Live for the Day
Chapter One
     
     
     
    Michael stared through the large window of the café, his coffee steaming on the table in front of him. The place was almost empty except for him, another guy at the back and the waitress scrubbing the countertop. His week off was proving a bind—he wasn’t used to being idle—and with nothing much to do he’d found himself at loose ends. The café had seemed as good a place as any to visit, and he could watch the world go by—or the residents of Valley Springs at any rate.
    Outside, people dressed in a variety of summer wear walked in and out of the shops opposite, a row of three consisting of a mini mart, a hair salon and a dry cleaners. Everyone seemed so normal, so I’ve-got-something-to-do—on a mission, the lot of them.
    Mission. That word brought terror to Michael’s heart. Usually gave him panic attacks if he thought about them in depth. His friend, Steven, was on a mission right now—the Air Force owed Michael a bunch of stomach settling meds, that was for sure.
    He sighed, wondering whether he’d get a letter from Steven sometime soon. They’d been sporadic of late—emails weren’t coming too often either—and the loss of regular contact always gave Michael more reason to crap his damn pants. He let his mind wander to places it shouldn’t go, and he saw things he shouldn’t torment himself with, like Steven’s plane being shot down or—
    Don’t think about it. He’ll be fine.
    Yeah, Steven would be fine. Always had been and always would be, Michael reckoned, seeing as Steven was one hell of a lucky son of a bitch. He’d been through hell and back in the past when on duty, and had come out smiling. Walking. Talking. In one piece.
    Michael sipped his coffee and recalled the last time he’d seen Steven. Man, that had been a good reunion, the pair of them holed up in The Dusty Shack with beers followed by whiskey chasers, their legs getting more unsteady with every mouthful. Michael had nearly blurted out his feelings that night, alcohol giving his tongue a good loosening, making him want to throw caution not only to the wind but to any other kind of weather too. He’d stopped himself, though. He didn’t need the sour strike of lightning, the roar of thunder. What he needed was to keep his emotions secret so that there was only sunshine and brightness on Steven’s leave.
    I love him so much it hurts.
    “Do you want a bagel or something?” Sandy the waitress asked, standing close by Michael’s side as though she wanted to block him in, to stop him from leaving after he’d finished his coffee.
    She twiddled with a hank of her long blonde hair, curling it around a finger, and smiled, her bright red lips parting to show her teeth. Maybe she was bored and needed something other than scrubbing to do, but her closeness always had Michael feeling uneasy. Each time he visited the café, and even if he bumped into her in town, she tended to invade his personal space more often than not. The last time he and Steven had been in the café together, Steven had cracked a joke that Sandy had the hots for Michael.
    Not happening. Not today or any other day. Cute girl, nice enough, but…
    “Yeah, all right, thanks.” Michael gave her a smile that he hoped didn’t look like he was coming on to her. He walked on eggshells around her and wished this wasn’t the only café in town. Or that she didn’t seem to work every single shift. If she ever had time off, Michael had yet to see it. “Cheese and ham, toasted if you don’t mind.”
    “Of course I don’t mind.” She let her air unravel from her finger. “It’s my job. Besides, anything for you.” She all but did a curtsey then sashayed off, hips swaying, her ass filling out her tight red shorts, the cheeks poking out from beneath the hems.
    Michael turned away, back to staring out of the window. Jeez, what a nightmare today had the potential to be if Sandy made it any more obvious she liked him. He should have refused

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