The Not-Outcast

Page 19

I was so not needed, and I was gone again.

I was doing cartwheels. I mean, I was sitting, but the inside of my body was fully doing somersaults, and I was a gymnast and flying in the air, and none of this would make sense to a normal person.


Because I wasn’t normal.

I tuned back in for the rest of what Dean needed to talk about, and we only agreed on one out of the eight items, but all the while I started replying to emails. Dean was used to this. It was how I worked. He knew I needed to do two things, sometimes three if I was really distracted, in order to actually pay attention. A while back he asked me what was wrong, why I always had to be busy, and I just answered, “I have a really hungry brain.”

I knew it wouldn’t make any sense to him, but I’d long given up hope that some people would understand.

Some did. Most didn’t.



Sasha called when I was getting off work, said she was heading to Melanie’s for a pit stop, so I went to meet her. Dino’s Beans was a cute hipster coffee bar downtown that Melanie worked at not far from where Come Our Way was. Because of this, it wasn’t uncommon for me to see a few of the same guys there who came for meals at Come Our Way. Some of them had enough coinage to grab a coffee. Some didn’t and knew Melanie had a soft heart, and she gave it out for free, but only if they came in with a good attitude and had recently showered. The ones who hadn’t, she still didn’t refuse them and had them sit outside with their coffee.

I wasn’t surprised when I saw a couple of our regulars.

Petey. Moira. Dwayne. All saw me. All raised their hands. All sent me mumbled greetings, but they knew this was my friend’s place, so they didn’t come over to talk any more than that.

Sasha was already sitting down when I got to the counter. Melanie was watching her, standing behind the counter with her hands on her hips and her head tilted to the side. Her hair was pulled high and wound in a tight bun on top of her head, like right on top of her head. Red lipstick. Dangling earrings. Her shirt was pressed and the collar was folded over, cinched in with a pearl button.

My girl was dressed to work.

Without looking in my direction, she knew it was me and lifted her chin up toward Sasha. “She’s down.”

I looked over.

Sasha was sitting in a booth, thumbing through a magazine and her own lips were pressed together. She seemed almost bored, but then I caught how she closed her eyes for longer than a blink. It was brief, but she closed them, and her chest bent down in a sigh at the same time.

Mels was right. Sasha was down, but she was here, and she’d called me, so that was giving us the clues that she needed us to pick her up. I looked back, met Melanie’s gaze, and both of us raised up an eyebrow at the same time.

“Hmmm-mmm,” she hmmmed right back at me, though I hadn’t said a word. She was on the mental wave train right with me.

I asked, “Bar?”

She shook her head. “I’m thinking club judging by the way she’s dressed.”

I looked back and gave it some thought.

Sasha was wearing a black tank top that was tied around her neck, and when she shifted in her seat, I saw it was backless. It only covered her front, from high on her neck to her stomach, but the back was held together by two more strings, both looking as if they were tied together. One time a drunk guy thought he could slip the knot and that the top would fall free enough for him to see some boobs. Little did he know, the knots in the back were merely for decorations. They were sturdy motherfuckers, and the guy instead caused Sasha to swing at him with a firm right-hand hook. When the cops showed up, they weren’t sure who to haul off because the guy’s entire face was busted up. Sasha hadn’t stopped with that one punch. There’d been a left, another right, and maybe a knee.

Yeah, she was serious about whatever was going on with that top on.

Then her jeans.

They weren’t jeans at all.

She had slicked-on leather pants.

Oh yes. Club it was, but I said to Melanie, “We need to go hardcore tonight.”

“Got it.” Succinct and to the point. We were on a mission.

Her coworker walked out from the back at that point.

“Hey, Chey—”

When Melanie decided something, she moved fast. She interrupted, “My girl needs a girls’ night. Can you cover for me the rest of the night?”

Her coworker braked, opened her mouth, stopped and took both of us in. We both had full game-on expressions… we were set and determined to go. Consider these expressions our warpaint. And she closed her mouth. “Okie-dokie.”

Melanie pulled her barista apron off, closed out the till, and grabbed her purse. We were off.

“Have fun tonight.”

Melanie’s response was a grunt, her laser eyes never moving from Sasha.

I gave a smile and wave, but never missed a beat.

Sasha knew something was up when she saw us coming, noting Melanie’s purse, and my empty hand. “No coffee?”

No words were needed.

I grabbed Sasha’s purse and Melanie grabbed Sasha. Or, she took her hand, and pulled her from the booth. “Let’s go.” And Melanie was off, leading this charge.

Sasha looked over her shoulder at me, her eyebrows raised, but I just gave her a stern look. She knew better.

As if reading my mind, she sighed again, the first time in deep thought at the table all alone, but this time in surrender.

She knew what we were doing.

“Thanks, guys.”

Melanie’s hand tightened over Sasha’s and I dipped my head down to hers.

We were always here for the other, no matter what.

Melanie was not fucking around, her words when we asked where we were going.

We went to Bresko’s.

No one knew who owned Bresko. Rumors were that the mob owned it. Others said the cartel, but weren’t they really the mob, too? I never understood the difference. Still, other rumors said big time CEOs of Fortune 500 tech companies had their hand in it. A few rumors were that relatives of Marilyn Monroe’s owned it. I was thinking that last one was far-fetched, but whoever owned it was making a killing.

It wasn’t even in Kansas City. It was the outskirts, like, in the middle of nowhere. For real. There was nothing around it for miles, and when you approached you had to get your car approved to go through a gate. A long, winding, gravel driveway was next, and it always felt like a full mile you had to travel before you came to a parking lot. If they were really busy, and you were in your own car, you got a pager from a guy at the front of the lot. Then you were directed to a parking spot, and you waited for an indeterminate amount of time. When your pager lit up, you got the green light to go to the waiting line.

But this place was always busy, so when we stopped at the pager guy, no one was shocked when he gave us one and indicated where to go for our parking spot.

I didn’t go to Bresko’s on a regular basis, like maybe four times in three years.

We never had to wait long once we got to the waiting line outside, thankfully.

And I knew once Melanie parked, she was going to pounce.

She did.

She turned the engine off and twisted in her seat to face Sasha, who was in the front passenger seat. “What gives. We’re here for you. You know we’re your girls, but we gotta know the basic layout of what we’re working with here.”

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