Jaxon is getting by fine, severe dyslexia or not. Being a cab driver means he doesn’t need to read much, and the job has its perks. The pay isn’t bad, the people can be interesting, and having memorized the city streets keeps him from feeling too stupid.
When he picks up Caleb, a quiet fare in a nice suit, Jaxon doesn’t think anything of it. Then he ends up driving Caleb home the next week too, and the next, and the next. Eventually Caleb tries to communicate—by writing things down. Turns out that Caleb has such a bad stutter he spends most of his time mute.
If only Jaxon had an easier time reading what Caleb had to say. But he’s interested in trying, and Caleb seems interested back. They discover that, with a little bit of effort, it isn’t so hard to make themselves understood. Especially when what’s growing between them is definitely worth talking about.
BUY LINK: Riptide Publishing
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Aidan Wayne is a big believer in character-driven stories with happy endings. This is not to say that stories can’t contain a little (or a lot) of grief, just that at the end of it all expect there to be bandages and hugs. They particularly like to write about minority characters because damn it, they deserve happy endings too.
When not writing, Aidan enjoys practicing aerial, martial arts, and ASL, and watching reality cooking shows. They are probably in the middle of twelve projects as you read this.
To celebrate the release of Loud and Clear, Aidan is giving away $15 in Riptide credit. Leave a comment to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 28, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
When Caleb had learned that he was going to have a mandatory drinking evening, he went ahead and called the cab company ahead of time, knowing he wouldn’t be able to make the phone call after the fact. He did the same thing the following Tuesday, and, by the third week, just asked them to keep him on as a regular customer, if that was possible, and he’d cancel it when necessary. The response had been a little confused, but perfectly willing. So Caleb was set for a designated driver for every Tuesday night until this stupid drink-night thing got canceled.
Some people at the office were thinking it would just last for a few months at most, to “solidify the relationships in the company” after the merger or some nonsense like that. Caleb hoped they were right, if only to give his poor liver a break.
Not tonight though. Tonight was another dreaded Tuesday. Yay.
He spent the work day on edge and sharing trepidatious glances with the others on the team who were required to go. When it got to be time for the company cars to take them to the bar, Caleb actually had a brief moment of What if I just don’t go? before sighing and getting in next to Yusuke. Yusuke clapped him heartily on the back and started talking about the latest projections. Which was another reason why he actually had to attend. For all the drinking, until people got too shit-faced, they actually talked about work. Missing this was the equivalent of missing an actual meeting. And it was considered company time, too.
Basically, Tuesdays were the worst.
Though, not completely the worst, Caleb figured, as he clambered inside the cab again, adjusting his suit jacket as he sat down. His driver was cute and didn’t stick his nose in Caleb’s business—he just drove. He was the best cab driver ever. Caleb wished he could actually say it.
“Hey,” the man said, twisting around to smile at him, and yeah, Caleb still didn’t know his name. That was silly. “Evening. Towers again?”
Caleb frowned. Yes, he wanted to go home. But he also wanted to know his cab driver’s name, and he wasn’t coherent enough to even try to ask. And it was probably a long shot that the cabbie knew Sign Language. Instead he pointed a finger at the driver.
“Uh.” The man’s brows furrowed. “What? Is there something behind me?” He glanced over his shoulder, and Caleb was already frowning and shaking his head when the man looked back at him. “No . . . uh.”
Caleb leaned forward and pointed again. Gesturing hard at the man’s face. His driver looked taken aback.
“Uh, my face? Something on my face?” At Caleb’s headshake, he tried, “Okay . . . me?” Caleb smiled and nodded. Yes, excellent. Good. Now he’d learn his name.
The driver raised his eyebrows, clearly bemused. “Uh, sorry. What about me? I’m your driver, remember? Taking you to the Towers? If that’s where you’re going. You haven’t actually . . . uh.” He trailed off again when Caleb shook his head.
Oh! He pulled out his ID again, showing it his driver. The man glanced at it.
“. . . Right,” he said. “Caleb. I remember you from last time. And, uh, the time before that. Look man, you’re gonna actually need to tell me where you want to go, talker or not.”
Caleb smiled inwardly. He’d remembered his note! But the note could wait. He waved the ID and nodded, pointing to himself. Then he pointed again at the cabbie and raised his eyebrows, looking expectant.
“Are you . . . asking what my name is?” Caleb grinned and nodded. Yes! He’d gotten it. Cute and quick enough on the uptake. Good job.
“Oh! I’m sorry, man, this is so— I can’t believe I didn’t introduce myself to you. Uh, I’m Jaxon. Jaxon Tlapa. Hey.” He waved a little, and Caleb beamed.
Great, he had a name! That was excellent. That was an excellent thing. Okay. Mission accomplished for tonight. He could go home now. He tucked the ID card away again and buckled his seat belt, then smiled at Jaxon again.
Jaxon sighed. “Caleb. Where am I taking you? Are you going to the Towers or not?”
Oh, right. He nodded. Home was good.
“Double-checking,” Jaxon said. “You want to go to the Lindsey Towers?”
Caleb nodded again, appreciating the thoroughness.
“Okay. Great.” He turned around to face forward again, saying over his shoulder, “Sit tight, I’ll get you there in no time.”
Caleb sat back against the seat. The drive wasn’t too long, and he let himself drift like the last three times he’d done this, watching the flashes of color as the car drove on through the dark. It was always quiet in this cab; Jaxon didn’t play music. It was sort of nice. Just driving, the alcohol buzz, knowing he had a bed waiting for him. Very comfortable bed. And he knew Jaxon’s name now; that was an accomplishment. He wondered why Jaxon was a cab driver. Did he like driving, or the hours, or . . .? He was good at it, that much was obvious.
The cab pulled up in front of Caleb’s apartment complex. “Here we are,” Jaxon said, fiddling with something up front. Caleb fished his credit card out of his wallet and handed it over, taking the receipt and pen Jaxon passed back with them. The cost was always roughly the same, so he barely glanced at the total before adding in the tip. And a quick scribble on the bottom as a last-minute drunken decision.
He gave back the pen and the second receipt and pushed himself out of the cab.
“Have a good night,” Jaxon called to him, like he always did. Probably did to every person he drove around. Still. It was nice of him to say. Caleb smiled and waved, adding a half-formed ASL thank you before he remembered, yeah, that wasn’t going to be understood.
He yawned and turned toward his building. Bed. Bed was a good idea.