Kaia approached the clothing rack where Aubrey was working to organize. It was a slow day. A small rush in the morning followed by clean up. They were short handed with Unity in the hospital and Temperance gone. Having both girls absent had put Mindy in a bad mood. “Do you think they’ll come back” she asked her friend.
Aubrey looked up a momentary look of confusion on her face. “Unity wants to return when she’s better. I don’t know if Temperance will be allowed to.” Her eyes moved upwards where they both knew Mindy was working.
Rubbing her arms Kaia nodding “I’ve never seen Mindy this upset before.”
Shrugging Aubrey mumbled “I have. It’s not pretty.”
Giving her a curious look Karen asked “really? How come?”
“Is this a private meeting” a familiar bubbly voice asked “or can anyone join?”
“Oh hi Olivia” Aubrey stammered almost dropping the garment she’d been putting back into the rack.
“We were just discussing work stuff” Kaia explained moving away trying to give her friend some privacy.
“Just as long as you’re not trying to steal my girl” Olivia warned in what was meant to be a teasing tone but was anything bu.
“You’re girl” Aubrey questioned glancing towards Kaia clearly asking for help. “We only ever went out once…”
“And you’re going to a party with me tomorrow night” Olivia stated. “Which is why I’m here” she looked at the rack of clothing “I need a new outfit.”
Kaia stepped forward “I can help you with that. What are you looking for…”
“Nothing you have to show me” she wrinkled her nose at the girl. “Aubrey is the only one who can help me.”
“It’s not my turn” she stammered “besides I need to organize this rack.”
Grabbing the garment from her hands Olivia tossed it at Kaia. “She can do that” taking Aubrey’s hand she pulled her away “the customer is always right and I’m the customer.”
“Err” Aubrey looked back at Kaia unsure what to do.
“Go” Kaia urged “I’ll cover for you.”
Nodding Aubrey turned her attention to Olivia. “We have some new outfits over here.”
“Nope” she turned her nose up at them in disgust. “None of those will work” looking towards the stairs “what do you have up there?”
“That area is off limits today” Aubrey hurried to block her. “Mindy is working on a new design not ready for display yet.”
“Sounds like something I need” Olivia said pushing her way past the girl.
“You can’t go up there” she cried desperate to stop the girl. “You’re going to get me fired.”
“Oh” the girl’s eyes lit up “that sounds like a good thing. Then you’d be available whenever I wanted you.”
“Please don’t go up there” Aubrey pleaded as the girl took several steps up. “I’ll do anything.”
“Anything” Olivia asked coming down a couple steps “You’ll come with me to the party tomorrow night?”
“I can’t” she shook her head “it’s a school night. My parents.”
“It’s either that or I” she looked up the stairs her intent clear.
“Fine” she resigned herself “I’ll think of something.”
Clapping her hands Olivia giggled like a delighted little girl. Walking past Aubrey she whispered “wear something provocative.”
“This is what I get for hiring teenagers” Mindy huffed upon seeing Aubrey’s ineffectual attempts to keep the customer from coming up the stairs and into the VIP area.
Coral frowned “I don’t think it was Aubrey’s fault. That girl was obviously up to no good.”
“You’re too soft” Mindy retorted tossing her scissors onto her work table.
“I’m not” she objected getting and placing her hands on Mindy’s shoulder’s massaging them. “You’re working too hard trying to run the store with so few employees not to mention designing. You need a break.”
“I can’t afford to take a break” she protested as she moaned as Coral’s fingers dug into tense muscles. “I have too much to do and deadline to meet.”
Kissing the back of her neck Coral asked “didn’t you tell me once that you work better when you’ve taken time out to do something out of the norm?”
Sighing Mindy stepped away. “I wish I could. I just don’t see how I can.” Crossing her arms she walked towards the mannequin wearing the design she just couldn’t get right.”
“You could if…” Coral bit her bottom lip. When the other woman turned to glare at her she added “I have an idea. One I know you’re not going to like.”
Mindy rolled her eyes “I already don’t like it and I haven’t even heard it.”
“Forget it then” Coral said moving towards the chair she’d left her tablet at.
“Alright tell me” Mindy huffed.
“Promise not to yell” she requested unsure she should continue or not. She knew how demanding Mindy could be regarding work and the store.
“I’m already grumpy. You may as well tell me” she said watching the girl closely. She had yet to convince her to wear anything more fashionable than her frumpy sweatshirt.
“Close the store….”
“Absolutely not” Mindy all but shouted at her.
“You said you wouldn’t yell” Coral pulled her knees into her chest where she sat her tablet laying forgotten on her lap.
“I can’t close the store” she protested.
“Why not” she cried “is making money the only thing that matters to you? The girls are wore out. You’re wore out. I’m tired of being your doormat.”
“My what” Mindy asked astonished.
“You heard me. You just take your frustrations out on me…”
“I don’t” she humphed at a loss for words. After a moment or two of silence she asked “have I really gotten that bad?”
“Yes” Coral nodded “you need a break. We all do. Your work is suffering.”
Glancing at her mediocre designs. “You’re right. It’s not the money” Mindy explained “I just don’t know how to just relax. All I know how to do is work.”
“Well” Coral smiled unfolding herself from the chair. “I can help you with that.”
A smile tugged at her lips “your the best thing that has happened to me this summer.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment although the summer has just begun” standing up she joined Mindy as her work station. “Let’s take a look at the books and see where we can cut some hours.”
“Alright” she agreed on a sigh.
“Are you going to the party tomorrow night” Keli asked as she flipped through the channels on the big screen TV.
“No way” Dante said “I know what happens at those parties.”
“Come on. It’ll be fun” Keli cajoled.
“Don’t tell me you’re into those kinds of parties” he frowned into the phone he was speaking into. “It’s bad enough seeing my brother come home wasted.”
“Not everyone does drugs although I don’t see the harm in it” shrugging she sat up to yell at at her bratty little brother. “Tristan get out of my room. You know you’re not supposed to be in here.”
“You should be nicer to him” Dante said wincing at the way she talked to the kid.
“Why” she demanded “he isn’t nice to me.”
“Maybe he would be if you were nice to him” he suggested knowing he was wasting his time.
“You’re not my father” she retorted “if the little brat stayed out of my room we’d get along fine.”
“He just wants attention” Dante attempted again “he misses his mom.”
“So” she demanded.
“Nevermind” he sighed knowing it was pointless.
“Ugh” she cried “you think I should play nursemaid to him.”
“No” he denied “I think you should just be nice to him.”
“I’m not the brat’s mother” she growled “besides Dad will take care of it. He’s dating someone so I have no doubt wife number three is just around the corner.”
Dante shivered. As much as he didn’t like his new stepmom he hoped he wasn’t that mean. He just wished his dad had told them he was getting married. “Do you think Micah is going to those parties because he wants to get back at my dad for marrying Cassidy?”
“What” she grunted not really listening. “I thought we were talking about my bratty brother not yours.”
“We never not talk about him” he shook his head wondering why he was even dating her. She was pretty but she wasn’t the most caring person in the world. Things tended to be one sided in their relationship.
“Sounds like a conversation you should have with him not me” she scolded throwing a book across the room at her brother. “We should send all bratty brothers to Siberia or something.”
“I should probably let you go” he said knowing he wasn’t going to get any help from her.
“So you’ll come to the party tomorrow” she asked going back to the original question.
“No I think I’ll pass” he said.
“You don’t know what you’ll be missing” she said getting up to slam her bedroom door shut.
“I think I do” he smirked “a big headache.”
“Your loss” she said obviously unconcerned with his opinion.
Dante lay on his bed staring at the ceiling. He wasn’t any wiser than he was before. He wondered what he saw in her other than she knew how to make him feel good. They didn’t have anything else in common. He didn’t like the idea of going back to being the invisible kid at school but he didn’t want to keep seeing her either.
Thinking of his brother he wondered if he should tell their dad he suspected Micah of doing drugs. Maybe he should wait and give him a pass this time. See what happens. Like Keli said not everyone did drugs at those parties. Plus he’s going out with London. She was the last person who’d ever do drugs.
His decision made he rolled over and fell asleep.
Tristan scurried beneath his bed just as Keli stomped into his room. “Come out from beneath there” she demanded.
Giggling he pressed himself tight against the wall where he knew she couldn’t reach him to drag him out.
“Ugh” she screamed “don’t ever come into my room again.”
“I’ll do whatever I want” he taunted from beneath the safety of the bed “or I’ll tell daddy what you and Dante do when he’s not home.”
“You wouldn’t dare” she growled her hands clenched in fists.
“Maybe” he said “depends on what you’ll give me to keep me quiet.”
“You’ve been talking Maura again haven’t you” she asked.
“She has good ideas” he giggled again “what’s it worth to you?”
Sitting on his bed she asked “what do you want? A new toy? Video game? What?” She had money saved up to buy a new outfit for the summer forma but at the rate she was going she may have to go with a used one.
Standing she walked to the door. “You better make up your mind before I walk out this door.
“A new game” he shouted “you know the one.”
“Yeah I know. The one dad said would give you nightmares.”
“Yeah that one” she stuck his face out from beneath the bed ready to duck back without hesitation if she came close to him. “Maura said it’s great!”
She hesitated a moment a flicker of concern for her bratty little brother crossed her mind then it was gone. “Don’t come running to me when you wake up in the middle of the night from bad dreams.”
“I won’t” he promised. The both knew he would but that was a discussion to be had later.
Once she left he hurried from beneath the bed. Pulling his phone out he called the familiar number. “It worked” he said grinning like he’d just won an award.
“See I told you it’d work” she gloated.
“I guess” he sighed.
“What’s wrong” she asked “isn’t this what you wanted?”
“Yeah but” he sat on the floor “it doesn’t feel right somehow.”
“Trust me that’ll pass” Maura assured him with a knowing air.
“I don’t know…”
“You said she’d get into a lot of trouble if your dad ever found out what she and Dante do together, right?”
“Yeah” was his unconvinced response.
“You’re doing her a favor” Maura said “she won’t get in trouble and you get the game you want.”
“I heard something tonight” he said unsure if he should tell her.
“About someone we all know” she asked eagerly.
“Do you know Dante’s brother” he asked.
“Not really” frowning she thought for a moment. “He goes to those parties Olivia organizes.”
“So you know about the party” he asked disappointed that he wasn’t about to share something new and interesting.
“Everybody who’s anybody knows about the party” she said.
“Did you know they do drugs at these parties” he wanted to know. “Drugs make people do bad things. Some even die.”
Not these drugs” she assured him “these are drugs doctors give people to take. They’re safe.”
“How do you know they’re safe” he asked remembering his dad talking about side effects and overdoses.
“Olivia says they don’t do any drugs that’ll hurt you. My sister knows. She knows everything.”
Tristan frowned but decided to let it slide. He didn’t know anything about drugs so he didn’t know if that were true or not.