant bubbles. Her cell phone sat on a stool near the tub next to a glass of merlot and the sultry sounds of Sade echoed through the room. Shantreyl was a million mental miles away when her phone rang.
She quickly wiped her finger on a towel and answered the call, putting it on speaker.
“Hello. My name is Malcolm Sullivan and I received two calls from this number. May I ask who this is?”
“It’s Shan. Shan from the club a couple of weeks ago.”
“Oh hello,” he said, his tone changing. “How are you?”
“I’m fine. Thank you for my gifts. They’re lovely. I’m enjoying one them right now.”
“The bath goods. I really like what you selected. I like all of it. Everything.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” he said. “I didn’t know what you would prefer and didn’t want to send something you might be allergic to or didn’t care for.”
“I don’t have any allergies I’m aware of. Everything is wonderful. Though I must ask…how did you find me?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“I caught part of your license plate number and I know some people at the DMV. Please forgive me if that was intrusive, but I had to find you. I had to.”
Shantreyl smiled. It was nice to feel desired. “I forgive you.”
“You know that means I know your full name, Shantreyl. I like the spelling. It’s unique. Who gave you that name?”
“Well,” she said, adjusting in the tub, “my mother’s name is Shannon and my father’s nickname is Trey. They portmanteau’d their names.”
“Do you prefer Shan?”
“I’m fine with either.”
“Good. I’m sorry to have to do this, Shantreyl, but I’m really busy right now. Do you mind if I call you back around 10 p.m.? That’s when I get off work. I really want to talk to you, but tonight is a madhouse at the Vermilion and my attention is needed elsewhere. May I call you later? And by later, I do mean ten.”
“Sure,” she said. “Certainly. I don’t mind.”
“Good,” he said. “Enjoy your evening.”
“You try to do the same,” she replied, and then hung up when she heard his phone click off. Quickly, she dialed Jaya’s number from the contact list and she answered after two rings.
“Did you call him?”
“I did and he called me back. We weren’t able to talk for long; he’s at work and he doesn’t get off until ten o’clock. He said he would call me back at that time.”
“Good,” Jaya said. “Good. This sounds promising.”
“Nothing’s happened, Jaya.”
“We’re being positive, remember? This man really likes you. You must have put it on him to stay in his mind like that. That’s a credit to you, sis. He’s probably going to ask you out, and you’re going to say…”
“Jaya, don’t put that kind of pressure on me!”
“What are you going to say? No? You better not, Shan! For my sake, if he asks you out to dinner or something, go! What have you got to lose?”
“Nothing,” Shantreyl said.
“That’s right. Nothing.”
“All right then,” Shantreyl said. “I’m actually in the tub right now and so I’m gonna let you go. I’ll talk to you tomorrow after work.”
“You bet,” Jaya said.
* * *
Friday evening, Shantreyl was at Renee and Jaya’s house, enjoying one of Renee’s alcoholic concoctions. Today, Renee was trying something new. It was a pretty red-orange beverage she called Hibiscus Summer Punch and it was delicious. Renee made a virgin version for Jaya, who sat on the couch with her feet up on the ottoman, chowing down on a plate of freshly cut watermelon, cherries and strawberries.
“So,” Renee asked, as she sat down next to her wife. “Did he call you back?”
Shantreyl nodded. “He did.”
“Want some?” Jaya said, offering her friend the plate of fruit. “Renee made a giant bowl of this for me. She said that it would be good for my blood pressure.”
Shantreyl made a face. “Is that an issue for you, Jaya? Should we be worried?”
Jaya rubbed her tummy. “No. I’m fine. All is well. Our little one is good. Renee’s just taking care of me, like she always does.”
Renee smiled and kissed Jaya’s lips. “Of course. Enough about our boring-ass lives, though. Malcolm called. And?”
Shantreyl smiled. “We talked for a half hour or so. He was tired and so was I.”
Jaya had a big cheesy grin on her face. “The conversation was good?”
“It was. He’s very interesting and very charming. He asked me out, of course.”
“Where? And when?”
Shantreyl smiled again. “Fortunately, I didn’t have anything planned this weekend. We’re going to Mermaid Island tomorrow.”
Renee nodded approvingly. “You guys are going to an amusement park for your first real date. I dig it. Y’all are going to have fun.”
“I’m excited,” Shantreyl said. “The last time I got my big ass on a rollercoaster was, shit…I don’t really remember. It’s been a long time. I hope my fat ass can still fit in the cars.”
“Oh you’ll be fine,” Renee said.
“So you’re going to spend the day together?” Jaya asked.
“Yes. It’s funny. Malcolm said that he was surprised to see me gone when I went to his house that night. He said that he’d hoped to have another round, and he wanted to fix breakfast for me the next morning. He was kind of annoyed that I left without saying goodbye.”
“Cause you put that hot-ass poonanny on him, Shan. That’s why he was salty; he wanted to fall back into that sweet stuff you got and couldn’t,” Renee said. “You whipped him on the first night. Gotta be a record. I’m so proud of you.”
Jaya shook her head, smiling as she ate her fruit. Renee was a goof, but an adorable one.
“I guess. Anyway, he said he really wanted to get to know me better and he thought that an active date would be the best way to do it. And we’ll be in comfortable clothing and all that.”
“Good. What else did you talk about? What does he do for a living?”
“It was a short conversation. He manages the Vermilion Hotel & Casino. I told him about some of the shit I’m going through at work and he basically said the same thing as Jaya: don’t let the bitch run me off.”
“Told you I like this dude,” Jaya replied. “Great minds and all that.”
“So I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” Shantreyl said. “He’s taking the day off work and asked if he could pick me up, or if I would be more comfortable if he sent a car to pick me up.”
“And you said…?”
“I gave him my address. He’s picking me up tomorrow at 9:15 a.m.; he prefers to arrive at the park when the gates open at ten because he’s not a fan of long lines.”
“So, early day for you. Better get some rest tonight. What are you going to wear?”
“It’s been hot as hell lately and I checked the weather; no change there and no rain. So I’m wearing shorts, a T-shirt and sneakers. I’m going to be cute and comfortable.”
“My girl,” Renee said, laughing. “Put them legs on display! Blow his mind.”
Jaya shook her head. “Babe, you’re so silly. Shan, I hope you two have a good time. Enjoy yourself.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“I’m just excited that you’re moving forward,” Jaya said. “It’s time. All of this…I feel like there are larger forces at work. You told me that Malcolm hadn’t planned to be at the Zodiac that night, and that when he saw you, he knew that was the reason why he was there. This thing’s bigger and more important than we realize. You guys were meant to meet.”
Renee started humming the theme from The Twilight Zone.
“I don’t know about all that,” Shantreyl said. “It’s a date. That’s it. It can go either way.”
“Exactly,” Jaya said. “But we’re being positive and that means it’s going to go the way you want it to. So finish your drink, eat a good dinner, and make sure you get plenty of sleep.”
“Yes, Mother,” Shantreyl said.