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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/1005860-Coffee-with-Chelsea-Cooper
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by Seuzz
Rated: GC · Book · Occult · #2183311
A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
#1005860 added March 6, 2021 at 11:59am
Restrictions: None
Coffee with Chelsea Cooper
Previously: "Face-Time with a Cheerleader

Chelsea continues on her way to the condiment station to pick up some sugar and cream, then returns to her table without so much as glancing at you. The barista gives you your coffee, and you carry it slowly back to where Caleb is watching the restaurant entrance.

"Did you see that?" you ask him.

"See what?"

Chelsea Cooper, talking to me. That's what you could say, but after the last few days you don't want Caleb accusing you of hallucinating things. "Nothing. Never mind."

He grimaces. "Yeah, if you're wondering if I saw nothing, then yes I did."

"You know, you don't have to hang out here," you tell him. "You can go home and I can—"

"God dammit, Will!" Caleb explodes, then glances around in a panic before lowering his voice.

"Fuck you," he hisses. "You drag me out here because you want witnesses or something for whatever the fuck, now you tell me to go home? What is this, a fucking sitcom?"

"I—"

"It's not funny, all this funny business! You know, we used to have some nice quiet fun, just you and me and Keith. Then you decided you had to get a girlfriend, and that was drama, and now you think you have to have a half-dozen girlfriends, and a secret admirer, and now it's just a fucking farce! Well, if you're gonna rewrite the plot, the rest of us would like to have some say in it!"

You flush. "If that's you feel about it, why don't you piss off?"

"Because you just bought me a coffee," he snarls, and gulps half of it down while glaring at you over the rim of the cup. "And it's not like you got it in a to-go cup!"

* * * * *

So you slump at the table and watch the entrance and watch the room with him. Except for Jack and Chelsea, you don't recognize anyone, and no one you recognize comes in. You ask Caleb some more about "Clover Mystery" and their text. He shows it to you, and it confuses you even further, for the sender claims that you have been ignoring their texts and DMs, and asks Caleb to set up the meeting that you are refusing to go to. Caleb only snorts when you insist that you haven't been getting any texts from Clover Mystery lately.

After Jack leaves—with only a perfunctory nod in your direction—you again urge Caleb to take off, telling him he was right about it being a wild goose chase. He's finished his coffee, so he rolls his eyes and heaves himself to his feet. "If you ever do find this 'Clover Mystery' person," he says, "don't bother telling me. Leave me in clover with the mystery of it all!" He stalks off.

You glance over at Chelsea, who is sitting alone at her booth with her face bent over her phone. You hesitate a very long time, then get up and edge in her direction.

After last night you're in no hurry to try talking to her again, so you loiter at the edge of her table before clearing your throat. Her head shoots up and she stares at you.

Then she smiles and gestures you to join her. You slide into the booth opposite her. Your ass tingles, like cushion is full of sharp pins. "Thanks for coming out here," Chelsea says.

You blink. She didn't "ask" you to "come out here." Did she? Before you can stop yourself, you blurt out, "Did you send my friend Caleb a text, asking me to come here?"

She stares at you, then laughs. "No! I just meant— Thanks for coming over here. It's a real coincidence, you showing up here too." She glances around, then leans across the table. "I probably wouldn't have said anything to you, even though I do kind of have a bad conscience about the other night."

"What other night?"

"Over at Milagro. When you came over to talk to me and Maria."

"Oh."

"Yeah, I'm sorry I was such a bitch to you." She puts a hand across the table. "Shake and be friends?"

You stare at her hand like it's a rattlesnake. But her smile is wide and bright, and the glint in her eye looks sincere. And she is Chelsea Cooper, the head cheerleader. A short, bouncy, blonde bombshell with great heaps of loose, golden hair, and tight, clear skin that's crisped to an even, unblemished tan. Her eyes gleam like they've been polished, and her teeth are the color of snow packs on the flanks of Alpine hills.

So you take her hand. "Sure. Friends."

"Thanks. I wanted to apologize for the other night. On account of—" She glances around again.

"It was for your own good," she says, dropping her voice. "Thank God I don't know anyone here, but there were all those other guys at the other place the other night"—she makes a face—"and it would have been the worst idea for them to see us talking. On account of my psycho-jealous boyfriend, you know."

Her boyfriend is the man-mountain Gordon Black, captain of the basketball team. Six-and-a-half feet of muscle. He ought to have gone out for football, but instead he uses his height and weight to scare people out of the way on the basketball court. And, like Chelsea says, he has a reputation for being almost fanatically jealous of any guy he catches talking to his girlfriend.

"Are we okay here?" you ask.

"Sure, no one knows us. But why did you come over to talk to me and Maria the other night?"

"'Cos I wanted to talk to Maria. I thought I was supposed to be meeting her, but—" You trail off awkwardly.

"Really? You were supposed to meet her." Chelsea sighs, and makes another face. "Oh, Will. Maria's a space cadet. I thought everyone knew that."

"Well—"

"So she totally spaced out on you. I'm sorry about that. Well, it wouldn't have mattered. We were there to meet up with a guy. For her. It was a blind date-like thing," Chelsea continues as you stagger under the revelation. "We didn't even know who it was going to be!"

"So who was it?"

The question seems to take her aback, and she draws in a long, slow breath before answering.

"It was an Eastman guy. One of their basketball players. So, you know, bad idea." She flaps her hands dismissively.

You glance over at the table where those guys in Eastman letterman jackets are making a racket.

"Anyway," Chelsea goes on, "you should just forget about Maria."

"How come?"

Again, she seems taken aback. "Well—" She blinks a couple of times, then gives you a pitying smile. "She stood you up, Will. I told you, she's a space cadet."

"She said she wanted to hang out with me."

Chelsea turns a little pink.

"Maria says lots of things," she says, "and she always means them when she says them. But she never remembers them. Didn't she stand you up the other day? She told me something about how she was supposed to meet you out that the state park, but then she forgot."

You sigh.

"See?" Chelsea says. "It's nothing personal. What you want, Will, is a girl who remembersthat she likes you. Maria can hardly remember her class schedule from one day to the next."

It seems to you that remembering "who you like" would be easier than remembering a class schedule, but you don't argue. It wouldn't do you any good, for a start. Chelsea is Maria's friend, and surely knows her better than you do. You let your mouth work as you try out various things to say, but nothing comes out.

"Don't take it too hard, Will," Chelsea continue, and you jump as she lays her hand atop yours. "You seem like a really sweet guy, A lot nicer than most of the turds back at the school. You know, except for Gordon, I wouldn't pay attention to any of them at school. And sometimes I think I made a mistake by going out with him!"

You shrug. Stiffly. You're stiff all over.

"Come on," she says. "Show me a smile." She dimples at you, and you force your lips to curl. "That's it! Now, what's your phone number?" She taps at the screen of her own phone, and turns a warm, expectant smile onto you.

You're too stunned to answer. Only when her smile widens fractionally do you ask with a croak, "Why?"

"So I can put you in my contact list! Don't you want to be in my contact list? Don't you want to put me in yours?"

"Well, um—" You gulp. "Okay." You give her your number as you fumble your phone out. "What's yours?"

She gives you a number, and taps yours into her phone.

Then she scoops up her stuff. "I'm really glad we ran into each other," she says as she rises. "It's been hanging over my head, the other night, and it wasn't like I could talk to you at school about it. Psycho boyfriend, you know." She rolls her eyes, and prances off.

You sag in the booth and stare at your phone. I've got Chelsea Cooper's phone number! you exult to yourself.

Or you try to. In fact, you feel deflated, even frightened. There is something foreboding about the string of numbers she gave you.

But it's not until later that night that you recognize them, while going through your contact list to reorganize it.

It's Clover Mystery's phone number.

Next: "The Clover Mystery Deepens

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