Cindy

Charles woke up tangled in his blankets, head pounding. It was January 1st, the start of a New Year, and the previous night was mostly a blur. There was an office party, a bar brimming with booze, and a band whose bass was throbbing between his eyes as he sat up. One thing stood out in his wakening memories though: a girl, blonde and beautiful, wearing a pale blue shirt and tight jeans. Her smile drew Charles across the room, and he couldn’t take his eyes off her the rest of the night.

He squeezed his temples, trying to pressure the throbbing pain into submission. He hadn’t paid any attention to how much drinking he did before midnight, enchanted by this girl, and after the ball dropped, well… he drank even more. He wasn’t sure how he even got home. He pushed himself to his feet and stumbled to the bathroom where the Tylenol, glorious Tylenol, waited. Sitting on the toilet for several minutes, head in his hands, he tried to not think. He failed.

Charles knew less then half the people at the office party. He had been working there less than a year, but his managers liked him and claimed to have “big plans” for him. One of his tenured coworkers was showing him around, introducing him to people. He listened to names and titles with one ear, smiling and shaking hands, when the crowd parted. Briefly, oh so briefly, he saw legs, ass, belly, breasts, neck, face, hair of the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She stood near the wall, alone, grooving lightly to the music. Someone walked between them, disrupting his vision, and she was gone, absorbed by the crowd.

He nudged his coworker’s shoulder, turning him away from his conversation. “Hey Jake, there’s a girl over there, you recognize her? The blonde in the blue shirt?” Jake looked where he was pointing, waiting for the crowd to move.

“No idea man,” he answered after getting a glimpse at her. “I don’t recognize her. Maybe someone’s date?” They stopped and stared for a few moments. “I don’t know, she looks a little familiar, maybe a secretary? Not really sure.”

Charles worked his way to her, weaving through the crowd, trying to keep her in sight. He was a few feet away from her when he caught her eye, and she smiled. He didn’t have a chance.

“Cindy,” he said aloud, standing over a table in his living room. He was holding a silver hoop, an earring that he had thrown in a pile with loose change and his keys when he got home last night. He picked it up and held it lightly between his fingers. “Her name is Cindy.” Last night was coming back into focus. They spent all evening together, talking and drinking and dancing. And then she was gone.

At five minutes until midnight, Cindy excused herself to the restrooms with a smile and Charles waited. Midnight grew closer, and people starting pairing off for the big moment, all eyes watching the TVs, and he waited. Everyone started counting down along with Times Square as the ball started to drop, and he waited. The ball dropped, the stroke of midnight rang, the New Year began. Around him people were kissing, laughing, and he stood alone, wondering what went wrong.

He started towards the restrooms, eyes alert for any sign of her. He recognized a girl heading inside, one of his newer coworkers.

“Hey, Sarah, wait a second!” he said. “Did you see that girl I was with? Cindy? She said she was going to the bathroom ten minutes ago. Can you see if she’s okay in there?”

“Sure Charlie,” she said and went inside. He waited outside awkwardly, hanging out in front of the women’s bathroom. In a few minutes Sarah came out. “Sorry, wasn’t anyone in there.” Charles sighed. What the hell happened with her? Everything was going great, they were getting along fantastic, she was being flirty and fun and now she was gone. Sarah wasn’t done. “Was this hers?” she asked, a silvercircle between her fingers.

It was hers, he was sure. He had been staring at it the past several hours to not be mistaken.

After he had more or less recovered from his hangover, it was time to find this girl. He sat on his couch with his laptop and opened Facebook. Sure enough, pictures from last night were already circling through his page. He clicked through them until he found it: proof that Cindy existed. The two of them were in a picture together, standing very close and talking in the background. He held the earring up to the screen. It looked like a solid match. Now he just had to figure out who she was, how to get ahold of her, and why she left. With only a first name it wasn’t going to be easy.

An hour later, he gave up. Too many Cindy’s, too many blondes. He hung around, hoping someone would tag the only photo he had of her, but it hadn’t happened yet. He closed his laptop and gathered up his stuff, slipping the earring into his front pocket. It was time to put feet on the ground and do this the old-fashioned way.

“What do you do?” she asked, shortly after introductions.

“I work here actually,” he said. “It’s usually less crowded.” She laughed. “What about you?

“Oh, I work nearby, down a block or so,” she waved her hand vaguely.

“Well, I’m glad you found your way here tonight.”

She smiled at him, cheeks dimpling. “Yeah, me too.”

Charles stood in front of his closed office building, shivering in the winter’s chill. Of course it was closed, he thought angrily. Everything is closed, it’s New Year’s Freaking Day. Despite this, he had walked around the block three times, up and down every side street. The only thing open were a few small shops and restaurants. One of them, a deli, was where he and his coworkers sometimes went to lunch, and he walked inside. He wasn’t really hungry, his stomach still uneasy, but he would at least be warm and have some time to think of what to do next.

The bell range as he stepped inside the nearly empty deli. Two people stood behind the counter chatting, a guy and girl wearing identical uniforms.

“Hi,” Charles said, nodding to them as the door closed behind him, and the girl smiled at him. He stopped and stared. The blonde hair was tied back and stuffed under a hat instead of cascading to her shoulders, the dim light paled the flush of her skin, and the apron hid the curves of her body, but nothing could disguise that smile. He walked up to her, ignoring the guy’s attempts to ask him if he knew what he would like to order. Her name badge said Cynthia. He pulled the silver earring from his pocket and held it out to her.

“I think this is yours,” he said, and her smile grew, transforming her from a deli worker into a princess.

In his pretend life, August Baker is a retail monkey who channels anger and loathing into something vaguely resembling literature. In his real life, he is a Space Pirate.

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