That Turtle Story
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April 10, 2020
Cover art: Reese Dante
Genre: Contemporary romance, holiday
Gus Heather took a deep breath. “Oh—!”
Fucking hell, she was going to sing Dean Martin again.
“Don’t,” I warned from where I sat at the counter.
Gus looked at me, mouth still open, ready to burst out in Christmas jingles. “The—”
“Gus. I swear to God.”
“Is weather,” she concluded with anticlimactic awkwardness.
Gus—real name Grizela, but she hated it—was our newest volunteer at Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation. She was a retired boat captain who I thought got too much sun in her younger years and was now permanently a little off.
I gave her side-eye until I was certain she wasn’t going to burst into holiday songs again.
I didn’t hold any particular grudge against Dean Martin. He had a pleasant enough voice, and the song was wonderfully romantic. But when the owner of the hospital played exactly two Christmas CDs religiously on repeat for the entirety of December…. Safe to say I’d been “Let It Snow”-ed out the last few weeks.
And really, this was Key West. The weather outside wasn’t frightful (except during hurricane season). A fire would have been anything but delightful. And since I did have many places to go, it’d better not freakin’ snow.
Was I in a mood or what?
“Stupid schmaltzy music,” I muttered.
Like, yeah, stick it to the man.
“Someone’s got a case of the Mondays,” Gus said as she returned to restocking the postcard rack in what served as our welcome center and gift shop.
“Gonna have a case of my foot up your ass soon,” I grumbled.
The track changed. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
I snorted. Gay yuletide, sure. I could do that. But merry? My fanny.
“Nor,” Gus said from across the room.
“Gus,” I answered.
“Have you considered a hookup or something?”
I’d been studying the educational tour planner and trying to decide who to strangle for overbooking our two o’clock class. I looked up and stared hard at Gus.
She stared right back.
“A hookup?” I repeated after a prolonged silence.
“You might feel better,” Gus said, waving the stack of postcards in her hand.
I gently closed the planner, set my elbows on the counter, and rested my chin on my raised hands. “Pray tell.”
“It might help you get over Tom.”
“Cruising drunk college bros wearing beach shorts on Duval does sound enticing,” I said dryly, realizing a fraction of a second too late that Gus hadn’t picked up on the sarcasm.
“I mean, if that’s what you’re into,” she agreed.
I dropped my head down with a loud thump.
“You guys broke up last month.”
“I wasn’t aware heartbreak had an expiration date,” I muttered.
“You’re not even thirty,” Gus continued. “Life didn’t end when Tom walked out.”
“Thanks, doc.” I looked up. “What do I owe you for my session?”