“Anders called you?”
“Texted,” she corrected. “Wanted to know why we weren’t there.”
“What did you tell him?”
“That we had work today and needed to get some sleep.”
I nodded. “Which is the truth.”
“Yes, it is.”
“You know, Anders really does seem to like you. Are you sure you’re not into him just a little bit?”
“Let’s talk about John.”
I shut up.
“Girls!” Miriam swept past us on one of her regular checks. “How are you doing?”
Head to toe, the woman exuded class in her neat white linen shift dress and navy apron with the company name embroidered across her chest.
Meanwhile, I was all bulges in the tight straight dress, the largest size Miriam had been able to locate. Boobs, belly, butt, and thighs. And white was such a meh of a color on me. The navyk apron seemed only barely up to the job of holding me together. Any sudden wrong movement on my part and a seam might split. I lived in perpetual fear of it all falling apart. Here’s hoping the dimples in my knees would distract people from my slightly overwhelming show of curves.
“You’re already finished pricing those?” asked Miriam with a brilliant smile. “That’s great. You know, that job would have taken the last lot all day and they still would have messed it up.”
We both smiled back at her.
Earlier, she’d confided that the previous employees who held our positions had been busted smoking a joint in the storeroom. This worked out great for me and Hang. With them being so amazingly crappy, Miriam’s expectations were low. So long as we turned up every Saturday, were coherent and got stuff done, she’d be happy.
Best job ever.
“I’m so glad Sophia told me about you two.” Hands on hips, she surveyed our work. “And they’re all sorted correctly. How do you feel about cushions?”
Hang turned to me.
“Ecstatic,” I said.
“Great.” With all the grace of a game-show hostess, Miriam directed our attention toward a full wall of shelving in disarray. “Some customers went through them yesterday. Left everything a complete mess. Do a cushion display that wows me, girls.”
“You got it,” said Hang.
I surveyed the wreckage of ruffles and fringing, buttons and bows. A few had been stuffed back into shelves, but most were still on the floor. “I’m thinking a rainbow, gay pride sort of statement.”
Hang nodded. “I like it.”
We got to work.
“Things got awkward with John post-sex, huh?” she asked, picking out all of the navy and dark blue cushions.
My lips slammed shut. Again.
“It’s okay, Edie.” She gave me a wry smile. “I know you don’t like talking about him. Or anything at all.”
“I’m a shitty friend.”
“Nuh. You’ve just been through a lot. I get it.” A cushion was held high. “Would you call this cobalt, royal blue, or sapphire?”
“Cobalt, I guess? It’s not you, Hang,” I said, trying to figure out how to explain and getting frustrated with myself in the process. Me and my many issues. “My last friend really screwed me over.”
“Yeah,” I agreed sadly. “Having her put it all out there, making my private stuff public, it wasn’t a good feeling. People were already talking about me, saying all this weird shit about the robbery. One conspiracy theory idiot was convinced I was in on it with Chris. That I was his real girlfriend or something. It was all such bullshit. When they didn’t have any real information to report on, they just made things up.”
Hang’s lips were pinched, her gaze a mix of anger and sorrow.
“That kind of attention, it’s not a good thing. There’s nothing fun about it,” I said, fingers curling into fists. “It’s like there’s this spotlight on you and there’s no escaping it. You’re not a person to them; they don’t care about what you think or how you feel. The only thing that matters to them is getting what they want out of you.”
Nope. I didn’t sound bitter and twisted at all. Not even a little.
I shrugged. “Anyway, it’s pretty much over now. Moving on.”
“And John went through that too.”
“No wonder you two bonded. I mean that in a nonsexual way.”
I nodded. Fluffing up a denim-colored cushion, I placed it into the correct cubbyhole-style shelf for our rainbow scheme.
“Sleeping with him was probably a mistake,” I admitted, reaching for the next blue pillow. “I need him as a friend. He’s the only one who gets what it was like that night. And afterward.”
“Sex can make things tricky.”
“I’m seeing this now.”
“Okay,” she said. “Obviously, we need to invent a time machine. Go back to that night, and have you sleep with Duncan instead.”
And lose all of those lovely memories of John’s skin against mine. What a horrible thought. Also, Duncan did nothing for me. Not in comparison to John.
“Or not?” she asked tentatively.
“Honestly, I’ve always had a bit of a crush on John. But now my pelvic region wants to do bad things with him all the time. I’m doomed.” My shoulders drooped. Then I pulled them straight back up. “No. Things will return to normal. It’ll just take some time. If I can avoid him for a while, all will be well.”
“That’s why you ran off to have your lunch outside recently,” she groaned. “I was worried we’d insulted you somehow or something.”
“No. I was hiding like a coward,” I admitted. “I do that sometimes.”
Slowly, she nodded. “Okay. Well, you’re a strange one, Miss Millen. And I mean that with great affection.”
“Why, thank you.” I beamed. “I think you’re quite odd yourself.”
“But back to the problem at hand. Sure, you could keep avoiding him.” Her gaze, it didn’t fill me with confidence. “It might work.”
“Absolutely it will work. He’s always got so much going on, I bet he won’t even notice if I drop out of sight for a while. I mean, I have to think positively. After all, we only bumped hips once.” I held up a finger. “Just the once. You could almost say it was an accident.”