Disclaimer: Characters and situations are all from my imagination. In fact, a couple of them might be familiar from other stories I've written.
Warnings: Sex and love between women.
Feedback: Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Everything For Time
Copyright © 2008 Geonn Cannon
Kira McManus woke every morning to the smell of fresh-baked goods. She lived in the small apartment above her watch repair shop, which was next door to a bakery slash coffee shop slash bookstore. She dressed with the sweet smells seeping up the stairs, pinned her copper-colored hair up in a loose ponytail and headed down the narrow staircase that led directly into the back room of her shop.
She ignored the small office so cluttered with paperwork and invoices that the phone was drowned in a sea of yellow and pink slips and went directly to the front of the shop. She raised the drab green blind, unlocked the door and turned the sign around to "open." The handwritten sign hanging just over the door's handle - "All Timepieces Guaranteed to be Right at LEAST Twice per Day" - was a bit crooked, so she adjusted it until it hung correctly. She checked the window displays on either side of the door and reached under the curtain to turn on the inside lights.
The shop, called "Everything for Time," was a large-ish room, ringed on three sides by glass display cases that dominated the space. There was, of course, enough room for customers to browse and chairs where they could wait while minute repairs were done. The walls were filled with clocks. Large clocks, tiny clocks, clocks that were ornate and stately and clocks that were whimsical and cartoonish. She had a black cat clock with a swinging tail and sweeping eyes next to the office door sharing space with an antique clock with a background of Earth that she thought came from Switzerland around the turn of the century.
Kira slipped around the edge of the nearest case and walked to her post in the back right corner of the shop. She turned on the radio, tuned it to the classical music station and made sure the signal wasn't too filled with static before she sat down.
The receipts for the day before were pressed neatly in the front cover of her ledger. She opened the book on her work space and went through the receipts carefully. The Hood-Colby order was due to be picked up, and she would have just enough time to finish the repairs for the Dugan order before lunch. She put the ledger aside and prepared her work area with the necessary tools for the job.
At twenty minutes past ten, the bell over the front door jingled. Kira looked up from her work, her blue eyes made huge by the magnifying eyeglasses she wore. The woman in the doorway hesitated, holding the door open as she scanned the cases. "Hi," she finally said. "Do you repair pocket watches?"
"Yes, ma'am," Kira said. She suddenly realized why the world was so huge and blurry and took the glasses off. The woman was tall and blonde, wearing a cream-colored suit with a sky blue blouse. She looked rushed, tired and frustrated, but managed a smile when she met Kira's eyes. Kira set the glasses down next to her workspace and moved down to a clear space of counter. "Welcome to Everything for Time. How can I help you?"
"Good morning." The woman walked into the shop and withdrew a case from her purse. She laid it on the counter and flipped the top open. She withdrew a pocket watch and held the watch in the palm of her hand, letting the gold chain drape over her fingers. "This was left to me by my grandfather. I found someone willing to buy it, but I wanted to make sure it was running and keeping accurate time and all that..."
"Okay," Kira said. She took the watch from the case and could immediately tell it was valuable. She looked at the front case, running her fingers over the carved yellow-gold roses before she turned it over and read the script on the back to confirm. "This is a Ulysse Nardin."
"Okay," the woman said with an uncertain smile.
"It's an antique," Kira explained. "It was made in Le Locle, Switzerland." She turned the watch over again and clicked it open. The numbers were large and blue, easy to read. She noted, almost to herself, "It has the original enamel dial..." She put the watch down and carefully opened it to examine the interior.
The woman leaned forward and looked at the guts of her grandfather's watch. "Wow. You can tell all that just by looking at it?"
Kira kept her head down to hide her face. Blushing tended to make her freckles stand out. She cleared her throat and said, "It's easy when you're trained. My father used to run this store, and he taught me everything he knew."
"Wow. You should be on Antiques Roadshow."
"I have been," Kira said before she could stop herself.
The woman said, "Really? That's amazing!"
"Well, no," Kira backtracked. "I-I mean, I was, um, I work at the show sometimes when they're in Washington. I work behind-the-scenes and I appraise things that don't make it on the air. I've never been on the actual show."
"Oh," the woman said. "Well, you could. I mean, you're smart enough. And you're certainly pretty enough to be on TV."
Kira smiled nervously and said, "So, um... you just need the repair?"
"It won't be too much, will it?"
"No. It's in great condition. Your grandfather must have kept good care of it."
The woman nodded. "Good, that's great. I was worried the repair bill would eat into my profits." She smiled to show she was kidding, but Kira frowned anyway.
"How much are you selling this for?"
Kira's eyes widened. "No, you're not."
The woman's hand paused halfway to her purse. "Excuse me."
"This watch... you could get four thousand for it, easy."
"You're kidding. God. I should've known." The woman scoffed and said, "The buyer told me he didn't care if it was working or not. Looks like he was just trying to keep me from bringing it to an expert. Thank you, very much... miss?"
"McManus. Um, Kira McManus."
"Kira. I'm Hannah Talbot. You just made my day."
Kira smiled. "If you want to really test the buyer, tell him you had to raise the price to a thousand. If he agrees without much fuss, you'll know he knows. I mean, don't sell, regardless, but..."
"It'll be good to know if he's a cheat. Excellent. When can I pick up the watch?"
Kira glanced at her ledger, did some mental calculations and scratched the side of her neck as she wrote out the order slip. "It should be done by Wednesday. Come by in the afternoon. I-if that's convenient for you."
"Hey, I'll make it convenient." She smiled and said, "It was a real pleasure to meet you, Kira."
"You too, Mrs. Talbot."
Hannah said, "It's 'miss,' actually." Her fingers brushed Kira's as she took the order slip. When Kira looked up, Hannah smiled. "I like those glasses you had on earlier. They really showed off your eyes. And you have great eyes."
Kira went through a whole series of responses before her tongue betrayed her with the uncreative and embarrassingly underwhelming, "Thanks."
"See you Wednesday."
"Um-hmm," Kira said. She watched as Hannah tucked the order slip into her purse and walked out of the store. She cleared her throat and went back to her station. She glanced at the clock and saw it was twenty-seven minutes past ten. An hour and a half to finish the Dugan watch before lunch. She bent over the disassembled mechanics and went to work.
The lights went out, the sign flipped back to "closed" and the blind was pulled down. The shop was left in the dark, with the legion of clocks on the wall continuing to tick toward dawn. Kira untucked her brown dress shirt as she walked up the stairs to her apartment. She undid the top two buttons and dropped onto the couch without bothering to turn on the lights. She kicked off her shoes and lay down, staring at the wall over her TV. She had only seen a handful of people during the course of the day. Not unusual. One of Mayor Dugan's aides had come in to pick up his watch, which was ready and waiting for him, and Jill Hood-Colby had come to pick up her watch.
She remembered the inscription: "To Patricia, All My Love, Jill. 08/08/08." She had put the two together - she knew Patricia Hood, so she had noted Jill's hyphenated last name and the date... - and knew it had to be a wedding present. It was true their little town had a more relaxed attitude toward same-sex relationships than most places, but she was still amazed by public displays of affection like the name change.
When it came to sex and dating, Kira was a late-bloomer, if not a no-bloomer. She was shy and awkward around women, as evidenced by her encounter with Hannah Talbot that morning. She always came up with the perfect thing to say or do afterward, her mind a perfectly-scripted play that ended with her going upstairs with a different woman every night. She closed her eyes and pictured the scene that morning, standing across the counter from Miss Hannah Talbot for seven whole minutes.
She pictured herself holding up her left hand and staring Hannah straight in the eye. "See these fingers?" the fantasy Kira said. "I use this hand for my work. Do you understand how intricate my work is? Gears, springs... some components far too small to see clearly without a magnifying glass. I've done it for years, so I can keep a really steady hand. I can find every tiny piece, and my fingers never shake. They can't shake. Not without ruining the watch." Then she would lean forward and lower her voice and say, "Imagine what I could do to you with these fingers."
Kira shuddered at the thought of actually saying those things to a real person. So what if 'components' wasn't exactly the sexiest word in the world? Surely the overall feel of the speech would do the trick. But then what? Either the woman would slap her or they would have mad, passionate sex. One way was painful, and the other involved someone new seeing her naked. Neither was really her idea of a good time.
So she undid her trousers, slipped her hand inside and cupped herself. She pictured taking Hannah by the hand, taking her into the back room and showing her what she could do with her left hand. The steady hand. They would undress - Kira's own nudity never featured into these fantasies; she always trimmed a few pounds and added a cup size - and Kira would ravish her right there, with the clocks ticking all around them.
Kira brought herself to a quick, quiet climax, rubbed her hands on the leg of her slacks, and checked the clock. It was set to her watch, which was set to her clocks downstairs, which were set every other morning to the official US time according to the atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado. It was three minutes past eight in the evening. She had to be up in ten hours to open the store. She sat up, got off the couch and hitched her pants up so they wouldn't fall down as she walked to the bathroom.
She undressed and took a quick shower, then walked naked across the living room to the front window. She pulled the curtain open, only slightly so that she could hide behind it, and peeked through the gap she had made. It was unlikely anyone would look up, or even see her due to the glare of the streetlights, but still. Down on the street, she could see a few people who were walking down the sidewalk after leaving Coffee Table Books, the bakery next door. A pair of couples, double-dating from the look of it. Two men and two women, but it was not readily apparent who was with whom.
As the foursome gathered near a car, one of the men wrapped his arms around one of the women and embraced her from behind. The other man and woman, therefore, were the other couple. She watched them, their easy intimacy, and wondered how they could be so comfortable being like that in public. She sighed and let the curtain fall back into place, blocking out the world as she turned and went to bed.
Hannah Talbot returned Wednesday afternoon at three-forty. She was smiling as she came through the door, her coat swinging out behind her like a cape. "Well, you were right." Kira looked up, again caught with her magnifying glasses on. Hannah walked up to the counter and said, "I raised the price and he didn't even blink. Some people, huh?"
"I guess so," Kira said. She took off her glasses, blinked the world back into focus and went to the safe. She unlocked it and withdrew Hannah's watch. "I kept it in here, just to be cautious. I managed to get it fixed... it has to be hand-wound, though, to keep time."
"Okay," Hannah said. "I appreciate the safe." She took the watch and held it up to her ear, listening to the tick.
"Better safe than sorry," Kira said. It's my damn mantra, she thought. She looked at Hannah's hands - very fine hands, with manicured nails - and quickly looked away. Hannah, satisfied with the sound of the watch, placed it back in its case and withdrew a pocketbook from her purse.
"Do you take checks?"
"Mm-hmm. Make it out to, um, Everything for Time."
Hannah smiled. "I really love that name, by the way. It's why I came in here."
"As opposed to all the other watch shops on the island?"
Hannah looked up through her bangs and gave Kira a playful grin. Kira became flustered and put her hands on top of the case, took them away, folded them in front of herself and then shoved them in her pocket. She watched as Hannah finished writing out the check, straightened and tore the check from the book. "Worth every penny."
"Thank you," Kira said. "If you ever need to be serviced..." A golden eyebrow arched and Kira's face went pale. "Watch. Serviced. The..." She closed her eyes and said, "If you ever need to get the watch serviced, there's a one-year guarantee on the work."
"I'll keep that in mind, Mrs. McManus."
"Miss," Kira said without thinking.
"Really," Hannah said. She bit her bottom lip and backed out of the store, smiling as she pushed the door open with her shoulder. She chuckled and slipped out into the windy day, her hair whipping around her head like a tornado.
Kira stayed where she was until Hannah had opened her car door and disappeared inside before she sagged forward against the counter, head in her hands, and growled, "If you ever need to be serviced? For God's sake..." She shook her head and went back to her work station. She couldn't even ease her mind by telling herself that maybe, just maybe, Hannah had been receptive to the possibility.
On Sundays and Mondays, the shop was closed. Kira took that time to do the random errands that she was unable to do when she was working. She always closed the shop after the bank and library were already closed, so Monday morning was spent returning books, depositing the last week's earnings and doing her grocery shopping. She was coming out of the supermarket when she nearly ran into Hannah Talbot on her way in. She came up short, which caused Hannah to look up and notice her.
"Oh!" Hannah said after a moment. She put her hand on the elbow of the woman she was with. "Kira! Kelly, this is that watchmaker I was telling you about. Kira... um..."
"McManus," Kira said. She forced a smile. "Hello."
"Hi," Kelly said. She nodded at the grocery store and said, "I'm going to go on inside."
Hannah nodded and leaned in to peck Kelly on the cheek. "I'll be there in a minute." She watched Kelly disappear through the sliding doors and then turned her attention to Kira. "Enjoying your Monday?"
"Yeah," Kira said, shifting nervously from one foot to the other. "Um... I have ice cream..."
"Oh! Sorry. I won't keep you, then. I just wanted to say hey."
Kira smiled and nodded. "Is the watch... okay?"
"Still tickin'," Hannah said. "I decided to keep it. For the time being."
"Good." Kira said. She gestured over her shoulder. "I should let you get to your friend."
Hannah nodded. "Right. And your ice cream."
"Yeah. Good seeing you."
Kira stepped around Hannah and let her go into the store. She stopped at the sidewalk and turned, letting her eyes track down Hannah's body and stopped at the faded denim over her ass. She stared until Hannah disappeared into the store and then looked down at the street. She didn't know why she lied; she didn't have ice cream. They could have stood and talked for a couple more minutes at least. But that would have involved Kira standing. And talking. To an attractive woman. For a couple more minutes. At least.
She sighed and shook her head, wondering if everyone else in the world grew out of this awkward phase during high school. It certainly seemed like that sometimes. She hefted the grocery bag and started walking.
Kira was at the end of the counter next to the window, helping a customer pick out a gold watch, so she saw Hannah step off the street and onto the sidewalk down the block. She wore a tailored navy suit, her blonde hair done up in a bun. She was carrying a box with both hands. Kira forced herself to look away and focus on her customer. "This watch would be a fine retirement gift. It's an American Waltham, 14 carat..."
The bell over the door jingled as the door swung open. Kira glanced up and felt her breath catch as she saw Hannah step into the store. Hannah looked first at the workspace Kira usually occupied, then caught sight of her out of the corner of her eye. She turned, smiled and gestured that she would wait.
"Hi. I'll be with you in a second." Hannah nodded and Kira tried to focus on the customer. "Um, made in 1897, as you can see from the engraving on the back. It's a pocket watch, as you can see, but I think the big, flashy Rolex is kind of..."
"Done to death," the customer said.
Kira smiled and said, "It's kind of expensive, but well worth it."
"The guy I'm buying it for is worth it, too," the customer assured her. "I kept him on past mandatory retirement age, but he's insisting on spending time with his wife and kids." He smiled to show he was joking and nodded at the watch. "I'll take it."
"Excellent. Would you like it gift-wrapped or engraved?"
"How much would the engraving be?"
Kira told him as she watched Hannah slowly glide along the display case on the other side of the room. She had put the box down and her hands were clasped loosely behind her back. The customer decided he would pay for the engraving and Kira slid a pad across the glass so he could write what he wanted. "I'll be right back," she said.
She moved around the counters and met Hannah halfway across the room. Hannah looked up and smiled. "Hi."
"Hi. How can I help you?"
"The, uh, clocks on the wall. Do you work on clocks, too?"
"Occasionally," Kira said. "I have the right tools."
Hannah smiled. "Gotta love a woman with the tools for the job."
Kira blushed and looked down. "I have to finish up with this gentleman, but I'll be right back."
"Take your time. I'm having fun browsing."
Kira returned to the other customer and took his engraving request. "It should be ready in two days."
He paid half the total cost, took the order slip and thanked Kira. He nodded to Hannah on his way out, and Kira put the watch aside with the engraving instructions and her copy of the order slip. Business done, she went back to Hannah and said, "What clock?"
Hannah had gone back to the box and withdrew a small cuckoo clock. She set it on the counter, on top of a piece of cloth so she wouldn't damage the glass, and said, "This clock. It's a cuckoo clock, but the cuckoo won't come out."
Kira took the clock and slid it closer so she could get a good look at it. "How long have you had it?"
"Uh, I don't... I don't remember."
"Where did you get it?"
"Flea mark... garage sale."
Kira looked up and Hannah looked away, guilty. "How long has the cuckoo been stuck?"
"I, uh... I have no idea." She sighed and said, "This isn't my cuckoo clock. It belongs to my neighbor. My neighbor's neighbor, actually. Do you know how many people in this town wear disposable digital wristwatches? And I'm assuming you don't service Seiko watches you can just replace for ten bucks at the closest Wal-Mart." She sighed and made to push her hair out of her face, but it had remained tight in the clasp. She cleared her throat and looked at Kira. "I actually just wanted an excuse to see you."
Hannah smiled. "Because I think you're attractive. And I didn't exactly make the most of our last few run-ins, so I thought maybe this time I would..." She shrugged her shoulders and exhaled. "I'm not doing this very well, am I?"
Kira watched her carefully. Surely this confident, composed woman wasn't having problems asking her out. Women like Hannah Talbot didn't get flustered around the Kira McManuses of the world. Did they?
Hannah met Kira's gaze, quickly looked down at the glass counter and said, "Could you, um, say something? Please? I mean, just give me an exit strategy and I'm gone..." She toyed with the edge of the cloth under her cuckoo clock.
Kira couldn't make her tongue work. At the back of her mind, she again saw herself holding up her left hand and saying, "See these fingers?" Instead she said, "Would... I mean... I guess we could go out to dinner. If you're free tonight."
Hannah looked up and smiled, her blue eyes sparkling with the reflected gold of the watches in the display case.
Well, Kira thought as she rested her fingers on top of the cuckoo clock, it's a start...
endReturn to the Academy