Home > Luna and the Lie

Luna and the Lie
Author: Mariana Zapata

Chapter 1

It was the “Goddamn it, Luna,” that had me prying an eyelid open.

But it was the rumbled, deep voice saying it that had me aiming my eyeball in the direction of the man standing about ten feet away.

The man who had his hands on his hips as he frowned.

At me.

If I had to guess why I was the lucky winner of that mouth being turned down, it might have been because I’d had my eyes closed for… I glanced at my old but faithful G-Shock watch... the last twenty minutes.

Who was I kidding? I would have bet all of my money that was exactly why.

When I had seen him that morning bent over the opened hood of an early 1950s GMC truck, a hint of a white compression shirt showing beneath his coveralls, I’d known he was in a bad mood to begin with. Not that anyone was ever in a good mood on a Friday morning, but… the man glaring at me was always in a bad mood when he wore white. It was a fact.

It definitely didn’t help that, when I had brought him his cup of coffee that morning, he’d asked me, “Did you decide?”

And like every time he had asked the same question, I had given him the same reply I always had and would. “Ah, no.”

You’d figure he’d have finally started to expect my reply after the seven hundred-ish times of asking the same question and getting the same answer, but it still irritated him after all this time.

And while it wasn’t completely out of the norm for him—my boss, one of my two bosses, if you wanted to be technical—to say “Goddamn it, Luna,” it wasn’t common either. I didn’t like to get into trouble. My friends had said more than a few times that I was allergic to having people mad or disappointed with me. It was a curse I hadn’t managed to shake off, no matter how many times it worked against me.

I couldn’t help but give the man with his hands on his hips and a frown on his face a smile. I thought about winking at him because I knew how much winking irritated him, but I didn’t. It was a white shirt day after all, and I had to conserve my energy where I could when I still had at least eight hours left before I got to go home for the weekend.

“Yes?” I went with as a response to his goddamn it, Luna instead of what did I do? I hadn’t done anything wrong by having my eyes closed for a few minutes.

…technically.

Ripley narrowed his eyes, managing to level his gaze solely on me, ignoring the other seven full-time employees seated around the break room where we had our weekly meetings every Friday. At nine in the morning, two hours after I usually clocked into work, every employee at Cooper’s Collision and Customs waddled in to listen to our bosses go over things like upcoming projects, current projects, status updates, issues, grievances, arguing over who was overdoing it with the air freshener in the bathroom….

It wasn’t exactly fun, and it wasn’t a secret we only suffered through the meeting because we got paid to. It was hard enough to stay awake on any given morning during the work week, but on a Friday with the weekend only hours away, plus the heat of so many bodies sitting around? It was almost impossible not to close your eyes.

Staying up late past midnight to watch a scary movie with Lily didn’t help any either, but when she had asked, I hadn’t been able to find it in me to tell her no. Our time together was running out, and I knew one day I would regret not taking advantage of every opportunity we had to hang out. I’d learned that lesson with my other two sisters.

But I was pretty sure that the man glaring at me right then didn’t know or care about any of that, and his next words confirmed it.

“Didn’t we talk about you taking a nap during our meetings?” Ripley drawled the question in a tone that wasn’t exactly nice.

Not that it ever really was.

I kept one eye on him as I stayed in the same position I’d been in when he had called me out—slumped over the table with an elbow planted on it, chin propped up on my open hand. Instead of both my eyes being closed though, I only had one open. I kept the smile on my face as I told him the answer we were both totally aware of, “Yes, we talked about it.” Just in case he forgot what exactly he’d said, I reminded him. “You told me not to.”

Because he had. Luna, you’ve gotta quit going to sleep during the goddamn meetings. If you wanna take a nap, wait eight fucking hours until you get home, got it? We’d had that conversation behind closed doors and with Mr. Cooper—the man who had hired me, my original boss and owner, and as of three years ago, the now co-owner of Cooper’s Collision and Customs—present.

I had got his message, and I respected it.

My boss, at least the one frowning at me, didn’t physically react to my answer. He didn’t even blink as he confirmed what we obviously both knew, “Yeah. That’s exactly what I said.”

Beside him, but hanging back verbally, Mr. Cooper coughed but didn’t say a word. I didn’t take it personally. I’d overheard enough of their fights to know it had taken them long enough to just get to this point in their work relationship—disagreeing with each other but not arguing over it in front of us. I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who didn’t miss that phase in our lives at CCC. For a while there, we had all mastered sitting as still as possible and staring at the wall, pretending we were somewhere else.

I had gotten that Ph.D. a long time ago.

“And nobody gets paid to be taking a nap during our meetings,” Rip finished, like it wasn’t common sense, hands still on his hips. That rough face, which was still shaped into the form of a scowl, somehow added a nonverbal touch of not even you to the end of his statement, like I expected some kind of special treatment.

I didn’t and I never had, despite whatever he thought when he was in a bad mood. It… not even you… was just only… me. The employee who came in earlier than everyone else, stayed later than everyone else, and had only called out of work a handful of times in the last nine years. The person who had never said no to extra hours.

But it was and always had been my choice to do all those things, and I knew it. That’s why I kept my mouth closed. I could have said no when they asked. It had been my decision to stay late and come in on the weekends each time I did.

You didn’t jump off a bridge, break your legs, and then blame the friend who dared you to do it for why you were in the hospital.

Taking responsibility for my actions and not blaming other people for things I brought upon myself was one of the few positive lessons I’d learned from my family, even if it was something they hadn’t tried to teach me on purpose.

I cut that train of thought off real quick. Some things and people were so acidic, even thinking about them could destroy. I was going to choose to be happy, and that meant not thinking about old crap. Today was going to be a good day, and so was tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.

It was with that thought that I kept the smile on my face and let it linger on the man staring at me. It took a lot more than Rip in a white shirt to make me frown or hurt my feelings. It took a lot more than thinking of certain people for all of a second to do it either.

The point was: I was tired. I’d closed my eyes. He’d called me out on it. There was nothing to get upset about.

“Luna,” Rip said my name in that ridiculously low voice that had caught me totally off-guard the first time I’d heard it. “We understand each other? No fucking naps during the meeting. It’s not that hard to get, is it?”

From a couple chairs down, someone snorted, but I knew from the sound of it who it was, so I didn’t bother wasting my time even looking in that direction, much less letting his amusement at me getting put on the spot bother me.

I still kept the corners of my mouth up high on my face as I nodded just once at my boss. I understood him loud and clear. I also understood the look that Mr. Cooper was giving him from his spot on Ripley’s left. He wasn’t supposed to be cussing at me, or any of us at the shop. That was something else the two owners of one of the most successful auto body shops in Houston, Texas had spent a lot of time talking about in the office when they didn’t know I was eavesdropping….

Which was all the time.

Not that they knew that.

At least I hoped they didn’t, but it wasn’t like they were subtle or secretive about it either.

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