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Dismissing daily relationship red flags had become

Kelly‟s part-time, unpaid profession. In the face of several
recurrent complications — popping up like plucky, unkillable
pests in a game of Whac-A-Mole — Kelly convinced herself
that Vince Taylor was the one. She‟d already practiced
signing her new surname. It looked much better than Hicks,
she‟d decided. Plus, she secretly coveted strong consonants.
H was sometimes silent — like in heir, hours and herbs.
If her h went unheard, she‟d be Kelly Icks, she
acknowledged. Unacceptable, she pondered, perturbed.
Allison had pointed out that herbs could be pronounced
with an audible h — back when they were kids. But, Kelly
often acted like she wasn‟t embarrassed when her sister spoke
the word in school. Her-BS, she said in her head and smiled
again like she was six years old. She‟d never used the term is
her sibling‟s presence. Constant fear of disproportionate
reprisals always stifled her attempts. Her elder was quick on
her feet — at least verbally. A semi-flaccid snub — even in
innocent jest — heaved buckets of chum in the water. And as
the family shark, Allison felt obligated to ingest.
Insults and teasing. Public humiliation. Whatever
would whip her sniffling sister into submission or occasional
servitude — especially over numerous weekends for marital
rendezvous requiring the services of an inexpensive sitter.
Why pay some pimply teen down the street when she could

give her Jelly-Belly Kelly nothing but grief? Way down deep,
Allison did love her. But, the sometimes-sadist also relished
seeing others suffer at her hand. Any shame that surfaced
was briskly squashed. She was only doling out important life
lessons, her little devil divulged to her conscience. Her little
angel was primarily unemployed — without a want ad — and
conveniently mute. All the better to seem as if she were really
doing everyone a favor.
Kelly had almost weeded out her doubts about her
nearing nuptials. Both parties wanted babies. And at a mere
twenty-five, the female half of the fertile couple knew she had
plenty of breathing room. Or breeding room — as Vince liked
to refer to her remaining years of procreation. He hoped to
get started soon. Four boys would take their toll. After that,
he‟d offer rejuvenation.
“No, silly. It‟s Allison first. Then, Vince for a drink at
the bar where we first met,” Kelly corrected amiably. Her
caller had purposely transposed the names to mess with his
friend, as usual. She wasn‟t aware. And he hated Vince. In
her decrepit Honda Civic — which had recently traveled to
Vegas to transport the slumbering, detested man during a
mini-vacation — Kelly stopped at a traffic light to change her
The cream-colored fabric was rumpled. But, it had been
resting on top of shoes she had been saving for a special

occasion. Its shade simply washed her out. Her shopping

advisor had guaranteed “its pallor compliments your winter
skin tones.”
Witnessing her reversed strip tease, the stuffed puppy
sprawled on the dashboard, Jimmy Chew, stared up,
appearing unimpressed. “Everybody‟s a critic,” Kelly croaked
at her toy road companion — barely caring she couldn‟t
afford to purchase a single pair from his homonym‟s
“You‟re more than welcome to join us,” she invited her
best friend to spend additional time with her — and her
“I‟ll pass. Thank you.” Richard cherished his
connection with Kelly, but not enough to tolerate
participation in the threesome. He shuddered. Such a
wonderful word ruined by Allison‟s grimacing picture, he
thought. “Yuck.” He abhorred how Allie happily distorted
Kelly‟s conceptions. And he only called her Allie because he
knew how much she hated nicknames — for herself. Maybe
Malice-son should be her new moniker, he mused.

“Helter-skelter, you‟re wearing my favorite blouse!”
Already seated, at her insistence, Allison waved from a
distant table in the upscale restaurant.

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