Shifting to a different POV for the next few installments….
The Dragon, The Wench, and Her Wardrobe
© 2012 Sheila McClune
“Cinders! Hey, Cinders!”
Lucinda Anderson hunched lower in her seat, leaning down to slurp the last of her margarita through her straw. Maybe if she ignored them, they’d go away.
No such luck. Brandon squeezed into the booth next to her, and Dayton across the way. Brandon slapped a brown recycled-paper envelope onto the table in front of her. “Where’ve you been? We’ve been looking all over for you. Why haven’t you paid the power bill?”
Lucinda glanced at the envelope. Sure enough, there was the power company logo in the corner, and the words “Open Immediately!” stamped in red letters. She rolled her eyes and shoved the envelope back toward Brandon. “I paid it last month. It’s Ashley’s turn.”
“Nuh-uh.” Brandon shoved the envelope back. “She says she paid it last month.”
And of course, Brandon would always take Ashley’s side. Lucinda grabbed her purse, plopped it onto the table, and began digging through it.
“Can I get you gentlemen anything to drink?” The waitress, who’d been missing so long Lucinda thought she must’ve left for the night, hustled over and positioned cocktail napkins in front of Brandon and Dayton.
“I’ll take a Bud.” Dayton gave the waitress a wink.
“Make it two.” Brandon, not to be outdone, flashed his trademark smile.
The waitress smiled back. “And are we all on one tab, here?” She included Lucinda in her gesture.
“Yes,” Brandon and Dayton said in chorus.
“No!” Lucinda sat up straight. “They’re on their own tab. Mine’s separate.” They’d stiffed her far too often for her to fall for that again.
The waitress gave her an incredulous look. “Are you sure?”
Lucinda bit out her answer before either of the men could open his mouth. “Absolutely.”
“Then I’ll need a credit card from one of you gents, so I can start a tab.”
Brandon looked at Dayton. Dayton looked at Brandon. They both turned to Lucinda. “Aw, c’mon, Cinders,” said Brandon. “We’ll pay you back.”
“Not a chance in hell.” She smiled sweetly. “Buy your own damned drinks, or go thirsty. I don’t care. But you are not putting your drinks on my tab. In fact,” she turned to the waitress, “I’m finished for the night. Will you please close out my tab?”
“Of course, ma’am.” The waitress’ eyes were arctic.
Brandon and Dayton looked at each other again, and finally Dayton pulled out his wallet and flopped a credit card out on the table. “There. Happy, you stingy bitch?” He turned to the waitress. “In fact, since our friend seems to be a little short on funds this month, why don’t you go ahead and put her drinks on that, too.” He smiled smarmily.
“No. I’ll pay for my own, thanks.” The last thing Lucinda wanted was to be indebted to any of her roommates.
The waitress shook her head. “Suit yourself.” Scooping Dayton’s card up from the table, she sashayed back to the bar.
If she shakes that ass any harder, it’s gonna fall off. Lucinda turned her attention back to the purse in front of her. Pulling out her checkbook, she flipped it open to show a carbon copy of a check. “See? January 8th. I paid the power bill last month. It’s Ashley’s turn.” She shoved the envelope back in front of Brandon.
“Told you,” said Dayton.
Brandon sighed. “Look, Cinders, Ash can’t pay this month. You’re going to have to take care of it this month, and then she can take it twice in a row.”
“Why? She spend too much at the hairdresser’s again? Or did she get another speeding ticket?”
Brandon squirmed. “Look, it’s not like that. She’s just….” He ran his hand through his close-cropped sandy hair, making it stand on end. “I might as well tell you, since you’ll find out anyway. Ash is preggers.”
“Oh, gawd.” It was Lucinda’s turn to run her hand through her hair. “But she’s on the pill. Isn’t she?”
“Yeah, but, she had that sore throat around Thanksgiving, and her doctor put her on antibiotics, and….”
“And I warned her about that at the time. But you wouldn’t dream of using condoms for a week or two, would you?” She shook her head. “So why does that mean she can’t pay her share of the bills?”
“Well, she has to get it taken care of, and if she puts the charges for that on her card, her parents’ll see ’em. And you know how her dad is.”
Yes, Lucinda did know. She was just glad Ashley’s ultra-conservative parents didn’t visit often, since she had to share a room with Ash when they were in town, to keep up the fiction that Brandon and Ash weren’t sleeping together. “Wait. You’re making her pay to take care of it?”
“We’re splitting the cost.” Brandon’s chin jutted out. “C’mon, Cinders. We’d help you out.”
Lucinda didn’t even need to think about it. “What, like you did in September when I had to put a new fuel pump in my car? Or last summer, when my grandma died, and I needed plane fare for the funeral? I got zero consideration from any of you then. I lived on ramen for months, while you guys were out drinking and partying as usual. Sorry. It’s up to you and Ash to figure out how to cover that bill, not me. Now, move.” She shoved at Brandon.
“Let me out. Now.”
Brandon climbed out of the booth long enough for Lucinda to scoot out the end. “Fine. But don’t forget, it’s your turn to take the trash out tomorrow morning.”
“No, it’s his turn.” She pointed at Dayton. “Remember? We traded last week. I’m house-sitting for my sister starting tonight.”
The waitress returned, thrusting a bill tray at Lucinda.
Lucinda started to sign, then glanced at the total. It was more than she’d anticipated. She looked, but all she had was her card and the credit card charge slip. “I’d like to see an itemized receipt, please.”
“I’m sorry. That information gets wiped out of the computer when the charge gets processed.” The waitress gave her a smile full of saccharine.
“You heard me. That’s a load of crap. I’m afraid I’m going to have to speak to your manager–”
The waitress snatched the charge slip out of Lucinda’s fingers so quickly it nearly burned them. “I’ll be right back.”
Left standing awkwardly beside the booth, Lucinda pretended interest in the four television screens that hung over the bar. One showed trivia questions, while the others showed endless sports recaps. She didn’t really give a damn about college basketball, but she pretended to, just so she didn’t have to converse with her roommates.
Eventually, the waitress returned. Lucinda scanned down the items. “This isn’t the same total as before.”
“Yes it is.”
“No, it’s not. This one’s about…seven dollars less. About, say, the cost of two domestic drafts. I’d like to see proof that the original charge was cancelled, please.”
“Your total didn’t change.” The waitress put her hands on her hips.
“The hell it–” Lucinda jumped as a hand touched her arm.
“Is there a problem, miss?” The manager reached to take the ticket from her hand.
“I just wanted to make sure an incorrect charge was removed from my card,” said Lucinda.
She saw a muscle work in the manager’s jaw as he shot the waitress a glance. “I see. Why don’t you come over to the bar, and I’ll take care of you myself.”
But as Lucinda followed him, she overheard the waitress ask, “God, is she always such a bitch?” and Dayton answering, “This is one of her good days.”
Cheeks flaming, she thrust her chin in the air and pretended not to hear.