69,252
07.03.2019

Unfortunately for her, after this stunt, I have to cut her loose.

This doesn’t bother me. I’ll send her a text when Tina leaves. It was fun but it is what it is.

I look at Tina and say, “I’m sorry, Tina. If I knew she was causing you trouble I would have cut her loose sooner.”

Tina looks up at me with wide eyes and responds, “I don’t want you to break up with your girlfriend because of me!”

I roll my eyes and mutter, “She wasn’t my girlfriend, just a casual acquaintance. She was becoming a huge pain in my ass anyways. Time for her to go.”

“So,” Tina frowns and purses her lips, “what do I do if she turns up at the store? I don’t want her making a scene again. Its puts customers off from coming back.” She looks uneasy.

I get up, walk over to the fridge and take out two sodas. I sit back down and place one in front of her.

Without even a thank you she opens it and sips like she’s been playing Uno with us for years. I respond, “Leave that to me. She comes back to the store, you call me. Straight away.”

Nodding, she plays with the ring of her soda can and turns to check the time on the clock on the wall.

She jumps up and yells, “Crudsickles! I’ve been here for an hour; I’ve got to get back.” She looks around the table, smiles and says, “Nice to meet you all. Hope I see you again soon.”

Crudsickles?

She turns to me, puts her small hand on my shoulder and speaks again, “Thanks Nik. I appreciate it.”

The guys watch her leave. Well, they watch her ass sway as she leaves.

Knuckleheads.

Trick smiles big, still looking to the door. He declares, “I like her!”

Yeah…Me too.

Chapter Four

I was just in the neighborhood

I wake up with a start.

Sweat pours down my face, my stomach knots, and my chest expands with every heavy breath.

Sitting up, I place my back against the headboard of my awesome sleigh bed.

I haven’t woken like this in at least three months. I used to wake like this every night, sometimes multiple times.

It’s still dark out. I squint over at the digital alarm clock on my bedside table. 4:57 am.

Fan-freakin-tastic.

I don’t have to start getting ready for work for an hour and a half but I’m up now.

After losing my daughter and Mom, I had trouble sleeping for a long time. I kept hearing Mia cry in the middle of the night and would find myself in her very empty bedroom sobbing.

I really need you right now, Mom.

The thing I miss most about my Mom is her hugs. Coming from a Croatian background, I was raised very affectionate. I would never leave the house without giving both my parents a kiss on the cheek.

I could be having the worst day ever, but a warm, comforting hug from Mom would make everything seem okay. Every time I was in a bad mood she would ask, “What’s the matter, Dušo?” and always made sure I would vent to her about whatever was bothering me. And vent I did.

Baking is my release. I love to bake; my specialty is cupcakes.

I know my cupcakes are good. Actually, good is an understatement. My cupcakes are the bomb.

You’re up now. Get your butt out of bed. Let’s get baking.

I reach over and fling my covers back.

Bang Bump Meow

Oops.

I apologize to my sweetheart. “Sorry Bear. Come here, honey.” He stretches and walks over me. I pick him up and scratch him all over. When I reach under his chin he purrs loudly and drools. I chastise him softly, “Ewww Bear, control yourself.”

When Mia was a year old she spoke her first word which was cat. As a reward for my super smart daughter, I got her Bear. I got him from a shelter, he was really fat, but after months of diet cat food he was back in shape.

Bear is a super sweet and very affectionate (my kind of cat). He has a white body with three big black blotches on his back, a completely black tail and looks like he’s wearing a black Zorro mask.

I look down at my feline friend and say, “C’mon honey, let’s get you some breakfast.”

Bear walks beside me as I exit my room and make my way to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face.

I reach the kitchen, cover my mouth, and yawn.

Bear is already on the kitchen counter doing something which can only be described as the Give Me Food dance. He struts back and forth, purring loudly, bumping his head on random things. Every now and then he looks back at me in a way that says the dance is working, right?

I reach under the counter for one of his many bowls, put some wet food in it, and place it on the counter.

He purrs while he eats. I scratch his head and say in a cutesy voice, “A fancy feast for my fancy beast.” I love Bear, he is the ideal cat. I tell him, “You have five minutes to eat, buddy. I’ve got to get baking.”

Bear finishes his meal and jumps off the counter. I wipe down the counter with disinfectant spray and go about getting my ingredients organized.

I place them all on the counter, whip up a chocolate mud batter, and divide it evenly between the patty pans.

I pop them into the oven to bake and make my way to the bathroom to shower.

I sing ‘Working 9 to 5’ in the shower, loudly. When I’m done, I step into the hall and the delicious smell of chocolate mud cake attacks my nostrils. My mouth waters and I know one of those babies has my name on it for breakfast.

As I walk into the kitchen, the oven bell dings.

Perfect timing.

I take them out of the oven, cover them with a tea towel and put them on the counter to cool.

After, I heat cream on the stove top, not too hot. I pour the warm cream over some semi-sweet chocolate and slowly stir. I put it aside and wait for it to cool.

Yum!

My stomach rumbles and I pat it.

Soon, my pretty.

I go back into my room to change for work. I decide on a linen pants and blouse combo. Add some heeled sandals and voila!

I scan my bathroom counter for my small bounty of makeup. I don’t really wear a lot of makeup. On the rare occasion I go out with the girls, I’ll apply it a bit darker. I never wear lipstick, only clear or lightly colored gloss. I like the natural color of my lips.

Looking at my limited selection, I decide on mascara and pale pink lip gloss.

A glance at my watch tells me I can start icing the cupcakes so I make my way over to the kitchen counter.

There is something about icing cakes that is almost therapeutic. Using a piping bag, I carefully ice all 12 of them in a swirly snail pattern.

I’m so hungry at this point I take the wrapper off one of the cakes and shove the whole thing in my mouth.

Chewing loudly, I hear the doorbell ring.

What on earth?

I’m still chewing when I answer the door. There stand two men in blue overalls.

Oh, Crudsickles! I forgot about the moving truck!

One of the men speaks, “Good morning, ma’am. I believe you’re expecting a truck of furniture.”

I nod but am still chewing. I hold up my hand with my index finger pointed up. The universal signal for one minute, please.

When I’m finally able to speak I smile big at them both, “Yes! I’m so sorry.” Checking my watch I say, “I actually forgot and have to be at work soon.”

The other man looks at my mouth, clears his throat and speaks up, “I’m sorry ma’am but someone needs to be here for us to unload.”

Darn it!

My brain goes Ping!

I get an idea. I walk past the movers to the apartment next door and knock quietly.

The door opens and I’m greeted with a large smile, “My, oh, my, is that you Tina?”

Smiling back at her, I say, “Hi Molly! I need a really huge favor.”

Molly looks down at my mouth. Her lips twitch as she tells me, “Girl, you got chocolate all up in yo’ teeth!”

My eyes widen, I can feel the warm blush rise on my cheeks.

Molly is a really cool neighbor. She is in her fifties, African American and small but full of fire. Every time I see her I’m mesmerized by her outfits. They’re always traditional African garments and wraps with fantastic patterns and are usually beaded. Her husband died ten years ago and they never had children so she decided to downsize by selling her house and buying an apartment instead. When I met Molly, I felt like I had won the neighbor lottery.

Molly was wary of me at first. Until I invited to her eat dinner with me one night and she tried my cupcakes. It’s safe to say that Molly and I are good friends now.

Embarrassment seeps through my pores. I squeak, “Can I use your mirror?”

She places a hand on her hip and taps her toes. She asks, “You holdin’ out on me, baby girl?”

Um, what?

I whisper, “Um, what?” My face must show my confusion because she keeps talking.

She sternly asks, “You eatin’ those cupcakes behind my back?”

Oh!

I feel a bubble of laughter rise in throat. I chuckle and say, “If you do me this favor, I’ll save you a couple.”

She smiles and responds, “Deal. You know where the mirror is, sugar.”

I quickly fix myself then explain to Molly about the movers. Luckily, she didn’t have plans for the morning. Molly has one of my spare keys; she normally feeds and watches Bear for me when I’m out of town hunting new suppliers for Safira.

I pack six of the cupcakes into a container, give Molly a big hug and make my way to my car.

I love my car. It’s a convertible.

A 1975 VW Yellow Super Beetle. The girls call it my Dung Beetle.

It’s slightly rusted and the leather top has holes in it so when it rains I have to cover it with a tarp.

It has character. It’s my baby.

I approach the driver’s side door and jiggle the handle. I depress the button.

Nothing happens.

I jiggle harder. Try the button again.

Still nothing.

I jiggle hard and knee the door. I hear it. Click.

Bingo!

I open the door, sit down and place my cupcakes on the passenger side floor. I feel a headache coming on.

Mental note: take some aspirin.

I put the key in the ignition and turn. Nothing happens.

My forehead falls forward between my hands onto the steering wheel with a thump.

Le Sigh.

So many emails.

I need to hire a secretary or assistant to help me out. The White Rabbit has gotten so popular; people want to hire it during the week for birthdays and special occasions. And I’m all for that.

My sister Maria comes to help out on occasion. She works part time as a receptionist so she’s great help when we need her and she knows what she’s doing. She can work all the gadgets and is pretty technology savvy. I’m thinking of asking her to become our full-time secretary. If work keeps coming in the way it is, we’ll need it.

Ding!

A window pops up on my computer. It’s an instant messenger program I’ve never used. I signed up for it when I got the computer, it automatically logs in when the computer turns on but I haven’t added any friends.

[email protected]

/*

has made a friend request”

Her name’s Valentina? That’s kinda nice.

I accept the friend request and immediately a message comes through.

TheTomicBomb: Hey Friend!

I can’t help but chuckle at her messenger name.

Nik123: Hi. How are you?

TheTomicBomb: Great thanks. How r u?

Nik123: Busy. But Good.

TheTomicBomb: That’s good. Whatever u told ur “wife” seemed 2 work. I haven’t seen her since.

Damn right. I cut Sissy loose. She was devastated and I don’t give a shit. She’s spoiled and used to getting what she wants. She has to learn she can’t pull that kinda shit and get away with it.

Nik123: I’m glad. If she gets the balls to come see you again, let me know and I’ll fix her up.

TheTomicBomb: Eeek, that sounds a bit scary! I wouldn’t have the “balls” 2 go against u 🙂

Nik123: That’s because you’re sweet. It’s not in your nature.

TheTomicBomb: Sweet?! I’m badass!!! One time I went 2 a museum and didn’t even give the voluntary coin donation!

I burst into laughter. This girl is a total goof. I like that.

Nik123: Oh hell, that is badass

TheTomicBomb: R u free 4lunch 2moro?!

I take a quick look at my schedule.

Nik123: Sorry Tina, tomorrow isn’t good. I’m meeting a potential sponsor. How about the day after?

TheTomicBomb: Great. I’ll book u in. What kind of sponsor?

Nik123: I meet with companies who want to use The White Rabbit’s name. They give me money to spend on the club. I put their names on posters and events and add links to their websites from ours.

TheTomicBomb: Wow! But I thought u were doing really well, do u need their money??!

Nik123: I like spending other people’s money rather than my own. That way I get more profit.

TheTomicBomb: *Thinking face* this is true. How big is the sponsor?

Nik123: Pretty damn big. It’ll mean big money for us.

TheTomicBomb: Cool! I hope u get it. I have 2 go, I’ll see u4 lunch the day after 2moro 🙂

Nik123: Great. Just warning you, I’m a big sushi fan

TheTomicBomb: Me 2! Sounds like a plan :p

TheTomicBomb logged off.

I don’t know what just happened but I’m smiling like an idiot.

Should’ve cut her loose.

Last night was spent packing away most of Nat’s things in the second bedroom.

I’m super psyched!

Next week she’ll be here and I’ll be living and working with my bestest friend in the whole wide world!

I messaged her to tell her how her room was coming along.

Me: Hey hon, your room is almost sorted. You’re almost here! Yay!

Nat: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Totally awesome! I went to your dad’s and got his spare key.

Me: Cool. How is he?

Nat: You know your pops, always working on something. He made a new coffee table last week!

This is good news. My dad is a carpenter and fascinated with anything wooden. Most of my childhood memories of him include him making something out of wood. When Mom died, he stopped tinkering and became a bit of a recluse. Unfortunately, I wasn’t much of a help to him because I was mourning the loss of my sweet Mia. We comforted each other as best we could but living in Cali became too hard for me, so I moved to New York. I think it took me moving to break him out of his spell. We call each other a few times a week to chat and Nat goes over on occasion to check up on him.

❮❯