“My pet hamster got sick when I was twelve. I took it to the vet but he couldn’t find anything wrong. So I went to the library and started exploring all the things that could cause those symptoms. It was too late for Sparky, but I found the answer.”
“Something really gross that I won’t mention at dinner. My line of work runs to the really gross fairly often.”
“And here I thought it was all bright sunshine, a great ass and no tan line.”
Cindy walked up with her pad and pen. “Do you save this stuff up for me? Or do I have the worst timing of my life?”
The phone ringing around 10:00 jolted her awake. The morning sun set the room alight as the rays reflected off the river. Reaching for it, she rolled on her side and stretched.
“Yes? Hello?” Her voice didn’t sound like hers even to herself. Clearing her throat, she tried again.
“Arden? It’s Ianna.”
“Sorry if I woke you. Are you feeling okay today?”
Arden took quick mental stock. “Yeah, no hangover. I guess Toby’s suggestion was a good one.” She filled Ianna in on what he’d said.
“Good advice. I was a little worried. Charlie’s specials don’t usually have that pronounced an effect.”
“Toby said it might be because it’s a mixture of alcohols. He can’t drink them either. Didn’t seem to affect Jak much.”
“Yeah, well, he’s huge compared to you and he probably drinks more often, too.” She paused a moment. “You two seemed to hit it off….”
Ianna was trolling for answers. She wanted to know how far things had gone the night before. Rather than hedge, Arden decided to tell her.
“We kissed, Ianna. That’s all. Not that it wasn’t wonderful…. My God, that man can kiss!”
“I promise, we didn’t try to set you two up.”
“I never thought you did. Did Jak?”
“A little. Not that he was mad, I think he’s intrigued by you. The words, never met a woman like her, passed his lips.”
Arden sat up in bed excitedly. “Really? He said that? Of course, that can be bad. Like she’s totally crazy and I never met a woman like her.”
“It wasn’t said like that. More of a dreamy, very impressed sort of way.”
“Wow!” Arden flopped on her back. “I’ve never met anyone like him either. He’s so—” She couldn’t find words to describe Jak. Normally, this sort of a thing wasn’t a problem, but she was slightly hungover.
“Janine,” she said, gazing soulfully into my eyes.
I kissed her hands, bowing slightly over her fingers. Delighted, she giggled like a little girl and walked to the now open elevator. The security men escorted the Tillerman family to the lobby. I hope they had a better trip than I did.
As soon as the doors closed, everyone went back to work, trying to pretend they hadn’t been watching Cassandra rip into me.
Mr. Winchester stared at me for a full thirty seconds before speaking. “How extraordinary,” he mumbled. “That girl loathes you, Brodie.”
“Yeah? No shit.” I glared at the elevator like it was to blame.
“My dad thinks he had a heart attack because he found out she was under age,” Mike contributed.
“Don’t listen to him. He’s usually full of shit. His dad even more so.”
“He has a point,” Mike agreed. “You can’t trust half of what I say.”
“Less,” I amended.
Mike was being far too agreeable. Usually when I say something like that, he doesn’t concede so readily. He was making a play for Brooke, and I was going to have to kill him. He left no other option.
Once we got to the union, Brooke excused herself to go to the bathroom. Mike and I waited for her to come back. I was pissed! He’d done some shitty things in his life, but he’d never tried to steal a woman out from under my nose.
“What the hell are you doing?” I whispered angrily as soon as the door closed behind her.
“What do you mean what am I doing? I’m talking to a girl.” He shrugged casually.
“Yeah, well I saw her first! I think she kind of likes me,” I whispered
“You must be high. She likes me, I can see it in her eyes.”
“You haven’t even looked in her eyes. You’re staring at her tits!” I protested.
“What’s wrong with you? I thought you hated her. I thought she hated you.”
“No. Yes. Well, I was wrong. We get along okay, when she’s not biting my head off. Come on, Mike. Don’t do this.” I’ve never begged him before, but I had no self-esteem left. I needed this woman to help me get back on track. Besides, if there was any chance in hell that I was going to get laid, I wanted it. “You’ve got a million girls to choose from. I want this one.“
Ling grabbed her older brother’s arm, dragging him into the corner. “Do you have to maul her in public?” Her grip switched to his left ear.
I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to follow, but I wasn’t going to leave him on his own.
“I’m not mauling her. Ow, let go!” He released himself from her grip. “We don’t use the death lock in public on the brother,” he grumbled, rubbing his ear. “What’s with you, Ling?”
She gazed sternly into his eyes. He was nearly a foot taller than she.
“We both know about the differences between boys and girls,” Ling explained as if she were talking to a slow witted child. “And we know the things that happen when boys get excited around girls. And in those pants, big brother, there is little left to the imagination. You had better hope that the pictures you posed for, were taken from the waist up, not the hips down, because you’re—extremely well blessed. Ew! I never thought I’d say that to my own brother, but—Ew! Oh, Li. Wear a jacket next time, or do something!”
“Did Mom send you over to tell me this?”
“No! I saw on my own. File this in conversations I never want to have with my brother ever again!”
“Let me up, you bitch! I’ll show you who’s in charge!”
I yanked on his arm again, increasing the pressure on his hand, which I held so it was bent backward toward his wrist. He screamed.
“I’m thinking it’s the lady,” the manager said. He moved out of the way as the deputy arrived. “He jumped her in the bathroom,” he told the older man who arrived.
“Seems he got the raw end of the deal,” the deputy chuckled as I released Shane into his care. He put the cuffs on tightly, unmindful of Shane’s screech of pain. “Don’t you know better than to bother a lady, punk? You okay, Miss?”
I nodded, but my face dissolved and I burst into tears. I’m not prone to tears, but it’s been an emotional few days. A lot has happened, not the least of which, my ex-boyfriend is now stalking me in bathrooms.
“She was asking for it,” Shane grumped as he was taken out.
“Boy, ain’t a female on this earth wants to be approached in the bathroom when she’s doing her business.” He was shorter than Shane but determined and strong. He handled my ex with a power hold that would have made my sensei proud. Getting him to the cruiser, he put Shane in back, bumping his head on the door frame. “Oops, sorry pal. You’re the tallest feller to grace my seat. Reckon it’s not made for boys your size. Watch out now, door’s closing.”
The slam and yowl of pain were clearly heard in the restaurant.
“Who are we picking up?” Butch asked the question I most wanted an answer to.
“A real honey,” Teague said. “Her name is Wong Chi, head of the Talons. Her girlfriend, an FBI agent by the name of Olivia Perez, tried to bust her out a few days ago. Perez was arrested and she and Wong have been in protective custody at the men’s prison here in Daytona. Didn’t have anywhere else to take them and no way to get them there. Local leos don’t want to transfer them. They tried, and nearly got killed. Since they’re federal prisoners….”
“You need us to make it pretty.” I nodded. “I’m slightly senior to Butch, so I’ll take official custody. Do we know where we’re going?”
“Yes, the Federal Correctional Institute in Mariana, Florida. It’s about five hours one way, so we’ll spend the night. I hope you’ve got a toothbrush in your gear,” Teague said.
“Yeah. And clean panties, too.”
“Good. I’ve got family up there, so we’ve got a place to stay that’s better than Motel 6.” Teague winked at the rear view mirror.
There is no question that this virus, COVID19, has affected everyone. Excluding those that have lost a loved one, our 2020 graduates were hit hard—robbed of their regular celebratory prom and graduation events.
Many schools are putting together outside graduation commences so their seniors can walk in their cap and gowns and receive their diplomas. Rules are stringent, as one would expect, but seniors at least will have somewhat of an unusual, at best, graduation experience to remember. My daughter’s school is holding their ceremony outside in the football stadium. Lauren, my daughter, has decided not to walk.
I was worried that Lauren would regret this decision and talked to her extensively, as did her dad, sister, brother, and all of her friends. For a second, I thought she might change her mind, but she held firm and has decided not to attend the ceremony and walk. Her reasons are admirable, honorable, and as her mom, make me so proud.
Lauren: “Why would I do that and put him at risk?”
Who is she putting at risk? Well, my dad, her granddad. He is eighty-five years old, suffers from COPD (has never been a smoker), and over the past five months, Lauren has witnessed his multiple hospitalizations. By the way, he lives with us, and I’m 100% convinced this played into her decision making despite our objections to her missing her own graduation.
“We’ll wear masks and use GermX,” I explained, but it didn’t matter. “Granddad won’t go, he’ll stay here, and we’ll film it for him,” but she didn’t waver.
“It’s not worth it,” she said. “With over two thousand people if most show up, masks off for photos, he’s at risk.”
She’s right. Texas had over 1,800 new cases Saturday and 33 deaths. Healthy people would likely be fine, but he would not; he’s at high risk for sure and certainly would not survive exposure.
Lauren has always been one of a kind and walks to the beat of her own drum, but I can’t begin to tell you how proud of her I am for this selfless act. An eighteen-year-old young lady who loves and respects her granddad and puts his health before herself, that to me, seems wise beyond her years. Proud momma moment.