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cherry

Precocious reaches 1700 words

They could not sit with Nick at dinner; the tables had place cards. Shasta refused to slack. It wasn't easy to catch his eye, or hold her resolve when she did. The effort of petanque and this (after the second smile he sent a waiter to ask if she'd liked the caviar) demanded so much energy. Mom wouldn't share the load; in fact, it seemed she didn't grasp how hard her daughter was trying to help her. Brenda who knew Nick's fitness program took all her attention, talking about a former boyfriend who turned out to be married.
“Makes you wonder, Irene, who you can trust.”
“Tell me about it. My ex--,”
“Why don't they look as evil as they are? Why do they always look so good?”
“--two women weren't enough for him. Or three.”
Shasta fumed a second time, because they wasted champagne giggles on bad, absent men. Precocious she might be, forever asking questions, but she never wanted to hear about her father. If she were told she would know him, and know him as bad. To her mind, if he chose to leave when she was a baby, he had no right to ask to exist. She wanted to keep the position of father vacant, a new, clean house for occupation.
She noticed Simone had no place to sit, or none that she took. She toured the tables, poured drinks and made sure the steaks were cooked to everyone's liking. She helped the caterers clear away empty dishes. At dusk, as a glass tureen of Cherries Jubilee was set alight and everyone cheered, she tucked her evening bag under her arm and went in the house. Shasta asked to be excused. Following in the footsteps brought her to the kitchen; she asked for a bathroom and the caterers directed her back to the front doors. She pretended to go that way. She changed course at the stairs, drawn up by the smell of a freshly lit menthol. On the landing and along the corridor she had her excuse ready, but thick carpet made her approach noiseless right up to the door where she pressed herself against the wall and was rewarded with a revelation.
“Hiya, it's Si. Am I booked the 26th?....shit. No, it's just Nick managed to get some of those cases of Budweiser they smuggled past the blockade; he's gonna have his shareholders here....he pays better money than Rotary, Larry. Who else is going? He wants five girls, one for everybody. He remembers Pam's five cent bikini. Tina, can she...? Great. It's going fine here, yeah....no, if I stay the night I'll be struggling to catch my flight tomorrow. What? Oh, one woman called me 'Mrs'; I told her I was an old friend.”
Shasta clapped her hands over her mouth, fled downstairs and found the powder room the caterers mentioned. Sat on the toilet with the lid down, she teased out what she understood from what she didn't. And it was enough. It gave her strength. She checked her face in the mirror, rinsed her mouth, applied a fresh coat of Lip Smackers and returned to the garden.

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January 2015

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