The Opportunist Page 1

Chapter One

The Present

I am Olivia Kaspen, and if I love something I rip it from my life. Not intentionally…not unintentionally either. I see one of them now; a survivor of my tainted, acrid love. He’s a hundred yards from where I stand, flipping through old records.

Caleb. His names rolls around my head like a barbed ball, slicing open feelings that have long since become scar tissue. My heart tries to punch its way out of my chest and all I can do is stand and watch him. It has been three years since the last time I saw him. His parting words to me were a warning to stay away. I suck sticky air into my lungs and try to rein in my sloppy emotions.

I want to go to him. I want to watch the hate surface in his eyes. Stupid. I start to leave and I am almost across the street and to my car when my feet fail me. The sharp tingle of agitation crawls up my fingertips. Clenching my fists I march back to the window. This is my side of town. How dare he show his face here.

His head is bent over a cardboard box of CD‘s and as he turns to look at something over his shoulder, I catch a glimpse of his offbeat nose. My heart clenches. I still love this boy. The realization scares me. I thought I was over it. I thought I could handle something like this; an impromptu run in. I’ve had therapy; I’ve had three years to…

Get over him.

Fester in my guilt.

I muck around in my emotions for a few more seconds before turning my back to the music store and to Caleb. I can’t do it. I can’t go back to that dark place. My foot is lifted to step down from the curb when the clouds that have been lurking around Miami for a week suddenly groan like old plumbing. Before I get two steps, the rain is assaulting the pavement, drenching my white shirt. I back up quickly and huddle underneath the music store’s awning. I stare at my old Beetle through the strands of rain. Just a short run and I’ll be on my way home. A stranger's voice interrupts my moment of escape. I pull back, not sure if he’s speaking to me.

“The sky is red-means trouble.”

I spin on my heels and find someone standing directly behind me. He is closer than what is deemed socially acceptable. I make a surprised sound in my throat, and back up a step. He is at least a foot taller than I am, all muscle, though not in an attractive way. He holds his hands at an odd angle with his fingers tensed and spread apart. My eyes are drawn to a mole that sits like a target in the center of his forehead

"What?" I shake my head, confused. I am trying to peer over his shoulder to catch a glimpse of Caleb. Is he still there? Should I go in?

“It’s an old sailor’s superstition.” He shrugs.

I lower my eyes to his face. He looks vaguely familiar, and, as I consider telling him to screw off, I try to remember where I have seen him before.

“I have an umbrella.” He holds up a floral thing with a plastic handle in the shape of a daisy, “I can walk you to your car.”

I look at the sky, which does appear to be a dusky red, and I shiver. I want him to leave me alone and I am about to tell him so, when I think- What if this is a sign? The sky is red-get the hell outta here!

I study the chipped polish on my thumbnail and consider his offer. I am not one for omens, but he does have a way to keep me dry.

“No, thanks,” I say. I jerk my head toward the store behind me, and realize I had already made up my mind.

“Okay. Hurricane’s coming, but suit yourself.” He shrugs again and steps out into the rain, not opening his umbrella.

I watch him go. His broad back curves against the downpour like a ledge for the rest of his body. He is truly huge. In seconds the rain has swallowed him and I can no longer see his silhouette. I know him from somewhere but surely I would remember such a large guy if I had met him before. I turn back to the shop. The sign above the door reads Music Mushroom, in bright curlicue letters. I look beyond the glass and search the aisles for him. He is right where I left him, his head still bent over what looks like the Reggae section. Even from where I am standing, I can make out a slight furrow in his brow.

He can't make up his mind. I realize what I am doing and cringe. I don't know him anymore. I can’t make assumptions about what he is thinking.

I want him to look up and see me, but he doesn’t. Since I don’t want to lurk underneath the awning like a creepster any longer, I gather my guts, compose myself, and walk through the door. The air conditioning is icy against my damp skin and I shiver. I spot a tall shelf of bongs to my left, duck behind it, and I pull out my compact to check my make-up.

While I spy on him through the slats in the shelves I use a finger to scrub at the smudged mascara beneath my eyes. I have to make running into him look accidental.

In front of me, there is a bong in the shape of Bob Marley’s head. I look into Bob’s glass eyes and practice a surprised face. I am disgusted by the levels to which I stoop. Pinching my cheeks for color, I step out from my hiding place.

Here goes everything.

My heels bite into the linoleum, snapping loudly as I make my approach. I might as well have hired a trumpeter to announce my arrival. Surprisingly, he doesn’t look up. The air conditioner clicks on when I am a few yards away. Someone has tied lime green streamers to the vents. As they begin to dance, I smell something-it is Caleb’s smell, peppermints and oranges.

I am close enough to see the scar that curves itself gently around his right eye—the one I used to trace with my finger. His presence in a room is like a jarring physical impact. To prove this, I see women—old and young shooting him looks, bending toward him. The whole world bends for Caleb Drake and he is charmingly unaware of it. It is truly disgusting to watch.

I sidle up next to him and reach for a CD. Caleb, oblivious to my presence moves down the alphabetized line of artists. I trace his steps and just as I move a few feet behind him,—his body turns in my direction. I freeze and there is a brief second when I have the urge to run. I grind my heels down and watch as his eyes trace my face like he’s never seen it before, and land on the plastic square in my hand. And then, after three long years, I hear his voice.

“Are they any good?”

I feel the shock rush from my heart to my limbs and settle like lead in my stomach.

He still speaks with the same diluted British accent I remember, but the hardness I was expecting to hear isn't there. Something is wrong.


He looks back at my face and his eyes touch each of my features as if he’s seeing them for the first time.

“I’m sorry? I didn’t catch that."

Shit, shit, shit.

“Err, they are okay,” I say, shoving the CD back on the rack. Seconds of silence flick by. I decide he is waiting for me to speak.

“They’re not really your style.”

He looks confused.

“They’re not my style?”

I nod.

“What exactly do you think my style is?” His eyes are laughing at me and there is a hint of a smile around his mouth.

I run my eyes over his face looking for a clue to the game he is playing. He has always been so good at facial expressions, always the right one at the right time. He looks placid and only remotely interested in my answer. I feel safe so I say, “Umm, you’re a classic rock kind of guy…but I could be wrong.” People change.

“Classic rock?” he repeats, watching my lips. I shiver involuntarily as a memory of him looking at my lips that way comes rushing back to me. Wasn’t that look how it all started?

“I’m sorry,” he says dropping his eyes to the floor. “This is awkward, but I…uhhh…don’t know what my style is. I have no memory of it.”

I gape at him. Was this some type of sick joke? Some way of getting back at me?

“You don’t remember? How could you not remember?”

Caleb runs his hand across the back of his neck, the muscles in his arms flex. “I lost my memory in an accident. Sounds corny I know. But, the truth is—I have no idea what I like or liked, I guess I should say. I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”

He turns to leave, probably because my face is so full of shock it makes him uncomfortable. It feels as if someone has taken a potato masher to my brain. Nothing makes sense. Nothing fits together. Caleb doesn’t know who I am. Caleb doesn’t know who I am! With every step, he takes toward the door I become more desperate. Somewhere in my head I hear a voice scream, “Stop him!”

“Wait,” I say. My voice is barely audible. “Wait…wait!” this time I scream and several people turn to stare. Shutting them out, I focus on Caleb’s back. He is almost to the door when he turns to face me. Think fast, think fast! Holding up a finger indicating for him to wait where he is, I set off in a trot for the classic rock section. It only takes a minute to find what used to be his favorite CD. I return with it clutched tightly in my hands, stopping a few feet away from where he is standing.

“You’ll like this,” I say, tossing him the copy. My aim is off, but he catches it with grace and smiles almost sadly.

I watch him walk to the register, sign his credit card receipt, and disappear right back out of my life.


Why didn’t I tell him who I am? Now it is too late and the moment for honesty has past. I stay rooted in his wake, my heart beating sluggishly in my chest as I try to process what has happened. He forgot me.

Chapter Two

At some point during the fifth grade, I watched a murder/mystery on television. The detective, who I had a ridiculous crush on, was named Follagyn Beville. A modern day Jack the Ripper was targeting prostitutes. Follagyn was hunting him down. He was interrogating an especially ratty looking hooker, with stringy blond hair that was stained black at the roots. She was curled up on a mustard yellow couch, her lips sucking greedily on a cigarette. “Wow, what a terrific actress!” I remember thinking. She should like, win an Emmy for being so pathetic. She held a rocks glass in her hand, and was taking quick, birdlike sips of whiskey. I watched her movements, hungry for the drama, memorizing everything she did. Later that night I filled a glass with ice and Pepsi. I took my drink back to the windowsill and lifted an imaginary cigarette to my lips.

“No one listens to me,” I whispered so that my breath frosted the glass. “This world—It’s cold.” I took a sip of Pepsi, making sure that I rattled the ice.

A decade and a half later and I still have my sense of the dramatic. The day after my run in with Caleb, hurricane Phoebe ripped through town and spared me from having to call in sick to work. I am in bed, my body curled possessively around a bottle of vodka.

Around midday, I roll out of bed and shuffle to the bathroom. There is still electricity despite the category three hurricane that is rattling my windows. I take advantage by running myself a bath. As I sit in the steaming water, I replay the whole thing in my mind for the millionth time. It all ends with, he forgot me.

My pug, Pickles, settles herself on my bathmat and watches me carefully. She is so ugly, I smile.

“Caleb, Caleb, Caleb,” I say it to see if it still sounds the same.

He used to have a weird habit of reversing people’s names when he heard them for the first time. I was Aivilo and he was Belac. I thought it was ridiculous, but eventually I found myself doing the same thing. It became a secret code that we used when gossiping.

And now he didn’t remember me. How could you forget someone you loved even if I did rip his heart to shreds? I pour some vodka into my bathwater. How was I ever going to get him out of my head now? I could make being depressed my full time job. That’s what country singers did. I could be a country singer. I belt out a couple verses of “Achey Breaky Heart” and take another swig.

I pull the chain to the plug with my toe and listen to the water gurgle into the drain. I dress and plod to the fridge, with the cheap liquor sloshing around in my empty belly. My emergency hurricane food supply consists of two bottles of ranch dressing, an onion, and a block of sharp cheddar cheese. I cut up the cheese and onions and toss them into a bowl pouring fat free ranch over the top. I put on the coffee pot and hit play on the stereo. In it was the same CD I had given to Caleb in the Music Mushroom. I drink a lot more vodka.

I wake up on the kitchen floor with my face pressed into a puddle of drool. In my fist is a picture of Caleb that has been ripped and taped back together. I feel pretty damn good even though there is a mild throbbing in my temples. I make a decision. Today I was going to start from scratch. I was going to forget what’s-his-name and buy healthy crap to eat and move on with my damn life. I clean up my drunken mess, pausing briefly to toss the torn and taped picture into the trash. Goodbye yesterday. I grab my purse and head to the nearest health food store.

The first thing that the healthy crap store does is puff patchouli scented air into my face. I scrunch up my nose and hold my breath until I pass the service desk where a girl my age is snapping gum and meditating behind a counter.

Grabbing a cart, I head for the rear of the store, pushing past the bottles of Madame Deerwood’s Aura Cleanser (it doesn’t work), the eye of newt, and the bags of Gota Kola.

As far as I am concerned, this is a normal grocery store and not a supply haven for every new age weirdo in a twenty mile radius. Caleb and I were never here together, making the Mecca Market a memory free zone for me.

I throw some seaweed cookies and baked chips into the cart and head for the ice cream aisle. I pass a woman wearing a shirt that says, “I am Wiccan, see me Broom.” She isn’t wearing shoes.

Turning down the ice cream aisle, I shiver.


I swing around so fast my shoulder upsets a display of waffle cones. I watch in horror as they crash to the ground, scattering and skidding like my thoughts.

Next page