Disclaimers: See Part 1
This is my first attempt at writing a romance, so I hope you'll give it, and me, a shot. I would love to know what you think, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/maxine.redwood .
“Why can't I just tie these loose strands off in little knots? It'll be a lot faster.”
A couple of months ago, I bought four old oak dining chairs at the antique mall in Haubstadt, and Grammy Mann was teaching me how to re-cane their seats. I was just going to take them to Mrs. Greubel, who used to work at the old Haub House restaurant before it changed hands, but Grammy Mann had a fit about that. She said that Betty Greubel didn't know the first thing about how to cane a chair, evidenced by the fact that when my father accidentally knocked one over at the restaurant, the underside of it looked like a “flicker's nest.” Apparently, the bottom of chair was supposed to look as neat and tidy as the top. This philosophy of Grammy's pretty much extended to everything else in her life, too.
“I told you,” Grammy shook her head. “You don't do it that way. You weave those loose strands into the next hole and clip off the short one.” She was sitting on a low, slat back chair, holding a dinged-up granite roaster on her lap. She was snapping beans, and this was her “shelling chair.” Years ago, Grampa had cut the legs off so the back was lower than the front, and the whole thing sat close to the floor. We were outside on the front porch, since it was so warm inside the house. The box fan Grammy had set up on the dining room table wasn't doing much but blowing hot air around. She said that was lot like still having Grampa there.
I was really starting to lose patience with this whole enterprise. By the time I had one of these chair seats fixed to her satisfaction, I'd be too old to sit on them.
My dog, Fritz, was sprawled out on his favorite spot at the top of the porch steps, catching some rays of the afternoon sun. We spent most of our Sundays with Grammy, doing chores or just sitting on the porch, drinking iced tea and watching the comings and goings at the house across the road. Doc Baker and his not quite wife, Ermaline, lived there and scandalized the neighborhood with their “alternative” lifestyle. Grammy steadfastly refused to gossip about Doc and his common-law wife, but I noticed that she was always ready to correct you if you got any details wrong when you shared snippets about them with anybody else.
Most people in town were inclined to forgive Ermaline for moving in with Doc, who drove an El Camino and ran a lawnmower repair service. She had once been married to Kenny Purvis, before he found Jesus and started preaching at The House of Praise. There were rumors that Kenny never really bothered to divorce Ermaline, claiming that god's law held sway over the laws of mammon. Nobody was ever really sure what that was supposed to mean, but apparently, it gave Kenny permission to take up with a sixteen year-old girl from Samsville, named Desdemona Jones. Kenny had a knack for attracting impressionable young women, and his flock was mostly comprised of starry-eyed waifs who were known as “hoppers,” because of their tendency to jump and dance around during services at his church. Frankly, I was surprised that any of them had the stamina to hop. At last count, that congregation had about fifteen children under the age of three—and a suspicious number of them looked a lot like Kenny.
I jammed a piece of reed under my thumbnail and jumped about a foot into the air.
Grammy looked over at me. “What happened?”
I shoved the chair away and sucked on the tip of my thumb. “I can't do this Grammy. I can't do anything right.”
Grammy snapped another bean and dropped it into her pan. “What do you mean? You do lots of things right. This is just something you can't rush through. It's not like playing with that fancy phone of yours. You have to take your time and be patient.”
I didn't reply.
Grammy set her pan down on the porch floor. Grammy smelled a rat. She knew me pretty well. She ought to…I'd practically grown up with her. My mother had T.B. when I was born, so I lived with Grammy for the first few years of my life.
“What's the matter?” She gave me that look…the one that meant I might as well fess up, because she wasn't going to drop it until I did.
I knew I was in for it. Grammy never called me “Jill” unless it was really serious. Nobody did. Not until El, that is.
I had a hard time looking at her. “I met somebody,” said. It sounded lame. Even to me.
That perked Grammy up right away. “Who is she?”
Grammy knew I was gay. It always amazed me that this smart, sassy, eighty-year-old woman could be so tolerant—even curious. She never even raised an eyebrow at my twelfth birthday party, when she caught me “experimenting” with Donna Steptoe out behind the rhubarb patch. She was totally unlike my parents in that way. Ma and Pop, a.k.a. Wayne and Sissy, ran the local Huck's convenience store, and were a lot more Midwestern in their approach to my sexual orientation. That meant they just didn't mention it. Ever.
“She's not from around here,” I explained. “I met her at Hoosier Daddy the other night.”
Grammy looked intrigued by that. “Where are her people from?”
“Someplace in New York. I don't really know for sure.”
“What's she doing in Princeton?”
I knew it was all going to be downhill form here. “She's with the U.A.W.”
“Oh, honey lamb.” Grammy closed her eyes and shook her head.
“I know, I know,” I said, before she could tell me I was crazy. “But I only met her the one time, and nothing really happened.”
Grammy opened her eyes. “Then what are you all in a swivet about?”
“I'm not in a swivet.”
“No?” She narrowed her eyes. “Honey, are you fighting in the Scarlet Crusade?”
I sighed. “No, Grammy…I'm not having my period.”
“Well then, I don't know what has you all het up. If you only met her once and ‘nothing happened,' then what's the problem?”
She was doing the name thing again. I gave up. “Okay,” I confessed. “Maybe something did happen. Something little…and it probably didn't mean anything to her.”
Grammy folded her arms. “What was it?”
“We were in the bathroom together, and we kind of…nearly…sort of…almost…kissed. Maybe .”
“You're not sure?”
I shrugged again.
Grammy sighed. “Honey, do you remember when you were five, and you saw the sheep in the south meadow making baby lambs?”
“Oh, god.” I raised a hand to my eyes.
“There wasn't any ‘maybe' or ‘almost,' or ‘nearly' in that…now, was there?”
“I don't know much about what did or didn't happen in that bathroom, but I can tell by your reaction to it that there wasn't any ‘maybe' involved.”
In frustration, I picked up a coil of chair cane and lobbed it across the porch. It landed near Fritz, and skidded to a stop near the end of his nose. He bolted to his feet and took a desperate look around, as if the long anticipated alien invasion had finally occurred, and he'd managed to sleep through it.
“Sorry, buddy,” I apologized.
“Now tell me more about this agitator—and what on earth possessed you to consort with her.” Grammy had picked up her roasting pan and resumed snapping beans.
“I didn't ‘consort' with anybody!” I wasn't even really sure what that term meant.
“You said that you only just met her at that bar.”
“And you said you were with her in the bathroom.”
I nodded. Grammy could have clerked for Matlock.
“And that you kissed her?”
“Well…technically…she kissed me.”
“Honey lamb, when a buildin's in flames, people jumpin' out the windows don't stop on the way down to ask who started the fire.”
I didn't say anything.
“Well,” she snapped another bean in two. It sounded like the crack of a rifle. “I don't much like the idea of you gettin' involved with a union rep. But anybody who can get you to look away from that Marks girl is A-OK in my book.” She pointed at me with end of a cooked string bean. “When are you gonna bring her over here so I can lay eyes on her?”
“Grammy…” I was horrified—and panicked. “That's not going to happen. I told you…it was just the one time and I'll probably never even see her again.”
Grammy gave me that look of hers…that same one she gave a half-rotted tomato before she tossed it onto the composting pile.
“She's a union agitator, isn't she?” she asked.
She slowly shook her head. “You'll see her again.”
I had a sinking feeling. I knew she was right. And, as much as I didn't want to admit it, I was sure this was the only reason El was flirting with me. It was all about gaining access to people inside our plant.
“I can't get involved with her,” I said. I was pretty sure I sounded as morose as I felt.
Grammy was still shaking her head. “Didn't you say that a month ago about that Marks girl?”
“That was different.”
“Misty Ann didn't work for the U.A.W.”
“That's true,” Grammy agreed. “But she was just as dangerous.”
“Not really…Misty Ann couldn't get me fired.”
“Maybe not. But she sure could get you fired up.” Grammy chuckled at her joke.
“Okay, okay. I made a mistake with her. I admit it. But it's not like there are a lot of available women around here with good, family values.”
Across the road, a car engine roared to life. Doc's bright blue El Camino rolled over the scraggly patches of grass that passed for a lawn, and turned out onto the county road. Ermaline waved at us from the driver's side window. She was holding a lighted smoke. There were three mower handles sticking up out of the truck bed. Business must be good.
We both watched the car grow smaller until it disappeared around the bend near the crossroads.
Grammy sighed and looked over at me. “Well.” She snapped another bean in half. “My mama always said that if you snuggle up with dogs, you're gonna get fleas.”
I resisted a sudden impulse to scratch. My half-finished chair sat there mocking me. It was like the rest of my life…not quite right. I needed to make some changes, starting with my job. I'd been working at Krylon ever since college, and it was going no place. I was still punching a time clock and getting passed over for promotions. It seemed like all I had to look forward to was another twenty-five years of smacking Buzz's hands off my ass. Maybe it was time to look elsewhere—someplace with more opportunity and fewer…dogs.
Fritz looked up at me with his soulful eyes, almost like he could intuit what I was thinking. I felt bad for the slight of comparing him to Buzz and Misty Ann.
I got to my feet. “C'mon, buddy. We need to get going or we'll be late.”
“You workin' at the store today?” Grammy asked.
I nodded. My parents ran a Huck's convenience mart that was right across the state line in Illinois, and today was the busiest day of the week. Their Huck's was the closest place where people in our county could go to buy “adult beverages” on Sunday. Everybody thought my father was a genius when he took over that franchise.
“Ma asked if I'd cover for her today. They have that funeral over in Mount Carmel.”
“Yeah. Pretty sad.”
Buster worked at Quick Stop Tires, and had a massive heart attack while he was restocking the Motorcraft filters in the oil change pit. Nobody even noticed he was missing until Mike Scoggins went down there to lube the u-joint linkage on a Ram 2500. It pretty much rocked the whole town. Buster had a pretty young wife and four kids; and he was a volunteer fireman and a deacon at the Wabash Valley Church of Christ.
Even though Ma and Pop lived in Princeton, they stayed pretty involved in the life of the Mount Carmel and Allendale communities. Pop said it was good for business. I was pretty sure that commerce would be brisk after the service…funerals made people pretty thirsty.
“Well, you get along then. Don't worry about putting the chair up—I'll tend to it later on.”
“Don't you get any ideas, now, Grammy. I want to do this myself.”
“You should know by now that I let you clean up your own messes.”
I laughed. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“You know what I mean.”
I did. I walked over and kissed her on the forehead. “Thanks for listening. Like always.”
She looked up at me as I towered over her on her low chair. “Tuesday's good.”
“Good for what?” I was confused.
“For bringing that union agitator over here for dinner. I'll make a pot roast.”
She shooed me away. “You can bring some of that fancy beer you like. I don't think them New Yorkers care much for tea.”
It was pointless to try to argue with her. Besides, if I didn't shake a leg, I'd be late for work.
“We'll see.” I whistled for Fritz, who lumbered to his feet and followed me down off the porch. Just as we reached my pickup, I saw a flash of blue. Ermaline was tearing back around the bend, headed for home. She must've forgotten something…probably her cigarettes.
I needed to find a better place to snuggle.
It was one forty-five—almost witching hour. I walked over to turn the lights on inside the beer and wine coolers. We could start selling alcohol at the crack of two, and people were already pulling into the parking spaces out front. Some of them were still wearing their church clothes, which meant they probably wanted to stock up before heading out for Buster's funeral at three-thirty.
So far, there had only been a smattering of customers—people buying gas and cigarettes, or coming inside for Big Swigg's of Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper. But I knew that would change soon enough. I heard the electronic door tone chime, telling me that someone had just come inside.
“Hello,” I called out. “I'll be right there.”
I headed back up toward the register and about dropped dead in my tracks when I saw who was standing there in front of the potato chip kiosk.
And she was looking great, too. She had on a short-sleeved t-shirt and pair of khaki-colored cargo shorts, and her legs were pure works of art. Just like the rest of her.
I was mortified. There I stood, practically drooling, in my mother's red, oversized Huck's polo shirt—with her name badge sagging off my right boob.
El was staring at me. She looked confused, but I could see a little smile forming around the corners of her beautiful mouth.
“Sissy?” she asked, in that sexy voice of hers.
“Oh.” I glanced down at the name badge. “No. This is my mother's shirt.”
“You wear your mother's clothes?” she asked. She sounded amused.
“No…I mean. She works here. I'm just filling in for her today.”
“In Illinois?” she asked.
“They live in Princeton—they just run this place.”
El nodded toward the beer and wine coolers at the back. “I bet it's pretty lucrative for them.”
“It is on Sundays,” I agreed.
“So I've heard.” El smiled. I felt weak at the knees. “I'm actually here to have my own adult needs met. Think you can help me out?”
Okay…this was just getting ridiculous. I needed to buck up and stop acting like a complete imbecile. Two could play at this game.
“Maybe,” I said. “What are you in the mood for?”
Now El looked surprised. “Are we talking about the same thing?” she asked.
“You tell me.” I tried to act nonchalant, and rested an elbow on a shelf containing rows of tiny cans of Beefaroni and Vienna sausages. It probably didn't do much to atone for how hot I was certain I didn't look in my mother's provocative polo shirt, but it was the best I could do right then.
El just stared back at me for a moment. I thought I saw something flicker in her gray eyes.
“I need beer,” she finally said. “Lots of it.”
I straightened up, proud of myself for making her fold her hand. “You've come to the right place for that. I turned around and headed back toward the coolers. “What kind, and how much?”
El followed me. “I don't know…what kinds do most people around here like to drink?”
“Well, there's what people like , and there's what they can afford. Which kind do you want?”
“Both,” she said with another smile. “Tony and I are hosting a little open house at our motel later, and I need to stock up.”
We were in front of the coolers now. El's reflection in the tall glass doors was nearly as enticing as she was. I forced myself to look back at her.
“Tony?” I asked.
“Tony Gemelli,” she said. She held up a hand to about chest height. “The short, Italian man who was with me the other night at the bar.”
“He your partner?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“What manner might that be?”
She raised an eyebrow. “The manner where we work together, but he goes home at night to his wife, Rosa, and their three kids.”
“Ah,” I said. “I think I like this Tony.”
“I was fairly certain you would.”
“Really?” I leaned against the cooler. I had no idea where my bravado was coming from, but I decided to just go with it. For one thing, I didn't see any fleas buzzing around El. “What makes you so certain?”
“Do you really need to ask me that, Friday Jill?”
There was that sinking feeling again.
I retaliated by looking her up and down. She noticed. I saw a tinge of red begin to creep its way up her neck. Deuce .
The electronic door chime went off again. Great .
I sighed. “Sorry. I need to check that out. I'll be right back.”
“No worries,” she said. She sounded relieved. “I need to use the restroom anyway.” She looked around. “Where is it?”
She looked at me with amazement. “Did you say outside? ”
“Not so much.”
She rolled her eyes. “Where are we? Dogpatch?”
“Welcome to America's heartland.” I smiled at her.
She shook her head. “Point me in the right direction?”
“Follow me.” I headed back toward the front of the store. Two teenagers stood up there near the register, probably wanting to buy cigarettes and a forty-dog. It begins , I thought.
“Let me give you the key,” I said to El, as I threaded my way behind the counter. I lifted the vintage Outlaw hubcap down from its hook and handed it across the counter to her. The key attached to it by a short chain clattered against the metal. “Here you go,” I said. I pointed outside. “It's back around the building on the left, next to the ice machine.”
El was staring at the hubcap. “What the hell is that?”
“The restroom key,” I replied.
She took hold of it. Her eyes met mine. “Didn't you have something a bit larger—like maybe a trailer hitch?”
One of the teenagers snickered. The other one was too busy checking out El's ass.
“Be careful with the door latch,” I said to her retreating back. “It sticks.” I faced the teens. “Okay. Which one of you guys has the fake I.D.?”
They groaned in tandem. “Come on, lady…” the taller of the two complained. “Give us a break.”
“And spend the next six month in jail? I don't think so.”
“I'm eighteen,” he whined.
“Sure you are,” I said. “And right after I finish my shift, I'm going to suit-up and run in the Paris marathon.”
Both boys were looking at me with blank expressions.
I sighed. “Unless you guys want some beef jerky or a pack of Nerds, I suggest you clear out of here.”
The shorter one, the one who had been staring at El's derriere, poked his companion in the ribs. “Come on, Roy…let's go.” He headed toward the door.
“Thanks for being a bitch, lady,” Roy said over his shoulder. He reached the door and yanked it open just as a woman started to enter the store.
“Come back real soon, Roy,” I called after him.
He glowered at me and stood back so the woman could enter. I was surprised to see T-Bomb come strolling in.
“Hey, Roy?” she said to the tall teen. “Your daddy know you're over here?”
Roy and his friend ducked their heads and hurried out past her without saying anything. She cackled and walked over to join me at the register. “Remember how we used to pull that same shit at the Marathon station?”
I nodded. “Did you really know him?” I asked.
“Hell no. I heard you call him ‘Roy' when I was walking in. She laughed. “I just love messin' with them kids.”
“What brings you over here on a Sunday? You going to the funeral?”
“T-Bomb snagged a mini York Peppermint Patty from a box on the counter and unwrapped it. “Nah. I don't really know them Collinses—even though Donnie went to school with Buster's cousin, Bert. You know…the one with the gimpy leg?”
“No.” I had no idea who she was talking about.
She handed me the candy wrapper. “Yes you do—he dated that Turpin girl…the sister of the one Misty Ann's husband keeps banging.”
“You mean Albert Parks?”
“He's got a gimpy leg? I never noticed that.”
“That's cause he wears them corrective shoes and baggy pants.” T-Bomb shook her dark head. “We always called him ‘Bert Parks'…remember that?” She chuckled. “Imagine him running a beauty pageant.”
“That's kinda mean.”
“Why?” she asked. We weren't makin' fun of his leg.”
“I know. I meant it was mean to compare him to Bert Parks.”
She laughed. “Yeah, he was sort of a human creep show.”
“So if you aren't here for Buster's funeral, I guess you need beer?”
“Yeah. I thought I'd get in here before the crowds showed up.”
The phone rang. I waved my hand toward the coolers. “Help yourself.” I picked up the receiver. “Huck's. How can I help you?”
“For starters,” the low voice on the other end of the line said, “you can come out here and open this damn door.”
It was El.
“El?” I asked.
Big mistake. T-Bomb, who hadn't yet made tracks for the adult beverage section, was still standing there. Her ears perked right up when she heard the name.
I turned away from her and faced the cigarette display. “How'd you get this number?” I asked El.
“Yelp,” she said.
“Excuse me?” I wasn't sure I'd heard her right.
“Yelp,” she repeated. “Y-E-L-P. On my phone.”
“Oh. Sorry. Um…sure. Lemme come right out there. Sit tight.” I smiled into the phone. “No pun intended.”
“Very funny,” she drawled. The line went dead.
I turned around to face an extremely curious T-Bomb. I jerked a thumb in the general direction of the restrooms. “El's here, and she's stuck in the bathroom.”
“El DeBarge is out there?” she asked. “Why were you keeping that a secret?”
I opened the cash register and lifted up the change drawer to retrieve the extra bathroom key. “I wasn't keeping anything a secret. She came by to get some beer.”
I stared at her. “Yes. Here . What's wrong with that?”
“How'd she know you work here?”
I walked around the counter. “She didn't know I worked here…it was a coincidence.”
“Oh, hell. Coincidence my butt.”
“T-Bomb…just do me a favor and watch the store for a minute while I go unlock the door for her. You know how it sticks.”
She sighed and snagged another peppermint patty. “Okay, but when you get back, we're gonna have a talk about this self-destructive behavior of yours.”
“Whatever.” I walked out.
It only took me a minute to reach the bathroom. I didn't see the hubcap, so I tapped on the door.
“El?” I asked. “Are you still in there?”
From inside, a voice replied, “No…I folded space and am now mining for spice on the planet Dune.”
I heard a car horn and turned around to see Buzz Sheets pulling in. Great . That was all I needed. It was turning into old home day at Huck's. I quickly unlocked the door and stepped inside, closing it behind me.
El was leaning against the sink with her arms crossed, staring at me with an amazed look on her face.
“Isn't the idea for us to be on the other side of the door?” she asked.
I sighed. “Just go with me on this…there's someone out there I need to avoid.”
She raised an eyebrow. “So you're hiding in the bathroom?”
I nodded. “He'll be gone in a minute.”
“Good plan, Einstein. Care to explain to me how we get out of here once he leaves, since I'm assuming that's the spare key in your hand?”
I looked down at the key. Shit . I tried to open the door. It wasn't budging. This bathroom was built like Fort Knox.
El sighed and fished her phone out of her pocket.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Calling the fire department.” She looked at me. “I assume there is one in this town?”
“Of course there is—but you can't call them.”
“They'll all be getting ready for Buster's funeral.”
“Who the hell is Buster?”
I rubbed a hand across my forehead. This wasn't turning out at all the way I thought it would.
“It's a long story,” I said.
“I begin to suspect that there are no other kinds around here.”
“Just give me a minute, okay? I'll think of something.”
El glanced up over my head at the transom window. “Does that thing open?”
I followed her gaze. It had a latch at the top. “Maybe. Think you could stand on that trash can?”
El looked at it. “Why me? You're a lot taller.”
“I'm also heavier, and the thing's plastic.”
“I don't like heights.”
“It's barely three feet tall.”
I sighed and looked around the dingy interior. There were some old Cordplast signs that fit the poster frames stationed out front, next to the gas pumps. They were stacked against the wall beside the sink.
“Hand me some of those signs and I'll stack them on top of the trash can. Maybe they'll distribute my weight better so I can stand on it.”
El dutifully handed me about four of the larger signs. I stacked them at overlapping angles across the opening of the big, Rubbermaid bin. I slid it over next to the door.
“Here goes nothing,” I said, as I raised a foot up and rested it on top of the signs. I put a hand on El's shoulder and reached up to try and grab the bottom of the ledge below the transom window as I pushed myself up. For a minute, I thought it just might work. I actually felt my fingers connect with the ledge before I heard a crack, and all the signs collapsed beneath me. I went down like a ton of bricks, and ended up half in and half out of the toppling trash can. El tried to break my fall, but it was no use. I went over hard, and smacked the back of my head on the cracked tile floor.
I lay there in a daze, staring up at the flickering fluorescent ceiling light. Then I saw El's face at very close range as she knelt over me.
“Oh, my god. Oh, my god,” she was muttering. “Friday Jill? Are you okay?” She tentatively touched my face. “Oh, my god. I'm so sorry. I'm such a wuss…I should've done it. I'm so sorry…”
I couldn't find my tongue or clear my head enough to reply. But only part of that was due to having the wind knocked out of my sails. El was really close to me now, holding my face between both of her hands, and that was making me dizzier than the fall.
“Friday?” She kept saying. “Friday Jill? Can you hear me? Are you okay?” She bent even closer.
I opened my mouth to tell her I was okay. “You're so beautiful,” I said instead. Where the hell did that come from? Clearly, I had scrambled my brain in the fall.
El didn't draw back. She didn't let go of my face, either. That felt really nice.
“So are you,” she said. Her voice sounded funny…kind of husky. Maybe my hearing got messed up, too?
“I can't do this, El.” Was it getting darker in there? Or had El somehow managed to block out all the light. Her eyes were boring into mine like laser beams.
“Can't do what?” she whispered.
“Get involved with you,” I answered.
“Are we getting involved?” she asked. Her lips were nearly touching mine.
I ran my hands up her back and pulled her the rest of the way down. “Oh, god, I hope so…”
We stayed there on the floor like that, kissing, for what felt like an hour. How much further we would have gone is anybody's guess, but we never got the chance to find out. Just as I started to work my hands up under El's t-shirt, there was a huge commotion outside. We heard alarms going off and the sound of voices shouting. Well… one voice shouting: T-Bomb's.
El drew back. She was breathing hard. Her lips looked wet and puffy and positively edible. “What the hell was that?” she asked.
I was out of breath, too. “The drive-off alarm…somebody took off without paying.”
She sighed and dropped her head to my chest.
There was a loud banging at the door.
“Friday? You still in there?” It was T-Bomb. The doorknob rattled. “That damn Buzz Sheets took off with the nozzle still stuck in his gas tank. Asshole . It's pandemonium out here.” The knob shook again. “This dern thing is stuck. Lemme get something to force it open.” More rattling. “Friday?”
“Yeah,” I called out. “We're still in here. Go get help.”
There was no response right away. Then T-Bomb spoke again—this time in a lower voice. “Is El DeBarge in there with you?”
El gave me a hopeless look. “Yes,” she answered. “We're both stuck.”
I could hear T-Bomb snort. “You got that part right, sister. You two just hang on, and I'll go get a pry bar.”
El sat up and tugged her t-shirt down. I followed suit.
“I'm sorry about this,” she said. It sounded sincere.
“You are? Why?” I was feeling a lot of things right then, but sorry wasn't one of them.
She looked at me. “You'll just have to believe me when I tell you that this isn't part of my job.”
“What makes you think I thought it was?”
She shrugged. “I know what people say about us.”
She nodded toward the door. “T-Bomb. Luanne.” She lowered her eyes. “Everybody.”
I didn't know how to respond to that. Especially since it was true.
“It's okay. We're not doing anything wrong.”
I smiled at her. “Not yet.”
She leaned into me. “It's not going to be good for you to be seen with me.”
“I have to do my job, Friday.”
“I know that, too.”
“So where does that leave us?”
I put my arm around her. “You mean besides stuck in the bathroom at Huck's?”
She pinched me on the thigh. “Smart ass.”
“What I do outside of work is my own business, El. Nobody else's.”
“Uh huh. And you really think that won't change if people find out you're involved with a labor organizer?”
“Are we involved?”
“I thought we settled that.”
“In that case, are you busy on Tuesday night?”
She gave me an uncertain look. “I don't think so…”
“Good.” I tugged her closer. “I hope you like pot roast.”
Before El could ask me what in the hell I was talking about, T-Bomb returned with her pry bar, and all conversation was at an end.
To be continued…
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