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Adjusting her clothing and smoothing her hair again,

Kelly hustled, hoping for no further disruptions. She nodded
to the hassled hostess — who merely handed her a grimy
menu in response. The pinched young woman‟s patience had
run thin. In ten minutes, she‟d been summoned loudly three
“Now, if you only owned a functioning iron,” Allison
Replacing spotted silverware and glasses wasn‟t Jill‟s job.
But, neither was delivering orders for servers who‟d stepped
outside to smoke — with every intention of ditching their
duties while acquiring full tips, of course. She was seriously
weighing the repercussions of assaulting a patron with
spectators gawking. She scanned for camera phones. Certain
the video would go viral in hours, she selected an alternate
option — go back to work, fiercely resisting the urge to leap
the table for two and choke the life from the woman who‟d
callously called her Shrill. Still, she struggled with the choice.
The former‟s outcome — freeze-framed in fantasy — seemed
“I don‟t understand why this is happening again.”
Depleted, Barry mopped multiplying tiny beads of sweat
from his high and shiny forehead with the heel of his hand.
Somehow, he‟d slipped through the cracks. No reservation —
second time in seven weeks.

Perplexed, Jill willingly double-checked. “I‟m really

sorry, sir. Perhaps if you gave me the last name you left
“I didn‟t. It‟s under Barry.” In his cheap suit, he sighed.
No respect, the forty-year-old thought, for anyone who‟s not
filthy rich or beautiful.
Little did he know, Jill had some sympathy for the man
who‟d been ignored. The self-designated martyr assumed a
woman like her would never give him the time of day or toss
a drop of tepid backwash from her bottled water on his
flaming carcass. But, the seeking single spied a light in his
unbelieving eyes — a sort of softness — she didn‟t see in many
guys. So, she forgave the disheveled appearance. All he
needed was love — and maybe a makeover — she assessed.
Barry missed the boat with his next request. “Could I
please speak with the manager?”

“KELLY, YOU KNOW I love you, right?”
“Of course, Ally. I love you, too.”
Up to that point, the meal had only been slightly
unpleasant. Their sauntering server had returned. But, Kelly
had yet to disturb the entrancing cheese which waved to her
from the top of her lasagna. She wasn‟t sure quite why she‟d
ordered it. Her sister‟s mocking snort — when Kelly had

claimed eating a few carbs wouldn‟t give her a bigger muffin

top — was partly to blame.
“You go ahead,” Allison had said. Yet, the subtitles
clearly read, “You will never be thin. And thank God for
that. Eat up, fatty.”
Kelly had successfully stared at her stale buttered bread
and cooling noodles for nearly half an hour. She sipped her
Chianti slowly — trusting her empty stomach wouldn‟t erupt
ere she‟d scarfed from Styrofoam in the car.
“I‟ve been taking care of you all my life — since the day
you were born.” The elder sister anticipated sounds of
gratitude. An outraged drinking glass leapt to a shard-
producing death on the floor of the kitchen, in protest.
“More or less,” Kelly generously acknowledged.
Smartly-dressed, Allison toyed with her salad, trying to
mask certain unwanted aspects. Her facial display —
calculatingly contorted with overly-knitted brows and
downturned, ruby lips — paved a proper guilt trip. Valid
passports were never necessary for travel. “I was beginning to
think you were avoiding me.”
“And why would I do that?” Kelly strived to look
angelic. But, her critic wasn‟t buying the performance.
“Oh, I don‟t know, Kel. But, you‟d better not blow this.
I stuck my neck out for you. I need an answer.”
“I already gave you one.”

Allison almost slammed her fork for effect. But, still

grazing, she wouldn‟t give up her flatware till her brain was
altogether convinced she was full. The house salad with
dressing on the side scoffed. Depleted, it knew its extra-gassy
attacker would be hungry in an hour. A small sacrifice, that
last leaf of lettuce thought as it joined its masticated brethren
in her gut.
“Hope should just recommend someone else,” Kelly
politely continued. “I don‟t know the first thing about
property management—”
“Which is why they have people to train you. What are
you thinking, anyway? I‟m offering you the opportunity of
your lifetime — while you sit on your hands…You like that?”
Allison wanted the innuendo to make Kelly uncomfortable.
“Who better to enjoy them?” Little sis smiled, defiant.
But, inside she was dying of embarrassment. Her cell phone
rang — saving her for a brief moment. Kelly was upset by her
sibling‟s comments — not over their content, but because of
Allison‟s intent and volume. “Vince must be running late.”
“Well, don‟t let me keep you, Tootie. The guy can‟t set a
date, let alone say he loves you.” Another dig — with an old
nickname injected for good measure. It was more about
competing than safeguarding the best interests of her kin.
“Water‟s thicker than blood, right?”
Kelly slipped the gadget back into her purse.

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