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Toronto, Toronto

by Moira Western 9 months ago in Love
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Part 6 of the Jolene and Isabelle Chronicles. Originally Published on Reedsy

"That's the thing about this city," Isabelle says, "it's always moving and changing. You're going to love New York. We could stay for as long as you want. And we don't have to steal jewels or museum exhibits, but they're always bringing in new things so if we wanted to..."

She has a mischievous glint in her eyes. I remember that she had the same glint in her eyes the day we met.

The closer we get to New York, the more I miss Toronto. While Isabelle occupies herself with preparing to moor the boat, I lean over a railing and find myself caught up in a wave of nostalgia and thinking about the day we first met. I know I can't get that kind of experience in New York. It was the type of experience that I could only get in Canada. In Toronto. Where I belong.

I find myself reminiscing.

***

The night I met Isabelle, I was working in a sales position at a local wine store. It was only a fifteen-minute subway ride from my apartment. I worked there because it shared a wall with a jewelry store owned by a large company. I had been casing the jewelry store for months waiting for the perfect time to strike.

It was just about closing time at the wine store when she came in.

"Are you still open?" She asked.

I put down my broom and, even though I was tired, I said that we were still open.

"Great, my boss wants me to pick up some wine to stock his cellar. He's a rich guy, so feel free to upsell me or direct me to anything you guys are selling as part of a contest or whatever. He won't even mark the difference in his chequebook."

When she said that last part, her voice was surprisingly bitter.

"Wait, really? Do you mind if I ask, like, how rich he is? Is he rich enough to own a yacht or is he so rich that he doesn't even know what bread costs?"

"The second one. He thinks that two million dollars is a reasonable price to pay for a car, so please upsell me as much as you can. In fact, give me all of your most expensive bottles..." she glanced down at my chest. At first I thought she might have been checking out my boobs since I was wearing a low-cut shirt, but when she said my name I realized she must have been checking out my nametag instead.

I nodded and did as I was told. I rung up everything from hundred-dollar bottles of Cabernet Franc Icewine to forty-dollar bottles of Sparkling Merlot to every single wine in the store that cost over twenty-five dollars.

When I was done, she asked me to check and see if I had any boxes of expensive stuff in the back. I came out with a dozen more boxes.

"Great," she said, "now about those contest items..."

The mischievous glint in her eyes made me sheepish as I directed her to our display where we were selling wines from a particular brand as part of a contest where every bottle we sold earned us a commission.

"And you guys make commission off these, right?" she asked.

I nodded, "yes... how did you know?"

"I have my connections. I'll take all of them and any you have in the back." She chuckled as if she realized something, "you guys get shipments tomorrow, right?"

I nodded.

"Looks like you're going to need it."

I looked around. Many of the shelves were bare. She smiled at me. I rang up her enormous purchase. Tens of thousands of dollars later, I helped her load a small moving van with all of the boxes. When I was done, I tried to wish her well and go back inside to close, since I was running way later than I thought I would be.

"Wait," she said.

I waited.

She slipped me an envelope.

"A little something for your time."

"Thank you."

"Thanks for your help, Jolene."

My face flushed when she said my name.

She winked at me, then she got into the van and drove off. I went back inside to finish closing. Twenty minutes later, I walked to the subway station. I hated riding the TTC late at night, but it would have been impractical and, more importantly, suspicious to have a car in Toronto while I was working in a slightly-above-minimum-wage sales position at a wine store.

I hadn't opened the envelope at that point. Instead, I had stuffed it into my bra before I left work. I realized halfway home that if the disarmingly pretty woman had decided to give me an envelope full of anthrax, I would probably die. I shrugged it off since I hadn't died.

When I got back to my place, I opened the envelope. It was full of cash. It looked like it was a stack of hundreds. There was a note, too.

Jolene,

They should pay you more.

Thanks for your help.

Isabelle

P.S. I think you're cute.

PPS. Here's my cell number (416) 555 – 0169

I didn't wait three days to call her even though that's supposedly an unspoken dating rule. I liked her. She liked me. I called her within the hour.

"Hello?" she said when she picked up on the first ring.

"Hey, this is Jolene... from the... from the wine store."

"Hey! I wasn't expecting to hear from you so soon!"

"Oh, uh, sorry if I..."

"No, no. I'm just surprised. I thought..."

"That I would wait three days?"

"Well, yeah, I mean..."

"I thought you were cute, too, so I didn't want to wait. Is that okay?"

"Yeah, that's great! I have a day off tomorrow. Do you want to meet up at Yonge-Dundas Square around noon?"

"Okay, that sounds good!"

"Great, see you then!"

The phone clicked.

The next morning, around nine, my boss called me.

"Hello?"

"Have we been robbed?" he asked.

"Check the sales from yesterday."

I heard typing in the background.

"Holy shit!"

"Yeah, I'm not complaining."

"So... you stayed late?"

"Would you have turned down that kind of sale?"

"You're not in trouble, if that's what you're thinking."

"Okay."

We said our goodbyes and hung up.

***

Isabelle interrupts my reminiscing when she speaks. I'm snapped back to my current situation. I'm on a boat. I'm with Isabelle. We're travelling by water to avoid the police after they tried to apprehend Isabelle and she blew up her own house.

"We're here," she says, "if you're not too tired, I thought we could try to recreate our first date."

"In New York?"

"New York is like the American version of Toronto, isn't it?"

I stifle a laugh. She holds out her hand to me.

I take her hand and step off the boat and into New York City.

Love

About the author

Moira Western

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