Katherine smoothed a coat of pink lip-gloss over her lips before she met Amy’s stare. Sometimes she envied Amy’s carefree life: spur of the moment trips to the States to shop. Camping. Dating. They were both twenty nine, but Katherine felt much older. But that’s what happened when one got pregnant at nineteen. And raising a child alone tended to rocket a person into adulthood with no stops.
She hated saying no to her friends all the time, but she had no choice. “I can’t afford it. I have to take Ike to the dentist next Wednesday.”
“No…thanks, but no.” Katherine was proud of how she made a life for her and her son, and if she couldn’t afford to go out, then too bad.
“Okay, but one of these days, I’m going to take you out for a night on the town. In the five years since we’ve known each other, you’ve only been out twice. And you never date. Don’t you want to meet someone and fall in love?”
Love, yeah right. Love was for naive idiots. Katherine sighed. “Amy, please, we’ve been over this a million times. I’m not interested in meeting anyone right now. I don’t have time, plus I have Ike to think about.”
“Sorry, I just want you to be happy.”
Loving her friend even more for not pressing the issue, Katherine grabbed her second-hand, blue jacket off the coat rack and slipped her arms into the sleeves. “I am happy. Honestly.”
Amy dug around in her purse and pulled out a small compact. She finger combed her stylish, blond hair. “So, what’s up with my main man, Ike? Got himself a couple of cavities?”
A niggle of fear wormed through Katherine’s stomach. “I wish it were only cavities.”
Frowning, Amy closed her compact and dropped it into her purse. “What’s wrong?”
“A couple nights ago, Ike complained that both sides of his mouth hurt. When I looked inside…” She let out a nervous chuckle. “Above his eye teeth he has teeth poking through the gums. They’re sharp like fangs.”
“Jesus. That’s…weird. Maybe they’re his adult teeth coming in?”
“He’s ten—he already has most of his adult teeth. Anyway, I called a dentist and told the receptionist what’s wrong and she said some kids have an extra set of teeth. He has to go in for an x-ray. Most likely they’ll have to be pulled.”
Amy tossed her purse onto the couch. “Oh, well that’s not too bad.”
“I’m worried about how much this’ll cost. I have five hundred bucks saved from my tips, but if it goes over…”
“Ask Michelle to lend you the cash.”
“No way. Remember what happened when you asked for an advance? She flipped out.”
“That’s because she knew I went to Bellingham and blew my money on clothes and booze. Besides, you could pay her back with your tips.”
Yeah, what Amy said was true. As much as she didn’t want to ask, if it came down to her pride or her son’s health, there was no choice—Ike’s well being won out over everything else. She’d wait and see what the damage was before she asked.
Katherine shrugged. “I’ll think about it. Anyway, I better get going. I’ll see you Mon--”
Amy crossed her arms over her chest. “Oh, for shit sakes, Kat. Do you want me to ask Michelle for you?”
“Ask me what?”
Katherine’s head wiped toward the entrance. Oh shit.
The door banged shut behind their boss. She strolled across the dingy carpet and grabbed a tuna fish sandwich from the fridge. She sat at the table and cocked an ashy brown eyebrow at them. “Well?”
Heart pounding like a drummer revved up on caffeine and speed, Katherine tried to speak, but no sound came out. She’d worked for Michelle the past eight years and she respected the hell out of her boss, but she was also afraid of her. “Ah…nothing.”
Amy elbowed passed her. “Katherine has to take Ike to the dentist and she’s worried about how much it’ll cost.”
Grabbing her friend’s arm, Katherine tugged her back. “Amy--”
“She has some money saved, but it may cost more,” Amy blurted out.
Oh crap, now you’ve done it. Thanks a lot. Katherine wished she could shrink down to the size of an ant and scurry to safety.
Michelle remained quiet as she methodically chewed her sandwich. Her steel gray eyes bore into Katherine. “Amy, don’t you have customers to serve?”
Amy touched Katherine’s shoulder. “I’ll see you Monday.”
Yeah, if Michelle doesn’t can my ass first.
The door closed softly behind Amy’s retreating back, leaving Katherine alone with her boss whose harsh expression warned of the impending storm brewing inside her stocky frame.
Her knees trembled so bad Katherine was afraid she’d crumple like a rag doll.
“How much do you need?” Michelle asked.
Katherine’s pride so wanted to say she needed nothing. She’d learned early on not to rely on others. Her extremely religious parents taught her that lesson well when they disowned her for dancing with the Devil as they called it after she got pregnant out of wedlock.
But this wasn’t about her. It was about her son. She swallowed her pride and glanced at the floor before bringing her gaze back to her boss’s scrutinizing glare. “I’m not sure. I won’t know until after Wednesday’s appointment.”
The fridge in the corner clicked on, the hum loud in the uneasy silence.
Michelle took another bite of her sandwich, her square jaw clenched and unclenched as she chewed. “When you find out, let me know. Once I know how much I’ll be lending you, I’ll work out a payment plan.”
Katherine blew out a relieved breath. She’d half expected her boss to point to the door and tell her to get her worthless ass out of her sight. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me. I’ll lend you the difference only because you remind me of myself, except my fucking family washed their hands of me because I’m a lesbian.” Michelle stood, tossed the rest of her sandwich in the trash, and walked to the door.
Katherine’s cheeks burned as Michelle’s words brought back memories of the embarrassing spectacle she’d made of herself at her job interview eight years ago. She had been alone, scared, and penniless in a new city with a two year old to feed.
And since she had no waitressing experience, Michelle had been about to say no. Strained beyond the point of snapping and with no pride left, Katherine had broken down and told Michelle the whole sordid story in hopes she’d take pity on her. Which she did to Katherine’s surprise.
Her boss tugged the door open, but didn’t leave. She turned to Katherine, her bushy eyebrows pulled low. “But instead of me lending you the cash, you should find that low-life bastard who fathered your son and haul his ass into court and sue him for past child support.”
The face of her one and only lover filled her mind. The picture was so clear it was as if he stood in front of her: eyes the color of a summer sky, black hair, brushing wide shoulders. Straight nose, strong jaw, and a smile that had stripped away her common sense.
Five glorious months they spent together—five months spent falling in love.
Her hands knotted into fists as anger and hatred collided in her gut; the force of the raw emotions made her nauseous.
If she ever saw Kal again she’d knock his teeth down his throat and kick him in the balls so hard he wouldn’t be able to seduce and lie to a woman again like he had to her ten years ago.